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Member since: 06.02.2009

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      05.12.2010 14:10
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      Perfect reading for a cold winters day.

      This is the third novel by Kate Morton, a popular best-selling author in recent years after her first novel 'House at Riverton' was a Richard and Judy choice.

      This uses a similar format as her other two books - a dual narrative. This one focuses on the lives of the Blythe sisters in the Second World War and the 1990's which follow the main narrator of the story - Edie Burchill, whose mother stayed with the Blythe sisters as an evacuee. This is a format I feel has been used many times but the author is a master at this and it does work. It keeps you guessing and is definitely a 'page-turner'.

      It is full of mystery - Edie's mother is very reserved and secretive about her time with the sisters at the Milderhurst Castle and so Edie sets out to find the truth. The sisters - twins; Percy and Saffy and the younger sister, Juniper still live at the castle over fifty years later. However, we learn that Juniper is now suffering from mental illness after being jilted by her fiance back in 1941. Through letters, books, journals, and speaking to the characters Edie begins to learn the truth. The flashbacks allow the reader to see for themselves what has happened as we see events through other character's eyes.

      This is a truly atmospheric book. It reminds me of some of my favourite books such as Wuthering Heights and Rebecca and it is clear that Morton has been heavily influenced by these - alluding to that herself - that are many references to other works of literature in the book. The descriptions of the Castle and the weather are very Bronte-esque and I loved that. It is a well-written and structured book. I loved all the references to publishing, libraries, books and the stories within the main story. I was also caught up in every twist and turn and found the majority of the characters fascinating.

      However, once I had finished it, for me there are two major flaws with the novel. One is that the main narrator of the book, Edie is left undeveloped. She is simply, the narrator. We learn little about her own life and she is simply caught up in the life of others. This is intentional, it allows is to find out the truth slowly, as Edie does. But it left me feeling a little unsympathetic for Edie herself. Particularly as she spends most of her time reading private letters and speaking to people, without her mother knowing. Without doing that though, there wouldn't have been much of a story.

      I also feel the novel was too long. It is divided into 5 parts and I wished it had ended after part 4. That explained almost everything but left a little doubt in your head, which I like. Part 5 had tidied up every end possible and just made the novel too long. It repeated some events several time throughout the novel and this did become a bit tedious.

      Despite that though, I would highly recommend this book if you enjoyed her other books or if you enjoy a gothic, haunting tale. A perfect accompainment to a cold wintry day.

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        30.11.2010 16:09
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        Highly recommended

        This book opens in a very dramatic way. The main character (Laura) opens the door to two police offficers who tell her that her nine-year old daughter, Betty has been hit by a car and was killed. Obviously distraught, she is unhappy when the man responsible for this does not receive a prison sentence. She decides to track him down herself for revenge.

        However, this is not the main thread of storyline throughout the novel. It also tracks her failed marriage to Betty's father, David. The author cleverly uses flashbacks to life before the accident so that the reader slowly finds out the truth about events which led to this and David's affair with his work colleague, Chloe.

        This is told through Laura's eyes and she is a character that you cannot help but empathise with. Some may find the subject matter difficult to read, but the author deals with issues of loss and grieving a child very well. It is emotional and moving throughout, yet she manages to do this without sentimentality or cliches.

        I found the character Chloe less easy to sympathise with. We are never told about events from her perspective or even her own voice. Instead, we learn about her past and experiences through David and I was left wishing that the author had developed this character more.

        The pace of the novel overall was quite slow. However I felt this suited the subject matter; showing just how difficult it is to get life back on track after such tragic events. So after the initial drama, do not expect a lot of action until near the end of the novel. The author also keeps you guessing for the last few chapters about what has actually happened and I ended up having to stay up very late to finish this book, it is a definite page-turner in the second half.

        I haven't read anything else by this author but I would like to now. The author she reminds me of the most is Maggie O'Farrell, so if you have enjoyed her books, then I would definitely recommend this to you.

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        01.05.2010 12:25
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        Yummy!

        *** Summary ***
        These are healthy cereal bars aimed at children (although I think adults would enjoy them as well!). It includes wholegrain oats, crunchy rice and wheatflakes - with a (small) amount of milk chocolate drizzled on the top. They are high in fibre and claim that they contain alomst half the sugar in a typical children's cereal bar.

        They also come in white chocolate and strawberry flavour as well.

        *** Packaging ***
        They come in a small box of five - found alongside other cereal bars in the supermarket. Each bar is individually wrapped and the box cost £1.42 in Sainsbury's but I have seemed them in deals 2 for 1.

        *** Nutritional Information ***
        They are free from articificial colours and flavouring and all of the bars in the range contain less then 85 calories. The milk chocolate ones contain just 67 per bar which is very low compared to most cereal bars. It also contains 6.2g of fibre, 1.5 g of fat (just 0.5g of saturated fat) and 3.1g of Sugar.

        For anyone following the Weight Watchers plan - these are just one point each so are great for a quick breakfast or for a healthy snack in between meals.

        *** Taste ***
        They are quite chewy due to oats but I liked this as it made them last longer! They are sweet and the added chocolate on top made it feel more like a treat. Some may find them a little dry but I didn't really mind this as usually have tea with them. I prefer them to other cereal bars due to the slightly sticky, chewy feel to them, but were actually less calories then others I had previously been buying (such as the Special K ones)

        I felt like I was having a healthy snack but considering they are quite small, they were filling and with some tea and fruit, I found I didn't need anything else until lunch-time.

        *** Overall ***
        I think for children (perhaps as a healthy substitute for a chocolate bar in lunchboxes) or for people following a low calorie diet plan then these are fantastic. However, others may find them a bit dry and not satisfying enough.

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          06.04.2010 15:09
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          Worth reading if you are following the plan.

          *** Summary ***
          This is a monthly magazine produced by "Weight Watchers" and it claims to be the "UK's Biggest Selling Slimming Title." It costs £2.65 - although I pay a bit less as subscribe. This will review will focus on the current issue - May 2010.

          *** The Weight Watchers Plan ***
          For those of you who don't know the plan, it focuses on having a 'point allowance' for each day - this is allocated to you according to your height, activity levels etc. Almost every type of food has a point value - based on the calorie and saturated Fat percentage. It is an easy plan to follow and so far, has been succesful for me. I follow the plan online but find this a useful and extra resource to help me stay on track.

          *** The Magazine - sucess stories. ***
          This issue had 122 pages. A large portion of the magazine focuses on success stories - people who have followed the plan and lost weight. These can be quite motivational, especially with the before and after pictures and stories about how the plan has changed their lives. They have a mix of different people, such as ages and gender which is good as there are often people you can relate to.

          Each story has information such as their height, start weight, goal weight and the total amount they have lost. They also include tips about how to lose weight and what worked for them.

          *** The Recipes ***
          Another main part of the magazine includes Weight Watcher-friendly recipes. They include information such as points, how many it will serve, calories, cost and time it takes to prepare and cook.

          They always have a mix of different recipes and can have a seasonal element to them as well - to help us through tricky times such as easter or Christmas!

          They give ideas for all meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as low or no-point snacks. I have tried many of the recipes and always find them easy to cook and very tasty - it often doesn't feel like I am eating low-fat versions of food.

          In the food section they also include a whole 7-day menu of meals to help you plan ahead which you can follow. This may help newcomers to the plan as they can then see just how much you can eat - as long as it is healthy choices! There is also a 'shopping basket' page which points new food avaliable in supermarkets.

          *** Other Sections ***
          The magazine also has other entertaining sections in each issue. This includes: Readers letters, competitions, travel, Health and Beauty and fitness / exercise sections. I also love their sections on clothes which has useful information about what suits different sizes and shapes and clothes to inspire me to fit into! They also sometimes interview celebrities about their lifestyle - this issue includes one with Fiona Phillips.

          *** Verdict ***
          I find this a very useful resource - especially the recipes to keep my plan interesting and the stories can help motivate me to continue. I have lost almost a stone in 6 weeks so I am going to keep following the plan. the only downside of this magazine is the amount of adverts in it - most with a bias towards weightwatchers products of course!

          I would definitely recommend this to people following the plan and people just wanting to cook healthy meals.

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          • Coach Trip / TV Programme / 134 Readings / 128 Ratings
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            05.04.2010 18:51
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            Recommended

            ** Summary **
            The latest series of Coach trip (series 4) is currently being shown on Channel 4. This is a 30 minute documentary / reality show where 7 different British couples spend time touring Europe and staying in different countries throughout.

            ** The Couples **
            The couples always vary in relationship - from married couples, to friends, sisters and sometimes an odd paring such as son and mother-in-law! They always have a mix of different people on the coach at one time, in terms of age, gender, sexuality, class, region and personality - such as very loud, outgoing couples and some quiet, more serious ones. This keeps it interesting and can often cause sparks to fly!

            ** The Show **
            Each 30 minute show has the same format so this can become a bit monotonous but it does seem to work. At the start of each episode we get a quick recap on the couples and previous episode events so you could join the series at any time, it wouldn't be hard to catch-up!

            There are cameras on the coach so you often see some of their journey and watch how people interact, how they choose to sit with etc. Then every episode has 2-3 different activities for the contestants. These really vary and can be as adventerous as bunjee jumping to a walk around a muesuem. A fair number of activities also centre around food or drink.

            In one series they visit many different countries so it is always interesting to learn about new cultures and they can visit historical places of interest. I often find myself wanting to visit the places they show.

            *** The Vote ***
            At the end of each show, the couples vote for who they want to leave the coach. If there is a tie then they have to come to a decision about who should leave. At first couples get a yellow card but a second one results in a red card and they have to leave. This means new people are constanly being introduced which changes the dynamics of the group.

            This also means that at times, alliances between couples are formed and some may vote tatically. I think some want to stay on as long as possible - well at the end of the day, it is a free holiday! The vote is often the most entertaining part of the show, with rows, tears and people often venting how they really feel - even if they have been polite all day!

            *** The Host ***
            Brendan keeps the whole show together. He often becomes involved in all the activities as well to comic results. He is very camp but does take his job quite seriously and likes to be a proper tour guide and tell them all many facts about each place they visit. Although he does remain objective - it is often clear who he likes and dislikes on the trip and he will step in if the arguments get out of hand.

            *** Overall ***
            A great programme overall. Often quite fun and not exactly taxing! It is on at 5pm but you can also watch this on 4OD - go to the Channel 4 website if you want to catch up on episodes.

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              28.03.2010 17:16
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              One of my favourite films now.

              *** Overview ***
              Alice in Wonderland has always been a favourite book of mine - so much so that my cat is even named after Alice's cat Dinah. Therefore when I heard that they were making a new film version of this, I was a little worried. When you love a book so much, you always hope that they will not ruin your own image of this.

              However I am also a big fan of Tim Burton and I love 3D films so thought this would be a perfect film for me to watch. I was not disappointed. This is truly a wonderful, magical adaptation and I think I might even go to the cinema to see it again.


              *** Plot ***
              This is an original screenplay so although they do use the setting and characters this is not an attempt to follow the book faithfully. I liked this, it adds a modern twist to the story and then I think people can not moan that there are slight variations.

              This is technically a sequel to his books and uses elements of Lewis Carroll original book as well as 'Through the Looking Glass.' Alice is a young girl, bored with her life of etiquette and formality. It starts with her attending a garden party and is proposed to by Hamish, who she has no interest in. Spying a white rabbit, she follows him and falls down a hole...

              She enters Wonderland for the second time and realises the dreams she has had were not dreams but memories of her time there as a child. She meets familiar faces who question throughout if she is the 'right Alice?!'

              The Red Queen has taken control of Wonderland and Alice must beat the Jabberwocky to restore order and happiness to the land and restore the White Queen to her rightful place on the throne.


              *** Characters / Actors ***
              Alice is played quite brilliantly by Mia Wasikowksa. She is a likable and feisty version of Alice. I had not heard of this actress before but I think she is definitely one to watch. I also loved the way that throughout the film she became more and more like the traditional Alice I love - both in looks and personality. She is a beautiful and captivating actress. She is in almost every scene and for me, didn't fault once.

              Obviously Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter is the one most people go to see! He is suitably mad and eccentric. He played him perfectly, with also a hint of vulnerability and sensitivity as well. He also brings humour to this role - but don't expect him to be in the film too much. He is only a side character but I found myself looking forward to these scenes.

              Helena Bonham Carter was my favourite. As Burton's wife you may suspect some nepotism in his choice to constantly cast her in his films but I don't think that is the case at all. She was perfect for this role. Both convincingly evil / mad but amusing at the same time, this was a perfect balance. The ridiculous large head also helped to make this character comic.

              Anne Hathaway also played a good role as the White Queen but to be honest she is a bit boring, but that is the character rather then the actress. She just fades into the background against so many colourful and creative characters.

              Another favourite of mine was the Cheshire Cat - voiced by Stephen Fry. I found this animated character absolutely magical and couldn't stop smiling when he was on screen! My friends complained that he wasn't pink but blue but for me, it was just as I imagined him to be. I think they have seen the Disney film too much!

              Matt Lucas was also brilliantly cast as the Tweedles. His facial expressions and pauses alone had me laughing! Other notably characters were the Blue Caterpillar (voiced by Alan Rickman), the Dormouse (voiced by Barbara Windsor) and the March Hare was absolutely brilliant (voiced by Paul Whitehouse). So there was plenty of British talent as well.

              *** Overall Verdict ***
              Well if you hadn't guessed already, I loved this and would count this in my top ten films now. The 3D element only made this even more magical, so if you can see this watch in 3D if available!

              The music, sound effects and all of the animated special effects were outstanding. It created a perfect atmosphere and the film did have a definite Tim Burton feel to it - which I loved.

              My friends felt that it wasn't enough like their own version of Alice in Wonderland so were not as enthralled with it as me so thought I should point this out. If you want to see something more traditional to the book you may not love it as much.

              However for me, it fitted in perfectly with what I had imagined. As a child, I had thought it brighter and more colourful then this darker, gothic version but as an adult, I absolutely loved this twist. Highly recommended!

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              • Happily N'ever After (DVD) / DVD / 112 Readings / 110 Ratings
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                28.03.2010 14:04
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                I wouldn't bother!

                *** Overview ***
                Happily N'ever After was released in 2007 and is an animated family movie by the same producers as Shrek. I am a big fan of these movies, although I feel that there has been an abundance of these films so they need to have something a bit different to keep me interested. I finally got round to watching this one this weekend.


                *** The Plot ***
                This is set in a fairy-tale land. A wizard ensures that all storylines have their fairy-tale ending but decides to have a vacation and leaves his assistants Munk and Mambo in charge. Frieda (the evil stepmother character) finds this out and decides to influence events herself.

                She focuses on ruining her stepdaughter's happy ending (unsurprisingly Cinderella / Ella). She was meant to marry the Prince but this is ruined by Frieda who enlists the help of various creatures to change her story. Ella asks her friend, the kitchen boy Rick to help her find the Prince and save her happy ending. However, she does not realise that Rick himself is in love with her.


                *** The characters / voices ***
                Frieda is played by Sigourney Weaver - she does play this part well but doesn't really add anything new to this role. She just sounds like a stereotypical evil step-mother and isn't really that memorable.

                Cinderella is played by Sarah Michelle Gellar and is suitably sweet and likable in this role and Rick is played by Freddie Prinze Jr who is fine but again, nothing that memorable.

                For me, the best character (and voice) is Prince Humperdink. He is played by Patrick Warburton who is a familiar voice (if not actor) and has played roles in family Guy and one of my favourite all-time animated characters Kronk (in Emperor's New Groove). He provides some amusing moments and seemed to be the only character that really kept my interest.

                Children may like the comic characters - Munk, a pig (Wallace Shawn - Rex in Toy Story) and Mambo, a purple cat (Andy Dick). Although I found them a little annoying and tedious!


                *** Overall Verdict ***
                This was an average animated film and fails to live up to similar films such as Shrek. I think young children will enjoy it but for me, the quality of animation was not as good. I also didn't find it funny - the humour was very basic and there was very little of it anyway!

                This film was predictable and the plot was uninteresting and not unique. There have been better twists on the typical fairy-tale story such as Enchanted. I also think the film feels very rushed - almost as if they were just capitalising on a popular type of film without giving it a lot of thought.

                I would give this film 4 stars for children, I am sure it would keep them entertained but as an adult, it offered little entertainment or anything new. I would give this a miss!

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                • Skellig (DVD) / DVD / 82 Readings / 81 Ratings
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                  27.03.2010 18:53
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                  Well worth a viewing

                  ** Overview ***
                  This is an adaptation of the popular childrens fantasy novel by David Almond of the same title. The book, is one of my favourite young adult books so I had put off watching this, just in case it didn't live up to the atmospheric book.

                  I was pleasantly surprised. This stays faithful to the plot, is well-acted and the director has managed to create the same atmospheric and emotional mood as Almond did originally.

                  *** The Plot ***
                  Michael and his parents move into a new house and his mum (Louise) gives birth to his new baby sister. However, this is a difficult birth and the baby has to undertake an opertaion as her condition becomes life-threatning. In the shed at home, Michael meets a strange being called Skellig and also meets a new friend, Mina. Both Skellig and Mina help Michael through a difficult time. Both the book and film leave the audience wondering just who or what Skellig actually is.

                  *** The Acting ***
                  Bill Milner, a child actor plays Michael. He leads the cast and he is a wonderful new talent in his late teens. This was not an easy part to play - this character has to deal with some difficult and sad issues and yet he was believable throughout and made this very moving. The casting was very good in this film as all the child actors used were very good.

                  His parents are played by two well-known British actors - Kelly Macdonald (Gosford Park, Nanny McPhee among many others) and the excellent John Simm (Life on Mars, Dr Who).

                  However, Tim Roth playing Skellig is the stand-out actor in this. He plays Skellig mysteriously throughout, keeping the audience guessing but in a way which also makes him sympathetic to the audience. A wonderful actor.

                  *** Overall ***
                  I loved this film - it stayed true enough to the book so I couldn't fault this and the brilliant actors in this has brought alive a truly magical story to a new audience. I am hoping it will also encourage people to read the book as well.

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                  • Favourite Authors / Discussion / 108 Readings / 104 Ratings
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                    17.03.2010 22:12
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                    A summary of my reading habits

                    Thought I would add another Book related review since I love them so much!

                    * What is your favourite genre?

                    I love fiction - especially contemporary literature, classics and popular fiction (including the odd chick-lit). I also like historical fiction and thrillers for a change sometimes. I teach English and run a school book group so I also try to keep up with children's and young adult fiction too.


                    * Do you read the classics, i.e., the great authors of the 18th and 19th century?

                    Yes - I love Hardy and Bronte in particular. But read quite a few, especially as I have to teach them!

                    * Are you interested in thrillers?

                    Yes - as a change but not my first choice, although I do like the Dan Brown type books.

                    * What about horror stories?

                    Not really, have read Stephen King but that is about it, not something that really appeals to me.

                    * Do you read science fiction?

                    Rarely, don't read this very often although I do like sci-fi films.

                    * How many Harry Potter books have you read?

                    All of them. Althought I enjoyed them, I do think they are over-rated and think that there are other children's literature which are better - such as Phillip Pullman.

                    * Have you ever read and enjoyed biographies or autobiographies?

                    I loved Wild Swans Jung Chang and Michael J Fox's first book. I also read the odd celebrity autobiography but find them quite trashyon the whole.

                    * Do you remember any of the books you read and loved as a child?

                    I read a lot as a child. I loved Roald Dahl books and I read a lot of Sweet Valley High books as well. I also liked classics such as Alice in Wonderland and the Narnia books. As a teenager I started reading adult books though - and started with Flowers in the Attic.

                    * Have you re-read these books as a grown-up?

                    Yes, I still enjoy reading these old favourites, I am currently reading the BFG with my Year seven class and hope they love it as much as I did!

                    * Is there a book of which you can say it has influenced you?

                    Maybe not one in particular but I gain a lot from books, not just entertainment. I love learning about other cultures, history and human nature and relationships. I write down quotes which are memorable.

                    Q: Which are your favourite authors?

                    I love.... (long list!) John Irving, Margaret Atwood, Douglas Coupland, Joanne Harris, Sarah Addison Allen, Paulho Coehlo, Jostein Gaarder, Graham Greene, Jean M Auel, Phillipa Gregory, Ken Follett, Anne Tyler, Bill Bryson. I also like Sophie Kinsella and Katie Fforde for chick-lit authors and love the following YA writers: Phillip Pullman, Malorie Blackman, Michael Morpugo, Sophie McKenzie, William Nicholson, David Almond and Ally Kennan.

                    * Which book would you take with you on a desert island?

                    My favourite all-time book: Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy.

                    * What is your attitude towards translations?

                    I think generally it works although it can get a little lost in translation at times. I love Jostein gaarder though.

                    * Do you buy your books/get them from the library/borrow them from friends/steal them?

                    Many Places! Websites such as RISI and Bookmooch are great, charity shops and supermarkets are good too and Amazon is a definite! However, lately (Trying to save money) I have used the library a lot as well, I can reserve any book for 50p!

                    * When you buy books, do you prefer hardcover editions or pocket books?

                    I don't mind. I love hardbacks and beautiful editions but paperbacks are easier to read.

                    * Have you ever tried Audio Books?

                    Yes but prefer reading myself. I do have an ereader though and enjoy using that when I am away.

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                      11.03.2010 09:18
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                      No more Takeaways for me!

                      *** Summary ***
                      This is a recipe book written by the WeightWatchers team. It focuses on low point dishes you can make with pasta. Since I am following this weight loss plan at the moment, but love pasta, I thought this would be a good buy. It retails for £5.99 but I picked this up cheaper on Amazon Marketplace.

                      *** The Book Itself ***
                      It is a small book, with only 64 pages but is packed full of useful recipes - over 60. It was published in 2003 but is still relevant for anyone following this system or if you are just looking for low-fat and low calorie recipes.

                      It has a useful contents and index page and is full of colour photographs for roughly a third of he recipes. I like having the photographs to help me see what they should look like!

                      *** Types of recipes ***
                      The recipe book is divided into six sections, which give you a wide range of different type of recipes to try. They are: soups and salads, fish and shellfish, meat, poultry, vegetarian and super quick and easy pasta.

                      *** The recipes ***
                      Each recipe has the following useful information. The points value of the food (both per serving and recipe), how many the recipe will serve, the preparation time, cooking time, the calories per serving and whether or not the food is suitable for freezing. As well as the obvious list of ingredients needed and the actual recipe of course!

                      The recipes I have tried were all really easy to follow. They are not complicated recipes with hard to find ingredients - most I found I had in my cupboard and only had to buy around 3-4 fresh ingredients for each one. Most recipes only had around 15 minutes preparation time or less so they were not too fussy. They all include fresh, healthy ingredients so I found that the food was both tasty and low fat. WeightWatchers are very good at offering low-fat alternatives to make these recipes, even family favourites such as Spaghetti Bolognese so you could still make meals all the family would enjoy.

                      My favourite recipes so far have been the spicy sausage pasta, Caribbean chicken pasta and the turkey cannelloni. I also found the quick recipes such as fresh tomato pasta, grilled vegetable pasta and easy mushroom pasta really easy to cook so I can now cook a few of them without needing the recipe book so it is also helping me improve my own cooking skills and knowledge. (Which is a bit limited!)

                      *** Overall ***
                      I find this book invaluable to help me stay healthy and cook fresh, quick meals- even when I am tried after a long day at work. This stops me from picking up the phone and ordering a takeaway, as I have no excuses now!

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                        10.03.2010 20:02
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                        Yummy!

                        ***Summary***
                        These are a low-fat snack which are part of the Weight Watchers range. For those following this weight loss programme they only have a point value of 1 and contain 0.2g Saturated Fat and are only 55 Calories per mallow.

                        ***The Product***
                        Each mallow contains two crispy wafers filled with marshmallow and also some creamy caramel sauce. These are great if you feel like a sweet treat but don't want to be eating too many calories.

                        ***The Taste***
                        The wafers are quite like the wafers you buy for chunks of ice-cream, however I did find that they were not as crunchy or crisp as I would have liked. The marshmallow part is definitely the best and the bit that feels like a real treat. This is thick and very tasty and sweet. The marshmallow flavour dominates as I found that there were only little bits of caramel sauce in it which was a bit disappointing and they did not add a lot of extra flavour to the overall taste. However, I am guessing that if they added more caramel they wouldn't remain as low as just one point!

                        ***My Top Tip!***
                        I am sure this isn't actually recommended but I always do this! If you put one in the microwave (for no more then 10 seconds) the marshmallow part expands and becomes gooey and warm. This makes it even more delicious and makes it last longer as well!

                        *** Overall ***
                        I would definitely recommend these if you are trying to lose weight or if you prefer low-fat (and calories) snacks. They are quite yummy and can satisfy a sweet craving. However, if you are not weight watching I would probable opt for a more calorific treat like a packet of chocolate biscuits!

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                          08.03.2010 12:20
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                          Another great read...

                          This book, written by popular author Jodi Picoult, was released in 2009. Ever since I read 'My Sister's Keeper', I have avidly read all of her books. This didn't disappoint; I read it in 24 hours, a true sign that I literally couldn't put it down!

                          *** Summary of plot ***
                          The book focuses around Charlotte and her family. She had one daughter from a previous relationship, Amelia and another daughter, Willow with her husband, Sean. Willow was born with osteogenesis imperfecta - a severe form of what is often referred to as brittle bone disease. Willow was born with many broken bones already and the slightest movement can cause another break.

                          However, Charlotte decides to sue her obstetrician for wrongful birth stating that she had missed vital evidence early in her pregnancy. This meant she was not given enough the option of having an abortion. Charlotte cherishes Willow but feels that she wants to proceed to help pay for the medical care Willow will need throughout her life.

                          This situation is further complicated by the fact that her obstetrician is her best friend, Piper and her husband does not support her lawsuit.

                          *** Characters ***
                          All of the characters are well developed. To me, Charlotte was the most interesting character. However at times she was not always that likable, as she becomes determined to carry on with the court case, whatever the costs. However, the love she has for her child is evident and she often wrestles with the guilt of having to say that Willow's birth was 'wrong'. I could understand her reasons for doing this - although the fact that she would go ahead and potentially ruin her friendship with her best friend (and possibly her friend's career as well) was less believable and made this a little far-fetched.

                          Willow herself was adorable in this. At only six years old, she had an inquisitive and intelligent mind and also often added humour to the proceedings.

                          *** Themes ***
                          I knew little about osteogenesis imperfecta before I read this novel and it did offer insights about what it must be like - particularly from the carer's point of view. It was often heartbreaking to read about such a young child having to experience this showing Willow's determination and maturity made this well balanced.

                          This also deals with other issues - particularly focusing on family and parental relationships. The lawyer, Marin attempts to find her biological mother as she was adopted at birth. The marriages of both Charlotte and Piper are also explored and how they are effected by the events.

                          For me though the saddest parts of the book were actually focused on Charlotte's other daughter, Amelia. This offered another point of view, of a sibling in such a family, who is often overlooked and feels forgotten. This book also deals with issues such as bulimia and self-harming, so it is not always easy reading.

                          *** Style ***
                          This book is divided into different chapters, which are narrated by all of the different characters and it uses second person as they all address Willow in their own story. It is not until the end that we hear what Willow thinks herself.

                          However, although this is a page-turner and is well written, I am finding that I am becoming a bit bored with the formula that her books use. Almost all her books deal with moral dilemmas and often court cases at the end as well. I really would like to see her change the mould a bit and try something new - it is feeling a bit tired now!

                          *** Overall ***
                          This is definitely worth reading, especially if you haven't read many of her books before. But if you are a fan and have read a lot then you may want to read something new!

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                            06.03.2010 21:39
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                            Try all in this range

                            These cereal bars are made by Weetabix and one of a range of Alpen Light bars. This range are low in fat and high in fibre. This version is made of a mixture of wheat flakes and oats - it also has some chocolate in the actual bar and has a drizzle of dark chocolate over it as well.

                            These bars are great for a quick breakfast if you are short of time or they are a good healthy snack. The good news is that they contain only 62 calories per bar and only 0.4 grams of saturated fat. For any following the Weight Watchers plan, this bar contains only one point, which is what attracted me to them in the first place!

                            I was very surprised at how good they actually tasted. It reminded me of the Terry's Chocolate orange taste, although not as strong since it is mostly made of wheats and oats. However, they are quite filling for the amount of calories they are and it did satisfy my chocolate craving.

                            Although the taste is very good, the texture may not be for everyone, it is quite crunchy and that reminded me that I was eating something quite healthy rather then a chocolate bar! However the crunchy and slightly chewy texture means that they can take a while to eat so you can savour the taste at least!

                            I think for people who are either trying to lose weight or just want low fat snacks then these are excellent. They also come in other flavours - the chocolate and orange version is my favourite but you may also like to try:
                            Chocolate and Fudge
                            Strawberry and Yoghurt
                            Raspberry and Yoghurt
                            Fruit and Nut
                            Summer Fruits

                            I have tried all of the above and liked all of them.

                            Nutrition Information: (per bar)
                            Calories - 62
                            Protein - 1.3g
                            Carbohydrate - 11.8g
                            (of which sugars) - 4.5g
                            Fat - 1.1g
                            (of which saturates) 0.4g
                            Fibre - 4.7g

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                              05.03.2010 19:16
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                              A great read

                              This is the first book in a series aimed at teenagers. It is a novel about vampires, a popular theme in young adult books. However Melissa De La Cruz offers an original twist on this topic. The Vampires are known as 'Blue Bloods' and they are part of the New-York elite. They are rich, young, beautiful and popular. Thought to be immortal, their world is shattered as one of them is found murdered.

                              The main character is Schuyler, who has always felt like a misfit at school. She finds out early in the novel that she is a Blue Blood herself and the novel shows how she comes to terms with this. Her mother lies in a coma at a hospital and she knows little about her family background. Slowly, we find out more about this, which keeps the reader interested throughout. Schuyler is a very likable main character and I am sure many teen girls would be able to relate to her.

                              The novel uses several different narrators throughout which I found very interesting. It would often leave one characters story on a cliffhanger for several chapters. The other characters were also interesting and well developed. Bliss was one of my favourites. She had moved to New York recently and finds herself friends with the elite popular girls. However, she struggles with this, as she would like her own independence and individuality.

                              Other characters include Schuyler's friends Oliver and Dylan and the enigmatic twins, Jack and Mimi. Mimi is the least likable of the characters; she is the most popular girl at the school and very controlling over her friends and brother. She reminded me of the characters in the 'Mean Girls' film. However, she did make the novel more interesting and I would like to see how her character develops in further books.

                              I think this novel was quite original. The vampires are rich and elite so it showed a more glamorous view of them. Teen girls would also like the many references to fashion and celebrity life.

                              The novel does contain some romance but this isn't the main focus. Instead it concentrates on themes such as friendship groups and peer pressure. It is a fast-paced book. It has a lot more action and dialogue in it then description so I think it would keep most teen readers interested, as well as many adults.

                              There are many twists and turns along the way as the mystery of the murder is unfolded. This was a definite page-turner for me and I would definitely read more in this series. This book is left open-ended so you want to read the next one.

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                                18.02.2010 16:08
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                                A great gift

                                This book is a fascinating insight into worlds, which have been 'lost', abandoned, buried or forgotten. It blends both known historical facts and mythology as it describes both worlds that did exist and ones which have been imagined in fiction and legends.

                                It is produced by artist and illustrator, John Howe. He is well known for his work on the Lord of the Rings films (He was one of two lead artists) and there is even a foreword from Ian McKellen to remind us of his work.

                                The book itself is quite simply stunning. It is a fairly large book (think coffee-book table size!) and hardback. The front cover has a magnifying glass fixed inside its cover - showing a beautiful illustration of Atlantis. The book is full of amazing illustrations bringing alive these Lost Worlds. Each section has a huge double-paged illustration to introduce it as well as several other ones with further text. They are breathtaking and this book would suit anyone who is interested in fantasy art.

                                This book covers 24 worlds and includes: Babylon, Thebes, Atlantis, Troy, Mount Olympus, Pompeii, Timbuktu, Camelot and Avalon. It also has some more general places such as 'Faerie' and it includes the theory/ idea of a Hollow Earth!

                                In each section, John Howe describes the background and origin of the story. So for example, my favourite section on Atlantis describes the history of Plato and how the Greek Gods created this place. He also covers the various suggestions people have made throughout history about where geographically Atlantis could be such as America, Iceland, the British Isles and even the moon!

                                This book is aimed at young children and I think it would be most suitable for parents to introduce their children to the ideas of myths and legends. I know children would be attracted to the artwork on each page - and so would most adults!

                                I would give this book five stars for its intended audience of children. However, although it does state it will equally enchant an adult audience, I think the information is a bit limited and I would prefer to read something a bit meatier on this subject. But I can not fault the presentation and illustrations, so a definite recommendation for children and as a collectors item.

                                It is a little pricey - at around 11 pounds on Amazon so think this would make a lovely gift or present.

                                I would also recommend his other books if you like fantasy art (or if you are a Lord of the Rings fan!) such as "Myth and Magic" and he has also written several workshop books if you want to attempt this style of art as well.

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