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The motorcycle cover that I am reviewing here is sold by Sealey Power Tools and is something I initially bought to try and protect my motorbike from the elements as it was being stored outside when not used due to not having a garage at the house where I was living at the time. I believe that I managed to pick mine up for around the £25 mark however now they seem to be selling closer to £30, which may sound expensive but really isn't too far off the mark where this sort of product is concerned.
The motorcycle cover that I am reviewing here is available in three sizes, S, M + L which means there should be an adequate size for most motorcycles from the smallest moped up to large sports bikes. I own the large cover and the dimensions are 2460 x 1050 x 1270mm. My current bike is a large sports bike and this item manages to cover everything but the very bottom of the wheels which is perfectly satisfactory as it manages to protect all of the important components and parts of the bike that I would get fed up constantly cleaning or at least cleaning more regularly because it had just been sat out in the rain.
On the outside this motorcycle cover really does look like a glorified tent that has stitched seams that run along it in order to make it into the right shape to fit a motorcycle. However upon closer inspection the inside is actually a soft fabric layer that covers the whole of the underneath. This allows the cover to be placed over and removed from the motorcycle with minimal risk of damaging paintwork and also helps to keep any condensation or moisture trapped underneath away from the motorcycle, which helps prevent corrosion and to further protect the paintwork and vital working parts from corrosion.
This motorcycle cover is supplied in a zip up reusable storage bag which is a nice touch although mine has long since been lost due to the fact that I never used it as my cover was always on my motorcycle. However this is a nice touch to keep the cover in good condition if only being used intermittently. The job of covering a motorcycle with this cover is easy enough due to the way it is shaped by the seams and elasticated sections at either end. I find the easiest way is to fold the motorcycles mirrors in then start from the front wheel stretching the cover towards the rear of the bike covering it as I go.
The seam that runs around the bottom of the cover is reinforced, and all of the seams where the fabric meet are double stitched and 100% waterproof. There is an elasticated piece at both the front and back of the cover which secures the cover on the bike and stops it blowing away in windy conditions along with two plastic eyelets which allow a chain and padlock to be passed through the front wheel for added security. This product is purely functional so is never going to win any awards for looking pretty but my main concern is that it protects my bike from the elements, and anything that is liable to damage the paintwork I try so hard to keep in clean good shape.
For the first year that I owned this motorcycle cover it was used outside and I must say that I was most impressed with the way that it withstood the elements, whilst it isn't a substitute for storing a motorcycle in the garage, if that isn't a luxury you had as I didn't at the time I would suggest this product as a very close second best. It never got blown from my bike due to the fact the shape and build of it along with the elasticated sections at the front and back meant it was well enough designed to withstand even the stormiest weather we had that year. I always lock my bike with a chain and padlock so the eyelets for this purpose most certainly come in very handy and were ringed by thick plastic to prevent any damage to the cover.
I still use this bike cover almost four years down the line despite the fact that I now keep my motorcycle in a garage and it still looks the same as the day I bought it with the only damage being my own fault after I caught it on a nail and ripped in along the seam on one side. I find it helps to prevent my current motorcycle from attracting huge amounts of sawdust from my woodwork and dust that generally seems to accumulate when a bike is stored for the best part of 6-8 months a year, again saving me cleaning. Another bonus to using this cover inside is the fact that the inner cotton layer again prevents moisture that may arise from temperature change coming into contact with the bike again providing adequate protection for my machine.
In summary I would have to say that this product is well worth a 5/5 star rating. Given the fact that I have owned this for so long and it has cost me less than the equivalent of £10 a year so far to own I feel it represents great value for money even if it has gone up in price slightly since my initial purchase. If this motorcycle cover from Sealey Power Products becomes damaged beyond the point I can use it I will definitely be purchasing a like for like replacement.
Being an avid fan of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's children's titles A Squash and a Squeeze is just one of many of their titles we possess and I am currently in the process of working my way through reviewing. Having previously browsed through this book in store I was chuffed when I was able to order and pay for it through Amazon with vouchers that I had received as a gift for Christmas. I was lucky enough to spot a 20th Anniversary special edition for sale at just £2.99 which at the time was the same price as the original copy also for sale on Amazon.
The only differences between the standard and anniversary editions are that there is a section written by Julia Donaldson at the front explaining the origins of her ideas for the book, and also a section written by Axel Scheffler at the back explaining how this book started the long term collaboration between them. Scheffler also includes some original sketches for the book and explains how they evolved from this into what is seen in the published version of the book. It was interesting to find that this story originated as a song over 40 years ago, produced for the BBC, whilst the book came quite some time later.
Whilst the extra sketches and information doesn't add much value for children reading the book, I found that these sections were a welcome addition for me. I feel they actually add value to the books for adults as it is great to have explained the origins of the book and pictures without having to research this information, as this is something I quite frequently do anyway as I like to know a bit of history surrounding the books I am reading to my daughter.
A Squash and a Squeeze is the tale of a little old lady who lives in a house by herself on a farmstead with the obvious host of farmyard animals for company. One day the little old lady is grumbling that her house is too small and that it is always a squash and a squeeze when a wise old man appears to offer her advice. The wise old man suggests that she takes her hen into the house with her and obviously this only makes the house feel even smaller. When she returns to the wise old man for more advice he suggests that she also takes in her goat. The story carries on in this vain with the old lady bringing more of her animals into her house every time she consults with the wise old man until she is left with a hen, goat, pig and a cow in her house that was a squash and a squeeze before these animals were even invited indoors, thus now leaving her with no room to move.
The last time that the old lady returns to the wise old man for advice only serves to confuse her even more as she is told to remove all of the animals from her house again as this would leave her back at square one. It is only after evicting all of the animals from her house she realises that house was in fact perfect for one and not actually a squash and a squeeze after all.
This story has a good moral meaning behind it with the old lady realising that she was actually complaining about something that wasn't a problem in the first place, yet it took having a crowded and hectic house before she realised this. It is written in typical Julia Donaldson fashion being fantastically easy to read as well as being highly engaging for young brains. The fact that the story was originally written as a song is obvious throughout with a rhythm that moves the book along at a decent pace not giving young readers a chance to bored of the story due to the fast pace.
The story repeats the phrase "Wise old man won't you help me please, my house is a squash and a squeeze" throughout giving plenty of chance for joining in with the rhythmic style of reading which is easily memorised by little ones. The fact that the book rhymes throughout as with many Donaldson publications also helps to aid young people reading this book with remembering and learning the phrases and words throughout the book. Once again this is a book that is great for reading one in one but really comes into its own when being read to a group.
Whilst I was pretty certain of the fact that our daughter would enjoy this book as everyone with children will know nothing is a certainty. What I wasn't expecting was for our daughter to adopt this book as her bedtime story for at least a full fortnight after the book landed on our doorstep requesting to see the "naughty cow" dancing on the table and "naughty pig" clearing out the larder. She finds the rhyming amusing especially when it coincides with the mischievous animals filling up the old lady's home. Both my daughter and I think that this is a great read, and along with the strong message of "bring happy with what you have" being one that I am not adverse to my daughter learning in the slightest.
All the while Julia Donaldson's excellent writing skills are backed up by Axel Scheffler's equally excellent and entertaining illustrations. His illustrations bring an added depth to the book and tell the story in a way that words cannot. If the words were removed completely from this book then the story would still be perfectly understandable, with the difference that the pictures tell the story from the animal's points of view rather the little old ladies. This makes for some amusing sketches which our daughter loves to look and often tries to skip ahead to look at.
I think the main thing that makes the illustrations so appealing is that they are quite simple and not over complicated in the slightest. They are bold and bright but do not detract from the text that accompanies them to much making them perfect for pointing along with what is being read. Once again Axel Scheffler has done an excellent job of matching the quality of Julia Donaldson's writing with his illustrations and I feel they make the perfect duo as I cannot see that anybody else would be able to compliment Julia Donaldson's writing in such a way.
In summary this is another excellent publication from the Donaldson and Scheffler duo and I am still to find another author and illustrator that work as well together as this pair do. I will now quite happily purchase any of their titles without checking them out too extensively which I feel speaks volumes itself as I like to make sure I am reading quality material to our daughter and not stuff that looks like it has been cobbled together just for the sake of turning a buck.
If there are people out there that have never set eyes on or read a Donaldson and Scheffler title I would strongly suggest that it is something that they do. I feel even those without children would find this pair's books amusing for a quick flick through in the supermarket or library if they are not intending to purchase or borrow it. For those with little ones I find it hard to imagine they would have missed out on Donaldson's and Scheffler's titles completely and can quite happily say that this matches if not exceeds the quality of any other publication of theirs anyone may have read.
So just in case you haven't guessed already this book comes with a most solid 5/5 star recommendation from me as I feel not only is this a great read for children but will also keep parents engrossed from cover to cover which I feel is quite some feat for a book aimed at children.
The new range of barista style instant coffees that hit the shelves not so long back had been tempting me for a while as I do like a decent cup of coffee, and whilst some instants can be quite nice I have usually found that there is room for improvement. It wasn't until recently however when I spotted that this new range of products, available from most of the large brand names, Nescafe, Carte Noire, Kenco, etc were all on offer at just £2 for a 100g tin I decided to give them a go.
The price I paid was cheaper than the standard branded coffees on display as well as a lot cheaper than the usual selling price of these products which is just shy of £5. It was for this reason I ended up with the 100g tin of Nescafe Azera that I am reviewing here in the hope that I had bagged a bargain and it would live up to my expectations by ways of making a superior cup of coffee.
Nescafe is packaged in a flashy silver tin with a brown label, with the branding and product name standing out in bold white print, along with orange trim and lid. It certainly looks more upmarket than standard glass coffee packaging, and stands out on the shelf, however this alone had not been enough to tempt me into purchasing a product that I thought would most probably be overpriced for what I would be receiving.
What's the Difference?:-
The main difference with this product from standard soluble coffee is the fact that there is ground roasted coffee included in the mix. Nescafe Azera has 5 % roasted ground coffee beans mixed in with the other 95% made up of instant coffee, with the only noticeable difference in appearance being that this coffee is very fine in consistency and is a powder rather than granules; I presume to provide an evenly mixed powder and allow the ground coffee to disperse effectively in hot water.
Nescafe state that "We all love barista style coffee. The intense aroma. The enticing look. The roasted coffee taste. Now you can enjoy all of that pleasure in the ease of an instant". I was certainly hoping this claim to be true, as it would make this product a definite improvement on any instant coffee that I have tried before.
The lid despite flimsy appearences actually seals the tin of coffee very well and is quite durable, first time of use there is a silver foil lid underneath the main lid that needs to be peeled back and discarded of. Once the foil is removed the smell that wafts out of the tin definitely hints towards a premium product, whilst not necessarily smelling stronger than all standard instants I have tried, there is a definite undertone of the ground coffee which seems to enrich and add an extra depth to the smell.
I usually use one heaped teaspoon of Nescafe Azera in a large mug and find this makes perfectly adequate coffee. The only problem I find is that the coffee is of such a fine consistency that getting the right quantity on a tea-spoon can be tricky as knocking a little off the spoon when too much is picked up results in most of the coffee going back into the pot. As hot water is poured into the coffee the smell only gets better and was slowly building my hopes up that this may be a decent coffee especially after spotting a half decent layer of crema frothing up on top.
Either black, with milk, or with coffee mate at work Nescafe Azera does make a good cup of coffee and is a slight improvement on the usual instants that I drink. It has a smoother taste with more depth than standard instants, the taste (as well as the recommended retail price) give the feeling that this is a coffee to be enjoyed slowly and not thrown down the hatch. The coffee dissolves well into hot water however the ground coffee doesn't actually dissolve rather disperses and tends to form a layer round the edge of the cup at the top if left to cool meaning a quick stir will be needed.
Overall whilst Nescafe Azera is definitely an improvement on standard coffee I find it really hard to justify paying around the £5 mark for 100g of coffee as it still doesn't live up to anywhere near the barista quality claims. It is for this reason I only purchase coffee like this when it is on offer as I feel £2 - £3 is a more than decent price for this product. The flavour whilst having depth and an extra quality to it just doesn't quite carry through the strength and body that gives barista made coffee the edge every single time.
In summary from me this is only going to be 4/5 stars for this product, I can understand a premium price tag but think £5 is just too much, and the fact that whilst it makes a decent effort it just doesn't live up to the claims on the side of the tin. It is only the fact that this product makes a decent cup of coffee that does indeed taste better than normal instants that saved it from losing an extra star. Nescafe Azera carries a recommendation from me if you can get this coffee whilst on offer or think that the higher price of this coffee is worth the improvement in taste.
Asda own brand washing up liquid is a product I have started purchasing primarily because it works out cheaper than the branded products on display next to it, and is one a product that can be bought more cheaply without affecting our quality of life or the quality of the food that we are able to buy alongside with our regular shop. This product costs just 87p for 740ml when on sale at its usual price meaning Asda washing up liquid generally works out anywhere between 50p - £1.50 cheaper per litre than the premium brands even when these are on offer. Quite often it is on offer at the price of two 740ml bottles for £1.50 making this product even cheaper in comparison than what is on the shelf nest to it.
Asda claim that this products "grease busting formulation is bursting with bubbles to leave dishes sparkling clean".
This liquid is supplied in fairly generic packaging, this being a see through bottle with a flip top that allows the liquid inside to be squirted into the bowl when turned upside down. The bottle is see through in colour meaning the standard green colour of this Original variety washing up liquid is visible to the consumer, and also means I can see exactly how much is left in the bottle.
In use this Asda washing up liquid doesn't really keep up with the brand name products with regards to the amount of bubbles it produces, however using a little extra will soon solve this, and as this is such a cheap product in the first place it still works out more economical than buying a premium branded washing up liquid. Whilst I wouldn't say it is bursting with bubbles as Asda claim it to be, it definitely produces a decent amount and is a good compromise between the supermarket budget ranges which I have found to be next to useless and what I consider to be the overpriced branded washing up liquids.
With regards to cleaning power I have found that this Asda washing up liquid does a perfectly reasonable job of getting our dishes clean with a minimum of effort. When it comes to tougher grease and grime such as that on saucepans and oven trays I have found that they may need soaking for a couple of minutes longer, and can be a tiny bit more effort to actually scrub clean yet once again this product does a perfectly good job. I have found that whilst a bit extra is used the fact that this product is supplied at such a cheap price in the first place that it still works out more economical than the more expensive products on display next to it.
With regards to the scent of this washing up liquid I would actually be hard pressed in a blind-folded test to tell it apart from other original scented washing up liquids. The smell is immediately obvious as soon as this product is added to hot water and personally I feel that it smells pretty much identical to the premium brands that we were buying previously.
Overall I would have to say that I am pleased with this poduct, admittedly it doesn't produce quite as many bubbles as leading brands, yet the bubbles it does produce stay around long enough to give washing up a decent soak and are still there when I empty the bowl afterwards. The end results as mentioned above are pretty similar to all other decent washing up liquids that I have used in the past, and whilst not living up completely to Asda's claims about the product bursting with bubbles it certainly does leave my dishes clean and works out a lot more economical than the more expensive products.
This product is a great compromise between the supermarkets budget ranges which come in at less than 30p for 500ml and the more expensive brands which tend to cost anywhere from £1 upwards for this amount. Asda washing up liquid is a product I will continue to buy as I feel it does a good enough job to warrant its existence alongside more expensive products, and it comes with a 4/5 star recommendation for me with the only thing letting it down being the slight lack of bubbles, and ever so slightly decreased cleaning power when compared directly with more expensive products.
The Snail and the Whale was a book I purchased for our daughter mainly because she has enjoyed many of the other same books from author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler. This book had also been pointed out numerous times to me from the small thumbnails at the rear of other books from the same duo by my daughter which was enough make this book stand out from the others on display with it. I managed to pick this book up as part of a 2 for £7 deal which I thought was great value for money when the individual retail price of £6.99 for each book is taken into consideration.
This book was first released in 2003 and whilst not as well known as titles such as The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom which amongst others have their own accompanying BBC DVDs I was still hoping that this book would be just as entertaining. Upon having a quick flick through in store I was convinced this would live up to the high expectations bought upon in by other Donaldson and Scheffler books, and that our daughter would enjoy it as much as the thumbnails in other books had led her to believe.
Well as far as the storyline goes the title and cover picture gives a pretty good idea of who the story will be following, and the general idea of the story. The story focuses to start with on a snail who wishes to escape the escape the big black rock that he lives and explore the world. Luck would have it that a whale stops by the rock one day and against the best wishes of all his friends the snail climbs aboard the whales tail and sets off on a trip to see the world. The story follows the pair through calm blue seas and storms, whilst along the way the see sharks, monkeys, mountains, boats and beaches, along with plenty of other nautical and water themed characters worked in along the way for good measure.
Eventually when the whale gets beached the tables are turned and it is the snails turn to help the whale, the seemingly impossible task of getting the whale back into the sea is left solely to the snail. If I was to go into the snails rescue attempt this really would be a grand spoiler, so I will leave the plot here with assurances that the ending is obviously happy and definitely up to par with the rest if the book. I feel that adults and children alike will enjoy the outcome of this book and really do not see it as my place to spoil this.
As I have said in previous reviews Julia Donaldson writing style makes her stories so very easy to read aloud, without being over stupefied or too simplistic. Instead they are well written, and flow almost rhythmically, with the words not being chose just because they fit a rhyme, but rather have been quite obviously well considered and thought through. This is something I appreciate when reading a book especially to my child as I like to feel that she is learning from the whole reading experience, and that what I am reading her is actually building on her vocabulary and providing her a good base for her English language skills.
Julia Donaldson's flowing, rhyming, writing style as always helps to place emphasis on words that may otherwise be passed by, and make the whole reading experience enjoyable for the little ones. Our daughter had just turned two when we first purchased this book, and I feel that the story and pictures are ideal for a child of this age who is just starting to show a proper interest in the actual story contained within the book. Our daughter is now closer to 3 years old, still enjoys this book and gets a lot more out of it than she did a year ago. I imagine that this book will stick around for years to come in our house as our daughter frequently likes it read to her, and I can see this book being one of many Julia Donaldson titles that may well last until she is able to read them for herself.
Overall in my opinion the story contained within The Snail and the Whale is a little slower paced than other offerings from the same author. Whilst it does still move along at a fairly decent pace, this seems to be a book from Donaldson's back catalogue that is aimed at the slightly older reader as there is a lot more detail to digest and words in total, and I feel this is the reason that seems to slow it down a little compared to some of Donaldson's other titles. Our daughter gets the idea of what is going on however and is able to repeat parts from memory whilst reading with me, so this book is providing some decent educational value as well as a decent good entertainment factor, meaning that Donaldson has once again succeeded in writing a brilliant children's story.
Saying that this book is worthy of recommendation on the strength of the story alone certainly gives the illustrations a lot to live up to, and I am glad to say that Axel Scheffler has definitely delivered. Once again his illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Donaldson's words surmising everything she has written on the page and managing to fit in a lot that she hasn't. This is all whilst keeping the illustrations clear and colourful, with the storyline always being obviously at the foreground of the picture making the story nice and easy to follow for younger readers.
If the text was removed from this book the pictures alone would give a great idea of the story which I feel helps to keep the younger readers captivated. There are lots of other talking points not mentioned in the story such as, seagulls, parrots all making it into the pictures as well which only adds to the educational value of this book. The Snail and the Whale looks as though it has been written and illustrated by the very same person, so well do Donaldson's words and Scheffler's pictures fit together. Taken as a whole the illustrations are great and allow the words to take precedence on the page and be easily read, without fading into the background or becoming boring.
As you may well have guessed I feel that overall I think that this is another excellent collaboration from Julia Donaldson and, Axel Scheffler, which is well worth reading. I feel that it would suit a broad age range probably from 2-6 years giving it an excellent lifespan, and is just as suitable for boys as it is girls as the subject matter is not at all gender related. The book also stands up quite well to spills and food as the pages are glossy and if caught quickly can usually be wiped clean which is a welcome bonus with young readers.
Whilst this is not my daughter's favourite book on her shelf, it certainly has had a fair bit of use in the time that we have had it. It's starting to looked well-loved and a little dog eared in places but is still holding together well and none of the pages are torn at all just looking well used. I would most definitely recommend this books to people who have enjoyed Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler titles before, and even those who haven't touched on these before and have children who are enjoy their animals as the illustrations are excellent.
In my opinion this duo have published another excellent book that is worth a most definite 5/5 star recommendation from me.
The Hewlett Packard 1050A J410G printer that I am reviewing here was actually an emergency purchase after our old Epson printer give up the ghost and I needed to print off a CV for a job application. It just so happened that I spotted this HP printer for sale in our local supermarket for just £30 on my way to trawl around the shops for a reasonably priced basic printer. Upon spotting this HP printer I decided that it fit the bill perfectly and as long as I could get a decent black and white page of print out of it I would be more than satisfied so decided to give it a try. Despite the fact I only needed a printer this product is an all-in-one printer meaning it also comes with the facilities to photocopy and scan.
Brand - Hewlett Packard
Dimensions - 41x43x25cm
Weight - 3kg
Wattage - 10 Watts
Functions - Print/Scan/Photocopy (Full Colour)
Black and White Cartridge Cost - approx. £8 for a genuine cartridge
Coloured Inks Cartridge Cost - approx. £9 for a genuine cartridge.
RRP - £76.99
This printer was supplied in a solid glossy box depicting the product inside, and despite minimal packaging inside in the way of a couple of pieces of polystyrene it was secure and made it home in one piece. Upon removal from the box it was just a case of connecting the mains cable and data cable to the printer then connecting to my laptop and plugging it in. The only issue here was the fact that it wasn't supplied with a USB data cable to connect to my laptop however I just used the one from my old printer but this is something to bear in mind if buying one. Once the initial hardwiring was complete I had to install the drivers for the printer from the CD supplied inside the box which was simply a case of inserting the CD into my laptop and following the onscreen instructions. The CD had an auto-run feature meaning user input for setup is minimal as it boots up straight away with no need to search for the disc in order to run it.
It took me no longer than 10 minutes from walking in through my front door to having the printer setup and working fully thanks to the CD supplied as I didn't need to connect to the internet to find the files required to make it work which is an issue I have previously had with making installation of PC accessories more long winded than it actually needed to be. In terms of initial setup this printer is perfect for those with little or no experience when it comes to these sorts of things as setting it up really was complete child's play, just so long as it is remembered that the USB - PC cable will need to be purchased separately.
How does it Perform:-
The paper feed for this printer is from the top which is quite standard for most deskjet printers, and will comfortably hold around 20 sheets of paper without a problem. Whilst printing the HP 1050A is pretty quiet during operation which was a real treat after my old Epson which tried to dismantle my desk every time I used it as it vibrated and clunked so much. Black and white prints are of a suitable quality even when the printer is used on a draft setting, although when set on a higher quality setting this does slow the printer down somewhat but the prints are of an excellent quality.
Colour printing is exceptionally good given the price of the printer however if lots of high quality photos or colour heavy prints are being produced I have found that it can very quickly chew through ink. I have come to expect this of cheaper inkjet printers and this is not really an issue for me as I am usually using it for black text and this doesn't seem to use the black ink up anywhere near as quickly as the coloured cartridge even when printing on a high quality setting. The colours on finished prints are crisp, do not run into each other at all, and I have never had a problem with ink still being wet when it comes out of the printer which is an issue I have had with previous inkjet printers especially when printing in colour.
The scanner/photocopying feature of this printer is something I have only used on a couple of occasions once when photocopying documentation for insurance purposes and once to scan a logbook onto my computer to e-mail to the previous owner of my vehicle for complicated reasons I won't go into. The photocopies of my paper and card parts of my driving licence were picture perfect as was the copy of my proof of no claims I took for my own records. The scanned image that I took was also a good copy I was expecting it to be grainy and pixelated but I was actually impressed. As with a standard scanner or photocopier there are paper size graduations marked to enable accurate copies to be produced but I found that due to the lid being quite light it can be difficult to get documents to stay put especially if they have previously been folded.
All of the above functions are incredibly easy to use due to the fact that there is one button for the photocopy function and an on off switch. Other than this it is simply a case of clicking on the shortcut automatically installed on the desktop for the scanner function, or selecting the printer from the list provided when selecting the print option in any given program.
The only real problem that I have come across is the fact that the colour cartridge is an all in one type meaning that if one colour runs out the printer will no longer print in colour only black and white even if there are two of the three coloured inks still remaining. This means that this is most definitely not as economical as owning a printer with separate colour cartridges and something I feel that HP could really have done with addressing, as whilst it isn't an issue for me as I rarely print in colour it may well be a source of constant irritation for some especially as the coloured inks are the most expensive to replace.
Other than the issue with the coloured ink and the fact that there is no USB - PC data cable supplied I have been really impressed with this printer especially as I managed to purchase it new for less than half of the manufacturers recommended price. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this product for the market of household use at which it is aimed, but would say that it is nowhere near economical or quick enough for people considering using it heavily on a daily basis or for business use. The fact that this is an inkjet model will always limit it by means of speed and economy however this generally tends to be the best option for those wanting to print occasionally at home given the cheap initial outlay to purchase one of these printers. Whilst I have highlighted a couple of issues with this printer I would have to say that it is definitely worth the price I paid for it.
I feel it would be harsh to award this printer three stars as it is definitely better than deskjets I have used in the past, however the actual RRP of this product I feel is a little high and warrants a star knocked off so would suggest shopping around to get the best deal. I also feel the fact that the issue with the coloured ink is definitely worth half a star knocked off, with the fact that the data cable not being supplied being neither here nor there as it is uncommon to get connection cables with electrical peripherals. So whilst this product comes with a 3.5/5 star rating from me I will have to round this up to 4 as deducting a further full star would be unfair. The HP Deskjet 1050A J410G does everything it should well, but with a couple of issues I would have expected a company like HP to have ironed out before they released a product for sale.
I was lucky enough to spot The Highway Rat in a hardback edition recently on offer for just £2.99 which I thought was a great offer as this is at least 50p cheaper than I can usually pick up similar titles for my daughter in paperback. The main reason I purchased this is because it is a collaboration between author Julia Donaldson illustrator Axle Scheffler a duo I know whose work compliments each other well and usually makes for a story that my daughter will enjoy. Having read most of their other work a quick flick through just to check out what it looked like at a glance was enough to seal the deal for me.
First released in 2011 The Highway Rat is one of this duo's more recent offerings. Written in classic Julia Donaldson style being easy to read yet quick paced whilst rhyming throughout which I feel makes this greatly entertaining. The story follows the Highway Rat whose life is proclaimed to be one big feast, mainly due to his acts of highway robbery from the back of his trusty steed, stealing food whether he likes it or not from those unfortunate enough to cross him. Stealing pastries and cakes from a rabbit, nuts from a squirrel and even hay from his own horse gives an idea of what sort of a cretin the Highway Rat is. Eventually however he meets his match in the way of a duck and is easily outsmarted by use of a little guile. All I will say is that his punishment is fitting and finishes off the book well, I will not speak of his punishment here as I feel even with children's books it is nice to leave the ending untold.
As an educational tool I find that Julia Donaldson and Axle Scheffler's books are a great tool for those just setting off on the journey of reading, and just as equally entertaining for children old enough to sit and read by themselves. As I have said in previous reviews the writing style helps to make the story flow really well, with the way that they rhyme placing all the emphasis in the right places helping individual words as well as the story on a whole to be learnt quickly, therefore making it easy for young readers to join in even if they cannot actually read the text.
The Highway Rat has a bit more of a sinister plotline to it than other books from this pair, yet the way it is tackled portrays stealing as something that is most definitely wrong, and there is usually a punishment waiting in the end. Whilst the Highway Rat is far from nice this is offset well by the other characters in the book and I would condsider this book to be anything other than scary. Overall I think that Julia Donaldson has done a brilliant job of writing this in keeping with previous titles, and whilst maybe aimed at a slightly older audience is still suitable from as soon as a child is enjoying being read to right up until 5 years of age at least maybe even having a bit more of a shelf life than this.
As always with Axel Scheffler's illustrations it is hard to imagine that anybody else would be able to match the quality of Julia Donaldson's story telling with the pictures that they draw, which is why I feel that they make such an excellent team. Axel Scheffler has yet again done an excellent job of depicting the story with bright colourful illustrations quite often adding to the story what words can't as well as including all of what Julia Donaldson is writing about. They do not over complicate the page leaving plenty of emphasis on the words written there and only adding to the captivation of this book for the little ones.
Axel Scheffler's illustrations really add a lot of depth and really help younger readers to grasp the story and understand what is being read to them. Overall I feel that Axel Scheffler's illustrations are brilliant throughout this book and easily match up to what he has published previously with Julia Donaldson making this another book that is great to look at as well as read.
In summary this book ticks all of the boxes I feel it is required to as a book aimed at those first starting out with reading. It is entertaining, educational, and funny as well as having a strong moral meaning running throughout. More importantly it is another book published from this duo that has stood the all-important test of being read to our daughter. I enjoy reading this book aloud to our daughter because of the flowing style that is so easy to read aloud, which also makes it ideal for reading as part of a group. Our daughter also likes taking this off on her own to have a flick through and look at the pictures which is where the hardback cover comes in handy as it is just that bit more durable than a paperback.
The excellent illustrations from Axel Scheffler and brilliant story writing from Julia Donaldson make this book well worth a look, and the fact that this book has captivated our daughters imagination enough to be read from cover to cover on more than several occasions speaks volumes by itself. The Highway Rat comes with a most definite 5/5 star recommendation from me as I find it highly enjoyable on every level and most importantly so does my daughter.
Recently we have been trying to make cut backs where-ever possible whilst trying not to impact our quality of life, or the quality of the meals that we are eating. This means that we have been looking at the products that form part of our regular grocery bill closely and deciding whether there is a cheaper alternative to the quite often expensive brand names that frequently seem to end up in our trolley. For this reason we ended up purchasing a bottle of this Asda Window and Glass Cleaner at a cost of just £1.50 for a 750ml bottle; half the price of some premium brands.
This glass cleaner is part of the Asda Chosen by You range rather than Smart Price as I believe there is a limit to how well products work once they start to get cheap to the point where I'm pretty much just paying for the packaging rather than what's inside. I was more than happy to take a chance at the price this product was selling for with my only expectations being that it would leave my windows smear free and clean with the minimum of effort.
Supplied in a clear plastic bottle, the bright green, washing up liquid coloured glass cleaner inside is on display for all to see and makes it stand out on the shelf. I presume that the product being this colour is no accident as it matches the colour of a lot of the more expensive products, as the marketing bods seem to think this luminous green colour shouts cleaning power. The bottle itself is a pretty generic shape with a narrow neck that allows it to fit easily in the hand whilst operating the spray top that is fitted to the bottle. The top unscrews which is handy as it means that this product can be reused for pre-mixing other cleaning solutions that are handy to use with a spray applicator. The end of the spray part of the bottle has a rotating nozzle that allows it to be turned on or off, giving extra peace of mind with a little one in the house that absolutely loves the colour of this product and wishes to join in with the cleaning as frequently as possible.
Upon the front of the bottle is a simple label informing me of the product inside and promising a "smear free shine, with added vinegar for sparkling results" with the added claim that this cleaner reduces misting. The rear of the bottle has a label with usage instructions and extra information such as warnings, recycling information etc. The only part of this bottle that is not recyclable is the black plastic spray trigger, however I generally tend to re-use packaging such as this at least once (usually for cleaning the car), which makes me feel a little better about my impact in the environment.
The instructions advise that this product is to be sprayed onto the surface that needs cleaning from at least 25cm's away. I personally find this to be a little excessive and results in overspray unless cleaning larger windows or panels of glass. Whilst cleaning glass, in my car especially, I find it is better to spray from a close distance, which gives a small area of coverage which I then spread out with a cloth. This product is also suitable for use on mirrors, worktops, tiles, chrome and stainless steel although I tend to stick to just windows as the smell of this product is most definitely reminiscent of window cleaning chemicals and I couldn't really imagine using this to clean the kitchen or bathroom as it could be a quite overpowering even with adequate ventilation if enough was used to clean an entire room.
Once sprayed onto the surface that needs cleaning this product needs to be wiped off immediately and to get the most from it, the instructions advise when using this product for the first time to re-apply for a second and third time, I presume to allow the anti-misting feature to have full effect, after this it just needs to used once. Now I'm pretty certain I'm in the same boat as most when I say that I don't believe in creating work for myself in this way, so just used it the once first time round and still received perfectly adequate results from this product.
I have used this product solely for the purpose of cleaning glass either in my home or car, and I am pleased to report that the anti-smearing and mist reducing features of this product do indeed work as they should after cleaning. As long as our windows don't get too dirty in the meantime I find the anti-misting feature tends to last for at least a few weeks which is especially handy in the car. This glass cleaner doesn't eliminate misting altogether but definitely reduces the amount of time my windscreen takes to clear, the kitchen window also still steams up but again the amount of time it takes to de-mist is definitely reduced after cleaning with Asda Glass Cleaner.
With regards to the actual removal of dirt and grime this product also works really well even cleaning the outside of my car windscreen of bugs with a minimum of effort. Our back door is also another area which gets really dirty as our dog tends to put her nose and muddy paws all over it, yet a quick spray of this is generally enough to remove it all, I just find it better to leave it for 5 seconds or so to enable it to eat into the dirt a little.
Whilst this product does everything it is supposed to do it is important to use a lint free polishing or cleaning cloth as it is very easy to leave windows looking worse than what they were to start with if using the wrong sort of cloth that leaves pieces all over. The safety instructions advise to use in a well-ventilated area, to avoid the eyes, broken skin, and to clean up spillages immediately, so nothing other than common sense requirements really. I won't go into the ingredients as the 2 that are listed other than vinegar and perfume are long chemical names that I'm sure will mean next to nothing to most people reading this. The one thing I do not like about this product is that I would have to apply for a COSHH data sheet in order to discover the full contents of this bottle that make this product as the bottle just states that these ingredients are used "amongst others".
So in the cleaning stakes I have been most impressed with this Asda glass cleaner as it keeps up with premium brands really well indeed, and the only issue I can see is for people that are more worried than me about what is contained in the bottle rather than their finances and the actual cost of the product.
In summary I would have to say that this Asda glass cleaner was well worth the £1.50 I spent, a little goes a long way, for example when cleaning my car after I have wiped the inside of the windscreen free of the glass cleaner what is left on the rag is plenty to clean the inside of the door windows with the same streak free finish. This is definitely a product that will be making a regular appearance on our shopping list as and when it requires replacing, as I feel cleans just as well as brand name products, whilst costing a whole lot less. It is also easy to get every last little bit of product from the bottle due to the packaging design which only adds to the value for money factor.
So overall a great product from Asda that does exactly what it claims to whilst maintaining a reasonable sale price. I would most definitely recommend this product however I will be knocking one star from the full complement because I would like to see a more comprehensive list of ingredients on the packaging as I feel this is a little misleading and could cause a problem for those with allergies, although it has never caused my skin any problems during or after use. So despite my one small niggle it's still a pretty decent 4/5 star recommendation from me for this cost effective cleaning aid from Asda.
First published in 2013 by Hard Case Crime, Stephen King's "Joyland" was a book I was keen to get my hands on as it was one of very few of his titles that I didn't own. I eventually managed to pick this book as part of a 2 for £7 offer which I thought was a more than reasonable price giving the fact that the cover price of the book was £7.99. I feel the cover price of this book is far too expensive and doesn't represent anywhere near good value for money as unlike other Stephen King novels this is quite a short story running at just over 280 pages. Had this not been available on special offer I feel I would have left this book on the supermarket shelf despite being an avid Stephen King fan, fortunately for me this was not the case.
Joyland tells the story of Devin Jones a New Hampshire university student who takes a job at a North Carolina amusement park during his summer break from university. Having worked the carny circuit for the summer Devin decides he will take a year out from his studies to stay on at the park during the closed season. Whilst he is at the park the fortune teller that works here tells him that he will meet a boy with a dog, and a girl with a red hat, as well as the fact that one of these children will have "The Sight". Upon investigating the fortune that he had been told Devin also discovers that a young girl was murdered on one of the rides and that her ghost still haunts the ride she was murdered on.
Devin meets a disabled boy with a dog who he passes most days on the beach whilst he is on his way to work at the carnival who after investigating the haunting at the carnival decides that he really does have "The Sight" and is able to see the girl who was murdered. Devin is given the job of "wearing the fur" and dressing up as Howie the Hound the carnivals mascot and whilst doing this saves a girl with from choking who just so happens to be wearing a red hat. This adds weight to the fact that the fortune teller tells him that the park is haunted by the murdered girl and is most of the reason he decides to stay on at the park after the open season and investigate further.
Eventually Devin gets talking to the boy and his mum due to taking a shine to the boy's mother and soon clicks that the boy he has met has the sight that the fortune teller had warned him of. Whilst working at the carnival Devin investigates the murder of this girl, and soon finds that everything is not as it seems and by making friends with the carnival staff has left himself far more entwined in this mystery than maybe he ever wanted to be. Due to the young boy not having long to live Devin arranges a day at the park for him whilst it is closed, getting permission from his boss mainly because of his act of saving the girl in the red hat from choking.
This is the point where the separate strings of the plot are bought expertly into one by King and the point that I will stop writing about the plot to avoid the risk of any real spoilers. The story seems straight forwards and leads the reader to think that they know most of what is going on, yet in typical Stephen King fashion the twists that are left until the end are most unexpected and take the novel in a very dark direction. Overall the plot of this novel is very well thought through indeed with no loose ends at all come the end of the story leaving the reader feeling that although a short novel it is also a very complete one. The blurb on the back of the book promises this story to be "a mystery, a horror story, and a bitter sweet coming of age novel" which I couldn't have put any better myself hence the reason I'm quoting it here.
Joyland for me was a nice change from the usual Stephen King novels which are usually a lot longer than this; it was refreshing to know before I started the novel that this wasn't a book I would have to set a massive amount of time aside to read over a period of several weeks. Despite the fact that this novel is short it is, as one would expect from King extremely well written and manages to convey the story very well indeed with very few wasted words. After I had finished reading this book I felt as though I had indeed read a full length Stephen King novel due to the quality of the writing and story contained within the creepy looking 1950's style cover.
I wasn't sure that I would enjoy this book at first after reading the information supplied on the back cover, but the age old fable of not judging a book by its cover is most certainly true in this case and I was most glad that I didn't pass this book up. I enjoyed the story along with the fact that whilst not exactly a light read due to the pace and incredible amount of plot squeezed into the book it was also quite a quick read compared to other King novels.
Overall I would have to say that this Stephen King novel is well worth a read but only if it can be picked up on offer, second hand or from the library, because as mentioned whilst selling at the cover price I feel that it really is quite overpriced. I feel that Hard Case Crime are trying to take advantage of the vast following of avid Stephen King fans that they were hoping would rush out and purchase this book at full price.
The storyline and plot show Stephen's King excellence at writing within the horror genre, and I am sure that there are very few fans out there, or even those reading a King novel for the first time that would feel let down by this captivating story. The way it is written evokes emotion and intrigue which kept me turning the pages and resulted in me being late back for work at least once as I wanted to finish the chapter I was reading on my lunch break meaning I completely lost track of time.
So in summary a book that is well worth a read but only worth the money being asked if can picked up on offer, on the merit of the story alone this book is most definitely worth a full complement of stars, but unfortunately due to the high cover price that has been printed on the rear of this book I am afraid that is only a 4/5 star rating from me but still a book that is well worth recommending.
The Early Learning Centre hopscotch game that I am reviewing here was actually a chance purchase after searching in the Early Learning Centre for a present for my daughters 2nd birthday. I knew that she had been enjoying the floor puzzles on the mornings she attends nursery, but none of what was on display really caught my eye, it wasn't until I was leaving the store that I spotted this large hopscotch floor puzzle on sale for £7.50, half the price it was originally marked up at and half the price of the similar floor puzzles I had just been looking at.
Although the low price of this set made it a far easier purchasing decision than spending double this amount, it also caught my eye for a couple of other reasons. I thought that this would be a great gift for a 2 year old that is just getting confident enough on their feet to start truly testing the boundaries of their balance and co-ordination, as well as showing an interest in numbers which I like to enforce wherever possible; I felt the eye-catching, bold, multi-coloured design would really draw her attention towards the numbers. It was for the above reasons combined that resulted in me purchasing this as a present for our daughter with the hope it would live up to my expectations.
Packaging and Contents:-
The very first thing that struck me as a good idea was near impossible to miss when I spotted this Early Learning Centre hopscotch for the first time, this is the fact that the outer retail packaging actually doubles up as a durable carry bag with a zipped top which can be re-packed with relative ease time and time again. Whilst this seems a small thing this helps to fight the battle we seem to be slowly losing, which is to try and teach our daughter everything has it place, the fact that this hopscotch has its very own carry case often ends up with her asking to put it back after playing with it so as she can carry it about which in my eyes is a good thing.
Inside of the carry bag are 10 multi-coloured tiles with puzzle shaped edges which allow them to fit together in numerical order in a classic hopscotch design. Also included are 3 throwing discs of which unfortunately we only have 2 left, as I can solidly confirm that this toy is not in the slightest bit dog proof, which wasn't a consideration until I clicked too late that the discs resemble Frisbees which my dog adores to chase and chew. Once laid out the hopscotch is most definitely eye catching and bright and our daughter couldn't wait to get it out of the packaging let alone jump all over it.
The aim of the game is to throw one of the circular discs as far along the hopscotch grid as possible, hop to retrieve it placing one foot on each tile with alternate hops, then turn around and hop back, all without tripping, stumbling, or veering from the correct course. Whilst this sounds simple enough it's easy enough for an adult to get their feet in a tangle let alone a 2 year old. Our daughter who is now closer to 3 years old is just starting to get to grips with playing the game properly and now able to tell me if I've been cheating. So whilst this game is probably more suited for ages 3 years + we have still managed to get good use out of it in the meantime and can see it lasting for a while longer with it hopefully providing entertainment value for a couple of years yet.
The puzzle pieces and discs are all made out of compressed foam with a dimpled finish on the top to give grip for little feet whilst the bottom is a flat finish to provide maximum grip on any given surface. We have a laminate floor in our sitting room and have set this hopscotch up numerous times without any major incidents of it slipping or causing an accident. It does move and slip ever so slightly on such a smooth surface meaning it needs to be readjusted occasionally to keep it a safe distance from the fish-tank and TV stand; however on carpet or even real wood floors with a smooth finish I do not think that this would be a problem.
Setting this game up is half the fun and has helped a lot with our daughters counting and number recognition in more ways than one. Whilst setting this up occasionally the numbers would pop out of the middle of the puzzle pieces which at first was a nuisance. This was until our daughter decided it would be a good idea to pop them all out whilst trying to put them in order. She still needs a little help with putting the puzzle pieces together in order as well as once dis-assembled as part of her very own game, however can now count unaided 1 through to 10 whilst pointing to the right numbers. Whilst this set cannot hold 100% acclaim for teaching our daughter to count it quite obviously helped her along the way. Another use we have found for the numbers whilst free of the puzzle tiles is to use as stencils to draw around the outside of with a pencil for colouring in meaning a set of A4 sized numbers with the appropriate word spelt out underneath can be easily made.
As mentioned when we first got this set our daughter was walking well and really starting to test the boundaries of balance and co-ordination with regards to jumping, hopping and generally any form of movement other than walking as this was already mastered and beginning to get a bit of a bore. I feel that this game has definitely helped improve our daughters' co-ordination as far as her feet are concerned, as well as providing exercise for and therefore strengthening her leg and core muscle strength with all the jumping, hopping and bending which all helps with posture later on in life.
One concern I had initially was that the foam tiles would be quite weak, not stand up to any sort of bending and break easily. Fortunately this product has proved me wrong, whilst we make every effort to ensure our toys are looked after inevitably they will receive some form of abuse at some point in their life, and they have stood up to this well. The tiles wipe clean easily however are not really designed to be used outside, but our daughter would be thrilled to be given a piece of chalk and told to decorate the path with a hopscotch design so this is not really a downside more an upside that we can play hopscotch indoors without drawing on the floor.
The fact that this game is educational in a way that our daughter learns without even realising it is worth the initial outlay of the £7.50 that we paid. This is with the additional added bonus that it provides a decent amount of exercise for our daughter, as well as taking 5 minutes either side to set up and tidy away. Whilst tidying up may not seem like the greatest activity in the world, when trying to fill a cold rainy day with indoor activities it's actually a plus point.
With all that has been mentioned in this review to our daughters' development which in part has been due to this simple £7.50 floor puzzle, which with a little imagination can be used for a couple more purposes than the manufacturer originally intended. When I first brought this Early Learning Centre hopscotch set I felt that the original £14.99 price tag was a little steep yet the £7.50 that I paid was a bargain. Having owned this set getting on for a year now there is little sign of wear and it still come up really clean, and it has actually impressed me enough to change my initial opinion on the original retail price. Whilst I would obviously like to pay as little as possible for anything that I buy I feel that even at £14.99 this Early Learning Centre hopscotch set would still provide good value for money.
So overall even with the usual higher selling price taken into consideration I would say that this product is worth a definite and solid 5/5 star recommendation from me. The Early Learning Centre have done a great job of creating a child proof toy with an excellent lifespan.
Set in the town of Lisbon Falls, Maine USA, 11.22.63 is one of Stephen King's more recent publications having been released in 2010. Being one of my favourite authors the decision to purchase the book was a no-brainer for me, with the cursory glance at the blurb on the back hardly being necessary at all as I already had a good idea of the storyline and plot, just not the in's and out's which I managed to avoid.
Even if a non-King fan picked this book up I feel that their first impressions would be positive as this isn't Stephen King's usual fare, with a plot focussed around the Kennedy assassination and time travel I was already looking forward to a slightly out of the ordinary read, and my mind working overtime on the different directions the story may take.
Whilst the story of 11.22.63 concentrates on the assassination of President John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy as the date suggests, the story is actually told in the first person from the point of view of divorced English teacher Jake Epping. We join Jake whilst he is running evening classes for adults and as unlikely as it seems this is where the scene begins to be set. One of Jake's students Harry Dunning writes a piece on the theme of "The Day that Changed My Life" and manages to get top marks, not necessarily because of the quality but rather the sincerity and severity of the content that touched Jake. Harry wrote Halloween 1958 when he escaped being murdered by his alcoholic father whilst his mother, sister and two older brothers weren't so lucky. Whilst this doesn't seem to have much relevance to the plot at all this sets the book up nicely for somewhat of an introduction to time travelling.
Jake Epping is later invited to the home of diner owner Al Templeton, where he is told that Al has discovered a way to travel through inside the pantry of his diner. Whoever walks into the pantry is transported back to Sept 9th 1958 and no matter how long is spent in 1958 time in the past carries on as normal as does the life and ageing process of the time-traveller, how-ever upon coming back it is only ever 2 minutes that have passed in the present. Every time the time portal is used to come back to the present the changes made stay in effect, but travel back again and the changes will be undone ready to begin changing the very fabric of time once again.
When Jake is first told of the portal he is obviously sceptical and wonders if the old man standing in front of him has actually gone mad. Eventually Jake is convinced to try the portal and when he returns to do so 24 hours later he finds an even older Al waiting for him, having spent a long while in the past whilst only being gone for 2 minutes, this is when Al shares his big plans regarding the prevention of the Kennedy assassination using the portal in his pantry. Still not convinced of the repercussions that the actions of preventing this assassination will have, or whether it would actually have any benefits, Jake is still in need of reassurance. Between Al and Jake they devise a plan revolving around Harry Dunning's piece of work to see what the results of preventing the murder of his family would be when Jake returned to the future. Jake decides to go ahead with this and it is upon returning to 1958 with the intention of changing the past that he begins to realise the past will fight him with the intention of stopping the changes. Despite problems Jake decides that the Kennedy plan is feasible upon his return to the present and this is where the story really starts.
Al Templeton whilst being too old and ill to make the 5 years that lapse between the Kennedy assassination and the portal's start point in 1958, has got together a whole pile of information regarding Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's killer, from the time he has managed to follow him that may well help Jake out. Al explains he believes that the world would have been a better place without the Vietnam war, and what he saw as poor political decisions that wouldn't have happened if Kennedy was in power.
Whilst there is a whole lot more I could put in here I feel the main points have been covered and think that much more detail would completely ruin the first quarter of the book for anyone looking to read it. The results of time travel as well as the results of changing the course of history are well covered here making for a great plot, as well as throwing up plenty of other questions along the way to keep the reader intrigued to discover if Jake not only managers to save the Epping family but also whether he actually manages to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
In short I thoroughly enjoyed this book, there were very few slow places and the story is a lot more interesting than the subject matter makes it sound. Packed with excellent vivid descriptions of the 1950's as well as a lot of historical fact it was a lot less intensive to read than I first thought it would be and made for a book that captured my imagination having me reading for hours at a time. Yes the memories from 1958 admittedly seem a little rose tinted at first but this cleverly adds to the feel of the dark story that is unfolding in this bright and pleasant 50's landscape. The scenes of 1958 at the beginning of the book I'm sure would make anybody want to go for a wander around the Maine of the time, for a browse in the shops and car lots. One thing I did like was the description of one of the cars for sale which is a perfect fit for Christine, the bright red and white Plymouth Fury, who is the title car from one of King's previous novels.
Whilst the descriptions at the start of the book seem very bright and as mentioned slightly rose-tinted, this is counteracted nicely by the darker scenes of the not so nice parts of town Jake is forced to visit whilst pursuing Oswald through the late 50's and early 60's. Another thing that I liked about this book even though I've never visited Maine is Stephen King's comparisons of modern day and 1958, such as one example of shops bustling with live in their heyday of the 50's now derelict, giving a great representation of how time moves on and isn't necessarily kind. King's research for this book is second to none, and he even manages to cover and present quite a bit of information surrounding the multiple conspiracies around the Kennedy assassination.
I feel that whilst the initial bones of this storyline could well have been thought of by everybody, I am more than glad it is Stephen King that did. This is because I feel that the quality of King's story telling when he gets it damn near perfect as he has here, in my eyes makes for an awesome read. Whilst this book was a mammoth 752 pages long at no point did it feel as though I was struggling to get through it, the end of the story is quite conclusive and I still found myself wanting more even though there was very little indeed that King had left unanswered at the end.
In conclusion I would have to say that this is one of Stephen King's better releases and I would most certainly place it amongst his top 10 pieces of work from the numerous titles I have read from his massive back-catalogue of titles. I would definitely recommend this book to anybody who has previously read a Stephen King book, even those that don't enjoy King's novels but still have even a passing interest in the Kennedy assassination will more than likely still find this book quite engrossing. I would say that this is more of a psychological thriller than a full on horror, with a half decent and entertaining history lesson thrown in for good measure. This is maybe not King's usual stomping ground but the sci-fi, horror edge to this tale helps King's writing style to come through, whilst the unusual subject matter for him only seems to make reading this book a more enticing proposition.
The questions thrown up within the book regarding not only the plot but the results of time travel itself are dealt very well indeed leaving very few open ends. The characters are all written very well indeed and fit in snugly amongst the plot and seem right at home in King's novel, even down to the appearance of the red Plymouth Fury for sale in the car lot seeming unforced. Stephen King differentiates what he knows to be fact and what is conspiracy along the way as well and does extremely well to do this without ruining the feel or flow of the book.
The only real complaint that I have heard from others with regards to 11.22.63 is the fact that the time travel elements of the story do not add up. Personally I feel that even if time travel did exist very few of us would understand the inner workings, so in my opinion what these individuals see as loose ends only serve to make the book more captivating to the average reader and purely leaves them to form their own opinion on a matter that in the end doesn't affect the quality, readability or outcome of this book.
Overall a brilliant book from Stephen King and as previously mentioned one I would rate amongst his best, and most certainly one of his best from recent years. This title carries a most definite 5/5 star recommendation from me, even to those who have never read or considered reading a King novel before.
Sudocrem is one of those products that I have always known about due to my mum always having a tub kicking about the house when I was younger, but never had call to use it myself until our daughter was born. Sudocrem is advertised as an antiseptic healing cream and is most commonly used and perceived as a treatment for nappy rash despite the fact it has many other uses. It can also be used in the treatment of eczema, sunburn, minor wounds and acne as well as multiple other situations.
At a price of around £5 for a 400g tub, my first impressions were that this was quite an expensive product to buy however it does go a long way and was a lot more economical than I first thought. With Sudocrem having been in production for nearly 80 years with the design of the packaging remaining unchanged for as long as I can remember seeing it about, means that it is easy to spot amongst similar products in its grey coloured tub with the distinctive red and white Sudocrem branding, and I'm sure is the first product many would reach for alongside the other brands of nappy creams.
Once the seal is broken and the lift lifted off of the tub, the scent of Sudocrem is mildly medicinal and no matter what happens it will always remind me of babies nappies no matter what its intended use. The cream itself is quite thick and can sometimes need a little warming up by rubbing between my fingers to make it easy to apply and not uncomfortably cold when applied to the skin. As the cream is quite thick it is best to apply just a little bit as a thin layer as it doesn't absorb into the skin easily and leaves a light white layer where it is applied, and is impossible to get to rub in properly if too much is used. The main advantage of it being so thick is when treating nappy rash as once it is applied it means it is not only treating the nappy rash, but is also a preventative measure at the same time providing a water resistant antiseptic barrier that will protect already sore skin. The main benefits of Sudocrem is that it will soothe sore inflames skin, whilst reducing pain as it contains a mild local anaesthetic.
As a treatment for nappy rash I have found Sudocrem to be most effective with a noticeable reduction in redness and soreness within hours of application, and most symptoms disappearing within 24 hours. The coolness of the cream seems to provide our daughter with immediate relieve along with the local anaesthetic when she has been suffering from nappy rash, and as mentioned the barrier it creates means this relief and protection is provided until her next nappy change.
I have occasionally used this product on the odd spot over the last few years and have noticed that it will decrease healing time marginally, with the main difference being in the reduction of the swelling and redness almost immediately. My brother used to suffer with mild acne and applying Sudocrem once in the morning and then again in the evening to the affected areas whilst washing them clean with plain water always helped to keep it under control. Whilst his acne has all but disappeared now, this is still a product that he swears by and will still use years later if he has an outbreak. Another reason I have had to use this cream since I started buying it for my daughter is on sunburnt shoulders last summer and once again it performed extremely well again easing the symptoms almost immediately, with the tightness and heat whilst not disappearing completely were dulled to the point where it didn't hurt to wear a t-shirt.
Minor cuts and abrasions (including insect and nettle stings) also benefit well from a dab of Sudocrem with healing times being decreased, and once again swelling and redness being decreased in a short amount of time. What I have mentioned so far is about all of the experience I have of the uses of Sudocrem but I should imagine that it works just as well in all of the other symptoms and conditions it will treat given the fact it has always worked so well in my experience.
I don't usually provide a list of ingredients with my reviews but as this is a product mainly used on small children, and a product you really wouldn't want to use if allergic to due to the fact it is often used for already delicate skin complaints I will make an exception for this product and list the ingredients here.
Zinc Oxide (15.25%), Benzyl Alcohol B.P. (0.39%), Benzol Benzoate B.P. (1.01%), Benzyl Cinnamate (0.15%), Lancolin - hypo-allergenic (4%). Also contains purified water, liquid paraffin, paraffin wax, beeswax, microcrystalline wax, sodium benzoate, linalyl acetate, propylene glycol, citric acid, butylated hydroxyanisole, sorbitan sesquioleate, lavender fragrance.
As can be seen from the list of ingredients this is far from being a natural product so is something that would be worth testing by using a tiny amount on a small area of skin to test its suitability for use especially where newborns and small babies are involved.
Overall Sudocrem is a product I would be most happy to recommend as it has been a most reliable product giving me no reason to doubt its effectiveness over the past few years of using it. It was a product I would have always just walked away from before we had a child and not used, not for any reason in particular other than I am not the sort of person that uses creams and the like on a regular basis, so it is something I wouldn't really have thought of using.
Sudocrem definitely lives up to the claims made by the manufacturer, and whilst it appears to be a little on the expensive side, it does go an awful long way, to the point I'd suggest getting a small 200g tub to start with as a 400g tub may well be too much if not being used on a regular basis. This product comes with a definite 5/5 star rating from me despite the price tag as it does work out to be a really effective, and economical product.
In a bid to save money whilst at work I take a Thermos flask in with me along with a jar of coffee as I like to make it freshly on my breaks and lunch as I find it tastes better than if left in a flask with milk and coffee ready mixed in. It is for this reason that I purchase Coffee Mate as taking fresh milk into work is usually more trouble than it's worth by the time I have travelled to the fridge and back. Coffee Mate is produced by Nestle who claim that they have "specifically tailored our Coffee-mate recipe to compliment your everyday coffee moments, making every sip smoother and silkier to create a satisfying experience to be savoured and enjoyed". In all honesty it wasn't this claim that drew me in, rather my motivations were those of convenience, but thought this sentence sums up well what Nestle would like consumers to think of their products. I usually opt for the original Coffee Mate as it is the most readily available and it is this version of the product that I will be reviewing here.
Coffee Mate is generally available in 500g and 250g metal tins wrapped in brown and cream with the Coffee Mate logo emblazoned above a tempting cup of coffee. The lid is of a flexible plastic type which seals well yet is also easy to remove saving the hassle of a screw top. This brand is pretty easy to spot as along with the other varieties available the Nestle coffee whitener takes up a fair bit of space in this section of supermarkets. Priced at around £2.30 for the large tin and £1.40 for the smaller it is fairly priced even alongside the supermarket own brand coffee whiteners.
Fist time of use there is an aluminium seal with a tab that needs removing from the top of the tin below the flexible lid, ensuring Coffee Mate reaches the consumer in pristine, un-tampered with condition. The seal requires a little effort to remove being far stronger than the foil on coffee jars, but other than this Coffee Mate really is as easy to use as coffee or sugar with the required amount needing to be added instead of milk and stirred in. I generally tend to use 2 heaped teaspoons of the fine white powder in my coffee which is the recommended serving; I use a mug and drink it quite strong and I find this amount whitens it nicely.
Upon opening Coffee Mate doesn't have much of an aroma at all really, I would say slightly malty and slightly sweet if I was pushed to put a finger on it. Once put into coffee I find this product has a very similar effect to normal powdered milk and it dissolves really well stirring in with a minimum of fuss. Once again aroma wise there isn't much to report once dissolved into a drink either, however flavour wise I find that Coffee Mate is quite acceptable. Whilst not as luxurious as using full fat milk or cream Coffee Mate does enhance certain aspects of the flavour of different coffees and mellows the taste of a strong cup of coffee out nicely without being overpowering even if a little extra is used.
Coffee Mate does indeed make a smooth coffee, maybe not as smooth and silky as Nestle would have us believe but still enough to make a decent difference to straight coffee with just a couple of tea spoons. The only downside I find to using Coffee Mate over fresh milk is that once a cup of Coffee has cooled down it tends to get a little powdery and will need stirring again to make it more pleasant. I usually don't have time to let my coffee cool and drink it quite hot, but anyone who prefers to let their coffee cool a lot before drinking may find this product a little less satisfying than I have.
Overall I feel that Coffee Mate is a good substitute for milk whilst I am on the go and have my Thermos flask with me. It doesn't need refrigerating and the lid stays on well enough for me to throw it in my boot at the end of the working day and not worry about having coffee mate leak everywhere whilst I'm driving, meaning for me the convenience is worth the slight sacrifice in taste. Now I don't believe anything will taste as good as using a suitable genuine dairy product in my coffee but Coffee Mate does a good job of holding up in the taste stakes, sweetening my coffee just the tiniest bit and mellowing the strong edge off of the coffee.
So in conclusion this is a good product that does make a decent coffee compared to other powdered milk products that are available or UHT milk for that matter. I believe that this is one of those products that is definitely worth spending the extra on in comparison to super market own products as it seems to have the edge where flavour and end results are concerned. I would most definitely recommend this product from Nestle and feel that Coffee Mate is most certainly worth a 4/5 star recommendation from me.