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Skeadugenga (UK)
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The Diary of Samuel Pepys: The BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation
The Diary of Samuel Pepys: The BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation
by Samuel Pepys
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £24.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, sad, informative and hugely entertaining, 14 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I only managed to catch the odd episode of this when it was on Radio 4 and thoroughly enjoyed it, so when the boxed set of the series came out I had to have it to listen again. 11 discs, nicely presented on a spindle in a tough plastic box and what a treat it was. Pepys kept his diaries through most of the 1660s and was an eye witness to the Restoration, the Plague and of course the Great Fire which is beautifully illustrated on the front of the box, with Old St Pauls in the centre.

Kris Marshall makes an attractive and well acted Pepys. Even his soliloquies where he is being either a hypocrite or unfaithful to his wife and often both together don't put you off him - he is human, fallible and very funny. Whether it is staying out of the house on washday or his trials with in laws and domestic as well as natural disasters, Marshall doesn't put a foot wrong in presenting a vivid and interesting character. The real Pepys has an arresting turn of phrase so that events you know from history become real - for example he describes grass growing between the stones in the street at the height of the Plague for lack of people walking the city.

Catherine Jakeways as Elisabeth Pepys is a brilliant foil for Samuel, whether arguing with the servants, nagging about her dress allowance or flirting with her dancing master. Will their servant also gives a fine performance - all three have the gift of comic timing and making a non committal noise carry at least 3 different meanings.

I felt by the end that Elisabeth and Samuel were not so very different from those of us in the present day. Next time I'm in London I shall stop by St Olaf's church and pay my respects.

This dramatization brings the 1660s alive, through music, social history and of course eye witness events. A lovely series, particularly suitable for listening in the car.


Dettol Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser Powder 990 g - Fresh Cotton, Pack of 3
Dettol Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser Powder 990 g - Fresh Cotton, Pack of 3
Price: £15.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful on white tea towels and cleaning cloths and great for smelly trainers, 14 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a sturdy tub of powder, with minimal settlement of the contents. The instructions on the side of the tub are fairly comprehensive - add one 60g scoop (included) of powder to 4L of warm water and soak for 5 minutes before washing as normal. Uses recommended are for towels, children's clothes, underwear, socks and bedding. However, the ingredients contain 15-30% oxygen based bleaching agents, so I'd be wary of using it for a colours wash. Also included is peracetic acid and there are warnings about getting the powder on eyes and skin.

However, I'd never thought about the possible hygiene consequences of lower wash temperatures, assuming that 40 degrees would kill most things and that the higher temperatures were all about stain removal/whitening. So I'm happy to use this to pre-soak tea towels and cleaning cloths as an additional kitchen hygiene precaution. Its easy to use and has a pleasant scent, although this is not retained after a normal wash.

Its also great for stinky trainers - I'm assuming it kills the bacteria associated with foot odour because after soaking trainers in it for 5 minutes and then rinsing, the smell has gone.


Smiler's Fair: Book I of The Hollow Gods
Smiler's Fair: Book I of The Hollow Gods
by Rebecca Levene
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Smiler's Fair, 9 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I absolutely loved this book.

Levene has created a rich world of plains, mountains and deserts together with the haunted runewaste, which everyone avoids if they can. Some lands
are kingdoms, with peripatetic castles, others are inhabited by tribes who make vicious war on each other. Through them all travels the romantic, corrupt, stinking Smiler's Fair part Carnivale Carnivale: Complete HBO Season 1 [2003] [DVD] [2005], part Stardust's Wall's Fair but a lot darker.

The characters we meet all at some time visit or belong to the fair and fit in with its moral ambiguity, none of them are wholly good or bad. The storytelling is adult and graphic in parts, especially the opening and the plot is nicely convoluted; I found it very entertaining indeed but was more interested in Eric and Rii than I was in Krish, Marvan, Nehmi and Dae Hyo, the last of whom must have had his own set of personal gods protecting him for him to have made it this far.

There's an intriguing belief system. As well as the prow gods of the ship people, who seem a bit like Roman household gods, there are minor deities such as the eponymous Smiler and the Huntress and two major brother and sister gods - the Moon and Sun - whose followers have been in conflict since the female Sun killed the male Moon. The Moon's followers have been driven to live underground, but they sense the presence of anyone who stays in one place on the surface for too long and come up and tear them to pieces - its the deliciously creepy monster under the bed. Now the Moon god has been reborn and those who know about this are trying to stop him from regaining his former powers.

Magic exists, but is not infallible in this world. In one case it is present despite the belief of the wielder, but even a small spell has a catastrophic effect. Its not a get out of jail free card and nothing at all like Harry Potter.

This book's ending was not entirely satisfactory but that is because this is planned as a series of 5. I can forgive a lot for a book that I enjoyed this much. Roll on the next book.


The Ghost Bride
The Ghost Bride
by Yangsze Choo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Malaysian-Chinese Fairy Story, 2 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a unique and fantastical story which uses a rich fusion of Malay and Chinese folklore and beliefs about ghosts and the afterlife to provide the setting. The story itself concerns the trials and marriage prospects of Li Lan as she comes of age.

The book is slow to get going and the middle section in the Plains of the Dead sags somewhat and could have done with being pacier. "Time moves differently on the Plains" - you're not kidding, it moved extremely slowly for me. But the book really picks up with the introduction of the mysterious Er Lang and at last some humour and sparkiness from our heroine.

Definitely a fairytale, we meet in the beginning a motherless girl with a father who is an absent figure and unable to protect her from her fate. Through tests of her character she eventually ends up in a position where three choices lie before her - will she make the right choice?

I would have liked to add increased self reliance to the tests of her character, but there isn't really very much. There are so many guides and rescuers in the story that Li Lan is a very lucky girl indeed. I'd have liked to see her get herself out of a few predicaments without being rescued.

However that didn't detract too much from my enjoyment. Yangsze Choo is a very accomplished writer and I'd be interested to read a further adventure of Li Lan.

Firmly aimed at teenagers, there is much for an older reader to enjoy.


Finish All in One Max Dishwasher Tablets Original, 74 Tablets
Finish All in One Max Dishwasher Tablets Original, 74 Tablets
Offered by The Fuzzy Bear Family
Price: £16.90

4.0 out of 5 stars A bit of luxury, 29 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Recently I've been using supermarket own brand dishwasher tablets due to a necessary post Christmas economy drive. While they clean pots and pans up to a point, they leave residue and water marks behind.

Not so these tablets. Cups and glasses are perfectly cleaned and sparkly glasses go back into the cupboard. I run my dishwasher daily and live in a very hard water area, so am continuing to use dishwasher salt, but no longer need to use rinse aid.

These come in a resealable packet and the tablets inside are wrapped in their own thin film which dissolves in water. So you need to have dry hands when removing the tablet from the packet otherwise the film starts to dissolve in your hand. And keep the packet resealed otherwise the contents will pick up moisture from the air and melt into a mess. But the positive is that once out of the packet you don't have to unwrap them, just pop them into the dispenser drawer and start the machine.

The only product I've used previously that did a better job was Finish Quantum which is better on pans, but these do a good enough job


Vanish Gold for Whites Stain Remover Powder, 1.4 kg
Vanish Gold for Whites Stain Remover Powder, 1.4 kg
Price: £7.33

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for brightening whites, but prefer the gel for spot stain remover, 28 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a big tub of stain remover, which opens easily. Once the contents have settled its about 3/4 filled. It also contains a pink scoop to measure out the powder. It has a nice smell, although this doesn't remain on the clothes after washing.

On the tub are three recommended methods of dealing with stains - pre-soak, spot treatment and in wash, with instructions and dosages for each. I tried the pre-soak for an hour and then a wash at 40 degrees. The water in the washing machine looked satisfyingly grey, as though a load of grime was coming out in the wash.

I agree that it works well on rejuvenating whites. I had some rather grubby looking hand towels, used in the kitchen for post gardening hand washing and over time they'd become grey. They are back to white now, not a dazzling white, but at least as white as they started. Tea towels have brightened considerably and other white cotton items have been rescued from the grey collection.

Where it was slightly disappointing was on hard to shift stains like blood. Despite the pre-soak, these did not come out (although they did diminish) and I don't fancy making a paste with water for spot treatment using rubber gloves to protect my skin. I do use Vanish Oxi Action stain remover gel Vanish Gold Oxi Action Stain Remover Gel 1.8 Litre, so will pretreat really stubborn stains with that in future. This is great on whites though and at relatively low temperatures.


Revlon ColorStay Eyeliner - 5 g, N1 Black
Revlon ColorStay Eyeliner - 5 g, N1 Black
Offered by tandmonlinestore
Price: £3.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and mysterious, 27 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a good black eyeliner, which goes on smoothly and has staying power. One application lasted me through a working day and came off easily at night with cotton wool and cleanser. If you want very fine and strong lines then you probably need liquid eyeliner. Being a crayon this gives a softer, medium line which is exactly what I want.

Getting into it was a bit of an ordeal as its shrinkwrapped in strong plastic. After some ugly struggling with sharp objects I finally worked out that there is a tiny gold paper tab at the top which if pulled will rip the packaging down its length. I thought initially that it was part of the decoration.

In the absence of instructions, I then tried to apply eyeliner with the soft pad at the end. This is for smudge effects after application so not surprisingly it didn't do anything. To save you time and possible injury, the eyeliner works like a pen, remove the cap which is about 1/3 of the way down and you're in business.

From reading the reviews I found out that there's a little sharpener in the tip as well, but its overall look in your makeup bag is slim, smooth and smart. I like this very much and provided it lasts a reasonable length of time it will permanently replace the eyeliner pencil I used previously.


A History of Ancient Greece in Fifty Lives
A History of Ancient Greece in Fifty Lives
by David Stuttard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stuffed with information and a good read, 26 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had not previously heard of David Stuttard, but on the basis of this book I'm going to go back and read his earlier work. He's an entertaining
and scholarly writer with huge enthusiasm for his subject.

To tell the story of the ancient Greek world through 50 of its prominent people is quite a challenge. Stuttard has done the background work, winnowing out duplicate names and myths to refine and present 50 biographies which are as factual as they can be given the scarce surviving information. Speculation is kept to a minimum, but he still manages to make each subject interesting and memorable. A lovely feature is the
bolding of the names of the 50 subjects. Thus when one subject turns up in another's biography you know immediately that this is another
major character in the story.

And its an amazing story covering the rise of Greece as a collection of city states, through the prominence of Athens in the 5th century BC to
Alexander and the rise of the Romans. Stuttard gives just enough context in the text to keep us abreast of the major military and artistic developments during the lifetime of each subject. I found the grey boxes arranged on the pages with additional information (so much more user friendly than footnotes) interrupted the flow and started reading them first so that I could then go back and read the biography straight through.

The presentation of the book is beautiful; I don't really know why we need reproductions of Victorian imaginings of Pindar or Sappho, but they work for some readers and its a mild quibble. There are good, clear maps of Greece and its surrounding colonies at the back, suggestions for further reading and an index, but the book's great glory is its timeline with the major events and lives marked on it. I got involved in working out how old Plato was when he joined the school of Socrates, how old Aristotle was when he agreed to tutor a 13 year old Alexander at the court of Macedon and whether Aristophanes and Aeschylus' plays were the ambitious works of young playwrights or the reflections of middle and old age. I really enjoyed this book and the fact that you could dip into it and read just one person's story at a time.. or maybe two... or maybe three - this book made me late for work several times.

If you like historical fiction, and I'm thinking primarily here of Mary Renault's great Greek novels The Praise Singer, The Mask of Apollo, Fire from Heaven: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) this would be a marvellous book to have at hand for the timeline and the explanation of context. This is a keeper for the bookshelf. Recommended.


Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Electric Toothbrush - Pink Edition
Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Electric Toothbrush - Pink Edition
Price: £109.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely toothbrush, not sure about the glass charger, 22 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This toothbrush is supplied in a thin cardboard box with the ends glued down, so if you are buying it as a present you can't check
the contents. Inside, the various components are cradled in rough tufa -like cardboard The instructions on quick startup and the
(slightly more) detail in the manual are minimal but clear.

Before you start using your toothbrush, it has to be charged for 24 hours. The main suggested charging method uses a charging stand
and a sturdy toothglass which sits on the stand and into which you put your toothbrush (it sits at an angle). The plug on the charging stand is 2 pin, so unless you have a shaver socket you will need an adaptor (not supplied).

In the manual there is a seperate charging attachment pictured- a little ring which sits on top of the charging stand and holds the toothbrush upright
- this is not supplied with this model. I felt that the toothbrush in glass method was a gimmick too far, but others may like it. Probably people
who have a shaver socket .

A neater charging method is using the supplied pink travel case (similar to a glasses snap case but about a third larger) which holds the toothbrush handle and head seperately. You can charge the handle in the travel case using either the mains (another 2 pin plug) or a usb port. According to the manual a fully charged toothbrush will provide normal use for approximately 3 weeks, which I found to be accurate. I really liked the case and its ability to charge the toothbrush, it looks neat and its going to be very handy when travelling.

The reviews here are for different colours. I chose pink since its then easily identifiable as mine. Its quite a nice, pale pink which goes well with the chrome collar and the toothbrush looks very sleek and very high quality. The 5 programme choices light up when you press the "on" button and you can toggle between them. I liked this feature -the lights are pretty and its easy to make a selection.

There are 5 programmes to select from. Each is timed to 2 minutes with a 30 second tone change to alert you to move to a new brushing area.

Clean
White
Polish
Gum Care
Sensitive

The Gum Care has extra time added on as does "White". "Polish" has short bursts. I was surprised to find that teeth and gums can be ticklish when I first started, but I am getting used to it now and you do get a really good clean. You might want to use the slow start feature which builds in intensity over 14 days to get you used to it. Or use the "Sensitive" setting. One tip - make sure the brush is loaded with toothpaste and inside your mouth before you press the "on" button. If you care about your teeth then this is currently the best you can do for them. I've been using the "white" programme for a month and despite my fondness for red wine the appearance of my teeth has improved.

Philips recommend replacing the brush head every 3 months. No replacement heads specifically for this model were available at time of writing. The nearest I found were these Philips Sonicare HX6064/26 Diamond Clean Brush Heads Pack of 4 You only get one head with the toothbrush, so you'll be needing replacements in 3 months time.


Monogram Allergyfree Heated Double Single Controller Mattress Cover with Allergy Protection Using HHL Technology
Monogram Allergyfree Heated Double Single Controller Mattress Cover with Allergy Protection Using HHL Technology
Price: £52.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love these blankets, 20 Jan. 2015
In their early days, electric blankets got a bit of a bad press around safety and comfort, so I'd never used an electric blanket before.

However, this has made me a total convert. You know that snug feeling when you wake up and decide to stay in bed for a while, because its lovely and warm under the covers? Well now you can get that feeling when you go to bed as well. I switch the blanket on and then go and get ready for bed and by the time I've brushed my teeth there's a lovely warm bed to get into.

The blanket itself, when you get it out of the box, is crisp and not bulky. It very easy to set up, sits on top of my mattress topper and mattress and underneath the topsheet and is smooth and comfortable to lie on. There is no indication of wires inside the mattress and its machine washable. It has a deep fitting skirt which keeps it in place on the bed really well. The controller plugs into a little socket at the top on the side of the mattress.

If I have any criticism, its that the controller gets warm if you have the blanket on a high setting (ranges from 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest). You can also set the timer so that the blanket stays on up to 12 hours. The recommendation is that if you do this, you leave the blanket set to heat setting 1 as if the blanket overheats it will cut out. All controls have a slide which you push to indicate the setting you want. When the heating duration completes the blue light on the controller flashes until you switch it off.

I also have the kingsize version with dual controls, these Monogram blankets are in my opinion the best electric blankets you can buy. I did have a problem with one of the controllers on the king size and Customer Service answered my mail immediately and despatched a replacement. So full marks for their Customer Services as well.


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