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jo1976

jo1976
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Member since: 08.08.2008

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    • Angry Birds Lunch Bag / Kitchenware / 21 Readings / 20 Ratings
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      09.06.2014 13:58
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      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "appealing to children"

      Disadvantages

      • "crumbs can get caught inside interior seams"

      Angry Birds for Lunch!

      Based on the ever popular app, this Angry Birds lunch box was chosen by my six year old son at the end of last Summer and has served almost a whole academic year with daily use.

      This is a perfectly proportioned bag for a primary school aged child, with ample room for the obligatory sandwiches, even when packed into their own small box. There is sufficient space to add a drinks bottle, crisps and whatever other snacks are the flavour of the day. One of the advantages of this flexible style of lunch bag is that is much easier to squash and squeeze items about than with the more rigid style of lunch box. The drawback might be that this style is a little less protective of the contents but, in all honesty, my son''s lunch seems to survive intact despite his less than careful treatment at times.

      The lunch bag is bright and colourful with a plastic coated interior lining that is helpfully easy to wipe clean after each use. Unfortunately, the inner does have a stitched seam where crumbs and other debris tends to congregate which can be quite tricky to clean thoroughly. The cleaning instructions recommend only wiping this down with a wipe cloth. Being something of a domestic rebel, I chose to ignore these instructions partway through the year and followed a tip that I had d read online. I popped this in the washing machine with a mixed load on a 40 degree load and found that this not entirely thoroughly cleaned the interior but also bought the fabric exterior back up to its initial brightness without damaging or fading the materials used at all.

      This is still a popular brand with a wide age of children and is a product that I am happy to recommend. At full price, this costs around 8 pounds but is widely available for much less than that and I spotted this recently half price at Morrisons which seems a good buy to me.

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    • More +
      05.06.2014 23:31
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "Can be customised and parts replaced easily"

      Disadvantages

      • "Ignition button does not always work efficiently"

      Windsor Contemporary Fire for Warm Homes

      This Flavel Windsor fireplace has been a feature of our living room for a number of years, under two different guises. This contemporary styled fireplace is available in a range of different surrounds and ?effects'', with either chrome, brass or black surrounds and the choice of coal effects, pebbles or fake wood to suit individual tastes and rooms.

      Obviously, the primary purpose of a fireplace is to keep the warm room and this performs its function effectively. Clearly, as this is a gas fire it does need to be fitted by a corgi registered fitter. For us, this was a straightforward process with no alterations to connections or the flue required.

      Using the fire is very simple as the controls, which are discreetly positioned behind the lower of the three panels, are kept to a minimum. There is a single ignition button which needs to be depressed for around thirty seconds and the heat can be adjusted by a single dial, clearly marked from High to Off. The dial is very responsive and I find that it reaches the required temperature very quickly and provides consistent results. The only very slight issue is that sometimes the ignition button does not work on the first attempt for no apparent reason. If that happens, it is impossible to get it to work for several minutes so the gas needs to be switched off and a further attempt made slightly later.

      When we first had this fireplace installed, we purchased it with a brass surround and fake coal effect which was in keeping with the colours and styles of the room at the time. Fortunately, it is still relatively easy to purchase replacement parts and fittings for this particular fireplace as it seems to still be widely available in fireplace warehouse stockists as well as online. This meant that we were able to replace the brass surround which was looking quite dated and had also started to corrode at one edge. Replacing the surround was incredibly straightforward as it is held in place by magnets and can be pulled off easily and the new one simply clicks into place. This meant that we were able to give the fireplace a new lease of life and also bring it more into line with current fashions and other features in the room, without going to the expense of replacing the entire fireplace.

      A quick search online brings up several stockists listing this for around 180 pounds which seems reasonable given the quality of the product and the ability to update or replace elements easily. I am happy to recommend this fireplace to others.

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    • Frustration with dooyoo / Discussion / 25 Readings / 23 Ratings
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      03.06.2014 11:44
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      (Rating)
      4 Comments

      Advantages

      • "Paragraphs are back"

      Disadvantages

      • " patronising updates"
      • " lack of accessible site map"
      • "Comments disappearing randomly"

      A DIY level one site map

      Just a few short hours after I submit a review lamenting the appearance of new reviews on Dooyoo since the, cough, site upgrade, I notice that Dooyoo have managed to reformat some older reviews and paragraphs at last have been reinstated. Finally, a small step in the right direction although I fear that this will be nowhere near enough to stem the flow from the mass exodus of Dooyoo members leaving the site behind. Few people have the patience to sit through several months of a site that has at best been inconsistent and faulty, at worst totally inaccessible.

      Sadly the site has already seen the loss of huge numbers of established writers, people who no longer want their name to be associated with a site so badly mismanaged. The communication between Dooyoo staff and its members has truly been appalling. The failure to inform the members of any upcoming changes was a sign of the contempt with which the site actually views its members. This has been made far worse by the head in the sand approach to the numerous issues and failings within the new site and the truly condescending attitude towards valid member complaints and concerns.

      Hopefully steps are at long last being taken to resolve some of the issues that make the difference between the site actually fulfilling its basic purpose and enabling the few surviving posters to actually successfully submit reviews. Unfortunately, the new redesign appears to have sabotaged the community spirit between members with no facility to send or receive messages between members. With the erratic commenting issues, this is more important than ever and would be a feature that would be welcomed by the survivors.

      I would also be grateful if the current site map arrangements could also be reviewed. We have gone from having a list of all the levels and categories on a single page down to having to click on about twenty different links to access information about the levels of miles payable. Was this move deliberate to disguise the demise of level one products or the ominous inclusion of No Miles topics that were listed for several weeks?

      I have compiled a list here of current level one categories for easy reference

      Level One (60 miles): Amplifier, Car Audio, Car Speaker, Headphones, Hifi system, Microphone, Receiver, Speaker, Portable Radio, Turntable, Blu Ray Player, Home Cinema system, LCD TV, Plasma TV, Projector, Set Top Box, Caudalie, La Mer, Darphin, Lierac, Desktop PC, Laptop, All in One Printer, Injet Printer, LCD Monitor, LED Printer, Laser Printer, PC Speaker, Laptop Case, Fireplaces, Cordless Screwdriver Drill, Planer, Power Drill, Power Saw, Pushchair, Tyres, Car Seat, Sat Nav, Digital Camera, Camcorder, Digital Photo Frame, Camera Lens, Microscope, Fax Machine, Telephone, Watch.

      Needless to say the list for level three items is considerably longer and would exceed the new word count!

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      • More +
        02.06.2014 22:11
        Very helpful
        (Rating)
        6 Comments

        Advantages

        • "site is still limping along"

        Disadvantages

        • " miles not always credited"
        • " frustrating"
        • "404 errors"

        Advice on how to avoid the 404 error and chash out

        In the aftermath of Dooyoo''s disastrous update, most regular posters have made the choice to chash out and abandon the site forever. Sadly, due to the number of unresolved issues with the site itself it is not entirely simple to post the required number of reviews, accrue rates and chash out. Through trial and error, gritted teeth and several bouts of swearing at this excuse for a review site, I can share the tips that seem to work best for me.

        Firstly, do not attempt to include a standard pound symbol, that will always result in a irritating 404 error and the vomit-inducing crying girl. I tend to write the word in full but other posters substitute GBP instead. I also limit punctuation as much as I can mainly because the software seems to make a right mess of basic symbols and substitutes them for random punctuation.

        Given that the new solid block layout already looks appalling to the eye of the reader I am less bothered by the appearance of the review without basic punctuation and in all honesty take far less care over the content of the reviews. It is clear that the owners and employees of the staff no longer care about the quality of the reviews posted.

        It is however now possible to manually add code to your own review which will then add a space between paragraphs. The code needs to be typed within triangular brackets either side and within the brackets type br and then leave a space and include a slash symbol and then close the brackets. It should look like (br /) but with triangular brackets rather than round ones. Have a try to see if that works for you! Each time you include this symbol it counts as an extra words towards the word content however.

        Due to the inconsistency around posting I also tend to err towards the lower end of the new radical word limit. I am a fast touch typer but it is far less irritating to see 250 words vanish than waste more time posting 500. I also find that longer posts look even worse due to the new formatting.

        My final piece of advice is that sometimes reviews have not been credited with miles when posted. When this happens, I have edited the review - a longwinded process in itself- and deleted some of the review to take it below the minimum word count. I have then edited again and added the sentences removed. For some reason, this then seems to credit the missing miles.

        If all else fails throwing the laptop at the people responsible for those improvements would be my final recommendation. Awaits the tumbleweed as any comments no longer seem to be visible.

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        • Sennheiser HD 201 / Headphones / 20 Readings / 17 Ratings
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          19.05.2014 17:00
          Very helpful
          (Rating)

          Advantages

          • "Easy to adjust to accommodate different head sizes"

          Disadvantages

          • "Ear pads are large"

          The Sound of Sennheiser Quality

          My oldest son is, at eleven years old, absorbed in technology whenever he has the opportunity. I originally purchased my two oldest children a set of headphones each for the purposes of listening to their own DVD players on long journeys. The headphones were soon adopted for many other purposes and these Sennheiser HD201 chunky headphones were purchased as a replacement for his original set which proved unfit for regular use by a rather heavy-handed child. These Sennheiser headphones certainly look the part and the black and silver colour scheme is both stylish and practical. These are not aimed purely at children or young people and even as an adult I would feel happy about using these.

          The band section explands to accommodate a wide range of ages and head sizes. My eleven year old son has these set about two inches above the minimum level, so these could be tightened to fit a much younger and smaller child. There is plenty of room available as these adjust easily to fit my adult sized head without feeling too restrictive. Expanding the headphones is very straightforward and requires little physical effort to adjust them to an appropriate secure and comfortable fitting.The band section is particularly chunky; made from strong plastic and feels pretty strong and flexible.
          The padded ear sections appear very large and are slightly elongated which provides a comfortable ft. The soft pads remain securely in place without slipping or causing any discomfort for my son.

          The cord length is more than adequate for most purposes and provides plenty of flexibility. The jack fitting is a standard 3.5mm size which fits most devices.

          The sound and tone quality of these headphones is excellent, regardless of the device used and I appreciate how well they contain the sound without annoying third parties. We paid around twenty pounds for this set from PC World last August and thus far they have seemed excellent value for money with no sign of damage to the internal wiring or to the exterior.

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        • Brio Adventure Tunnel / Toy Train / 12 Readings / 12 Ratings
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          18.05.2014 23:08
          Very helpful
          (Rating)

          Advantages

          • "Adds extra play value to existing train set"

          Disadvantages

          • "Full RRP is expensive"

          Tunnel of Adventure

          My three year old son has acquired quite an extensive wooden railway set, with a variety of tracks, trains and pieces from a mixture of brands. I have found that most of the cheaper sets are compatible with the more expensive prominent brands such as Brio and Big Jigs and tend to mix and match according to what we find on offer.

          The one thing missing from my son's train set was a tunnel so when I spotted this Brio Adventure Tunnel on offer as part of a small set as part of an Amazon Black Friday promotion. Purchased alone, the tunnel has a full RRP of 24.99 although is frequently available for less.
          Even at full price, this is a lovely and pretty robust item. It fits perfectly into a variety of brands of wooden track and is surprisingly large, without seeming too imposing. Although this is made from plastic, the overall effect is that of a carved piece of mountain rock with a section of track running through to allow trains to pass through. The length of the tunnel section is long enough to add enough excitement for the child playing but short enough so that they are able to push manual trains through the length without struggling.

          The tunnel is very well designed and has a number of additional features to add extra interest to an existing set. The main attraction and the feature that my son adores is the inclusion of four different sound effects. These are very cleverly activated by the magnets as the trains pass through the tunnel and include features such as an owl hooting, steam train effects, whistling and banging and clanging. The sounds can also be set off manually as there is a small button at the top of the tunnel. My son prefers to push the train through to set off the sounds and has a definite preference for the owl effects, although there is no way of selecting a particular effect. I was a little worried about whether the sounds would be set off by non-Brio trains as most of our trains are alternative brands but so long as the train has a magnet (as all ours do) the effects work consistently.

          This is a lovely little addition to a wooden train set and comes highly recommended.


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          15.05.2014 20:08
          Very helpful
          (Rating)
          1 Comment

          Advantages

          • " robust"
          • " long last batteries"
          • "fun water toy"

          Disadvantages

          • "Tends to sink"

          Sail & Float is more like Sink & Float!

          This chunky Fisher Price Little People boat seemed to be the ideal choice for bath time for my youngest son. He was eighteen months old at the time of purchase and the proportions and weight of the boat are well suited to toddlers of that age. Slightly younger children might struggle with the size of this boat.

          The boat and its accessories come simply packaged in an open fronted box so it is possible to get a good idea of its true size and features before purchasing. It also comes supplied with the two AA batteries needed so the boat is good to go as soon as it is released from its packaging.

          The boat comes complete with a single chunky Little People figure (who is, apparently ?Captain Michael') but there are a number of positions on the boat where figures can be positioned so this can be combined with figures from other Little People sets to maximise the play value. We have a mechanic figure from a Little People garage set who tends to stand on the top section of the boat and view the proceedings. Captain Michael is, more often than not, let loose on the waves within the plastic life ring that also comes supplied. (I'm slightly worried about who is actually controlling the boat in these circumstances...)

          One of my boys' favourite features is the fishing line attachment that is securely connected to the boat but is both flexible and movable. The hooked end can be used to either rescue the life ring or scoop out the single plastic fish that also comes with this cute little set.

          One of the most impressive features about this boat has been the sound effects and the length of time that the batteries have lasted between changes. I've always been a bit sceptical about using battery powered toys in the bath, feeling that they will inevitably start to leak and fail before too long. This toy has proven me wrong in that respect and my kids have enjoyed playing the rather annoying tunes on this boat for eighteen months now! The song choice is a little irritating with a rather high pitched American child's accent singing the (catchy but annoying) lyrics. The song alternates between other boat related sound effects with each press.

          The major drawback with this boat is that it does have a tendency to list after being in the water for some time. This inevitably leads to the boat filling with water and, eventually, capsizing. Perhaps the inclusion of the life ring should have given some clues to this eventuality! This doesn't deter my sons from playing with the boat and, surprisingly, hasn't seemed to affect the internal mechanisms with no water getting through to the battery compartment at all, so this is certainly very well made in that respect.


          We picked this up from Home Bargains for a fiver and feel it has been money well spent.




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          • More +
            14.05.2014 22:08
            Very helpful
            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "Nostalgic appeal"

            Disadvantages

            • " difficult to read text"
            • "Dull images"

            Dull and Dreary Dragon Tale

            I love children's books and the boys enjoy listening to audiobooks in the car so I was pleased to spot this copy of Puff The Magic Dragon, complete with accompanying CD, for just 1.75 on Amazon a few months ago. This was kept as part of a bundle to give to my three year old son at Christmas.

            Out of all of his new stories, this was probably the one that he was least attracted to and the last one that he chose to read. The front cover is very dark and drab, representative of the interior pages, and the dragon isn't all that prominent or appealing as it is effectively camouflaged by the dull green colouring of the front page.

            This is not actually a story at all, simply the reprinting of the lyrics to a popular song Puff the Magic Dragon. I do recognise the song and am familiar with the lyrics but I do not have any particularly strong memories of the song or any emotional attachment so this story doesn't really offer any nostalgic appeal to me as an adult and it does not seem to engage my boys as the words to a rather dull story.

            Reading the story to my son is quite difficult as the song lyrics don't particularly lend themselves to being read aloud. The song lyrics are quite short but also very repetitive but not in a particularly rhythmic or catchy way, simply having the final line of the verse written twice. I also find that the wording does not flow especially well when being read aloud and I trip up over the boy's name of Jackie Paper. This seems an odd choice of name, although I am aware of some rumours that the name and other words used throughout the story have drug-related connotations. The final cover to this paperback copy suggests a far more innocent backstory to the song but perhaps the drug rumours makes a pretty bland song and story a little more exciting.

            Even the addition of the CD, featuring the original song, does not make this version worthy of a purchase or a recommendation.

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            13.05.2014 12:48
            Very helpful
            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "Laugh out loud story"

            Disadvantages

            • "It ended"

            Bridget Jones at her best!

            Having ordered a copy of the latest Bridget Jones novel from the library, I set about reacquainting myself with the main character by re-reading the previous ?diaries.'
            Originally published in 1999, The Edge of Reason is the second Bridget Jones story, picking up from the original diary the the familiar format and inimitable style. Here the fun and incredibly likeable Bridget has finally got her man but, in typical Bridget style, she is convinced that things will go wrong and seeks the advice of the experts - a series of self help guides and her group of dysfunctional friends.

            Despite not having read the original for many years (although I have watched both film adaptations numerous times) I found it effortless to slip back into Bridget's world and mindset.

            It is quite rare that a book literally makes me laugh out loud but I actually did that at numerous points throughout this story. The scenes where Bridget goes ski-ing really tickled me as that is something that I could easily imagine myself doing. Likewise, the antics of Bridgets mother and her random comments had me in stitches.

            I had expected this book to have dated really badly as its publication pre-dates current trends such as social media and constant texting etc. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Bridget remains perfectly accessible and enjoyable. It is set in a specific year which does help to ground the story and actually brought back many memories of my own from 1997. (Particularly the election night - having had one of my own incidents that night that would be worthy of an inclusion in Briget Jones's diary.) I also vividly remember the announcement of the death of Princess Diana - watching news reports in the early hours of the morning following a night out clubbing. I can't quite believe that it is almost 17 years ago though - as it still seems like yesterday!

            I found this a really enjoyable and totally engaging read, which brought back a lot of nostalgic pleasure from both the memories of Bridget Jones' exploits and from my own teenage exploits from that era.

            I was really looking forward to losing myself in the new sequel but, having now read some of it, it soon became clear that Mad About the Boy does not have quite the same magic as this one does. Bridget will always be a thirty-something singleton with an obsession about Mark Darcy and self-help books. Helen Fielding should have left the character on the high note with this edition. It really cannot be bettered and is worthy of a re-read (and certainly a first time read) entirely on its own merits.

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            12.05.2014 15:26
            Very helpful
            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "Quick and enjoyable read"

            Disadvantages

            • "Not as good as other books in the series"

            Enid Blyton Mystery Story

            The Mystery of the Missing Necklace is the fifth book in a series written by Enid Blyton featuring the Five Find-Outers & Dog. This is a series running along very similar lines to the Famous Five series, also written by Enid Blyton. I would say the Five Find-Outers are less well-known and aimed at a slightly younger audience, with the characters being younger and the adventures generally taking place closer to home with less opportunity for the danger associated with the Famous Five.

            The Five Find-Outers are two sets of siblings (Larry and Daisy and Pip and Bets) as well as Frederick (known throughout the series as Fatty.) The other main character in the series is the local policeman, Mr Goon; known to the children as Old Clear ?Orf, thanks to his usual response to the children. Mr Goon views the children with a mixture of suspicion and contempt, with them having previously outwitted him and taken the credit for solving a series of unsolved mysteries in their village of Peterswood.

            This fifth adventure starts slightly differently to the other books that preceded it as there is no obvious crime for the children to attempt to solve, much to their disappointment. They suspect that Goon has a mystery to solve but aren't able to get any information, beyond their having been a series of burglaries and thefts in the local area. They do still keep themselves amused, mainly because of Fatty's love of dressing up and his assortment of costumes and disguises. In this way, they inadvertently infiltrate a gang of local jewel thieves and set out to try and prevent the next big burglary.

            As an adult reader, I found this to be a quick and enjoyable read. There is less of a mystery element than with other books in the series, so there is no real opportunity to play along with the children at being an amateur sleuth and working through potential suspects and analysing clues, as there is with some of the other Find-Outer tales. Much of what the children uncover arises through chance and then a massive leap of faith (which always proves to be correct) but that didn't really diminish my enjoyment of the story at all.The characters are all well established by this point in the series and it is Fatty who takes the leading role throughout this story, with the other children being very peripheral characters.

            I don't think this is the best in the series and it isn't one that I could particularly recall reading from childhood but it is certainly an entertaining read, with a few instances of mild peril, danger and light-hearted humour. I would recommend this to young readers from the age of six upwards (if having the story read to them, due to some of the unfamiliar vocabulary) or independent readers from around eight. Otherwise, this should be equally appealing to adults wanting to rediscover much-loved stories from their own childhood.

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            11.05.2014 18:53
            Very helpful
            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "interesting plot"

            Disadvantages

            • "implausible ending"

            Enjoyable but implausible

            The Play Date is the debut novel by Louise Millar which centres around two mothers, Callie and Suzy. Callie is a single parent, tentatively contemplating a return to employment after looking after her daughter, Rae, who was born with a heart condition. Suzy is a stay at home mother to her three children and the two establish a friendship as they live on the same street.

            I must admit that I found this difficult to get into initially. The opening chapter struck me as being distinctly odd and I struggled to establish any connection with the two main characters. The disparity between their situations was made clear but their friendship seemed quite forced and artificial. The whole situation seemed a little implausible but, more than that, I didn''t really build up any sense of being curious about the back story or particularly caring about the characters and what may eventually happen to them. The introduction of a new neighbour was quite poorly done and I found the author''s attempts to build up a sense of anxiety and suspense largely ineffective.
            A few chapters in and I did engage more with this story. I could particularly empathise with Callie''s struggles (both practical and emotional) as a working mother and the conflict she experienced trying to do her best as both a parent and an employee. This was the most realistic aspect of the story although I still struggled to believe fully in the character of Callie''s young daughter.

            I did enjoy the various twists and turns of the story. I felt how the author had totally manipulated my perceptions of Tom, the ex-partner was very cleverly done. I started off by feeling a real sense of dislike towards him and his disregard of the needs of Callie and Rae, having him down as a selfish absent parent. As more and more bits of information were drip fed through the story, I slowly began to see things from his perspective and could appreciate how difficult the situation was for him too.

            There is an increasingly sense of tension and trepidation that builds steadily towards the end of the story and I was keen to discover how things were going to be resolved. There is a definite sense of foreboding but the ultimate outcome was far from what I had imagined, although I had, rightly, anticipated a twist from the obvious scenario.

            I have mixed feelings about this story with a slow start and a pretty implausible ending. The basic premise is a good one and I liked the sections that dealt with more usual aspects of parenting. The overlapping stories, coincidences and unlikely events did stretch my patience a little too far, however, and I struggled to believe in the main characters. It was still a relatively enjoyable read overall but I would actually recommend the subsequent novel by Louise Millar, Accidents Happen, rather than this one.

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          • More +
            10.05.2014 16:45
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            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "Kids enjoy it"

            Disadvantages

            • "Not entertaining enough for adult viewing"

            One for the kids to watch alone

            My three year old son loves watching the Curious George series on tv, so when I spotted this Christmas DVD on offer I knew it would make a lovely stocking filler for him.

            The Curious George programmes are based on the books originally written by Margaret and H.A Rey. We''ve never read any of the original stories but do enjoy watching the fun antics of Curious George - a cute pet monkey owned by The Man With The Yellow Hat- on tv. The pair live in an apartment block and George is a very independent little monkey who always end up getting into trouble and mischief.

            ?A Very Monkey Christmas'' is a single feature length film, rather than a collection of tv episodes, and runs for just under an hour. In all honesty, I thought the story had been very stretched out to fill the slot rather than needing an hour to cover it. The actual content could quite easily have fit into one of the standard twenty minute episodes without losing any sense of the story. There is a lot of space filled with (quite annoying) songs and sketches where very little happens.

            I have watched a couple of other feature length Curious George films and, despite their target audience being pre-schoolers and young children, found them to be genuinely funny and entertaining. This Christmas film is, by comparison, a very poor offering, certainly for an adult viewer.

            The story, whilst covering the build up, preparations and excitements around Christmas, is fairly weak. Essentially, The Man With The Yellow Hat has asked George to produce a Christmas list, showing what he wants for Christmas. Unfortunately, he can''t make any sense out of the shapes and pictures he produces. Likewise, George wants to give TMWTYH a special Christmas gift but can''t think of anything to make or offer him.

            The humour, scrapes and cheekiness that I associate with Curious George is really lacking here. The only scene which raised a smile for me was the opening when George is up at 5am a couple of weeks before Christmas, mistakenly believing it to be Christmas Day. There is some slapstick humour here that had my kids giggling - such as when Curious George makes a mess with tomatoes- but they tend to laugh more at one of the standard cartoon episodes. My youngest did love a scene where artificial snow was produced inside, especially when George decides to tamper with the equipment. (We have to rewind the film a few times at this point to satisfy my three year old!)

            Although I was disappointed with this film, my youngest children have been thoroughly entertained by the film. They enjoy the singing and dancing and often choose to join in. The length of the film is just right to hold their attention completely and the storyline is so simple that it is easy for even very young viewers to watch and understand.

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          • More +
            09.05.2014 22:52
            Very helpful
            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "Strong lead character"

            Disadvantages

            • " repetitive themes"
            • "Implausible plot"

            Unusual Young Adult Novel

            I have been picking up Young Adult audiobooks from my local library to help make my commute to work a little more interesting. My most recent discovery was She is Not Invisible, a junior book written by a well established children''s author, Marcus Sedgwick.

            This story features a blind teenage girl who is worried about her Dad, an author, who has gone missing. In a totally implausible way, Lauryl, decides to jump on a plane to America with just her seven year old brother to accompany her. Lauryl and Ben manage to get through all the checks at the airport, much to my disbelief, and arrive in America with no idea of how to contact or trace their father - just a determination to do so.

            This is a fairly entertaining read at times but the recommended age group of 9+ (as indicated on the back cover) is wildly ambitious. I suspect that most nine year olds would lose interest in the story quite early on and, whilst the basic vocabulary is not too taxing, there are a lot of subjects that would be way beyond the comprehension of most pre-teens. I would suggest this would be far more appealing and appropriate for a teenage audience although, even then, there may be elements that they will struggle with with lots of references to gothic literature most of which went over my head. There is also far too much emphasis on the theme of coincidences which got increasingly boring and repetitive as the story went on.

            The latter chapters, in particular, are quite dark and slightly macabre, with references to suicide, murder and attacks at knifepoint.

            The ending is a little lighter if a little too quickly resolved for my liking.

            Overall I found this an interesting and positive portrayal of a teenager managing to overcome a serious disability but the majority of the plot was too implausible for me to totally engage with the story as a whole.

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          • Crocs Crocband Lego Mammoth / Shoes / 14 Readings / 12 Ratings
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            09.05.2014 12:31
            Very helpful
            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "funky design"

            Disadvantages

            • "Liner cannot be removed"

            Fun alternative to slippers

            These Crocband Lego Mammoth Crocs were an impulse buy for my six year old son, thanks to a closing down sale at a local shoe shop. I paid just 10 pounds for a pair which compares favourably to the 25 pounds cost elsewhere.

            These Crocs are a really bright and attractive design, much more so than standard Crocs which I find clumpy and, to be frank, ugly. These are quite funky with their contrasting blue and red colour scheme, the familiar Lego logo and a series of replica rubberised Lego blocks running around the bottom of the shoe. My son instantly adored these and even attempted to attach some real Lego blocks to the base. Unfortunately, the rubberised Lego pattern is not compatible with the genuine article and my sons not able to go out with half a tub of Lego attached to his feet! Like all Crocs, these feature the trademark holes in the front of the shoe. I think it would make a nice addition to include some Lego themed Jibbitz to slip into the holes, making this design even more eye-catching.

            I normally associate Crocs with outdoor Summer wear but this Mammoth variety is a little more unusual, given it has a fleecy lining to the instantly recognisable rubbery (Croslite) outer shoe. The adult version of the Mammoth is quite an adaptable concept as the liner is removable, making it usable as both an indoor slipper or as an outdoor shoe.

            In the child Mammoth Croc, the liner cannot be removed which limits the life of the shoe, which is a shame as Crocs are renowned for being really durable. The liner, however, does mean that feet are much cosier. My son uses these as an indoor slipper and comments that he likes the feel of the lining against his feet as it keeps them warm and snug. The downside to that is that they are not as versatile as a standard Croc, as they will be too warm and impractical to be worn outside on the beach.

            These are fairly true to the stated size although there is no scope to accommodate different width settings. I find Crocs to be fairly wide fitting and as the size accommodates a broader range (my son?s cover size 12-13), these are a pretty generous shoe. If anything, they are slightly on the large size for my son and do slip about slightly but not too much of a problem given that they are worn predominantly indoors and for short periods of time. The addition of the rubberised back section also helps to keep them securely in position.

            The Lego themed design of these Crocs is fun and attractive and these are comfortable to wear. I do think the functionality of this particular design would be much improved if the liner was removable and fully washable, as in the adult design. That aside, these are a fun shoe that are best suited to indoor use due to the lining.

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            09.05.2014 11:57
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            Dark but humorous debut by Iain Banks

            I first discovered the Wasp Factory by Iain Banks as a teenager, when I watched a theatre performance of the story. I can only vaguely remember the production but must have been impressed as I immediately went out and purchased a copy of the book and several other novels by Iain Banks. The Wasp Factory was actually Iain Banks debut novel and caused quite a lot of controversy when it was first published. I can understand why that would be the case as the book features a teenage boy openly talking about the ways in which he has disposed of a number of family members throughout his childhood. This is certainly a novel with a pretty unique style of black humour. It is a short read though and far shorter than Banks subsequent novels which tend to be great tomes. I preferred this short and snappy format and was able to lose myself in the bizarre world inhabited by the strange and twisted mind of Eric and his dysfunctional family. Despite the story focusing on murder and madness (thanks to the older brother who has managed to escape from a hospital due to his mental health breakdown) it is not at all depressing or gruesome. There is something pretty ingenious about the methods used by Eric and there is some logic behind his decisions. The only really unpleasant section was when the older brother was caring for children and discovered why one of the children was no longer talking. That is one section to read with a shudder. Having had a number of years between re-reading, I had completely forgotten about a slightly macabre and bizarre twist that occurs at the end, making this a really provocative and unique novel. This book has been listed on Amazon as one of the 100 books to read in a lifetime and deservedly so as it certainly stands its own.

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