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Jo Brand's autobiography, 'Look Back In Hunger' was published last year and was advertised in Waterstones in the lead-up to Christmas. I'm a big fan of Jo Brand and I really wanted to buy it but as I'm a student I couldn't really afford it.
Luckily, last week I managed to find a hardback copy in my local library in Blackheath, so I was able to read it for free!
-About the author-
Jo Brand, born 23/07/1957 is a very successful, British stand-up comedian/comedienne and author who has been on our screens since the late eighties. She is noted for her deadpan delivery, her self-mockery and her jokes which mostly incorporate her feminist views.
She often takes part in television events for charity, such as comic relief videos (she appeard in the video for Boyzone's cover of "When the going gets tough"). She is also one of the few women to have appeared on QI which is presented by Stephen Fry.
-About the book-
Most of her fans know that before Brand became famous, she worked as a psychiatric nurse. She often slips jokes about this part of her life into her routines. A portion of the book is about her time in this line of work. But mostly the book is a chronicalogical account of her life leading up to when she got her big break on television. It starts with her childhood, charts her time at primary school, all the many times she moved house as a child, teenage crushes, first jobs, first boyfriends (she's straight, shock horror) University and her early days on the comedy circuit.
Brand does include some snippets about her life since becoming famous, giving the odd anecdote about failed acting auditions and television appearances.
There are lots of photographs in the book, including many of her as child and as a teenage girl in Hastings.
Firstly, I feel I must say, the book is very funny. I laughed every few pages. She is a born comedian and humour clearly comes naturally. I got the impression that she didn't put much literary effort into writing this, it was just what was going through her mind; her thoughts, feelings and facts about her past, as opposed to Stephen Fry's autobiography which of course is a masterpiece.
A few things surprised me about her from reading this; one is the amount of different jobs she had before she started University. I thought I was abnormal. I didn't start Uni until I was 23 and I'd had about 10 different jobs, whereas Jo probably had even more than I did and didn't start Uni until she was 20. It was great to learn I had something in common with her. I was also surprised to learn about the difficult relationship she had with her parents. I'd always assumed she'd come from quite a comfortable, loving, middle-class upbringing.
I found it so interesting reading about her life in her twenties; all the different people she hung around with, the different places she lived, the jobs she had.
What I liked about Jo Brand before reading this book is that she comes across as very down-to-earth and unassuming. She dresses scruffily but wears a fair bit of make-up, she gives the air of someone who doesn't care what anyone thinks about her. She stands up for what she believes in, and this comes across x10 when reading the book, not only in her narrative but also in how she has lived her life.
I was disappointed when I got to the end. I'd hoped there would be a bit more information about her life since becoming famous and even without it I felt the book could have been a bit longer. I just hope she will write another volume!
On the whole I found this a very entertaining read. Not one of the literary greats, but honest, funny and full of warmth.
Published by Headline in 2009
Most people are aware of 1960s folk-pop group The Mamas and The Papas, and most people are aware of their singers, especially Mama Cass, who was the real voice of the group. Even if they don't recognise the names, they will most definitely have heard their biggest hit; 'California Dreamin', which was written by the lead singer, John Phillips.
The big, soulful, female voice on that record is Mama Cass, or Cass Elliot as she preferred to be known. She hated being called Mama, it was actually a nickname she was given after having been in the Mamas and Papas for a while, because she was pregnant, and as it was deemed so appropriate by her peers, the nickname stuck. But Cass Elliot is not her real name.
She was born Ellen Cohen on the 19th September in 1941 in Baltimore, USA and died on the 28th July in 1974 in London, not from choking on a sandwich as is the common misconception, but from a drug-induced heart attack.
Such facts as above are a very tiny part of the huge collection of information held inside Dream a Little Dream of Me, Mama Cass's biography. The writer of the book is Eddi Fiegel. We are told near the front of the book that she is a freelance writer and broadcaster and well-known for her interviews with music legends such as Sir Paul McCartney and David Bowie.
-Why I bought this-
I bought this book after seeing it under a stack of reduced books in a second-hand book store. It was £2, reduced from £7.99.
I've always liked the Mamas and the Papas and I've always liked Mama Cass, despite not knowing much about her apart from she was obese, had a tragic life and an amazing voice. Despite the fact I liked her, I never really bothered reading about her, but I decided that now was the time and bought the book.
On the covers of the book are positive comments from reputable reviewers; "A heartbreaking, myth-shattering biography, it's a fantastic read" - Mojo, "Difficult to put down, this is a respectful and compelling biography of a larger than life character. Excellent and authoritative. A classic rock n' roll story" - Daily Express.
I'd have to agree with all of those comments. This is an excellent biography. It is meticulously researched and everything the author writes is backed up with interviews Fiegel held with dozens and dozens of the people who were in Cass' life, from Denny Doherty, the unrequited love of her life and Mamas and Papas bandmate, to Graham Nash.
The more intimate details of her life are handled sensitively and respectfully, giving a balanced account of events that happened. The book does not bow down to stargazers who just want to hear about her heyday with the Mamas and Papas. The book is about Cass as a woman, a daughter, a sister and a mother but most of all as a human being. An intricate portrait of her is slowly and carefully painted by Fiegel, telling us all about her childhood, her school years, including interviews with her sister and school friends.
However, for lovers of the 1960s, this book is a huge treat because it gives a breathtaking insight into the music scene of that time, from the re-emergence of folk at its humble beginnings in Greenwich village in New York, to tales of parties at Cass', which I have to admit are my favourite parts. I don't want to give away too much but there are a few brilliant anecdotes from former party guests about 60s legends such as Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills and Nash having a jamming session around her house, with all manner of things being smoked and a feast fit for a king being laid on for the guests by Cass herself.
The book goes into great detail about the music itself, about how songs were written, about what actually went on in the recording studio and about how Cass thought as a musician. If like me, you're a Mamas and Papas fan and were wondering what all those funny words in 'Creeque Alley' meant, and what it was all actually about, you will wonder no longer after reading this book, because all is slowly and tantalisingly revealed!
I would say this book is essential reading for anyone who loves the Mamas and the Papas, Cass, the 1960s, in fact anyone who loves music, because this book is a celebration of Cass' life, and her life was all about music.
Published by Pan Macmillan in 2005
-Film only review-
This is another film that I wanted to see when it first came out but have only just seen recently. I love Beyonce and I love the 60s and musicals so I thought this would be perfect for me. I finally decided to see it after seeing Jennifer Hudson in Sex and The City: The Movie and being impressed with her performance.
Jamie Foxx ... Curtis Taylor Jr.
Beyoncé Knowles ... Deena Jones
Eddie Murphy ... James 'Thunder' Early
Danny Glover ... Marty Madison
Jennifer Hudson ... Effie White
Anika Noni Rose ... Lorrell Robinson
Keith Robinson ... C.C. White
Sharon Leal ... Michelle Morris
Hinton Battle ... Wayne
Mariah I. Wilson ... Magic (as Mariah Wilson)
Yvette Cason ... May
Ken Page ... Max Washington
Ralph Louis Harris ... M.C. (as Ralph Harris)
Michael-Leon Wooley ... Tiny Joe Dixon
Loretta Devine ... Jazz Singer
-What the film is about-
Dreamgirls is a musical, released in 2007. Obviously, it is loosely modelled on the career of Diana Ross and The Supremes, the biggest girl group of the 1960s. Dreamgirls tells the story of a 60s motown girl group called the Dreamettes who at the start of the film are struggling to get their big break. The lead singer is Effie White (Hudson), and the other singers are Deena Jones (Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Rose).
They are late for a show due to Deena having to look after her mother. The show's organiser is reluctant to let them perform but a mysterious man called Curtis Taylor Jnr (Foxx) steps in and uses his charm to persuade the organiser to let them go on. Their performance goes down a storm and after initial doubts on Effie's part, they decide to let Curtis manage them. Their success grows and grows under his care and their calendar is full of bookings. They get hired by a successful male singer called James 'Thunder' Early as his backing singers.
Effie eventually seduces Curtis and the pair seem to make a lovely couple. Lorrell also succumbs to James Early's charms, despite the fact he is married.
Unfortunately, the group starts to unravel due to Effie's increasingly diva-like behaviour and the last straw comes when they begin their tour without James and Curtis makes Deena the lead singer. Effie gives Deena a character assassination and Curtis throws her out of the group and replaces her.
How will the group go on? What will happen to Effie?
With such an impressive cast list and all of the other promising aspects of the film, I was expecting something a lot better.
The character development is shockingly bad. For the first half of the film Effie is incredibly annoying. She is rude, loud and obnoxious to Deena who is very sweet and kind. I was looking forward to Deena standing up to her. But when she finally does, the film almost turns her into a villain and Effie ends up being the heroine which really doesn't work.
Curtis seems like a sweet guy giving the girls their big break but it turns out his intentions aren't as honourable as first thought, which also doesn't really work. You are really rooting for him and Effie to work as a couple and cheering the romance on but then he does something absolutely despicable halfway through the film which was very frustrating.
The third singer Lorrell's part is not big enough and she doesn't get a chance to speak. Effie seems to be the main character at the beginning and she's not even in the film for half an hour in the middle of it.
At the beginning of the film, the girls don't seem to be that good friends, they seem to just be in it for the music and success, and yet we are expected to believe that they always were best friends.
I thought the songs were average at best, most were mediocre. A lot of the time the songs were very cheesey, with characters arguing through the medium of music. I was cringeing.
'And I am telling you I am not going' sung by Effie after getting kicked out of the band is so bad it's unreal. The song goes on for way too long. I just wanted it to end as soon as possible. I think it actually gave me a headache. By this time I was extremely frustrated by the confusing character development.
There is a part of the film where there is a band almost identical to The Jackson Five and it felt embarassing watching them sing an almost identical song to 'ABC'.
Jennifer Hudson's performance is amazing, as always and deservedly won an Oscar for it. Beyonce is good, as is Jamie Foxx.
But sadly, the actors were let down by a very poor script. I'll give it two stars, rather than one, but only because of the quality of acting.
Released in 2007
Runtime 130 mins
Directed by Bill Condon
-Film Only Review-
I finally watched Sex and The City: The Movie a few days ago. I absolutely loved the series from the moment I first watched it but just never got round to watching the film. I really wanted to wait for a girl's night in to watch it but there never seemed a good time, so I finally decided to watch it by myself last weekend.
-About the series-
For those few people that don't know, Sex and The City was a television programme adapted from a novel by Candace Bushnell, aired from 1999 to 2004, about four single, successful women in their late twenties to late thirties, living in New York; Carrie, the main character (Sarah Jessica Parker) who writes a weekly column about herself and her friends, her closest friend Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), a cynical lawyer, Charlotte (Kristin Davis), the youngest of the group, sweet and romantic, and Samantha (Kim Catrall), the oldest, and a serial maneater.
The series intimately followed their ups and downs in the love department and in their careers. It was usually aired after 10pm because of the graphic sex scenes and swearing. Never before had such a popular programme been so daring in its depictions of life. It attracted quite a lot of controversy when it was first shown but nowadays it is regarded as quite tame compared to the programmes being made now, such as Skins which contains as much sex and swearing as SATC except instead of watching grown men and women, you get to watch adolescents at it! I've never watched an episode.
Anyway, back to the story. The movie was released in 2008 and is thankfully a continuation of the series. Throughout the five years the programme was shown, us SATC fans watched the love story between Carrie and her on-off boyfriend, Mr. Big, with baited breath. Mr. Big is pretty much every woman's fantasy. He's tall, dark, handsome, incredibly rich and successful and very, very cool. He gets driven around in a limo everywhere and often when Carrie was walking home at night, he appeared out of nowhere in his limo and offered her a lift.
At the beginning of the series, we saw Carrie's first introduction with him, and we saw their relationship blossom from friendship to lovers. Their chemistry was amazing. Unfortunately he'd been married twice before and had serious committment issues and finished with Carrie, breaking her heart and attracting hatred from Samantha and Miranda. Charlotte, being an old romantic never gave up on Big, even throughout the series when he would reappear, reignite his relationship with Carrie and then disappear again, and disrupt her attempts at trying to find a new love.
However, at the very, very end of the series in 2004, Mr. Big finally had an epiphany and realised Carrie was the one. But was it too late? She had met a Russian artist and moved to Paris to be with him, despite the rocky foundations of their relationship. Luckily, this was Mr. Big, and nothing would stand in the way of him getting his girl. He promptly flew to Paris, tracked down Carrie, declared his undying love for her and brought her back to New York to be with him and her best friends.
-About the film-
Like I said, the film is a continuation of the series. Not only does it star the original four main cast members, it also has Carrie's gay best friend Stanford and Charlotte's gay best friend Anthony.
The story picks up three years from when it left off. Carrie and Big are buying an apartment, and Carrie wants to put all of her money and equity towards it to ensure she gets legal rights to it. Big, being very rich, tells her not to worry about it. The girls think that she should have equal rights to the property, so she puts her foot down and says that because her and Big aren't married, she wouldn't have any rights. This prompts Big to casually ask if she'd like to marry him, leading to possibly one of the cutest and funniest scenes that sum up the whole series.
Mr. Big: Would you want to get married?
Carrie Bradshaw: Well, I didn't, didn't think that was an option.
Mr. Big: What if it was an option?
Carrie Bradshaw: Why? What? Do you want to get married?
Mr. Big: I wouldn't mind being married to you. Would you mind being married to me?
Carrie Bradshaw: No, no, not, not if that's what you wanted. I mean, is, is that what you want?
Mr. Big: I want you. So, ok.
Carrie Bradshaw: So really, we're, we're getting married?
Mr. Big: We're getting married. Should we get you a diamond?
Carrie Bradshaw: No. No. Just get me a really big closet.
But will Carrie and Big make it up the aisle? She's 40 years old and working for Vogue magazine she is constantly reminded that time is running out for her to be the fairytale, blushing bride. Miranda's married to Steve but their marriage seems to have gone stale. Will their love survive? Samantha is surprisingly still with Smith, but his acting career has really taken off, meaning he doesn't have much time for her anymore, leaving her sexually and emotionally frustrated. Will their love survive. Charlotte's life is perfect. She is happily married to Harry, the nicest guy of the bunch, and their adopted daughter is now three.
Well, in case it wasn't already obvious, I loved this film. And not just because it was one of my favourite tv programmes and not beause it's a chick flick! I might be a girl but I'm still a discerning film-buff.
First off, as demonstrated above, on the whole, the script is great. They've worked out a great storyline for a sequel to the series. Some of it felt like it was trying too hard to match the feel of the series, and some of it felt like it was rushed, but overall, it's every bit as great as the series. The dialogue is witty and punchy, the characters are the same, there's enough of both drama and comedy in the film, just like the series.
The acting is just as good as the series. I always felt that Cynthia Nixon's acting was the best on the show and she didn't disappoint me in the film. Her performance is so real, so natural. I don't know if you can recall the episode "My motherboard, my self", where Miranda's mother died but I cried so much at that episode. I was so touched by her sympathetic and real portrayal of a woman who's lost her mother.
Jennifer Hudson was a great addition to the cast as Carrie's new PA. She's a great actress and I loved her character. I love that they cast her in the film despite her humble beginnings as a contestant on American Idol.
On the whole, the film has a great feelgood factor to it and is great to watch if you're feeling low. One of the reasons I enjoyed the series was the pure escapism; fantisising about having that lifestyle.
It's a great chick flick and perfect for fans of the series. My advice would be to have something yummy to binge on whilst watching. I had peanut butter!
Michael Patrick King
Sarah Jessica Parker ... Carrie Bradshaw
Kim Cattrall ... Samantha Jones
Kristin Davis ... Charlotte York
Cynthia Nixon ... Miranda Hobbes
Chris Noth ... Mr. Big
Candice Bergen ... Enid Frick
Jennifer Hudson ... Louise
David Eigenberg ... Steve Brady
Evan Handler ... Harry Goldenblatt
Jason Lewis ... Smith Jerrod
Mario Cantone ... Anthony Marentino
Lynn Cohen ... Magda
Willie Garson ... Stanford Blatch
Joanna Gleason ... Therapist
Joseph Pupo ... Brady Hobbes
Runtime 145 minutes (quite long but every minute is worth it)
Sorry about the length, hope you enjoyed my review/found it helpful
Stephen Fry is a British comedian, actor, television and radio presenter and author.
He first gained recognition in the 80s and 90s on shows such as Jeeves and Wooster and A Bit of Fry and Laurie, with his comedy partner Hugh Laurie (who is now an international superstar thanks to playing the lead role in US medical drama House).
You will now most likely find him on BBC2 or Dave presenting Q.I., a quiz show with guest panellists such as Bill Bailey, Jo Brand and Alan Davies, and you will hear him on Radio 4 presenting his own programmes, like 'Fry's English Delights.'
I've known about him for years but only really started to take notice of him after seeing him play Oscar Wilde in the biopic 'Wilde.' His performance was so convincing and romantic, I don't think they could have picked a better man to play Oscar Wilde if they tried.
Since then I have watched him on Q.I. and read several of his books; the best in my opinion being 'The Stars' Tennis Balls'.
It was during this period of writing these books that Fry published his autobiography, 'Moab is my Washpot', in 1997.
The book chronicles the first twenty years of his life from early life in Norfolk with his rich parents and older brother, to public school then secondary school and falling in love for the first time, and then his stay at a Young Offender's Institution near Bristol. The book is split into four parts, 'Joining In', 'Falling In', 'Breaking Out' and 'Catching Up' to separate the different stages in his early years.
This book is every bit as well-written and well-researched as Fry's novels. I say well-researched because in order to remember events and names from his childhood, Fry had to contact various people from his past, inluding former public school teachers.
He tells his story with his usual flair, romanticism, wit and exquisite prose, but it is a brutally honest account of his life. Some of it is sad, heartbreaking, other parts of it are disturbing but a lot of it is so funny that I very often laughed out loud whilst reading it.
Even if you haven't read this book you might have a vague awareness that Fry's behaviour as a child was challenging, and that's putting it mildly. I didn't realise just how horrible and nasty he was until I read this book. He describes in detail how he stole sweets from a respectable teacher's office and then manipulated a timid younger boy into taking the blame. He also tells how as a young man he stole the credit cards of friends of his parents who were kind enough to let him stay with them, and went on outrageous shopping sprees.
He describes his privileged upbringing, the staff that his parents employed including gardners, growing up in a quaint English village.
If it wasn't for the kind, intelligent, funny and generous man we know him for today (and his stint in a YOI) I would probably detest him, being an honest working-class girl myself. The book really does show him in a bad light.
However you forgive him because of such gems as his description of his hatred of sports at school:
"Yeugh! The squeak of rubber soles on sports hall floors, the rank stench of newly leaking testosterone, the crunch of cinder racing tracks, the ugly, dead thump of a rugger ball taking a second later than the ugly, dead sight of it hitting the hard mud as you sullenly watched the match, the clatter of hockey sticks, the scrape of studded boots on pavilion floors, the puke-sweet smell of linseed oil, 'Litesome' jock-straps, shin-guards, disgusting leather caps worn in scrums, boots, shorts, socks, laces, the hiss and steam of the showers."
The book isn't just about Fry's life; he also writes about his opinions on many things such as sport, music, corporal punishment, literature, sexuality and philosophy, and with his usual brilliant articulation and wit.
This book provides a great insight into the early life of Stephen Fry and indeed an insight into the inspiration for his novels. He points out himself that he actually borrowed extracts from his novel 'The Liar' and put them in his autobiography, because they were describing his own life anyway.
This was an enjoyable read and I can't wait for another autobiography from him, describing the next twenty years of his life!
Published by Arrow Books in 1997
I don't dye my hair very often but for the last few years I've wanted to dye my hair black, with a hint of purple. My natural colour is a light, golden-brown which I actually really like, but I felt it was time for a change so I went to Superdrug to look for a hairdye that was the colour I wanted.
Usually when I dye my hair I use Garnier as they are a very reliable brand. Unfortunately I couldn't find a dye from them that was the right colour. In fact the only brand I could find with the colour I wanted was L'Oreal Feria Preferences, Violet Black. I popped into Boots just to give a full sweep but there were even less choices in there. So L'Oreal Feria from Superdrug it was. It cost about £5.30, which hurt.
-Contents of box-
In the box you get a sheet of instructions, a pair of clear, plastic gloves, a bottle of colourant, an applicator bottle with oxidant where you mix the two together, and a tube of conditioner.
On the instructions it advises you to test a bit on your skin before applying it to your hair in case you are allergic. I'm not going to disagree with this but I was naughty and didn't test on my skin as I didn't want to wait another 48 hours to dye my hair and have never been allergic to anything (touch wood).
You apply the mixture to dry hair which feels strange. It was pretty simple to apply although the instructions said to work the dye into a lather which I found impossible without adding water to my hair. And it seemed to go on forever. There seemed to be an endless amount of dye in the bottle. The instructions advised to leave it in for half an hour to develop, which I did but it was a bit difficult doing anything for that half hour without worrying about getting the dye everywhere. I've now learnt to dye my hair in my birthday suit as it always goes down my back, over my shoulders and down my chest, no matter how careful I am. A lot always ends up on my face. This isn't a reflection of the brand this just always happens whenever I dye my hair.
After I waited half an hour I then rinsed it out. The instructions say to keep rinsing until the water runs clear. If I'd have done that I would have been there all day, the dye just never seemed to stop running from my hair. I decided to stop once I was happy with the clarity of the water but it was still pink.
Then I used the conditioner. The conditioner is just like any other conditioner except it comes in a little tube but it has lasted quite a long time. You have to use it once a week for six subsequent weeks according to the instructions.
Once my hair had dried I was over the moon with my new colour. It was exactly what I'd wanted. Strangely though, it was nothing like the model's hair on the box! I thought that was supposed to be an accurate representation of the resulting colour of the dye but apparently not. The model had black hair with a hint of purple and funky vivid purple highlights. You don't get the highlights in this dye but what I did get was lovely black hair with a hint of purple.
It stayed like that for about two weeks but sadly the colour slowly started to fade after that. It says on the box the colour is supposed to last for 28 washes but not so here.
It's now been about 6 weeks since I dyed it, which for me is 12 washes. It's not back to my original colour yet but it's nowhere near what it was like just after I dyed it, it's now somewhere in between, although, to be fair, when the light shines on it you can still see the purple.
It's been great having the new colour. I ended up cutting my hair, giving myself a fringe for extra style and buying some new clothes to match my new hair, and I feel more confident with it. I'm trying to decide whether to dye it again or let it go back to my natural colour. I'm not sure I'd use L'Oreal again. I probably would if it was on offer.
This was the first time I'd ever tried a Schwarzkopf product, and the only reason I bought it was because it was a pound in Poundland in Lewisham Shopping Mall.
My hair is dry and has a lot of split ends, so I always buy shampoo and conditioners for dry/damaged hair. I was just looking for a conditioner as I already had a shampoo. There were many conditioners available for a pound, all by Schwarzkopf, but the one for dry/damaged hair was Supersoft Yoghurt and Coconut Smoothie Conditioner.
It comes in a fairly attractive beige bottle with a brown lid. The lid is on the bottom of the bottle. All of the branding and information is on a sticker. There is a nice illustration of a broken coconut.
You get 300ml for your money. In most shops it will cost you around £2.50 so still not that expensive even at normal price. It has the following information on the back:
"Nutrition for hair - Supersoft's rich and creamy Yoghurt Smoothie's Conditioners contain Yoghurt Protein. Supersoft Conditioner strengthens the hair, improving the hair's texture, making it silky smooth and improving combability.
Moisturising and restoring - With extract of Coconut, Supersoft Smoothie conditions dry and damaged hair, making it softer, smoother and more manageable.
Directions: Massage into wet hair after shampooing. Rinse thoroughly.
For best results use with Supersoft Yoghurt and Coconut Smoothie Shampoo."
Schwarzkopf Supersoft is manufactured by Schwarzkopf & Henkel, a German company based in Dusseldorf, with their English offices in Aylesbury in Bucks.
The conditioner itself is a very thick, white cream with a curious coconut-like aspect to it. The smell of coconut is very subtle when you open it but becomes more apparent as you apply it to your hair. It comes out of the bottle very easily thanks to the lid being at the bottom.
Upon rinsing I can immediately feel the extra softness in my hair.
It does actually seem to be slightly more effective than other conditioners at stopping those pesky split ends. The subtle smell of coconut lingers in the hair until the next wash a few days later. The downside is that it seems to take a bit longer to rinse out than other conditioners, if I don't give it an extra minute under the shower I find my hair gets greasy quickly.
I only tried this with a different shampoo though. I might produce entirely different results with the relevant shampoo. I do usually prefer to use the same shampoo and conditioner but I used a brand a while ago where there was less conditioner than shampoo and it messed me up!
On the whole, I'd say this is a great conditioner for dry/damaged hair.
I've come to rely on Imperial Leather a lot lately as I am currently a very poor student! I've been using their soap, which is great, and I've also been buying their deodorants. I used to use Dove until I found out they were part of the Unilever group who exploit rainforests for palm oil.
So far, I've tried the Imperial Leather Original Deodorant, Active Deodorant, and Silk Deodorant, which is what I am reviewing here. I think all of their deodorants are fantastic but this one is my favourite.
Their deodorants are always the cheapest in the shop, at about £1.09. You can get them at all chemists. This deodorant is in an attractive pink can which tells you straight away that it's a women's deodorant. You get 150ml which is a standard size for deodorant.
On the back of the can all of the information is printed clearly, including the instructions which are:
SHAKE WELL. Hold about 6 inchs away from the underarm and spray. Take care to avoid the face and eyes. If the spray fails to operate rinse the spray button in warm water and resume use.
It is important that you do spray it from a fair distance because unfortunately this does tend to leave a white mark if you're not careful. And you should spray for about 2 seconds on each area to ensure maximum protection.
Odour-wise, this is brilliant. It really does offer 24-hour protection like it says on the tin, but it also gives a mild, soft feminine fragrance which can continue to be smelled throughout the day and is comforting and reassuring.
Imperial Leather is owned by PZ Cussons who do not conduct animal testing or commission others to do so unless required by law.
I had been waiting to watch 'Notes on a Scandal' ever since it was released at the cinemas in 2006. I finally got my chance a few nights ago.
Notes on a Scandal is adapted from the novel by Zoe Heller.
-Cast and Crew-
Directed by Richard Eyre
Judi Dench ... Barbara Covett
Cate Blanchett ... Sheba Hart
Tom Georgeson ... Ted Mawson
Michael Maloney ... Sandy Pabblem
Joanna Scanlan ... Sue Hodge
Shaun Parkes ... Bill Rumer
Emma Kennedy ... Linda
Syreeta Kumar ... Gita
Andrew Simpson ... Steven Connolly
Philip Davis ... Brian Bangs (as Phil Davis)
Wendy Nottingham ... Elaine Clifford
Tameka Empson ... Antonia Robinson
Leon Skinner ... Davis
Bill Nighy ... Richard Hart
Juno Temple ... Polly Hart
I hadn't heard of the director before but he did a good job with this film and has worked on various other projects, including the 2001 production of Iris, starring Dame Judi Dench. Dench is one of our best actresses, having won five Baftas, toured with the Royal Shakespeare Company and starred in the '80s sitcom, 'A Fine Romance', not forgetting being made a Dame by the Queen for her acting! She's now 74 and still has several projects in the pipeline.
I have always been impressed with Cate Blanchett, ever since her arguably most famous role, as Galadriel in Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings trilogy. I was blown away by her performance as Daisy in 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'. I don't care what anybody says, that film is brilliant! Cate Blanchett is Australian, but for her role in the film, she perfected a New Orleans accent. She never slipped up once. For 'Notes on a Scandal', she's playing an English woman. Is there an accent she can't do?
Bill Nighy should be higher up on the list but I copied it from imdb. He's a great actor as well. He's probably most well-known for his role in 'Love Actually' but he's been on our screens for decades. I always love his characters. 'The Boat that Rocked' was an awful film but his character saved it for me.
-What the film is about-
Judi Dench plays Barbara Covett, a lonely spinster coming up to retirement, who teaches at a troubled secondary school. She is cynical and grumpy, and disliked by both the other teachers and the pupils.
Cate Blanchett plays Sheba Hart, a beautiful woman in her late thirties who starts teaching at the school at the beginning of the film. At first, Barbara treats her with cold indifference, but after seeing her popularity with the other teachers, she decides to get to know her better. After a while, they strike up a friendship and Barbara accepts an invitation to Sheba's house for lunch.
Barbara is shocked to discover that Sheba is married to a man twenty years older than her, and has two adolescent children, a mouthy daughter and a son with Down's Syndrome. However, the friendship seems to be going well until Barbara discovers Sheba's terrible secret. She has been having an affair with a 15 year-old male pupil. At first, her instinct as a teacher tells Barbara to inform the Headmaster. But she realises that she could use the information to her advantage. She decides to keep it secret, and in return use it in order to force Sheba to be a lot closer to her.
Judi Dench's performance in this is absolutely stunning. She completely becomes her character and I was so absorbed by her the film could just have been about her day-to-day routine and I would have been enthralled. So watching her interact with the other characters was even more interesting.
I loved Bill Nighy. His character was very cool and loveable as usual. It was great to watch him discuss wine with Barbara one minute and then playfight with his son the next. It was clearly a demanding role and Nighy pulled it off superbly.
I think a lot of the brilliance of the film is owed to the script. It was written by Patrick Marber, whose previous work isn't that notable. He's done some pieces for 'comedian' Steve Coogan and the '90s spoof News programme 'The Day Today'. Although I think he did a great job with this film, the credit mainly has to go to Zoe Heller, the writer of the book. It's clear that most of the ideas in the film come from the book. The narration by Barbara is a stroke of genius. You don't often get anti-heroes in films, at least not ones you're so connected to. And this one is particularly horrible. Here's a sneak peek at the script:
Barbara Covett: I had expected a suave young lawyer, and two perfect poppets. Not so. She's married some crumbling patriarch, he's nearly as old as me. And there's the daughter, a pocket princess. And finally, a somewhat tiresome court jester.
Richard Eyre did a great job. I really liked the cinematography. The directorial focus was on the acting but there were some good shots of Primrose Hill and some thoughtful panning shots of the actors.
I found the whole thing completely entertaining and thrilling. It was nail-biting wondering what devious and mean thing Barbara would do next. I thought all of the performances were good. Blanchett's accent was spot-on as always. I don't really have any criticisms to make, although there was a part I didn't fully understand towards the end, which is when Sheba is applying heavy make-up. But that's a small gripe. The storyline is amazing and it's just great to see three very talented actors bouncing off each other.
Runtime: 92 minutes
I was given this as a birthday present from a friend. It's not the sort of book I'd usually buy as I sort of feel like I've 'grown out' of chick lit. I might sound like a snob but to me, it was fine to read to while away the hours as a teenage girl but now I'm 24, slightly more aware of how short life is, I feel like I should spend my precious reading time on books with more substance, books that will benefit my life and help me benefit others. But anyway, this was a present and I thought a change is as good as a rest.
-What the book is about-
Evie is 27 years old and works as a receptionist for two plastic surgeons on Harley Street. Next door to her is another plastic surgery practice, and their receptionist is Lydia, who Evie meets up with for lunch.
Evie has three brothers, who she calls the beasts. They all picked on her as a child, because she was the only girl and none of them seem to have grown up.
She also has a male friend, called Bailey. They've been friends since they were children. Unfortunately her brothers used to beat him up so she has to keep him away from her family!
She decides she really wants to go on holiday. The few holidays she has been on have been disastrous and usually ended up with her friends falling out.
One day, it seems her luck is in. Her bosses have to go to a long conference in Cannes and they ask her to come along for clerical support. Even better, Lydia is also going with her bosses, and even her friend Bailey, who happens to work in medical facility design. Everything looks like it's going to be amazing, until Evie discovers her brothers are also coming, and that Lydia is evil. The holiday turns out to be a lot more than she bargained for.
As expected, this is a very easy, simple read. It didn't require much concentration. It's not a long book either. It can easily be consumed over a couple of days on holiday. However, it is quite witty, and some parts did evoke a little chuckle from me.
The story is told using a first-person narrative, through Evie's eyes. I found Evie a very likeable character, a typical chick lit protagonist with lots of flaws including being a bad judge of character, prone to embarrassing moments. However, I thought the way she told her story was a little dull and predictable. The style is one weve read hundreds of times in Bridget Jones and its clones. Maybe I'm just a little too cynical of chick lit and should cut it some slack.
I should say that the book is quite a good observation of celebrity, wealth, society, beauty, the media and the plastic surgery industry. I did enjoy the bits of the book that were monologues on these subjects. I also liked the escapism aspect; being able to imagine that I was also in Cannes and enjoying the sunshine.
The storyline is quite exciting and develops at a good pace. It's a little predictable but not as much as your average chick lit. I enjoyed finding out what happened next in the story and the ending was a little disappointing from a feminist perspective but satisfactory from a purely literary point of view. Hope that doesn't give too much away!
I personally wouldn't recommend this book unless you really do love chick lit. I would say this is probably aimed at someone younger than me, maybe a 17 year old girl.
The book is 309 pages long and is published by Sphere.
I absolutely adore peanut butter but I have been trying to watch my weight for a while so I have been abstaining from it, until recently when a diet and fitness expert recommended eating a tablespoon of peanut butter every day for protein and to keep the metabolism going. That's a good enough excuse for me!
It always has to be crunchy for me, smooth peanut butter just feels like there's something missing. I've just got to have that crunch!
I'm very skint right now as I sort of miscalculated how much my student grant was going to be for last year. Oops. So now I'm basically living extremely frugally, walking wherever I can up to three miles, and I have to buy the cheapest options.
Before I became health-conscious, I liked to get one slice of wholemeal bread, preferably the 'endy' slice, and just dollop about a quarter of a whole jar's worth on the bread and slather it all over, and eat it in about 2 minutes. Nowadays, I'm a bit more careful. I have about a tablespoon full of peanut butter and spread it over two slices of Ryvita, which makes a great, healthy and tasty snack.
I never realised Tesco did a Value peanut butter and I was thrilled to see this on the shelf. For the 340g jar it costs an absolute bargain 69p. Sun Pat costs over £2 in some stores so that gives you an idea of how cheap this is.
It comes in a glass jar with a white plastic lid, in the bog standard Tesco Value, red white and blue labelling which doesn't bother me in the slightest, personally.
The Tesco Value peanut butter does not disappoint. It is just as yummy as Sun Pat and just as full of nuts. In fact, I felt it tasted less greasy than Sun Pat. It's delicious, the texture is satisfying and the one jar lasted me a very long time.
It's just a shame I can only get this where my mum lives in South Gloucestershire as you can only get these in the large Tesco supermarkets, and not the smaller, Tesco Express convenience stores which is all I've got in Greenwich where I live.
Yes, it's fattening, but that's to be expected when you mix nuts and oil together!
Each tablespoon (15g) contains
Energy 95 kcal
of which sugars 0.9g
of which saturates 1.4g
Salt equivalent trace
Suitable for vegetarians
Ingredients: Peanuts (87%), Sunflower Oil, Dextrose, Vegetable Fat, Salt
-Some background info-
I've written before about my travel sickness when I reviewed Traveleeze but for those that haven't read that review or don't remember it, I shall give a brief explanation of my travel sickness (apologies if it's too graphic).
I've suffered travel sickness for as long as I can remember. I used to throw up in my stepdad's car and pretty early on my mother made me take 'Sea-Legs', which worked fine but after a while I really began to hate taking them because they used to dissolve in my mouth with the water really quickly and the taste was disgusting. So eventually I couldn't take them anymore without gagging, and looked for another product. My mum found Stugerons. I think I started taking them when I was about 13.
-About the product-
Stugerons, or Stugeron 15 which is the official name, come in a sky blue and white box with some nice illustrations of a car, a boat and a plane on the front, just to remind you what the tablets are for. You get 15 in a box - hence the name - and they're round, thick white tablets about a centimetre in diameter with 'S|15' etched on one side of the pill and 'JANSEN' on the other as required.
They are manufactured by McNeil Products Ltd in Maidenhead and cost about £2.60. According to the instructions, for adults and children over the age of 12, 2 tablets should be taken two hours before travelling and then a further tablet every two hours.
For children aged 5-12 years, 1 tablet should be taken two hours before travelling and then one futher half tablet should be taken every eight hours as required.
You can take them with water which is what I do.
It also says it may cause drowsiness. That information is on the outside of the box. Inside there is a leaflet that goes into heaps more detail but I've mentioned all the necessary information and don't want to bore you with any more.
Firstly, even when I started taking the tablets as a thirteen year old, I did not need to take as many tablets as recommended in the instructions. Ever since I started taking them, I have only ever needed to take one an hour before my journey and then I haven't needed to take anymore for about 5 days. So if you do buy Stugerons, listen to what your body is telling you and adjust your dosage as appropriate.
For stopping travel-sickness, these tablets work brilliantly. I don't feel sick at all after taking one. But I have a few problems with them, one being that the tablets are big and seem to like getting lodged in my throat, which is unpleasant because I can feel it and taste it. Another problem is that they make me very drowsy, which sometimes is great because sometimes I could do with a good nap, but sometimes I don't want to sleep, I want to be wide awake and it makes me crabby!
I was so thrilled and relieved when I discovered Traveleeze because they're just like sweets and they don't make me that drowsy. Unfortunately they weren't on the shelves until about five years ago, and a lot of places don't seem to stock them or run out of them too quickly, and that is why I still buy Stugerons.
Sorry to step on your toes Stugerons, but I'd suggest anyone looking at buying travel-sickness medication, particularly for children, look at Traveleeze before you look at Stugerons.
McNeil Products Ltd
Price: Approx £2.60
Active ingredient: Cinnarizine 15mg, other ingredients: Lactose monohydrate, maize starch, sucrose, talc, magnesium stearate, povidone.
I bought this book a few months ago as part of a "any 3 for £5" deal at The Works. I'd never heard of it before and only bought it to make up the three books but it looked interesting, I saw that Richard and Judy had recommended it and it had some positive comments on the back cover from the Guardian and Psychologies.
-What the book is about-
Written by Rebecca Miller, the story is set in America. Pippa is 50 and happily married to Herb Lee, who is 80 years old and owns a successful publishing company. He is retiring from his managerial role with the company. The book starts off with the couple moving into a retirement village and throwing a housewarming party for their old, wealthy friends and elderly neighbours. We soon learn that Pippa is a dutiful housewife who is still in love with her husband despite the large age gap. She has twins with Herb, a son called Ben and a daughter called Grace who are both in their early twenties, who have both left home. Pippa and Herb have a great relationship and their life together seems to be perfect.
However, soon after moving into their new home, strange things start happening. Cigarette butts are found in Pippa's car and dirty plates are left in the kitchen, with neither Herb not Pippa having a clue how they got there. In order to work out how and why this is happening, Pippa has to think hard about her life and how she got to be married to Herb. We soon learn she has not always been the squeaky-clean suburbanite she appears to be now, and her life story is full of scandal, sex, drugs and lies.
I found this book quite easy to read although I wouldn't say it was as 'unputdownable' as works by other authors. It's hard to say what type of book this is. It's not a thriller, it's not chick-lit, but it's somewhere in the middle.
The character of Pippa is quite incredible. She is probably one of the most interesting protagonists ever invented. We are introduced to her as being one thing, but we soon discover she's something quite apart from it. Everything she does is unpredictable and this makes for exciting reading.
Interestingly, the parts of the book set in the present day are told in third-person, and the parts looking back over Pippa's life are told in first-person. I didn't notice this until the end but the switch in narrative gave the book something extra, I think it lent intimacy to the reader's relationship with Pippa. Also, the chapters are not written evenly, some are a dozen pages long, some are only half a page long which gives the book a very organic feel.
The story of Pippa's life is told with absolute brutal honesty. There are parts where you cringe and parts where you laugh out loud. It's written so true to life that you wonder whether this is all based on a true story and real characters. Drug-highs, mother-and-daughter relationships, friendships and human insecurity are so well-observed it's impossible for me to believe all of this could just come out of the imagination of a writer.
On the whole, however, the story itself seemed to be lacking. I liked the ending but I'm not crazy about it. There doesn't seem to be any message to the story. If this were an autobiography it would be amazing but as a novel you feel that there's something missing.
However, I definitely enjoyed reading this book, it's not one I am going to forget in a hurry and I have already started recommending it to my friends.
This was first published in 2008 by Canongate Books Ltd and has 233 pages.
The London Eye is situated along London's South Bank by the Thames. The nearest train station is Waterloo, where you can also get the tube on the Jubilee, Northern and Bakerloo lines.
It was built in 1999 for the new millennium, as part of a big architectural project that included the Millenium Dome (now called The O2 after being bought out by the giant mobile phone corporation).
Obviously, it's basically a ferris wheel, and was the biggest in the world until 2006 when the Star of Nanchang, a monster, was built in China. The London Eye is 443 feet tall.
There are 32 capsules around the wheel which carry 25 people each. For your money, (about £19 standard) you get one revolution of the wheel, which takes about 30 minutes. You get some great, panoramic views of London.
A standard trip means you're with 24 other passengers who tend to be strangers from the queue, unless you're prepared to pay almost twice the amount for your own private capsule.
I went on the London Eye in the early afternoon of my 24th birthday on the 6th May this year. I got it as part of a deal, which included a trip to the London Aquarium. So I got it a few pounds cheaper but it was still expensive. I'd been living in London for over a year, and having never gone on it before, I decided it was time to pop my London Eye cherry.
The queue was horrendous. It took at least 30 minutes, the same amount of time as the rotation of the wheel. We were herded around zig-zag barriers like cattle and then similarly shoved onto the capsule. I was half-expecting for one of the staff to approach us with a red-hot poker for branding.
I was with my boyfriend at the time so it was a little romantic but the romance was kind of hampered by the 23 other people in the capsule including children and foreign tourists.
The views were incredible. The height is amazing; people on the ground are like little dots and it's great to see the boats going by on the river, like tiny paper boats.
As we were nearing ground level again, our picture was taken by the wheel. We had ample warning of this via the tannoy system so were able to pose.
At the end of our rotation, we went to look at our photo. They expected us to pay £4 for a copy. We decided against it and to be content with the snaps we got on our mobile phones!
It's definitely something everyone's got to try when they're in London for a while. It's a good experience but it's definitely not worth £19, even with the photo included in the price. I think it's just a rip-off device for getting tourists' money. And I wouldn't go on it again. The big wheel at my local funfair only costs £2. So I think about a fiver is reasonable for the London Eye. The Aquarium on the other hand, is worth £19 and I will be visiting it again and again.
I also think the way they call it a 'flight' is a bit of a con. It's not an aeroplane. Now, a London Aeroplane is something I wouldn't mind trying...
Individual Price On the Day Online Prices from
Adults (16 Plus) £17.95 £10.00
Child (4-15 years) £9.50 £5.00
Child (Under 4) FREE FREE
Senior £14.30 £10.00
Family of Four** - £30.00
Flexi Standard Flight (if you aren't sure what time you want to go)
Prices Online Price
Adult (16 Plus) £18.90
Child (4-15 years) £11.25
Child (Under 4) FREE
Family of Four* £53.60
October to March
daily 10.00am - 8.00pm
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May and June
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I bought this second-hand and read it a few years ago. I decided to buy it after reading the intriguing blurb and the positive comments from USA Today on the back of the book.
-About the author-
I've looked online for information about the author and for other fans of the book but my efforts have mainly been fruitless. It seems to be a little-known book, strangely enough. Still, I quite like having an interest all to myself!
On the first page of the book, it tells you that Sabin Willett, the author, first went to public school in England, then went to Harvard in the US, and he is now a lawyer in Boston.
-What the book is about-
The Betrayal is a suspense thriller about a woman called Louise Shidler, a thirty-seven year old lawyer and mother who works for the US President's running mate Royal Stillwell, who is also Louise's mentor. She started working for him when he was at the bottom of the political ladder and helped him to get where he is today.
Unfortunately, her beloved husband Toby has left her and her daughter Isobel has been struggling with adolescence, meaning her job has had to take a back seat. As a result, she has not progressed as far with her career as she would have hoped.
Still, all of these issues seem like drops in the ocean when she discovers that someone has framed her for committing $50m fraud and she's about to go to prison. Then to make matters worse, the FBI get involved and her daughter is kidnapped.
It seems to Louisa that it's quite possible that Royal Stillwell, her hero could be behind all this, which is unbearable. It also seems that she has been massively underestimated and decides to play the very dangerous game she has been unwittingly dragged into, leading her to turn her back on the government and authority completely, disappear from her job, her old life and go on an extraordinary adventure, in the hopes that she can save her daughter in time and get her revenge on whoever is responsible.
That seems like I've given away most of the plot but that's not even half of it! This book is guaranteed to keep you biting your nails from start to finish, as you wonder what is going to happen to Louisa and Isobel; whether Louisa can get to her in time, and just who is behind all of this.
The book is a great intellectual accomplishment in terms of a study of US politics, psychology and relationships, and it really is beautifully written. Some of it is like poetry, like here for example:
"The bright-eyed young boys are supermen. There is something nebbishy about most of these boys in the harsh light of noonday, but now in the darkness, fortified by intoxication, and communing with the thrill that is running through everyone here, their chests expand with confidence. By midnight they will be heartthrobs enough."
It is 624 pages long, which is A LOT, but it honestly didn't feel like that many when I read it. I was so gripped by The Betrayal that I whizzed right through it at high speed.
I loved Louisa's character, I found her very likeable as a strong woman. The book goes into great detail about her despair and heartache when Isobel has been kidnapped and you just feel connected to Louisa throughout the book, as if you are going through this experience by her side.
The book was like a crescendo of suspense and it really went out with a bang. I'm quite hard to please with endings but I loved the ending for this. I was completely satisfied.
The Betrayal is obviously not for the faint-hearted as there are some violent and harrowing parts in there, but not many. It's mainly beautiful prose and exciting action.
I think this book is extremely underrated and underappreciated. I would recommend it to anyone who likes this genre.
624 pages long
First published in 1998, my copy published in 1999 by Arrow Books.