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cazkins
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Member since: 09.09.2008

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    • More +
      26.05.2015 13:12
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "Leaves skin feeling cleansed and refreshed"
      • "Easy and pleasant to use"

      Disadvantages

      • "Not a miracle worker"

      Which Witch? This Witch?

      Witch is a popular brand with a reasonably large range of products, primarily aimed at problematic skin and those wanting to keep skin clean and clear.

      This comes in a soft plastic 150ml tube with clear flip top lid that it stands on. It’s quite recognisable as being from the Witch brand with its blue and green design. It’s modern and the plastic is soft, but good quality and squeezable. The flip lid opens/clicks down well.

      The product aims to cleanse and clean skin deeply. It contains ‘natural micro-granules’ and willow bark extract to cleanse pores, challenging the dirt / oil while ‘gently clarifying your skin’. It claims to be good for all skin types, particularly those with oily or combination skin.

      To use, wet your face first with water, then squeeze a small blob of this face wash on to your fingertips. Massage it gently over your face in small circles; I tend to focus more on ‘problem areas’ such as the T-Zone and chin. Then rinse it off well with water and pat dry. I often find face washes a bit messy so prefer using them in the shower, but I haven’t found this one so bad.

      You’ll notice that the face wash, when you open the tube, is pretty much clear. You can see what look like small crystals or grains, and these act as the scrubbing beads that you’d find in other exfoliators. The scent is one I can’t quite put my finger on but it’s very much what you’d expect from Witch, the smell of cleansers and shower gels and the like. I like the consistency of the wash because it’s part way between a cleanser and a gel; it’s not too runny but it’s not too thick, making it easy to glide over skin and massage in, and also to rub off afterwards.

      I sometimes have some areas of sensitive skin but haven’t noticed this cause any irritation. This wash does dry my skin a tad, though I find many cleansers do, so I usually apply a small smidge of moisturiser.

      Unfortunately, I rarely seem to see much improvement from products in terms of spots, blemishes and blackheads. However, I do think my skin looks a bit healthier when I’m using this; it looks cleaner, a bit brighter, less shiny.

      In terms of value for money, I’d say it’s reasonably priced. It can often be found on offer too, so that’s the best time to give it a try. Because you only need use a small amount per application, and needn’t be using it every day, it should last a while so it’s been a decent investment in my skin care routine.

      All in all, whilst it hasn’t been a miracle worker for me, it is certainly pleasant enough to use and it does leave my skin feeling clean and refreshed.

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    • More +
      07.05.2015 10:51
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "Interesting characters and premise"
      • "Engaging and mesmerising"
      • "Beautifully written"

      Disadvantages

      • "A little odd for some perhaps"

      Odd yet captivating and mesmerising to read.

      Despite having heard of Murakami, I hadn’t read any of his work until 1Q84 this year. It’s one I would definitely recommend if you want something unique, well-written and captivating to read.

      We are introduced to a few key characters, namely Aomame, Tengo, Komatsu and Fuka-Eri, with numerous others making appearances throughout. It’s Tokyo 1984; Aomame is on the expressway and somehow, at some point, the balance of reality seems to have shifted slightly. She doesn’t know how and can not explain it, but suddenly she sees 2 moons in the sky. Meanwhile, a young girl, Fuka-Eri, gets help from Tengo to write a novel of little people and air chrysalis, a tale of a strange world that seems once published, sets the literary world on fire. But something strange is underfoot. The characters are linked somehow, and events are linked also, somehow, but we do not see what is really happening. The transformation of reality in to something else, a new world nicknamed ‘1Q84’, is something we learn about in a piecemeal fashion throughout books 1 and 2.

      The premise isn’t one I can really describe easily. It doesn’t really make much sense and there’s nothing tangible I can write without it sending crazy or giving too much away. This really is one you would need to read to understand and grasp what it’s actually about.

      The style is also interesting. The chapters take the bird’s eye view of different tangents, one for the character Aomame and the other for Tengo. Through seeing the events unfolding around these characters, we’re almost seeing two sides of the same coin and getting a little more information each time.

      There is a sense of the novel being mesmerising, gripping, absorbing, like transporting you to another world. It’s magical and wonderful and strange; you want to keep reading to learn more. Yet, at the same time, it still feels reasonably grounded. It made me curious and transported me away from the mundane, yet kept me believing it was real. I don’t usually like unfinished endings but this was done with purpose as I felt I needed Book 3 ASAP!

      The characters themselves are quite well depicted, being sculpted in a way that made them easier to imagine. I enjoyed learning about them and felt like I cared what happened to them. Small details are captured, nuances are noted and original terminology is applied, all to make reading the novel even more captivating.

      Granted, the premise is rather odd. I found the pace reasonably so-so. Some may find it a little on the slow side, however I quite enjoyed some of the slower moments. It gave me time to appreciate the scenery, if you like. I didn’t find myself getting bored at any point, so I found the tempo suitable. I couldn’t guess the outcome of the novel, in book 1 or book 2. It was so original that it could have only been borne from the author’s imagination.

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    • More +
      30.04.2015 11:18
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "Good energy rating"
      • "Range of wash options that are easy to use"
      • "Looks swish yet is sturdy"

      Disadvantages

      • "None per se for me"

      Thus far it’s been a reliable, attractive and effective washing machine.

      Panasonic as a brand is one I have a decent amount of trust in so I bought this from the Currys website and paid £20 extra for installation. It comes with a 2 year guarantee. This is for NA-127VB5WGB



      ... Technical Aspects ...



      This model has a 7KG capacity, which is pretty good for a ‘neat’ looking washing machine, and ample for a load of washing for a family. It has a spin speed of 1200rpm, a quick wash time of 15 minutes, an A+++ energy rating. It has a variable temperature with 12 programs to choose from. It’s front loading machine and weighs in at approx. 73kg. It measures. : 84.5 H x 59.7W x 52.7 D (cm).



      Additionally, it’s worth noting that this has a water circulation pump, a foam sensor, cycle end buzzer, auto load sensor, ‘hydroactive technology’, leakage protection via a water level sensor, and a heat protective two layer door screen.



      ... Looking Swish ...



      It certainly looks very swish. It has a modern, clean and advanced feel to it, helped in part I think by the shiny white exterior and electronic display. The ‘porthole’ at the front, although transparent glass, looks almost black on first impression.



      ... Programs ...



      I wanted some variation in terms of washes to choose from, and this machine gives you 12 programs, including Bedding / Colours / 15°C / Quick / Rapid 15 / Shirts / Wool / Sportswear / Easy-care / Cotton Eco, plus wash functions of Easy Ironing, Pre-Wash and Extra Rinse.

      The 60° wash time is 170 minutes, 40° is 160 minutes and the quick was is just 15. I like having the options available for different products and needs, even if I don’t use all of them.



      ... In Use ...



      I have found this fairly easy and straight forward to use. The manual is helpful but I tend to try to do things myself first, and the machine is quite intuitive. It’s loud in the sense that all washing machines will generate noise, however it’s not as ear-drum aggravating as my last machine! Nor does it rattle all the adjacent kitchen units…

      I have thus far found the machine to wash very well with no problems and it beeps when finished. I've not had any issues with maintaining the machine and have come across no problems or worries with it.

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    • More +
      28.04.2015 11:55
      Very helpful
      (Rating)
      1 Comment

      Advantages

      • "Not much needed each time"
      • "Easy to apply"

      Disadvantages

      • "Almost flakes and peels"
      • "Not mattifying"
      • "Too thin consistency"

      All in all, this has been very disappointing. Not a successful purchase.

      SkinClear is a Boots own brand product. I found the range a little tricky to find in store amongst the other skin care brands, and it doesn’t really jump out at your either in terms of the packaging. It can also been found on their website. I picked up the products when the range was on offer. The Oil-Free Mattifying Lotion is sold in a 75ml plastic squeeze tube, with a white flip top lid that the tube stands on. There’s a sticker on the front and back, with the front sticker being a blue and white design. It’s reasonably easy to read, keeps things simple and to the point, and doesn’t make too many wild promises. It looks quite basic and understated, but I don’t mind as I like to think we’re saving a few pennies on fancy packaging.

      We are told this is for ‘clearer confident skin’ and that the product is designed primarily to do three things: Reduce shine, leave an instant matte complexion and remove excess oil. The product was ‘formulated by Boots Skincare Experts to absorb excess oil’ with its ‘non-greasy formula’, leaving an ‘instant perfect matte finish to your face’.

      The product is, unsurprisingly, nice and simple to use like most moisturisers. You just squeeze out a small blob and apply to your skin, avoiding contact with the eyes.

      The first thing I noticed was that the lotion seemed quite thin. It didn’t take much of a squeeze of the tube for a load of the lotion to come out, with the consistency being far more liquefied than I had expected. There is a scent but it’s not too overwhelming, though there is something there that reminds me a tad of sun tan lotion, which isn’t so great. It’s smooth to apply to your face and neck and I like that it glides on & you don’t need much, but it’s too watered down for my liking.

      The other annoyance is what happens once the lotion is actually on. I tend to apply a bit of concealer if I’m going out and usually do this straight after moisturising. A bit of the moisture from this seems to really help the concealer go on my face without caking or flaking. That’s not the case with this moisturiser. The lotion seems to flake off, not just the concealer. Even after giving it a little bit to absorb and not using too much on the application, the lotion still seems damp, and it practically starts to rub off. Very odd, and not something I can recall coming across with any other moisturiser. As for the anti-shine and mattifying promises - I’ve certainly not noticed my face look any more matte, possibly the opposite, and there’s been no improvement to the condition or appearance of my skin.

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      • More +
        18.04.2015 10:58
        Very helpful
        (Rating)

        Advantages

        • "Easy to read"
        • "Quirky and original"

        Disadvantages

        • "I was not so keen on the ending"
        • "A little too odd for some perhaps"

        Original & mystifying, but you need to be willing to suspend some rational thought for

        After Dark is fictional Japanese novel, translated in to English, that I would say loosely falls within the genres of drama and mystery, with a little something extra thrown in to the mix.

        It’s approaching midnight and there’s an almost empty Denny’s diner. A young girl called Mari sits reading. A musician, due to practice all night with his band, interrupts Mari’s solitude to say hello. Mari has missed the last train home and intends on staying out all night, in the city, on her own. But once the sun disappears and night falls the city is different, with mysterious undertones. The musician leaves and Mari soon gets approached from a girl from the Alphaville Hotel, a Chinese love hotel, to help with a situation.

        On the flip side, the same time but a different location, we see Mari’s sister. She is sleeping in a deep sleep and has been for 2 months. Almost like a coma, but not. We see the TV flicker, but it’s not plugged in. Could the midnight hour be causing something to stir this night, or is it just imagination?

        The book basically takes us across these two tangents. The former is told in present tense, giving us a sense of us watching the interactions between characters and events as they unfold. The latter is told in a rather different way, with the author talking to us as if we are watching the sister from a different perspective, like giving a commentary when watching a bird of prey through a camera.

        The layout is very interesting and quite original. The story is told in the present tense and follows a ‘real time’ timeline; chapters are not split by number but by the time, as the minutes and hours tick down from just before midnight to just before 7am, so we get a more concise view of events. I felt mesmerised almost to keep reading, and this was helped by the book being broken down in to chapters of varying length, none of which I felt was too long.

        The novel ‘flows’ well and feels fairly natural, making it easier to read. I would say there was a reasonable depth of characters, but this isn’t to a great extent. I don’t think I found myself particularly identifying, or feeling empathic towards, any of the characters, but I did feel some sense of understanding or familiarity with them by the end of the novel. The lack of depth is something that adds to its mysterious and ‘quirky’ nature, strengthening the growing feeling you get that you never really quite know what’s going on.

        I wasn’t so hot on the ending because it’s very loose and doesn’t tie anything up nor provide an explanation for all of our unanswered questions. However, the author intended it this way and so in its own way it adds to the mystery.

        On the back is further praise, including: ‘The novel delivers gloriously… Inventive and alluring’ – Guardian, ‘Hypnotic, spell-binding’ – The Times.

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      • More +
        14.04.2015 11:22
        Very helpful
        (Rating)

        Advantages

        • "Does not aggravate my skin"
        • "Quick and easy to use"

        Disadvantages

        • "No improvement to complexion"

        A so so kind of product.

        I came across this on a blog a while ago and checked it out on the Boots website. The reviews seemed quite positive so I was keen to give it a go. Whilst it hasn’t been a miracle cure by any means, and I can’t really say I’ve noticed a big difference in my complexion as far as blemishes go, it’s been reasonable enough and leaves my skin feeling fresh.

        SkinClear is a Boots own brand product. I found the range a little tricky to find in store amongst the other skin care brands, and it doesn’t really jump out at your either in terms of the packaging. It’s a rather non-descript and uninspiring clear 200ml plastic bottle; there’s a white flip up top lid, and a sticker on the front and back, with the front sticker being a blue and white design. It’s reasonably easy to read, keeps things simple and to the point, and doesn’t make too many wild promises whilst spouting names of chemicals and products that sound magical.

        The product is designed to ‘penetrate pores to visibly clear and reduce blackheads’. It claims to be gentle enough for regular everyday use and is dermatalogically tested.
        To use, simply apply some cleanser on to a cotton pad and wipe gently over the face and neck area, paying particular attention to the blackhead-prone or greasy areas, such as the T-Zone nose, forehead and chin.

        I use it first thing in the morning and it’s a very quick process, without any mess. You needn’t rinse your face afterwards. I usually apply a small bit of moisturiser after cleansing because most washes can dry my skin out

        This does have a slight chemical smell, but it’s not too overpowering. It leaves my skin feeling clean and fresh; I don’t get any tingling but nor have I had any bad responses to it. I’ve been dealing with mild adult acne / spots for a little while now and this hasn’t improved them or any blackheads, though I’ve never found a cleanser that ever has. I believe some of the issues with my skin are related to a few health and hormone issues I have going on at the moment, so I wasn’t expecting miracles from this anyway.

        All in all, it’s quick and simple to use, and leaves my face refreshed and feeling clean. It doesn’t get rid of spots or blackheads, from my experience, but it probably helps to clean pores and reduce grease and shine that can build up.

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      • More +
        21.03.2015 12:05
        Very helpful
        (Rating)

        Advantages

        • "Reasonable price"
        • "Pretty and sweet scent"

        Disadvantages

        • "A bit too sweet for some perhaps if overused"
        • "Lasting power not fantastic"

        Kiss Me Quick

        This comes in a white box, easily recognisable by the trademark pink lipstick kiss design. I bought mine in a 30ml size. On the back of the box is the slogan ‘Fragrance with Attitude’, along with the ingredients lists and a few words of caution.

        The bottle itself, I think, is quite cute. The brand is intended to appeal to a younger market, so it’s doesn’t aim for sophisticated, but it does look neat and reasonably understated in its simplicity. The bottle is angled so that it goes in towards the bottom, and the lid is a rounded plastic affair in pink, in keeping with the pink design. Granted, it’s nothing special but it’s a lower budget purchase and I don’t think it feels too ‘tacky’ or too young. The bottle itself is made of clear glass.

        The lid simply pulls off and pushes back on again, and feels quite secure. It’s easy enough to do and not fiddly, unlike a couple of perfumes out there with their overly complex and fancy designs. The first time I opened this I remembered how pleasantly surprised I was to be able to smell the EDP so well at just removing the lid for the first time.

        This brings me on to the most important part: how does it smell? Despite this seemingly being thought of as just a young / teen brand, I really like it. I’ve always liked the Kiss Me body spray so it didn’t take much to convince me to give this a try when it was on offer. I really seem to struggle with describing scents and perfumes, but the product describes the mixture of scents to include blackcurrant, pineapple and citron, with layers of vanilla, wood and musk. I couldn’t have told you that without looking it up. It does smell sweet, but it’s nicely grounded by the musk. I would say it smells more expensive than it is. It is an almost powdery fruit scent, sweet yet not overpowering or sickly sweet either. I’ve always had compliments when wearing the body spray and equally get positive comments about the EDT; it is definitely noticeable with a quick spritz on the wrists and neck without being overwhelming, which is what I like.

        I am yet to find an EDP or EDT that lasts as long as I’d like it to or expect it to, in the case of pricier products. Given as that this is a cheaper EDP, I’m happy that it lasts just as long as some of the more expensive, more ‘adult’ perfumes I’ve had. I only need use a small amount each time, a small bit on my wrist and my neck, and it’s noticeable without being overpowering. I think if you use more than this it will probably be too sickly sweet. It lingers for a couple of hours. For 30ml, it’s lasting me quite well, helped by the fact I don’t need to use much.

        30ml retails for around six pounds.

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      • More +
        18.03.2015 11:24
        Very helpful
        (Rating)

        Advantages

        • "Superb Acting"
        • Engaging
        • "Sincere and emotive"

        Disadvantages

        • "None per se for me"

        They Don't Have Forever, Just Each Other

        The Fault In Our Stars is based on a book by John Greene. Having not read this myself I can’t comment on how well it transfers to the big screen, but I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews in this regard. This review is therefore for the DVD.

        We’re introduced to Hazel, who is forever accompanied by an oxygen tank, and Augustus, who makes light of his prosthetic leg. Meeting at a support group, the two share their journey and a friendship gradually develops between the pair. The film centres on this relationship, one which starts out as two ‘survivors’ swapping stories, to two teenagers who share both a common bond through cancer and a love for one another. It’s a simple, straightforward premise in that sense, and that’s what the film is all about. We’re taken on a discovery of their ups and downs, through health scares and struggles, through jokes and sarcasm; we see how friends and family support and struggle with accepting the reality of cancer, and how such a life-changing illness can impact lives.

        This film manages to balance harsh reality with inspiration, leaving a trail of hope and sadness in its wake. As the story continues, we wonder what will happen with the two characters, knowing that the end result is not going to be a particularly happy one, but hoping none the less that some happiness can be salvaged. Indeed, I was gripped to watch until the end and I felt a good deal of empathy for the central characters. Cancer is something we all know about and it’s not something that can be escaped; this film doesn’t let us escape it, but it shines a new light on it, and through Hazel and Augustus we’re given a glimpse at how differently people handle the cards they’ve been dealt.

        I felt that the premise was moving in its simplicity. It was easy to follow and, despite the subject matter, was easy to watch. It felt genuine, without being sickly sweet or bitterly morbid. The characters injected some humour and light-hearted wit here and there to lighten the load, whilst never taking away from the underlying seriousness or gravity of the situation.

        The cast includes Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, and Willem Dafoe amongst others. It was good to see a few familiar faces, and also the not-so-big faces of the two protagonists. Each actor/actress played their respective role incredibly well & made the film believable and gripping.

        The downsides? There were a few moments/scenes that I felt were a little forced, where perhaps where the script didn't quite sit right. However, these were not monumental scenes, nor did they distract from my overall 'enjoyment'. Some may find the flick a little on the slow side, but I thought the pace was pretty well-balanced and kept me feeling engaged throughout.

        It is sincere in its simplicity, genuine in its portrayal and left its mark in my mind long after watching.

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      • Samsung C3590 / Smartphone / 8 Readings / 8 Ratings
        More +
        13.03.2015 09:09
        Very helpful
        (Rating)

        Advantages

        • Reliable
        • "Lovely outer colour"
        • "Easy to use"

        Disadvantages

        • "Tacky silver colour as per review"
        • "Basic as expected"

        A very swish looking basic budget mobile worth considering

        I came across this for my father as a gift a few months ago and thus far he has been very happy with it, ticking the boxes of being good to look at, reliable, and easy peasy to use.

        The C3590 is a flip phone with a polished metallic surface; this wine red covers the outside, and also the keypad. When closed, it’s very eye catching and quite stunning for a basic budget phone. But around the outsides of the keypad and screen is a silver element (not actually silver, just shiny silver in colour). Unfortunately, this is the one downside to me. Rather than looking sophisticated, I think it looks plastic-y and thus a bit tacky. It does, however, feel fairly robust.
        It measures approx. 11.1cm length, 1.7cm depth when closed, and 5.1cm width, weighing in at 99.5. It’s not the slimmest flip, but nor is it the chunkiest I’ve ever seen. I quite like that this opens to quite a rectangular-shaped phone, with reasonable sized screen and keypad, and it’s easy to hold/use.
        This comes with a battery, user guide, mains charger, but no USB for connecting the phone to your computer. It takes a standard SIM.

        Thankfully, this phone has proved easy enough for my dad to use. It was all very straightforward to set up out the box and the menu, layout, options etc all seem reasonably ergonomical and common sense to use.

        The screen is reasonably clear for a 2.4” TFT. It’s small but larger than some of the older, basic clamshells I’ve seen in the past, so it’s a touch larger than my dad’s old Samsung. He doesn’t struggle to see the screen or text, and colour appear vivid enough for the tasks and purposes he uses it for.
        I quite like the texturised keypad. The keys themselves are well-spaced and to press them they have a nice feel and seem easy enough to accurately use even for those with larger paws. I found them a little clunky to press down, by my dad doesn’t, so it probably depends a little on what you’re used to.
        As a basic mobile, there are no fancy frills here. There’s 2G (no 3G/WiFi) but it has 1MB internal storage expandable up to 32MB with microSD, a poor 2MP camera that’s still better than nothing, built in MP3/radio, and quadband. Personalisation is limited to the basics.
        Battery standby is 460 hours and talk time 12 hours. The perk of it being basic in nature is a better battery life. We have indeed found this to be the case; with minimal use it requires charging perhaps twice a week.

        My dad has had this phone for a few months now and has no encountered any problems with it
        This is a great little budget phone if you want something for the basics whilst also being reliable, easy to use and looking good. I’m knocking a star off for a couple of aforementioned little things,ie the ‘tacky’ looking silver.

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      • Horns - Joe Hill / Fiction Book / 9 Readings / 9 Ratings
        More +
        28.01.2015 09:33
        Very helpful
        (Rating)
        2 Comments

        Advantages

        • "Entertaining style"
        • "Interesting premise"
        • "Light & engaging to read"

        Disadvantages

        • "Ending a little rushed/unresolved"

        A Devilishly Good Read

        Horns, a novel that has reached fame having been recently been put on the big screen, falls within the drama/thriller genres, being noticeably darker in nature with the cover design and blurb on the back referring to the devil.

        The book introduces us to Ig, a regular chap who just so happens to wake up from a drunken night he can’t recall much of to find horn are growing out of his head. He’s perturbed by this, but carries on his day. He is more alarmed to find that as he meets people, be they family members or store workers, that they’re telling him all kinds of things he just doesn’t want to hear. Personal opinions or private thoughts, things people would ordinarily keep to themselves. Have the horns given him the ability to read minds, are they forcing those around him to speak words they wouldn’t usually give voice to, or is he simply going crazy?

        As the novel continues, the author begins to unravel the history of the protagonist, Ig. This is done primarily to explain the things he is hearing from those around him, including some not very nice, bordering on evil, opinions of him. We learn of his long-term love whom he met in Church many years ago, Merrin Williams, and how she died an explanation for current events, a web of characters, suspicions and theories are created.

        I loved the way the author sculpted the scenes and settings, such as the old foundry where the younger Ig, Terry and Lee used to play. It felt realistic and created a sense of atmosphere. In a similar way, the author was able to breathe life in to the characters. I created an image of them in my head and could empathise, though I thought at points this could have been a bit stronger with more descriptive help.

        Despite the darker subject matter and incidents of death and devils, the book has a light, easy-going feel to it. It is still dark and gritty where required, but it isn’t too ‘heavy’ to read. The style of writing was one which I found easy to read because it was engaging, flowed well and provoked a few chuckles. The elements of sarcasm and more uplifting positivity contrasted yet complemented the sadness or evil, and the author carried me along from page to page without too much of a problem.

        There is a sense of mystery and suspense underlying the whole novel, both a down-to-earth gritty murder mystery style one and a more spiritual/otherworldly one. It blends well, keeping the novel grounded despite the latter being of key significance.

        I’d say, however, that perhaps the ending was one I was a little unsure of. I felt something could have been better answered and tied up, rather than leaving me wondering. The book thus gets 4 rather than 5 stars for the somewhat rushed or 'unfinished' and unresolved feel to the ending.

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        • The Help (DVD) / DVD / 10 Readings / 10 Ratings
          More +
          26.01.2015 09:24
          Very helpful
          (Rating)
          1 Comment

          Advantages

          • "Interesting to watch"
          • "Engaging characters"
          • "Emotionally evocative"

          Disadvantages

          • "Took a little while to engage me"

          Helping An Inspired Revolution

          The Help falls within the drama genre and seems to have caused a bit of a stir amongst critics and audiences who have hyped it up. The Help is based on the Number 1 New York Times bestseller by Kathryn Stockett.

          We are thrown in to 1960’s Mississippi, where we meet Skeeter, a Southern girl fresh out of college and aspiring to become a writer. Against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, Skeeter sees the inequality and treatment of the black women around her and decides to write a piece on their experiences. She begins by speaking with Aibileen, her best friend’s housekeeper, who starts to open up. The interview sheds light on a some goings-on but the fellow black community are not happy with her involvement initially, worried about word getting out and them getting in to trouble. The relationship between Aibileen and Skeeter deepens as stories are shared, and a few other voices come in to the fold. It looks as if Skeeter may be able to pen a book with the stories that are being told, but where the truth starts to surface, so do the cracks in the community. The imbalance between the housekeepers and the white socialites grows, friendships are stretched and ugly truths start to surface.

          As the film continues, we see more stories uncovered, and the tidal-wave impact Skeeter’s book adventure has on the town.

          The cast includes Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, and Sissy Spacek, amongst others. I quite like the diversity here, keeping it down to earth, gritty and believable without too much Hollywood sparkle. I enjoyed watching them and could empathise with the characters; they helped make it saddening, frustrating and uplifting simultaneously, taking the edge off it being too depressing or politically orientated by adding touches of humour and sarcasm.

          Whilst the stories uncovered are shocking, the treatment of these women appalling, there is also a sense of poignancy, hope and inspiration. The film is a testament to change and how just one person can start the ball rolling, but it takes patience and bravery to do it.
          The film has a good quality feel to it. Without big action or fancy effects, what you do get is a heartfelt portrayal of the 1960’s Southern America during a tumultuous time of change.

          I must admit that initially I had some trouble getting in to the film, finding the dialogue and slower speed not particularly engaging. However, that could have been the frame of mind I was in. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long before I became intrigued, finding certain characters easy to watch and losing myself in the essence of the era. There’s more to the film than just hearing the stories. The whole notion of secretly writing them encapsulates the societal tide, the changing way of thinking at the time, the struggles within the community and the friendships involved. It gave The Help a multi-faceted approach and depth, making it more interesting and emotionally evocative.

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          • More +
            23.01.2015 12:50
            Very helpful
            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "Interesting premise"
            • "Easy enough to read"

            Disadvantages

            • "Lacked some spark"
            • "Characters could have been more developed"

            A deliberately deadly accident

            The Accident falls within the crime thriller genre and is based in America, having been a more recent release (2011 I believe) from the popular author, Linwood Barclay.
            To open, we’re initially given a glimpse in to a back alley deal of someone selling knock-off designer handbags, leaving 3 dead. This gives us a taste of things to come before we’re quickly thrown in to the main storyline. Enter Glen Garber, a man facing some financial difficulties in his construction business. Since taking over the firm from his father, Garber has maintained a close knit team that are like family to him. But the challenging industry isn’t all Glen has had to face. He finds his wife’s car at the scene of a drink-driving accident; Sheila died on impact, as did those she crashed in to. But she wasn’t a drinker, so both Glen and the 8 year-old daughter are devastated yet angry and confused.
            That’s not the only strange thing to happen. When Kelly sleeps over at the neighbour’s house with their daughter, she overhears a conversation that she obviously shouldn’t have. But what could it mean? As tensions mount between the neighbours and Garber after some altercation over the matter, things go from bad to worse at the construction company and for Glen. Sometimes things just aren’t all they seem…People get in to trouble, people die, and mystery increases. There’s something bigger at play that Glen can’t quite figure out so he takes things in to his own hands to investigate.
            The book then basically takes us across a few tangents whilst the mysteries are investigating, uncovering various characters and relationships. It was made more interesting by firstly giving us a glimpse in to the world of knock off handbags, only to throw us in to something completely different, leaving us wondering where that kind of knowledge could later come in to play.
            I enjoyed the way Barclay mixes up the premise so as not to focus it solely on one thing. It keeps us on our toes and increases the mystery as we pieces bits together bit by bit, ever quite knowing what’s what.
            As for the characters, I thought most were quite well developed. At times I felt they could have felt a bit more ‘real’ or have more depth to them, however for the most part they were easy enough to envision. There was a degree of empathy there but I didn’t find myself warm to the characters as much as I have with some other authors.

            Barclay does do suspense reasonably well. She builds up a sense of mystery because there are a lot of characters and unanswered questions thrown in to the mix. From the outset, you can’t quite figure out what’s going on, however I wasn’t overly shocked at the outcome. Overall, this is a reasonable novel with some good suspense and mystery, but it lacked some ‘spark’ in terms of a gripping premise or warmth of characters.

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          • Tefal Actifry Deep Fryer / Deep Fryer / 7 Readings / 7 Ratings
            More +
            09.01.2015 11:08
            Very helpful
            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "Looks more attractive than other models"
            • "Versatile uses"
            • " less mess & easy to use"
            • "No smell"

            Disadvantages

            • "Can't add time to timer once running"
            • "Timer not illuminated"
            • "Some chips get mushed"

            Super Frying Or Just Full Of Hot Air?

            This is for newer version 1.2kg Actifry in black, aka ‘Actifry Plus’. I was very sceptical about buying a fryer first and having bought the Breville Halo and promptly returning it, I’m pleased to say I’m quite happy with my Actifry.

            Inside the box you get the fryer itself with all the bits and pieces (such as the pan and paddle), recipe booklet, user manual and plastic spoon to use as a guide for oil, should any be required. The main selling point is that is uses one tea spoon of oil, or in fact no oil at all if using frozen oven chips.

            These fryers all look rather bulky or frankly bizarre. The Actifry is a bit more appealing to the eye than the Halo and the black finish actually makes it look rather slick and modern. This piece of kit feels relatively rugged despite being predominantly plastic. I’ve read a lot of negative reviews that scared me off the Actifry, though many pertained to the earlier model, because of bits and pieces falling apart. So far so good with mine though so I’ve got no major concerns about anything happening for a while.

            It claims to be suitable for 5 portions, but it really does depend what you’re doing and how much you think constitutes a portion! I think it’s actually pretty good in terms of size, a bit like a tardis house.

            It has a digital timer and beep alert for when it has finished cooking, but I find this doesn’t stop the cooking, can continue beeping after it’s turned off, and you can’t add minutes whilst it’s running. It’s also not illuminated, making it difficult to see sometimes.

            The ‘unique patented technology’ means the hot air circulates through the food for even cooking. It is versatile and can cook a range of things from chips to meat, puddings and vegetables. The non-stick pan rotates and there is a paddle that is easy to lift out. The lid, bowl and paddle are removable and dishwasher safe, making it easy to clean too. There’s a steam-free viewing window and I find general use is quite ergonomical. The lid opens and closes securely and you can pretty much just leave your food to cook.

            Frozen oven chips take about the time they do in the oven, perhaps a little less. The end result are more evenly cooked chips that taste delicious, though I do move them every so often during cooking. However, and this is the only thing that annoys me really about this, some chips can get a bit mushed. Luckily, they still cook well and taste great, so damage is only in terms of appearance.

            All in all, it’s easy to use and clean, results in delicious chips, has a decent capacity, and there’s less mess and no smell. It’s pricey for what it is, but gives me less grief than using the oven or a fryer and is ‘healthy’ without the oil from the latter.

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          • More +
            22.11.2014 09:32
            Very helpful
            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "Leaves skin soft"
            • "Lovely packaging design"
            • "Silky smooth to apply"

            Disadvantages

            • Pricey
            • "Not the rose scent I'd perhaps expected"

            For Skin That Is Pretty In Pink

            The Body Shop is pretty much infamous for body butters. I love the design for their Moroccan Rose. It comes in a round plastic tub with screw on lid. It feels sturdy and chunky, making it easy to grip and twist off the lid. It is light pink in colour to compliment the scent, and on the top is a darker pink floral design, along with details of the product. We’re told this is for : ‘Beautiful skin softening, with precious oil from roses hand-picked at dawn’. Ok, so the last part is a bit much but it sounds elegant and dreamlike. It is designed for ‘normal/dry skin’ and these body butters are excellent for their moisturising properties.

            At around thirteen quid I think these are over-priced. However, you get 200 ml and it lasts quite a while as only small amounts are needed for good coverage.

            The ‘butter’ looks and smells deliciously tempting. I’m not sure if rose is exactly how I’d describe the scent, which is vaguely familiar of vitamin E cream I used to have (until finding it would irritate my skin). It’s a bit floral, feminine and yet light, not too overpowering or sickly sweet. It’s a good idea to smell these in store to see what you like, but I quite enjoy this scent. I think this is what I would consider the only downside, in as much as this doesn't smell as I'd expected or like roses in my opinion. That said, it's pleasant enough.

            To apply, just take a small amount and smooth over your skin. You can always use more but I’d recommend not using too much as a little can go a long way. It’s silky smooth to the touch and glides over skin well, making it easy to use on small and large areas like legs. I find it is a pleasure to use and actually motivates me to moisturise; I find the thought off-putting more often than not as it’s too much effort, the stuff doesn’t smell great, it takes ages to sink in etc. But with this, I suppose because I love the texture and scent, I’m more tempted to do it. It seems to absorb quite well and I don’t need to leave it too long before covering up or doing other things. It doesn’t feel oily after use either, which is always a bonus. It leaves my skin feeling soft and hydrated, and the scent, whilst not long-lasting for the whole day, is just enough to be noticeable. I feel like I’m doing something nice for myself with this as it’s not often I’ll ‘splash out’ on something nice, so this is a little touch of luxury for me.

            All in all, whilst pricey for what it is, this body butter is lovely to use and leaves skin soft. The only down side is, in my opinion, that it doesn't much resemble what I had expected of a rose scent.

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          • More +
            17.10.2014 13:01
            Very helpful
            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "Fab writing style"
            • "Engaging & gripping"
            • "Depth of characters"

            Disadvantages

            • "None per se for me"

            One I was sad to finish so quickly

            This falls within the crime thriller genre and I’m already quite a Slaughter fan. We're introduced to Special Agent Faith Mitchell of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. With one older son and one little baby daughter, she's got a lot on her hands to balance this with her job. So she can attend training, her mother, Evelyn, looks after her daughter. This morning, however, when Faith returns to her mother's house to pick up her daughter, something's not quite right; baby Emma is locked in the shed and there's blood and dead bodies in the house, with Evelyn nowhere to be found.

            Enter Will Trent, the agent partnered with Faith. Whilst Faith is in shock and terrified for her mother, it's up to Will and the Atlanta Police Department to uncover the truth of what happened in that house. Evelyn is the ex Atlanta Police Chief who previously worked narcotics and was involved in a big bust that caused a lot of repercussions through the department. Could she have been involved in something sinister, or is this about something else entirely? As the novel progresses, we see all of the possible theories tried on for size as Slaughter uncovers the next piece of the puzzle bit by bit.

            As the web of characters and list of theories expands, we learn more about each character, some of whom Slaughter fans may be familiar with. Each character is built up of layers and we learn extra bits as we go along, helping us to envisage who they are, their relationships to each other, what they look like, what makes them tick. It also adds another tangent to the novel, keeping it fresh and interesting. It just makes the characters more realistic because they have depth, and at the same time keeps us intrigued rather than bogged down by the investigative aspects of the book.

            The premise was quite interesting and it kept me guessing.. I wouldn't say it was overly predictable, but nor was it too complex or confusing. Slaughter has the ability to build depth and go in to detail without losing us along the way or boring us to sleep.
            I love Slaughter’s writing style. She writes with confidence and authenticity, blending intelligence with creativity as she builds the premise and her characters. She doesn't over-egg the pudding with technical information or complicated words that require a dictionary every five minutes, but she puts just enough in there to feel genuine and like we've stepped in to a live, real-world investigation.

            Characters are painted vividly and in three dimensions, allowing us to picture who they are and get a feel for their emotions and motivations. This level of empathy is good because you get to know the characters and begin to care about what happens to them, especially Trent and Faith. The insight in to Angie is also engrossing, because we see the strange, twisted and obsessively dysfunctional relationship between the two as a side-story.

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