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'Preppy Princess' is a fragrance for women launched by Vera Wang in 2010.
It's described as 'Edgy, confident and cool' with an 'unexpected scent'. Other 'Princess' scents from Vera Wang include 'Rock Princess', 'Flower Princess' and 'Glam Princess'.
I received this perfume for my 22nd birthday and loved it. I have a bit of a thing for interesting and distinctive shaped bottles and I'm sometimes guilty of being swayed by the shape of the bottle more than the actual scent! This why 'Preppy Princess' had instantly appealed to me (mum saw me eyeing it up in the shop before she brought it!).
'Preppy Princess' is bright pink and the bottle is shaped liked a heart (as are all of Vera Wang's 'Princess' fragrances). It has a tartan pattern printed across the bottle and a blue, crown shaped lid that is decorated with little white studs to emulate pearls. Its design makes it a perfect present for younger women and teenage girls. However, it's not the type of fragrance I'd consider buying for my mother or grandmother because the bottle is obviously designed to appeal to the younger market.
I always think it's difficult to review the smell of a perfume because everyone's tastes can be different in that area. For me personally, Preppy Princess is quite light, fruity and girly, definitely suited to the teenage market they were aiming for (apparently it's inspired by cool, upper-Eastsiders - think Gossip Girl). I think it's fruitier than some of the previous editions from the Vera Wang 'Princess' range that I've tried and I think this makes Preppy Princess fairly unique and distinctive.
However, as much as I love the smell of this perfume, it does have a tendency to wear off and fade quite quickly, which is a shame given its hefty pricetag.
According to Amazon, the notes are as follows:
- Top Notes: Tangerine, Red Apple, Crushed Berries.
- Heart Notes: Honeysuckle, Jasmine.
- Base Notes: Sensual Woods, Coconut Water.
This is also a very useful website to check out, as it lists the main notes according to the votes of those who actually have/have tried the perfume.:
According to this website, customers detected Red Berry, Coconut and Tangerine as the most noticeable scents of Preppy Princess.
Where to buy
Well it isn't cheap wherever you buy it. The best deals I could find online were:
* Vera Wang Preppy Princess Eau de Toilette 50ml Spray - £38.45 at www.Cheapsmells.com
* Vera Wang Preppy Princess EDT 30ml - £32.00 at www.slapiton.tv
I'd definitely recommend trying Ebay first too as that's the most likely place that you'll find a bargain price on this!
A lovely, fruity fragrance which unfortunately tends to fade quickly and comes with a high price tag. I'd definitely recommend it as a present for a teenage girl.
Release Date: 25 Oct 2006
Platform: PlayStation2 (also released as 'Scholarship Edition' for Wii and Xbox 360 in 2008).
So everyone knows Rockstar games right? The company behind the hugely popular Grand Theft Auto series? Well one of their less famous games is this one - Canis Canem Edit, otherwise know as Bully.
The concept of Bully is fairly simple. You play as Jimmy Hopkins, a teenage boy (who looks like Wayne Rooney's long lost twin!) from a troubled background. Jimmy has been dumped at Bulworth Academy by his mother and step-father and unsurprisingly, he's none too happy about it! One by one, Jimmy is forced to take on the leaders of each of the school's cliques (Preppies, Greasers, Jocks, Nerds and Bullies) in a school where everyone seems to want to fight him. Meanwhile, his former friend turned enemy Gary, schemes to make Jimmy's life as difficult as possible....
There was a lot of controversy about this game when it was first released. The title 'Bully' suggests that you'll be playing the role of a school bully and campaigners were worried this would encourage bullying in schools. The outcome is in fact the opposite. Jimmy is NOT a Bully - far from it. In fact most missions actually involve him sticking up for the nerds and he is pitted against different school gangs at different points throughout the story, meaning he doesn't discriminate against certain groups more than others.
It's also refreshing (and quite amusing!) to see that Jimmy can be directed to happily kiss any other student in the school - including other boys. I found him a very fun character to play.
Bully follows a similar game-play style to the GTA games - but set in a school and with a slingshot instead of a gun!
Jimmy's dorm room is essentially his 'safe house', where the player can save their progress so far. You can attempt to sneak out after curfew and sneak over to the girls dorms but this will result in prefects giving chase.
Jimmy has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal including marbles (these are more fun to use to play pranks then as an actual weapon), a slingshot, itching powder and a skateboard. The more missions you complete, the more weapons become available.
New parts of the town will also become available as you complete missions until eventually Jimmy has the power to leave the school gates and explore the town. I particular enjoy visiting the funfair, where there are several ride and sideshow based mini games.
Of course if you're visiting town after curfew then the police will come after you. This results in the failure of a mission you may be completing at the time and the confiscation of your weapons.
As well as the main missions there's small side missions to complete and classes to attend. This often involves small puzzles and games to complete, for example English class presents word puzzles.
Bully vs Bully Scholarship
When I first brought Bully, it was shortly after its release in 2006. In 2008, a game called Bully: Scholarship Edition was released. I wasn't sure exactly what the difference between the two games was.
Well, after a bit of googling I found out that the 'Scholarship Edition' is nothing more than Bully re-released - with a handful of new missions, characters and classes added on. However, it's only available for Xbox 360 and Wii. Confused? Yes I was too!
I wish they'd just released a sequel rather than re-release the game with a few added extras. It seemed like a cheap way of raking in more money without having to go to the time and the effort of creating a new game.
I fee l like Bully is a victim of Rockstar's success. It's constantly overshadowed by Rockstar's more famous games and as a result tends to get forgotten, which is a shame because it's actually a really good game.
The best thing about it for me is that I was able to complete it. Although I have always loved the Grand Theft Auto series, I'm rarely able to complete the game without having to get my brother to help me out with some of the more difficult missions. Bully is much easier than this. I feel like it's an ideal alternative for those who enjoy Rockstar games but find them a bit too challenging.
It's also really fun game to play because it's quite diverse.
Missions range from simple tasks such as running errands for a teacher, going on dates at the carnival and taking incriminating photographs of fellow students, to rescuing people from a burning building and breaking into an insane asylum! I find there's a lot more variety to the missions than in some of Rockstar's previous games where you mainly have to steal a car and kill someone. In fact the games conception as a whole is more original too.
When creating the game, apparently the aim was to recreate the stage of being a kid and make it fun. Well Bully is certainly that. I didn't even mind that the so called cliques were complete clichés (nerds, jocks etc), somehow this just added to the fun! And Jimmy, as an 'everyday' kid gets to rub shoulders with each of these gangs at some point in the game.
The release of The Scholarship Edition of Bully quickly left the original Bully game feeling outdated.
Also, the game doesn't last as long as I wanted it to. Yes, I was guilty of playing it obsessively for hours but most Rockstar games are extensive enough to allow this. Bully is the exception to this rule. I completed it much quicker than I would have liked to and was surprised at just how easy the final mission was to complete (I expected an epic 'beat the boss' style mission but was actually able to complete it in one attempt!). I think Rockstar are aware of the games shortcomings in this area, hence the release of the slightly extended Scholarship edition.
Bully is a brilliant game that really doesn't get the credit it deserves.
Bullworth Academy is a school so dysfunctional that it makes St.Trinnians look normal, which makes it great fun to play. There's a real diversity in the missions and plenty of opportunities to unlock hidden bonuses. It's also remains the only Rockstar game I've ever been able to finish on my own with no help!
However, I was disappointed that the game seemed to end so quickly because I wanted to carry on going.
Oscar Wilde and The Candlelight Murders is the first in Gyles Brandreth's murder mystery series, where Victorian playwright, poet and celebrity Oscar Wilde, takes on the role of detective. Each book is told from the narrative view point of Robert Sherard - a life long friend and biographer of Oscar.
The books are an intriguing mixture of fact and fiction, with real life Wilde witticisms thrown in and cameos from Oscar's famous friends.
**Please be aware that this very same book is also published under the name: 'Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance'**
Celebrated poet and playwright Oscar Wilde arrives for an appointment at a house in Cowley Street in London, 1889. He expects to find a young female student waiting there for him. Instead he stumbles upon the naked corpse of Billy Wood. Billy has been murdered by candlelight in the upstairs room of the property in an apparently ritualistic and brutal killing. Unable to ignore such an horrific murder, Oscar turns to the police for help. However, when it seems no one is interested in solving the murder of a young male prostitute, Oscar realises it is down to him to solve the crime, with a little help from his ever faithful friends Robert Sherard and Sherlock Holmes writer, Arthur Conan Doyle.
The best thing about this novel, as always, is the characterisation of Oscar Wilde. Brandreth never fails in making him believable in his role as detective and his dialogue is so witty and beautifully written that I can never tell if it was a genuine Wilde quote or one of Bradreth's own. I particularly love the way Oscar is prone to delivering theatrical speeches and monologues, even at the most impractical moments and his shallow obsession with beauty. He is frustratingly endearing as a protagonist and I found myself just as much in awe of him as the characters in the novel are!
Because of Oscar's genius wit (and the authors skill in portraying this), I often found what should be a tragic story about a brutal murder and male prostitution to be darkly humoured.
I've said in other reviews of Brandreth's work that the decision to use Oscar Wilde as the main character is a genius one because it gives a certain realism to the plots, even though they are of course fictional. For example, this plot is focussed healthily on the murder of a young male prostitute. A boy who Oscar often describes as 'beautiful' and 'god-like'. He seems to have a liking for beautiful young men and lets several of them into his inner circle, even comfortable in the company of those who he knows to be gay (or 'musical', as was the Victorian's word for it!). Sherard is disturbed by this but is somewhat reluctant to question his famous friend, who he always appears to be in awe off. Given the circumstances behind Wilde's real life downfall and imprisonment (an affair with a beautiful young man called Alfred Douglas), I found this plot to be especially poignant and fascinating.
Finally, the background of Victorian London (with brief trips to Paris and Oxford!) is beautifully depicted and brought to life.
What I love about this book, and indeed the other books in this series, is the way in which the characters immerse themselves in all aspects of life and all and classes of society. It's the type of book where one minute the characters are visiting prison, brothels and morgues and the next they're in grand hotels and theatres.
The bad stuff
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with the narrator of these books - Robert Sherard. I switch between finding his adulation of Oscar both irritating and endearing. In this book, he is once again lusting after a woman who he knows is unavailable, as he seems to be doing in every book of this series so far. I don't find him to have much of a personality beyond his constant affairs and perusal of women. I would like to have heard more from Conan Doyle and less of Sherard's latest infatuation.
Oscar gets better as a detective as the series goes on. In this book, I was particularly disturbed by his habit of dining out and having night caps with his friends, whilst at the same time claiming to know the identity of the murderer! It's quite frustrating as a reader to be told that Oscar is aware of who the killer is - but before we find out we must accompany on him on one of his social gatherings first. I can't decide whether this an ingenious ploy by Brandreth to drag the tension and drama out right until the very end or simply a quirk in Oscar's character. Perhaps both. But it doesn't matter it any less frustrating to read.
Finally, I was disappointed to find that I had correctly identified the identity of the murderer, something which I failed to do when reading the other books in this series. I feel like the mysteries get much more complex as the series goes on whereas this book reaches a fairly predictable conclusion.
A brilliant opening novel to a collection of books that have grown to be one of my favourite literary series. Witty, funny and enjoyable throughout. I'd recommend these to anyone who is a fan of Oscar Wilde or those who just enjoy a good historical crime novel.
However, the ending is fairly predictable and the narrator has the ability to drive you crazy at times!
**Yet again, thank you to Mr Oscar Wilde for supplying my title quote (it's from Salome). For this book is as much about love between men as it is about death.**
So, after itching my scalp to the point of it bleeding and forming scabs, I figured enough was enough and it was time to take action. I was working as a Sales Assistant at the time and no one wants to be served by someone who can't stop scratching their head!
Mum brought me a bottle of this stuff as she'd read positive reviews of it on the internet. It's more expensive than other shampoos but we figured it was worth the money if it solved my problem. So did it work?
What it does?
According to the box, Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo is 'Effective Treatment for Scalp Psoriasis, Seborrhoeic Dermatitis (dry, itching scalp) and Dandruff'.
Treatment takes about 6 weeks.
What's it like?
The shampoo is very thick and has the consistency of treacle or honey. It looks like treacle too and smells a bit like furniture polish. My mum thought it smelt like tar! Either way, it's certainly nothing like the fruity/fragranced smell which we've become accustomed to when it comes to shampoos and hair care products. I did consider washing my hair with a normal shampoo afterwards, just to clear away the smell but I was worried that the medicine wouldn't work as effectively if I did this. In the end I became accustomed to the smell and even grew to like it but it won't be to everyone's taste.
Like most medicines, the shampoo comes in a box complete with instructions for use and usage exceptions. The shampoo itself is packaged in a see through bottle with a flip top lid and you're supposed to squeeze the bottle to release the shampoo. The problem with this however, is that the thick consistency of the shampoo makes it hard to control how much your squeezing onto your hand at a time. I often ended up with far more shampoo than I had intended to use.
Does it work?
For me, no it didn't. I should point out though that I have worse scalp problems than most of the others who have reviewed this shampoo. I've gone past the point of itching and have actually caused my scalp to scab and bleed at times. So I guess I was a bit naïve to expect it to work for a problem that severe.
However, what it did do was leave my hair feeling fresher and cleaner than any other shampoo I have ever used. My hair is prone to greasiness so the clean feeling was really nice. I could definitely tell the difference between this and cheaper shampoos.
How to use
It's not as straight forward as simple shampoos. You have to massage the shampoo into your hair and scalp then leave it a few minutes before rinsing. Once you've rinsed it off you then have to apply another coat and do the same thing again. So it's not as quick and easy as using a normal shampoo and conditioner but it did leave my hair feeling lovely.
It's recommended that the shampoo be used 2 to 3 times a week for it to really work. As I was using it twice a week and noticed no difference, I would consider buying it again and trying it three times a week. However, at over £5 a bottle, this is an expensive business!
Where to buy?
The 125ml bottles come in at round about £4. Obviously, the larger bottle is more expensive, priced around the £5/£6 mark. Since this stuff isn't cheap, do make sure you shop around before buying to see if you can find a better deal.
However, since this is a medicine as well as a shampoo, I guess the price is reasonable.
So unfortunately this stuff didn't work for me. However, this product has very positive reviews, not just from other Dooyooer's but on other websites too. Therefore, I think it probably does work but not for those with severe scalp complaints like mine. What it did do, however, is leave my hair feeling cleaner and fresher than any other shampoo I've ever used and I even grew to love the unusual smell of it.
I think it probably works best on those with mild scalp complaints. Otherwise, don't waste your money.
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: The Sims Studio
The Sims 3 Pets is the 5th expansion pack for the popular life simulation game 'The Sims 3'. And whilst the previous expansion pack (Generations) focussed on enriching everyday life and legacy play, The Sims 3 Pets finally sees the return of four legged friends to The Sims franchise.
Were not covering any new territory here. The Sims 1 had the Unleashed expansion pack and The Sims 2 also had a Pets expansion. However, The Sims 3 Pets finally delivers the most longed for creature of all - horses! Yes now your sims can adopt a horse of their very own and ride them to glory as a champion Jockey. But if horses aren't your thing there are plenty of other furry (and scaly) critters to discover. Perhaps you'll train your cat to sniff out valuable objects hidden around the neighbourhood. Or train your loyal dog to deliver the newspaper to your bedside every morning.
- Adopt a cat, dog or horse.
- New wildlife to find and collect throughout the neighbourhood - from Falcons to Parrots, Komodo Dragons to Turtles, snakes and hedgehogs.
- Look out for the Unicorns. If you find one you might be able to convince them to join your household....
- New Horseman/woman career, allows your sim to make a living by entering Equestrian competitions.
- Perfect the Racing and Show Jumping skills and enter your sim into competitions at the Equestrian centre.
- New traits - cat person, dog person and animal lover.
- New objects including wild west themed objects and a show jumping course to test the skills of your sim jockeys.
- Appaloosa Plains: a new neighbourhood based around horses and wildlife.
- Teach your pet tricks including sit and hunt.
- Pets who hunt may be able to dig out valuable collectables, including rare gems and rocks.
- Pets (cats, dogs and horses) are fully controllable and have traits, just like normal sims!
- New hair styles and clothes - including cowboy boots, Jockey leggings and riding hats.
- Huge variety of cat, dog and horse breeds to chose from or create your own.
Appaloosa Plains is the new neighbourhood introduced in this expansion and unsurprisingly, it's centred around pets and pet-related activities. Most of the pre-made households within the town own at least one pet, or several pets. It's also the home of several celebrity Jockeys.
The countryside theme of the neighbourhood is enhanced with a variety of ranch-style houses. There's also a deserted barn and bizarrely, a giant Dinosaur statue! Apparently Pets can dig up dinosaur bones dotted around the neighbourhood which can than be used to construct a Dinosaur skeleton.
It's actually one of my favourite EA towns. The countryside vistas are stunning, making it very satisfying to ride your horse around the town.
There's even a pet graveyard where ghost dogs can apparently be spotted, though I haven't seen one myself yet.
Anyone who has read any of my previous Sim reviews will know that I've been a fan of the sims ever since its original release way back in 2000. During that time, cats, dogs and even Werewolves and Dragons were introduced to the game but still the fans demanded horses. Well now that wish has been granted. And I have to admit, EA has done a good job with them!
There's a wide variety of breeds to choose from, including Friesian's, Thoroughbred's, Salernos, and Palominos. Alternatively, you can create your own breeds. Everything from coat colour and fur length, to the shape of your head, snout, and body can be customised. To finish the look there's also a small selection of saddles and bridles to chose from.
Horses are cute to keep as pets. They whiny, graze and gallop around. They also require their coat to be brushed, hooves to be cleaned and stables to be mucked out, just like a real horse would. However, undoubtedly the most fun to have out of horses is to pursue a career as a jockey. Horse can run the show jumping course up at the Equestrian centre to improve their jumping skills. Their riding skills can be improved simply by galloping around the neighbourhood. Once their racing and jumping skill is high enough, horses and their riders can be entered into Equestrian competitions from which you can win prize money and trophies. Although Rather annoyingly, EA hadn't thought to include a display cabinet to display your various accolades.
The bad thing about horses is that they are often too big to manoeuvre properly, meaning you get lots of annoying 'route fail' situations ('route fail' is that annoying stampy feet tantrum that your sims have when they cant go somewhere they want to go). As a result, it means that keeping a horse is only an option if your sims have a huge lot or garden.
Cats and dogs
Some of the included dog breeds: Chihuahua, English sheepdog, Pug, Dalmatian, Mastiff, Boxer, Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, German Shepard, Bloodhound.
Some of the included cat breeds: Siamese, Persian, Ragdoll, British Shorthair, Tabby, Manx, Turkish Angora.
Cats and Dogs are very cute. They're a great way for sims who live alone to get their social needs up. Also, as cats, dogs (and horses) are fully controllable, it's fun to play with them as a way to pass the time whilst you wait for your sims to return from work/school.
They can learn tricks and skills based on a scold/praise system so it's fairly easy to train your pets to stop chewing on the furniture or weeing in the house. By far the most valuable skill is 'hunting'. Pets who hunt can unearth collectables such as gems and rocks and sometimes useless things like crisp packets.
It's all very cute but in truth, cats and dogs are actually quite pointless. You can't enter them into competitions and shows like you can with horses. It's not even fun to walk your pets since they walk unbelievably slowly and so it literally takes hours for your sims to walk anywhere with them.
- Pets are controllable, just like real sims. This gives the player something to do whilst their sims are doing something boring like working or sleeping.
- Horses are amazing! The Jockey career is really fun (if not a bit repetitive) and challenging.
- Horses are really fast too. It's much easier and quicker to get around the neighbourhood on a horse than in a car.
- Appaloosa Plains is a really fun neighbourhood to play. The scenery is beautiful and the Equestrian themed community lots are fun to visit.
- You can breed pets for money.
- There's a huge variety of animals to find and collect and the wild deer are adorable.
- Dogs can swim. They have a bone shaped swimming pool at the park especially for dogs which I thought was very cute and cool.
- Unicorns are absolutely beautiful. They can bless your sim and make them lucky.
- Pets age spans are customisable, just like the customisable human sim age spans introduced with generations.
- Very large and diverse list of breeds, particularly dogs. Also every part of the fur, colour, ears, nose, body, tail etc of the pet is fully customisable, allowing you to create your own breeds.
- The western/cowboy themed clothes and objects are actually really nice and surprisingly fashionable compared to EA's usual standard.
- There is no display cabinet to display your horse racing and show jumping trophies. As a result, any sim pursuing the jockey career will have an inventory littered with trophies.
- 'International' equestrian competitions are almost impossible to win.
- Whilst the unicorns are beautiful, they are also really hard to find. It took over 30 sim days for one to show up in my game. It's even harder to persuade them to come and live with you once you've finally tracked one down....
- You can't put more than one animal in one cage or tank at a time. For example, if you have a pet bird living on one of the 'bird trees', you cannot then add another bird to that tree. Instead you have to buy a separate tree to house that bird. This is expensive and takes up a lot of room in your sim's house.
- Walking a dog takes forever because they walk so slowly.
- For some reason, racing, show jumping and cross country competitions will only take place on weekdays after 5pm. This means having to wait most of the day just to enter a competition.
- I feel the game has less shelf life than previous games. Once you've seen one cat/dog then you've seen them all. They are cute but also quite pointless.
- I feel like cats and dogs have been ignored because so much time has been spend on developing the horses.
Where to buy
Do not pay full price for this. I've seen it listed at £29.99 in some places but it's not worth that much in my opinion. I personally ordered my game for £19.99(with free delivery) from Gameplay.co.uk. This is still the best price I can find on the web.
The problem with Sims 3 Pets is that it offers little in terms of game-play. The title suggests you're getting pets and animals and that's exactly what it delivers. However, outside of the pets element there are few new game-play features and options. It seems silly to criticise an expansion pack for delivering exactly what it advertises. However, if you're not an animal lover (and possibly even if you are) this expansion certainly isn't essential and will get boring very quickly.
In my opinion it's worth it purely for the horses, which are beautiful and fun to play. The cats and dogs though, feel a little underdeveloped and neglected.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: John Murray (29 April 2010)
'Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile' is the third book in Gyles Brandreth series of mysteries, which pits the great Oscar Wilde as detective, assisted by a cast of famous celebrities of the Victorian era.
It's worth noting that the books in this series do not follow on from each other and so are perfectly readable as standalone mysteries. For example, this book, although being third in the series, is actually set before the second book of the series.
After a successful lecture tour of America, playwright and poet Oscar Wilde has been invited to Paris to help translate 'Hamlet' for the French audience.
It's 1883 and the famous La Grange family are determined to put on the 'perfect Hamlet' and feel that Oscar is the perfect man to help them in their mission. After initially being delighted to accept the assignment, Oscar soon finds life at the famous La Grange theatre company is not quite what he expected as a string of tragic deaths rock the production. But the show must go on - and it seems like the La Grange family are determined to stage the perfect production, whatever the cost.
As things turn serious, Oscar begins to fear for his own safety so enlists the help of his new friend, Robert Sherard to solve the crime putting his life and his reputation on the line to do so.
The story is sandwiched between an epilogue and a prologue.
In the prologue, Oscar and Robert are in 1890 London, visiting Madame Tussauds with their friend Arthur Conan Doyle. Oscar informs Conan Doyle that he has a Christmas present for him - it is a manuscript documenting Oscar and Robert's time in Paris at the La Grange theatre company, written by Robert. The hook is that the manuscript is not quite finished and Oscar tells Conan Doyle that he hopes he can assist him in the 'final' chapter. This immediately intrigued me and made me desperate to reach the last chapter! Brandreth certainly knows how to hook his audience and he plays the game ingeniously here. The significance of the books title is only revealed in the very last sentence of the epilogue....
The epilogue is of course, the final chapter which Oscar speaks off. I was utterly gripped by it and could never have guessed the twists and turns it delivered. I read some reviews which complained that the mysteries are impossibly difficult to solve which ruins the readers enjoyment of trying to guess 'who dunnit' themselves. For me personally, this was a bonus because I hate predictable endings and I hate being correct about the identity of the killer. I'd much rather be surprised and this book certainly delivers on that score.
I particularly enjoyed reading the account of the first meeting between Robert Sherard and Oscar Wilde. In real life, these two were life long friends and Sherard's loyalty and adulation of Oscar is captured perfectly here. The scene was made even more poignant for me given the fact that Brandreth's father apparently knew Robert Sherard. Therefore, the description of their meeting was probably heavily based in fact. The pair's often absinthe fuelled outings have them experience every aspect of Parisan lifestyle as they work together to solve the crime and Sherrard's hero like worship of his famous friend is both touching and irritating at times.
I know much about Oscar's life having studied him at school. To know the real life stories behind these friendships always adds an extra element of fascination for me. That is the advantage of using a real person as your protagonist.
Printed on the opening page, and repeated often throughout the novel, is one of Oscar Wilde's most famous quotes - 'I wanted to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden of the world....' and in this book, Oscar does just that as he glides effortlessly between the very highs and lows of Parisian society and social elite. From spending time with the 'divine' and world famous actress Sarah Bernhardt, to visiting the macabre 'House of the dead' and an asylum for the insane. Oscar (and Robert, through virtue of knowing Oscar) truly experiences just about every aspect of life in the French capital and the reader gets to explore this fascinating city with them.
It's the attention to detail that I love about this series. For example, Brandreth even provides us a map of Oscar's Paris in 1893, this helps bring to life the wonderfully crafted setting of 19th Century France.
Many of Wilde's most famous quotes and witticisms are blended effortlessly into the plot. I loved the use of 'I have nothing to declare except my genius' (I loved it so much that I chose it as the title of this review!) which got Oscar into trouble at customs, and his long letter to Robert detailing his hatred of newspapers. I find it utterly believable as the voice of Oscar Wilde and have no trouble imagining him in any of the scenarios that Brandreth depicts.
The bad stuff
This book takes a lot more effort to really 'get in to' than the previous book. After a brilliant first chapter which sets up an intriguing premise for the rest of the book, we are then transported back in time to Oscar Wilde's tour of America. This to me, wasn't entirely necessary, since the main story is set in Paris and that is where the action begins. It's very slow in parts and I felt like I was reading an Oscar Wilde autobiography for the first 100 or so pages as I waited for the fictional murders to begin. For example, In one chapter we have Wilde go back to England to visit a would be assassin of the Queen who is being held in an Reading Gaol (jail). I have no idea if Oscar actually visited this man or not in real life but it seemed like a random tangent that had nothing to do with the main 'La Grange' storyline and didn't really need to be included in the novel. In fact, considering that this book is pushing close to 400 pages, I feel that chunks of it could have been taken out and the book would have benefited from being scaled down.
I'd say you'd have to be much more of a Wilde fan to enjoy this book than the previous ones, because you're getting a lot more of his life story here.
I also found myself missing the presence of Robert Sherard who narrates the previous books in this series. Sherard also narrates this book too but he doesn't appear until the Paris chapters begin and I was surprised that I missed his presence so much. I felt him to be a weak character and narrator in the previous book. But I now realise that Sherard plays Watson to Wilde's Holmes, and without him, the book doesn't quite flow as effectively.
Finally, this book suffers a problem that is common to it's predecessor. If you are going to create a murder mystery using a cast of real and fictional characters, then it is obvious who will be murdered and who will survive. For example, you know that Oscar and Robert are never truly in danger since they have already died in real life and neither were murdered. The same rules can be applied to Conan Doyle and the rest of Oscars non-fictional friends. Unfortunately, this means you can easily foretell every death before it actually does happen.
Don't be put off by the slow pace of this book because once it gets going it's completely gripping and the finale is one of the most exciting and unexpected that I've ever read.
Oscar Wilde is the perfect detective and utterly believable in the roll that Brandreth has created for him.
Witty and well researched as always, this is a series which just seems to improve with every book.
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Gollancz; paperback / softback edition (9 Oct 2008)
An Ice Cold Grave is Charlaine Harris's third novel in the Harper Connelly mystery series, following on from the success 2005's 'Sight' and 2006's 'Grave Surprise'.
In an Ice Cold Grave, our psychic heroine Harper Connelly is faced with her most difficult job to date, locating the teenage victims of a suspected serial killer.
The author is best known as the writer of The True Blood series.
Ever since she was struck by lightening as a teenager, Harper Connelly has the ability to find dead bodies by sensing their vibrations. Accompanied by her brother Tolliver, she is called to the small town of Doraville to investigate the disappearance of several teenage boys. The Sheriff fears that this is more than a simple case of teen runaways - there's a serial killer on the loose. And Harper is in charge of locating the bodies of these unfortunate boys.
Very quickly, Harper tracks down 8 dead bodies and after sensing the unimaginable pain and torture that they went through before their deaths, is keen to flee Doraville forever. However, someone else has other ideas and Harper is attacked. Now forced to stay in Doraville whilst she recovers, Harper finds herself reluctantly drawn into the investigation as she discovers more than she ever wanted to know about the boys deaths.
Will this knowledge mean that Harper is the next victim to end up in an ice cold grave?
What I liked about it
I really enjoyed the fast pace of this novel, it drops you straight into the thick of the action and straight away grabs your attention. Within the first few pages Harper has already uncovered multiple bodies and had some sense of the horrific ways in which they died. This immediately sets the book apart from its predecessors as Harper has never had to deal with anything as horrific as a serial killer before. And of course by discovering this, Harper has now put herself in danger. I know it sounds like the same clichéd plot from many other crime novels you may have read before but there are plenty of unexpected twists and turns to keep the plot fresh. And the psychic element adds another dimension to the story - I found Harper's ability to find bodies and read how they died to be both creepy and fascinating. It's a fairly unique skill that sets her apart from other sleuths of the genre. And as a huge fan of horror films, I have a macabre fascination with this kind of thing. So I was both appalled and enthralled by these flashes of the horrific murders.
I also thought it was a brave decision by the author to to chose teenage boys as the victims of rape and murder rather than the more obvious target of teenage girls. This makes the killer an even more ominous figure as you realise he must be extremely powerful to have the strength to overpower his male victims, or he must have an accomplice. It gave the book a slightly different edge from other murder mystery novels I've read.
Finally, I found Harper to be a sympathetic narrator. She's feisty and determined and often comes under attack by sceptics who don't believe in her abilities. It makes you route for her to prove them wrong, which of course she always seems to do. I also liked the additions of Manfred and Xylda as support characters (even though having not read the previous books, I had no idea who they were at first!). Xylda is an eccentric old lady psychic who loves the publicity that her achievements gain her. I found her to be an amusing character.
There's a subtle hook at the end of the book which seems to set up the plot for the next novel in the series. It implies that Harper's next mission will be a more personal one, the search for her missing sister Cameron. Already I'm intrigued by this as Cameron is a mysterious figure often referenced throughout this novel (and I imagine the first two as well).
What I disliked about it
What I didn't realise when I picked this up from the library (and nowhere does it say inside!) is that this is the third book in the 'Harper Connelly mystery' series. The fact that this is part of a series of books needs to be more clearly advertised since I had no idea when I picked this out and therefore quickly found myself confused. Characters return with no explanation as to who they actually were (we were just supposed to know from previous books) and plots and scenarios from previous books were constantly referred to. You can read this as a standalone book, as I accidentally did and it is still enjoyable but the impact of certain events are lessened. For example, when a character from a previous book falls ill, it failed to have the same dramatic effect on me as it would on someone who'd read the previous books and therefore already cared about the character.
My one criticism of this book is that it starts so quickly that the pace inevitably slows down towards the middle. Within only a few pages Harper has already uncovered 8 bodies and been attacked, which already covers the events mentioned in the blurb! With such drama in the opening chapters, we then slow right down as Harper is hospitalised and slowly recovering after the attack. The change in pace is disconcerting - I went from reading several chapters at once to having to force myself to read more than a few pages at a time. Then when Harper is released and you're hopeful that the plot can pick up its pace again, there's several pages of truly cringeworthy sex scenes to endure. I'm not a prude but I just felt it was unnecessary and added little to the story overall. I wanted to get on with the business of finding a serial killer, not reading mushy pillow talk!
Overall, I enjoyed this book but wish I'd known it was part of a series so I could have read the first two instalments before reading this!
An Ice Cold Grave is a gripping and fast paced read and sets up the plot for the next instalment of the Harper Connelly mystery series.
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Bantam Press; 2010 edition (2 Sep 2010)
Sophie Kinsella is one of my favourite authors. Even though I personally am not a fan of chick lit, I love most of Kinsella's books because she makes her characters so funny and engaging and she's one of the few authors that has the ability to make me laugh out loud!
I'm guessing that if you're reading this review, you'll already know that Kinsella is the author of the ever popular 'Shopaholic' series. She also writes under the name of 'Madeline Wickham'.
'Mini Shopaholic' is the sixth book in the series, I've copied the following list of the series from Wikipedia to show you what order to read them in:
1. The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (2000) also published as 'Confessions of a Shopaholic' (2001)
2. Shopaholic Abroad - (2001) also published as 'Shopaholic Takes Manhattan' (2002)
3. Shopaholic Ties The Knot - (2002)
4. Shopaholic & Sister - (2004)
5. Shopaholic & Baby - (2007)
6. Mini Shopaholic - (2010)
When Becky Brandon found out she was pregnant, she dreamed of designer maternity clothes and a mini shopping partner for life. However, the reality's of motherhood are proving to be more difficult than expected as 2 year old Minnie causes chaos wherever she goes - even at her own christening!
But Becky's troublesome toddler isn't the only problem she has to deal with when a big financial crisis causes panic across London. People everywhere are cutting back - unfortunately that includes most of Becky's personal shopping clients. So Becky, husband Luke and Minnie find themselves having to move in with Becky's parents.
To cheer everyone up and to celebrate Luke's birthday, Becky decides to throw a huge surprise birthday party on a budget - she can't wait to impress everyone with her mega moneysaving party. But as always where Becky is concerned, things don't quite go to plan...
What I liked
Anyone who has read my reviews of Kinsella's previous Shopaholic books will know that I have a love-hate relationship with the character of Becky Bloomwood. She's so stubborn that she gets herself into these ridiculous situations that I find hard to sympathise with because it's entirely her own fault. However I didn't find her half as irritating in this book as I have in the past. Yes, she's still a calamity Jane type character who inevitably finds herself out of her depth but in truth, it's not entirely her fault this time! The collapse of the economy and unexpected return of a character from a previous book play a big part in this. Her parenting skills leave a lot to be desired but I actually found this refreshingly realistic as Becky has always been quite an irresponsible character so her being the perfect mum wouldn't work.
There's also the return of some much loved characters here, creating a whole community of familiar and hilarious support characters. Yes Becky is of course the star but I still enjoyed reading about the live's of Danny, Jess, Janice, Tom, Tarquin, Suze and Becky's parents as much as following the latest adventures of Becky and Minnie. In particular, I love Becky's camp fashion designer friend Danny. Although he doesn't feature prominently, he never fails to make me laugh and His crush on Tarquin is hilarious.
Highlights of the book included Jess, Janice, Becky and her mum's visit to the Pound shop. I was in stitches at this scene because I totally recognised my mum and grandma in a similar situation - throwing anything and everything in the trolley just because its cheap regardless of whether they need it or not! I also liked the fact that Becky's secret party was much harder to keep secret due to the internet and the rise of social media - The Youtube videos were a nice touch and very topical. It's true these days that secrets are much harder to keep when you canfind out practically anything about anyone online.
What I disliked
In truth, Minnie doesn't actually feature as much as the title of the book would have you believe. Her out of control antics are really only sub-plots to the much more dominant plot of the budget party planning. This could be an advantage or disadvantage depending on how you look at it. Personally, I would have liked to have seen more of the relationship between Minnie and Becky, and particularly Minnie and Luke, who share very few scenes together. And given the title of the book, this is what I was expecting.
We never really get to know Minnie as a character because Becky is constantly leaving her in the care of others. At the end of the book I knew very little about her apart from the fact that she was a spoilt but very well dressed child. However, there are probably those who would be glad of this, people who'd much rather read about Becky than the exploits of her spoilt daughter. Whatever your viewpoint on this, I still feel the title is somewhat misleading. 'Shopaholic and party' would be more appropriate for this book and 'Mini Shopaholic' should have been saved for a more Minnie-centric book in the series, assuming of course that Kinsella plans to write more 'Shopaholic' books (and I really hope she does).
The ending isn't entirely satisfying. It's happy but with a hint of sadness, which is unusual for Kinsella's books since I'm usually complaining that the happy endings are too fluffy, perfect and unrealistic considering the extent of the mess that Becky finds herself in. I rather think (more like hope!) that this issue is left unresolved so that it can be revisited if there is another book in the series. If there isn't another book written after this one, this might feel some readers feeling as if there is still unfinished business to be resolved.
Where to buy
Remember the book is still relatively new and the Shopaholic series is very popular, therefore you're unlikely to get an absoloute bargain price for it, even on Ebay the typical price seems to be round about the £5-£6 (including postage) mark. Amazon currently have it listed at £3.86 and Waterstones are selling it for £4.79 so you can get it for under £5 if you shop around a bit first.
I think this is possibly my favourite book in the entire Shopaholic series. I found it funny and touching with a bittersweet ending that left me wanting more. Becky is a character who drives me mad but I still enjoy laughing and cringing at her antics. I would like to have seen more of Minnie and Luke was absent for most of the book (busy with work) but Becky is a strong enough narrator to maintain my interest and the superb cast of support characters provided some interesting and hilarious sub plots.
***please be aware that this is a review of The Inbetweeners movie, released in August of this year. The DVD has not hit the shelves yet!***
The Inbetweeners Movie (15)
Cast:Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison and Joe Thomas
Screenwriter: Iain Morris, Damon Beesley
Running Time: 97 minutes
The Inbetweeners is an award winning E4 sitcom, portraying the unfortunate life's of four horny 6th formers at Rudge Park Comprehensive School. Will, Simon, Neil and Jay spend all their time trying (and failing miserably) to impress girls and be cool, in a comedy that rivals even the brilliant 'Peep Show' in the cringe-worthy gag stakes.
The Inbetweeners big screen début delivers the same winning formula that made the TV series so popular - a mixture of girl related humiliations and gross out gags involving projectile vomitting and various other bodily fluids...
After being dumped by love of his life Carli (Emily Head) Simon is inconsolable. His mates Will, Jay and Neil decide the best way to cheer him up is to go on a lads holiday for a summer of sex, 'clunge' (Jay's delightful term for female genitalia) booze and partying. So, financed by the conveniently timed death of Jay's grandad, the boys head off to the party resort of Malia wearing customised t-shirts declaring them to be the 'Pussay Patrol'. Unfortunately, Carli and her friends have chosen the very same resort for their holiday...and she has her eye on the sexy holiday rep. Rather than be deterred, Simon is sure that the end of holiday boat party is the perfect setting to win her back. But as always where the Inbetweener lads are concerned, things don't quite go to plan and the holiday of a lifetime soon turns into the holiday from hell, involving romancing of the elderly, cringeworthy dancing and poolside flashing.
I think what the Inbetweeners does extremely well is capturing the essence of the lads holiday, a never ending quest for women, alcohol and partying, in a cheap and garish resort - wearing those matching, tacky T-shirts with 'amusing' nicknames printed on them. The use of slow motion as they emerge from the hotel wearing t-shirts declaring themselves to be the 'Pussay Patrol' is pure genius and caused big laughs in the Cinema.
But amidst all the vomit and attempts to pull anything in a Bikini, at the very heart of the movie lies the strong friendship between the four central characters and the sad knowledge that they'll soon be separated by the prospect of university. I think anyone whose been to University can relate to that feeling, that mixture of excitement but sadness that everything's changing. In particular I felt sorry for Jay who was the one who faced the prospect of being left behind when both Simon and Will head off to uni. I found this a surprisingly touching moment from a bunch of lads who normally resort to taking the mick out of each other rather than express their true feelings. It's horribly cheesy to say so but they really do come of age in this film as friendships are cemented, lessons are learned and finally we get closure on the Simon/Carli saga which has been an ongoing, unresolved theme throughout The Inbetweeners series.
Whilst it may not deliver as may laugh out loud moments as the TV series, the movie does boast its fair share of one liners - the title of this review being one of my favourites, delivered brilliantly by Blake Harrision as Neil.
The main problem with this film is the plot. It might be easy enough to fill a 25 minute TV show with alcohol, projectile vomiting, poo and a never ending quest for 'clunge' but an hour and a half feature film of it inevitably falls flat. I feel the Inbetweeners 'livin it large' in Malia would have worked best as an extended TV special because the plot is just too thin to sustain an entire film. And this is essentially why, despite a strong beginning, my interest started to wane round about the middle of the film where everything started to feel a bit repetitive.
It's also unfortunate that the funniest scene in the entire film is given away in the trailer - sort of like the famous 'Spider Pig' scene of the Simpson's movie, Neil's brilliantly awful 'We speak no Americano' dance routine is undoubtedly the highlight. Other than this, there's no moment of sheer brilliance that were so used to the TV version delivering, nothing on the same level of the of the genius 'bus w@nker's' or 'bumder' scenes from the TV show anyway.
The ending - in particular the after credit sequence, is disappointing. I don't want to give away too much so all I'll say it that The Inbetweeners works best when were revelling in the failure and humiliation of the boys. Some of this magic is lost slightly with the ending and for me it didn't work.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, but only if you're familiar with the TV series, otherwise you might be a bit shocked by some of the adult humour and content! In truth, watching the TV series is the best way to familiarise yourself with the characters and some of their more unique catchphrases - otherwise you'll probably be confused or offended (or both!). All three series of The Inbetweeners are available on 4OD so that's a good place to start.
If you are planning to watch this as a standalone movie then fine but don't make the same mistake as some poor bloke at the showing that I went to see did - he'd brought his mum along and was squirming with embarrassment throughout! It's safe to say that this is not the kind of film you want to be watching with your parents. It's probably best to go with a bunch of friends.
The Inbetweeners is a difficult film to review because whilst I found myself slightly disappointed by it, the cinema was completely packed and the rest of the audiences laughter didn't let up throughout the entire film so it must have been doing something right! I think the problem is that the brilliance of the TV show set a very high standard for the movie to live up to and in truth, the film never quite reaches these heights.
However, I still feel as though The Inbetweeners movie is a fitting end to a much loved TV series. Simon Bird, James Buckley, Neil Harrison and Joe Thomas are all brilliant in the roles which they have come to embody so effectively over the past few years and their deception of a bunch of horny lads on their first lads holiday is depressingly realistic!
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Vintage (5 Mar 2009)
Meet 13 year old Flynn, a young girl living in an unhappy broken home. Following the departure of her father, her mother is struggling to cope with a young baby (Anna) and Flynn's out of control older brother (Sam). Just when Flynn believes that nothing good will ever happen to her again, a mysterious feral boy called Alex appears at the bottom of her garden one night. Alex is the guardian of a dysfunctional group of runaway children including a six year old arsonist and an exhausted teenage mother. Flynn finds herself irresistibly drawn towards this wild, handsome boy. So with wayward brother Sam in tow, Flynn flees her unhappy home-life and sets off on an unimaginable adventure across the fields with Alex and his makeshift runaway family. But who is the terrifying man who is pursuing them? And is the fairytale-style cottage where they take refuge, too good to be true?
A haunting tale of runaway children told in the form of a twisted fairytale.
What I liked about the book
The story is told from the point of view of 13 year old Flynn. Flynn is the perfect narrator because she captures the essence of that awkward in-between stage of adolescence, where you're not a child any more but not yet an adult and I feel that we can all relate to that feeling. Flynn has a childlike innocent about her which belies her age, yet at the same time she is on the edge of a sexual awakening. It's a compelling mix and makes her a strong choice of narrator because I was never quite sure what she was going to say or do next.
In truth, the story itself is a bit like this, often treading the line between children's fairy-story and grown up horror. One minute you're following the charming story of a bunch of runaway children, the next you're dealing with teen pregnancy, rape, cancer, rotting corpses...it's like the story wants to lure you into a false sense of security before delivering it's next horrific twist. This unpredictability is what makes this book so compelling. It draws you in from the very first page.
The relationship between Alex and Flynn is both touching and a bit disturbing at the same time.
Alex shows Flynn what it's like to be loved and with him she embarks on a journey where she discovers the meaning of love, sex, life and death. However I can't help feeling like there's also a moral message in here about the importance of not growing up to soon - it's no coincidence that Flynn sees the horrific reality of their situation only after giving in to her desires for Alex. Whilst you route for them to come together, Flynn inevitably loses some of her childlike innocence when it eventually does happen. However, I still enjoyed reading about the development of their relationship any way.
Myerson's characters are so complex and multi layered that they often lead you feeling unsure of whether you actually like them or not. I personally loved the fact that they were such three dimensional characters because it made the story more interesting. Also, it would be unrealistic for a group of runaway to children to be perfect!
Flynn's brother Sam for example is initially unlikeable in his clichéd role as 'angry brother from broken home' yet he grows and matures significantly as the novel progresses.
Mouse is ill-tempered, spoiled, and very jealous - like a modern day Tinkerbell! Yet you cannot help but be entertained by her behaviour and sympathise with her need to be loved.
Diana comes across as cold and aloof but when we learn her full story, her behaviour is not without reason. All together, they are a bizarre and dysfunctional family unit yet entirely compelling at the same time.
What I disliked about the book
I loved this book and found it literally impossible to put down. Until I reached the last few chapters....and that's when I didn't 'get it' any more. The ending was a bizarre mixture of loose ends that never got tied up and at the same time, it was all too neatly wrapped up and inconsequential. I did wonder if I was missing the point somewhat and there was noting to 'get'. Because perhaps that's just an allowance of the genre when writing a fairytale? Improbable situations and places can be presented with no need for explanation other than 'it was magic'. However it still irritated me because there's nothing worse than losing yourself so completely in a book only to arrive at a disappointing conclusion.
I then realised that an even more likely explanation was that significant parts of the story existed solely in Flynn's mind. So desperate is she to escape everyday life and embark on her very own fairytale, that she conjures up a perfect fairytale cottage straight from her imagination. This explanation annoyed me even more because I hate 'it was all a dream....or was it?' type endings! Such a cliché from an otherwise completely unique book.
Oh and just a minor point but the writer does not mark out her dialogue with speech marks, for some reason. In truth this didn't bother me too much and you soon get used to it anyway but it may annoy some readers.
Where to buy
As I write this the book is currently £2.81 on Aphrohead.com, which seems like a good deal.
Also on sale at awesomebooks.com for £2.49, down from £7.99.
Albris.co.uk have it listed for £3.16.
Based on this, I'd say any price round about the £3 or just mark is a good deal.
The majority of the book is a beautiful piece of writing, poised delicately between childhood and adulthood, fantasy and reality. I loved the almost too perfect fairytale cottage nestled in the heart of the woods, that undoubtedly takes inspiration from Hansel and Gretel. And Myerson excels in understanding the mindset of fragile children and teenagers.
However, the ending is a huge let down that feels as if it belonged to an entirely different story altogether and leaves the reader feeling frustrated and confused.
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper (26 Nov 2009)
Author: Sarah May (previous work includes: The Rise and Fall of the Queen of Suburbia: A Black-Hearted Soap Opera, The Rise and Fall of a Domestic Diva)
I chose this book having never heard of the author or read any of her previous books. I'm more of a horror/historical fiction fan and having picked up a selection of fairly dark and complex books from my local library, I wanted some light and fluffy chicklit to run alongside it. As a fan of soap operas and those trashy 'Teen Mom' and 'Underage and pregnant' shows, Sarah May's 'The Rise and fall of the wonder girls' seemed like the perfect choice. The front cover promised a 'black hearted soap opera'. Did it deliver on its promise?
Meet Grace, Vicky, Ruth and Saskia - four teenage friends, from the same town and of the same school trying to deal with the same life changing secret at the same time! But secrets are hard to keep - especially with a tell tale expanding waistline...
As all four friends discover that they are pregnant, a media frenzy descends on the small, affluent town of Burwood to cover news of the teen pregnancy 'scandal'.
The truth is that the girl's pregnancy isn't the only scandal taking place in this small town. Because beneath the perfect suburban facade, Burwood bubbles with corruption, secrets, lies and affairs. Will the live's of the Burwood residents ever be the same again?
What I liked about it?
If I'm honest, I'm really struggling to find a single positive thing to say about this. But I try and be fair in all my reviews so I will say that I did manage to finish this book so it isn't as bad as some other books I've read.
It's certainly readable, even though it makes little sense and is disjointed in places, I found myself reading it just to laugh at how stupid the characters were and whether or not they decided to keep their babies.
If you are looking for something light and simple, topical (teen pregnancy is certainly topical in today's society) and enjoy trashy soap operas then you may find some enjoyment in this. Also I imagine any teenage girls who found themselves in the same situation may find it interesting. Otherwise I'd advise you to chose another book!
What I disliked about it?
The main problem with this book is that the plot is given away straight away on the back cover! So there is no tension, no suspense no nothing. You know this will be a story about a pregnant group of teenage girls and that's exactly what you get.
And the book focuses so much on the screwed up relationships of the girls and the fathers of their babies that we don't even get to see any of the pregnancy develop. It's almost as though there's a big chunk of the plot missing. The narrative tries to focus on too many characters at once and as a result, we don't get to actually see the girls experience their pregnancies - there's not enough time for that with so many births to fit in, so much relationship drama and so many dysfunctional parents and family set ups to explore!
There are just too many characters and too many subplots to keep track of here. Everyone is falling apart, everyone is pregnant, everyone hates someone else or is having an affair and the narrative jumps randomly between characters to the point where it's unclear who is who anymore. The whole thing felt completely disjointed and I often felt like it was going off in random tangents with characters and storylines that were too underdeveloped for me to care about. It's almost as though the author knew that the pregnancy storyline alone was too flimsy to maintain an entire novel so threw in as many other subplots as she she could think of. But all of these added dramas inevitably fall flat because the characters are all too stupid and irritating to really care about what happens to them.
I think the author was attempting something of a soap opera writing style but failed miserably as It's more like an episode of The Jeremy Kyle show than an episode of Eastenders!
Where to buy
Well personally I wouldn't recommend buying this book anywhere!
I'd certainly advise borrowing one of Sarah May's previous books from the library before reading this. Maybe that way you'll know what you're letting yourself in for in regard to the authors writing style.
If you still want to buy it, the standard price seems to be round about the £5/£6 mark. As always, I'd recommend Ebay to try and get a better deal.
This is a book that promises so much and delivers so little. You're constantly waiting for a hook to draw you into the story that never actually comes. The plot is messy and rushed, the writing style is disjointed and the characters are highly unlikable and unrelateable.
There's just too much going on and too many dramas to fit into 400 pages and the main plot point is given away in the blurb anyway!
I cant help but feeling that the writer would have had far more success had she chosen to focus on the life of just one of these teenage girls. By focusing on so many at a time, we never really get to know or like them.
Introduction to the product
John Frieda Precission Foam Colour bills itself as the 'first ever premium permanent home hair colour that uses foam technology to deliver salon-quality results at home'.
The product was introduced as a revolution in home hair colouring by the John Frieda brand in 2010 and the 'non drip' foam formula promises to cover every strand perfectly to achieve, flawless, salon quality colour. Sounds fabulous! But does the product live up to its impressive description?
It's important to note that I am basing this review on the 5R Radiant Red (medium red brown) shade and my natural hair colour is medium brown.
There are 20 shades to chose from and for best results, it's recommended that you chose a shade no more than two levels away from your current hair colour.
Packaging and content
Each John Frieda Precision Foam Colour kit contains the following:
The conditioner is a decent size so should last for several washes afterwards and is designed to lock the colour in. The gloves themselves are quite thick and black, better quality than the see through platic gloves which are usually supplied with hair dyes and therefore useful for those who may wish to resuse the gloves for self tanning or medicinal purposes.
The packaging itself is fairly ordinary. Like most home hair dyes, the shade is clearly visible across the front of the box so it's quick and easy to find the shade that you want. The name of colour isn't so easy to find - appearing in small letters in the top left hand corner.
The back of the box features a handy diagram showing what colour result you can expect against your current colour.
I have extremely thick, medium length hair so I always struggle with finding a product that will cover my hair completely. This often leads to patchy, uneven colouring which is a pet hate of mine and the reason I rarely use home hair dye.
However, you get a lot of foam with this product - there was easily enough to cover my hair several times over from root to tip and enough to massage into the roots (the more you massage, the more it seems to spread!). The bottle itself doesn't look big enough to produce as much foam colour as it does so I was pleasantly surprised with the quantities provided. The result is natural, even tone, with no annoying splodges or patches.
Directions for use:
The dye comes with step by step instructions so I'm not going to go into great detail here, just list the basic process.
- Cover face with water resistent cream. My mum used one from her medical cupboard, I'm not entirely sure which one it was but it seemed to work fine.
- Creating the foam involves an odd process of tilting the dye backwards and forwards in your hand. You should not shake the bottle because this effects the development of the foam.
- The rocking motion creates a foam. Squeeze the bottle to release the foam and apply evenly at the roots.
- Work the foam throughout the whole hair and massage the product in to hair to create better coverage.
- Leave the dye to settle. The package reccomends 20 minutes or slightly longer for thick or long hair. Because my hair is both thick and long, I left it for 30 minutes.
- Rinse until water runs clear.
Ease of use
It's certainly not as easy to use as the product advertising would have you believe. I had my mum assist me with this and I feel I would have struggled to apply it on my own. In fact, apart from creating the foam, I found the application of the dye to be similar to the application of most home hair dyes.
Yes the foam spreads easily but I certainly wouldn't say it's 'non drip'. Even with someone else doing my hair, we managed to stain a towel, my ears, forehead and scalp (although that's inevitable I suposse).
The instruction 'not to shake' the formula goes against the natural instinct to do just that! I've read loads of reviews of this from unhappy women who've ruined their dye by shaking instead of tilting the bottle. So read the instructions carefully to avoid this issue.
I've also never had to apply a water resistent cream to my face before applying a dye. This was an annoyance since we werent expecting to need any cream so didn't have any immediately to hand.
The first thing I noticed is that the product left my hair feeling smooth and silky which was a pleasant suprise since some hair colours can leave my hair feeling dried out and straw like afterwards.
However, the colour itself wasn't as noticeable as I'd anticipated it would be, certainly not the 'radiant' red that was promised on the box. The result was a much more subtle colour, so subtle in fact that most of my friends didn't even notice I'd dyed my hair! The ones that did notice detected a purpley-plum type colour rather than red.
I personally prefer subtle shades to bold, vibrant shades so this didn't bother me. But if you want a dramatic change then this probably isn't the right hair dye for you. I also don't think the colour is entirely true to the colour which the box advertises it to be.
Where to buy?
I received this free as part of generous give away that John Frieda were doing to launch the product. They also sent me a voucher for money off another one (I can't remember how much exactly because I gave it to my mum!). John Frieda are generous with their freebies so be on the look out for further giveaways of these.
If you weren't lucky enough to win one, the r.r.p of this product is £9.99. However it's often on offer so shop around because there are deals to be found and I certainly don't think it's worth a tenner!
Whilst I did like this product, it didn't really live up to hype. It didn't seem to be much easier than other home hair colourants, the non drip foam did drip and the end results were not outstanding. I'd advise this to anyone who just wants a gentle change, perhaps a root touch up or grey coverage. If you're looking for something dramatic then this isn't the hair dye for you!
Title: The Sims 3: Generations Expansion Pack
Developer: The Sims Studio
Release Date: 3rd June 2011
The Sims 3 Generations is the 4th expansion pack for the popular Sims 3 franchise.
And with this expansion, It feels like the Sims has returned to its routes as a life simulation game. Generations is geared specifically to enrich the individual lifestages of your sims, particularly the underdeveloped childhood to adolescence stages. A variety of new family and domestic themed objects, social events and interactions are introduced to achieve this. But will your sim family falter or flourish through the generations?
Child sims can prank. Teen sims can party and adult sims can punish. Guide your teens through mood swings and your adults through a mid-life crisis.
- Sims can now record home movies with the new video camera, perfect for capturing all those heart warming family memories.
- Child and teen sims have the option to play pranks on neighbours, from booby trapping the shower with hair dye to throwing eggs at houses.
- Adults can punish and ground their troublesome teens.
- Discover secret potions using the Chemistry set.
- The new dating system now allows sims to go dating, give and receive flowers and watch the stars together. Awwww.
- New traits - could your parents cope with raising a 'Rebellious' teen? Perhaps they'll be in need of the new 'Nurturing' trait to handle their pesky offspring!
- Does your sim love children? If so they'll love the new daycare profession.
- Weddings are now much more fun, with new wedding arches and a wedding cake. Guests will even bring presents.
- Children can sign up for after school activities and go on field trips.
- Child sims can dress up as Royalty, Dinosaurs and Astronauts.
- 'Free Vacation' opportunities for the parents leave the teens home alone. I hope they aren't planning a wild party...
- Custom age span sliders mean you can chose exactly how long it takes sims to age up from each life stage.
With World Adventures we had Mummys and Late Night introduced Vampires. What member of the 'Occult' will Generations deliver? The Imaginary Friend of course!
Imaginary friends are creepy looking patchwork dolls that get sent through the post to newborn sims. For example, you'll receive a notification informing you that some long lost relative such as 'Great Aunt Gertrude' has sent baby Leah a doll. This doll is the imaginary friend doll.
It's hard to think of a positive thing to say about these toys. They are creepy looking and extremely irritating. The idea is that if a child builds up a high enough relationship with its imaginary friend then the doll will come to life. Unfortunately, this means that your child and toddler sims will obsess with them to the point of ignoring every other toy they own. They will sing, play and even host tea parties with this creepy looking doll, whilst ignoring and neglecting REAL LIFE friends!
You will receive a message saying that the doll has become a very specail toy to your sim and wants to come out to play. This means that the imaginary friend wants to be brought to life. Placing the doll on the floor will achieve this. The creepy doll will then strut around, following your sim everywhere and just being annoying in general. Other sims cannot see the Imaginary Friend, they just see your sim talking to themselves....
You may receive a message from the Science lab offering you the chance to turn your Imaginary Friend into a human. This means you are now free to date, marry and have children with it just as you would with a normal sim.
Dating and Reputations
The new 'dating' system doesn't add much to the game really. Dates are exactly the same as group outings, the only difference being a different moodlet at the end of it depending on the success of the date. Sims can now exchange flowers, give gifts and watch the stars but that's it, no other new romantic options are included (unless you count woohoo in the shower as romantic that is!). I've missed dating since the 'Hot Date' days of The Sims 1 but in truth this adds very little in terms of gameplay.
The Romantic Reputation system is introduced to run alongside the new dating system. The idea behind this is that your sim can no longer go around woohooing with half the town and not getting caught out. Reputations range from 'faithful' to 'naughty'. In theory it's a good idea but the reality is it encourages your sims to have boring monogamous relationships and limits the fun. I like my sims to be a little more adventurous than that!
Childhood and school
Generations introduces a variety of new objects to enrich a childs play, mainly based around imagination. For example, the Costume trunk allows children to dress as different characters and 'play pretend'. It's quite amusing to watch them stamping around as a dinosaur or walking regally whilst dressed as a princess. The new treehouse comes in several different designs including a sci-fi based one and a castle shaped design. I personally love the castle treehouse, where children can 'hold great feasts' whilst regal music is played. I also got a kick out of throwing waterbombs from the treehouse and having the adults woohoo in it whilst the kids were at school.
Other outdoor activities include a sandpit, complete with a variety of different sandcastles to build, a water slide and hop scotch grids.
Also, the option to read your tykes a bedtime story is very cute.
The school system is improved and expanded on with the introduction of boarding school. This is a great option for large families. There are variety of different boarding schools and sims will earn skills and traits based around the ideals of whichever school they attend. For example, I sent my teen to 'Le Fromage Art School' where she would learn the drawing, dancing, photography, painting and guitar skills. Occasionally your child will ring and express the desire to return home. It's up to you whether you let them come home or not. Other improvements to the school system include school trips and after school clubs, including Debate, Art, Ballet and Newspaper Club. At these clubs, sims learn skills and occasionally bring home trophies and rewards.
School trips offer the option of your child returning with a souvenir. These souvenirs include mirrors, posters and sculptures.
Sims now have memories, which are recorded in the form of a scrapbook that can be viewed in-game. I tend to play very large sim families so I liked having a way for my sims to keep track of important events in there lives. However, sims will remember everything. Literally every insignificant thing that ever happens to them. Every time they visit the park or the library, every time they gain a skill point, fix a toilet, grow a plant. All of these pointless memories give your game even more things to load up and therefore put even more pressure on your computer. There's also an extremely annoying 'ping' sound every time a memory is created.
My advice? Turn the memory notification off via the game options and download a mod that allows for only IMPORTANT memories to be remember (eg births, deaths, weddings etc).
- The new Bunkbeds are a great space saver for small or crowded bedrooms.
- Sims can throw Bachelor/Bachelorette parties. I loved spraying party guests with bottles of champagne and asking a friend to make a speech.
- Adults being able to read their child a bedtime story is a lovely feature and a great moment to capture on the new video cameras.
- Being able to receive wedding gifts and write thank you notes in return is a nice touch, as is the new gift giving system.
- Teen parties and pranks are lots of fun and the new 'rebellious' trait is really fun to play.
- The new customisable age range sliders are genius. For example, I find the 'baby' life stage completely pointless so I like being able to make this as short as possible.
- The schooling system is improved greatly and I like the fact that children bring home souvenirs from field trips.
- The new objects are awesome. I love the treehouse and Costume trunk. Childhood is no longer boring, yay!
- There's no new neighbourhood with this expansion and no major new gameplay features (i.e. tombraiding in World Adventures and following your sims to work in Ambitions). Therefore, Generations may feel light in content to some.
- The romantic reputation system is extremely stupid, moralistic and judgemental.
- As a player, you should get to decide whether or not you want your adults to punish naughty teens and children. Currently the game does this autonomously with no option for you to intervene and stop the punishment. The same goes for the 'accuse of cheating' social. I should chose when/if my sims want to do this, the game should not do it for me!
- No new cribs and serious lack of new interactions and toys for baby and toddler sims. This is meant to be a family themed pack!
- The Prom is a bit pointless. Sims will disappear into the school and you will not get to see any of it. And a sim from your household will always receive the title of prom king/queen no matter how unpopular they are.
- The memory system is really stupid. I don't want my sim to remember every single time they burnt their dinner or fixed the toilet!
Generations may be disappointing to some as it appears to offer little in terms of actual gameplay. It's all about enhancing and improving what's already there (family life and life stages) rather than adding new features. This may leave some users feeling short changed and so it probably has a short shelf life in comparison to the previous expansions.
However personally Generations is my favourite expansion so far. Why? Because I love playing large sim familys and this pack gives a long overdue and much needed overhaul to the previously ignored toddler, child and teen life stages. Because afterall, family life is at the very heart of the original 'virtual dollhouse' Sims concept and is essentially what the game is all about.
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: John Murray; First Edition edition (1 May 2008)
Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death is the second instalment of a well received series of murder mysteries by Gyles Brandreth, pitting the great Oscar Wilde himself as a super sleuth.
IMPORTANT: Please be aware that 'Oscar Wilde and the Ring Of Death' is also published under the name of 'Oscar Wilde and A Game Called Murder' for the American market. You do not need to read both as they are the same book!
It's 1892 and celebrated poet and playwright Oscar Wilde is at the height of his fame.
He decides to host a lavish dinner party at a meeting of his 'Socrates Club', with a star studded guest list boasting some of the most celebrated figures of the Victorian age including Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker and Walter Sickert.
Oscar decides to entertain his guests with a game of 'Murder', a game where each person writes down the name of a person whom they would most like to murder, and the other guests attempts to match each anonymous note to it's author.
However, even the greatest wit of the Victorian age cannot anticipate the consequences of his seemingly innocent game. It seems that one of the guests is taking this game a little bit too seriously, as one by one the suggested murder victims meet gruesome ends.
With the help of his friend, the ever faithful Robert Sherard, Wilde must unravel the mystery before he himself becomes the next victim.
What I liked about it?
I'm often interested in historical fiction but find myself put off by the archaic language and writing styles used. What I loved about this book however, is the fact that it was really easy to understand, whilst still seeming authentically Victorian. In his self-appointed mission as detective, Wilde gains access to all degrees of Victorian culture and life from 'The ring of death' boxing venue to the luxury Cadogan Hotel, to theaters, brothels and French bookstores. End of the century London provides a fitting and fascinating back drop for this murder mystery.
Also, Oscar Wilde's dialogue is written brilliantly - the elegant, witty and intelligent speech you would expect from a genius like Wilde himself but simultaneously amusing and understandable to a modern audience. I found it to be a fully believable portrait of Oscar Wilde and was impressed by the writers ability to bring this man to life quite so convincingly. He is endearing, yet arrogant, flawed yet brilliant. In particular I found his vanity amusing - his pursual of beauty and avoidance of ugliness was true to Oscar's real life downfall. It felt like a well researched biography as much as it did a murder mystery.
I loved the cast of real life historical characters, it adds a touch of realism to the novel.
For example, the flirtatious relationship between 'Bosie' and Wilde (which Sherard is apparently oblivious too) and the underlying tension between the Marquess of Queensberry (Bosie's father) and Wilde is particularly interesting if you are aware of the real life story of these relationships.
Similarly, Bosie's brother Lord Drumlanrig being accused of having an 'unnatural relationship' with an older man is amusing considering real life events....
Brandreth appears to have a well researched knowledge not just of Oscar Wilde himself but of his circle of friends and famous acquaintances.
What I disliked about it?
At times, the narrator Robert Sherard felt a little redundant. He appeared to have little personality of his own and served only to do Oscar's bidding. He also seems a little slow - oblivious to the true nature of Oscar and Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas's 'friendship' and offers little assistance in actually solving the mystery. Whilst this portrayal appears to be historically accurate, I cannot understand why a stronger character wasn't chosen as a narrator.
The pace can be a little slow at times, particularly around the middle of the book. It therefore comes across as disjointed in places and I feel that the tension could have been maintained more if the book moved at a faster pace.
Finally, I would have liked to have seen and heard more from some of the other characters such as Bram Stoker and Arthur Conan-Doyle. Because what is the point in having such an impressive selection of supporting characters if they are utilised so little?
Where to buy?
I borrowed this book from the library as I do most books.
However, if you were looking to buy this book, Amazon currently has it listed at round about the £6 mark. A better deal might be found on Ebay, or by buying it as part of a boxset of the series (currently listed at £8.80 for the first 3 books of the series on Snazal.com).
A witty and highly enjoyable read, boasting an impressive cast of historical figures, set against the atmospheric backdrop of Victorian London.
Brandreth's characterisation of our protagonist is both authentic Oscar Wilde and authentic amateur detective at the same time.
PS: I borrowed the title quote from the great man himself.
Basic product specs (as copied from Amazon)
220mm fan for maximum cooling
Compatible with notebooks up to 17inch
Fan speed controller
Dimensions - 365(L) x 400(W) x 60(H) mm
Weight - 1.2kg
Accessories - USB cable, User manual
USB Ports - 3 powered
I brought this fan to use with my HP Pavilion dv7 entertainment laptop. Despite being one of the best laptops I've ever owned, I did notice that it was prone to blowing out lots of hot air. Having visions of my laptop exploding from over heating, I googled laptop cooling systems which would work with a notebook as big as mine. That's when I came across the Zalman ZM-NC3000S.
What does it do?
Issues with overheating can cause serious problems for laptop users, including crashing and serious hard drive failures. Most laptop manufactures resort to small fans placed inside the machine to keep the components cool. However, these fans sometimes struggle to cope with the task and can easily break. So, Zalman have now designed cooling products such as the ZM-NC3000S/U ultra-quiet notebook cooler specifically for laptop users. The idea is to improve the long-term reliability of the machine by cooling the temperature which the laptop runs at.
What does it look like?
The product is flat and rectangular shaped, like a tray. It has a USB cable which is used to connect the cooler to the laptop. Once turned on and connected to the computer via the USB cable, the fan will start.
The idea is to rest the laptop on top of the cooler, which has several holes in the surface, with the fan positioned on the underside of the cooler. The cool air generated by the fan filters through the holes to the underside of the laptop, thus helping to keep all the important computer components cool. It also comes with a little dial that can be used to adjust the strength of the fan. I usually have it on low power when just doing simple tasks like browsing the internet and high power when playing some of my more resource hungry computer games (like The Sims 3).
Thankfully, it does come with an instruction manual which explains all this in a far less conplicated manner than I just have!
Easy to use
Yes, it's basically just plug and play. Rest the laptop on the cooler, turn the cooler on and connect it using the USB cable and that is it. I've never owned any kind of cooler before so when buying this I was worried that I'd have no idea how to use it. But I was really impressed with how simple to use this was.
Who would I recommend it to?
I'd recommend this product to anybody who plays a lot of video games, which can often cause overheating and graphic card issues. I myself play games like The Sims 3 and Grand Theft Auto 4 which are notorious for being particularly resource and graphics hungry. So I like to think that the Zalman significantly reduces the heat which my laptop generates when running these advanced programmes.
I'd also recommend it anyone who owns the same laptop as me (HP Pavilion dv7) because this is one of the few coolers that I found which was actually big enough to accommodate the width of this laptop.
The biggest advantage of this product for me is the piece of mind it brings knowing that my laptop (probably!) isn't about to blow up at any minute! I've had bad luck with laptops in the past and really cant afford to shell out yet another £600 for a new one. So, the £35 price tag on this seems relatively reasonable when you take that into account.
Also, it's silent (so no annoying whirring noises here), easy to use and the fan has an adjustable power level which allows you to power the fan at the level best suited to your needs.
Finally, the slight elevation which the cooler offers makes it easier to type as well as apparently reducing the risk of wrist strain.
It's hard for me to assess just how well this works because obviously, the results aren't actually visible. I mean yes, my notebook hasn't crashed or overheated yet but I cant be sure if that is down to the cooler or just the fact that my laptop is good?!
Also, having never previously brought a laptop cooler before, I was surprised to find this one costing £35 which seemed a bit steep to me. But like I've already mentioned, £35 is a lot cheaper than buying yourself a new laptop.
Where to buy?
I brought this from Amazon last year and it set me back £35, which pretty much seems to be the standard price for this cooler.
The cheapest I could find it listed was at £29.94 at Aud-it.co.uk ( http://www.awd-it.co.uk/scripts/prodview.asp?idproduct=8690).
An easy to use and quiet laptop cooler with an adjustable fan. A must for those who are concerned about overheating issues.