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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.
I was a little hesitant to get these at first because I'd previously bought a similar lip crayon that was more expensive but looked dried out on my lips, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. They're far more moisturising, last a reasonable amount of time and give a lush, soft and smooth coloured finish to my lips. I managed to bag three of these at Tesco Direct for one pound 50 each.
The chubby crayon style balm / lip colour is becoming more popular recently, with a few brands bringing them out. These claim to give 'lightweight, long lasting intense colour and moisture' that is 'comfortable to wear all day'. The product is dermatologically tested, as expected but reassuring to know. What separates these from similar crayons is that they're designed to give the vibrant colour whilst also moisturising and hydrating lips. So it's a bit like a vibrant lippy with a good lipbalm in one.
Each stick is coloured in the shade offered, and each shade has its own 'quirky' name. I like the design because it looks modern, colourful and summery, yet good quality.
The outer packaging is smooth, shiny plastic, so despite being bashed around in my handbag they look undamaged and new because they seem to wear well.
There are 14 shades available (according to some sources online); in stores such as Boots, I think I've found 7. I quite like the shades offered and think they present a good choice different preferences and skin tones. I I bought the following :
All You Need Is Pink - The crayon itself and outer packing looks red in colour, unless it's my eyes. It definitely has more vibrant, red undertones than pinkish hues. When on my lips, however, you can see it's more pink than shocking red, and it gives a noticeable, healthy-looking colour.
Keep Mauving – This gives a lighter appearance on lips with brownish hues.
Give Me A Cuddle - This is a wonderful pink that you can glide over lips for a tint, or put on a few layers to give it a more vibrant, noticeable look.
The cap comes off easily but also stays on well. The packaging looks fab and there's a twistable end that moves the crayon up/down. To use, the crayon is really easy because it glides over lips quite well.
The downsides? The only thing for me I've noticed is a bit of damage to the top of one of the crayons itself; the twistable bottom does seem a little too eager to twist when you haven't meant to, meaning the crayon can be moved up when the caps on without you noticing if it's in your bag. It's not a huge problem, however.
I am super happy with these. Even six quid, I would say they're a decent buy when compared to similar offerings from other brands because they glide on so well and moisturise, rather than dry out, your lips.
Smashed falls within the drama genre with some comedy thrown in for good measure. We’re introduced to a young married couple, Kate and Charlie. They seem to be a great pair, very happy together and affectionate with one another, and always having a laugh. However, their relationship and their lives in general revolve around alcohol, their love of music and beer and pool. It’s only when a few events shake Kate up that she starts to question whether their drinking lifestyle is a problem. It starts with turning up at work hungover, lying and a wild night out, and she starts to question the sanity of how she's living.
She finds support in an unlikely place and ends up attending AA meetings. Her husband and their friends all enjoy the beer lifestyle, so she has to go solo to face her alcohol dependency. Add this to a troubled relationship with her mother and an awkward friendship with a co-worker. Will she find her marriage is built on love, or has it all just been a booze ride for them both to avoid the harsh reality of growing up and being responsible?
The premise is quite straightforward and the film shines for its down to earth simplicity. t’s the side-issues that are confronted on her journey that make the film more interesting and unique, and I did find myself wondering how things were going to end up. It also made me reflect on my own life at times.
The cast includes Aaron Paul (Charlie), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Kate), Megan Mullally, and Nick Offerman. The cast is quite understated and so although there are some recognisable faces, Hollywood hasn’t overtaken the film with sparkle. I loved Aaron Paul in this, even if I am a little biased because I love the guy anyway. I found him very easy to watch as he brought Charlie to life so well, and he also added a bit of oomph and interest to the film, not to mention lightening it up with a touch of humour when he was drunk. Mary was equally easy to watch as Kate, portraying the breakdown of the character and her reformation with ease and believability.
This film doesn’t rely on any effects or action scenes. It’s quite straightforward and I liked this about it. The drama is built up and the interest comes in seeing the character and relationship development throughout the film, which is complemented well by the realistic acting and hints of humour to lighten the load somewhat.
The only downside may be towards the end. It is a bit of a slow-burner at times but I didn’t mind because I found Kate and Charlie to be enjoyable enough to watch anyway.
All in all, I would recommend this. It’s not a feel-good film by any means, but it’s engaging, thought-provoking, and ultimately a little uplifting
Jackass is hugely popular and well-known, so this spin off film with a Bad Grandpa character made me curious. It’s a hidden camera romp that falls within the comedy genre and brings with it the essence of Jackass, but in disguise.
Following the arrest of his mother, eight year old Billy needs to be taken back to Chuck, his not-so-doting father. Enter Irving Zisman, the eighty six year old grandpa with bucket loads of rather creepy charm and pizazz. He takes Billy, somewhat begrudgingly at first, on a roadtrip across the States.
The rest of the film continues to see the dynamic duo get up to all sorts of mischief during their travels. Anything that could upset, offend or shock, they seem to manage. The scenes and settings vary quite dramatically from a funeral to a child beauty pageant. Remember, this is a hidden camera gig, so although scripted to a degree, it relies a lot on the responses of those around them.
The film does loosely follow a plot, which is what additionally sets this apart from previous Jackass films. It’s nothing all that intelligent but it’s easy to follow and doesn’t take too much thought. The plot just gives a slight backbone to the film and keeps the stunts and mishaps tidy because they’re linked together for an end destination.
I loved Knoxville in this. The make-up team did a super job transforming him in to the doddering, but ever risque, grandpa. The grandson was played by Jackson Nicoll. I often find child actors can pull a film down because they’re too wooden or unbelievable or simply irritating. Thankfully, he actually pulled it off surprisingly well. I found him to be quite easy to watch and entertaining.
The humour was a bit of a mix; there’s obviously plenty in the way of stunts to keep Jackass fans happy, but there’s some witty remarks, sarcasm and rudeness to keep it feeling a bit sharper. This balanced quite well with the stupid humour and mindless mishaps. I did find myself laughing at points, especially the end few scenes with the beauty pageant (I actually found that part hilarious).
The downsides? It won’t be to everyone’s taste. In fact, lots of the humour and jokes some would find distasteful. I quite liked some of the humour and sarcastic tone, though not all of it was particularly original. I did, however, find that some scenes or elements were a little over-done. For instance, a gag running longer than it should which resulted in it becoming a bit grating or lacklustre. This took away some enjoyment from the film because I wasn’t always hooked on watching it, so at times I would say I found myself a smidge bored.
All in all, this is a Jackass movie, so be prepared for Jackass humour and silliness. It’s nothing altogether too shocking but the acting was fairly good, the hidden camera real-life responses were entertaining and I enjoyed some of the comedy.
The Quiet is a thriller, blended with drama. We''re introduced to Dot, a young woman who has recently been made an orphan following her father''s death. She is deaf and mute, and is sent to live with her Godparents, who already have a daughter of their own of the same age, Nina Deer. Dot has obviously been through a traumatic experience and the upheaval of moving isn''t going to be easy. Nina, however, seems to only make things more difficult for her. As a popular cheerleader in highschool and used to the attention of her father, she doesn''t take too well to this change in the household. Her mother seems often to be out of it, drunk or passed out somewhere, but she spends most of her time at school, where she''s popular. Dot, however, seems quite withdrawn and reserved, but her inability to hear or talk makes her a good sounding board. Nina starts to confide in Dot, with the notion that she can share secrets that will not be heard nor passed on. However, she starts to wonder whether Dot may have secrets of her own. As the film continues, we see some of these secrets from both girls start to emerge. It looks as if not all is quite as it seems in the Deer household. The blurb I''ve seen somewhere actually describes it as an ?erotic and suspenseful tale of sex, lies and betrayal'', though I''d say this is overegging the pudding a bit. It has its sexier moments, but they don''t overtake the film nor do they make it too cheap. The sexiness is to add to the darker undertones and create atmosphere, which is achieved quite well. However, it did seem to lack a bit of oomph at times. I thought the anticipation and suspense of what was to happen next could have been made edgier. As for the premise, I thought it was intriguing but nothing overly spectacular; I''d guessed a few things that turned out to be true before we were half way through. The pace was quite balanced throughout, though I could see that some may find it a tad slow at times. It could have been jazzed up with a bit more action and it almost had a bit of a TV movie feel to it, so it''s nothing extra special in terms of scenery or effects The cast included Camilla Belle, Elisha Cuthbert and Martin Donovan amongst others. The girls do a fairly good job at keeping our attention and being believable in their respective roles, keeping the film quite down to earth. Other characters add a bit of interest as we learn more about them and they are, for the most part, quite watchable.
Having read (and reviewed) several Tami Hoag novels now, I can say with some confidence that I''m a fan of her work. Being a bit of a crime thriller addict, the genre of most if not all of her books falls within the genres I really enjoy to read. The latest book I''ve read was actually by Hoag, entitled ''The 9th Victim''. I''ll be giving that a glowing, 5 star review. Hoag is an American author. In fact, she''s the Number 1 New York Times Bestselling Author! She seemed to start her career with romance novels, then branched out more to the crime / thriller arena by initially blending her style towards romantic suspense. The last few books by Hoag I''ve read have been crime thrillers, where romance is only a minor role. What I love about her books is the way in which she writes. Her writing flows and is easy to read; I can imagine the scenes and characters well through what is said and done. She paints a picture of each character and builds them up until they''re three dimensional. I find that I can more easily identify and empathise with her characters because of her style of writing and the background information and small flourishes she provides. I also like the wit and sarcasm she brings out in some characters, adding some light relief. Hoag is able to create a web of characters and link them well, sculpting the relationships between them. I never find myself confused by an array of characters in her novels because she clearly defines and creates them and how they link with other characters. In a similar fashion, the author moulds each scene and setting well so that it''s easier to visualise. You can imagine what is happening and where it is happening like it''s playing out in a movie (well, almost!). Hoag builds the atmosphere well, creeping in some tension and suspense along the way. What I also find really positive about Hoag''s novels is her use of knowledge. She adds credibility to what she writes because she knows her stuff, interweaving fact and criminology and forensics with the fiction. But she doesn''t baffle or overload the reader either, which is important. She keeps things down to earth with the characters and adds the edge of crime thrills through description and terminology. Most of her crime fiction balances gore with detective work, and the premise involved is usually clever and intelligent, so you''re kept guessing throughout. All in all, fans of Hoag shouldn''t be disappointed by her more recent crime thrillers because she seems to be consistent and reliable in her style. Those new to Hoag who enjoy these genres should check her out because her work is addictive!
We''re thrown in to a city, which seems to go unnamed, where a man seems to go blind at the wheel of his car. It''s ?white blindness?, where all that can be seen is blazing white. The doctor isn''t sure but tells him what the specialists need to be looking for. The Doctor, who remains unnamed also throughout the film, goes home to his wife, also unnamed. See the pattern here? It seems this ?white sickness? is spreading and becoming an epidemic. The Doctor develops it too, possibly due to being near his patient and perhaps catching this presumably contagious mystery disease. In a flood of panic within the city, the authorities decide to heard up those affected and put them in to quarantine. They''re taken to an abandoned mental hospital and form their own ?society of the blind?, where authorities stand guard with guns and literally throw them food parcels, always at a distance from fear of catching their blindness. When you throw a bunch of people together in isolation from society as we know it, a group mentality evolved. The common order is quickly upset, with criminals and the physically domineering taking advantage. Although it''s blind leading the blind, there is a divide in status between leaders and subordinates. Unbeknown to anyone else besides her husband, one woman walks the afflicted in the quarantine with her sign unaffected. . It was an interesting premise and quite simplistic in essence. Yet it was this simplicity that drew out some engaging moral dilemmas and the underlying hints of group psychology kept me gripped. It was in part a tale of human kindness, empathy, hope, understanding and resilience. Those affected were stripped of vision, suddenly, with no explanation as to why or whether it would be forever. They''re secluded, kept away from the rest of the world and left with uncertainty. Then you have those keeping them locked in there, obviously using their authority to allay their own fears of ?catching'' this blindness. It''s the interesting dynamics of what happens within the group of blind people that makes this film. It reminds me a touch of the Zimbardo prison experiment, so perhaps I got a bit more enjoyment because of my interest in human psychology. Mark Ruffalo (the doctor) and Julianne Moore (the doctor''s wife) as the two protagonists, plus other characters, mostly seemed quite believable. I enjoyed watching them and this worked well with the film as a whole as it was able to gradually build a sense of atmosphere and mystery. The not-so-good aspects? I''d say for me it was just wanting more from the film. I did think the ending wasn''t as well constructed as it could have been. It was designed to give a message but it got a bit washed out and I don''t think it came across, or was perhaps obvious enough, for the viewer. It therefore seemed to loose a bit of impact at the end.
This falls within the crime thriller genre and on the cover we''re told this is a ?Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller''. We''re introduced to Justin and Libby Denbe, a couple with a seemingly perfect life, living with their 15 year old daughter Ashlyn in a Boston town house and enough money to buy whatever they wish without worry. Justin owns Denbe Construction, a multi-million dollar construction company passed on to him by his father. Whilst ambitious and hardworking, Justin was seen as an admirable boss by his close and loyal workers, and to the outside world a loving husband and generous father. However, all is not as it seems. Wonderful husband has been cheating. Libby wants to make their marriage work so they plan a date night, but after that night they''re never seen again. The Denby family, daughter included, are kidnapped that evening. Enter Private Investigator Tessa Leoni, who has been hired to look in to the events on behalf of Denbe Construction. The local law enforcement also enter the party, as do the FBI. However, as hours tick by without a ransom, they worry that perhaps it''s not your ?usual'' kidnapping case. The rest of the novel follows the work of the different agencies as they investigate. We learn more about each character, relationships are developed and we delve deeper in to the workings of the family and construction crew. We also familiarise ourselves with the abductors. What I loved was the depth and diversity. We go from an upper class area of riches, to deep in the White Mountain National Forest, where the expanse is so huge and so desolate that the hopes of finding the family are like a needle in a haystack. The richness is complimented by the depth of the characters themselves; Gardner has a way of bringing the characters to life and making them vivid, and the same is said for how she paints each scene. The detective aspects in this novel are good, though there''s a little less on the criminology side of things. There''s less blood and gore or use of sophisticated tech to analyse evidence, and more old fashioned detective work. The premise is quite straightforward on the surface, with the web of characters intensifying the mystery and keep it interesting. I probably did guess the ending but it wasn''t a completely predictable done-deal. Gardner''s writing style is what really makes this novel readable. She built the atmosphere well and raised the tension and pace at different points throughout. Any down sides? I guess you can''t like every aspect of a book, nor all of the characters, but there was little that put me off or irritated me, aside from a few elements of a couple of characters. However, those are the characters she made and she still brought them to life well. I do think she has a superb writing style and manages to create a detective mystery in the lush landscape she paints in the reader''s mind.
The Change-Up falls in to the comedy genre. We''re introduced to Dave Lockwood, a hard-working & successful lawyer, juggling a busy schedule with his wife Jamie, their two young children plus one baby. His childhood friend Mitch, however, is quite the opposite; single, not always in good employment but always up for taking the easy options and shirking responsibility. But that''s all about to change. Whilst drunkenly weeing in a water fountain the two wish they had each other''s lives just as lightning strikes. Well, as the saying goes, you should be careful what you wish for when publically urinating in a fountain! The next day they wake up in each other''s bodies. After the initial freak-out, they decide they need to go back to the fountain to reverse the wish. However, it''s been moved. Dun dun duuuuuuuun! Whilst they try to track down where it''s gone, they realise that they need act ?normally'', because no one would believe them otherwise. This gets rather confusing, trying to mentally switch the characters in your head. The rest of the film follows these two guys in their friend''s life. It''s literally a case of one walking in the other''s shoes and they get a bit of a surprise. It''s a bit of a drama in one sense because it has moral undertones and makes you reflect a bit on your own life. However, it''s predominantly a comedic romp with the two characters fluffing up, making mistakes, making fools of themselves and generally getting in to mischief. The premise is nothing new and is really just a slight slant on older movies where two people change bodies. Ring any bells? Yep, sure does. I hated the whole peeing in the fountain then lightning striking jazz. It was cheesy and irritating, but it was somewhat in keeping with the tone of the film. The fountain mysteriously being moved, however, was the point where I sighed and thought I really need to pick better movies to watch. It was fairly amusing at times to watch each guy trying hard not to completely ruin the other''s life. The comedy was a mix between silliness, which I''m not a big fan of, and almost sarcastic quips, which I prefer. I did think it could have been sharper and more witty to have made it more appealing. That said, the two guys, Bateman in particular, helped to bring the funny elements out well simply because of how they come across. The cast includes Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde and Leslie Mann, amongst others. Reynolds'' performance is unlikely to win awards and he was a little irritating at times, but he wasn''t overly bad. Bateman helped in this respect because I do find him quite watchable. Together they made a good team, and this was supported well by Leslie, who provided was more down-to-earth. This won''t win awards and it''s not really anything original, but for a light-hearted bit of entertainment you could do worse.