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Reviews

Review – Roomba 880, I said I would!

I’ve got my hands on the latest household robot the Roomba 880 robot vacuum and I said once I did that I would review it. It’s been here for just under a week and firstly it’s great, it is so nice not to have to vacuum. In fact I haven’t got the big Dyson out since plugging the Roomba in last week.

The new 880 is great for pet hair and all types of dirt on any floor surface which is why I wanted the 880 model. From what I’ve read the previous models had brushes on the bottom which swept up dirt but had problems with hair. The hair would get tangled on these brushes and you would need to detangle them often which increased maintenance overall. The Roomba 880 does not have brushes, it’s using iRobots latest invention which is called AeroForce technology which you can see below. This makes it much more viable for pet owners and works a treat indeed, I think iRobot quote about 50% more suction power for the latest model in comparison?

The Roomba 880 can be scheduled to automatically turn on and clean, it has dirt detection for dirty areas, spot cleaning, can be remotely controlled. It also comes with two lighthouse/virtual walls which are great, you can set a vital wall to stop the Roomba from passing. Or a lighthouse which tells the Roomba this is a new room and helps it guide its way back to the dock.

We’ve left the Roomba to clean while we were away one night and came back to two happy cats and clean floors, what more can you ask for?

So how well does it really work?

For me it works well, the apartment here is mostly open plan so the Roomba goes about it’s business. The only issue I do have is the dip down to the master bedroom door frame is too high for it to get back up again. So I currently block off that room and use a virtual wall to stop the Roomba going into it. This way when I want the bedroom cleaned I can turn the virtual wall into a lighthouse and the Roomba will go into the room, when it’s done I can pick it up and take it to the dock.

It picks up a lot of dust, dirt and hair; much more than I thought it would. I’m actually quite surprised how much it picks up each day. It isn’t noisy, I don’t know why people claim that it is? Compared to a upright vacuum it’s very quiet, I can easily watch TV while it’s on. It’s really great waking up in the morning and going to go make a cup of coffee, watching the Roomba turn on and clean for you.

I used to get that annoying sigh feeling when you wake up and there is dirt everywhere, I’m sure most people would consider my level of dirt as clean but I just like things to be tidy where possible at all times.

The only other slight issue I have had is the pet food bowls, at the moment I’ve virtual walled off the whole kitchen as I need a halo accessory that emits a twenty inch radius to protect the food bowls. Something to work on, but it isn’t too bad as I can just sweep the kitchen myself when it needs it.

When I first turned on the Roomba it went in really weird directions and I wondered what it was doing. Now it seems to have learnt a certain route while still being a little bit crazy so it covers lots of surface area, but it seems to know how to get back to the dock easily now.

Who shouldn’t buy this?

I wouldn’t buy one of these if I had lots of levels to my floors, so between rooms you have lots of raised door frames. I think if you’ve got stairs then you’d need to consider buying more than one which makes it quite an expense or moving the Roomba between floors.

If you happen to be one of those people that leaves things lying around on the floor then this possibly is not for you. I don’t do clutter and thus the floors are pretty free of obstacles, as well as this I also keep my cables out of view and this works in the Roombas favour. If you don’t want to live like that then like I said it’s not for you.

If you want a robot that’s going to map out your home the Roomba isn’t for you, but I don’t find this hinders its ability to clean at all. You would be better off getting a Neato which take a more linear approach. Or alternatively the LG Hom-Bot which uses your ceilings to map out the size of the rooms, this doesn’t work too well with furniture though!

Does this replace an upright?

No it doesn’t, I still have to vacuum the rug because it’s really deep pile (although Roomba is fine on more shallow rugs). I still will need to use an upright but I just don’t need to use it every day, if you are sick of doing it every day and you have the money spare to buy a Roomba then it makes sense. I suppose it depends on your priorities, hopefully the robots will get cheaper and more intelligent over time as it would be excellent to see develops for smart households.

So overall I’m really happy with the Roomba 880, it might look like a drunk fool at times but by doing this it covers the room better and cleans better. It’s got great power behind it and it’s saving me loads of time in the day while keeping my two cats entertained.

Books Reviews

Review – Gone Girl, seems simple enough right?

I wanted to love this book, I really did. I really enjoy a good mystery and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn has knitted together a great story. But and there is a but, which is such a shame I just did not like the ending. Gone Girl has great general review score on Amazon and as per normal I hunted it out in my local book store to check it in the flesh.

The book is a cleverly written thriller, it’s great really it is but I just found myself wondering where the rest of the story was after I finished reading. I was actually stumped that I had hit the last page, how could it end like that? Without giving you too much away in my opinion if the ending was a biscuit it would be a soggy crunch cream, great at first but soon as you dunk it all of its redeeming features are gone. Just like the girl, gone *sigh* which is such a shame as I believe that it could have been so much more clever at the end.

Who are you?

What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?

Just looking at the Amazon reviews I can see that loads of people agree, the ending is dire. I don’t read the Amazon reviews by the way when I look for books as I find people spoil the story a lot in them. It’s almost infuriating as this book is so good other than the end, I was surprised at every corner. It was great, what was Gillian thinking! The ending just flops.

I also really did not like that the author filled the last pages with the first chapter of one of her other books, it was like poor advertising “Please purchase my other books, here’s the first chapter if you read it then you’ll want to know what is coming next then you’ll buy my book??? Please???”. Needless to say I did not read the first chapter of whatever book has been bunched in the final pages.

Still with all of that said, I think you should read this book because it’s great apart from the ending. Given that so many people have read it and rated it highly I’m sure maybe the ending is like Marmite you ever love it or hate it. Personally I don’t find it believable at all and it infuriates me but the rest of the book was good so I don’t regret reading it. I read this book on and off for fives days because I wanted to know what was going to happen next, it’s very much a can’t put down book but I do feel a little cheated.

Gone Girl isn’t conventional, Gillian focuses a lot on human relationships and particularly marriage. There is a lot of lying, lots of manipulation, you can’t take for granted that what you are being told as the reader is true which is very different to other thrillers I’ve read. It’s what makes the book so good, addictive because you don’t know all the facts, you don’t know if what you are being told is the truth and you are taken along as much as all the other characters through the story. If only the ending was better, this would be a great film!

So if you don’t mind taking a risk, a gamble with the ending then totally read this!

Gone Girl City Living Soul Rating:3
Books Reviews

Review – The Book Thief, an interesting insight into death

The Book ThiefI was very much looking forward to reading The Book Thief,  it is written by an Australian author Markus Zusak and most interestingly narrated by the character “Death”. It took me a little while to warm up to the narration as Death has a very different way of viewing the world to humans, which is reflected heavily in the narration.

The book has a lot to contend with and there are stories which cover Nazi Germany already, like the boy in the striped pajamas. But what sets this book apart from the rest is the narration. By the end of the book you begin to think that perhaps it is possible that Death does exist. That he does come to take your soul and also what that process might feel like.

As per normal here is the synopsis from the back of the book:

Here is a small fact, you are going to die.
1939 Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year old girl is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
Some important information
This novel is narrated by Death
It’s a small story, about
a girl + an accordionist + some fanatical Germans + a Jewish fist fighter + and quite a lot of thievery.
Another thing you should know
Death will visit the book thief three times

 The Book Thief was published in 2005 which I was quite surprised about, but it was the best-selling debut literacy novel in 2007. It has won a variety of awards and was listed in The New York Times Best Seller list for over 230 weeks. Even though the book is narrated by Death, the characters stories are still covered fully and in a beautiful way. Before reading the book I had never really considered what Germany must have been like during the Nazi take over. As time went on I found that I was intrigued to find out what happened next, how the inhabitants of Himmel street pushed forward even in such poverty. It really is an astonishing book, great writing but with an unusual style but fitting the narrator perfectly. If you find unusual writing methods tiresome you may struggle for the first few chapters of this book, but continue on and eventually the writing is easily absorbed. I will admit that the first few chapters I was not convinced that I wanted to continue reading, as I really struggled with the narration but now I have finished it I’m glad I did!

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

I think I was initial drawn to The Book Thief because of the cover, a young girl dancing holding hands with Death. I took the book with me to Italy over the weekend and It was perfect those periods when you need to pass time. I won’t spoil the story for you here, but I do think it’s worth reading and I look forward to now watching the film. If you think you might like to read a book about how a street in Germany coped with tragic events without losing hope, read the book.

Books Reviews

The Husbands Secret – What a great book!

I had no idea what to expect from this book, I bought it for my mother some time ago when The Husbands Secret first came out back in August 2013. I can’t remember exactly why, perhaps it was a Christmas present but something about the front cover made me think she would like it. It was only recently that I decided to read it myself, I had no idea how good it was! I must have flown through this book, I think I read the first chapter then left it for a week or so due to being so busy. But once I was ready to start reading again I pretty much ignored my poor husband for a few evenings. Not that I think he minded, since it gave him guilt free gaming time plus the easter weekend helped too!

The husbands secret

Mother of three and wife of John-Paul, Cecilia discovers an old envelope in the attic. Written in her husband’s hand, it says: to be opened only in the event of my death.

Curious, she opens it – and time stops.

John-Paul’s letter confesses to a terrible mistake which, if revealed, would wreck their family as well as the lives of others.

I think that The Husbands Secret’s target audience has to be women, it reminds me of Desperate Housewives an American TV series which followed the lives of a whole bunch of housewives. The book shows multiple viewpoints of storyline events from different characters which makes it interesting and keeps the story flowing well. The biggest couple the feature the most would be John-Paul and Cecilia but all the characters are just as important throughout. As per usual I will try and review this book without spoilers, so rather than telling you what will happen I will try and explain what I liked about the book.

I really love the story, the synopsis quoted above gives you some idea that there is this massive secret but the story is about much more than just the big reveal. If anything I think the book enlightens you to exactly how the real world is once you wipe away the “American dream” world, which it does while being funny and gripping. I enjoy books which have clever story lines, I like guessing what might be going on but I don’t want to be right first time. While I think I did guess the secret in this book early on, I had no idea of the true secrets that were held within and was genuinely surprised by the very end of the book. If you are like most of the population, you’ll find yourself judging characters in the book too soon only to find that perhaps their motives are different later on. The book is a puzzle and if you enjoy that kind of story then I highly recommend you read this, you won’t be disappointed.

There were points in the book that I found slow which is a shame, but it did not detract from the overall experience and I still think the overall reviews of this book online are justified. I purchased it on Amazon for £3.80 (Bargain!) and as you will see the reviews for it on there are great, with almost five stars and around 2,400 reviews you cannot go wrong.

Seeing as I enjoyed this book I think I may look at purchasing more from the Author Liane Moriarty although her other books have not been such a big hit as The Husbands Secret.

Anyway please feel free to let me know what your thoughts are on the book in the comments section!

Books Reviews Trending Topics

The Shock of the Fall

I actually finished this book a little while ago but things have been super busy around here! I wanted to review it before I finish my next one which I’m currently reading though! (The Husbands Secret). I’m going to attempt to review without giving any spoilers away as I think that ruins the enjoyment of the book.

The Shock of the Fall is by Nathan Filer and it was Costa Coffee’s book of the year for 2013, it’s also Nathan’s first novel. Interestingly he has a background as a mental health worker and uses this to his advantage throughout the book very successfully. I suppose I should start of by saying it’s not a long novel, I think I finished it from cover to end in about two days but I did read for 3-4 hours a day.

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

The style of the book jumps around so if you don’t like that kind of story then this book is not the one for you, but if you can handle a disjointed timeline I would totally recommend reading it. It’s written really well considering it’s Nathan’s first novel and I found it to be an engaging read which you could not put down. The book is also written almost like a diary, so again if you prefer a story with a high level of detail which is easier to navigate then this is not the book for you.

So here is the hard part, trying to tell you a snippet of the story without ruining it. The novel is all about the journey of a boy who has a brother named Simon, their story, their lives and sadly the death event. I’m sure you could possibly work most of that out from the synopsis quoted above but hopefully that gives you a little more information to decide whether you want to read it or not.

I purchased the book online from Amazon rather than in a store although I did as I usually do check the book out in the store beforehand. The Shock of the Fall isn’t going to break the bank, so even if the turns out you don’t enjoy it you can be happy in the knowledge that you did not spend too much money on it anyway. Amazon are selling it right now for £3.85 with free delivery in the UK a least.

When you consider the price, the good reviews and the fact it’s a short read so it isn’t going to take took much of your time then I would highly recommend you buy this book. It’s an easy read which you can fling in your bag and take with you to your next coffee shop visit, besides if you don’t enjoy it then someone you know will!

Books

The Cuckoo’s Calling and we like it

I’ll be the first to admit that I am by no means the best reader, I have not picked up a book for pure entertainment for at least ten years. I’ve been an audiobook fan for a while, but I find that does not require the same level of commitment and I used to combine listening with other tasks like cleaning.

I love watching films so when I suddenly had some of that free time I talked about in my last blog appear I decided would give reading another try.

 A few weeks back I popped into the local Waterstones to check out what books are popular at the moment, after my third visit I decided to buy “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith (AKA J.K Rowling). It’s a crime fiction which is something I’ve always enjoyed back when I did read. I find looking for books a lot easier online than I do in a book store.

I don’t want to spoilt the ending for anyone reading this or thinking of reading this book so I’ll keep that in mind with my comments. The book is based on a model who falls to her death leaving behind the question of suicide or murder? In steps a private detective (Cormoran Strike) who’s job it is to answer the question.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book; I think that J.K Rowling is a great writer and she has kept you guessing about firstly whether there is a murder at all and then secondly if there is who it might be. I found the book to be easy to read which I like, but still very descriptive.I’m not one to enjoy books that use overly complex wording but may work up to that over time we will see!

It’s nice to see that the author has been able to successfully write a book that is outside of the Harry Potter world. I would not be surprised if the book get’s made into a film at a later date.

I finished the book yesterday and am now eagerly waiting for the next book which follows the private detective Cormoran Strike on his next journey. The books called “Silkworm” and it’s due to be released on the 19th of June 2014, so that will definitely be on my reading list.

Today I’ve started reading “The Shock of the fall” by Nathan Filer and I will be sure to keep you posted of whether I think that’s worth a read.

Beauty and Health Reviews

Product Review – Joico K-Pak Reconstruct Shampoo and Conditioner

I have had such good results with this product line that I wanted to share a review. Over the last three years I have had my hair foiled with highlights, then bleached and toned. The bleach really had taken a toll on my hair quality and when I moved to London my new hair salon recommend that I need to get protein into my hair straight away.

joico-k-pak-shampoo-to-repair-damage-300ml-p7067-23389_medium

They recommended I have a Joico treatment which at the time I had never heard of before. I thought that damaged hair was pretty much done for and might as well be cut out or lived with until it was long enough to grow out. However things have really come along in hair care and the reviews online seemed to be very impressive. I went ahead and ordered the Joico K-PAK Shampoo  and the Joico K-PAK Conditioner, but I also paid for the full treatment which included the additional re-constructor treatment from the range twice over the space of three weeks.

Firstly the shampoo and conditioner smell amazing, I was expecting to smell like chemicals but no it’s very nice. Since using the two together for a few weeks I have noticed drastic improvements to the quality of my hair. It is pretty much back to how it was  before the damage. Now that I’ve got it back to how I want it, I’m slowly going to reduce how often I use both the shampoo and conditioner as you do not want to put too much protein into your hair.

Price wise the two together are not the cheapest on the market but if you have damaged hair then it’s an investment to get your hair looking better. I paid about £45 for the two in the 1000ml size, so they are huge and will last a long time!

This is a product that really does work, if you are willing to spend the cash and put in the time it takes to really treat your hair then you can make your hair look at lot better while it grows out. I’ve been able to finally get my hair coloured again, this time I’ve gone much more dark blonde using low lights which I hope will be much healthier for my hair in the long run.

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Beauty and Health Reviews

Beauty Review – Body Shop Hemp Foot Protector and Routine

It’s winter in the UK right now and one way of telling that might be to look at your feet. If your feet have been dried out with all the cold air, long walks and post summer fun then listen up.

My feet used to be in excellent condition, I never needed a pedicure because my skin was perfectly soft and I rarely had to do anything but polish and tidy my nails to keep them looking healthy. Then I moved to London, in our new apartment we have hardwood floors, both myself and my husbands feet have taken a battering. Seriously, hard dried out skin is not something you want to sporting and definitely need correcting ready for spring/summer.

What products do I recommend?

You are going to need three things to really kick dry skin where it hurts:

  1. A good foot moisturiser – Body Shop Hemp Foot Protector it’s £10 from the Body Shop but totally worth it which I will talk about in a bit.
  2. A foot file – Body Shop Foot File £5 from the Body Shop is what I used because the reviews were so good, I wanted to try it for myself.
  3. Cotton Socks – Body Shop Thirsty Feet Moisture Socks they are £7 from the Body Shop but you could use plain cotton socks if you want.

Body Shop Feet Products

The Hemp Foot Protector has been designed to really hydrate dry skin on your feet, it is amazing and will be a staple in my beauty bag until I find something even better! If you have dry feet and don’t know what product to buy, just buy it as it will fix your dry skin and quickly.

The Body Shop Foot File is a great replacement if you are looking for a new foot file, I used to use the VIE at home foot file during those summer months but as VIE at home is no more and mine needed replacement. This is an excellent replacement and it removes the dry skins from your feet in a gentle way.

Thirsty Feet Moisture Socks fit nicely for a variety of sizes of feet, mine are 6/7 and I wasn’t sure whether they would fit. They are made with The Body Shops community trade natural cotton from Mauritius which is nice to know, as well as this you can wash them in the washing machine on a 40 degree wash – Great!

How do I use them?

Use the foot file first, pretty much exactly how it sounds file your feet. This will remove the hard skin, I found the foot file to be really effective at this. Some of the files I have used before have broken, this one seemed pretty sturdy just don’t get it wet!

Once you’ve filed both your feet, focusing on the hard skin areas (ball of your foot, front pads and any toes with hard skin on) then you want to go ahead and take some of the Hemp Foot Protector. You don’t need very much of this, so just rub a little into both feet making sure to cover the worst areas really well.

The Hemp Foot Protector is where the magic is going to happen, I have tried lots of creams for your feet. Many of them don’t really feel like they have sunk into your skin and just feet greasy forever. This one however seems to be really great quality, not too bad of a smell either and sinks in quickly.

Next take your cotton socks or the Body Shop Thirsty Feet Moisturise Socks and keep them on for at least an hour. For best results do this routine before bed and sleep with the socks on. As they are cotton they will allow your feet to breathe while still allowing maximum potential for the Hemp Foot Protector to work.

You should notice afterwards an immediate improvement in the texture and smoothness of your feet, I would advise that your repeat this at least once a week during winter to keep your feet soft and gorgeous. If your feet are quite far gone then you might want to repeat the routine twice a week until things improve.

I would highly recommend all three of these products, they do what they say on the tin and you can’t ask for better than that.  Perfectly winter fix at home after running around all day shopping in London and if you have time you could follow this routine up with a nail polish and file.

Beauty and Health Reviews

Beauty Review – Champneys Spa Treatments Citrus Blush Body Scrub

A good body scrub in my opinion is essential to use all year around to keep your skin smooth and moisturised. I don’t keep to this rule, but I do frequent spa’s often and usually on my list of carefully chosen treatments next to my massage is a full body scrub.

Back last year I visited one of Champney’s health spa’s in the UK which I had their Citrus Blush body scrub, after that treatment I decided I would go ahead and purchase the scrub and the oil they used so I could do the same thing at home.

Champneys Spa Treatments Citrus Blush Body scrub

So what exactly is in this tub of joy?

Now onto the scrub, you can buy the Champneys Citrus Blush Body Scrub for just £4.00 now from Boots which was part of the Champneys Spa treatment range. The scrub is made from cardamom, brown sugar and coconut fibres, lemon and Kukui nut oil. I really like the smell, some scrubs can smell really clinical but this smells very yummy and sweet although I wouldn’t recommend you try tasting it!

Although the recommendations on the tub are to use twice a week, If you have sensitive skin I would not use it more than once a week due to the consistency of the scrub. It’s a very coarse mix, which is great for removing the dead skin cells but you might over exfoliate if you use it too often.

How to use it like a spa?

Ideally you want to get a second pair of hands here or it’s going to take you a little longer. So you want to a small portion of the scrub on your hands topping up where required, rub the scrub into your skin in long sweeping motions concentrating on each area using your hands. To reduce mess you could do this in the shower or stand in the bath so you can wash down the grit afterwards. At the Spa they will exfoliate different areas in groups, so you arms, torso, legs then turn over and repeat.

Once exfoliation is completed you need to wash the product off using a shower or shower head, I would not recommend a bath unless you like the feel of grit below you. This scrub tends to leave a residue on your skin so you need to wash it off very well, you might even want to use an additional product to remove it like a good shower gel or the Champneys Spa Treatment Citrus Blush Shower Gel (£3.00).

Next make sure you skin is dry, then follow up with a good moisturiser all over the exfoliated areas. I recommend the Champneys Spa Treatment Citrus Blush Dry Body Oil (£4.00) which can also be found at Boots. This is the moisturiser that was used for my Spa treatment although I had the choice between oil based or cream based.

Champneys Spa Treatments Citrus Blush Dry Body Oil

Having not tried an oil based moisturiser before I wanted to see how it felt on the skin, I often find cream based moisturisers can be a little heavy. I would highly recommend this product, you can spray it onto your skin focusing again area by area and it drys very quickly.

It smells just as divine as the scrub and has cardamom, lemon, sesame and rice bran oils which are really great at leaving your skin smooth and radiant. You can even use this just after the shower while your skin is still slightly damp, which means it spreads further and sinks into the skin really well.

An added bonus is that I think both products look great in your bathroom too 😉