Sunday, 29 September 2013

Review of Paperluxe déjà vu notebook

[warning: long post with quite a few pictures. Click on any picture to enlarge]

As part of the haul of notebooks sent to me by Grandluxe (read reviews here, here, here and here), I was also sent some of their Paperluxe déjà vu notebooks. I was sent 5 in total: two in A5 size and three in A6. These are the only sizes these notebooks come in, and I was sent a sample of each of the five colours available: brown, blue, grey, orange, green and lime.

Brown (l) and green (r) A5
Clockwise from top left: lime A5, grey, blue, orange (all A6)

The catalogue describes the déjà vu books thus:
Jersey fabric cover; 192 leaves of 80 gsm acid free cream woodfree paper with alternate lined and blank pages; perfect bound; round corners.
Recommended retail price for the A5 is £9.99 and for the A6 is £5.99

Although they are technically hardbound, they are less rigid than others and I would say they are semi-rigid. The cover can be flexed easily, but not folded.

A5 – cover = 211 mm x 152 mm. Page size = 206 mm x 144 mm
A6 – cover = 150 mm x 106 mm. Page size = 144 mm x 100 mm

The jersey fabric is interesting, with a definite grain to it – stroking from top to bottom of the book is smooth; stroking the cover from bottom to top is rough. The colours are quite pleasant and not as vibrant as the other notebooks I’ve reviewed from the company. There is no elastic closure nor is there a ribbon marker in the book. I tend to prefer smooth covers on notebooks so they feel unusual, but not unpleasant. There is no branding on the front. On the back there is Paperluxe, and there is déjà vu printed on the spine in white, sans serif font.

Green (A5) and blue (A6) plastic film and label removed - front
Green (A5) and blue (A6) plastic film and label removed -back
Close-up of fabric: green
Close-up of fabric: blue
Label on spine

There is a cream paper lining the cover which continues to form the fly-leaf. As usual, this is stuck to the first page, making the first page not open quite properly. The books do not in any way lie flat. The paper is smooth, with the lines not quite extending to the edges of the page. There is Paperluxe printed on the bottom right hand corner of each sheet, just under the bottom line of the page.
Line spacing in the A5 is 7 mm; in the A6 it is 6 mm. There are 27 lines in the A5 and 22 lines in the A6. The right-hand page is lined with the left-hand page left blank.

A5 open (A6 holding page open)
A6 open (A5 holding page open)

Fountain pen test:
I took out a leaf from the middle of one of the A6 notebooks to do the fountain pen test on. The paper is (I think) the same as is used in the Grandluxe lined notebooks by the same company. It certainly performed as badly as that. The page, though smooth to the touch, soaks up ink and so there is significant feathering and bleed-through and the pen strokes are writing much broader than on other paper. Since the reverse of the page is blank (and perhaps not designed to be written on) maybe the bleed-through isn’t as irritating as it is in the other notebooks. However, I wonder if “déjà vu” as the name was chosen deliberately, given the level of bleed-through.

Fountain-pen test (front)
Fountain pen test (reverse)
Fountain pen test (reverse in more detail)

I love notebooks in which I can write with a fountain pen. These books are not designed with that in mind. If you don’t write with fountain pen, they are nice, chunky notebooks with lots of pages and blank space for sticking things in (if that takes your fancy).
However, if, like me, you prefer writing in fountain pen, these notebooks won’t cut it.
Stars: 2/5

Details of how to find Grandluxe products:

Monologue on Facebook:

Disclaimer: although I was given these books to review, this has been my honest opinion of the book reviewed. I have not been paid to review the books, nor am I in the employ of Grandluxe.

Review of grandluxe notebooks (4): Monologue basics notebook in A4

[warning: long post with quite a few pictures. Click on any picture to enlarge]

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I was sent a pile of notebooks by Grandluxe to review. So far I have reviewed the Monologue Platinum notebooks (you can read the review here), the Monologue jotter (you can read my review here) and the Monologue ruled notebook (read the review here).
Today is the turn of the Monologue basics notebook. I was sent an A4 size version. They come in A4, A5 and A6 and with a black cover only.  I only have a recommended retail price for the A4 - £10.99.

First impressions
The notebook is hardbacked and the cover is A4 size (the page size is marginally smaller at 294 mm x 204mm. The cover is PU with a graining pattern (see photos below). There is a vertical black elastic closure and a black ribbon marker. There is no branding on the front cover. The back cover has, like the other notebooks in the range, got ‘monologue’ incised into the cover.

Front cover (with label)
Back cover (with label)
Label removed

Lining the cover is grey paper and the first page, though stuck to it, is not affected the way first pages usually are and appears almost completely free.

Grey fly-leaf and first page of table of contents

The first 6 pages are to list content on, with a header of ‘Content’ and then a table underneath with ‘Page No.’ and ‘Subject’. There are 41 rows per table to fill with lists of the content. With 6 pages, you can therefore list 246 things. The book has 80 leaves (160 pages) to it. With 6 taken for contents listing, there are 154 remaining.

There are 6 pages of table of contents in total
There are 154 pages of ruled paper with page numbers

These remaining pages are numbered in the bottom outer corner and have ‘Date:’ on the top line. Line spacing is narrower than the other books I have reviewed, at 6 mm and there are 45 lines after the Date line.

'Date' on the page, plus page number
Page number in close-up
The paper is described as 80 gsm acid free, woodfree paper and is cream/ivory in colour.
In the back cover there is an expandable pocket made of grey paper (which is ever so slightly NOT the same colour as the lining paper). The whole of the pocket is made of the paper; the gusset isn’t made of the ribbon-like material found in the other notebooks.

Pen Tests
To be honest, I was almost not going to do a pen test on this because the other Monologue books have done so badly with fountain pens. Since the pages are numbered, it wasn’t possible to take out a leaf to test (so as not to spoil the book) either. In the end, I decided that I had to test my collection of fountain pens on it, as I do that for every book I review, and tested them on the very last page of the book.
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised! The paper is fairly smooth, without that ‘ink just sitting on the surface’ aspect that very smooth paper gets and it wasn’t nearly as blotting-paper like as the other notebooks have been. That said, it’s no Clairefontaine and there was still feathering and bleed-through from almost everything I tested it with, to an extent that makes the reverse side unusable, but not as unusable as the other books in the range have been.

Fountain pen tests
Fountain pen tests: reverse
Reminder of the reverse of the lined notebook
fountain pen test

I like this book. I think I will use it at work. I would have preferred an A5 for work (but was only sent one of these books – the A4 – to review) and I would certainly have preferred a fountain-pen friendly paper. I like the table of contents at the start and the date and page number on the other pages. The narrow ruling suits me better too. It’s just a shame that even a fine roller-ball bleeds through to the reverse. The Bic biro is fine (and mostly what I use at work anyway).
Star rating: 3/5

Details of how to find Grandluxe products:

Monologue on Facebook:

Disclaimer: although I was given these books to review, this has been my honest opinion of the book reviewed. I have not been paid to review the books, nor am I in the employ of Grandluxe.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Review of Grandluxe notebooks (3): monologue ruled notebook

[warning: long post with quite a few pictures. Click on any picture to enlarge]

I have already reviewed two of the types of notebook that I was sent by Grandluxe to review. The review of the Monologue Platinum notebooks can be found here and the review of the Monologue Jotter can be found here.

Today is the turn of the Monologue ruled notebook, of which I was sent 8! I received 2x “A5” (14.5 cm x 21.2 cm), 2x “A6” (9.6 cm x 14.5 cm), 2x “A7” (7.8 cm x 11.1 cm) and 2x “A8” (5.3 cm x 7.8 cm). On the assumption that the interiors are the same, I have only opened the black A5 as this is the colour and size that appealed to me the most. The colours of the other sizes are great, but I am not sure about the sizes.
Available sizes and their recommended retail price: A5 (£7.99), A6 (4.99), A7 (£3.99) and A8 (£2.99)
Colours: black, brown, green, orange, pink, purple, red and yellow

Yellow (front)
Yellow (back)
Black, unwrapped (front)
Black, unwrapped (back)
The two A6 size (orange, purple)
Top: A7 brown, pink
Bottom: A8 green, red
First impressions:
The cover is described in the catalogue as “tactile feel PU cover with round corners”. It has quite a high friction/grippy feel to it – it wouldn’t slip out of your hand – and feels warm to the touch. It’s very pleasant as a cover. There is a strong vertical elastic closure in a matching colour to the cover (solid black to match what I would describe as soft black in the one I opened; you can see in the pictures the colours of the others). There is also a ribbon marker in a complementary colour (charcoal grey in the black notebook).

As described, it is warm and pleasant to the touch. The front is completely plain; the back has ‘monologue’ incised in, like the other products in the range. It’s a pleasant sans serif font. The other colours are generally very attractive: the red is a dark red – red wine I suppose (she says, trying to avoid using ‘dry blood’ as a reference!). The green is very hard to describe – quite light with sage aspects but also some yellow to it. The pink is gorgeous – not too bright or bubble-gum coloured – a very good fuchsia colour. The brown is a good tobacco/leather colour (interestingly, as well as monologue incised in the back, it also has; none of the others do). The orange is bright and zingy and the same colour as the orange Jotter I reviewed. The purple is wonderful, especially with the slightly contrasting elastic closure). The only colour I was not so keen on was the yellow, which is quite a mustard/ochre yellow – a bit too orange and a bit too brown for my liking.

The cover is quite stiff to open. It’s lined with cream paper which makes a fly leaf, to which the first page is glued (though not as extensively as in other books). As in the other notebooks from Grandluxe, the top and bottom lines of the page are heavier and the lines don’t extend edge to edge on the page (inner margin 12 mm; outer 6.5 mm). Line-spacing is 7 mm. The page is cream (described as 80gsm, cream, acid-free paper. Interestingly, the paper in the Jotter was also described as wood-free too, which this isn’t).
The pages aren’t numbered or have any other markings other than the lines. The top margin is 21.5 mm and there are 25 line spaces on the page. There are 96 leaves (192 pages).
It doesn't lie flat very well, though once you get to the middle of the book, it is much better.
In the back cover, there is a pocket which is the same as in the Jotter – made of thick cream paper and the gusseted sides made with paper/ribbon-like material.

Fountain-pen tests:
I’m beginning to believe that fountain-pen users are not the target market for the Grandluxe notebooks as so far, the paper has failed miserably to cope with any of my fountain-pens (and indeed, has at time struggled with even a roller-ball). These notebooks were no different. As before, I removed one leaf from the book to do the tests. To show you a comparison with paper that is acceptable (but not great) for fountain pens, there are also pictures of the same pens on Basildon Bond writing paper, which I would say is thinner paper than that of the notebook. Below are a series of pictures and close-ups to help you compare.

Monologue notebook on left; Basildon Bond paper on right
Monologue notebook
Basildon Bond paper
Close-up (Monologue notebook)
Basildon bond close-up
Monologue notebook
Basildon Bond
Monologue notebook
Basildon Bond
Monologue notebook
Basildon Bond
Holding the nib against the paper for 5 seconds - Monologue
Holding the nib against the paper for 5 seconds - Basildon Bond
Reverse - Basildon Bond
Reverse - monologue notebook
The monologue notebook was a fairly epic fail with anything other than a biro. It sucked up ink like blotting paper, feathered badly as a consequence and the bleed-through to the other side makes the other side utterly unusable.
The inability of the books to cope with fountain pen is a real shame. They have covers in great colours and would otherwise be a nice addition to the notebook market. But this blotting-paper-like tendency of the paper is shockingly bad. Clairefontaine get it right every time, even in cheap notebooks. I have some A5 school-style exercise books that perform far better than this and cost less than £2 each. Okay, they are card covered and stapled and have no elastic closure or ribbon, but I can write in them, which for me is the primary point of a notebook. At £7.99, I would have hoped that these would perform better.

So, my overall score? Still just 2/5. If I only wrote in biro or pencil, I would perhaps award them 4/5, but the quality of the paper is a major let-down for me.

Details of how to find Grandluxe products:
Monologue on Facebook:

Disclaimer: although I was given these books to review, this has been my honest opinion of the book reviewed. I have not been paid to review the books, nor am I in the employ of Grandluxe.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Reviews of Grandluxe products (2): Monologue Jotter

[warning: long post with quite a few pictures. Click on any picture to enlarge]

This post in my series of reviews of Grandluxe notebooks will look at the Monologue Jotter notebooks. I was sent two to review: an orange-covered A6 sized one (14.5 cm x 9.5 cm; page size 13.7 cm x 7.3 cm) and a dark grey A5 version (21.2 cm x 14.3 cm; page size 20.6 cm x 13.7 cm, not including the cutaway).

The notebooks have a synthetic suede cover which feels lovely to the touch, though I wonder how well it would wear if the notebook was knocking around in a bag alongside keys and other things. Anyway, it feels nice to the touch at the moment! Inside, there is a propelling pencil in a pen holder attached to the book. The paper is described as 80 gsm acid free cream woodfree paper. The notebooks have 48 leaves of ruled notepaper and 48 leaves of framed blank paper. The recommended retail price for them is £17.99 for the A5 size and £12.99 for the A6.

First impressions:
Like the contents of the Platinum notebooks that I reviewed earlier (see here), I find the combination of contents - this time lined and blank pages - a little strange. I do have some notebooks which have alternate plain and lined pages, but none where there is plain in one section and lined in another. Maybe this isn’t odd to other people, of course!
In the A5 size, the pencil lies in a cutaway, so the pages of the book ‘wrap around’ the pencil. In the A6 size book, the pages are not cut and the pencil lies to the side of them.
There is a matching marker ribbon which does actually match the colour of the cover quite well, as does the strong elastic closure. They are very smart looking books.

However, there are a couple of design flaws to my eyes at least. When I opened the A6 book to take pictures of the interior, the pencil fell out because the card pen holder is too big for the pencil. The opposite problem was to be had with the A5 – because of the page cutaway, the pencil is really difficult to get out. You have to flip all the pages over to the front and then get the pencil out. It won’t slide up/down out of the holder, because it jams into the cut pages. I can see why they made the design the way they did, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.

A6 in detail
The cover, as said, is soft and very tactile and I like it very much. The orange elastic closure is strong and the colour is very zingy.

Front (with label)
Back cover (with label)
Inside, the cover is lined with thick cream paper, which also forms a flyleaf (to which, inevitably, the first page of notepaper is glued). The pages are sewn not glued, but the book will not lie flat, even with persuasion. As in the Platinum notebooks, the lined pages have a heavier line top and bottom and the lines do not go edge to edge, but rather have a blank margin around them of 7 mm (inner margin) and 3 mm (outer margin). Line spacing is 6 mm and there are 20 lines per page. The orange ribbon marker is a good colour match to both the cover and to the elastic.

The ‘plain’ pages have a rectangular frame: 12 cm x 6.2 cm, lying offset with the same margins as the lined pages (7 mm inner; 3 mm outer).
In the back cover there is a pocket, made of the same thick cream paper that lines the cover, with a gusset made of what looks like material, but I think is actually paper (it reminds me a bit of the wide ribbon that you get on bunches of flowers, and it has proved impossible to photograph!).
The pen loop is a strip of the cover material fastened to the back cover with a stud/bolt thing. The pencil does not fit well, the holder having a diameter of about 12mm and the pencil’s being 10mm. The only thing stopping it from falling out more is the fact that the top part of the pencil sticks out more than the barrel.

Pencil in holder
On the front cover, there is no branding or marks of any kind; on the back cover, the name “monologue” is incised into the cover.

The propelling pencil is quite heavy and solid-feeling. It has a glossy black plastic case with silver-coloured trims. The lead is advanced by twisting the barrel (it then springs back once the lead has advanced). Twisting it the other way allows it to be unscrewed. There doesn’t appear to be an eraser. I think (though haven’t checked) that the pencil can be refilled with 0.5mm leads.

I didn’t do a fountain pen test on the A6 paper as I assumed it was the same as in the A5 version. Keep reading for the results on the A5.

A5 in detail
Like the A6, the A5 has a very tactile cover. The grey is very dark – charcoal grey really. The elastic closure is black and the ribbon is a grey which is a good match to the cover. Like its baby brother, inside, there is thick cream paper lining the cover and making a fly leaf, to which the first page is stuck. Also like its baby brother, there is a pocket in the back cover, with the same cream paper and gusset.

Front cover (with label)
Back cover (with label)

The paper is the same as in the A6 – cream, 80 gsm, woodfree and acid free. The paper has a cutaway for where the pencil lies. You can see this more clearly in the pictures of the fountain pen tests, below. As in the A6, the top and bottom lines of the page are darker and the lines do not reach edge to edge. The inner margin is 12 mm; the outer is 6 mm, except at the cutaway, where the line reaches the edge of the page. Line-spacing is 7 mm and there are 25 lines per page. 

Showing cutaway for the pencil
Lined pages
The ‘plain’ pages have a rectangle 18.8 cm x 11.9 cm. And yes, that does mean that the cutaway has cut away some of the rectangle in a rather less than aesthetically pleasing way.

'Plain' pages
The pages are sewn in rather than glued, but the book will not lie completely flat without being held down, though it is a lot better than the A6 in this regard.
The pencil is the same as in the A6 and the pencil holder is the same, though in this notebook, the holder is a snug fit. As already mentioned though, the cutaway design makes getting the pencil out, really difficult!

The Fountain Pen Test
I realise this is harsh and possibly cruel as the books came with pencils, but nonetheless, I test all my notebooks with pens. I wasn’t holding out a great deal of hope after the disaster of the fountain pen test with the Platinum notebooks, but as this was different paper I was hoping to be surprised.

Here are the results:

Front. Some feathering
Reverse: significant bleed-through
The paper was smoother to the touch than the paper in the Platinum notebooks, but fountain pens still feathered and bled-through quite badly. At least this time, the OHTO Tasche didn’t bleed right through to the next page as well though. The bleed-through is bad enough to make the reverse side unusable with anything except biro or pencil

Despite the slightly better results in the fountain pen tests, I am less impressed with these notebooks. I think they are a quirky design and I can see what they are trying to do, but the end result is not quite there. I do like the feel of the cover. The colour coordination between the cover, elastic closure and ribbon is good. The line spacing is a nice spacing for my writing. However, I don’t like the cutaway pages in the A5 and I’m not sure about the half lined, half plain aspect to the notebook. I would prefer all lined.
Stars: 2/5

Details of how to find Grandluxe products:
Monologue on Facebook:

Disclaimer: although I was given these books to review, this has been my honest opinion of the book reviewed. I have not been paid to review the books, nor am I in the employ of Grandluxe.