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Film only review - at this time DVD is awaiting release.
Why see this one:
My husband prompted me to see this movie. The title was intriguing though I was unaware of the premise - which is war based and as such I didn't mind going to see it. For some reason war movies draw my attention, human nature is laid bare often and that appeals.
Cast for this movie include:
Mark Wahlberg, Talyor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hersch.
I'll direct you to http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1091191/ for any other movie trivia that appeals.
A four man team (SEAL) are dropped into the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan in order to identify and track Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. Marcus Luttrell leads the group and all appears to be going to plan....until unexpected civilians cross their path. A choice, of three options, must be made by Luttrell and the outcome leads to a fast paced and gut wrenching race for life.
Adapted from the novel of the same title, authored by Marcus Luttrell, this film begins by showing the intense and challenging training that these US Navy Seal's endure. I could not take my eyes from the screen and was compelled to carry on viewing with interest and a great respect for these men.
Right from the beginning I had in mind that if I had friends or family who are involved in warfare I may (probably would) find this an emotive film to sit through. From what developed, in this movie that is based on a true story, I was most probably right.
The scenes that commence the story are what happen at the end - if that makes sense. After seeing a very disturbing and emotive scene the tale steps back, three days in time, and we begin the journey.
Before I forget to say, as I am apt to do, I shall mention the cinematography. Vivid and realistically clear, I felt as if I was there and was thankful that I wasn't. Some scenes slowed down in order to show impact of bodies as they fall against jagged rock face - I felt like turning my head away and became rather nauseas. I'll describe the images as brutally honest and graphic, I can fully understand why soldiers suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after experiencing the horrors of war.
As the story is based on true events it has a direction of its own, I'm not sure what is added in for artistic licence. The pace is upbeat from the word go and the characters are introduced in close succession. As most of the actors are bearded I found it difficult to tell one from the other, initially, and as the action was moving fast I just allowed myself to go with the flow.
Contact with girlfriends and relatives is established in the early scenes and this ensured that my heartstrings would be pulled later on in the movie. One of the team liaising with his fiancé over the internet, discussing wedding plans and colour schemes for the home - all the time that is going on I'm getting attached and not wanting him to get harmed. In a film such as this that was wishful thinking.
The guys are all bunched up and so many meant that I didn't attach to any particular character straight away, though I did begin to care about them as a team and a unit. Acting was consistent and to me it was believable and realistic, though I have not experienced an army base camp so am not an expert to judge just how real it comes across.
I was always haunted by the opening scenes, the plot progressed and all the while my mind harped back to a very vivid image of a small Afghan boy, large eyes, kind eyes, innocent expression. His father (I assumed it was his father) a compassionate man. The outcome of his kindness hasn't left me.
One thing to note at this point, as we are still early on in the proceedings, is the sound quality. Often times I struggle to hear what an actor is saying because they either speak too fast or mumble, or the background music/sound is overpowering the vocals. At no point during this movie did I lean forward struggling to hear what was being voiced. All actors, thankfully, spoke clearly. This makes viewing all the more, I would say enjoyable but with the content of the movie that doesn't feel like the right word, comfortable to the ears.
Once the movie gets into its stride and the team of four are located in the mountain terrain, it feels like all hell has been let loose on my senses. From the precarious beginning of the trip, to observe and trail the Taliban leader, where I was almost on the edge of my seat and felt uncomfortable as I waited to see if they would be spotted; to the heart pounding climax that ensued where the early days of training (that I saw during the opening credits) came into play. This movie held me captive, completely.
I attached to the four guys, led by Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg). They each had their own strengths and weaknesses - mostly strengths. Human nature and the desire to survive were portrayed with conviction. Insecurities were evidenced occasionally and that made it all the more real and utterly horrible to watch. I wanted to see what happened but I was jumping and cringing when the fight for survival kicked in. The horrors of war, for both sides, was uncomfortable to witness and the determination to survive heart wrenching.
The outcome of the movie, after all the loss and terror, left me feeling quite shocked. I can't say that it was a satisfying ending because it is based on a true story and I witnessed a lot of suffering and graphic wounding. It was done well and as an end to a story there are no loose ends - I feel better putting it that way. What I was left with was a feeling of sorrow, I felt like I had been hauled through a rollercoaster of events at top speed - that is most likely realistic and the director has done exceptionally well to leave me feeling this way. I am haunted by the scene that begins the film that depicts the end result.
I have read comparisons to Saving Private Ryan. I have seen that movie and that was very emotive too, both movies are outstanding but for me there is something different about this one - the civilian interaction touched me. That is all I shall say on the comparisons.
This movie contains some bad language but I imagine that in that situation it would come out easily and found it to be understandable and realistic.
DVD due to be released (estimated by Amazon) April 2014
This movie, based on a nonfiction novel by Marcus Luttrell, is outstanding though gut wrenching and at times difficult to watch. The action follows four US Navy SEALs as they make their way through the mountain terrain of Afghanistan to locate and trail the Taliban leader. Events take a turn for the worse when a dilemma presents itself in the form of goat herders. A decision is made and the action soon heats up into a battle to stay alive. Brothers in arms. Courage, human nature and determination to survive are witnessed, the cinematography made it feel like I was right there with them. Bullets sounded uncomfortably close, their point of impact and ensuing suffering was clear. Some bad language is used throughout but to be honest I hardly noticed as I was on the edge of my seat, squirming. Peter Berg has done an outstanding job at directing this emotive and haunting movie. I can highly recommend it but it isn't easy viewing.
© dawnymarie 2014
Published on Ciao
Yoga & You Leah Bracknell
Why this one?
Yoga & You is the first DVD Yoga class that the former Emmerdale actress devised. I was reluctant to make the purchase initially as I thought it would be another celebrity endorsed fitness hype, this couldn't be further from the truth as Leah is a qualified instructor and presents her class beautifully.
Yoga & You:
What I want from a yoga class in DVD format is something that is doable in realistic terms for someone who is not capable of turning themselves inside out and looking like a pretzel. I want a class that flows well and affords good, gentle stretching to all areas of the body. I want (there are lots of wants aren't there) a teacher who speaks calmly and clearly. Importantly the class needs to be something that I enjoy and want to do regularly; I don't like to buy DVD's in order for them to sit on my shelf looking pretty.
Yoga and Me:
From the outset the DVD appeals. The packaging is attractive; Leah is attractive and has two students with her. There is a mixture of ages which I think is good, I thought maybe there would be modifications done by one of the students but that is not the case, I don't think it necessary as this class is more so for beginners, that is not to say that an experienced yogini would not get anything from it as it is a well-structured class.
Unlike Leah's later release (Yoga for Life, which I have also reviewed) this class lasts for less than an hour and that means that if you have less time you have got a good option. There is no matrix option so it's pretty much FF if you want to get to a particular section, I like to work through it all as it works on all areas of the body and stretching is beneficial.
The location is Ibiza and begins at sunrise with some awakening and delicious, morning, stretches - you can't eat them but they feel so good that 'delicious' is the first word that came to mind that describes how they feel. I like that the light brightens towards the end of the awakening session and haven't had that on a DVD class till now. The postures are different to what I've experienced in a live class but they are a refreshing change and feel good to do and afterwards.
One thing to note with this class is that the postures are not held for an overly long period so if you are not feeling as energetic or strong this is a nice one to work with. There are short flowing sequences that I found are relatively easy to become used to and you don't have to be really flexible in order to achieve them, as always you just do what is right for you and within you own limits. There is no sun salutation on this DVD.
Leah presents postures clearly and for the most part the camera focuses on the full body rather than on the upper half thus preventing the student seeing what the legs are doing. I never feel like I'm left behind and she instructs in a timely fashion so that I'm not playing catch up whilst attempting to see the TV screen, obviously, once you have worked with the DVD a number of times things get easier and you are used to what comes next.
I'd say if anything this class is suitable for beginners but I've been doing yoga for over six years and the class very much appeals to me. I like to work with a DVD that is similar to a live class, you get to be counted for the pose and are not tempted to move on to another posture before realigning and refocusing - experiencing what the asana (posture) has done for you.
The DVD is separated into sections and this works really well for me. I like that you get a little breather in between and that you are working on different areas of the body with control, strength and flexibility all accounted for. Leah also reminds you when you need to be using your abdominal muscles, which not all teachers remember to do, and this is important when coming up out of a forward bend in particular, I was impressed by that.
As breath is so important when moving in and out of postures I am pleased that Leah addresses this too, with timely reminders to breath - it is surprisingly easy to hold the breath, thus tensing the body.
There is light background sounds and music throughout but this doesn't interfere with instruction and certainly doesn't distract. I find it appropriate and that it helps with focus.
Cinematography is good, though not as defined and sharp as her latest DVD, it is clear and of good quality. The props and visuals are aesthetically pleasing, I like a DVD class that presents everything well and this one doesn't disappoint.
The class doesn't have pranayama (breathing practice) which would have been nice and is included on the later DVD class but that doesn't take too much away from this wonderful class. The relaxation at the end is adequate and nicely done, you have the option to relax for longer - which I do. The later class has a longer and more in depth relaxation section but once again this doesn't put me off using this class every week.
This is one of my favourite DVD classes, it is gentle and doable. Leah has done herself proud.
At present the prices fluctuate and you can purchase used copies for £4.42 + Postage on Amazon, new copies are over £20 at present.
I can highly recommend this DVD yoga class to you. It's the first one that Leah Bracknell produced and is not as refined as the next one (Yoga for Life) but that takes nothing away from the structure and tuition, clarity of postures and enjoyment of doing a yoga class that is not expecting you to be 'little Miss incredibly Flexible'. The class is split into sections that focus on awakening the body with some beautiful standing stretches and focus on control with slow movements and developing strength and flexibility - in a user friendly way. There is a nice relaxation at the end that is not overly long but she does tell you to stay for longer in the position if you want to and instructs you on what to do when you want to come out of it. No breath work on this one, a shame but certainly not a reason to knock any stars off. I can highly recommend this one to beginners and more experienced students - it's a good class, structured well with clear instruction in timely fashion that doesn't race on ahead of you. Nice one Leah.
Published on Ciao
© dawnymarie 2014
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Why read this?
The cover drew me in immediately and when I read the back cover I was very intrigued. It's been a while since I've picked up a book whilst in a store as none have appealed so this one was pretty special in that respect alone. As it's set in war time Germany that also compelled me to purchase the book.
Liesel is only nine years old and is about to have her little world turned upside down - broken up, torn up and spat out. She and her brother are to go to Himmel Street where they will be fostered by a new family. Her mother leaves her children with deep sadness and fear, Liesel makes it to the new home but her brother doesn't.
The Book Thief:
I have never read a book that was narrated by Death before. Would that appeal? Isn't it rather morbid and gruesome, dark and bleak? In my opinion Death AKA The Grim Reaper is not as bad as I would once have thought; he was actually a pretty good guide to the tale and also managed to endear himself to me with some acts of kindness.
I was compelled to journey with Death on his travels and observations of life on Himmel Street for Liesel and her companions. I was comfortable with the style of writing, which is very different than I am used to as it has lots of short sentences in the composition, even one word sentences - but it works and it makes the book unique.
I could not put this novel down. Every opportune moment saw me with this book in my hands and as each chapter is short in duration it was inviting me in for 'just one more' all the time. I like the interspersed sections that Zusak gifts to the reader (actually coming from Death and always of interest). For example when we meet Hans and Rosa Hubermann, who are to be Liesel's new parents from now, we get a: Some facts about Hans Hubermann indented snippet. Even though it breaks up the prose it works, firstly because it slows the book down and emphasises fact in a short snap, it's like a sharp breeze just swept across your face and consciousness. Also, you get to know lots about a new character in a neat overview. I have really enjoyed how the book is composed. Pace was always good, description was kept to a 'need to know' basis and Zusak stayed with the story.
The set of characters become very well rounded and dynamics develop realistically. I love the fact that the author introduces and presents Rosa as a motor mouth with a hard heart and then bit by bit we get to see her protectiveness and love for those she holds dear. She is a dab hand with a wooden spoon but it's with compassion if and when she wields it.
Hans soon became a favourite; he oozes compassion and his morals and faithfulness appeal. He is the smooth that sits opposite Rosa's rough, he is the opposite of her in his philosophy and actions, or so it would seem - they may well be singing from the same sheet.
Death gifts us with endearing insights into the lives of the people of Himmel Street. As war breaks out (Second World War) the timeline begins to come into play and from where I sat it all seemed to be true to history as to when events took place. Of course the horrors that were soon inflicted on the Jews played a part in the prose and this is where Zusak's short sentences, especially one word, showed their strengths. Hard hitting in few words. Thought provoking images presented themselves before my eyes and my senses were assaulted.
All the while I was reading the pages I was stunned by the sheer beauty of the writing style that this talented author is gifted with. Words flow beautifully into sentences, paragraphs, pages and before you know it another chapter is gone. I feel that I want to re-read it again now that has never happened before.
The main protagonist is appealing, of course being a child torn from her mother had something to do with my sympathy and empathy but what I liked more than that was her resolve, her courage and her strength of character. I should at this point mention that she is also a thief, her first book taken early in the tale, but that doesn't make her unlikeable as it allows depth into her psyche, it means that she is all the more interesting and I wanted to know more about her and of course what happens to her.
I can't go further without mentioning a delight that this book holds, that is a young man called Rudy. This boy is a typical, mischievous lad but boy does he get into your heart, I have a real soft spot for him and enjoyed watching his character develop and get some real meat on his bones. Death hints at some shortcoming in relation to Rudy and I didn't want my heart broken, I wanted a happy ending for him and Liesel.
At 554 pages this book is shorter than recent King tomes that I have devoured but none the less it holds within it a tale that will touch your heart, keep you turning pages and present a realistic and raw image of how life may have been experienced by the hard up inhabitants who lived on Himmel Street. These people had their conflicts and some even disliked each other (with a vengeance) but how would war impact on them, how would they cope with sharing a bomb shelter together when they are all at their most vulnerable and crippled by fear as the bombs begin to fall? Zusak portrays his impression of war torn Himmel Street with ease and I found it utterly breath-taking.
How do you tell a little girl that her parents have been taken to a concentration camp? You don't and then you hope for the best -- how do young girls react when they discover the truth? That is something that Death knows and you will discover if and when you read the book.
Death has a fact to tell us all, it's short and sweet: You are going to die.
www.bookbutler.com will do a comprehensive online search.
Currently available at all good book stores.
£7.99 though can be picked up for more or less half that price from some supermarkets at present.
What was not to like about this book, I have no hesitation in recommending it to you. If you like Second world war based tales then this one may well appeal, set in Germany it was something new for me and I liked the use of some German language in the prose too (always translated to English). There is some humour in the prose which offsets the very serious nature of the tale which is not solely about stealing books, though a few are taken. Pages turn readily and the book is difficult to put down, pace is always appropriate and it is narrated in the first person by the Grim Reaper, something that I've not experienced before so I really enjoyed it. There are some dark and upsetting moments but then this is based at a time when history tells some gruesome stories. Character development is superb, lots to like and some to dislike. It feels realistic and believable and importantly I liked the main protagonist, Liesel. Some great human observation on Zusak's part. It's a book I'll definitely read again.
Published on Ciao
© dawnymarie 2014
Yoga for life with Leah Bracknell
Why buy this?
Do you feel like you want to gain more flexibility and strength whilst calming and de stressing your body and mind? Well, this could well be a good place to begin and won't be one of those DVD workouts that sit on your shelf gathering dust. I had already experienced Leah's teaching methods with her first DVD class Yoga and You and knew that I felt comfortable with her teaching style. This was a good price, I want and need to protect my joints and stretch my muscles -- I bought the DVD.
Yoga for Life:
You may recognise Miss Bracknell from Emmerdale, she played the role of Zoe Tate. You would wonder if she was any good at teaching yoga -- she is. Very good. The DVD is set in Turkey, scenery is stunning and the cinematography vivid. The yoga style is Hatha based but has some Kundalini undertones running through it. It runs for more or less an hour but has two classes that you can do alone or together.
Bend it like Bracknell:
I'll begin by saying that I'm not the most flexible person in the world. I don't want a yoga class that demands that I contort my body into impossible positions -- it wouldn't get used very often as I cannot achieve that level of stretching. I just want a good class that works on all areas of the body (safely) and makes me feel good afterwards.
With the above in mind I can assure you that Bracknell won't make you become a human pretzel. Rest assured there are no impossible twists or levitation type moves on here. That said, I would say that intermediate yogini's would enjoy this class. It is different to your usual class structure.
Importantly, Leah is near enough always in full camera shot. This is essential so that you can see the form and alignment of the pose (asana). She goes through the movements with a clear and calm voice and at a speed that feels safe. I haven't found myself in a heap on the floor because I've lost pace and had to keep looking to the television to see what is going on with her legs and arms. Believe me, I have had a DVD class like that and it was turned off prompto -- I felt at a loss and was way behind -- even though I am an experienced yoga student and have attended a class for a number of years.
Background music is minimal and when it does appear it doesn't mean that you cannot hear the instruction. I can't emphaise enough how important it is to hear the words of a teacher (a competent one) as they will be telling you how to protect joints, back and muscles in how they instruct and presents the postures -- Bracknell is knowledgeable and competent and present postures in clear view, beautifully.
The class has adequate warm up and cool down sections, there is a short flowing sun salutation for those who wish to begin with that and it is taught eloquently, I have had lots of DVD's over the years and Leah is one of the clearest instructors that I have come across. The salutation may not last long enough for experienced and fit students but for those of us who have limitations or who are new to this it is more than enough.
You can choose from Inner Peace (26 minutes) or Energy (28 minutes) or you can do one after the other. I especially like a DVD that is structured in this way as you get to choose what you want to do rather than having to do the whole thing or fast forward to where you want to begin. This is a very good selling point for this DVD, and something that makes it accessible and user friendly. Everyone has limited time these days and if you can do a half hour session that means the class will be used.
This class is very different to any that I have done before, in a good way. There are familiar asana's (poses) and sequences that you will be comfortable with but Leah has incorporated some Kundalini Yoga style moving postures into the class and it really does make a refreshing change. It feels fun to do and for me, with limited energy, it means that I can achieve more as the movements are smaller.
As with any good yoga teacher, Leah, provides modifications and alternative harder movements -- I like that she puts it across as you do what you can on any given day. Some days are different than others and yoga is non competitive. That comes across well.
I was impressed to see that Leah includes Pranayama (breathing technique) at the and of the class. Pranayama is so beneficial and works in many subtle ways with a huge benefit of calming the mind quickly. It's a great stress buster. On this DVD Alternate Nostril Breathing is taught and Leah teaches it clearly and well. It is only for 4 minutes and is well worth it.
A good ten minute relaxation in the most important pose (Savasana) is included at the end of the class. Unlike some DVD's, that dismiss the importance of a long session in the pose, Leah has you relaxing for a good ten minutes. As this is when all that you have done gets to work on your body and you actually get to relax properly -- releasing tension and strain, this is impressive to be found on a DVD class.
There is a good mixture of nurturing and strengthening postures in the class. Everything about the presentation gets top marks from me and importantly you get the full body shots of Leah as she presents a posture, demonstrating the correct alignment and foundation.
Prices vary depending on where you purchase from and if it is new or used.
I can highly recommend this DVD yoga class to you. I'd say that beginners could do most of what is on here with modifications and working within their limits. Intermediates will enjoy this class too as it has Kundalini Yoga infused throughout as well as the regular asana's (poses). Beginners may be better prepared for this one by using Leah's first DVD class Yoga and You. Cinematography is outstanding, demonstration of postures is clear, with most shots being of the full body so that you can see the pose in full. Flow is a nice pace and Leah speaks clearly and calmly. It is obvious that she is knowledgeable and competent in teaching yoga postures. The structure of the class is very good and an adequate warm up and cool down is incorporated. There is a good mix of twisting and stretching and work on the core. Pranayama (breath technique) is demonstrated beautifully and a decent relaxation is included at the end of the class. It's a high five from me and I didn't have to bend it like Bracknell.
Publlshed on Ciao
(c) dawnymarie 2014
Under the Dome by Stephen King
Why read this?
I like King's style of writing, I particularly go for his suspense novels and the premise of this one intrigued me. It's a tome at 877 pages but I knew it wouldn't feel like it, I've read a few large offerings by King and none have felt padded out or bored me.
Dale Barbara (ex-military) is leaving town. Chester's Mill, Maine, isn't big enough for him and Big Jim Rennie (Town Selectman). As Barbara (Barbie) heads out to the border a freak accident happens, a plane falls from the sky, for no apparent reason - when more bizarre crashes happen Barbie realises that an invisible barrier has cut the town off and now holds all residents prisoner. This is bad, isn't it? It should be, but for Big Jim Rennie this is his opportunity to rule the town - a dream long held could now be his reality. America's law is obsolete now, Big Jim is the law.
Ants beneath a magnifying glass:
As ever, I'm comfortable with the writing style of the master storyteller, Stephen King. The first sentence led me in and the prose picked up pace pretty quick as catastrophe's occurred and the town folk came together. I soon became aware that this story was going to focus on the behaviour of human beings when they are placed in fear. Of course there are opportunists in these situations and Big Jim Rennie fills the role perfectly, his son Jr Rennie (Junior) is something else - he doesn't know it but he has a brain tumour and his irrational and pain filled behaviour was captivating, King doesn't just hint at conditions such as this - he researches and portrays with realism.
Barbie is the good guy, he doesn't want this role as he wanted to get out of the town, make a new start - he comes across as a drifter, no place where he belongs - he just tries to blend in as best he can. I soon came to like and gain insight into this man, he has memories of his military past and I was intrigued by how an ex-army officer struggled to become a civilian, it must be so difficult to have such a change of circumstances after what you have experienced, been part of and witnessed. King leaves me with no doubt that Barbara could do serious harm to any attacker, even if outnumbered - that is why he needed to leave the small town.
Junior Rennie bears a rather large grudge after being humiliated by Barbara's skilled defence. Juniors' hatred and paranoia for just about anyone who crosses his path is close to crazy, his mind doesn't make sense anymore and he is a dangerous boy to be around. When his father deems him perfect to join the police force the book becomes all the more interesting.
If a glass of huge proportions was placed over an area, a town as in this case, what will happen when pollution increases and has no place to go? The dome is slightly permeable but nothing worth shouting about - serious stuff is going on here and the town folk begin to change quickly.
King develops a micro world with in the space of three days, that is all it took for power to change hands, brutality increased and sides develop. The outside world see's scientists and military interaction, the world watches, via media and attempts to break the dome begin.
I wasn't aware of the plot weaving and twisting as King has written the tale with seamless precision, looking back after reading the tome I am impressed. At 877 pages you may think that a fair amount of padding or over description is included - this is not the case at all. At no time did I think of putting the book down due to boredom or tedium, the opposite is true. At every opportunity I had to have that book in my hands. It wasn't even because I wanted to know that Barbie and his allies where safe (Julia Shumway being an important character that I wanted to carry on, she is a journalist) it was to see how things were changing. How much fuel generators where left, where was the food going to come from, what was the atmosphere like, was the dome being penetrated successfully and when were the town folk (sheep) going to see Big Jim Rennie for what he actually was - a paternalistic dictator who was absolutely power mad.
I enjoyed getting to know the characters that played major roles, I gained insight into the weak minded men who were easily manipulated by Big Jim, flesh was on their bones and insecurities evident. I knew who Junior Rennie was; he was a young man under the influence of his tumour that lay within his head - erratic, unpredictable and utterly paranoid. King did a fantastic job with Jr Rennie but an even better achievement in developing the larger than life Big Jim.
There was always an element of good versus evil within the prose and it was all too easy to focus on that and be carried along with the turn of events that were orchestrated by the latter. Look at the bigger picture and you puzzle over who, or what, placed Chester's Mill under a glass dome. Was it an experiment by the government? Was a crazy scientist to blame or was it a natural phenomenon that the muse within the author had created. With so many events happening, at what felt like lightning speed, you don't get a chance to ponder the page count - at the same time I never felt like there was too much to take in and could easily follow the tale without confusion.
This prose is a massive achievement by an impressive author, to take on such a major project must have been overwhelming. So much would need intense research to make the prose have a sense of believability and realism. As I neared the heated climax, after an incredible fast paced finale, where so much happens to so many, I paused to ponder how King could possibly make the ending one that leaves a reader feeling satisfied, after all the reader has invested much time into reading the page packed monster of a book. I'm not telling you anything about the outcome, not even a hint - it would spoil the journey for you. What I will say is that I felt entirely sated with the ending and enjoyed the book as a whole.
www.bookbutler.com will provide a comprehensive online search
This book, at 877 pages, is a tome and may well overwhelm a prospective reader - I can tell you that this book is outstanding and very readable. King has outdone himself, in my opinion, with his observation of human nature; I found it intriguing, compelling and captivating. The pace is always good and there are plenty of places within the tale (especially towards the end) when the pace is appropriately hastened. Pages turned quickly because I was immersed in a micro world where law and order had gone mad. Jim Rennie (Big Jim) fills the role of villain with perfection; his bulk wades through the pages with determined ease. The hero of the prose, Dale Barbara, is very likeable but also has depth of character, he is a man capable of doing damage - in a big way, he is a dangerous man, has been a dangerous man and he needs to be eliminated before the sheep (town folk) see that he is the perfect leader. But that would be too easy, King does a damn fine job of holding down Barbie, at times I disliked him for it but he had to place obstacles in his path. It's a great read, by a master storyteller. Highly recommended and one I will read again.
Published on Ciao
The X-Mini II
Why buy X-Mini II
I have a Sony MP3 player and until quite recently it was near impossible to find speakers for the player. Oddly enough Sony made docking systems for iPod players but not for their own brand -- not that were available in the UK at any rate. There are a few available now but all too late.
I was going to have the subtitle of The XX because I like the band but thought it may be misleading. I own two of the illustrated X-Mini's. I like the fact that via the little leads that are attached to them, 3.5mm audio leads, you can make a little line of them and thus increase the sound experience -- or that is the idea.
I am happy to note that the packaging is minimal, the way I like it. Easy to dispose of and not at all singing and dancing -- that can begin when you plug in your player and get on down with the tunes. Or is that just me?
The little speaker (they are neat and could easily fit into a coat pocket) is of small dimensions and come with their own little pouch that is black and has a draw string, the whole concept to make them accessible and portable -- quick and easy music when you want it. I like the idea of the portability but the compact size means that I can store them away without too much hassle and they don't take up much room.
I have to say that I only really use one of the speakers as I am usually wanting fast set up for a short duration, setting up the other not being necessary as I haven't found that it makes that much difference in one small room, though when in use in a larger setting I can see how a line of them would be a tempting option.
Coming back to storing the X-Mini, the little cutey screws into a smaller, space saving and portable, unit with a simple twist -- to extend it for use it's another simple twist. I'm really impressed with the design and it's light too.
I wanted a speaker that I could use with my Sony player, yes I have to be the awkward one that doesn't have an iPod. Importantly, I wanted good sound production and I was hesitant to order one (or two) of these speakers as I doubted the quality. As they were on offer and the reviews were good I thought I had nothing to lose.
The speaker arrives already pumped up with power, no charging was required so I could check the kit out straight away, this I did. I had no need for instructions, they are included and are concise, as it is pretty much self explanatory and very easy to set up.
I unscrewed the little speaker, it felt good quality in my hands and my expectations were raised. The length of wire from the unit is short but that hasn't been an issue for me. I plugged the jack into my player and flicked the switch on the speaker.
I turned on my player, selected a track and increased the volume via the player -- no facility on the speaker but that works for me. The sounds was really impressive for something so small and neat, there is a solid bit of base going on but not so much that it distorts the sound -- my player is really good at sound production so maybe that helps as well.
I didn't pick up any tinny sounding tones and was most impressed with that as it would have been going straight back if the tones were cheap and nasty. I am a bit difficult to please were sound is concerned and have a keen ear. Most of my tracks are rock based so I like to be able to hear guitar and drums properly, this is decent via the X-Mini.
If I compare the X-Mini to our Onkyo sound system that is connected to the TV and also has an iPod dock (but cannot accommodate a Sony MP3 player -- naughty, naughty) then, of course, there is no comparison -- sub woofer and surround sound speakers blow the X-Mini clean out of the water. But it is not realistic to compare a little product such as this with a large and costly consumer item such as a surround sound system with a substantial woofer box that blows your hair about (not really but it is impressive).
I would have liked a dock in which to sit my player and also a remote control would make life even easier, but honestly what do you want for just over a tenner, that you can throw into your bag or suitcase and use at your leisure -- try doing that with a docking station with such ease. Sound production impressed me and bass is rather good. At over 11 hours playback, via the high capacity rechargeable battery, this little gadget packs some punch.
I can't knock it. I'm really impressed and it's quite an attractive design too, modest but bold. If I play XX on here the sound is pleasing.
In a nutshell, I'm glad I got these speakers, I don't need two but the option is there if I want to. I use the speaker often, if I wasn't happy with it in any way at all it would be sat gathering dust and I would have already ordered a Sony alternative at a whole extra cost.
For the money you can't go wrong with the X-Mini II.
RRP £19.99 though it fluctuates on Amazon and at present you can get one for £13.44 I got mine for a tenner about a year ago.
Do you want compact speakers that give you the option of taking them with you easily wherever you go, at a low cost and that can belt out a decent sound with good bass reproduction and nil tinniness -- then I can recommend these to you. Battery life is excellent, 3.5mm jack connects to laptop for recharging and then straight into most MP3 Players (even Sony) for fast access to tunes. You haven't got the fancy docking station and you have to go to the player to increase volume and select the track -- but at that price it's not really an issue. This is a decent, portable and affordable speaker that you can make a daisy chain with if you wish. User friendly, inexpensive and it provides good sound. Recommended by a fussy reviewer so it must be half decent.
(c) dawnymarie 2014
Published on Ciao
Cujo -- Stephen King
Why read this?
What attracted me to Cujo was the fact that Stephen King had written it and I really 'get' his style of writing. He has mastered the craft of storytelling and has a knack of drawing the reader in. I'd just finished 11.22.63 which was something of an epic and I thoroughly enjoyed, had a light read in between and then wanted (needed) more from King. I got this on a three books for a fiver offer at a local outlet.
Brett Camber has a St Bernard dog (Cujo), he loves that big, softie and has grown up with him - he is his best friend. Whilst out chasing rabbits, Cujo, finds himself in a bit of a hole - a rabbit hole to be exact, only this rabbit hole ain't seen much rabbit action for a while since being taken over by rabid bats. After being scratched and bitten by a bat Cujo changes, things are not as they were in Cujo's world and the quiet town will soon be turned upside down.
Right from the word go, the first sentence at least, I was compelled to read on. In my comfort zone, though a wee bit worried that King may cause me to have vivid dreams (aka nightmares). I was not going to let the horror genre put me off reading this as the premise was intriguing.
I'm not a great horror fan so you may wonder why I consider King to be my favourite author. Fair question, I tend to stick to his suspense stuff and have enjoyed the likes of Misery, 11.22.63 and The Dark Tower epic. I couldn't 'not' try out his horror stuff - or could I.
As soon as I met Tad (a four year old boy), whose family moved to Maine from New York a few years ago, I was given a bit of hair raising treatment when he began to see a creepy image in his closet. When the door began opening on its own I wondered if I had the balls (well I haven't as I'm female) to read on - I read on. It really isn't that bad that I had nightmares, or any creepy feelings when turning out the light for bed, it was thought provoking and amazing to see into the weird and wonderful mind that belongs to King.
More than anything else, when I was making my way through the prose, I was awed by how well King grabs the reader by the throat and captivates. It was not far into the book that I had become familiar with two families. I couldn't believe how soon I had got to know so much, become so comfortable and begun caring about these sets of people from very different backgrounds. Tad and his parents are quite well off and from the city, Donna (his mom) not really settling into the peace that the country life has to offer and Tad not especially enjoying the monster in his closet - dad away working for the most part. Then there was Brett Camber, his cute St Bernard and his kind hearted mother (Charity)... and his country bumpkin dad (Joe) who is paternalistic to the extreme and has little to no respect for his wary wife. I was reminded of Deliverance when in the company of the Camber family.
When Brett's St Bernard suffers a bite from a rabid bat and begins his journey into illness I got the whole experience. King both fascinates and impresses me with his knowledge and presentation of what it may feel like to be under the influence of the deadly disease. All senses are explored to the fullest and I like the way that you get the dog perspective as regards THE MAN, THE BOY and THE WOMAN. At times there is a supernatural and freaky feeling of something other than rabies taking a hold of and controlling Cujo, as if the town has an evil all of its own and other times it absolutely was the rabies messing with the dogs mind.
The pace early in the prose doesn't feel fast and certainly doesn't need to be, but you learn so much in a relatively short space of time. As the book progresses and fate or destiny brings persons in the path of Cujo the pace heats up and boy do those pages turn fast. This is one of those books that you cannot wait to pick up when you wake up in a morning and don't want to put down when you know you really should be going to bed.
Speaking of bed, I told you that this was the first horror novel by King that I have read, right? I spoke of my concerns about nightmares as he is a damned good writer and storyteller, yes? Well, I was absolutely fine and suffered nil nightmares.
I can see why this book is in the horror genre but in my opinion it is more so to do with a group of people and a dog that just get into the wrong place at the wrong time. There is a kind of psychological theme going on in this composition too - this really does get you thinking - but on the whole I perceived the happenings and outcomes to be a run of bad luck.
I got a little bit of a feeling of Poltergeist when in the company of little Tad (only four years old) as he reminded me of the small, blonde haired, girl who gets snatched into the abyss when venturing into her closet. Tad's closet houses a monster, or does it? I think it's up to the reader to make their own mind up on that score. King puts a lot of effort into the character of Tad, I was able to see through the eyes of a little boy, feel what he felt - scared, though brave. I had a lot of respect for that little boy and found it believable that he would behave the way he did. I was touched by his visions that he saw when the end of the prose neared and found it really emotive.
Donna and Tad go through an incredibly challenging time together as the pace heats up and during this time King has woven a web that connects all of those characters together. Themes from his other books (The Dark Tower) were brought back to mind a few times and I like that his books are entwined within each other. There is a real sense of danger, urgency and suspense for the last quarter of the book that pulses with fear but not of a kind that made me scared of continuing, it was a fear that the characters were going to die. I didn't want any of them to die but how could they not? Time and pages would tell, I turned those quickly as I absolutely had to find out.
All the while Cujo is transitioning into a mad, rabid, beast there is still a part of him that I could identify with but when the disease took him there was no sign of that dog left - the detail and description of what the dog was experiencing was awesome. I was gobsmacked and impressed.
You have to have guessed that some blood shed is inevitable in this tale. Rabid dog on the rampage and unsuspecting people passing by - I won't deny that the description is gruesome but once again it is wholly believable.
When I finished reading Cujo I was satisfied but also a little sad. The outcome was never going to be a happy one was it. I don't feel like I have read a horror story, I feel like I have read about a lovely St Bernard dog who got unlucky and some townsfolk who crossed his path on the wrong day. There is a supernatural feel to it but that sat in the background once the action began. I really, enjoyed the book and am awed by the imagination and skill that lies within a man called Stephen King. Master storyteller extraordinaire.
Amazon and other good bookstores
RRP £8.99 but can be purchased for less
If you like a gripping read then this is an easy YES. King weaves an intricate tale with skill and creativity that all comes together with exacting ease. The pages warm up, warm up some more and then sizzle as the latter urgency erupts into a spellbinding roller-coaster of emotion, suspense and intrigue. Characters are brought to life in the small town that has a grisly history, is there something bad about this place or do folk just have bad luck? Tad has a monster in his closet, Brett has a St Bernard who is his best friend, he loves Cujo and that dog loves him. Subplots are strong, characters well rounded and research impressive. Write about what you know...King certainly knows a lot of stuff, his presentation of rabies is impressive. This tale satisfies; it's got to be one of Kings best novels. Highly recommended.
Published on Ciao
© dawnymarie 2014
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Why I read this one:
I had just finished a long and rewarding book by Stephen King, I felt like a quicker, lighter read with a bit of romance in it. One where I didn't have to think too much, an easy read. I had seen this one on Good Reads some time ago and it had mixed feedback which intrigued me as I like to make my own mind up about things. I purchased and gave it a whirl.
Abby Abernathy wants a fresh start. With her best friend, America, she relocates and they begin life at a new school. Abby's path crosses with the troubled Travis Maddox (AKA Mad Dog). The tattooed young man gains her attention in a way that she would rather it not. Can she resist his charms?
Let the Disaster begin:
This book is from the Young Adult genre but I don't often let that be a reason to not read prose if it appeals. I began the first chapter and the scene was set, it soon became obvious to me that I shouldn't have opted for this one immediately after a King novel.
The writing style flows well and I was obviously interested enough to want to find out what happened rather than put down the book and choose another one (something that I really don't like to do). But it didn't have enough depth for me. I like a good pace in prose and not too much description but this one could have done with a little more description, character development and the pace slowed down a wee bit.
The main protagonists are quite well developed but their friends tend to remain two dimensional and a little more meat on their bones would have benefited the novel.
I found the names and shortened names a little confusing initially, America and Brazil in particular and when America was shortened to Mare it took me a while to warm to it. Abby gets a nickname pretty quickly from her first meeting with Travis, during one of his rather brutal fights, and this seemed a little unrealistic -- she is known as Pigeon and later on in the prose Cookie. I'm not overly keen on that kind of thing.
The plot line is pretty much boy meets girl will boy get the girl. There are some lightweight subplots interspersed but the pace is so fast they are fleeting. I struggled to invest any emotion with the characters as they were not very appealing to me. Even after I had read the book I didn't really feel like I knew who they were, what they wanted from life and what made them tick.
Abby and Maddox are attracted to each other but due to her past life she wants to avoid getting involved with him. He is a womaniser as a rule but takes to liking Pidgeon (Abby). Some of the fights between them, as they grow closer, seem to be unbelievable and I tired of the I want him/now I don't want him behaviour that Abby displayed.
The prose is written in first person, which I don't mind, but there was a bit too much telling rather than showing -- as a reader I like something left to my own imagination and I had already grasped what the characters may or may not have been feeling before the author spelled it out.
I am struggling to think what to say about the story as there really isn't much to tell aside from Maddox's fights and bad boy image -- he has temper issues and is feared by all of the other boys, all of the girls want him. Abby is a girl from out of town, who has a past and is wanting a fresh start, she shouldn't get with Maddox but she can't resist. I didn't feel any passion between the two, or tension because the prose moves too quickly. Some of the ideas and subplots could have been good but they were over quickly.
There is some bad language used but it isn't on every page, even so, at times I felt it was not really appropriate, not needed and the prose would not have suffered if it was omitted fully. I am not put off reading a novel due to the odd bad word or two but only if it fits and isn't purely for effect.
A few phrases crop up repeatedly in the prose and two of those are the reference to Travis drawing his eye brows together and most of the males in the novel like to put their hands into their pockets. Oh and they also like to cup Abby's face between their hands.
The book is set out in chapters of a good length and they each have a beginning, middle and end which I liked. The title to each chapter gave it a theme which intrigued me and got me to read on. Whilst this book isn't one that I would read again it did have something that got me to keep reading on and finish it.
The culmination of the tale is satisfying in the sense that you get to find out what happens between Abby (Pigeon) and Travis (Mad Dog and Baby). It is a fairly predictable ending but that could be said for most books that fall into this genre, and it can be unsatisfying as a reader if certain elements do not win out.
My opinion of this book is that it has a certain appeal and young (teenage) readers would most likely enjoy it. I can't say that it is the worst book that I've read but it is far from being the best. It is not one that I will revisit and I'm now eager to get my hands on another King offering.
Kindle version £3.49
This book was not up there with the best in terms of description, setting the scene, developing characters, plot, subplot and pace. As far as satisfaction and enjoyment go it is far from the worst that I have read, but it could be so much better. McGuire has a nice writing style and this is an easy read that is fully focused on relationships and angst during teenage years. Anger issues are evident but could have been expanded upon regarding Maddox. Passion didn't really hit the spot for me, there are some light sex scenes that are inoffensive and over with haste. Bad language is used occasionally, sometimes it fits and other times it seems unnecessary and the story would not suffer if it was left out completely. I can't say that Abby gained my affection or sympathy, she wasn't easy to like as she was more frustrating than endearing. I can't really mention supporting characters much as they are very much left on the sidelines. America and Shepley feature but I can't tell you who they are any more than I can expand on the dreams and desires of the main protagonists. Its getting three stars because it's an OK read but not really anything memorable.
Published on Ciao
© dawnymarie 2014
Stephen King 11.22.63
Why read this?
I like King's writing style, this one was written in first person and I wanted to see how King presented that. I was intrigued by the cover depicting Kennedy on the day of his assassination and the blurb was compelling. Quoted as compulsive, irresistible and addictive I had to buy this book.
If you could go back in time and change an event in order to prevent bad things happening would you do it? Jake Epping is encouraged to do just that by his friend who has attempted it and failed. It is down to Jake to change the world - this will change his life too. Has he got the guts to take someone out, someone who is not afraid to handle a gun, someone who is a little crazy? Step down into the rabbit hole and find out.
As ever with King I am comfortable and tempted to read on right from page one. A writer will strive to make the first sentence in a book compelling, it needs to grab the reader and make them inquisitive enough to read on. The first line in this book 'I have never been what you'd call a crying man' did just that. What would make this man, Jake Epping, cry?
At little over seven hundred pages this tome of a book felt a little intimidating initially but I have been there before with King, I have journeyed with him and his characters to the Dark Tower and know that there will be little to bore me throughout the pages. I am not wrong, I would struggle to select any part of this prose that felt unnecessary. I just finished reading it and to think back to the beginning feels like some time ago as it took me quite a while to get through it - part of me wanted to slow the pace down to make it last longer and I fought the urge to plough through it quickly.
There are two main protagonists in this book. This happens to be the same guy, Jake will become George (not a name he relished) when he goes back in time to a place that is familiar but unfamiliar. Mr George Amberson to be precise. Initially I was concerned that I would be confused, would he be back and forth in time or would he settle in and stay? That was for me to find out. I soon became fond of Jake, a teacher who had a real knack with the kids, one of those who you will remember fondly years after graduating. He was a good guy. So my question was 'how was King going to make this good guy kill in cold blood?'
There are not many characters from the 'now' period in time that I got to know very well. Al Templeton, the guy who urges Jake to undertake this massive task, got to be developed well enough for me to like him but it was not necessary to do more than that. This prose is not so much about the 'now' as it sits firmly in the past. When Jake finally settles down into his role in the past he embraces his new identity tenaciously and begins a treacherous battle to change the course of the future. One thing that you will learn fast when riding with George is that the past does not want to be changed, it will fight you all the way and it fights mean.
I felt undertones of the 'Dark Tower' and 'It' within the composition but that has happened before in King's novels, his characters or concepts will make an appearance and for me it makes it all the more compelling and thought provoking. The fragility of our world as we know it is presented in a way that bends the mind. I think that is why I took my time all the more with the book as I had so many 'aha' moments.
To say that King did impeccable research into the time period that he slots George into is an understatement. It feels to me like King has experienced everything first hand, like he really has got some passage back in time. The smells of pollution, threats of nuclear war, taste of unprocessed food and full fat appetisers is astounding. Clothing, banking, betting and renting of property are all vivid. This is consistent throughout and makes for a satisfying read.
Once again his main character is writing, I like this theme that often appears in his prose. He writes what he knows and why not, it works. George is a teacher by profession, though, and back in time he slots into a community and school with ease. He has his alibis and his double identity under control, not to mention his 'other business' that is a story ever unfolding before the readers eyes.
Even though we know the events, we know about Lee Oswald and what happened on that fateful day, King unfolds the events (with some artistic license) with precision and believable ease. I would have thought that it would just be a waiting game. Some planning and then waiting for Oswald to set himself up in his sniper station, then George could take him out - simple as that. But that was not to be. What you get instead is a whole development of other relationships, characters and scenarios that engross you as much, if not more.
Enter Sadie. I am, once again, gobsmacked. It's such a surprise, a nice one, to have a romantic element within the tale. With a lady tugging at his heartstrings this means that there is much more scope for obstacles to be placed in the path and boy are there some developments that shock (no surprise there) and are emotive. Would Jake Epping cry? He has never been a crying man.
There are lots of subplots in the prose that I really got into and invested in. I began to care for other characters from the past and dislike some too. As you would expect there are some bad guys in this tale and when they set to work they don't hang back. Description, once again, is utterly believable when George experiences pain - I'll leave it at that, you'll need to read to find out for yourself.
After all the twists and turns, concepts, subplots and emotion the finale draws near. Will George succeed in his task? Will the past halt his plans, it will stub him out if need be - trees can fall unexpectedly George, watch out. If Lee Oswald is stopped and Kennedy lives what will the effect on the future be? Will it be for the better, prevent further wars? Or will things be worse? How will the past react? Will it take revenge in a butterfly effect that touches the lives of many?
The latter end of the prose is pacey. Race against time stuff as you may guess, but I didn't guess the outcome, that was a surprise and a shock. Was Al Templeton right, or is this messing with fire?
'I have never been what you'd call a crying man'.
www.bookbutler.co.uk will provide a list of competitive prices.
You can pick up copies for less, either used or new, from Amazon.
If you like King's work give this one a whirl, it's a hefty tome at over 700 pages but personally I like a longer read. The realistic description of the past time period is outstanding and a sterling job has been done by King's aids. Right down to how the police placed bugs into telephones, just breath-taking. Storyline and plot is solid with plenty juicy subplots to keep you entertained whilst waiting for Oswald to set up home with his wife and baby. Artistic licence is used but the timeline and events that took place leading up to Kennedy's assassination are well covered. Pace is good and builds up well at appropriate times, I was hooked. First person narrative works very well and it was interesting to see how a master of storytelling did with this approach. A fine job. A little romance sits well and King works some emotive themes in too, I liked it as it made it all the more real and the main protagonist believable and likeable. Highly recommended.
Published on Ciao
© dawnymarie 2014
Luxury Eye Care by Estee Lauder
Why buy this?
After reading a tempting review of this product by Graygirl I was more than tempted to treat myself with part of my dooyoo earnings. All that Graygirl described ticked the boxes and I thought 'I'm worth it'. Not cheap but a treat.
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair:
What exactly is this all about? Why did I become tempted when I had already found a wonderful eye cream/serum by Nurture Replenish (a review of which can be found on my profile pages). Well, this one is a serum and after being very impressed with my Nurture Replenish eye serum and face serum I rather fancied trying out an alternative. I'd never tried Estee Lauder before and I have respect for Graygirls opinions. Fine lines, wrinkles, puffiness etc all tackled made this a product that was hard to resist and off I went to purchase from Amazon.
Estee Lauder Virgin:
So, as stated above I'm a virgin -- as far as Estee Lauder goes. I was both excited and rather intrigued as I awaited delivery and when the neat box arrived (which was very classy) I couldn't wait to rip it open -- only I didn't, I carefully unpacked the exquisite blue box as it was so nice. I have no further use for it but I couldn't bring myself to tear it. Besides it housed a little spatula for accessing the serum when my finger tips will not squeeze inside.
The little brown pot sat in my hand with it's golden lid and I felt so lucky to be trying it out. Night time arrived and once I had pampered my face with my usual beauty routine and cleansing I prepared for action. Estee Lauder action. I prepared to be amazed by this little pot of serum. I dipped my finger into the pot and it felt cool and nice. I dabbed in a horse shoe shape around the lower and upper eyelid (my usual technique) and to the outer area of the eye. It sat there until I dabbed it into the skin, gently.
This stuff feels especially nice around the eye area and does not sting or cause the eyes to water. I have sensitive skin and have not had any adverse effects after using this serum for some months. The initial coolness was lovely and the hydration very noticeable. It feels like a quality product and is a joy to use, I really look forward to applying it in the evenings as it's like a pampering treat.
The idea of the serum is to provide a protective layer and optimal environment for the thin and delicate eye area (this is stated on the Estee Lauder website and for more information such as this I shall direct you there to peruse at your leisure www.esteelauder.co.uk).
You are advised to use this product in the morning as well but as this cost a high price tag of £38 I opted to use as a treat in the night time routine and allow it to last longer.
I like the fact that it is fragrance free as my eyes are very sensitive and are easily irritated. No irritation has been noted.
I have trialed the product for a few months and I use it only at night, that said I have still about a third of the small pot left so I'm rather pleased with economy in regards to the cost of the product.
The most noticeable thing in the morning is a reduction of puffiness, you know that bog eyed look that you just don't want when you look at yourself in the bathroom mirror. After only a few days of use the puffiness was noticeably reduced and I think that is most impressive.
I adore the silky, hydrated feeling that the product provides. It is like my skin is being very well cared for and having a good long drink. My skin does not feel tight in the morning, or dry. It really is lovely.
The product soaks into the skin quite quickly so if you wanted to use it during the day too that would be possible when you are applying make up soon after applying. I had a horrible experience recently when I bought a natural day cream that was still sat on my face for over two hours after I had applied it. I only applied a small amount and it felt like grease sat on my skin -- it was appalling, so in comparison to that the Estee Lauder serum is flying very, very high indeed.
I have noted that fine lines are reduced, I don't have much by the way of wrinkles so cannot comment too much on that. The claim to improve dry skin is true to form as my eye area feels very well hydrated, moisturised and silky smooth.
My 15ml pot is slowly coming to an end and I really would like another when it is gone, I know that I will miss it as I have got so used to the night time pampering that it provides. I have been a very lucky girl, I know. At £38 though it is a real luxury, treat item for me. Having said that, the serum lasts ages if used at night time only so I may just take the plunge and splurge some of my hard earned Boots Advantage points.
I am so glad that I read Graygirl's review of this product as all that she experienced is similar to my own with this lovely product.
Absolutely yes. This 15ml pot of eye serum is a treat but if you feel like spoiling yourself then it's well worth the money. The delicate eye area is beautifully pampered with this hydrating and moisturising serum, morning puffiness was noticeably reduced after a few days use at night time only. Fine lines to the side of the eyes visibly reduced after a few weeks use. I absolutely adore the silky soft feeling around my eyes when I have dotted and dabbed this around my eye area. I have sensitive skin/eyes and have not had any adverse reactions from this serum which is fragrance free. It's high end pampering and comes with a high end price tag but on this occasion I gave in to temptation and I'm glad that I did. Highly recommended.
Published on Ciao
Apple iPad Air 32GB
What appealed about this?...
I wanted a tablet that would be light and easy to navigate. After numerous trips to stores to compare ease of use of all manner of brands I kept coming back to the Apple as it is so clear and user friendly.
What's on offer with this tablet?...
As weight was a deciding factor I can tell you that this good sized tablet weighs less than a kilo, whilst feeling strong and durable and looking attractive.
I was attracted to this model as it has the retina display which is even clearer and has a good sized screen without too much bevel -- 9.7".
Another attractive and necessary feature was ultra fast wireless connection and that is what I got.
Access to over 450,000 applications and access to email, internet, cloud storage -- including Amazon's Kindle and music.
Camera is 5MP auto focus and there is video facility as you would expect.
The list of technicalities goes on and I would direct you to the Apple website to take full advantage of all of that over there. I've just included what tempted me in and what was important to me at this time.
What's it like to use?...
I'd had a good play on the demo's in the Apple Store so had a good idea what to expect from this tablet. First things first -- minimal packaging that is well designed and aesthetically pleasing. Price wise this is a rather more expensive piece of kit compared with alternatives but Asda had a good offer on that my husband took advantage of when he gifted me with this.
Setting up is pretty similar to setting up the Kindle Paperwhite. You choose language and input your wireless key code and you are plain sailing from there on in. Charging is very fast. First charge was fast and subsequent charging up is impressively quick -- half an hour and all is good to go.
I'm really happy with the weight and feel of the tablet in my hands, though I was happier when I got my Tuff luv case as it can be a wee bit slippery and is ultra thin. I like that my cover protects the screen when it is off too. The tablet has a sleep function which is really handy and doesn't deplete the battery, also there is an easy swipe across the screen function that switches off completely.
There are few buttons to the side. The side ones are for volume and rotation lock, whilst the top button will switch on/off and wakes the tablet up. On the front of the tablet to the bottom centre is the the home button. I like that the rest of the functioning is touch screen -- nice smooth feel to this and the images are sharp as you would expect from the retina display.
Built in speakers provide impressive sound and the slot for the usb charger is discreet and easy to access.
I use the tablet mostly for accessing email and browsing the internet -- this is very easy to navigate and fast. I have used the tablet when in all rooms of the house and also when two laptops have been in use and the connectivity is superb.
When accessing video playback or movies the images are crystal clear and the sound is very impressive for such a slender unit. I've not had any issues with connectivity or crashes up to now.
Battery life seems to be very good, it depends on what you are doing and how often you access the tablet throughout the day but from my initial usage for internet access and playing music with some use of the camera I'm having a good few hours per day for up to five days before needing to charge up. I like that you get a charger with this, I had to buy one for my Kindle.
I have been impressed with the applications that are on offer from the Apple store. It is very easy to navigate and obvious which are free and which payable. It is fast at downloading the applications and I have yet to be disappointed with lack of choice. I was particularly impressed with the fact that I can download and access my Kindle books (done automatically) to my iPad Air -- this allows me to continue reading from where I was up to on my Kindle. It's super that I can access my music from Amazon Cloud too.
I see that the operating system is the very impressive iOS 7. This allows for multitasking with ease and also offers access to Siri, Air Drop, Air Play and Air Print. I've not used all of the facilities yet but every day I find something else that impresses me.
I wondered what it would be like to use the tablet when I was used to using computer or laptop. I've been really impressed with what I can do and the speed that I can do it. The display is notably clearer and sharper -- images are a treat to look at, so rich and clear. Speed is very impressive and I can happily compose short messages or posts but I'd have to get a keyboard for lengthier tasks.
I like that I can put my earphones into the tablet and also connect to speakers to access my library of music. It feels like I have everything all in one place. I have writing applications on there too.
I'm really pleased with this tablet. It oozes quality, looks sleek and has a good screen size that means you are not having to enlarge stuff all of the time. It can be carried around with ease but I like the cover to protect it when I'm out. It's light and ergonomically well designed.
Absolutely. This is quality and even if you don't switch it on it looks good and feels good. The aluminium casing is gorgeous and makes the tablet feel sturdy and well made. It's oh so easy to use, this was a major necessity for me as I'm not the most technically minded and I want to access things with speed. Internet access and wireless connection is really impressive, battery life is good and charging speedy. I love that I have access to everything all in one place and the screen is a size that means I don't end up squinting at the screen. I love the Siri voice demand -- it works well and is something I've not encountered before. There is plenty of storage on this but it's not expandable -- that's why I got this one. Sound is great. There is nothing not to like for me about this tablet, it is all that I wanted and more besides. A really big thing is that the keypad is excellent and responsive and mistakes are rarely made when typing. A high five from me and highly recommended to you.
Published on Ciao
(c) Dawnymarie 2013
What do you buy a lady for Christmas?
What indeed. If you are male and wondering what on earth you could present your loved one with then the following may well be of help -- or may not as the case may be.
I can only go off what I find appealing myself and as we know it is each to their own. Without further ado here we go:
One for the ladies...
It took me an eternity to find the perfect foundation that sits lightly but offers maximum coverage -- this is like gold dust to me and I'd totally love to receive gift vouchers for the brand Bare Minerals. It's not the cheapest but also not the most expensive so she can select easily. The company are based in Debenhams and Selfridges with smaller chains in Boots and sell a good range of skin care too.
Another brand that would not see me frowning is Urban Decay and the Naked Palette (see my review) is amazing. It is a treat this one and most ladies will easily make use of the neutral shades that are housed in the sleek velvet box -- this one is a winner and comes with a cute pot of primer in a genie - esque bottle. Totally cute and brilliantly tasteful.
If it's a hair dryer you want for your lady then you will do really well with a Paul Mitchell offering. I own one and they use them in the salons so you can imagine the good length of cable that you get with it. Importantly the dryers are lightweight and impressively they are ionic -- this is good guys as it protects your ladies glossy mane. You can buy from a Paul Mitchell endorsed Salon or simply google it and you will get results.
If it's straight locks that your girl wishes for then I can highly recommend GHD's, yes they have been around a while now but there is good reason for that -- they are good at what they do. I have had mine for over five years now and they are still going strong and give impressive results with ease. They are more expensive than some other brands but you get what you pay for here and she will be most impressed with your choice. You can even get them in a range of colours now.
Jewellery is an obvious gift but one that most of the fairer sex enjoy receiving -- if selected with care and thought. Personally I like the smaller, elegant designs for earrings -- a stud with a gem stone encased in it or simple heart shaped studs. I'm the same with pendants, I like small and delicate styles that sit around the neck and not too low -- flattering and subtle. If you can I'd get one of the earring with matching pendant sets or select some that match, really nice.
Perfume. I'm a wee bit fussy with perfume so if I was to receive a fragrance someone will need to have done their homework as I don't like heavy scent that will induce headache or nausea. It's best to listen out for hints here guys, most of us females will let you know if we like a perfume and if not then you can ask someone to find out for you.
You won't find flowers or chocolates on my list as that really isn't a gift that I would like to receive -- I can only have dark chocolate so I'm difficult to buy for -- aside from that I am not a girl who eats lots of chocolate and there is lots to consume at Christmas so those choccies would have to wait. Of course that is just my personal preference and there will be lots of happy faces if they found a Thorntons treat under the tree -- or Green and Blacks 85% dark chocolate, ahem.
My husband has delighted me in the past with a money treat for me to spend on anything that I like in the sales -- this has always gone down very well as I have often been in need of something or had an item in mind and it's great to be able to purchase it as a treat.
Whatever route you choose I hope that you make your lovely lady smile on the day, I am sure that you will but a word of warning: us ladies prefer not to receive irons, kettles or similar appliances as a treat -- think foot spa or massaging tool if you fancy treating her with an electrical offering and you may get away with it.
Good luck boys.
Braun Silk Epil 7 7381
Why buy this?
Because you would like to test out your bravery as I did. No. That means that you fancy silky smooth legs and underarms for a number of weeks and lose the extravagant expense of razor blades, have you seen how much they are now for a decent pack of blades? Really. I digress, I bought this because I like the results gained from epilating. I had an epilator, it was good for quite some time but then it lacked performance and snapped rather than plucked out hair, it was by Philips and I experienced poor customer service when the product was still under warranty -- hence I turned my cloak and went over to the dark side.
I have a Braun electric toothbrush which I have been very pleased with, I have two actually so I had no problem trialing this epilator. I was gifted it as a present by my husband, I kinda hinted big time, and at the steal price of £69.99 from an Amazon deal when the RRP is £119; and it was selling at that price in Boots, I was more than happy. It is now £74.99 on Amazon -- at the time of publishing this review.
What is an epilator all about?
I'll keep this short. Basically, epilating plucks out the hair at the root via lots of rows of little tweezers. The result is very smooth skin that stays hair and stubble free for weeks rather than days.
Lets get torturing -- I mean epilating...
I was apprehensive when I first got this out of the modest packaging. It came with a pack of Olay exfoliating wipes which impressed me as they are quite pricey. I got a white pouch which is really handy to keep the unit, charger and wee brush inside. It also has two head attachments to choose from.
I had resorted to shaving for a few months and really disliked the stubble and speed of growth that ensued. I tried the old epilator again to no avail -- it had definitely died an early death that one. I wasn't all that impressed. As I remembered the initial sensitivity that I felt when I first epilated with the Philips I reluctantly charged up the Braun and mustered my courage.
First off you'll note that I say I charged up the unit. This is a major advantage over the plug in epilators, the Philips was so restrictive as it had to be used near a socket, with the Braun I can choose were I wish to undertake my hair removal session. Much better. It takes around 40 minutes to fully charge and you can't use it whilst it is charging.
At this point I will say that you can use this in the bath or shower, I haven't as that is not something that appeals to me and I get great results by using dry, though apparently results are said to be smoother. The option is there though and I think it good.
Fully charged I ensured that my legs and underarm areas were free from creams and used the wipes that were included. I chose to use an attachment that has some little rollers that vibrate as this diffuses the perception of pain, though still means good performance -- though it won't be as efficient as the efficiency cap and I have not as yet had need to use the sensitive area cap as I am brave -- either that or the roller attachment is good at its job of distracting my pain perception monitor.
I get to choose from two speeds and on the initial sessions I was a little wimp and maintained the slower end, though now I think nothing of using top speed. This is easily set up by turning the dial that is on the front of the unit and situated below a fabulous concept -- a light. What a brilliant idea as this makes seeing those illusive hairs all the easier. I'm always going to miss the odd one but it happens much less now and I am sure it's down to the light.
I followed the instructions and held the unit at 90 degrees to my skin. Pulled it taught with one hand and went against the direction of the hair growth. Tentative initially I slowly eased the unit upwards and awaited the plucking sensation that would make me go 'ouch'. I waited and continued with the upward journey to my knee -- no pain. All I felt was the tiny vibration of the rollers against my skin. When I get to more sensitive areas and if hair is longer on my legs then I will feel some plucking and a small amount of pain -- but it's minimal, either that or I am a very brave girl who has a massive pain threshold. I am not the bravest when it comes to pain and my pain threshold is not great so I rather think that it is down to the epilator unit and I can report that it is much less plucky than the Philips and I could tolerate that one till it got to be inefficient.
The unit isn't heavy and it's ergonomically well designed. It fits the palm of the hand perfectly and the dial is easily moved with the thumb. The light comes on automatically and also it has a glittery bit of girly sparkles to the trunk -- well, it's nice isn't it.
It feels really good quality compared to the Philips alternative. It's well built and dare I say sleek. It outperforms the Philips by a mile too. It is much faster at removing hair and the results are as they should be -- taken from root and not snapped at skin level.
After epilating there is the usual bit of redness and little dotty rash but that has always disappeared come morning and all is as smooth as a baby's bum.
Underarm shaving is impressive with this unit. The light is a big help. The design allows it to fit into the underarm anatomy without a struggle to contort oneself. Hair is removed pretty painlessly, more so if hair is shorter. It lasts a good three weeks before I need epilate again.
It is really easy to detach the head for cleaning. By slowly rotating the wheels with your fingers and brushing gently all is clear within minutes and the head simply snaps back on -- you don't need to force or push hard.
I normally get about four epilating sessions before it's time to recharge. About 45 minutes worth of epilating -- I think that's good performance and I'm happy with that as I would much rather have a rechargeable unit to give me more freedom to move around with the unit.
It's well worth cleaning the head after every use to prolong it's life as the heads can be quite pricey to replace and come under wear and tear so not covered in warranty.
I am really pleased with this unit and cannot believe how much better it is than the Philips that I originally had. No competition, this one is the big brother and worth paying that bit more for. More or less painless once you are used to it and results last ages.
Check Amazon for offers as it's £74.99 at present time of publishing this review.
Highly recommended. As an experienced epilator and having compared this to the Philips that I used to own I can highly recommend this one to you. An advantage is the wet and dry option and of course the fact that this is a rechargeable unit -- offering you much more freedom and use in the bathroom. The choice of attachments is good and the vibrating roller head makes life so much easier, especially for the beginner. It's a well designed unit with great thought given to weight, ease of use and anatomy. It looks good and feels good, feels quality. It may seem an expensive purchase but this one pulls hair from root and doesn't snap them out as the Philips one started to do. The light is a genius concept and makes life even easier. There's a reason this brand is up there with the best. This is a good epilator for sure. Can't give any less than five stars.
Published on Ciao
(c) dawnymarie 2013
Lidl Suddenly Eau de Parfum
Why choose this?
Simple. A lady walked by me in a store, the smell that lingered behind her stopped me in my tracks and that does not normally happen to me. I approached her and asked what she was wearing, I expected her to tell me of an expensive brand, instead she told me that it was from Lidl. I was shocked, literally lost for words and needless to say I bought some. I got two bottles, one for myself and one for my daugther.
Lidl Eau De Parfum. What is in the box...
It's not the most exciting environment to purchase perfume and to be honest it felt odd as I'm used to shopping in Boots, Debenhams or L'Occitane for my fragrance purchases. Lidl is a supermarket and I found the perfume above the frozen foods. This placed doubt in my mind, had I imagined the smell being so nice or was it someone else and I stopped the wrong lady?
The box is not the most luxurious but it feels quality and is sealed with cellophane. The bottle is a simple design and at 50ml a generous purchase for the price at £3.99. That felt so weird, spending so little on fragrance and once again I felt dubious. If anything, the lid lets the bottle down as it is a little clumsy looking, the glass bottle is quite appealing and modestly attractive.
On with the trial...
I have never tried the perfume that so many compare this one to, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, at 50ml it is an impressive £66.50 at Boots, and of course the bottle looks the business. That is as far as I can go in comparison.
Bottle in hand feels good, minus the lid this bottle looks far more classy -- replace the lid and it looks a little tacky and cheap. So, leave the lid off if you want a more impressive appearance. I like the gold graphics and spray attachment, it's simple but makes it more aesthetically pleasing.
The parfum appears to be light gold in colour and that appeals, I am not keen on overly dark appearance.
I was apprehensive before spraying some of the Suddenly onto my wrist and neck, I have sensitive skin and wondered if a cheap fragrance may have dubious ingredients. I also didn't want to smell of cheap perfume and didn't want the headache inducing experience that some can muster. So it wasn't with joy that I used this for the first time.
I needn't have concerned myself, I have had no reactions to this parfum at all and have been using it for over a month, daily. Note that I stated daily -- that is not because of the trial and I forced myself to do it, it is because I love it.
I am absolutely gobsmacked, now there's a word. Gobsmacked. I would never have imagined that I would purchase a perfume of this price and brand, let alone like it. But I do and my daughter does too, in fact the girls at her work place thought that she was wearing Chanel as one of them has the expensive Coco Madamoiselle.
The first burst of scent is strong and initially I used less as I feared a headache, no headache has ever developed and now I'm used to it I spray on more -- I need to, I can't help it.
The notes are floral and fruity and I can detect jasmine and bergamot which I adore. The notes are top heavy initially and very noticeable -- to a point that I thought it too much but it soon settles and becomes a classy and exotic treat.
It doesn't last as long as my expensive perfumes and I do have another one or two sprays throughout the day but at that price I really don't mind. The thing is I can't detect it but others can, it's one of those fragrances that develop into a really subtle but beautiful aroma as the day goes on. I detect the floral notes predominantly.
I have sprayed it into my wardrobe to freshen it up and when I opened it the following day the fragrance was definitely noticeable and it smelt gorgeous.
I wouldn't say that I can detect exact notes as the perfume settles on my skin like I can with the L'Occitane parfum but having said that I have had other expensive perfumes that have been the same. The main thing for me is that it smells classy but subtle, is not overpowering and doesn't irritate my skin -- this ticks all of those boxes.
I still feel odd about buying a perfume at such a low price from Lidl but it is absolutely lovely. It's my favourite perfume at present and the one that I go for each morning -- it's sat at the side of L'Occitane bottles. That, for me, is impressive.
This perfume is promoted as being 'Timeless and affordable' -- I have to agree and I am definitely buying some more.
Absolutely, at £3.99 what have you got to loose. It does feel strange and you will have doubts when you take your box off the shelf in the Lidl supermarket -- it will be near toothpaste and no doubt above the frozen food so it doesn't feel like a luxurious treat at that point. At £3.99 you don't feel like you are pampering yourself either or being naughty but nice, because you are worth it. But, seriously, this is really nice stuff. Its on the floral and exotic side note wise and jasmine features quite strongly but it is not a headache inducing blend, it settles to become a subtle, classy and expensive smelling aroma that leaves a very pleasant smell in the room that you have just been in. You can throw it in your bag and top up if and when required, I have a little spray or two in the afternoon. I've had my bottle for just over a month and there is about half the bottle left -- I've been using it every day. It's gorgeous, I can't believe it's from Lidl. Some ladies who have it say that it's Chanel if anyone asks and some are asked if they are wearing Chanel! Highly recommended. Great price, great smell.
Published on Ciao
(c) dawnymaire 2013
A Dance with Dragons 2: After the Feast -- George RR Martin
Why read this one?
It's part two of book 5. There, enough reason for anyone who has read the preceding novels. I have consumed this series with haste and nothing was going to stop me reading this one. There will be another to come but for now this is where the story lies.
It's a decent price at present too, Amazon have it via Kindle or paperback for just under £4. Not bad for a good read.
As ever and importantly 'Winter is Coming'. That old Stark maxim that harbours much truth and fear, for winter in Westeros is not as we know it. Winter in Westeros lasts years and beyond and in that time 'The Others' come and take you. But it matters not to those who sit in the comfort of lands afar, those on the wall are there to protect the good folk from the 'Others' and who really believes in fairy tales? Does the young King who sits the Iron throne believe? Games are still to be played and many seek power - blind to the danger that looms.
The game continues...
Reluctantly I picked up this book, pages turned slow initially - this due to me wanting to prolong my enjoyment but it was short lived. I soon had no choice but to read faster because Martin had lots to tell in this book.
The pace is even and heats up appropriately and in timely fashion, though not always for an outcome of my liking. Be warned he is culling again and Martin can be brutal. I am soon reacquainted with two of my favourite characters and hence I am happy. Tyrion Lannister weaves his wonderful wit within the lines of the pages as he navigates his way through danger with his tongue, that may seem an odd thing to say but for those who know this little guy it is a given. Without him these books would not be what they are, he adds the intelligence and humour to the tale and brings great joy and respite. I feel it's time to settle in when Tyrion time is upon me. Martin has created a standalone character that is much loved by many fans, a real treat. Needless to say if Martin culls him he'll be in trouble.
Much more to do with Daenerys in this volume and the situation is political and uncomfortable to read, not because Martyn has bogged it down with listless politics, but because I don't like the outcome. I wanted an entirely different outcome which involved the love of her life, the one she is passionate about - he who lights her fire. I wanted knight in shining armour stuff and my heart was eager to have it happen, I willed it to unravel before my eyes and what did I get? I can understand why Martin chose the outcome, I would probably have done the same if I'd have had pen in hand as there needs to be obstacles to our dragon Queens happiness. It will be all the more satisfying to me as a reader if she gets to be happy much later in the book. Who knows if she will make it though, one never knows with Martin.
I had some surprises, intrigue and satisfaction throughout the prose. Plot lines weave within and around each other and surface plot pulls the tale along whilst we await the bigger, deeper stuff to be unveiled - or should that be unleashed. That is how Martin likes to work, he has you ambling along taking in the scene and getting to know new characters and then wham; there you have it.
I particularly enjoyed revisiting Winterfell, after all this is where it all began. It saddened me to see the walls missing certain people but the action that is happening now is fascinating. Castles are built to keep others out and give the upper hand for war but how often they fall. Time and again you see it happen and a nobleman's life is never a long one. Snow lies deep and falls hard, food scarce see's improvising of a repulsive kind - difficult times bring out the beast in men and women. I was compelled to keep reading as human nature was showcased in the raw elements.
Within the walls of the castle of Winterfell is one of the most loathed characters and his cruelty is beyond belief, Martin has created a vile man in the Bolton bastard, he is horrendous. I can't remember disliking a character as much as I do him, even Malfoy from Rowling's Harry Potter pales into insignificance when put alongside Bolton.
All the while I have been composing this review my mind has been on the wall. The huge ice wall that separates human kind from those of the inhuman kind, the dead and the Others. But as intriguing and fearful as those supernatural and mystical creatures are they are not my concern. John Snow occupies my thoughts. He is the most compassionate and loyal character in this prose, he has a lions heart and he appeals. I have seen him develop courage and strength, all the time not being afraid to speak the truth and not bend to others expectations. He has made mistakes and that is what I like about him too, that makes him all the more real. He has accomplished much and has capability of doing so much more but I fear for him and his direwolf. I don't think I could bear it if Martin slayed this character, not John Snow. I hope Martin leaves him alone and Tyrion Lannister but like everyone else I am at his mercy and must wait a year or so to find out.
When I finished this book I felt numb. I was left with many questions and concerns that I want answers to, so many characters didn't make an appearance in this book and those that did either made it to fight another day or are hanging in the balance of Martin's mind. This is good and I am impressed because he has got me to care, a lot, about more than one character. I have also developed a healthy dislike for others and I can report that Cersei is back in the bad books, I felt sorry for her in the last one but not anymore. She runs true to form that one and even though she is a horrible woman it's good to have her around making mischief.
I would say that I am satisfied with the ending, not happy as such as things are definitely hanging by a thread but that makes certain that I buy and read the next installment, job done. An impressive feat so far and I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
www.bookbutler.co.uk will do a full online search for the best prices online
Amazon paperback £3.86 at the time of writing.
If you have read the previous installments then you can't miss out on this, though it will leave you wanting more and for that we must wait. Dragons run amok; Daenerys faces challenges that will surprise though don't expect a rush of blood to your heart in this one. Tyrion is on his best form; this character is one of Martin's best and is a treat throughout bringing light relief within intellectual morsels. Winter is coming; games are still being played as many clamber for power. It is a battle to keep up with all the clans and houses but don't let that worry you, just enjoy the ride. The bastard of Bolton repulses and horrifies but at the wall Lord Snow provides courageous and compassionate moments. There are unexpected changes in this one and Martin culls again, will it be your favourite?
Published on Ciao