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Horns, a novel that has reached fame having been recently been put on the big screen, falls within the drama/thriller genres, being noticeably darker in nature with the cover design and blurb on the back referring to the devil.
The book introduces us to Ig, a regular chap who just so happens to wake up from a drunken night he can’t recall much of to find horn are growing out of his head. He’s perturbed by this, but carries on his day. He is more alarmed to find that as he meets people, be they family members or store workers, that they’re telling him all kinds of things he just doesn’t want to hear. Personal opinions or private thoughts, things people would ordinarily keep to themselves. Have the horns given him the ability to read minds, are they forcing those around him to speak words they wouldn’t usually give voice to, or is he simply going crazy?
As the novel continues, the author begins to unravel the history of the protagonist, Ig. This is done primarily to explain the things he is hearing from those around him, including some not very nice, bordering on evil, opinions of him. We learn of his long-term love whom he met in Church many years ago, Merrin Williams, and how she died an explanation for current events, a web of characters, suspicions and theories are created.
I loved the way the author sculpted the scenes and settings, such as the old foundry where the younger Ig, Terry and Lee used to play. It felt realistic and created a sense of atmosphere. In a similar way, the author was able to breathe life in to the characters. I created an image of them in my head and could empathise, though I thought at points this could have been a bit stronger with more descriptive help.
Despite the darker subject matter and incidents of death and devils, the book has a light, easy-going feel to it. It is still dark and gritty where required, but it isn’t too ‘heavy’ to read. The style of writing was one which I found easy to read because it was engaging, flowed well and provoked a few chuckles. The elements of sarcasm and more uplifting positivity contrasted yet complemented the sadness or evil, and the author carried me along from page to page without too much of a problem.
There is a sense of mystery and suspense underlying the whole novel, both a down-to-earth gritty murder mystery style one and a more spiritual/otherworldly one. It blends well, keeping the novel grounded despite the latter being of key significance.
I’d say, however, that perhaps the ending was one I was a little unsure of. I felt something could have been better answered and tied up, rather than leaving me wondering. The book thus gets 4 rather than 5 stars for the somewhat rushed or 'unfinished' and unresolved feel to the ending.
The Help falls within the drama genre and seems to have caused a bit of a stir amongst critics and audiences who have hyped it up. The Help is based on the Number 1 New York Times bestseller by Kathryn Stockett.
We are thrown in to 1960’s Mississippi, where we meet Skeeter, a Southern girl fresh out of college and aspiring to become a writer. Against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, Skeeter sees the inequality and treatment of the black women around her and decides to write a piece on their experiences. She begins by speaking with Aibileen, her best friend’s housekeeper, who starts to open up. The interview sheds light on a some goings-on but the fellow black community are not happy with her involvement initially, worried about word getting out and them getting in to trouble. The relationship between Aibileen and Skeeter deepens as stories are shared, and a few other voices come in to the fold. It looks as if Skeeter may be able to pen a book with the stories that are being told, but where the truth starts to surface, so do the cracks in the community. The imbalance between the housekeepers and the white socialites grows, friendships are stretched and ugly truths start to surface.
As the film continues, we see more stories uncovered, and the tidal-wave impact Skeeter’s book adventure has on the town.
The cast includes Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, and Sissy Spacek, amongst others. I quite like the diversity here, keeping it down to earth, gritty and believable without too much Hollywood sparkle. I enjoyed watching them and could empathise with the characters; they helped make it saddening, frustrating and uplifting simultaneously, taking the edge off it being too depressing or politically orientated by adding touches of humour and sarcasm.
Whilst the stories uncovered are shocking, the treatment of these women appalling, there is also a sense of poignancy, hope and inspiration. The film is a testament to change and how just one person can start the ball rolling, but it takes patience and bravery to do it.
The film has a good quality feel to it. Without big action or fancy effects, what you do get is a heartfelt portrayal of the 1960’s Southern America during a tumultuous time of change.
I must admit that initially I had some trouble getting in to the film, finding the dialogue and slower speed not particularly engaging. However, that could have been the frame of mind I was in. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long before I became intrigued, finding certain characters easy to watch and losing myself in the essence of the era. There’s more to the film than just hearing the stories. The whole notion of secretly writing them encapsulates the societal tide, the changing way of thinking at the time, the struggles within the community and the friendships involved. It gave The Help a multi-faceted approach and depth, making it more interesting and emotionally evocative.
The Accident falls within the crime thriller genre and is based in America, having been a more recent release (2011 I believe) from the popular author, Linwood Barclay.
To open, we’re initially given a glimpse in to a back alley deal of someone selling knock-off designer handbags, leaving 3 dead. This gives us a taste of things to come before we’re quickly thrown in to the main storyline. Enter Glen Garber, a man facing some financial difficulties in his construction business. Since taking over the firm from his father, Garber has maintained a close knit team that are like family to him. But the challenging industry isn’t all Glen has had to face. He finds his wife’s car at the scene of a drink-driving accident; Sheila died on impact, as did those she crashed in to. But she wasn’t a drinker, so both Glen and the 8 year-old daughter are devastated yet angry and confused.
That’s not the only strange thing to happen. When Kelly sleeps over at the neighbour’s house with their daughter, she overhears a conversation that she obviously shouldn’t have. But what could it mean? As tensions mount between the neighbours and Garber after some altercation over the matter, things go from bad to worse at the construction company and for Glen. Sometimes things just aren’t all they seem…People get in to trouble, people die, and mystery increases. There’s something bigger at play that Glen can’t quite figure out so he takes things in to his own hands to investigate.
The book then basically takes us across a few tangents whilst the mysteries are investigating, uncovering various characters and relationships. It was made more interesting by firstly giving us a glimpse in to the world of knock off handbags, only to throw us in to something completely different, leaving us wondering where that kind of knowledge could later come in to play.
I enjoyed the way Barclay mixes up the premise so as not to focus it solely on one thing. It keeps us on our toes and increases the mystery as we pieces bits together bit by bit, ever quite knowing what’s what.
As for the characters, I thought most were quite well developed. At times I felt they could have felt a bit more ‘real’ or have more depth to them, however for the most part they were easy enough to envision. There was a degree of empathy there but I didn’t find myself warm to the characters as much as I have with some other authors.
Barclay does do suspense reasonably well. She builds up a sense of mystery because there are a lot of characters and unanswered questions thrown in to the mix. From the outset, you can’t quite figure out what’s going on, however I wasn’t overly shocked at the outcome. Overall, this is a reasonable novel with some good suspense and mystery, but it lacked some ‘spark’ in terms of a gripping premise or warmth of characters.
This is for newer version 1.2kg Actifry in black, aka ‘Actifry Plus’. I was very sceptical about buying a fryer first and having bought the Breville Halo and promptly returning it, I’m pleased to say I’m quite happy with my Actifry.
Inside the box you get the fryer itself with all the bits and pieces (such as the pan and paddle), recipe booklet, user manual and plastic spoon to use as a guide for oil, should any be required. The main selling point is that is uses one tea spoon of oil, or in fact no oil at all if using frozen oven chips.
These fryers all look rather bulky or frankly bizarre. The Actifry is a bit more appealing to the eye than the Halo and the black finish actually makes it look rather slick and modern. This piece of kit feels relatively rugged despite being predominantly plastic. I’ve read a lot of negative reviews that scared me off the Actifry, though many pertained to the earlier model, because of bits and pieces falling apart. So far so good with mine though so I’ve got no major concerns about anything happening for a while.
It claims to be suitable for 5 portions, but it really does depend what you’re doing and how much you think constitutes a portion! I think it’s actually pretty good in terms of size, a bit like a tardis house.
It has a digital timer and beep alert for when it has finished cooking, but I find this doesn’t stop the cooking, can continue beeping after it’s turned off, and you can’t add minutes whilst it’s running. It’s also not illuminated, making it difficult to see sometimes.
The ‘unique patented technology’ means the hot air circulates through the food for even cooking. It is versatile and can cook a range of things from chips to meat, puddings and vegetables. The non-stick pan rotates and there is a paddle that is easy to lift out. The lid, bowl and paddle are removable and dishwasher safe, making it easy to clean too. There’s a steam-free viewing window and I find general use is quite ergonomical. The lid opens and closes securely and you can pretty much just leave your food to cook.
Frozen oven chips take about the time they do in the oven, perhaps a little less. The end result are more evenly cooked chips that taste delicious, though I do move them every so often during cooking. However, and this is the only thing that annoys me really about this, some chips can get a bit mushed. Luckily, they still cook well and taste great, so damage is only in terms of appearance.
All in all, it’s easy to use and clean, results in delicious chips, has a decent capacity, and there’s less mess and no smell. It’s pricey for what it is, but gives me less grief than using the oven or a fryer and is ‘healthy’ without the oil from the latter.
The Body Shop is pretty much infamous for body butters. I love the design for their Moroccan Rose. It comes in a round plastic tub with screw on lid. It feels sturdy and chunky, making it easy to grip and twist off the lid. It is light pink in colour to compliment the scent, and on the top is a darker pink floral design, along with details of the product. We’re told this is for : ‘Beautiful skin softening, with precious oil from roses hand-picked at dawn’. Ok, so the last part is a bit much but it sounds elegant and dreamlike. It is designed for ‘normal/dry skin’ and these body butters are excellent for their moisturising properties.
At around thirteen quid I think these are over-priced. However, you get 200 ml and it lasts quite a while as only small amounts are needed for good coverage.
The ‘butter’ looks and smells deliciously tempting. I’m not sure if rose is exactly how I’d describe the scent, which is vaguely familiar of vitamin E cream I used to have (until finding it would irritate my skin). It’s a bit floral, feminine and yet light, not too overpowering or sickly sweet. It’s a good idea to smell these in store to see what you like, but I quite enjoy this scent. I think this is what I would consider the only downside, in as much as this doesn't smell as I'd expected or like roses in my opinion. That said, it's pleasant enough.
To apply, just take a small amount and smooth over your skin. You can always use more but I’d recommend not using too much as a little can go a long way. It’s silky smooth to the touch and glides over skin well, making it easy to use on small and large areas like legs. I find it is a pleasure to use and actually motivates me to moisturise; I find the thought off-putting more often than not as it’s too much effort, the stuff doesn’t smell great, it takes ages to sink in etc. But with this, I suppose because I love the texture and scent, I’m more tempted to do it. It seems to absorb quite well and I don’t need to leave it too long before covering up or doing other things. It doesn’t feel oily after use either, which is always a bonus. It leaves my skin feeling soft and hydrated, and the scent, whilst not long-lasting for the whole day, is just enough to be noticeable. I feel like I’m doing something nice for myself with this as it’s not often I’ll ‘splash out’ on something nice, so this is a little touch of luxury for me.
All in all, whilst pricey for what it is, this body butter is lovely to use and leaves skin soft. The only down side is, in my opinion, that it doesn't much resemble what I had expected of a rose scent.
This falls within the crime thriller genre and I’m already quite a Slaughter fan. We're introduced to Special Agent Faith Mitchell of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. With one older son and one little baby daughter, she's got a lot on her hands to balance this with her job. So she can attend training, her mother, Evelyn, looks after her daughter. This morning, however, when Faith returns to her mother's house to pick up her daughter, something's not quite right; baby Emma is locked in the shed and there's blood and dead bodies in the house, with Evelyn nowhere to be found.
Enter Will Trent, the agent partnered with Faith. Whilst Faith is in shock and terrified for her mother, it's up to Will and the Atlanta Police Department to uncover the truth of what happened in that house. Evelyn is the ex Atlanta Police Chief who previously worked narcotics and was involved in a big bust that caused a lot of repercussions through the department. Could she have been involved in something sinister, or is this about something else entirely? As the novel progresses, we see all of the possible theories tried on for size as Slaughter uncovers the next piece of the puzzle bit by bit.
As the web of characters and list of theories expands, we learn more about each character, some of whom Slaughter fans may be familiar with. Each character is built up of layers and we learn extra bits as we go along, helping us to envisage who they are, their relationships to each other, what they look like, what makes them tick. It also adds another tangent to the novel, keeping it fresh and interesting. It just makes the characters more realistic because they have depth, and at the same time keeps us intrigued rather than bogged down by the investigative aspects of the book.
The premise was quite interesting and it kept me guessing.. I wouldn't say it was overly predictable, but nor was it too complex or confusing. Slaughter has the ability to build depth and go in to detail without losing us along the way or boring us to sleep.
I love Slaughter’s writing style. She writes with confidence and authenticity, blending intelligence with creativity as she builds the premise and her characters. She doesn't over-egg the pudding with technical information or complicated words that require a dictionary every five minutes, but she puts just enough in there to feel genuine and like we've stepped in to a live, real-world investigation.
Characters are painted vividly and in three dimensions, allowing us to picture who they are and get a feel for their emotions and motivations. This level of empathy is good because you get to know the characters and begin to care about what happens to them, especially Trent and Faith. The insight in to Angie is also engrossing, because we see the strange, twisted and obsessively dysfunctional relationship between the two as a side-story.
This is for the Does It All Mascara, which looks just like this one in terms of design.
The packaging stands out from the crowd for being purple, with shocks of yellow on the design around the top and on the front. It looks 'fat' and quirky, rather than slimline and sophisticated. I'm not a big fan of the design but it's not too important for me. It feels robust; the plastic is thick and the end, with the wand, twists off in a way that feels reliable and solid and is easy to hold.
The wand is straight rather than curved, and of medium thickness. It looks very basic and 'normal', for lack of a better word. I like the simplicity as again it all seems quite robust. This claims to have an 'enhanced multi-bristle brush' which works in tandem with a 'five way formula'. It is designed to the following 5 wonders all in one mascara: Volumize, curl, lengthen, be long-wearing and condition. Quite a claim!
It is easy to apply and I quite liked the style of the mascara in terms of being able to hold it steadily and the brush making it simple to swipe over lashes. The 'multi-bristle brush' was neat and fine enough to give a light coat, or layer up with a few coats for a more dramatic effect without being 'gunky' or resulting in clumps. With perhaps two coats, where I brushed it directly over my lashes from bottom to top, and then re-did just the top from side to side, I noticed some improvement. My lashes did look a bit more curled and longer, and the black helped to enhance the look by making my lashes seem healthier and thicker. However, I wouldn't say this was a dramatic effect. You would probably need several more coats to achieve that, and by that point I think lashes would be heavy with mascara and looking a bit clumpy. However, it did seem to do some of what it claimed.
Long lasting and conditioning? I didn't think the mascara dried out my lashes as much as some mascaras have in the past, but I think it could have done more to get them soft and supple, which would have helped with curling and lenghening too. I can't comment too well on the long-wearing because I wouldn't want a dramatic effect all day; it's about average for a couple of hours, though I noticed some smudging. It didn't, however, really give much of a dramatic look; it you want super thick or super oomph to your lashes, you may want to look elsewhere.
All in all, I wouldn't say it's anything overly special. However, at around the five pounds mark, it works well enough depending on what you want it for. It goes some distance in curling and lengthening lashes without clumping or drying them out, so whilst it may not live up to the claim of 'doing it all', you could do worse.
This review is for the Lighter version of their basics Mousse, which caught my eye recently. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised to find it quite tasty for the price paid.
The mousse claim to be 'lighter' because it contains 55% less fat than their standard mousse. I often go for these versions, be they healthier or not, simply because it's a habit I got in to years ago and never got out of, and i's not always the case that less fat means less taste.
To the eye, they don't look at that tempting. These come as 6 plastic pots with the plastic paper lid you rip off, in a blue design. It's quite basic and minimal; there are no quirky design elements nor eye-catching frills here, which doesn't bother me because I prefer the fact I'm paying for the product rather than the brand name or some fancy packaging. The pots themselves are at least sturdy enough.
They smell chocolately, that's the first thing I noticed. Not overly so, but at least a smell resembling chocolate is a good start! The mousse is soft and light, and probably just the right consistency. I'd say it's a little less thick than alternatives, such as the Aero mousse, but it's marginal. It melts in your mouth and is smooth, with a sweet, fairly rich chocolate taste. It's not overly sweet, however, so it's not sickly; I find these to be just enough for a sweet tooth fix and the size of the tub is just right. I can take my time eating one of these, getting teeny tiny bits on the spoon, and have it last a few minutes. It tastes lovely, and I'm thinking it probably tastes a little better knowing it's a decent size pot and the multi-pack was a good price.
Each 62.5g pot contains 72 calories and 1.6g of fat. As expected with these things nowadays, there's a fair bit of sugar, with total sugars coming to 9.6g (10.7% RDA). As a treat, it's a good option if you're looking for something with lower fat/calories. It's also a good option if you want something at a better price and aren't too bothered about wanting a fancy name or pretty packaging.
Prior to this I tried Aero mousse at one pound thirty nine for a pack of six. You get less in per pot, and less pots, but for more money. There's also more fat/cals despite getting less. I couldn't even say that the Aero one was much better so I'd opt for Sainsburys Lighter in future. The only slight difference was probably the consistency, which Aero being a little thicker perhaps. Not a big deal, and not something that bothered me in the slightest.
All in all, this is definitely one I'd recommend if you want a light chocolately treat. It's sweet, soft and light, and has less calories/fat without skimping on the taste.
Sold as a 6 pack for a bargain ninety pence.
Since I first bought this, which was a while ago now, the product packaging has been updated. This is for the 'Ultimate Wear' version of the pressed powder.
I have very pale skin and often struggle to find foundations and powders in a shade that's light enough. I have this one in 'fair', which is actually okay for me despite initially looking a little too dark, as long as I don't use much.
This claims to be an “ultimte wear powder”, designed to give “full, flawless coverage for up to 16 hours”. It's a pressed powder, so a sponge style applicator is what I use with this. Because I don't use all that much each time, I just lightly rub across it a couple of times; for greater coverage you may need to apply more pressure to get more on the sponge and go back over it a second time.
I find the powder to be quite light when dusting on my skin. It has a bit of a sheer effect to it, which is good in one way because I have very pale skin. There is still some colour, however, so I can't use too much otherwise it's very noticeable and looks rather odd. I find it's quite good at giving a bit of a matte effect; I can get shiny bits, such as on my t-zone, after moisturising, so this helps to reduce the shine quite nicely. It gives a bit of coverage of uneven skin tone and blemishes, but not a great deal. I find for my skin, where I have blemishes, concealer is still needed first. This just gets dabbed on quite nicely on the top to give extra coverage, blend the light colours as seamlessly as possible, and give a matte finish.
As for 16hrs wear, I'm not so sure. I don't think I ever truly expected it to last 16 hours perfectly anyway so I'm not particularly disappointed, but it doesn't seem to stay in place for longer than a couple of hours. It can 'smudge' almost, and I can see that powder gathers if I've used it on my eyes, for instance, because it can gather around creases. It doesn't dry skin out too much though, so when covering blemishes the fact it doesn't last 16hrs doesn't mean it ends up looking awful around these areas, it just doesn't give as much coverage as I'd like. This is also noticeable on shiny areas, so they don't stay matte for more than a couple of hours. A tad disappointing as I don't feel it lives up to the claim, but I didn't really expect it do.
Overall, it's a decent enough powder for the price paid. I paid about two pounds fifty for mine from a discounter store, but the updated version is a little over four quid. It could give more coverage, but it is works okay on my pale skin and reduces shine for a few hours without looking cakey or flakey.
Cacharel is quite a well-known brand so I felt relatively confident in it being of good quality. It's described as a 'passionate feminine fragrance' and is designed to portray the 'sensation of love at first sight'. In fact, with Amor being repeated, it's more a declaration of love times two. The name is quite catchy and memorable and the box is quite striking so it's easy enough to spot on the shelf.
I bought this in a thirty mil bottle (around fifteen pounds). This is an EDT rather than an EDP, hence the price perhaps being a little lower. I'd normally try to opt for the latter, but despite it being a toilette it's actually pretty good.
The bottle is what really caught my attention. The outer cardboard box is quite nice, eye-catching in a shiny silver design with pinky red rose on the front, the name 'Amor Amor' overlaying this in quite an edgy white font. The bottle itself is quite small (30ml) but very cute. It's made of red glass, with a silver top that screws on. There's no cap so the spray is visible and it's quick and easy to press down to get your fragrance. The silver is designed to look a little bit like a grenade, which again, I thought was quite quirky and cute. It sets it apart from the crowd a bit and yet still maintains its simplicity; it's understated yet quite memorable and noticeable at the same time.
The fragrance is fruity/floral, with top notes of orange, blackcurrant and grapefruit. The base notes are vanilla, tonka mean (no idea, sorry!) and musk, with heart notes of rose, jasmine and apricot. Together you have a lovely blend of fresh yet floral and fruity scents that actually work really well in combination. The end result is quite feminine and sweet, but not overly so. I don't find it sickly sweet and it's balanced quite nicely by the musky tones underneath. It has a scent you can pick up straight away and it strikes me as pleasant and pretty, being noticeable without knocking you sideways with too much of this 'fruity floral' smell.
I would definitely say this is quite a signature scent and one that stands out from the crowd. I've had some comments already from only spraying once on the inside of my wrist and rubbing on to my collar bone. You don't seem to need to use that much to have a noticeable scent, so I would say the bottle could last reasonably well. As for the staying power, I always find this to be the biggest downside with most EDTs and EDPs. Granted, it doesn't seem to befriend me for the whole day, but it lasts longer than a couple of hours and a gentle scent remains (unlike my previous CK one).
If you're looking for something feminine yet fresh, noticeable and unique, then I'd definitely recommend giving this one a try.
This probably falls between the comedy and romance genres, though it's not a chick flick. I'd actually say this is more of a dark comedy. It's been described in the blurb as 'independent' and 'offbeat', which probably describes it a little better. We're introduced to Ray, a guy working in a dead end job as a parking lot attendent. He's a decent guy but Trona, CA, is a 'boring' town, one where the status quo doesn't like being upset and people never seem to change. There's a lot of trailor park residents and the life is pretty desolate and mundane, with rent not being paid on time and days being spent drinking and doing a lot of nothing.
Residents seem to be held accountable to Dirk, the local punk kid of a drug dealer. He's also the town's prominent landlord, having made some fast bucks from his meth business. Ray comes home from work to an apathetic existence with a difficult wife, Charlene, and their somewhat socially awkward teen son, Eddie. In an attempt to be close to him, Ray seeks out a prostitute for his son as he claims to want to lose his virginity and has no girlfriend.
For the rest of the film we see Ray attempt to change the status quo and finally change his life, pursuing the dreams and desires he once had and trying to take back some power for the community by taking on the baby-faced meth head.
The premise was straightforward but nothing that left a lasting impression. The pace was steady but I can see that some may find it somewhat slow and boring. I'd actually say it gave the film the feeling of it being a drama rather than a black comedy. There were a few comical moments, but I wouldn't really say it was funny. It certainly didn't strike me as being intelligently witty or sarcastic in a way that resonated with me. It was more of a drama because we see the lives in the community and the focus then predominantly revolves around Ray.
The line up is actually surprisingly good, with the cast including Jonah Hill, Justin Long, Dylan Walsh, Melissa McCarthy and Danny DeVito. Each played their respective roles quite well, though I felt that on the whole each was quite understated. I couldn't even really tell you much about DeVito and why the oilsman character was there as I'd probably drifted off and got distracted.
Overall, this is a bit of an odd duck. Not quite the dark comedy I had expected, it felt too understated and didn't leave any lasting impressions on me. Fans of Hill or McCarthy may be disappointed to find their usually overt styles and humour are lacking somewhat in this flick.
We're introduced to Jake Fisher, who is currently teaching freshmen at college whilst living on campus in Massachusettes. 6 years have passed since meeting and spending a few months with the love of his life, Natalie, whilst on a workshop style retreat. At the end of the term, she breaks his heart, telling him she's realised an ex, Todd, is the love of her life. Almost instantly afterwards, Natalie and Todd have a shotgun wedding and Jake watches the love of his life marry another man. It was all rather bizarrre for Jake, who believed Natalie felt the same way about him. But she married Todd and told Jake not to contact her again, to leave them alone.
So he does, until he spots Todd's obituary. In a somewhat insensitive move, Jake attends the funeral, hoping to get a glimpse of his former love. However, the grieving widow isn't Natalie. So where is she? Did Jake go to the wrong funeral? He goes in search of answers, but more questions arise instead.
As the story continues, we see his journey through trying to get the truth. It becomes clear that all is not what it seems and that he's on very dangerous ground. But alas, a man in love will stop at nothing apparently to find his sweetheart.
This novel is written in first person from Jake's point of view. I find this tactic can be a bit hit and miss, but as with Coben, it's his writing style that makes it entertaining and gripping.
I love the wit and comical injections. Coben breathes life in to each character and makes them colourful and unique. The sarcasm and intelligent aspect of the humour never fails to bring a smile or smirk to my face. You could argue that this takes away from some of the darker elements of the book, which it does to a degree. Tension and thrills are somewhat diluted, however it's this edge of sarcasm that made the novel so readable and is true to form for Coben.
The premise was a little far-fetched at times but on the whole Coben was able to make it believable. The downside for me was the level of mushy-ness. By this I mean the romantic elements of Jake, a guy blinded by love and referring to Natalie and his feelings for her in overly cheesy ways. It was too sickly sweet. However, he did counter this at times acknowledging it's mushy-ness, but the fact the whole novel is centred around this love made it rather inescapable.
Having said that, the sickly sweet romanticism didn't distract too much from my enjoyment of the novel. I got through it fairly quickly because I was hooked on reading it. I found it gripping and comforting, wanting to keep turning the pages and go back to the book whenever I could.
Coben is talented at creating his characters, entertaining us and being imaginative in his plot twists, so it's one I'd recommend.
The Night Listener falls within the psychological thriller genre & I came across it, probably because it's bumped in popularity since Robin Williams' death, whilst browsing online. We're introduced to Gabriel Noone, a popular radio host, who begins the tale by telling real life stories to his night time listeners. But he's struggling; his inspiration seems to be suffering and he's having difficulties in his relationship with his HIV-positive partner, Jess. Gabriel receives an unpublished book; the 14 year old author is Pete Boland and it tells the story of his abusive childhood at the hands of his parents and their friends. He has AIDS and he is dying, living with his adopted mother Donna Boland. He speaks with Pete on the phone, who is a big fan of the show and Noone's personal monologues.
The calls become more frequent, with Noone befriending this dying young boy who has suffered so much. He speaks of his adoptive mother, who Noone also speaks with. Noone tries to meet with Pete, but with no luck. Something doesn't feel quite right, so Noone takes a chance and flies out to Wisconsin to find him and Donna. The question is, are these two people who they say they are?
It's a relatively straight forward premise, and it conjours a sense of mystery and suspense. It's claims to be based on real events, which we learn a little bit more about right at the end, and is adapted from a book by Armistead Maupin. The notion of questionable identity, of obsessive fans, of a relationship over distance without having met someone, are all quite intriguing. However, the premise felt a bit flimsy and this was highlighted towards the end. I had half expected what happened, so I felt it slightly predictable. But it didn't wrap things too well and felt it could have been given more depth and explanation behind the events and character motivation.
The cast includes Robin Williams, Bobby Cannavale, Rory Culkin, Toni Collette and Sandra Oh , amongst others. I was engaged by Williams throughout, who I felt played the popular yet struggling air host with integrity and believability. I could empathise with him, such as over his relationship troubles, though I did feel there was a certain something lacking from that relationship and Jess' character. The cast gave a fairly down to earth feel to the film but I did find them a tad dry at times.
At times the slower pace and 'normality' of it, without distracting us through fluff or effects, added to the atmosphere. However, it also made it feel a bit slow and undercooked at times. As for the thriller aspects, I think the atmosphere could have been heightened to make it creepier and more gripping.
All in all, it's not a film that particularly struck me. I thought it could have had more oomph and been more convincing. However, it was watchable thanks to the performances.
This falls within the crime thriller genre and on the cover we’re told this is from ‘The New York Times Number One Bestselling Author’. We’re thrown in to New Year’s Eve in Minneapolis, where the brutalised body of a young woman pops out of the boot of a car. Unsure sure whether she was dead or alive before the vehicle behind hit her, she was so disfigured she looked like a zombie, thus earning herself the name 'Zombie Doe'. She is the 9th discovery this year.
Enter homicide detectives Nikki Liska and Sam Kovac. They quickly wonder whether she may be linked to the previous 8 bodies, victims of the serial killer they’ve dubbed ‘Doc Holiday’. He’s been choosing his victims opportunistically at random across America around the national holidays. With nothing to go on in terms of evidence or leads, Liska and Kovac start investigating Zombie Doe, gradually uncovering facts and stories more sinister and depressing than they could have imagined.
As the novel continues, there’s an almost parallel storyline involving Liska’s son, Kyle. He’s a student at PSI, a school for the talented and gifted, and as events unfold we learn of the possible links between this storyline and that of the murder investigation. But who is Doc Holiday, and what really happened to Zombie Doe?
The premise was quite intriguing because of the way different strings were brought together. It had the right balance of complexity without unnecessarily confusing things; the web of characters brings in a range of questions, different personalities and suspicions to juggle with. Hoag builds up a sense of atmosphere and clouds the characters in suspicion, making me want to keep reading to find out the truth.
I love the style in which this was written. Hoag writes with understated, easy confidence, making you feel like she really knows her stuff. Most characters are very well developed & seem to have been brought to life quite well, with a sense of self and personality so that I could imagine them as I was reading. I really enjoyed learning more about the Detectives & their personal lives too. It helped keep the novel down-to-earth and balance out the macabre goings on around them.
In a similar vein, Hoag creates the scenes vividly too, breathing life in to the settings and events so that you could picture what she was creating as you read.
Any downsides? I suppose I wasn’t as keen on the ending; I felt it was a little abrupt because I wanted more in terms of an explanation or some psychological reasoning behind the actions of certain characters.
As for the pace, I’d say that this was kept up quite well throughout. The detective aspects were balanced between good old fashioned policing work, with interrogations and hunches, and a bit of forensic and modern day input. I liked this because it made it more believable and palpable, providing credibility and intrigue through the latter, and grittiness through the former.
The Nexus 7 definitely looks the part with its slim (8.65mm), sleek and understated design. It weighs in at an impressive 0.46lbs / 290g, so it's lightweight, portable and comfortable to hold. The power button & volume controls are slightly towards the back but not awkward to get to, and the headphone jack & micro USB are easily located.
In the box you get the basics, including wall-charger (doubles as a micro USB to plug in to your laptop) and starter guide. Extras such as an OTG cable or case need to be purchased separately. Setting up for the first time was quite quick and easy after the initial charge. Personalising it is also straightforward, and you can log in with a Google account if you wish to sync accounts & back up information. You can drag & drop apps to personalise the Homescreens, & change the wallpaper to make it more 'you'.
I've been quite impressed with its responsiveness. The amount of pressure required seems just right; it's responsive to touch without going all over the place, making scrolling, dragging or typing a pleasant experience. At 7”, it boasts a decent resolution that really does outshine the competition. It has a 1080p HD IPS, 1920 x 1200 HD display (323 pixels per inch). Overlaying this is scratch resistant Corning glass. Images look clear, crisp and sharp, and colours are vivid. This makes a huge difference; the quality makes doing anything on the tablet a pleasure.
The Nexus 7 is quite intuitive and logical to use. Even for those who are new to smartphones/tablets I would argue it's a good tablet to start learning on.
It runs Android & is can be updated free to KitKat 4.4. I've had no problems with this & the app store provides a good choice of downloads. It comes with a 1.5GHz CPU and has 2MB RAM so it runs quickly & smoothly, which I've been very impressed by.
Battery life varies depending on use but can average around 8 hours (of video playback, browsing etc), which I've found suitable for my needs. It has wireless charging but I've not tried this.
I didn't intend on using the cameras, but it features a 5MP on the front & 1.2MP on the back; they're not great, but they will suffice for occasional use. Speakers provide decent sound that I don't find to be tinny.
Transferring media is easy via the micro USB in the box using the drag & drop technique. It comes in 16GB or 32GB. I have the former as it was considerably cheaper. It does allow for flash drives (with a MICRO USB OTG cable & a cheap Nexus Media Importer app), but also has Bluetooth. Mine is WiFi only, though you can get a 3G version; the wireless signal pick up is good.
I can't think of any downsides apart from perhaps the lack of SD card slot & the jump in price if you want 32GB or 3G capabilities.