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salem_witch

salem_witch
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    • Edison Force (DVD) / DVD / 121 Readings / 109 Ratings
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      30.12.2007 17:29
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      Average cop corruption flick

      When I was looking through Sky Anytime to see if there was anything decent to watch I came across 'Edison'. A quick read of the blurb grabbed my attention simply because of the cast. Something a film with Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey would be worth watching. What concerned me was I had never heard of it and it was filmed in 2005 so it can't be that great. I was also interested to see that Justin Timberlake and LL Cool J were in it. Having seeing LL Cool J in 'S.W.A.T.' and an episode of 'House' I enjoyed watching him. Plus I was curious to see if Timberlake could act as well as he can sing.

      Set in the fictitious city of Edison the film opens with Officer Rafe Deed (LL Cool J) and his colleague Sgt. Frances Lazerov (Dylan McDermott), from F.R.A.T. (First Response Assault & Tactical) on their way to a raid. They find money from drugs and then force two men on their knees. Lazerov is clearly enjoying waving his gun around and then tells Deed to shoot one of them. Not being able to go through with it Lazerov takes charge and shoots one of them in the head. In a few short minutes of seeing him on screen it's clear that Lazerov is a psycho and Deed is the one with a conscience. Later on Deed is testifying at the trial. They've made the other man say he shot the other one in the head as he came at him with a knife. Fearing for his life the accused takes responsibility for shooting him and is sentenced to 18 months in prison. Josh Pollack (Justin Timberlake) is a reporter who is present at the trial and he senses that something isn't right and questions Deed and afterwards as to why the defendant thanked him.

      Not getting any answers from Deed or Lazerov he decides that something dodgy is going on and decides to investigate. Back in his office his boss Moses Ashford (Morgan Freeman) isn't happy with him and fires him from the community weekly, 'Herald Heights'. This doesn't put Pollack off though and he's determined to get to the bottom of it. Can he find out what's going on before F.R.A.T try and silence him for good?
      __________________

      At first it sounds like a really good film and with Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey being billed first you expect them to be in it the most. In reality, their roles have very little screen time and you'll notice I haven't even mentioned Spacey in the synopsis. This is because his part as the city's investigator Levon Wallace gets more screen time later on. However, it is a small role and it's even smaller than Freeman's. Both of them acted reasonably well but I have to say it's not their best and not really comparable to all their big box office hits. So if you're going to watch this just for them then you'll be disappointed.

      'Edison' is Timberlake's first acting role and he's received a lot of criticism for it. Although his acting isn't faultless I thought for his first main role he did very well. His character was likeable but he didn't have enough passion in trying to find out the truth. So I found that although I liked him I was never really worried about his safety. So when there were parts which were supposed to be tense I didn't start hoping that he'd be ok. I don't feel that this lack of passion was entirely his fault though and the director and the script. There were parts he was really believable and you could tell he was trying his best. For anyone who doesn't like him they'll not see this though and just focus on the bad parts.

      For me the best actor was LL Cool J. His character, Deed, is struggling with his conscience throughout the film and although he is in the wrong and investigated he doesn't seem overly bothered about being caught. Uncharacteristically for a member of F.R.A.T. he has a fiancée and it's during flashbacks of what they've done when he's with her that he feels guilty. In contrast McDermott's character Lazerov is a loose cannon. In the opening scene he clearly doesn't mind shooting people just to keep their money, in fact, he looks like he's enjoying himself. I've never seen him in any other films before so I can't compare him but his portrayal of Lazerov was excellent and I found myself wondering what he'll do next, as he's so out of control.

      There are other actors that you'll recognise. John Heard plays Capt. Brian Tilman, the head of F.R.A.T. and he plays it very well. I knew I'd seen him in things before but as I was watching it I couldn't worked it out. It surprised me to learn that he was the Dad in Home Alone. In 'Edison' he's a cool and calculated evil man who doesn't even react when Lazerov goes off on one at him. Cary Elwes (SAW) features as D.A. Jack Reigert. He doesn't have a huge part and I never really noticed that it was him, possibly because when he's on screen the other big stars are. Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly) plays Timberlake's girlfriend but again doesn't have a huge part.

      Films about corrupt cops have been made before so 'Edison' brings nothing new to the screen for viewers. There are better films out there but I still found this entertaining even if it didn't hold my attention all the time. The director and writer David J Burke hasn't really made the most of the actors and the script isn't that great. The scenes, which were supposed to be tense, weren't very convincing so I didn't find myself gripped by them. Combined with that there was also lack of character development. This meant I didn't care too much for them. It could have been so much better and as a result has had lots of bad reviews and didn't even get a cinema release. It was shown at Toronto Film Festival and got a very bad response, which is why it went straight on to DVD. I can see why as I don't think it would have made much had it been released in the cinema, apart from people going to see it because of the actors.

      The other aspects of the film I didn't like were the music. It was played too loud and sometimes drowned out what the actors were saying. There is nothing wrong with my hearing and I found myself having to concentrate in some of the scenes where they cranked the volume of the music up. A prime example of this is the opening scene where Deed is talking. Also parts of the plot were a bit far fetched. The first being the fact that Pollack picks up on the 'thank you' said in court and reads into it. It would have been better if they'd found another way of him suspecting that F.R.A.T. was corrupt and going from there.

      There were a few silly scenes - one involving Moses dancing. I don't know why he did but it reminded me of Hugh Grant's dance in 'Love Actually'. The music playing the Chambers Brothers for you who know them. This was at the end of a scene, which again the music was played too loud to hear the dialogue clearly. The other part I thought was daft was a proposal in a nightclub. Would anyone do that? Most of the film has plenty of action in it and the violence isn't too graphic which the 15 certificate supports. Some of the action scenes are a little over the top but I guess that was thrown in to make up for the poor script.

      Although I've said the acting isn't the best (some would argue it's really bad!) it wasn't so bad that I got bored and wanted to turn it off. I'd imagine that most people who have watched this have been hugely disappointed because of the cast involved and expecting a quality film. I'd recommend it but only just. And then only to those who don't mind it's weaknesses and don't expect an Oscar winning film. I did enjoy watching Timberlake on screen and I'll certainly be looking out for 'Alpha Dog' when it comes on to Sky.

      ** For those wondering it is called 'Edison' but it's called 'Edison Force' in the States.

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        20.12.2007 16:22
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        A good way to get extra energy

        Several weeks ago I was talking to my Aunt who suggested energy tablets to me. Not just for the energy boost but for other health benefits. For almost 4 years now I've suffered with dizziness, which at the moment is the best it's been in a long time. I'm starting to get my life back in shape and I'm really eager to get back into work. I find that some days I'm really fatigued and it's normally on when I'm really dizzy that it overwhelms me. Not wanting to give in to it I've tried a variety of things to help me. When I was really bad I'd have to go for a sleep as I was so dizzy and tired all of a sudden it's the only thing I could do. The days it didn't hit me so hard I fought it and slowly over the months I've more or less mastered what I can do and what my limits are. My average day isn't exactly strenuous but the days I am really busy I can find it knocks the life out of me and can trigger my dizziness of really badly.

        So after a short conversation to my Aunt about this and how I'd started taking vitamin B supplement she suggested energy tablets to give me an extra helping hand. She had also suffered with a spate of dizziness (not for that long though) and said that when she started to feel really bad she'd take one and it would help her dizziness as well as giving her energy. Willing to give anything a shot I got a few packets of Lemon Dextro from my chemist when I was there next. Remembering how I used to munch through a packet of these really quickly when I worked loads of overtime on nights I wasn't overly bothered at any side effects. I'd not had any back then (as opposed to coffee, which makes me really hyper and pro plus gives me the shakes!) So I felt happy that I wasn't taking anything that could make me worse. And if it did I'd just blame my Auntie!

        Dextro claims that by taking an energy tablet it "provides a quick and systematic energy boost, guaranteeing mental and physical performance at crucial moments." To understand how they work and how best to take them you need to know about dextrose. This is the main ingredient in Dextro making up 88% of the tablet. Dextrose works by keeping your blood sugar levels constant and when these dip so does your energy levels as well as your concentration. So whether you're just using more energy or not eating balanced meals this can happen. The main appeal for me was that dextrose is natural and fast acting (dextrose is absorbed into your bloodstream). Because of the tablets being fast acting and going directly into the blood they are ideal for diabetics who have really blood sugar levels. I have no direct experience of this so anyone who is a diabetic I'd suggest you check with your doctor or look on their website before taking them.

        So that's the science part explained, now on to the tablets themselves. They are fairly big compared to normal sweets but they don't take very long to eat, The texture can only be described as a powdery chalk. When you put one in your mouth the impulse is to start munching it. If you don't then it wouldn't take long for it to start to melt. I doubt that anyone is patient enough to do that though! When I first put the tablet in my mouth I detected a slight lemon flavour. Once I bit into it the tablet started to disintegrate and released more of the lemon flavour. Personally I like the taste and texture and I can see how you can want another one just for the taste rather than for the energy. The lemon flavour isn't too strong and leaves a nice taste in your mouth. Your taste buds get going and leaves your mouth feeling refreshed. If anyone has had an Aquadrop then you'll know what I mean only it doesn't flood your mouth so much.

        Dextro comes in several flavours - original, lemon, orange, blackcurrant and tropical. Each packet contains 14 tablets, which I find ample. I tend to only take them when I feel my energy levels are really low and I need that extra boost. They're also handy to have in my handbag when I've got a busy day ahead of me or I'm doing something physically demanding. Years ago when I worked in a physical job on nights I found these invaluable when I was working overtime and when it was busier than usual. The main thing to remember is they are designed to give you more energy and not keep you awake. I had a colleague that only had a couple of hours sleep and then expected a few tablets to give them enough energy to make them feel alert. Dextro does help but they 're not designed for that.

        More recently I've been using them to give me extra energy, as I've been more active in general. Due to my health I've lacked really energy and I've found they've helped me get through some really busy days. Last week I was so busy and did things that I'd have normally have spread over 3 weeks. Dextro isn't the only thing helping me though and for the last 2 months I've been taking vitamin B which is designed to give you more energy. So if you're looking for something to help you all the time then I'd suggest taking vitamins over energy tablets. Having said that the energy tablets are there for when you need that extra help.

        The other nice thing about Dextro is they contain vitamin C, which we all know helps your body fight things like colds. Vitamin C is water soluble and therefore only stays in your system for a day. So if you don't get your daily intake through your diet then you can get some from Dextro. A packet will give you your recommended daily allowance but I don't suggest munching through a whole packet in a day! Dextro suggest that you take half a tablet if you need some energy and if you're doing something really physical like sport then take up to two tablets in a day. This information isn't on the packet so people maybe taking more than they should. I'd like to see a suggested amount added on the packet like you get with medicated cough sweets. Common sense tells you not to take too many but you do get a handful of people out there that'd think nothing of eating a packet just like that. Although you can't do serious harm by having a few more than you should they won't be as effective, which defeats the whole purpose of taking them in the first place. If your sugar levels are pushed up too quickly then they'll go down just as quickly leaving you thinking they're not working. Personally the most I'd take in a day would be two and that would really be rare. Taking a tablet helps most of the time but I have taken one before and not noticed and real difference. This is probably due to me having the tablets too close to each other and my sugar levels rising and dropping quickly.

        Overall I do think that Dextro energy tablets are good. You just need to know how they work so you can use them efficiently. They help me through busy days where I'm doing more physical things. I've also noticed they've raised my concentration levels, which is great if I'm driving long distances. Also if I've been rudely awoken at evil o'clock (my cat has a tendency to think this is fun!) and I can't get back to sleep then by taking a couple of tablets throughout the day really does help. However, they're not a substitute for sleep so they can only help to some extent. I'd rather take them or have a Luzozade than having a coffee or an energy drink like Red Bull as they don't give me any side effects or stop me from sleeping that night. I wouldn't like to say if they've directly helped with my dizziness but they have helped me feel more alert and have more energy. When I feel tired I can get really dizzy so indirectly they must be helping me. I'd certainly recommend them for those who have hectic lives, exercise or for those days where you just need a helping hand.

        59p from Tesco

        www.dextro-energy.com/uk/

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          09.12.2007 02:14
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          A gripping story about a mother looking for her teenage daughter

          Having read a handful of Nicci French books I grabbed 'Losing You' off the shelf at the library thinking it would do. I tried to recall what I thought of the previous books but my mind went blank. I thought that they must have liked them as I tend to remember the ones I dislike and had I loved them then I'd have also have remembered. I had no high expectations of 'Losing You' and sometimes that can be for the best. Nicci French is in fact a pseudonym for Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. They are a married couple who write in unison without the reader being able to tell who is who. I did a quick search to see who they went about this and they said they wrote a chapter and then passed it over to the other. They read it; made any alterations they wanted and wrote the next one and so on. All I can say is they must get on very well to do this and their writing styles must be very similar!

          Nina Landry has a busy day ahead of her. She and her new boyfriend are heading off to Florida with her children for a Christmas break. Not only that but it's Nina's fortieth birthday. It's morning time and she is having car problems so she's turned to a neighbour who is trying to fix it. On top of that he isn't sure if Charlie, her 15 year old daughter, is home from a sleepover the previous night. Being a typical teenager she promised she'd do her packing, some chores as well as her paper round before they have to set off to Heathrow.

          Nina moved to Sandling Island, in East Anglia, with her husband Rory 2 years ago when he wanted to start up a restaurant. She was reluctant to move from London but in the end she grew to love it. The restaurant failed and Rory left the island and his family. She's not been with her boyfriend all that long but she's happy and he's given her a new lease of life. So she's really looking forward to her holiday. On arriving home to do some last minute preparations for their holiday Nina discovers that Charlie isn't home yet. There is a knock at the door and it turns out that Charlie has organised a surprise birthday party much to her dismay. Amongst all the chaos of the uninvited guests Nina continues to get things ready as well as leaving more messages of Charlie's mobile seeing as she's not answering it. She can't understand what's taking her so long.

          She contacts the police and after looking around her room and seeing a few things are missing they imply that she has run away. It certainly looks that way to an outsider but Nina knows Charlie wouldn't do that. She was looking forward to Florida as much as she was. If she ran away then why organise the surprise birthday? Has something happened to her? Adamant that something has happened rather than running away Nina starts to look for Charlie herself seeing as the police aren't taking it seriously. Will she find her? Will they still manage to go on holiday?

          Nina is the narrator so not only do you follow her trying to find her daughter you also hear her fears and thoughts. She is very likeable but at the same time very determined. She won't just sit at home and let the police deal with it, as she's sure they're not trying hard enough. As the story unravels we get to know Nina very well. From her relationship with her children, ex husband, boyfriend and the man she had a fling with. We learn that although she likes it on Sandling Island she doesn't really know people all that well yet. Not only does her character come to life but also so does Charlie's. From the very start of the book Charlie is introduced to us from her mothers narration as well as conversations with others. It becomes clear that she is an independent young lady who doesn't tell her mother much. But then again what teenager does!

          Whilst reading 'Losing You' I found that French's description of all the characters made it more enjoyable. Even the Labrador Sludge came to life and was described very well instead of a fleeting mention. I did feel, however, that her son Jackson didn't come across too well. For an 11 year old he was a bit of a wimp. I know his sister was missing but I thought he came across much younger than he was. He was into his gadgets and technology, which I found believable but overall I found that I didn't warm to him much. Even though Charlie was the one that was missing I felt I knew her more.

          The whole book is actually set in one day. There are constant reminders of the time so you're always aware what the time is. Even on the back cover the blurb was all done under times. This underlined the sense of urgency that Nina has in finding Charlie. Then later on it proves useful when Nina thinks back to what happened at different times when she 's trying to puzzle out where Charlie was and what she was doing.

          One thing that I wasn't over keen on was there were no chapters just spaces to indicate where a chapter could have been. Even then one section could go on for a long time. So finding a natural place to stop reading sometime proved a bit difficult. It wasn't that much of a problem but for those who read books in small bits on the commute to work could find this annoying.

          I wish I could remember other Nicci French books to compare 'Losing You' to but if I'm honest I can't recall anything about them. I wouldn't say this was a riveting read but it was certainly much better than I originally expected. The setting on an island was different to most crime fiction books I normally read so that was good. Plus the narration was from the missing persons mother rather than a detective so this gave it a different perspective on things. Another nice thing is it isn't in a series so you don't need to make sure you're reading books in order. As much as I liked it and would recommend it to others there were a few things that I didn't like. Nina's character at times was a bit unbelievable. I'm not saying that it wouldn't happen but the way she went round 'interviewing' people and trying to find Charlie didn't quite feel right at times. Also there were a few things at the end that I felt hadn't been explained. Obviously I can't say what as it would spoil it for those who want to read it. All I can say is the reason for everything happening didn't seem very plausible.

          Overall I would recommend it especially to those who have read and enjoyed previous efforts from Nicci French.

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            26.11.2007 17:29
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            What to expect if you have an MRI...

            Many people have heard of an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and more likely have seen it in a medical drama such as House. How many people actually understand what it does though? I'm guessing not many. Until I needed one a few years ago I had never really thought about it. Then when I found out I had to have one to help diagnose dizziness I panicked a little and started to research it. The main reason I was worried was because of what they may have found rather than having to go for an MRI in the first place though. After looking it up online I was put at ease as it is safe as long as you have no metal on you and is painless. So I wasn't worried about having the MRI after that, until I got to the hospital! I'm not normally the kind of person who would worry so I'm assuming that my fears were natural. So I'd hate to think how someone who suffers from claustrophobia would feel. I think the main thing that put me at ease was knowing a bit about it before hand. I didn't want to be an expert but I wanted to know what to expect.

            *** So what is an MRI? ***

            The basic idea of the MRI is to take images of a persons tissues and organs to build up a picture of what's going on inside a person. This is normally focused on a certain part of the body to help diagnose an ongoing medical problem or to help diagnose something in the first place. It can show muscles, nerves, joints and blood vessels so it can be useful for a variety of things. So if you've had your kneecap shattered an MRI would show that. As would a scan of your head show a detailed picture of your brain. So depending on what the problem is the MRI can be programmed depending on the area of the body and the nature of what they want to investigate.

            Without boring you with too much detail I'll try and explain how it all works. The MRI uses magnets as well as radio waves to capture thousands of images. There is a horizontal tube running through the magnet, which is where the person having a scan ends up. A bed comes out and when a nurse has positioned them they are slowly moved into the scanner. Depending on which part of your body is being scanned depends on how far you have to go in. The part being scanned has to be in the centre of the scanner. So if your feet are being scanned then your feet will be inside and your head won't be inside the MRI, which would be nice. If you're having your head or upper body scanned then you'll be right inside it like I was.

            Once you're ready the MRI scans the body bit by bit to build up a 2D or 3D picture of the tissue being examined. The magnet is very powerful and when a radio frequency pulse is applied it enables the computer to capture the images. Inside your body there are many hydrogen (water) atoms and they are pulled in line with the direction of the magnetic field. The radio waves change the direction of some of the atoms. Then when the radio wave is turned off they return to the same position. It's when this happens the computer gets the images, which are extremely clear.


            *** So you need an MRI? ***

            Once your doctor or consultant decides that you do need a scan they should explain the reasons behind it. They may explain what they are hoping to find or indeed trying to eliminate. My first MRI scan was to see if there was anything visibly wrong with my brains and ears, which was causing the dizziness (it came back clear). So then I was worried about a possible tumour showing up. For the last year and a half I've had pain, pins and needles and weakness in my left arm and hand. They've x-rayed me as they thought an extra bone in my neck was trapping it. That came back clear which is why they've decided it could be something tissue trapping it. So this time round I'm hoping that they find something so they can remove it. Otherwise I'm back to square one. So as you can see each time I was hoping for something different so someone might be more anxious about the findings than most. This time round I wasn't as worried, as I knew what to expect which probably put me more at ease than anything.

            When I was told an MRI would be best I was given a leaflet explaining everything I needed to know and a number to call to make an appointment. When I did call for my appointment I got one in a month so I didn't think that was so bad as I was told it could take a while. Back in 2004 when I needed an MRI I got one in about the same time, as there was a cancellation as I remember there was an even longer wait then. Of course the amount of time you have to wait depends on your hospital. I'm also assuming anyone with something they suspect as serious would be seen a lot sooner. The leaflet tells you what you can do and can't do before the scan. It tells you it's best to wear loose clothing as you'll be more comfortable and if you can wear something without metal fastenings. Some of this is obvious but it also asks females not to wear eye make up as eye shadows can contain metallic parts. I wouldn't like to be put in an MRI with metal on my eyelids so I just went with no make up on at all.


            *** Who can't have an MRI? ***

            There are certain people who won't be able to have an MRI for various reasons. The most obvious one is anyone who has metal implants or anything like that such as clips in your head. If you have a pacemaker or have had surgery in the last 3 months then you can't have one either. If you're pregnant or it's possible you could be then you do need to tell them. There isn't enough research but it's thought that it could be dangerous to the foetus in the early stages of pregnancy. So they need to know, as it would possibly have to be delayed if you were. Anything you're unsure of it's best to check with them, as it's better to be safe than sorry! I can only imagine how painful it would be to have metal on me whilst in the scanner. Anyone who watches House would remember an episode featuring LL Cool J as a patient who had tattoos using metallic ink, ouch!


            *** My MRI scan ***

            When I arrived at the hospital I showed them my appointment letter and was asked to take a seat. With my confirmation letter I had questionnaire enclosed which I had to fill out and take with me. This is to check for any reasons why you shouldn't have the scan mostly. It asks if you've had surgery for example. All my answers were no apart from one asking if I had asthma. When I was asked about this I told them that it was only mild so lying down flat for the scan shouldn't be a problem. He was really friendly and helpful and started to explain what would happen until I told him I'd had one a few years ago. Once he realised I was comfortable with it he told me I'd need to remove my bra. Not many men would get away with that but I did have one with underwire in it! So I went into the cubicle and whipped if off. They do provide gowns if you don't have any suitable clothing so if you do have clothes that aren't suitable then it's not a worry. I left my handbag with my Mum so I didn't need a locker. When I was there before I had to take all my jewellery off and put it in a locker. To save the bother this time I didn't wear any and just went through as I was.

            I was taken into the room where the scanner was and asked to lie down on the bed. At this point the bed is outside the scanner. Once I was ready (I even had a pillow) he attached supports either side of my head. I can only assume this was to try and keep me still or to at least make it easier for me to keep still. Then I had a heavy vest put over my chest. I never asked what this was for but it must have served some purpose. He then put ear defenders on me, which was surprisingly comfy, and given a button to press if I needed them to stop for whatever reason. Then he told me he was slowly moving me in and to stay very still and if I did need any help to press the button.

            Once I was in the MRI I opened my eyes as I shut them as I went in. Although it is claustrophobic there is a few inches above you. So I didn't think it was too bad. Anyone who does have problems with confined spaces would be best chatting to the nurse beforehand as I'm sure they'd give you tips and do their best to put you at ease. It's all lit up inside so it's not like you're in the dark so for me that was a good thing as I'd wonder what it was like if it were dark. Before the scan started I found myself thinking what if I have metal on me and I forgot. So I was really tense until it started. When it did start I was relieved as nothing happened! Once the initial panic was over I knew all I had to do was lie there for however long it would take. Staying still like that isn't the easiest of things though and I found I was really tense trying not to make the slightest movement.

            The noise that the MRI is hardly relaxing either. It starts off which clanking and just when I got used to that it went quiet for a few seconds and then buzzing started. There was also some vibration, which I found annoying but obviously it does that for a reason. The vibration wasn't that strong so maybe some people would like it! The noise is really the main issue though. Even with the ear defenders on it gave me a headache. That could have been a combination of the noise and feeling tense though. When I finished and went through to my Mum she commented on how noisy it was and the waiting room was reasonably far away and through two closed doors! They did play some music (classical stuff) but I could only hear that when the clanking and drill like noises stopped very briefly. So they needn't have bothered playing it at all really.

            The length of the scan will depend on each case. When I had a scan in 2004 I seem to remember it lasted about 20 minutes. This time round I had to have two different scans. I had one on my back and shoulder and then another one on my neck. Once the first scan was over the nurse brought me out of the scanner so I thought it was over. Then he said he had to do another one so I had to do it all over again. Each one was around 15 minutes so I was glad when it was all over as my head was really pounding from the noise and I was glad to be able to move! I asked the nurse how long the results would take and he said he couldn't say but they would be sent to the doctor or consultant who sent them. I had the MRI in May and the results were ready within a couple of weeks so in the end I didn't have to wait long. Again the circumstances of each patient will influence how long the results will take. Mine is for a trapped nerve so hardly life threatening although it is a pain (it came back clear). Anyone being scanned for something more serious I'd expect them to get there results within days and not weeks.

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              14.11.2007 15:07
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              A very good facial scrub that can be used on your body as well.

              Recently I’ve suffered with dry skin around my upper lip and round my mouth. I tried moisturising frequently through the day but it’s inconvenient and I kept forgetting. Plus it wasn’t really doing the trick. Then when I was in Tesco it occurred to me that I should get a facial exfoliator as that would help get rid of my unsightly flaky bits. I spent a while browsing and trying to decide which one to get. Previously I’d used St Ives Apricot Scrub for sensitive skin and I’d only used it as my sister gave it to me. I don’t really have sensitive skin so I thought I’d get something different even though I did like it. In the end Normandie Diamond Scrub caught my eye, as it was £3.47 as an introductory offer. It looked like an expensive product and not knowing how much it would go up to afterwards I thought I’d grab it whilst I could.

              On closer inspection when I got home I discovered that Normandie Keith is a top beauty editor who writes for the Daily Mails ‘You’ Magazine. I hadn’t heard of her and thought I’d see if she has a website and if I could find anymore information about her new range of toiletries. She does have a website but it doesn’t contain any information on this product which I was a little disappointed in as the tube doesn’t really have a lot of information on it so I was hoping to find a little bit more about it online. It has only just appeared on the shelves at Tesco (I think it’s exclusive to them) so this could be why.

              Undeterred at this I took the first opportunity to give it a try. The instructions on the tube are to simply splash your face with warm water, then use the scrub in circular movements before washing off with cold water. When I first squeezed some of the scrub out the first thing I did was sniff the scrub, as I was curious of how it smelt. The only scrub I’d previously used was of apricot and I really liked it so when I’d been deciding in Tesco the smell was an important factor at first which got ignored when I saw the Diamond Scrub. Nothing on the packaging gives the scent of the product away - not even the ingredients! There is the usual list of scientific ingredients, which really doesn’t help. Not knowing what the key ingredients are doesn’t help me try and describe them either.

              The first thing it reminded me of was a perfume my Gran wears which isn’t good. Then it reminded me of something me and my friends did when we were kids. We used to make ‘potions’ in the sink with as many things we could grab out of the bathroom cabinet. This usually involved some of my Mums perfume amongst other things and the end result was never all that pleasant. This could also involve using flowers from the garden and at the time we had loads of roses so they were what we could get away taking without our parents noticing! I know I haven’t created a nice thought of the smell but to say it smells of a perfume using rose is the best I can come up with. It isn’t overpowering but at the same time it isn’t subtle. I probably noticed it more as I was concentrating on the area around the bottom of my nose so I got more than a whiff! The first time I used it I was really put off but not enough not to use it again. Since then I’ve just tried to use it as quickly as possible. Plus where the dry skin around my nose has improved I’ve used less around that area and not massaged it in as much. So for most people the scent of the scrub shouldn’t be an issue. It would be nice if they changed it to something else though.

              The scrub is a very pale pink colour, almost clear in fact with small white bits and pink glitter. I can’t work out what they are and I’m disappointed it doesn’t say, as I like to know these things. Previous scrubs I’ve used have said they’re apricot kernels or kiwi seeds so you know exactly what you’re rubbing over you. Having said that whatever the added ingredient is to exfoliate does work (perhaps they want to keep it a secret!) It is easy to massage over my face and it lathers up enough to make the process easy. It was rough enough to exfoliate well but not too harsh that it hurt. After massaging the scrub in well rinsing it off is easy and didn’t take much effort at all. I was amazed that my skin was left very smooth and silky. The scent of the scrub does linger but this doesn’t really matter as I moisturised straight afterwards. You need to do this or your skin will dry out so I always make sure I moisturise straight away before I forget or get distracted.

              I found that not only is this great for my face but also for all over my body. It is meant for your face but I’ve found it works so well I wanted to use it wherever I could. I tend to use it in the shower, as it’s easier to rub all over and rinse off when I’m ready. Also as you’re supposed to rinse off with cold water it makes it easier. I sometimes forget and rinse off with warm water but I haven’t noticed the difference. So if you’re too much of a wimp to rinse off with cold water then it should be fine. I guess the reason they suggest rinsing with cold water is so your pores close afterwards. I should mention that there is a warning on the tube not to use on sensitive or damaged skin. I don’t have sensitive skin so can’t comment on that. However, I do have a patch of eczema on my body and I used it on that (although I knew I shouldn’t) and it hasn’t made it worse. It looks like it’s helped it a bit but it could just be my imagination. So seeing as it never irritated my skin I’d imagine it would be fine for most people.

              All in all I’m impressed with Diamond Scrub. It does what is says and removes all the dull bits and reveals smooth shiny skin. I’ve been using it 2-3 times a week depending on where I use it. I tend to only use it once a week on my face as I don’t want to over do it and that seems to do the trick. The patch of dry skin around my nose has gone and that’s thanks to this and a good moisturiser. I love the feel of my skin after using this that it’s become a routine for me now. Before I never used to bother which I know I should have. Still better late than never! As for the scent I’m not impressed but it’s not bad enough for me to stop using it and the end results keep me wanting to use it. So all in all I would recommend this. If you like a bargain get yourself to Tesco before the 18th November whilst it’s still £3.47 as I have no idea how much it will go up to after that.

              * By best friend I meant diamonds not a friend ;)

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              • More +
                31.10.2007 16:07
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                A stand alone novel

                Having read all of Coben's other novels I just had to pick 'The Woods' up when I saw it on the shelf in the library. I didn't even read the blurb on the back, as I knew I'd want to read it anyway. I didn't even know if it was a stand-alone novel or part of the Myron Bolitar series. Either way I wasn't really bothered as I enjoy both as much. For those of you who don't know Coben started off writing his novels with a character called Myron Bolitar who is a retired basketball player who investigates a lot of cases. He then introduced his stand-alone novels which are good if you've not read all the Bolitar series as you don't feel you could be missing some things out if you don't read them all or in the correct order. 'The Woods' is in fact a stand-alone novel so even if you've never read Coben before this doesn't matter, as it won't effect your enjoyment of the book.

                The book opens with a prologue where Paul is watching his father digging in the woods. Paul thinks that he doesn't see him watching but after he follows him out there eight times he tells him that this time he needs to go alone. All the time Paul thought he was hidden well and his father was oblivious to him watching him. Coben gives a few facts but not the full picture - enough to grab your attention and want to know more. His mother ran off and something has happened to his sister Camille but we're not told the details yet. After his father goes out to the woods on his own he doesn't go back again. Then twenty years later his father is on his deathbed and he says how they still need to find her and then he dies. So straight away I was hooked. I wanted to know what he was digging for, what happened to Camille and why he stopped digging.

                The story then shifts to Paul three months after his father has died. We learn more about his sister Camille. During one summer they were at camp where Paul was a counsellor something terrible happened. His sister went into the woods with three other teenagers and not one of them came out alive. Margot Green was found with her throat slashed and Doug Billingham was also found dead with his throat slit and several stab wounds. Gil Perez and Camille Copeland were never found but were presumed dead. Two years later Wayne Steubens (also a counsellor) was found responsible for the murders after killing others. He never did admit to any of the murders that summer.

                If that wasn't tragic enough Paul also lost his wife to cancer five years ago. He has a 6-year-old daughter Cara who he's had to bring up on his own since. He is now watching Cara doing gymnastics, at her school, with his sister in law when two detectives turn up. They ask him to come with them as a man called Manolo Santiago has been murdered and although Paul doesn't know him he has some things on him to suggest that he knew Paul. Naturally he is confused and is worried where it will all lead. After seeing a scar on his arm Paul realises that Manolo is in fact Gil Perez - the man who disappeared in the woods at the same time as his sister. How could this be? If he is alive then could his sister be alive? What really happened in the woods that night?

                As well as all this going on we're introduced to Lucy Gold who is a Professor of English and Psychology. She is getting her students to anonymously send her stories via email about something traumatic that has happened to them in their life. When she gets one about a couple in the woods the author really has her attention. Although she promised the students that she won't know who wrote what she gets her assistant to find out who sent this particular one. She doesn't care that she's going back on her word. She just needs to know. When reading this it's clear this is all connected but not all the facts are clear. As I was reading I guessed a few things and kept reading to see if I was right.

                Paul is intrigued that Gil has been alive all this time and wants to find out more and see if he can find out what happened to his sister. Several people try and put him off digging around but he is persistent and wants to find out the truth even if it does turn out that his sister is dead. He is a prosecutor and has a big case in which his client is accusing two men of rape. So he juggles the two as well as looking after his daughter Cara. He talks about his parents who were from Russia and how they moved to America when he was a young child. He is highly likeable and uses humour, which reminded me a little of Myron Bolitar. Not in the goofy sense but he uses jokes and sarcasm when talking to the opposition. I only noticed he did this when working and he didn't when he was looking into the disappearance and possible murder of his sister. Obviously it's not a joking matter.

                His chief investigator Muse helps out a lot with the rape case and eventually she helps him find the truth out about his sister. He trusts her and as well as being loyal to him she is a hard worker and gifted at what she does. The further into the book you go we learn more about Lucy and what she is like. I don't want to say much about her as I don't want to give anything away. What I will say is that Coben skilfully switches between Paul and Lucy. When you want to know more about one and there is a twist it jumps to the other. Normally this would annoy me but both are as interesting as the other and are as important to the story as each other.

                When I first started reading 'The Woods' I only intended to read a little bit as it was just before I went to bed. I actually read a third of the book in one sitting. I wanted to know more and more and there were lots of twists and revelations that I knew I'd have trouble getting to sleep unless I knew what happened next. The same happened the following night when I read about the same amount. So anyone considering reading this count yourself warned as it meant I didn't get much sleep as it was so gripping. I found the further I got into the novel the more hooked I was, which considering I was hooked from the beginning says something. When I do normally read a book I'll read small bits each night and it will normally take me over a week to read. I tried reading this in three nights but the third night I was really tired and had to be up early so I had to force myself to put it down and go to sleep. I then wished I'd gone to bed early just so I could have finished it all.

                As you've guessed by now 'The Woods' has plenty of twists and turns and I found it almost addictive when I was reading it. Even though some bits I guessed (which I think you're supposed to) the ending all came as a complete surprise and I was shocked at some of it. As with his other novels Coben's writing style is very easy to read and the chapters aren't all that long so if you did need to read it in little bits then you can do. I don't think you'd want to read this in little bits though as I found it impossible to do myself. I can't really think of anything bad to say about this book. At first I thought that the detail on Paul's rape case was a filler and not really that necessary but after reading it all I can see it does make it more complete. So if you haven't read anything by Coben before and you like the sound of this then give it a go.

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                • envirofone.com / Internet Site / 117 Readings / 106 Ratings
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                  24.09.2007 17:43
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                  Recycle old mobiles and get a little something for them

                  For those of you who’ve never heard of Envirofone then you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you have any old mobiles lying about the house. They basically pay you for your old mobile and they recycle it at no extra cost to you. They even pay for your postage and packaging as well so you have nothing to lose! After reading a review about Envirofone I went off to investigate as I had an old Sony Ericsson K700i lying about and figured I may as well find out if it’s worth anything.

                  The homepage is professional looking and has everything you need to know at first at a glance. Like most people I went straight for the drop down box to put in my mobile to see what it was worth. So you can have a look how much it is worth without joining. I did this and found out that my mobile was worth £21.87 or £25.26 in Argos credit. For a phone that I hadn’t used in almost 2 years I was delighted with that and I was glad I hadn’t thrown it out! So I quickly signed up which was very easy to do. You can register from the homepage but I didn’t do it this way. I simply pressed the continue button from the page I was already on to trade in my mobile. I then had to choose if I wanted a cheque or Argos credit. I went for Argos simply because you get more money for it. They actually say that you get 15% more for choosing Argos credit, which I thought that was a good amount.

                  Once I’d gone through the registration process I received a welcome email and a confirmation email of my trade in. Not only did it tell me, which phone I had traded in and the amount but it told me what to do once I get the welcome pack and how long it should take to get to me. They state that you should get it within 5 days but mine came much sooner than that. It’s important that when you do get it you try and post off the mobile as soon as you can as the offer is only open for 20 days from the trade in date. If they get the mobile after that then they might not honour it, which would be very annoying.

                  I’ve also noticed that the prices that they offer for various mobiles can change quickly. I traded in my Sony Ericsson K700i on the 23rd May and by the 1st June the amount had already dropped from £21.87 to £13.98. So I was lucky to have got the price I did for a phone that is 3 years old. So it could be worth trying to sell your mobile on eBay if you think you could get more for it than they offer here. Also just because you have a fairly new mobile doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get more money than an older one. I recently upgraded from a Motorola V3 to a Sony Ericsson Z610i. Yet when I looked out of interest to see how much that would get me it was a mere £3.99! Not that I’ll be getting rid of that for another 18 months now but I hope that when the time comes I’ll get more for it then!

                  As I’ve mentioned Envirofone will send you what they call a welcome pack. This isn’t as big as it sounds though. You get a covering letter welcoming you and explaining that all you need to do is send them your phone in the enclosed jiffy bag which already has a sticky label on with their address. They also include a card, which you need to fill out and put in with your mobile. This is your name, username; post code, telephone number and email address. This is so they obviously know who to credit. Also included is extra address labels in case you need them and your Argos eCard. This is given to you even if you’ve asked for a cheque as it means you can be paid this way in the future if you choose it.

                  Before you just stick your mobile in the jiffy bag they do ask a few things. Don’t leave your SIM card in the mobile, as they don’t want that as it has your personal information on it. They do say that if they get any SIM cards then they’ll destroy them so you don’t want to leave it in by mistake! Plus they ask you to have it fully charged as they test and grade it when they receive it. The mobile should be in working condition and be able to switch on although mild cosmetic damage is acceptable. You also need to include the battery and any memory cards it came with. They do ask that you send any manuals and chargers with it but this isn’t compulsory. I still had the box mine came in so I put everything in there and sent them everything. The one thing that I found that the jiffy bag was only big enough to send them a mobile. Luckily I had some larger ones so I was able to enclose both my mobiles in their boxes in that. The postage is free so you don’t need to worry about the weight of the package. If this had been the case then I’d not have bothered sending it all in the box I got it in.

                  Envirofone won’t take any responsibility for any damaged or missing mobiles. So you need to make sure that you pad the package well to avoid any damage in the post. As I sent mine in the box I know the chances of mine being damaged is nearly impossible. They recommend that you send it Recorded Delivery as well. I wasn’t going to bother at first until I realised that if it never got there I’d be missing out on nearly £50. I thought it would be a few pounds but as the address is freepost it cost less than a pound. With this you get proof of posting, a signature on delivery and online tracking. This tracking only works once the package has arrived though. I put in my reference number on the Royal Mail website a couple of days after it was posted and I was told “Recorded Signed For™ items are only tracked after the item has been delivered. Depending on whether the item was sent first or second class, this may be a few days after posting. Please try again later.” But at least you can keep checking to see when it gets there and more importantly when you expect Envirofone to pay!

                  I’ve also read in their small print that if they receive any mobiles that don’t meet their conditions then you’ll not get your agreed amount. However, they do say that they’ll contact you and possibly make another offer so you may not lose out completely. I suppose if you sent the wrong phone or clicked the wrong mobile on the website when you were trading in this could happen.

                  What is good about the site is you can track your progress throughout the various stages. This is found under ‘My Account’ and then ‘View orders’. Once you’ve completed a trade in it’ll say ‘Waiting’ and this will change once they’ve processed your mobile. When you click on the order ID it opens up a box which goes into detail of the status of your mobile. This is good, as you know at a glance whether they have your mobile and if they do what stage it’s at. Once they’ve got it the status will turn to ‘received’ and this shows that it’s being tested on or about to be. Depending on the outcome of the tests it’ll change to one of the following:

                  *Grade A to D
                  *return - if it’s been sent back to you
                  *recycle - if it’s being recycled and not worth anything
                  *problem - which obviously means there is a problem and they’ll be contacting you
                  *barred - if it’s a stolen mobile.

                  So fingers crossed your mobile passes the tests and is graded. Once that happens your status will change from ‘Waiting’ to ‘Ready’ and then to ‘Actioned’ where your details will be processed and you’ll be paid.

                  It took 5 days (this included the weekend) for Envirofone to receive my mobiles. They sent me an email informing me of this and told me that they were doing the tests to make sure they meet their terms and conditions. It took them 3 days for them to test them which I thought was reasonable. I got an email for each mobile informing me that they had been tested and they had passed the testing. I then popped on the website to see what grade they have been given. Both were given a B so I can only assume that A is perfect and D is acceptable. I say this as both my mobiles were in very good condition and had no scratches on them (not that I could see anyway!) Not that it really matters what grade you’re given as you get paid what you were offered initially unless it doesn’t pass the tests. I was actually away for a few days after I had the email to say they had been tested. When I came back and checked my emails I was disappointed that there wasn’t one from Envirofone saying that my payment had been credited. However, when I logged on to my account the mobile status for both mobiles were ‘actioned’. They do say to allow up to 20 days to receive your payment so I was surprised when this was done the very next day after the tests.

                  Since I traded in my mobiles they have a referral scheme. You can get paid £5 for each friend that you recommend that trades in at least one mobile with them. This is very easy to do as they have a link from the homepage at the moment and you can find it under 'My account'. So if you have several friends or family members that have old mobiles lying around then you can benefit from it too! I've personally not done this but I can only assume that payment is prompt from the two trade ins I did.

                  So as you can tell I’m more than happy with Envirofone. The good thing about them is that your old mobiles will get reused if they are in good enough condition. If they’re not in good enough condition then they’ll recycle all the parts of the mobile. So it won’t end up in a landfill and you get paid for it as well. If you are considering doing this yourself then don’t forget to go via a reward site as I got 75p for each of my mobiles for going through one.

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                  • Deluxe Tri Ominoes / Board Game / 137 Readings / 126 Ratings
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                    05.07.2007 17:31
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                    A fun game for all the family

                    Not many people will have heard of Tri-Ominos but we’ve had the game since as long as I can remember. Our set was bought in the early eighties when I was a really young so I would have had no interest in this and I don’t recall playing it then. My parents tell me they used to play it, which explains this. It does look like a dull game to play and for young children it would be, especially now with all the computer games they have.

                    *** So what is Tri-Ominos? ***

                    Tri-Ominos works on the same principle as a game of dominoes but the tiles are triangular and instead of dots you have a number at each point ranging from 0 through to 5. You have to place the tiles next to each other matching the numbers to the other tile. This is the basic idea but it is far from dull as you get extra points for certain moves.

                    In the box I have you get 56 tiles and the instructions are on the inside of the lid.


                    *** Aim of game ***

                    The aim of the game is to get rid of all your tiles. For each tile you put down you get a score and also for any bonus scoring moves that you make. If you’re the first person to get rid of your tiles then you get bonus points plus points for any tiles your opponent's have left. The winner of the game is the first person to reach 400 points. Of course, you can change this amount or perhaps have a time limit or a limit to the number of rounds you play. When I usually play we stop when we’ve had enough more than because someone has reached a certain score.


                    *** How to play ***

                    First you need to decide who’ll keep score. This involves constant writing down so anyone who’s likely to have more patience or be able to add up quickest would be the best.

                    Each player has to pick a number of tiles depending on how many are playing –

                    2 players = 9 each
                    3 to 4 players = 7 each
                    5 to 6 players = 6 each

                    Once you have them you stand them up facing you so that no one else sees them. I personally put them in order and any double tiles I have (say 3,3,4) I put in a row so I can see at a quick glance which doubles I have. Any triples I have I’ll put with these as well and then any tiles with three different numbers I’ll stick at the end.

                    A triple 5 is the highest so if a player has that then they go first. If no one does have the triple 5 then you work your way down the triples and the player with the highest triple goes first. If no player has any triple (including the triple 0) then the player with the tile with the highest total goes first. So a 5,5,4 (14 points) beats a 4,4,4 (12 points). The player who does go first gets a bonus 10 points. Then going clockwise the next player tries to match the tile already down. So if a triple 5 is put down then they’ll need a tile with a double 5 in it. If they don’t have one that they can match then they’ll have to pick a tile from the stockpile and see if that can be played. If that can be played then they put it down. As they’ve picked it up from the stockpile they have to minus 5 points from their score. So if the tile is 5,5,0 then they get 5 points and if it’s the triple 1 then they have to minus 2 points from their score.


                    *** Bonus scoring ***

                    There are ways of increasing your score substantially. If you make a hexagon shape (this needs 6 tiles) then not only do you get the points of the tile you’ve played but an extra 50 bonus points. This means that all three numbers have to match with the two tiles it would be touching though.

                    You can also form what’s called a Bridge and this will get you 40 points. This is when you connect two lines with a tile. So you might have 2 lines running side by side but with a gap in-between them enough for a tile. If you can match two numbers on one tile and the third on the one opposite it then you can slot it in the gap. This is hard to explain so if I’ve not done a very good job then there are diagrams in the instructions.


                    *** Winning the round ***

                    You continue playing until a player has no tiles left or no one can go anymore. If someone does get rid of all their tiles then they get 25 bonus points plus the score of all the tiles that their opponents have left. If you get to a point where no player can go then the game is over. The player with the tiles adding up to the lowest total wins. They get their opponents total minus their own. They don’t get the bonus points though. It’s also worth noting that if a player can’t go and there are no tiles left in the stockpile then they have 10 points deducted from their score. This happens until all players can’t go or a player has played all his or her tiles.


                    *** My Experience ***

                    Tri-Ominos is an interesting game, which certainly passes the time. I would say it would appeal to older children and adults. I only say this because as a child we had this game and me and my brother or sister had no interest in it. This doesn’t mean that all children wouldn’t be that interested but I can’t see them playing it over and over. What I like about it is you can play it for as long as you like. Each round varies in time but most of them don’t take any longer than 10 minutes or so. So If you’re short of time and at a loose end then you can play for a bit. Or you can play for longer periods of time. I’ve played it for sometimes over an hour and haven’t got bored of it. When playing it we do tend to play for shorter periods of time (say half an hour) and then come back to it later on.

                    It’s an easy game to pick up the rules so most people should be able to grasp them after one game. You do need to look out for the tiles that will form a Bridge or Hexagon so you don’t miss out on those extra points. If you’re not paying attention to them they can easily be missed. When picking a tile to place you need to be aware of the other tiles you’ll be able to place after it sometimes. If you can put two different tiles in the same place then it’s best to see what other tiles you’ll be able to place after it even if you get fewer points for that move. Of course, someone else might beat you to it but it’s worth keeping in mind. Also if you have an idea of what someone else might have then you can block them from going. This doesn’t happen all that often as you can’t see the other persons tiles. However, a number of occasions when playing my Mum she’s put a tile down (say a 0,0,3) and then when I’ve placed a tile (say a 0,0,5) against it she’s tutted or sighed. So I’ve guessed that she has the triple 0 which means I might be able to stop her from placing it down further in the game.

                    So you can be tactical although it’s more difficult as you can’t see what tiles your opponents have. If you have a tile with a double number on it you maybe able to place it in several places. So if, for example, you have the 2,2,4 you’ll be able to place it on a double 2 or a 4,2 or 2,4. So it’s best to see which move would benefit you for the next move rather than just put it in the first place you spot. It’s also better if you get rid of any triple tiles when you can as they are harder to play. Then once you’ve played then you can place any other double ones off it if you have any. It does get annoying when you have a tile where the numbers are the wrong way round for a bonus move. Especially when you think it’ll fit!

                    We have the version made by Ideal. The tiles are black with white numbers, which are slightly raised on them. Our set is so old that the paint had come off so the numbers were really hard to see. I soon sorted that as I got some white paint and used an old make up brush and re-painted them. Now the sets that they sell are white with black numbers so it’ll be easier to see the numbers on them clearly.

                    The more players makes it more interesting as you’ll less likely to go where you want to. So if you place a tile down where you’ll be able to go afterwards and only against that tile, another player might beat you to it. So if there are only two of you playing you only have to hope that one person can’t go off it. So it can make it harder to go but it also means more tiles could be placed down between your moves so you’ll have more options.

                    Tri-Ominos can be found for a very reasonable price. I can’t say I’ve noticed it in any shops but Amazon stock it and at the moment it’s £6.99 for the regular set which comes in a triangular box. The Classic version comes in a square box and is £14.99 from Amazon. Apart from the price and the shape of the box I can’t see any difference between them. The Deluxe version is available for £18.94 and are higher quality than the other sets and come with racks. So as you can see shopping around for the cheapest price is best or perhaps even looking on eBay. There is also a children’s version which is being sold on Amazon. Instead of numbers they have pictures of an animal. So the 1 is replaced by a cow and the 5 is now five ducks. So if you do have younger children then this would be the better set to have for them.

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                    • More +
                      03.04.2007 10:18
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                      The sixth DI Tom Thorne novel

                      Having read all of Billingham’s books I was keen to get my hands on his latest book ‘Buried’ for a long time. I kept looking out for it in my library but it’s clearly a popular book and I’ve only just been able to get it even though it’s been out in hardback since May last year (for those of you interested the paperback is out this June). After loving all of his last attempts I was convinced that this was going to be a page-turner and I’d finish it in no time at all.

                      The book opens with a prologue, which had me hooked and wondering what relevance it had to what I read on the back of the book. It’s only short but it shows an argument between a man and a woman. What it’s all about is unclear but the woman is furious and it leads to the man pushing her. This leads to her death when she falls on a glass coffee table. From this dramatic start I was hooked and was curious to what the argument was about. I even read it again just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything but I was still left wanting to find out what it all meant.

                      Six months after being undercover on the streets DI Tom Thorne is bored of not having anything interesting assigned to him. To keep him out of trouble he had been given mundane things to do which really doesn’t suit him at all. He’s then asked to help out in a kidnapping of Luke Mullen along with his colleague Dave Holland. He isn’t too happy about working else where and for another department at New Scotland Yard but at the same time he is intrigued when he hears that the victim is a sixteen year old boy whose father Tony Mullen is an Ex-Detective Chief Superintendent. The age of the boy is unusual for a start and he wonders if he has been taken as revenge for someone his father put away in the past. Another thing, which is strange, is the fact that the kidnappers haven’t contacted the parents for a ransom. So the idea of it being an act of revenge seems more concrete.

                      Working alongside DI Louise Porter of the Kidnapping and Specialist Investigations, Thorne tries to fathom out whether it is a kidnap at all. He learns that Luke was seen getting into a car with a woman but he wasn’t forced so it isn’t clear if he has disappeared because he wants to or not. Then a video of Luke being held by his kidnapper turns up. He says he is being treated well that that they’re ‘fairly nice’ to him. He even jokes that he still has a sense of humour and that it can’t be that bad if he still has that. However, the video ends on a sour note as a man steps towards him with a syringe.

                      Thorne asks Tony Mullens to compose a list of all the people he thinks he has upset enough for them to hold a grudge. The list isn’t very big and Mullen claims he can’t remember everyone even though Thorne thinks to himself he can remember clearly all those he has rubbed up the wrong way over the years (and this is more than a few people!) After digging a bit deeper and asking his colleague Carol Chamberlain name pops up that Mullen didn’t mention which strikes Thorne as very odd. He can’t think why he wouldn’t tell him and he is convinced that this person has some baring on the kidnap. Also Thorne finds out that they never reported Luke’s disappearance straight away. Will Thorne and Porter get to the bottom of it or will Luke be unlucky?

                      This is an unusual case for Thorne as he usually investigates murders. After first thinking he wished he had another case to work on he gets stuck into finding out as much as he can. Thorne is like many detectives in crime fiction and doesn’t have a family to speak of and likes his drink. He also speaks his mind and he has often stepped on the toes of his superiors that lead to his ‘gardening leave’ in the past. I find Thorne hugely likeable and from the first Billingham I read I found his character interesting, In ‘Buried’ he is much the same although I found because he was working more with others he wasn’t so brash. Having said that when he speaks to Mullen he wasn’t beating around the bush. Being an ex copper Mullen knows how an investigation is run so Thorne doesn’t try and make things sound better than they are to him. He is also finding it hard to deal with the death of his father. This shows his vulnerable side and that he has more depth to him as a character.

                      Dave Holland doesn’t feature as much in this novel as he has done previously. Personally I thought this was good, as he isn’t a particularly interesting character. He has settled down with his girlfriend Sophie (who doesn’t appear in ‘Buried’ but she is mentioned) after having a rocky relationship with her in the last few years. He now has a baby and he empathises with the Mullens as he can understand how they’d feel. He does recognise a boy in relation to another crime, which has been committed, though so he does have an important role. DI Louise Porter is very knowledgeable in kidnaps and she and Thorne get along well. Not much about her is revealed but her part in the case is important although Thorne is more of the focus. As the novel goes on we see more of her and for that reason I don’t want to say much as to give anything away.

                      My favourite has to be Hendricks, the gay Mancunian pathologist. He is described as a Goth and wears dark clothes as well as having piercings and tattoos. He and Thorne are close friends and they share a beer or two when Hendricks is having boyfriend trouble and Thorne attempts to cheer him up. It’s a strange relationship and I can’t say I’ve read a novel with a similar one to compare it to. Although they are good friends when they are working they are very professional and you wouldn’t necessarily know that they were friends.

                      Throughout the book there are shorter chapters headed with characters names and information about them or to do with them. This is a new style Billingham is using and in the case it works well. Luke is one of these people and I won’t spoil the story and tell you who the others are as it would ruin it if you did want to read it. These snippets of information get you thinking and although they do give out a lot of information the whole picture isn’t painted. What I liked about the way this was done was the way the reader knows more than Thorne does so it feels like you have extra knowledge, not that this helped me work out the ending!

                      Billingham is easy to read and the chapters aren’t overly long so reading short bits is ideal. Compared to his other novels I didn’t find ‘Buried’ as riveting and I found myself reading less each night than I would usually. I found it slow moving and I found no urgency to get to the end to find out what happened. I think this is because I was comparing it to his previous novels and I did feel a little disappointed. Towards the end my mind was changed slightly and I did reach the last part of the book and couldn’t stop until I had finished. The end is really good and it didn’t pan out how I thought it would and I was surprised in a nice way. Although I wasn’t compelled to read loads to find out what happened I did still enjoy ‘Buried’. I’m trying to work out why I wasn’t as impressed with this book and I think it’s because Thorne seems to be mellowing with age.

                      There is also a sub plot which makes you wonder if it’s connected to the kidnapping. One of the schoolboys where Luke goes to school is suspected in a race related murder that was committed a few month back against an Asian boy. It’s Holland that recognises him and he informs Kitson who was on the original investigation 6 months ago. At times I found this more interesting than the main plot probably because more seemed to be happening and they actually had a suspect. In all Billingham’s novels music features heavily. Thorne loves his music but his taste isn’t favoured by all of them. He likes country and western and it’s referred to as ‘twangy guitar shit’ by Holland and this seems to be a running joke throughout the novel. What I like most about Billingham’s novels is that they’re set in London so when places are mentioned you can visualise them (assuming you know where they are!)

                      This is the sixth book in the series so anyone who hasn’t read any of them before I suggest you start with his debut novel ‘Sleepyhead’ where Thorne is first introduced. Also if you have read his previous books but haven’t done so for a while then you may want to re-read them before giving ‘Buried’ a go. I felt I could have benefited from re-reading ‘Burning Girl’ and ‘Lifeless’, as it had been a while since I’d read them both.

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                      • wabbadabba.com / Internet Site / 136 Readings / 123 Ratings
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                        22.03.2007 21:01
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                        A search engine where you could win prizes

                        Discovering new reward sites is always a good thing in my eyes and if I hear about something that seems to be worth it then I'll be sure to join it. So after reading a review about Wabbadabba and how you can win prizes I was intrigued. Then when I won I wanted to share this site with everyone else.


                        ***What is it then?***

                        With such a strange name it's understandable to wonder what the site is. It's simple a search engine much like Google only with rewards. Everyday you get 15 chances to search and with each search you do you get a chance to win a prize. You don't have to click on any links for this to work so it doesn't take any time at all. So even those who have very little time could do this without feeling like they were wasting their time. You maybe asking yourself why they would chose to reward people for using a search engine. The answer is in their FAQs - they make money from the advertisers through the search results.

                        ***The site***

                        The site has a nice layout and it's very simple to use. It is predominantly white with green and orange used for Wabba and Dabba. They are the characters you'll find throughout the site. When you log on you are greeted with a search box and you can chose whether it searches the web or just the UK like many search engines. Alternatively you can download a toolbar to be added to your browser if you'd prefer that. Personally I just visit the site as I'm not over keen on toolbars.

                        On the homepage you're also told how many winners to date they have and if someone has just won then they'll tell you who has won and what they have won which I thought was a nice touch. It reassured me that people do actually win and it's not just a scam. There is also a banner asking why you should use them to search. When you click on it you're taken to a page which explains very simply how it works.

                        You don't actually have to join to win anything so you can search every day and try you luck. I'd recommend signing up though as it doesn't take that long and they don't bombard you with any junk. If you do win and you're not already registered them you will have to register in order to claim your prize. That is obvious though isn't it or they'd not know where to send your prize! Registering with them doesn't take long and they only ask you for your name, address, email address, telephone number and your date of birth. You also have to create a password as with any other website you register with. You'll then get an email with and activation code. You can either click on the link in the email or enter the code into a box on the website.

                        Once you have signed up you can see a list of the prizes you have won under your account. It also tells you what stage you're at as well as telling you the date you won. So once you've entered your details it will then say waiting to be shipped. They do ask you to allow for a week, which isn't as long as some reward sites make you wait. I got my voucher sent to me in under 24 hours so I was impressed with the speed. Under this section you can also see which of your friends have joined and when they joined. The site also has a Wabbadabba blog, which is worth a look. There are silly pictures of Wabba and Dabba as well as announcements of milestone winners, such as the 400th winner.


                        ***The search results***

                        The search results use yahoo so they are pretty good. They have sponsored links as well as the usual ones. They load really quickly as well so it makes doing your 15 searches a day really quick. The results aren't quite as good as Google though. I entered 'Ciao' and the German site came top and the UK site was forth. If I was seriously researching something then I'd probably stick to Google but I only really do the searches here for a chance of winning a prize and I bet most people who do the searches are the same.


                        ***How do I know if I've won?***

                        If you do win you get a message saying winner popping up. I was very surprised to get this the very first day I started using wabbadabba. I'd done loads of searches and I didn't know if I'd done 15 yet. So I figured by doing a few more would make sure I'd done them all. Then the very next search I won so I was thrilled that I carried on just to be sure! You get an email saying you have won so if you do fail to spot you've won then you'll not miss out on your prize. You have to enter your details just to make sure they have the correct details.

                        ***What can I win?***

                        At the moment they have £5 and £10 Amazon vouchers as prizes. On the homepage they state that you can win a 42'' Plasma TV. As the site is very new no one has won this yet but they do say in the Blog section that they are planning on giving the TV away very soon. On the day that I won 12 £5 Amazon vouchers were won. They have a winners list where you can see how many prizes were won each day and what they were. The £10 vouchers aren't won every day but they are usually won every day. However, on the 11th March five £10 vouchers were won. So you can see that it is random and you can't guess how many will be given out.

                        Cinema vouchers for Odeon have now been added to the list of prizes. I don't think these are very good as I know for sure I haven't got an Odeon in my town so they'd be no good to me. Each voucher they say is worth £6 but they admit one person for a film. So if the price of the ticket is more or less then it doesn't matter.




                        ***Referrals ***

                        The referral system is what enticed me to the site in the first place. If you win a prize then the person who referred you will win the same prize. I found this hard to believe when I read it myself but when I joined and won my doubts were gone. When I did win it announced on the homepage that salem_witch and friend had won a £5 Amazon voucher. I have since referred others and a few have signed up. It is worth noting that they are only eligible to win your prize if they have logged into their account at least once in the last 30 days. This seems fair to me though as it'll mean those who use it get the rewards. Each household can only win 3 prizes per calendar month as well. I'm the only member in my house so this doesn't bother me too much. The chances of winning more than three prizes in a month aren't very high anyway. It would be annoying if you'd already won three prizes and then a referred friend won the plasma TV!

                        Referring friends is very easy and you can do this from the website by clicking on 'Tell a friend' which is at the top of the page. They will send them an email inviting them to join. If you have a website or blog then they have banners which people can click. They also provide you with a link, which you can copy and paste to others via instant messengers or guestbooks. So whichever way you fancy there are plenty of ways in which you can refer others. Remember if they join and win then you get the same prize so it's worth pointing out the advantages to anyone you think will want to benefit from them.


                        ***What are my chances?***

                        I think everyone has a chance of winning because the way they pick the winners is random. If you have been referred and have referred others yourself then your chances are even higher than someone who just does the searches without referring others. Of course, doing the 15 searches every day also increases your chances as well.

                        As you can tell I think this site is well worth joining and trying to get friends join from your referral. It's also worth signing up from someone else's referral as it increases your chances of winning a prize. It doesn't take long at all and using a search engine is something people use on a regular basis anyway. So what have you got to lose?!

                        www.wabbadabba.com

                        ***Update***

                        After using this for several weeks now I've found it would be handy if they told you when you last used it so you know when your 24 hours is up before you can do more searches and have a chance to win. I appreciate this would make it easier for people to win though so I can't see them adding this. It would also be handy to see a counter to say how many of your 15 searches you have left. That too would make it easy on them! When I started doing it I did my searches dead on 4pm as this was when I first did them. Some days I've found I forget so it's a little later so each day it's getting later and later so it does get a little confusing. So if you don't have the same routine everyday when you can do them then doing the searches could be forgotten.

                        ***Another update***

                        I've since won again and this time it was the 1000th prize so I got £25 Amazon vouchers on top of my £10 Amazon voucher. So all in all I can't complain as I've had £55 in total from them in three months. I don't think there is another site I could have got so much in such little time. Plus I've not spent a penny or done much that a few searches a day. They still haven't given away a TV so that would have been nice as a thousandth prize bit then I already have a TV :)

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                        • More +
                          16.03.2007 11:20
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                          An average thriller set in the business world

                          Jason Steadman is a salesman for a leading electronics company, Entronics, who rivals with the other top companies such as Sony. He is doing well for himself but he doesn't have any ambition to further his career as it is. He comes from a poorer background and he has done well for himself and thinks that is enough. His wife Kate, however, is eager for him to work his way up the corporate ladder. She comes from a wealthy background and yearns for a bigger house and wants to start having a family. It doesn't help that his brother in law is a successful TV Producer and very smug with it.

                          One evening on his way home from work he calls Kate on his mobile to tell her he'll be home shortly. They talk about Kate trying to fall pregnant and discuss the IVF they are having. Jason isn't concentrating on the road he ends up having a crash. It's nothing serious but he needs to be towed to a garage for it to be repaired. This is when he meets Kurt Semko, an ex-Special Forces soldier who is now towing his car. He is a quiet guy who doesn't want to really talk. Eventually after listening to a Red Sox game on the radio they get talking. They share the same passion for baseball and to Jason's amazement Kurt was nearly signed for a big team but he signed up to the Forces instead. They also come from the same poor background, only Jason went to college to get where he is today. Jason invites him to play on the softball team they have at work as they've been doing really badly and could do with him.

                          This is where their friendship really starts to develop. Kurt comes along and wins them the game and he becomes a huge hit not only with Jason but his work mates. Jason confides in Kurt about work and a few problems he is having. There is a promotion coming up but a guy called Trevor is more likely to get it. He is friendly with the boss Gordy and has more of a 'killer instinct' than Jason does. Kurt encourages him to become more ruthless in order to get the promotion. He compares business to a battlefield and tells Jason he needs to find out more about the enemy in order to win. Their relationship seems normal enough and they get closer and closer. They go out for a drink together and then Jason works out with Kurt at his gym. More importantly Jason helps Kurt get a job in security at his firm. Kurt still maintains his 'business is war' policy and feeds Jason information about colleagues and clients that will help him further his career. This is when things become clear to the reader what is going to happen.

                          Kurt is clearly not what he seems at first. He appears to be a quiet but nice guy when in reality he is controlling yet clever with it. From the title of the book and the blurb on the back I knew that he was going to be a complex character and someone who Jason would seriously regret meeting. He doesn't really say a lot and there isn't much focus on his past. As the narrator is Jason we don't see an insight to his character and what he is up to and why. I would have liked to see this, as the first half of the book was a build up to what was going to happen. I found myself getting annoyed that something wasn't happening sooner. Most books I read something dramatic happens at the beginning to get me hooked. With 'Killer Instinct' this wasn't the case. This isn't to say I wasn't enjoying what I was reading though. It was incredibly easy to read and I kept reading because I wanted to see what was going to happen. Of course, I'm not going to give you any idea but it doesn't take Einstein to work it out. I personally like to be kept guessing when I'm reading a book and this is usually the case when you're reading a 'whodunit'. Finder isn't trying to achieve that with this book.

                          As a character I did like Jason and he is a very likeable character. I did think that there wasn't much to him though. At the beginning of the book his wife is telling him he needs to have more ambition and further his career and he is clearly happy as he is. Then all of a sudden he takes her advice and goes for promotion. At first it looks like he's doing it to please her but he really does want it. I found this a little unbelievable, as he wouldn't really have changed his mind just like that. Kurt has control over him although this isn't obvious to Jason for a long time. Jason just can't say no to all this information that Kurt keeps finding out for him even though he knows it's wrong. His relationship with Kate is dipped into a little but it isn't explored in great detail. I'd have like to see them more as a couple or maybe as Jason is the narrator he could have told us more about them throughout the course of the book. Maybe because of certain books I've read before my expectations for character development were a lot higher.

                          As I've already mentioned Jason is the narrator. Through his eyes we see the various problems he is getting at work. The Japanese company he works for is going through a few changes and we see how many employees are worried about keeping their job. Jason is never really worried about this but we do get to see how others are worried that the Japanese will not value their work. Having a book based on the business world did make a refreshing change from Detective stories but I couldn't help feeling disappointed in the lack of action. Maybe I'm being overly critical and comparing them to the more fast paced thrillers I do usually read.

                          On a more positive note I did really like Finder's writing style. He was incredibly easy to read and I couldn't fault him there. The chapters were broken up into bits with breaks which make it easy to read a few pages if that's what you want. Although it was slow moving until anything dramatic happened I found it effortless to keep reading. I hate it when an author rambles on just to flesh a book out so I was glad of that. I kept reading to see what was going to happen and once I did get to that part I was gripped and the last part of the book I read in one chunk.

                          I was surprised to find that High Crimes featuring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd was in fact based on Finder's novel. I have seen it although I can't remember what it was about and if I liked it. The fact that I can't recall it says that it was average in my eyes. Thinking about 'Killer Instinct' this could be made into a film and work. Perhaps this psychological thriller would work better on screen that paper as the tension between Jason and Kurt would be more evident and make it more appealing.

                          I'm in two minds whether to recommend this or not. I certainly wouldn't go out and buy this, as I would feel very disappointed. If you're after a quick read with something a little different from this genre then give it a go. Although I've given it three stars I would have liked to give it four. If we could give half stars then I would award it three and a half. The fact that it took so long to get moving it'll have to be 3. I'd only pick it up if you like the sound of it and only if you get it from the library where it's free!

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                            28.02.2007 17:47
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                            Blu Cantrell's second album which sadly didn't do too well

                            When I heard Hit 'Em Up Style (Opps!) and Breathe I fell in love with them and when I heard that Blu Cantrell were releasing an album I bought it straight away. Expecting the rest of the album to be similar to these hits I was really disappointed and the CD got forgotten about and never listened to again as I had copies of Hit 'Em Up Style and Breathe on RnB compilation CDs. That was until recently. I dug it out and listened to it in the car and was equally disappointed. I didn't give up this time though and I put it on my iTunes and listened to some of the tracks as I have it on random. A few times a song would come on and I'd think who was that, as I couldn't place it. When I saw it was Blu Cantrell I was surprised and I turned it up and listened to it several times. Then I realised it wasn't as bad as I thought it was. On closer inspection I can see why I came to the conclusion that the album wasn't all that good. The problem was the two hits are Hip Hop/RnB and are extremely catchy. Most of the other songs on the rest of the album are slower and more Soul/RnB. So nothing stood out and I never gave it much of a chance.

                            The album opens up with the ballad I Love You. It starts off with the sound of a keyboard before Blu Cantrell's vocals kick in. Once she starts to sing she is joined by the beating of a drum. A string instrument is also used which you can here faintly in the background every so often. The vocals are very soft and smooth during the verses and when the chorus kicks in they have more oomph. The song is a love song as you may have gathered from the title. "Baby how much can I tell you/ That I love love you" Although the lyrics would imply that it would be a soulful ballad declaring love for someone it actually has a strong beat to it. So it's not as slow and unforgettable as you may expect it to be. It's a nice opening to the album and Cantrell's singing is faultless.

                            Sleep In The Middle is by far my favourite song on the album. Admittedly I do love ballads and this doesn't fail to impress at all. The song is about a relationship break up and trying to move on from feeling heartbroken - "I'd rather sleep in the middle/ Middle of my bed/ Alone and not hurting over you". It opens up with a guitar and a piano playing in harmony. There is also another instrument being played occasionally which I can only guess are some kind of bells or chimes. This may sound strange but it works really well. The song starts off slow and soulful as Miss Cantrell sings quite low without any real effort. Any females trying to sing along will find it hard - I know I did! The piano in the background gives it a melancholy feel to it. The guitar sounds like a Spanish one but I'm no expert so I can't be sure. When it's played you notice it is a little different. There are other instruments, which you can hear in the background throughout the song such as a violin. They all work really well together to give a harmony. Towards the end of the song it becomes fast paced and Cantrell displays full use of her vocals. She goes from singing low to high, which doesn't sound like it would be easy on the ears but remarkably it is. One hearing it once it's the kind of song I tend to listen to on repeat a few times it's that infectious. I'm really surprised this wasn't released, as a single as I think it would have done really well in the charts.

                            Unhappy is a song about a relationship that isn't working out anymore. Cantrell is asking her partner why stay if he isn't content with the way things are. The relationship is deteriorating and she feels that he isn't treating her right - "Seems like everything I do/ I can never please you". As for the sound it's a slow ballad with distinctive drum and cymbal beats throughout it. The main thing, which you can hear, is a synthesiser, which gives it a different feel compared to the rest of the album. Ebony Burks provides a lot of vocals that can't really be called backing vocals. She sings the main lines of the chorus "If you're so unhappy" which Cantrell replies to with various different answers. It really works well and their voices are well matched. I do like this song but nothing about it jumps out at you enough to remember it. The pace never changes which means it's the kind of song you can have on in the background and not really notice it.

                            Next up we have the more upbeat Impatient which is what I can only describe as Latin style Hip-Hop. It opens up with Lil' Kim rapping with guitar strums in the background. This gives it a softer edge to what you'd expect from her usual rap. Cantrell's vocals are slow and smooth. This seems strange seeing as the lyrics are all about being impatient. The lyrics themselves are unclear at to what she's impatient over. I gather it's waiting to see if the relationship will turn serious or not - "Let me know/ 'Cause I can't let you go/ Not with the love we made". Fat Joe raps towards the middle of the song. He answers her but again what is being said isn't all that clear. Although there are two rappers featuring on this song it still doesn't stand out. A guitar strumming is really the only noticeable sound which gives the song a Latin feel to it. It isn't a bad song but at the same time it doesn't really stand out.

                            Breathe is Cantrell's most successful song which she reached number one with in August 2003. It opens up with Sean Paul's rap, which gives the song a reggae feel to it in his parts because of his Jamaican accent. The song has a strong beat to it and a trombone features heavily throughout the song. Combined with drums and a cymbal being tapped constantly provides a decent dance tune. There is also a brief sound of a car crashing during some of Cantrell's vocals which are realistic that when firsts listened to whilst driving I was sure someone really had crashed. The song is about taking time out from a relationship so they can 'breathe' - "Maybe we need some time alone/ We need to let it breathe… breathe… breathe". Sean Paul disagrees with this and wants to stay together "So what's that supposed to be about baby/ Gal, free up ya vibe and stop acting crazy". Vocally the two work really well together. Cantrell's smooth sultry voice contrasts with Sean Paul's rap. I do love this song and it was one of the reasons I bought the album and it still remains a firm favourite.

                            Continuing the album with a more upbeat dance song is Hit 'Em Up Style (Opps!). It has a Swing feel to it as well as the use of a keyboard and bass, which gives it an almost jazzy, feel to it. Towards the end it slows down a bit but only for a short time before Cantrell kicks in with her fantastically powerful voice. The song is all about getting revenge after catching her man cheating on her. She urges others in the same boat to go out and spend their money because "If he mess up/ You gotta hit 'em up". It's an energetic song, which will have you tapping your feet at the very least.

                            Things slow down now with the slow but catchy Risk It All. It's a love song about how she'd risk it all for the one she loves. A keyboard and guitar blend in with a continuous drum beat. Throw in Cantrell's vocals and you get a soulful melody. I really do like this song and the more I play it I like it.

                            Don't Want To Say Goodbye is another slow RnB song. It opens up with the sound or rain and the rumble of thunder. Then a strange noise is played. I can't work out exactly what it is though. It's played in the background during the whole of the song. This works really well and makes the overall song sound almost hypnotic. As the vocals kick in so does the beat of a drum. The song is about losing her love and not wanting to let go and say goodbye - "I will never stop loving you/ Can you tell me what I gotta do". It has a lovely melody and it was no huge surprise to see that Stevie Wonder co-wrote it. Cantrell sings with so much emotion, which adds to the quality of the song. This is another song I particularly like and the unusual background noise makes it sound very different to other songs on the album.

                            The pace steps up a bit with All You Had To Say. It has a swing feel to it as well as a punchy beat. The way the keyboard chords are played gives it a 1920s feel to it. It's the drumbeat that gives it extra rhythm. This isn't a song that really appeals to me but it's still not a bad song. For me the use of the keyboard just doesn't allure me. I prefer something smoother with less of an edge. It's the kind of song that if I heard it too much to would start to annoy me. Lyrically there is nothing wrong with it and had the same lyrics been sung over different music then there is no doubt I would like it more. Cantrell sings in perfect harmony about her partner not being there for her and the relationship ending but she isn't that bothered by this.

                            Another song I'm not all that keen on is Happily Ever After. It opens up with just Cantrell's vocals for a good 20 seconds before the tapping of a cymbal starts. It's joined by the keyboard and some drums. It has a decent beat and tune to it but for me it just doesn't stand out. Cantrell sings about having a great relationship and things couldn't be better. She feels secure and the is no problem that can't be fixed - "Sometimes we fight, then argue, then make up/ Then later we'll be making love…" She sings in harmony and I can't criticise that in anyway. Although I'm not that fond of the song it's not one I'd necessarily skip over.

                            Holding On To Love is another slow RnB love song about how glad she is to have her man in her life. It opens up with a keyboard playing and a harp being played. When the vocals kick in just the harp is played before the drums are thrown into the mix. The harp being played constantly in the background gives it a dreamy sound. If it wasn't for the beat of the drums it might even be sleep inducing. I don't mean this in a bad way though. The lyrics are especially great but Cantrell's soulful voice makes up for it. The overall song has a goof rhythm to it yet it doesn't really grab you.

                            Probably my least favourite song on the album is Swingin'. As the title suggests it is Swing but it has an extra beat to make it more up to date. It is really jazzy and is a song you can imagine dancing to. "Be bop" is sang over and over, which is really infectious. Cantrell manages some high notes towards the end, which go really well with the music.

                            Let Her Go is a catchy RnB tune. It's most prominent sound is that of a keyboard with drums also giving it a good beat to it. Cantrell displays her smooth singing voice once again and towards the end she gets to really go for it when the pace is stepped up. The song is about a man leading a secret life while his girlfriend has no idea. I can only assume this means he's cheating on her. Cantrell urges him to let go - "Damn it's a shame, the way you play games/ You need to just let her go". Another good song that I won't tire of listening to.

                            Round Up is a song by Lady May, who I can't say I've heard of before, that Cantrell features in. It's a Hip Hop/Country song, which opens up with a banjo playing and then a few drumbeats before Lady May raps. The banjo features in most of the song, as does a clapping noise. Luckily a bass beat can be heard as well which masks it a little. When Cantrell vocals start the banjo stops which unfortunately wasn't long enough for my liking. Having said that it's not that bad but it isn't something I'd want to listen to for too long. It has a funky feel to it and I can imagine it being played in clubs. Possibly because the song appears to be going out - "Round up everyone, hit the club and tear it down/ If you're up against the wall then you're in the wrong place".

                            Make Me Want To Scream was released as a single and reached number 24 yet I can't say I ever heard it in the charts. It's another song in which she is tired of her boyfriend cheating and won't take it anymore. She questions his lies with some amusing lyrics which aren't very clear so you might miss them if you don't listen very carefully - "I guess they're throwing their drawers and bras your way/ I guess those condoms weren't yours". Knowing it was written along with Kandi who had the hit 'Don't Think I'm Not' and also wrote TLC's 'No Scrubs' it's no wonder the song is an anti-men song. The song has a reggae feel to it and it features Ian Lewis of Inner Circle rapping in it. It has a nice beat to it and some kind of string instrument throughout it, which gives it an eastern feel to it. I can't take the song seriously because Cantrell does a good monkey impression in places with lots of "oh oh oh oh…"

                            The album finishes with the softer No Place Like Home. This is a nice way to end the album and the gentle beat of drums over Cantrell's sultry voice work so well together. The song is about how important home is - "There is no place, quite like home I'll never leave, swear I won't" The song isn't hugely memorably but it has a nice melody and feel to it.

                            As you can tell I really love this album now. Anyone who likes Hit 'Em Up Style (Opps!) and Breathe won't necessarily like this album as most of the album is much slower and it's filled with plenty of ballads. There are plenty of other styles of music tried and although some of them I wasn't over keen on they may appeal to others more. Her mother was a jazz singer and that that has clearly influenced her. Blu Cantrell can certainly sing and her voice is really distinctive. She is deeply passionate about what she is singing about and amazingly she can sing a range of octaves. Whilst none of the songs on here I actually dislike I think some of the choices of instruments were wrong for them. Sadly 'Bittersweet' wasn't a huge success for her and not many people will have heard of the album or immediately recognise her name which I think is a shame. Another thing, which is a shame, is the fact that since this was released in 2003 she hasn't released anything. I did read somewhere that she had an album in the pipeline this year. However, a quick search online has told me anything.

                            Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!), All You Had to Say and Swingin' were all originally on Blu Cantrell's debut album 'So Blu'.

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                              12.02.2007 16:39
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                              Myron Bolitar is back!

                              The main genre that I read is crime fiction and it wasn't until the last couple of years that I started to read Harlan Coben books. Now I've read most his novels and can't decide on whether I prefer his Myron Bolitar series or his stand alone novels. Most people I have spoken to prefer one or the other but I think they are all very good and would struggle to decide. So it was no surprise that I was pleased when I saw that Coben had written another Bolitar book after a 6-year break.

                              'Promise Me' opens up with Dr Edna Skylar who has spotted Katie Rochester, a girl who is missing. The girl appears as if she is okay and realises that she has been recognised and tells her not to tell anyone that she saw her. Edna speculates if she means it or whether the man she is with is holding her captive. Straight away I was trying to guess if she was a runaway or indeed being held captive. With most Coben books I've been hooked straight away and this was no different.

                              The story then switches to Myron who, at a party, overhears two teenage girls' conversation. The two girls in question are Erin and Aimee. He has known Aimee all her life, as he was friends at school with her Mum. Erin is Ali Wilder's daughter who he has just started dating. He hears one of the girls telling the other that she was driven home by someone who had been drinking. Worried that they'll get into a car with a drink driver he talks to them and makes them promise that if they ever need his help then they should call him, no matter what time it is.

                              The last 6 years have been quite for Myron and he reflects on them. He reminisces about the various things that have happened and how things have changed. Myron was a professional basketball player until he had a knee injury, which ended it all. He'd not played professionally very long and when he knew his career was over he started up a representation business M B SportsReps. It's now become M B Reps as he now represents people who aren't connected to sport in anyway. Esperanza, his secretary has now become his business partner. She has just had a baby and is also now marrying the father (who so happens to be Win's cousin Tom). Although he is happy for her he doesn't like the way things are changing. Not only this but his parents have moved to Florida and his ex girlfriend, Jessica is getting married. Win, his best friend seems to be the only one which isn't changing.

                              Everything is going fine until he gets a phone call at 2am. It's Aimee and she wants him to pick her up and then drop her off at a friends. She is concerned that he'll tell her parents so she makes him promise her that he won't say anything. Ironically Myron has had a drink but he still goes to get her as she is upset and he did promise after all. When he does pick her up and she gets into the car he tries to find out what's upset her. Aimee doesn't want to say and demands to be taken to her friend's house as he promised. After she has gone he feels really uneasy but can't think why…

                              It's only when Aimee disappears that Myron reflects more on this sense of uneasiness. It emerges that he was the last person she called and he was also the last person to see her. Inevitably the police call him in for questioning and it doesn't look good. Hester Crimstein turns up (courtesy of Win) as his lawyer. Anyone who is familiar with Coben's novels will know that she has featured in his other novels. He helps the police and shows them which house he dropped her off at. Mysteriously when they knock on the door the lady there has never heard of Aimee's friend. Why and where has she gone? Does Katie Rochester's disappearance have anything to do with it?

                              As with all Bolitar books Myron is on a mission to find something out. Even though he hasn't been on one of his little crusades in a while he hasn't lost his touch. He still has Win helping him out although he plays no major part as he has done previously. They still use their little tricks like hitting the speed dial to call each other so they can listen in to the conversation. In the past Win and Myron were involved in a few assaults and have never been scared to use force to find out the truth. 'Promise Me' is no different and there are a few occasions where Myron finds himself in confrontational situations. Win is referred to as a psycho a few times and Myron is usually the calm and collective one trying to do things by the book. However, there are a few times where Myron does lose his cool. This is mainly because he's been out of action for a while.

                              Myron is an extremely likeable character and he is trying to do the right thing. Not only because he feels partly responsible but Aimee's mother Claire makes him promise that he'll bring her home. He tires to smooth talk the ladies and this comes out all wrong and he often cracks jokes when he is embarrassed. I found this likeable as he doesn't come across cocky and arrogant which he could do. The use of humour lightens the otherwise dark tone and it's good to have this thrown in. As mentioned earlier Win (full name Windsor Horne Lockwood III) is his usual self. He and Myron became friends when they were at college and ever since then they have remained close. It appears to be an unlikely friendship as Win is rich and has everything he needs. He was born with vast wealth and looks the part of a rich boy as well. When he was younger it got him into trouble as people hated the look of him. As a result Win learnt how to handle himself and even learnt martial arts in Korea so he could inflict pain on others with out leaving any marks. He isn't afraid to use these skills and in the past has been a bit of a liability. Understandably he has a reputation and the police are well aware of him although he's never been caught.

                              The story is up to Coben's usual standards and is fast paced to keep you wanting to read more. Not once could I predict the ending and when I thought that was it there was a twist that I never saw coming. What made me enjoy the story more was the fact that I like the characters. I've always liked Myron and even though he does come across as unbalanced I like reading about Win. I liked the way Hester Crimstein was included even if it was brief. The only thing I was disappointed in was the fact that Tom wasn't mentioned more. We're told that he is marrying Esperanza but I found myself wondering if he was anything like Win. Maybe Coben did this for a reason and perhaps he'll be included more in a future Bolitar, who knows!

                              One of the things I like about Bolitar books is that they aren't the usual police officer type books. It's refreshing as they are completely different as Myron and Win often find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Coben is incredibly easy to read and I found myself reading more than I initially set out to. With this said the book didn't take me all that long to read. So anyone who like 'quick reads' will enjoy this as the book doesn't go on and on and at no point did I find myself getting bored or finding parts of it unnecessary. The chapters are short so it's easy to read a bit here and there if you needed to. So it's ideal to read on your commute or when you're short of time. The only trouble is you'd want to read more than just a short bit as I know I did!

                              If you haven't read anything by Coben before and you like the sound of this I suggest you the earlier Bolitar books first. You could read this and still enjoy the story but having knowledge of what's happened to the characters previously will help. I've read all of the Bolitar books up till now apart from 'Darkest Fear' and even then I felt I missed out as there were references to his son Jeremy and events which happened in that novel.

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                                19.01.2007 16:42
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                                A chocoholic's dream!

                                My Dad was planning a surprise for my Grans birthday in December and told me they were taking her to Cadbury World and asked if my boyfriend and me would like to go as well. I told him it was a daft question and he knowing my love for chocolate said he thought I’d say something like that. Plus I’d already been before (summer 2003) so he and my Mum were asking me a few questions about it. So I popped on the website to see if it was the same since my last visit. Straight away I could see there was a ‘Book now’ section. After remembering my last visit and how I sat around waiting for ages till we could go through I advised my Dad that this would be the best thing. So after a quick discussion we decided the best time to book the admission times for and booked them straight away. We were lucky as there weren’t many slots left and I’d imagine if you leave it to the last moment then you could struggle getting the day you’d want. Having said that, I popped on to see how far in advance you can book them and it doesn’t look like you can do it too far in advance. It’s worth being aware of this though and getting the tickets booked when you can. So with the tickets booked we didn’t need to worry about getting there too early so we got in ok.

                                ***Arriving at Cadbury World***

                                After parking (this is free) we made our way into Cadbury World. We still had to queue for or tickets but as we had booked in advance this was very simple and didn’t take long. We had printed a copy of the confirmation email along with us and this is all they needed. They do tell you to make sure you have the credit or debit card, which you used but as far as I recall they never asked for it. It’s better to have it though, just in case!

                                Once you’ve got your tickets you can either go in the shop they have or to the café. It’s advisable to go to the toilets before hand but there are plenty of toilets dotted around once you’re in so it shouldn’t be a huge problem. Those who need a disabled toilet should go before though. My Gran did so (she has a wheelchair when we go out, as she can’t walk that far) and once we were going around I didn’t notice any other disabled toilets. I’ve had a look on the website and it goes to show how observant I was as they do have them. There are some before you enter the packaging plant and near the shop at Essence.

                                Once it’s time for the tour to start (your ticket will have a specific time) you can the queue to enter the Aztec Jungle. A member of staff who also dishes out chocolate lets you in. The day I went it was a bar of Twirl and a packet of Buttons. I seem to remember back in 2003 that they gave out 4 bars so I was a little disappointed! We had to wait a little while as a school group was let in before us so she was waiting for it to clear. So we were chatting to her for a while and learnt some interesting things that weren’t part of the tour. Such as Bournville is now produced in France for them. I just assumed that all of Cadburys products were made here so I was a little surprised at that.

                                ***Aztec Jungle***

                                On entering the Aztec Jungle it was quite dark but after a few moments I found my eyes had adjusted. So those who are effected by going from the light to dark have been warned (my Gran is as she has glaucoma). This section starts off the tour with a little history about cocoa and how the Mayan Indians and the Aztecs used it. There are plenty of life sized displays showing them and boards of information about them that you can read. I noticed a few people just walking through this section without reading it all, which I thought was a shame as I thought it, was interesting. I won’t go into detail about it all, as it’ll spoil it for those who want to visit themselves.

                                ***Journey to Europe***

                                This brings us nicely on to how cocoa was brought into Europe. This is done in a lovely way as well. There are a series of screens and the story is told on a loop and holograms tell the story. We were fortunate to walk in right at the beginning, which saved on time, as I would have wanted to know about it all if I’d walked in towards the end. I can imagine children finding this slightly boring but it doesn’t last all that long and grown up chocoholic’s will find it very interesting! For example, when chocolate first came to Europe it wasn’t eaten in bars like we do now. It was drunk as drinking chocolate and there were chocolate houses the aristocrats went to.

                                ***Bull Street***

                                Once you’ve learnt the history of chocolate that brings us on to Cadbury and how the Cadbury family started up. Before heading into the auditorium to hear about the Cadbury Story you have to wait a short while in Bull Street. The clever people at Cadbury World have built a replica of a street in Birmingham, as it would have been when John Cadbury was struggling with his business. There are several windows of shops that are interesting and for all those who need a sit down (I did!) there are a few benches. When it’s almost time to go in a hologram of John Cadbury appears above the door and tells you a little bit about the history of Cadbury, namely when he had a little shop in Birmingham.

                                ***The Cadbury Story***

                                This leads us on beautifully to The Cadbury Story. Once everyone is seated the doors shut and the screen starts up and John Cadbury appears again as a hologram on a statue head. It’s done in a very clever way, which makes it more entertaining than just watching a screen. John Cadbury introduces his sons Richard and George and they also talk about their part in the business. It’s very interesting to learn about how they went from a small business and then how they had to move to a bigger place and how they built the plant at Bournville and how well they looked after their employees.

                                ***Making Chocolate***

                                After the interesting Cadbury Story you’re lead into another room with more seats. This time you’re warned that anyone that doesn’t want to be shocked to sit on the back row. Having been before I went and sat at the back as I knew what would happen and I knew it would make me feel dizzy. Most people will be able to handle it though so I suggest if you do go be brave and sit on the ‘normal’ seats! Again a screen appears and a man appears and starts to tell you how chocolate is made. This is done in a fun way and when they are telling you how the cocoa beans are shaken the seats shake and other effects include a bit of steam and the look of the room being heated. There is room for people in wheelchairs but as I wanted to sit at the back and the rest of my family were sat elsewhere she was on her own. Not that she minded though, as she was too busy watching the screen. I also think they need to soundproof their rooms as well as when in this room I could hear the voice of John Cadbury from the Cadbury Story, which I found a little off putting. The rooms are right next to each other but I’m sure they could do something about that. Having said this part of the tour is one of my favourites (along with the demonstration area).


                                ***Manufacturing***

                                After learning about the way chocolate is made the doors open and you’re told to move on to the next part. Here there are various machines with screens, which you can learn about certain Cadbury chocolate, and how it’s all made. Last time I went it was so busy I never had a chance to get to a screen so this time I made sure I did! When I went one of the machines (I think there are four in total) were broken and had a sign up apologising for any inconvenience. The one we were at we’d been beaten to by a family but we were still able to watch. The only trouble was the sound on our one wasn’t all that good and I could actually hear more of another one, which was distracting.

                                Watching the videos was really interesting though. If you’ve wondered how they make Cadburys Crème Eggs then this is the place for you! You can also see how other chocolate is made such as Buttons, Crunchie, Fry’s Turkish Delight and Roses. We managed to watch most of them but once you’ve seen a few you can guess how they make the others.

                                ***Packaging Plant***

                                After all this learning you actually get to see it in action. That is if you’re lucky, as Cadburys do state that the packaging plant may not be in operation all the time. Before that though you have a chance at having your picture taken with Chuckle Bean. This is really for kids though and we declined the offer! There are stairs to get to this part but there is a lift for anyone with a pushchair or anyone in a wheelchair. We were a bit confused where we were going at first but a member of staff saw us and pointed us in the right direction. One seeing my Gran in a wheelchair they informed us that there were stairs to some of it so she wouldn’t be able to see it all. But they said that once we got there someone else would tell us more. So on we walked towards the packaging plant. The first thing we saw was a huge vat, which was stirring, melted chocolate. At this point I could smell it and it made me want to eat some chocolate. Ahh so that’s why they hand out the free chocolate then! You then can walk along and see the rest of the production line. There is a huge perspex wall so you can see it but it’s still a factory environment. At various points they had huge posters with information on it. This was good as you learnt even more snippets of information. You don’t actually see the chocolate being made here but you see the chocolate bar come along on a conveyor belt and get wrapped in a flow wrap. I didn’t find this that interesting but purely because I had a year out and worked in a cheese factory so I knew how it was all wrapped really.

                                As you walk on this is where those in a wheelchair will have to wait. This wasn’t so bad though as she had a video to watch which showed how the chocolate was made. When we came back from seeing what was up the stairs we watched a bit of the video but most of the information in the video was repeating information we had learnt at the beginning of the tour though. For those wondering what was up the stairs it was just more of what we’d seen downstairs. So really you’re not missing out if you don’t go up.

                                On the way out there are a couple of quiz machines. If you’ve seen the ones in the pubs with things like Hangman and Battleships you’ll know what I mean. Here you can have a chance to test your chocolate knowledge. Some of the questions are from what you’ve learnt on the tour but some are random ones like how many Cadbury Crème Eggs are made a year (300 million if you’re interested). You only get a certain amount of questions and then at the end it tells you the percentage you got right. Then you get a chance to watch a 3D film. You get some rather attractive glasses and they show you how they package the chocolate. I only watched some of this as it made me feel funny. It was interesting but really as I’d seen it in action there was nothing I was missing out on. This fascinated my Gran, who had been unable to go upstairs, though. When you hand in your 3D specs you get handed another bar of chocolate (Dairy Milk this time) which was well received!

                                ***Cadabra***

                                After finding your way back out of the production area you find yourself back at the lift area and where the Chuckle Bean photo opportunity is. This is also where you need to go back for Cadabra. This is a delightful car ride aimed at children. As you go round you can see various Chuckle Beans. This doesn’t appeal to adults but to be honest, I was grateful for a sit down. They also have a wheelchair-adapted car, which my Gran went in. It also has room for another person so my Mum went with her. She told me afterwards that she loved it so I guess it doesn’t only appeal to young children! As you go round you get your photograph taken and you can get a copy of it later on. You can also have it put on a mug or a mouse mat. There were other things as well but we walked past this section after having a laugh at our mug shots!

                                ***Demonstration Area***

                                Next up is one of my favourite areas: the demonstration area! Having remembered what it was like 3 years ago I was really looking forward to this again. Only this time it was better. Not that they have done anything different but I stayed longer and learnt more. Neil greeted us after a group of kids disappeared. On a marble slab in front of Neil was a huge blob of chocolate, which didn’t really look all that appealing. He explained that the chocolate had been melted but as it was allowed to set it went all solid like. He then got some fresh melted chocolate and poured it out. He explained to us that by putting air into the chocolate and letting it cool to the right consistency meant that it wouldn’t break and crumble when they were trying to get it out the moulds. This was really interesting, as I’d never given this much thought before. Neil was knowledgeable and enthusiastic as well which made it enjoyable to listen to. He also offered us the chance to have a go but I figured I’d make a mess so I wasn’t brave enough.

                                Then we moved on to the tasting bit! Last time I was just given melted chocolate in a little plastic cup. This time we were given a piece of fudge with melted chocolate on it. This was tasty and it can be messy so you need to be careful! We were offered a second piece but I declined. My Gran loves her fudge so the lady gave her a piece without the chocolate. In this area you’re also given the opportunity to write your name in melted chocolate. I’m more interested in the eating of it though!

                                ***Happiness Room***

                                This area is basically a large dance mat. At first I was puzzled to what it was and then I noticed there were light lit up on the floor. This may appeal to children but we had no interest so walked on by.

                                ***Coronation Street***

                                You don’t have to be a fan of Coronation Street to enjoy this next section. Personally I can’t stand the programme but I did find this rather interesting. For those who are unaware Cadburys sponsor Coronation Street and at the beginning they have a small advert featuring chocolate people. Here you get to see how they made it all and various other interesting facts.

                                ***Advertising***

                                This brings us on to the advertising section. There are several large screens round the room and seats in the middle, which you can sit on. Whilst the content of the adverts is very interesting I found the layout of the room annoying. Those who didn’t want to watch the adverts would have to walk right through the middle and some were talking which was a distraction. Having said that I did enjoy seeing the old adverts, some of which I’d forgotten all about. They have put them into decades so if a particular era is of interest to you then you can watch that. We watched the whole lot though and I must admit I found it amusing to watch some of the first adverts they had and to hear my parents and Gran say how they remembered them.

                                ***Purple Planet***

                                This next section is great for kids. If you go with any children then expect to be in this section for some time! It is basically a room with loads of interactive fun. You can chase a Crème Egg or try to catch chocolate to name a couple. I never stayed in this part all that long as it wasn’t of interest to me. It was really crowded when we were here though and even if I did want a go I’d have had to wait my turn as there were so many children running about (another reason not to stay too long!). It is a nice addition though, as some parts of the tour won’t interest children.


                                ***The Worlds Biggest Cadbury Shop***

                                This takes you out into the shop, which boasts it’s the biggest Cadbury shop. It is rather impressive and they have a variety of chocolates as you can imagine. I was impressed with a huge bar of Dairy Milk (this cost £29!) and a full sized rugby ball made of chocolate. There is also a factory outlet section where you can buy in bulk things like Chomp, Curly Wurly and Dairy Milk. I went straight for the Misfits though. These are bags of chocolates that don’t make the grade to be included in boxes of say Milk Tray or Roses. There are also a variety of other souvenirs such as clothing, mugs and trays. It could be expensive if you stay in here too long though!

                                This concludes the part of Cadbury World in the main building. There is yet more but you have to go outside the main building and around the side of it. We visited the toilets again but there are some at Essence so this isn’t a necessity.

                                ***Children’s Playground***

                                As you do approach Essence there is a children’s playground so those with kids may get stuck here first!

                                ***Essence***

                                When approaching Essence there is a board outside informing you that they let people in every 5 minutes. We didn’t have to wait all that long and then we were ushered in. We were the only people waiting so we were alone for this part which was nice as huge crowds of children was starting to get too much for me. On entering there is a room with a huge screen. My first thoughts were that there were no seats (my feet were killing at this point) so I went and leant against a wall. Then the screen lights up and we hear about how Dairy Milk was invented. I thought this part was somewhat repetitive but it was still interesting. Then after that has finished doors open up into another room where you again learn more about see how it was made. This is cleverly done with holograms again. Once this has finished you go into a room where you can try to ‘create’ your own bar. This isn’t as good as it sounds though. You get given a choice of things to add and you get that in a cup with melted chocolate poured on it. Some of the choices were liquorice allsorts, popcorn, wine gums, mint chips, and marshmallows. I opted for the liquorice allsorts and really enjoyed it. Everyone else was saying how sickly they thought it was so I guess you really do need to be a chocolate fan to be able to stomach more chocolate at this point. You then come out into another shop, which has much of the same that the main shop offered. I did notice a few different things but nothing worth shouting about.

                                ***The Cadbury Collection***

                                The Cadbury Collection is a museum type room. As you enter on the wall is a timeline of Cadbury history events. As you go in there are loads of information boards on the wall about various things to do with Cadbury. There is also a model of Bournville so you can see how big the village was in relation to how big the plant was. There is also an interesting bit where you can see some of the old wrappers of some of the chocolate and a look at that. One part of the wall is perspex looking into some of the boxes of chocolate being stacked by robots. We spent a reasonable amount of time in here reading the various bits of information but I didn’t read it all as there was so much and at this point I was tired and wanting to sit down. I’d imagine children would find this really boring but then the playground is outside so one parent could visit the Cadbury Collection whilst the other watched them play. So it is ideally placed from that point of view.


                                ***Prices and other information***

                                As mentioned earlier there is free parking and there are plenty of spaces. You do need to check for opening times as this varies depending on the time of the year. I do know that in December it is shut on Mondays for example. On the website they have a calendar which you can check if they are open and if they are the times it is open from and to.

                                The prices I thought were reasonable: £12.50 for adults, £9.95 for senior citizens and £9.50 for children. As most places they offer family tickets, large groups reduced rates and a season ticket for a year if you can see yourself going back for more! As mentioned earlier booking the tickets in advance is advisable so that you can guarantee getting in. We did this easily online although a fee of £1 was charged per person. I didn’t think this was too bad as it’s better than getting there and finding out that they are so busy and you can’t get in or having to hang around for several hours. You can also call them if you would prefer and also if you have any vouchers then they can only be used by calling them direct.

                                **As of January 24th 2007 these prices will rise. Adults to £13 and senior citizens to £10 and children to £9.95**

                                In the main building there is a restaurant which is where we had lunch. There is also a snack bar near the Cadbury Collection but this looked shut when I went passed and somewhere I did read that this was only open during busy times. At the main restaurant you can grab something quick to eat like a sandwich or a main meal, which is which we opted for. I wasn’t really impressed with the choice they had though. Anyone who is fussy could find eating here a problem. I don’t recall any vegetarian choices but that is because I wasn’t looking with that in mind. I chose the chicken burger and the rest of my family opted for the steak and kidney pie. It wasn’t ready though so we were told to pay for it and to take a seat and it would be brought over to us. I think we were unfortunate as when we arrived it was heaving and there were several groups of school children. As we were leaving it was practically empty so we just timed it wrong I think.

                                ***What I thought***

                                As you can tell I really enjoyed my visit. Having been before in 2003 I knew what to expect and still thought that by returning I’d enjoy myself. As they had added a few things since then there was plenty to keep me interested and even the things that were there before I enjoyed seeing again. The new Essence I thought was good and I enjoyed the second lot of melted chocolate! I do really love chocolate though and I was the only person in my group that enjoyed the second lot of melted chocolate. They are generous with it though so those who are chocoholics might find it all a bit too sickly. There are a few things which I’d like to see change there. Mainly sound proofed rooms so you can’t hear what is going on in the next room and seats in Essence wouldn’t go amiss. Having said that I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and I would definitely go back again. It seems like they like changing the attractions so that you can go back again. With over half a million visitors a year they can’t be going wrong. So if you love chocolate and you’ve never been what are you waiting for?!

                                Finding Cadbury World is easy enough as well. They do have detailed directions on the website if you need them. Coming from the South we came off the M5 and it was all sign posted with the brown attraction signposts. From the M6 and M42 it is also well sign posted as well, or so it says on the website!

                                http://www.cadburyworld.co.uk/

                                Tel: 0845 450 3599

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                                  08.01.2007 21:08
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                                  A Mankell which doesn't feature Inspector Wallander

                                  Having discovered Mankell a few years ago I've been working my way through his novels. Anyone who is familiar with his books will know that they are normally set in Sweden and feature Inspector Wallander who I must admit I do enjoy reading. I grabbed this book off the shelf without checking what it was about, as I knew it wasn't one I'd already read. A quick scan when I got back home I noticed that Wallander wasn't mentioned but I didn't let this bother me. I wondered if it would be as good as the Wallander series and was interested to see how it would compare. The Return Of The Dancing Master is a rather boring title I thought and it never intrigued me to what it was about. I couldn’t think what it would be about and figured it would be one of those titles you don’t fully understand till near the end.

                                  The book opens with a prologue, which is set in Germany in 1945. The war is over and a plane is being flown from England to Germany with a mysterious passenger on board. He has a suitcase and this piques the interest of the pilot. He wonders who the man is and why he is needed in Germany. It is revealed to us that he is an executioner who is dealing with war criminals. This prologue isn’t hugely important and doesn’t really make sense until the end. Throughout the time I was reading the book I kept wondering about the details I’d read from the prologue and how they were relevant to see if I could work it all out. Either Mankell is really clever or I’m slow at getting things. I’d like to think Mankell is clever!

                                  The story then switches to Sweden in the present time and to an old man called Herbert Molin. He is having trouble sleeping and he is clearly bothered by shadows in the night. He is so scared that he stays awake in the night and then as soon as it’s dawn he settles down for some sleep. His fear started when he was 22 and as a result he’s been scared all his life. It isn’t clear what exactly he is afraid of but the extent of his fear and paranoia are very apparent. He’s hidden himself away in the forest and has no real friends. He fills his time with jigsaw puzzles and his passion in life, dancing the tango. As he is a loner he has no partner to dance with so he’s made a life sized doll, which he’s named 'Esmerelda'.

                                  One particular morning he is filled with dread as usual. Outside his guard dog Shaka is barking frantically as he is drifting off to sleep. He ignores him and falls asleep. When he wakes up he can’t hear him which makes him feel really uncomfortable. He wonders why he is so quiet and decides to go and have a look. He discovers that he has been killed. Shocked he runs back into his house terrified and before long he hears and explosion and then tear gas is thrown in through his windows. He runs from the house and runs as fast as he can towards the forest. This isn’t enough and he is caught and tortured. He was whipped so many times he couldn’t take it and died.

                                  The attack appears to be well planned and from this point I was hooked. Straight away I was wondering why someone would want a man in his seventies dead. As with the other Mankell novels I’ve read something shocking happens and it’s this that has got me hooked. Those who don’t like anything too graphic I’d suggest not read this as Molin’s death is horrific and may well put people off.

                                  We are then introduced to a policeman called Stefan Lindman. He is in hospital about a strange lump he’s found on his tongue. He is really anxious about it and fears the worse. It is then confirmed that he does have cancer of the tongue and he is given a further month off work. It is in the hospital where he picks up a newspaper and reads about Molin’s death. He is so shocked as Molin was a colleague of his and he worked with him until he retired. After a while he decides that he’ll go up north to Harjedalen to see if he can help.

                                  Giuseppe Larrson is the officer leading the murder investigation. He is exasperated that he has no clues or leads at all. When Lindman comes to see what is happening he is grateful for his help and actually likes him helping out as he uses him as a sounding board for ideas and trying to fathom out what is happening. He is a contrast to Lindman and has an upbeat character and often laughs at things. As they get into the investigation Naziism in Sweden becomes apparent. Lindman assumed that there were no Nazis in Sweden and finds out a few things, which shock him. Things take a turn for the worse when Abraham Anderson, a neighbour of Molin’s is also murdered. It doesn’t fit with what they’ve already found and it really throws them both. Who murdered Molin? Is Anderson’s murder connected?

                                  As with most Mankell novels, maps are included at the beginning of the book. This is very handy as it means you can get an understanding of the geography of Sweden. When Lindman goes from Boras to Harjedalen it was useful to see exactly where they both were on the map. Even though Lindman thought it would take him 12-15 hours that gives you an idea how far apart they are. However, this distance isn’t as big as I first thought so I came to my own conclusion that the roads must be slower than here. Plus the weather is very different and throughout the novel fog and snow were mentioned.

                                  Lindman dwells on the cancer and thinks that it’s a death sentence even though he’s been told that this isn’t the case. Throughout the book he goes into his own little world and thinks about the cancer. He asks himself why him and will he die soon. Personally I found this self-pity really annoying. I do realise that being told you have a tumour would be devastating. Yet I found the constant reminder of the lump wasn’t at all endearing and it made me less sympathetic to him. Also I found him hard to work out. At the beginning we’re told how he fell in love with his girlfriend Elena despite her being 10 years older. Yet when he leaves Boras to help with the investigation he doesn’t think about her much or even miss her. He seems too wrapped up in his own thoughts and at times trying to solve Molin’s murder. He knows that she is missing and worrying about him and he hardly bothers to call her and let her know that he is okay. Maybe it was this, which put me off him more, but it was these personality traits which meant I just didn’t warm to him.

                                  I really did enjoy this and it wasn’t predictable, as I never realised everything until the last few pages. I didn’t find myself engrossed in the book as I would normally as I just didn’t feel a connection with Lindman. Anyone who is worried about it being translated from Swedish needn’t worry as it felt like it had been written in English first. There were even slang words worked in and it felt natural and flowed. The only thing was the fact that the places were foreign to me but this didn’t stop me from enjoying it. Anyone who enjoys crime fiction should give this a go and if you’ve not read any Mankell before then this doesn’t matter, as it isn’t connected to any of the Wallander books so it could be read first.

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