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I had such high expectations for this book that perhaps I was bound for disappointment, but I find it so hard to be forgiving of a book with what should have been such a good concept that was let down with such awful characters.
On the basic, barebones outline of this story it sounds great - a woman moves into a new flat to discover on the first night that her boyfriend of 4 years had a one-night stand with their former flatmate and then, as she tries to re-evaluate her life starts working through her grandmother's old home-making manuals and finally discovers who she really wants to be.
THAT is the story I thought I was going to be reading, but what I ended up with was with a main character who had zero redeeming features (seriously - zero. She whined, moaned, cried, was hypocritical, was needy, was weak and actively encouraged infidelity after she already knew how much it hurt to be cheated on (because the thing with this book is that infidelity is bad when it's the guy who is cheating, but it's different for a woman which, as a woman, annoys me no end. I hate hypocrisy and this book/characters reek of it. If it's bad for one, it should be bad for all - don't ask me to judge one character for being a cheater and then ask me to sympathise with another character for being a cheater solely because I'm a woman and therefore shouldn't care that a woman is getting one over on a guy she's engaged to.) and in general was a thoroughly dislikeable character.
The male characters in the book with the exception of Dylan (who is infinitely too good for anyone in the book) are all shallow, oafish, idiots which is something I hate in the chick-lit genre. Just because I want a fun book that doesn't make me think so hard, it doesn't mean I need things to be so dumbed down - I don't need it hammered into my head how awful a guy is as a choice by making him a caricature and I certainly don't need the obvious pointed out. In fairness, the female characters in this aren't much better - Juliet's failings are obvious, but her friends and family aren't that much better. Flighty mother, kooky aunt, cheating best friend...in fact the only female character in the book that I cared much for was Hanna (the room-mate who slept with Simon), which I'm pretty sure wasn't the idea considering.
I wanted to love this book. I love vintage stuff, I love romance and Marilyn Monroe and I love mindless chicklit! But not when it's this mindless. Cheap dramatic tricks, the overall tone of hypocrisy by the author, the lack of a sympathetic 'heroine' and the fact that the only real home-making guide stuff we got was at the intro to each chapter. Sadly those excerpts of other peoples books were the most entertaining things about the book.
I was a bit dubious about this product at first as I wondered whether or not I would ever really take the time to use it. I figured my main use would be for fruit pies, and you can buy a pack of them so reasonably that it almost seems a waste of money and effort to make them. How wrong I was.
The machine is used often, both for sweet and savoury dishes. A roll of pastry is kept constantly in my fridge so that I just cut it out and choose a filling. Some cheap apples out the supermarket, some frozen fruit, left over mince or stew, chicken...you name it, I have filled a pie with it. There is nothing quite like small, hot steak pies on a cold day.
The machine itself is easy to use. You get the pastry cutter so there is no guess work involved, and as soon as you plug the machine it, it begins to heat up. Once you insert your pastry and your filling, it takes around 12 minutes to cook. I wish there was a timer that either beeped or at least showed you how long has passed, but for the price I suppose that would have been greedy.
The actual machine is easy to clean - it's non stick so a wipe down is fine and it's small enough that it can store easily in a cupboard on it's side. All in all, I think it's a machine that will probably speak for itself once you've tried it. As much as I told myself that I can buy a pack of apple pies from the shop - there really is no comparison between them and ones that are freshly baked.
I'm in love with this book. That's not an understatement, I've read it a few times already, and every time I finish I have to resist the urge to pick it straight back up and read it again.
I've always been the stereotypical woman who has swooned appropriately at Romeo & Juliet so I picked this book up thinking it would be a fun modern re-write that I could forget about soon after. Turns out though that this was so much more - it went beyond the Shakespeare tale (and was the better for it) and mingled pastlives, romance, destiny, soulmates, history, crime, mystery, adventure, betrayals and all the fun stuff to make a book that I want to re-read immediately. I'm a sucker for all that so it's like the book was written exactly to my own specifications, which I clearly cannot complain about at all. Also - added bonus, every chapter is prefaced with a R&J quote - how can you not appreciate that?
It's set for the most part in Siena and the descriptions of the town makes the locales easy to imagine even for someone who has never been there and I almost want to go and book a holiday to Siena solely to experience some of it. The two tales - modern and past blend together beautifully and it says a lot about the author that I was equally invested in both stories, even though I knew that one was going to end tragically. The premise involved Julie travelling to Italy on a quest to get something her mother had bequeathed her after her aunt died, in the belief that it will be worth a lot of money and clear her debts after she was written out her aunt's will unexpectedly. In Italy, she travels under her real name, Giulieta Tolomei and discovers that her family is at the centre of an ancient feud with another family and that her name holds some medieval weight nowadays. Her inheritance turns out to be some books and a crucifix, and disappointed begins to read in the hope it explains where the treasure is and the book turns out to be a diary that talks about Giulieta and Romeo, her ancestor and her lover who were the inspiration for the early Italian tellings of Romeo & Juliet before Shakespeare got ahold of it.
It was a wonderful book, and although I'm sure there were aspects of it that people could find fault with - the characterisation of Janice was maybe a little ott and a little out there, but I didn't really mind it that much tbh. I just didn't mind it that much, and I honestly didn't have any complaints. It checked every box that I could possibly want it to check and the balance just felt right.
Everyone loves cupcakes, but I know that I often talk myself out of making them. This machine is a blessing and a curse in that regard, because it eliminates all the excuses I could make as to why I don't have time to make them. You can literally set it up anywhere, pour in some mixture and leave it around ten-fifteen minutes and then remove 6 beautiful cupcakes and, if the mood takes you, just add some more. If you use a cupcake mix, the whole process can take less than 20 mins. If you make your own mix, it takes only a few minutes more and as you can move the machine anywhere, technically you could have a bowl of mixture, your machine and you could quite happily make a batch of them anywhere - even in the lounge while watching TV!
The only real issue I have with it, is that the tops of the cupcakes can sometimes look a little overdone - they aren't overdone and taste fine, but they can look a deeper gold than the cake due to the close proximity to the lid. It's a small issue, and if you are icing your cakes it shouldn't be a major thing, but it does take watching. I imagine that the cakes could partially burn quite easily if you don't watch the time. Apart from that though, I find it to be one of the most useful kitchen gadgets I own. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys baking but who can feel intimidated by the whole process on a larger scale.
I think this is possibly the best games console around at the moment. There is something about interacting with games that is appealing to me, and although you give up some graphic functions (in my experience) I think the fact that you can be so interactive makes up for it. I'm not really into the shoot-em-up adventure games that the XBox does so successfully, so I can only base it on my own preferences and for me - getting on the Wii balance board and skiing badly, or getting out the wheel and racing Mario is everything I enjoy.
There is an option to purchase an accessory that lets you interact with other users, which can be useful, but in truth, the console itself makes for a good social game playing experience. The fact you can add 'mii's' of yourself and friends is a bonus, and something that is fun to take part in. For example, with Harry Potter you wave your wand to complete the spells...it's just fun. As an alternative, they also do a fitness range which, in my experience is better than the alternative versions out there. The X-Box has a fitness slant to it now as well, but in my experience, I find the wii fit and games geared to fitness, to be more enjoyable on the wii.
I know that for a lot of people, the wii just might not offer quite enough to make it worth buying over the X-Box or PS3 (no bluray capabilities for example) but for me, and my own needs, it makes the sort of games I enjoy more enjoyable, so it's a winner for me.
I didn't expect to love my iPad as much as I do when I got it. It has, very quickly, become an important part of my life and this is solely down to how versatile it is. I can watch TV on it, I can take and edit pictures on it, I can facetime on it, I can browse the internet on it and I can write on it. It is effectively a netbook and portable entertainment system in one and this is before you factor in the ebook reader apps you can add (if the included iBooks doesn't rock your boat.)
The game apps are wonderful, and I highly recommend the Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit or air hockey apps if you are looking for some time to kill on a journey. Graphically, the iPad is leaps ahead of the iPhone and as a result, it makes for a very rewarding game play.
The screen is large and does need protection, and I highly recommend a cover for it. Again, like the iPhone, I feel like Apple should be at the least providing a clear protector screen from the touchscreen, but if there is one thing you need for the ipad, it is a screen guard because it does mark up easily. Battery life isn't great, but considering everything is does, it's to be expected. It certainly has a better battery life than I expected it to have based on my experience of the iPhone.
The Iphone 3GS is a great phone and incorporates all the great features you would expect from an apple product with a fully functioning smart phone. The screen is fully customisable and there are thousands upon thousands of apps that can be added to improve functionality if the features that come fully loaded aren't enough. I added an improved alarm clock app, and a radio app to it, for example.
The batter life isn't great, but this seems to be a gripe with many smart phones and I imagine it isn't any worse than an equivalent phone. The case is easy to handle, but I would recommend a case for it to protect the delicate touch screen. I wish that apple would, for the price of the phone, include a clear film cover for the touch screen but alas, that doesn't happen.
Regardless, this is a wonderful product and well worth considering buying.
There are a lot of positives about the 4GS that have been well covered, but for me, the overwhelming difference in the iPhone 4S compared to earlier models is the speed it operates at. Sure, the extra features are great (the camera in particular is a much better standard and the flash addition to the camera is more than welcome.) but for me, the problem with the 3GS was that it did occasionally feel a bit leggy with certain apps. That problem has all but been eliminated, and even apps that are quite indepth work quickly.
The phone isn't perfect - I find it much harder to drag ebooks onto my phone via itunes than I did before, which is frustrating as I now have to email them to myself and the Siri feature, which is a lot of fun, does have a little difficulty picking up my accent on certain words (I'm Scottish, so I'm used to this being an issue in voice command features yet I will forever be disappointed when I have to repeat a simple word 6 times to get it recognised) but these are small gripes.
The only real negative for me is the battery life. The battery in the 3GS wasn't great either, but I must confess that I was hoping for a significant improvement on battery life with the 4GS, but it's not as improved as I hoped. The increased capabilities of the phone perhaps account for that, but for the price, I would have loved a little more battery power.
Apart from those small issues though, I do think it is absolutely worth the upgrade.
Picking up this book I had been aware of the positive reviews it got and the fact that it ticked a lot of the things I like in books, but I wasn't really sure about much else about it.
I don't think I quite have the words to explain how much I loved this book. There are so many things in it that should have been a turn off for me - the unnamed narrator, the overly graphic depictions of some truly horrendous stuff, the unanswered questions, the at times unlikeable actions of people but despite it, I loved every aspect of it.
The book starts with our unnamed narrator, a handsome man of ill-repute who forges his living as a successful pornographer who lives for nothing more than sex, vanity and his next drug induced high. He gets in a car whilst high on drugs and alcohol and has a hallucination that he's being shot by flaming arrows and crashes the car. The crash is told in graphic details where every severed toe and every inch of bubbled, charred flesh is described in excruciating detail that makes you flinch as you read. The handsome man is burned, scarred and mutilated and only a tree and river save him from being killed.
While he is recovering from his gruesome injuries (told in excruciating detail) he plots on how he will kill himself when he leaves the hospital, but before he can put his plans in action, he gets a visitor. Enter Marianne Engel who enters his room, proclaiming that he's been burnt 'again' and that this is the third time he'd been burnt and she proceeds to begin a story that lasts the whole book where she recounts their lives together.
Marianne and the narrator form a bond, and he finds his thoughts turn less towards suicide and more towards when her next visit will be and eventually she insists he comes to stay with her in her home.
On many levels, the whole story shouldn't work. It's very dark in places, very violent in places and it does get a bit bizarre, but it is so well written that it just works. You are both reluctant and desperate to read on because you want them to eventually find their happily ever after, but at the same time, you get the sense that it won't be that easy and that ultimately, you won't be satisfied. They are the epitome of a tragic love story.
The theme of the book is redemption and earning your heaven and although you wish the characters didn't need to suffer so much, you understand it. There's the exploration of faith - whether of the religious variety, or whether it's okay to take a chance on a seemingly mentally ill woman and believe her stories when all evidence points to the contrary. There's so much to this book - so many layers that I want to re-read and explore again because I know I probably didn't grasp it the way it deserved first time through.
I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone. It has rapidly become one of my all time favourite books and I envision I will be reading it many times in the years to come.
Back in the early days of Friends Joey and Rachel give each other books to read and Joey ends up traumatised with Little Women to an extent that he has to put the book in the freezer, just to get away from how intense it is. At the time I laughed and giggled, but...tbh, towards the end of this book I was seriously thinking Joey might have had the right idea and considered clearing out my own freezer and putting it in.
I really don't know what to say about this book apart from the fact that it's a book that everyone should read. I don't think I could really put into words the effect this book had on me. It made me smile, it made me laugh and it made me break down and sob. I'm an emotional person when it comes to books so crying is nothing new, but I literally cried for 20 mins because of things that happened in this book even though we knew what happened, and got reminded numerous times throughout about how it would end.
Death as a narrator is an original idea, but it isn't all morbid. The years of Liesel's life that is covered has the spectre of tragedy over it, but there are also moments of humour and playfulness.
The fact that the book is about a German girl, in a German house during WW2 is actually refreshing. We have Liesel and Rudy, our two young characters, being members of the Hitler Youth despite their, and their family's dislike of nazism. We have Liesel's adoptive father applying to join the Nazi party, despite the fact he protects Jews. We have the tragedy at the end happen because the Allies deliberately bombed a residential area...war's a shady business and even the 'good guys' do bad things.
There's nothing about the book that doesn't work - Death's narration, Liesel's experiences, the little asides, the books that she steals and is given, what we realise could have happened with the benefit of hindsight if certain decisions hadn't been made...you get the sense of what if? What if one little thing had been different?
This story hasn't been told before - about a German girl, in a German family, with German friends who are all bound by forces outwith their control. Disobedience leads to whippings, and father's being sent on potential suicide missions and being outcast. Compliance leads to making teary Heil Hitler proclamations at book burnings, or watching Jews be marched through the town towards a concentration camp, or being noticed by people you don't want to notice you. So much modern perception on WW2 has two sides - Germans=bad and everyone else=good. In the real world it doesn't work like that and this book shows that.
It's an amazing piece of writing and everyone should read it. Just make sure you have a box of hankies as well...trust me, there is no way that you won't need them.