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whiskmite

whiskmite
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Member since: 14.01.2009

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      23.03.2010 20:26
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      A really good read

      BACKGROUND
      I first heard of this series of books when I saw the trailer for the film version. The trailer didn't impress me that much and I more or less dismissed it as a rubbishy Harry Potter rip-off. Then one day as I was reading The Guardian online I noticed an interview with the author, which gave a bit of back-story to the series and made it sound more interesting. The author's son is dyslexic and has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He had quite low self esteem as a result of being bullied because of it. The author (Rick Riordan)'s son had always been interested in Greek myths and legends and kept asking for his dad to tell him the stories again and again. Eventually they ran out of stories and Riordan started making them up using the Gods and heroes as characters. He decided to try to help boost his son's self esteem by making his main character a demigod (half human, half God) with dyslexia and ADHD, rationalising it that his ADHD was a result of his always needing to be battle-ready, and the dyslexia was because his brain was hard-wired to read ancient Greek. According to the article the stories made a massive difference to his son, and he thought it might make a difference to other children with dyslexia or ADHD.


      THE PLOT
      Anyway, enough back story!

      Percy Jackson is always getting into trouble as a result of his impetuous behaviour (due to his ADHD). He goes to a special school in New York with his weedy looking friend, Grover. As Grover is constantly being bullied, a lot of the trouble Percy gets into is as a result of sticking up for him. On a school trip, a teacher takes him aside and turns into a monster, demanding to know where he 'hid it'. Percy is understandably freaked out and confused, but his wheelchair-bound teacher and Grover interrupt and she is killed. After this both Grover and his teacher claim nothing happened. Percy is bemused.

      This is the start of Percy's new life as a demigod - which takes him from his home in an apartment in New York with his mother and despised stepfather, 'Smelly Gabe', who Percy suspects as abusing his mother - to 'Camp Half Blood' where he discovers that he is a son of Poseidon, his friend Grover is a satyr, and meets the third part of his trio, clever Annabeth, daughter of Athena. The three of them must go on a quest to find Zeus's lightening bolt before a war of the Gods breaks out.

      I'll try not to ruin any more for you as it's a good book and worth reading!

      THE CHARACTERS

      Percy is a great lead character. Less inward looking than Harry Potter (with whom there will always be inevitable comparisons) but with just as many insecurities about himself. Considering himself stupid and a 'loser', it is great to see his character learn that everything he has always considered as holding him back is actually a vital part of himself and completely necessary for his survival. He does have that Harry Potter fatal flaw of being very self sacrificing and heroic, but he is the leading man so we have to cut him some slack!
      Sally, Percy's mum, is the ultimate self-sacrificing mother, marrying a smelly abusive man to protect her son, but (and maybe I'm just harsh) I did feel that she was a bit of a doormat at the beginning not standing up to Gabe. But her reasons are explained as her protecting Percy. Percy loves her to bits and you can see a really sweet relationship between them.

      Grover is totally different depending on whether you read the book or saw the film! In the book he is quiet, nervous and timid. In the film he is smooth and chatty. He also changes ethnicity which doesn't bother me. In fact the character transformation doesn't bother me either, which maybe goes to show that he's a bit 2D either way?

      Hermione - sorry, I mean Annabeth - has a few 2D moments too. So similar to Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, the author has to work quite hard to make them different (for example Hermione is not particularly athletic, whereas Annabeth is great with battle training. She's moodier than Hermione too).

      The Gods all have different personalities which are fairly similar to how they are described in mythology and I won't go into them all here.

      FINAL THOUGHTS
      The book was a great read. I didn't have massively high hopes of it, I mainly bought it because of the story about the author's son, and I thought it sounded like an interesting reason to write a story. However I was really pleasantly surprised with how quickly I was engrossed in Percy's world. The Gods are suitably impressive and formidable - no fluffiness there. Percy's voice (through which the story is told) is engaging and likeable. The exposition (telling of the backstory within the story) is dealt with painlessly (sometimes this is really clumsily done, it's a pet hate of mine) and at the end I was left wanting more.

      I've just finished Books 2 and 3 so will let you know what I think of them.

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        24.08.2009 17:36
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        REally lovely pizzas, affordably priced

        I visited Fire & Stone with four girlfriends before going to the theatre. Therefore the aim wasn't really for a long, drawn out catch up session, but for a quick bite before heading off for a show. We got a deal with lastminute.com, who I booked our theatre tickets with, for a pizza and a glass of prosecco for £8 - fairly good value I think!

        The Fire & Stone we visited is in central London - Covent Garden, which is conveniently close to theatreland. It is fairly easy to find, it has a big glass window at the front. The reason behind its name is that the pizzas are stone baked in a big Italian oven.

        We booked our table for 6 but did warn them that some of us would turn up early. No problem, they said, you can sit at the bar while your table is being prepared. As I came in they told me that one of my friends had already arrived and showed me where she was sat. We had to go to the bar to order drinks but the service was very fast, friendly and professional.

        We had looked at the menu in advance on its website (http://www.fireandstone.com/coventgarden/restaurant/index.asp) and were very excited as they all looked very impressive! We were seated promptly at 6 and once we had decided what we wanted to eat. The menu is divided into continents all the pizzas on the menu are named after a city on that continent. For example, Cairo has roasted peppers, courgettes, aubergines, roasted red onions, a house tomato sauce, goats cheese and pine nuts; Marrakech has lamb spiced with cumin, mozzarella, mint yoghurt sauce, green olives, raisins & sliced red onion; New Foundland has Poached flaked Atlantic salmon, roasted fennel, basil pesto base, mozzarella, sweet red onions, rocket and salmon caviar - etc. As you can see they really try and find the 'theme' of the place they are naming the pizza after and make it very individual.

        The pizza I chose was 'Byron Bay' - named after a fantastic little beach town in Northern New South Wales, Australia. Byron Bay had basil pesto, sliced field mushrooms, cumin roasted sweet potato, cherry vine tomatoes, mozzarella, green olives, and crushed macadamia nuts. My friends ordered a variety of different pizzas, all of which looked delicious, but mine was the only one I ate so it is the only one I remember or can comment on! I love sweet potatoes and all the other ingredients on it, so was fairly sure it would be a winner, and wasn't disappointed at all. The roast sweet potato had a delicious flavour and it went perfectly on a pizza with the sweetness of the tomatoes and the subtlety of the mushrooms. There weren't many olives on the pizza, sadly, but I'll let them off as it really was delicious. All of my friends enjoyed their pizzas too.

        We had to remind our waitress about the prosecco but once she was asked she went into action and they appeared less them five minutes later. The bill was also delivered very promptly. Perhaps too promptly if you weren't in a hurry to leave yourself, but as we were it was all the better!

        I'd say this was a great place to eat either pre-theatre or pre-drinks. The atmosphere was nice and relaxed and the serving staff were very quick and professional.

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          21.08.2009 15:47
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          Highly recommended!

          First, I should say that there are some spoilers in the review, so if you're determined not to find out what happens in Dirty Dancing, don't read on!

          When I was growing up, Dirty Dancing was one of my absolute favourite films. It still is, in fact. It sounds (and is) incredibly cheesy but that film meant such a lot to me! It had the romance covered, it had good-looking actors (and Swayze WAS good looking back in the day!) and it felt quite meaningful at the time - looking at society in terms of class issues, abortion, and the way the world was changing in America in the 60s, with the aftermath of the Vietnam war and holidays to Europe becoming more popular. It has a real nostalgic feel about it and you'd have to have a heart of stone not to raise a smile at the end when Baby gets the lifts right!

          A brief synopsis of the story: The Housman family (Dad, who is a doctor, and Baby's hero, Mum, Lisa and Frances (known as Baby)) go on holiday to a family resort in North Carolina. Lisa soon sets her sights on their waiter, Robbie, who is studying medicine. Baby however, soon discovers the world of the dancers at the resort, and finds out one of the dancers, Penny, is pregnant with Robbie's child. Robbie refuses to have anything to do with her or it, and she has no choice but to seek an illegal abortion with money Baby lends her. As the abortion can only be scheduled for one particular day, the day Penny and Johnny dance at another hotel, Baby has to learn to dance to stand in for Penny and develops a relationship with Johnny. When Penny's abortion goes wrong Baby fetches her father to help her. When Johnny takes responsibility for Penny, Dr Housman refuses to allow Baby to have anything further to do with Johnny, but Baby and Johnny's relationship continues. Johnny is accused of stealing by a jealous ex-lover and Baby comes to his defence to stop his boss from firing him by telling the truth - she spent the night with him. He is fired anyway for sleeping with a guest and Baby's family refuse to speak to her. On the last night of the season there is a concert where Robbie accidentally admits he was the one who get Penny in trouble, and Johnny comes back to dance with Baby. And they all live happily every after (sob!). Ok, that last sentence isn't part of the film, but that's how it makes me feel!

          In fact, I don't know that many girls my age who don't share similar feelings for Dirty Dancing. So, when the musical came out, I knew I'd have to see it! It took me a while to organise (almost two years!) but finally, the other week, I got my act together and booked tickets for me and four female friends.

          I booked with lastminute.com, getting our tickets for £33 each, with an offer of a dinner deal beforehand - £8 for a pizza and a glass of prosecco at Fire & Stone before the show.

          When we got to the theatre I had to show my reference to pick our tickets, a process which was incredibly easy and very fast given the massive queue - the cashiers really were working very quickly! We were sat up at the top so we had a fair few stairs to climb, but we ended up with very good seats - slightly to one side, but with fantastic views. I was a little worried as we paid for 'fourth tier' seats so I had thought that our seats may not be amazing, but I was very pleasantly surprised! The toilets were also conveniently near too!

          Because I was so familiar with the film (and loved it so much), I was worried I'd pick it apart in my head if they got any bits wrong, but although they did change some bits (some music that they probably couldn't get rights to etc) they were actually really faithful to the movie. The smaller bits they did change, like the music, they tried to keep the same mood as the film, but they also added in extra bits about the peace march and the civil rights movement, which I liked because it added even more depth and gave us more of an insight into the time in which the story was set. They also added in some singing which was fine - it didn't blow my mind but it certainly didn't put me off.

          The actors were very good - the looked very similar to the movie actors which was probably done on purpose, as you are used to seeing Johnny/Baby etc look a certain way. The dancing is very very good. The guy that plays Johnny and the girl that plays Penny particularly so.

          Again, I know I am biased as I love the movie so much, but I felt that the show got the emotion exactly right. I felt sad with the injustice of it all when Johnny tells Baby about his dream - that they meet Baby's father on a walk, and he put his arm around him, "just like he does with Robbie" - Robbie is Lisa's (Baby's sister) unworthy boyfriend, and while we're on the subject of him, I practically hissed every time he was on stage, and the relief when Baby's father tears his cheque up and realises (at last!) that it is Robbie who is the slimeball, not Johnny! The show did really well at making you feel for all of the characters, and the funny lines were just as funny as they should be.

          It was a fairly long show - it started at 7.30 and didn't finish til almost 11 o'clock, but personally I feel that I got my money's worth for my £33 and would definitely recommend it to any fans of Dirty Dancing (the movie) and any fans of romantic movies in general. Honestly, there weren't a lot of men in the audience, a fact that didn't surprise me at all (the face my boyfriend pulled when I asked him if he'd mind not coming as it was a girls' night was exactly the same face I pull when he tells me he's found someone else to sit in the pub and watch the football with!) but my brother loved Dirty Dancing and used to watch it with me and I know he'd really like to see it so I suppose it really depends on your personal taste!

          On the whole a great night out for you and your girlfriends that will leave you feeling slightly better about the world!

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            20.08.2009 17:26
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            Great place to visit and enjoy a chilled holiday with a fair amount to see

            My friends and I were after a (fairly) cheap week away somewhere hot, with a couple of interesting trips available. After much searching on the internet, Kefalonia came up trumps.

            We visited in late September, avoiding the higher prices of the school holidays, as well as crowds, but still benefitting from the good weather. It obviously wasn't quite as hot as it would have been a few months previously, and it was clearly starting to cool down for winter, but we got five full days of glorious sunshine and only one really bad rainy day - and even that wasn't cold - just rainy!

            We booked the holiday through icelolly.com and the whole thing came to £250 - this includes flights and self catering accommodation.

            Upon arrival at the airport, we tried to hire a taxi to take us to our villas; however every single taxi driver refused to take us, saying that it was "too close". We had really heavy bags and were starting to get annoyed with this, but thought we'd wander out of the airport on foot and try a taxi outside the airport complex. As we exited the complex we saw the sign for our villas - no wonder they wouldn't take us - it was literally less than 200 metres up the road! We were a little bit nervous about bad airport noise all holiday but I can genuinely say that we barely noticed it!

            For our first night we didn't venture far after showering and unpacking. The area we stayed in was called Svoronata and there was a taverna up the road which served amazing food, it was called The Olive Tree, and I would highly recommend the moussaka!

            Our rep called us the next day to see if we'd like to book any trips. I am not the type of person who can go on holiday for a week and spend the entire time sunbathing, and luckily I go on holiday with friends with similar feelings! However, none of us felt entirely confident hiring a car, so we were reliant on coach trips.

            TRIP 1: KEFALONIA ISLAND TOUR

            This started off with a monastery/vineyard. Wine-tasting at 9 a.m.! A great way to start the day! It was a really interesting little place with lots of history, a Church to explore (as well as tombs below the Church, for the brave!) The wine was very nice; in fact, we bought a couple of bottles to take back as souvenirs or gifts.

            Next on the list was the Drogorati caves. This cave was discovered 300 years ago after a massive earthquake opened the cave up. The cave is 60 metres underground and very damp - the temperature is 18 C and the humidity is approx 90%. There was no doubt that that this was a very impressive cave with lots of really impressive stalagmites and stalactites, but having somehow seen lots of underground stalagmite / stalactite caves, the memory of this place hasn't really stayed with me. Probably doesn't help that you can't take flash photos so I don't have any decent pictures! However, it was very pretty and I'd say it was worth a look, especially if you haven't been to underground cave type places before!

            After this was Melissani Lake. Now this was something special. It probably helped that the day we took this trip was a glorious sunny day, but I still remember going out on the boat on Melissani Lake vividly. The lake is named after a nymph in Greek mythology, and is apparently a geological/geographical (sorry, science DEFINITELY not a speciality of mine) mystery as it is approx 500m from the sea, and the water level is a metre higher than sea level. The water is brackish (a mixture of salt and fresh water) and comes up from an approx 30m deep cave system on one side of the cave flowing to other end of the cave, down through narrow crevices, and into the sea. This was discovered by scientists using some kind of dye tracing experiments in the 1950s, I think. You are taken out by row boats the lake, which has a big opening in the roof of the cave, so you can see the sky. The water is totally transparent - you can see the stones at the bottom of the lake, metres below, it really is amazing. The colours are some of the bluest blues I had ever seen. It was really calm and peaceful.

            Sami, the town where Captain Corelli's Mandolin was filmed, was also on the agenda. We didn't stay long but had a little wander. It was very pretty and picturesque! Another town we visited was Fiskardo, a small harbour town at the top of Kefalonia. Fiskardo had some amazing seafood restaurants and was absolutely gorgeous to look at. It is also a bit of a 'place to be seen' with lots of very 'moneyed' people hanging around their yachts!

            TRIP 2: ITHAKA

            Ithaka was, in general, less busy than Kefalonia - it isn't as much of a tourist destination. We got the ferry across, which was actually a highlight - and I don't mean that in a negative way! The waters between the islands were beautiful and it was lovely being able to see Kefalonia from the sea!

            First stop was Ithaka's capital, Vathi. This was situated in a cove within a cove, so totally invisible from the sea! First, we were taken to a museum which had lots of old artefacts. I like learning stuff about where I am, but this museum was very 'dry' so it was a bit of a relief when they let us go out and have a wander! The town itself is really small and very pretty.

            Next was a stop by a village Church, for a look around that, and also for us to try a local speciality dessert. I really can't remember the name, but it was very sweet and had pistachios in it - not unlike baklava. It was very nice though. The Church was also impressive, very lavishly decorated for such a small church. There was also an opportunity to learn a little more about the legend of Odysseus and his journey home after the Trojan War to his home of Ithaka.

            We also visited the town of Kioni, which was very similar to Fiskardo, I thought.

            So - those were our two trips, both of which we really enjoyed. We also made a couple of visits to Agostoli, the capital of Kefalonia. Agostoli was a great town, really friendly, with lots of lovely restaurants, bars, cafes, and even an outdoor cinema, which was really lovely. We tried a lot of the beaches and they were all fabulous. The water was gloriously clear and refreshing after being baked!

            All in all I thought Kefalonia was a wonderful place for a break and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone. It wasn't exactly action-packed but I felt we achieved a nice mix of relaxing and getting to see some very beautiful places, and most importantly, eat some gorgeous food!

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              11.02.2009 19:54
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              A great place to stay for a bit of luxury without paying through the roof

              We had planned our holiday to India to coincide with my birthday, and I really fancied the idea of staying in boutique hotel, and as my birthday was when we were in Udaipur, I started looking into slightly different hotels in Udaipur.

              I looked around, in the Lonely Planet, Rough Guide etc, and I found a great website with lots of hotels that looked amazing - some pricier than others - in India, Thailand, and lots of other places. Udai Kothi caught my eye as the rooftop pool looked spectacular on the photos on its website. After reading a mixed bag of reviews on tripadvisor (some reviews said the food was average and that it wasn't worth the price. I thought that it looked amazing and decided we'd risk it!) I decided that £70-£80 wasn't a bad price to pay for a pretty amazing-looking hotel as a bit of a treat, as every other hotel we stayed in was priced between £3-£15.

              The booking process wasn't too difficult - I emailed them, they replied saying they'd hold my booking for a week while I sent my credit card details and they would take a deposit (I think it was one night's stay). No problems. I printed the confirmation they sent me off, and also printed my credit card statement off online in case there was any problem, which there wasn't. Just to be safe I emailed again to confirm a week before we were due to arrive.

              We arrived at approximately 10 am after getting a night train from Delhi (an experience I mentioned in my review of Udaipur - click on my profile if you want to read it!) and I wasn't feeling great. The hotel was about a 10-15 minute auto rickshaw ride from Udaipur train station. I still remember the immense feeling of relief when I walked into the air-cooled foyer to check in. The hotel is really beautiful. They have gorgeous antique furnishings, tiled floors, dark wood chairs, brightly coloured rugs, wall hangings and cushions. As you walk into reception you can see the gardens, which the owners are rightly proud of. The grass is a beautiful deep green - the grass I usually saw in India was a slightly burnt brown due to the hot climate and sensible desire to preserve water. However, when you see grass as green as this it is hard not to admire it! There were lovely chairs and tables to sit at outside as well as beautiful brightly coloured flowers. I was feeling ill, tired and dirty when I walked in, and I immediately felt better (although I had the inevitable embarrassment of being unshowered, slept-on-night train and wearing yesterday's clothes in a beautiful place with immaculately dressed clean people!).

              Unfortunately our room wasn't ready. This was our fault as they did tell us check in was from 12 am, and we were two hours early. They did let us leave our luggage in a safe room, grab some clothes and use the pool showers and rooftop pool. I was still feeling ill but this sounded lovely, so up we went. As we came out of the stairs onto the pool area, I can genuinely say that the view took my breath away. The pool area was immaculate, there were gorgeous cushioned, shaded window seats all around (one corner one in particular caught my eye!) and you had amazing views of Lake Pichola and the landmarks of Udaipur. The waiter service was great, despite us being the only people using the pool area. They didn't crowd us but always seemed to be there as we needed something.

              When we were told our room was ready, they lead us down to the first floor to a beautiful, huge room. The decor was really pretty - not necessarily how I'd decorate my bedroom, but very in keeping with the style of the hotel. The bed was a four poster with curtains, and all the other furniture was dark wood. Our room had two window seats, perfect for reading! We really were very impressed indeed although I suppose our accommodation in India up to then had consisted of a very very scummy double room in a hostel in Delhi, where the corridors didn't even have floors - they had gutter-type grilles, (in fairness we only paid £3 so what could we expect??!) and a bunk each in an overnight train. The bathroom attached was OK - fairly standard. I had read some people had water trouble but we didn't - everything worked OK.

              We thought that for our two days here we would take it easy, and eat at the restaurant on the roof. To be honest, I can't really comment on the food - I was still feeling ill and hardly ate any. I managed some of the tandoori chicken, and some of my boyfriend's lamb karachi, both of which were very nice! The beers were nice too! The ambience was lovely - you could hear a call to prayer from a Mosque as well as a Hindu temple.

              The bed was nice and comfy, and we slept well during our time there. I didn't hear much road noise despite being on the road side of the hotel. All in all Udaipur was a much quieter city than Delhi and Hanuman Ghat (where Udai Kothi is situated) was a nice quiet area. It wouldn't have been far to walk into the centre but we didn't bother, we thought we'd do the city when we were in our second hotel, we thought we'd just enjoy being at Udai Kothi.

              We spent the entire day there on my birthday, just chilling out by the pool and enjoying the beautiful surroundings with cold beers and hot sun. I can honestly say that it was one of the best birthdays I've had, and a lot of that was due to the lovely hotel we were staying at.

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                03.02.2009 18:10
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                Worth a read but it could have been much better.

                WHAT IS IT?

                Penmarric is an epic style family saga, showing the life of a property-owning family in Cornwall from Victorian times to the end of the Second World War. It is told from five different points of view, all of them family members, so that you get to see the story from more than just one set of eyes, which makes it a more layered read. There is also an ongoing allegory throughout the book, linking the Penmar/Castallack family with Henry II, his mother, wife, children and mistress, which is quite cleverly done and, as a history enthusiast, helped me understand what the author intended by the writing and characterisation. In my opinion, it also made certain unlikeable characters more likeable as you could understand who they were 'linked' to in history.

                A little bit of back story on the history of Henry II and all important to him: His grandfather, William the Conqueror, died without a living son, and named his daughter Matilda as his heir. Many nobles of England were unhappy about having a female ruler, and asked Stephen of Blois, the closest male relation to William the Conqueror, to take the throne, which he did. This split the country into a vicious civil war which was resolved when Stephen named Matilda's son Henry as his heir after his own son Eustace died. Henry II became one of the most powerful men in Europe when he married the ex-wife of the French King, Eleanor of Aquitaine, a powerful landowner in her own right. She went on to give him sons, as did his mistress Rosamund Clifford. If this sounds interesting to you, Sharon Penman has written some excellent historical novels about this period.

                Points of view - CHARACTERS

                Mark, the Henry II. Mark is a more complicated character and is definitely in shades of grey. Strangely, I didn't like him much when you were reading things through his point of view, but through his sons' he came off OK, I thought.

                Janna, the Eleanor of Aquitaine. I didn't like Janna much, but I could empathise with her. She was older than Mark, a widow and of a different social class when they married, but she seemed strong. She had her flaws, definitely (I am incredibly glad she wasn't MY mother! How can you let your own children KNOW you have favourites? Beyond me!) but overall came off fairly sympathetic, if not totally likeable.

                Adrian, who represents Henry II's favourite bastard son. I liked Adrian when reading through his point of view, but didn't like him so much through others' - he came off a lot more priggish and self-righteous, whereas in his own point of view, he was just a confused little boy you could empathise with!

                Philip, who is Richard (the Lionheart) in this allegory. Hated him through Mark's, Janna's and Adrian's points of view, didn't mind him when you saw things through his own eyes. He was his mother's favourite and spoilt by her, but had a very unhappy childhood and an equally messed up adulthood. It is very hard not to feel sympathy for him towards the end.

                Jan-Yves, who represents John 'Lackland' - later King John I. I rather liked Jan-Yves, mostly because of his selfishness and pragmatism - obviously nicer in a fictional character than a real one!! He was a lot of fun to read and took himself much less seriously than the other characters.

                The PLOT

                As I have mentioned, it is loosely based around the life of Henry II, with Penmarric, an old family estate, representing England. Mark's mother Maud had a brother who dies leaving her father brokenhearted. Instead of leaving Penmarric to her, he betrayed her by leaving it to a cousin, Giles. Although a fairly nasty character, Maud was certainly portrayed as stubborn and strong, and instead of accepting this, fought for her, and her son's, inheritance.

                When Giles' own son dies, he accepts Mark as his heir. Mark falls in love with a poorer, older widow of a farmer, Janna. Of different social classes, different ages and different experiences, they struggle to make the marriage work. The story follows their disastrous marriage, and the lives of three children - Adrian, Mark's son from his mistress, Rose, and Philip and Jan-Yves, his legitimate sons from Janna. The book looks at life from Victorian times to the Second World War - through the eyes of people living and fighting. It covers tin-mining and miners in Philip's section as well as his acceptance of his sexuality. It looks into aspects of sibling love and rivalry, and complicated family relationships.

                ANY GOOD?

                It was certainly engrossing, but I can usually tell if I have enjoyed a book by knowing if I plan to sell it on amazon or keep it to read in a few years. I'm selling this one. I can't put my finger on what I don't like about it. At first I found the shifting points of view jarring - you just get into one voice and all of a sudden you have to see through the eyes of a new person - but I got into that and I do think it was a good tool to use as you get a more 'objective' idea of what is happening. I actually think none of the characters were likeable enough for me, and the story wasn't 'epic' enough. I wanted to see the Trenches in World War I, I wanted to know more about the great historical events of the time, whereas you just saw the family stuff. Normally this wouldn't bother me but it seemed to here and I can only conclude that I didn't like the characters enough. It was an interesting read though, and well written, and would be good to take on holiday, especially if you're going to Cornwall!

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                  26.01.2009 22:22
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                  Good value, good food!

                  I haven't eaten in a Cafe Rouge since I was at university (there was one really near my campus) and my boyfriend had never been to one before, but I think its fair to say we'll both be coming back again sometime soon.

                  The reason we were eating out was that my very generous mum had given me some restaurant vouchers, and having looked up where they could be used, I saw Cafe Rouge as an option. We're not exactly rolling in it, so a meal out was quite a nice treat. We went to the Cafe rouge in Putney, which is located on Putney Bridge Road, just off Putney High Street. The restaurant is nicely decorated, vintage Parisian style - the tables are quite close together but it didn't feel intrusive at all.

                  To start with, we ordered a sharing platter which included sausisson, cured ham, olives, chicken liver pate, French bread, hummus and camembert. The pate was really nice, very smooth, rich and tasty. The French bread was crusty on the outside and soft on the inside - perfect! The camembert was very nice as camembert always is! The hummus was really delicious, quite garlicky (which we both really like) and quite rustic - not as smooth as supermarket hummus, but somehow nicer for it. You got an awful lot of food though, and I think that it could have been shared between four people as a starter instead of just two!

                  For mains, I ordered the salmon fishcakes, which is served with salad, fries and a lemon and coriander mayonnaise. The fishcakes were really nice and it was amazing how much the taste of salmon really came through (although, considering they were salmon fishcakes, maybe amazing isn't really the right word! What is mean is, the flavour really came through strongly). The fries were crunchy and tasty, and the mayonnaise was light and fresh, and complemented the fishcakes nicely.

                  My boyfriend had the entrecote rouge steak with béarnaise sauce and fries. He asked for his steak medium rare, and to be honest it did look more medium well done, but he was still very happy with it as the meat was very tender and tasty. The sauce was obviously freshly prepared and was creamy, rich, and delicious.

                  I liked the way there were wine recommendations next to the regional dishes - it is nice sometimes to have wine recommended to go with a dish, especially if you're like me, and don't really know which wines complement which flavours etc. I had a really delicious cabernet sauvignon, which was really nice and flavoursome without being overpowering.

                  I have to say that the service was fantastic at this restaurant. The waiters were attentive without being overbearing and nothing was too much trouble for them. They were also knowledgeable about the food and drink they were serving, which is quite rare these days!

                  In conclusion, I had forgotten how nice Cafe Rouge was. It does really nice, freshly prepared French-style food at decent - not that cheap, but not expensive - prices. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to eat continental at without paying exorbitant prices!

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                    21.01.2009 11:27
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                    A fantastic place to visit for so many reasons

                    Udaipur was our second stop during our trip to Rajasthan last year, and was my favourite place that we visited.

                    Our stay in Udaipur didn't have an auspicious beginning - we had caught a night train from Delhi and during the course of the night (on the top bunk!) I came down with the dreaded Delhi belly. It is nasty enough by itself, but combined with a disgusting train toilet and having to climb up and down from my bunk - well, I was feeling fairly sorry for myself.

                    At the train station we got an autorickshaw to our hotel, Udai Kothi. Our rooms weren't ready yet but we could go and sit on the roof and use the pool if we liked. The beautiful setting and the rooftop pool overlooking Lake Pichola and the city rejuvenated me. It really was one of the most beautiful and tranquil spots I have experienced.

                    We planned to stay two days in Udai Kothi before moving to a cheaper hotel, so for the first two days we mainly chilled out. We didn't do any sightseeing, just enjoyed the beautiful pool and amazing scenery as well as the great service at the hotel. We went for a couple of wanders in the local area (it wasn't in the centre to Udaipur) and found it much more chilled out than Delhi, and much friendlier. The autorickshaw drivers were less pushy, the shopkeepers didn't apply as much pressure, and all in all it was much more relaxing. Sitting by their beautiful pool was a pleasure, even though I was still feeling a bit ropey. I still managed to drink a few beers (I'm a brave little trooper!) although I mainly stuck to ice cold coke. You could hear two calls to prayer, the muslim and the hindu - sometimes at the same time which did sound a bit like they were competing!

                    I thought all this would change when we moved hotel into the centre of Udaipur. Udaipur isn't a huge sprawling metropolis like Delhi - when we moved hotel it was less than ten minutes in the autorickshaw. Our second hotel was on the main bazaar, less than five minutes walk to the city palace. And everything still had a really relaxing atmosphere. Our second hotel, Krishna Niwas, wasn't as flashy as Udai Kothi but it was still beautiful. It was a renovated old haveli, done up by the artist owner, and his chef wife. The rooms were beautiful - striking yet traditional, and we had the most amazing view from our bedroom window over Lake Pichola. We also decided to try one of the cookery classes run by the owner of the hotel, which was great fun, and you got to eat the results!

                    This hotel was also in a fantastic location. As soon as we settled in we dashed off to explore the main bazaar, and city palace. The bazaar was great fun, and much better than the bazaar in Delhi - better items and better prices. If I didn't have my boyfriend to hold me back I really could have gone quite mad! The first stall I went to I found those beautiful notebooks or photobooks - they look really old fashioned, made with leather or a beautiful fabric in a variety of sizes, with string to tie them up? I'm not describing them very well, but hopefully you know what I mean! They're usually about £15 - £20 here, but they were only the equivalent to a couple of quid each there! Bargain - I would have bought twenty if I was allowed! We bought a beautiful rug for our bedroom, pashmina scarves, beautiful hand-beaded handbags, wooden and marble statues as presents for people - and all sorts!

                    While I could have stayed in the bazaar for days, my boyfriend decided that he'd had enough after an hour or two, so on we went to the city palace. A word of warning - you need to pay extra if you plan to take your camera into the 'museum'. For some reason that escapes me, we didn't buy a ticket with camera included, so we weren't allowed to enter with our cameras. We thought the museum would be a little part of the city palace, so when we were told we couldn't come in with cameras, I said I'd stay with the cameras if my boyfriend did the same afterwards. 45 minutes later I was still waiting, slightly anxiously! When I went up I was gutted that I didn't have my camera with me - there were some amazing views and beautiful photos that could have been taken. It was really interesting too and I'd have loved to take my time over it but I was very conscious that my boyfriend was on his own. It still took me about an hour to make my way round it, and it was a great experience, but I wished we had paid for the cameras and could have enjoyed it together - but you live and learn!

                    On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the Jagdish temple. It was up lots of very steep stairs, and was pretty impressive. Definitely worth a visit!

                    Udaipur is also an ideal place to go horse riding. We went with Princess Trails as they have a very good reputation and I'm glad we did - their horses were in very good condition and I could almost believe they were fed solely on oats! I am a fairly good rider, I rode a lot when I was young and took it up again five or six years ago. I'm not brilliant, but I'm pretty confident. My boyfriend had never ridden before, and the horse they chose for him was a thoroughbred called 'Naughty'!! I got to ride a Mahwari horse, a beautiful big bay gelding - he was gorgeous. We had a very fast paced ride around the Aravelli foothills which we both really enjoyed. We rode to a really beautiful picturesque lake and saw a young goatherd with her goats - it really was an amazing experience. We only rode for two hours but my God we felt it the next day!

                    Also worth a visit is the Monsoon palace, very dramatically situated on a hill overlooking Udaipur. We hired an autoricksahw and driver for this, and the views were quite spectacular from the palace. The palace itself looked like it needed a bit of love, but the scenery (apparently the site of an important battle on the non-Udaipur side of the hill) was breathtaking. On our way back down the mountain Udaipur was hit by a big dust storm which was quite dramatic. We got very grubby indeed!

                    We also did a boat trip on the lake, to see the city from a different perspective and get a closer look at the city palace. This was also definitely worth doing and was good fun.


                    We got another night train from Udaipur to Sawai Madhopur, the train station for the Ranthambhore national park. We arrived in late at 6am, and our driver was at the station. We were already a bit late for our morning safari but thankfully the jeep waited for us as we chucked our bags down at the hotel and dashed off without further ado, fingers crossed to see some amazing wildlife! You have two options on these safaris - jeeps or canters. Jeeps sit 6 people and are much more personal, but more expensive. Canters sit 20+ and are much cheaper. We decided to do one of each - a jeep on the first day, a canter on the second. The jeep was far and away the best, if you can afford it, I would definitely recommend stretching your finances to do it. We saw wild peacocks, crocodiles (well, the snouts) deer, antelope, all sorts of birds, monkeys, and finally a real live tiger! She was just chilling out in the shade, acting as if she couldn't care less that we were gawping at her. She really was one of the most beautiful things I've seen. Our driver was brilliant and great at pointing out anything we missed. We saw some amazing scenery too, including Ranathambhore fort and some beautiful red trees. It was all breathtaking. It lasted approximately four hours, and then we were taken back to the hotel again. We were staying in Ranthambhore Bagh, which was pretty special. Instead of a room, we had the most amazing tent with a big double bed and bathroom attached. It was all very impressive indeed. We ate our lunch and relaxed and read our books in the garden, served attentively by the waiters.

                    The evening meal was great fun. The outside seating area looked lovely with lanterns everywhere and they had some music and a young girl did some dancing and embarrassed me by dragging me up to dance with her - I am a terrible dancer! But it was all good fun and everyone was very friendly and had a laugh.

                    We had our canter safari the next day and although we saw lots of deer and monkey, and some peacocks, we didn't see anywhere near as much as the previous day - probably due to the rattling of the canter warning everything that we were on our way! It was also much less comfortable and bumpier.

                    We didn't see much of Sawai Madhopur town but are given to believe that this is no great loss. It think it is literally there to service the tourist trade off the back of the national park.

                    Udaipur was one of the places on our trip that we had no idea what to expect. I am so glad we came here. I only have to look at a picture of a view of this white city to start thinking back on what a great time we had here. I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Rajasthan. Ranthambhore is also somewhere I would recommend and fingers crossed you get to see a tiger!

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                      20.01.2009 13:24
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                      Definitely worth going

                      New Delhi

                      Overwhelming, overcrowded, great fun!

                      For many people, Delhi will be their first experience of India - it was mine. We arrived in Delhi airport at about 4 in the afternoon after flying for more than fourteen hours, with a brief rest in Abu Dhabi. We were tired, and grubby, but excited about embarking on our holiday and seeing India for the first time.

                      The first thing you will probably have to do is exchange currency. The rupee is a closed currency so you won't be able to get any in advance and will need it to pay your taxi to your hotel! The currency exchange at the airport was fine.

                      We had heard rumours of unscrupulous taxi and autorickshaw drivers picking up unwary tourists at the airport and taking them for a ride, so to speak. Some of the scams included taking them on an extra long route to the hotel because 'the roads are closed for a festival' or telling them their hotel has burnt down! Because I knew we'd be tired after our long flight, I arranged for our hotel to send a taxi for us. The cost of this was 400 rupees - more than what it is supposed to cost, but for all the hassle it saved us it was money well spent!!

                      Our first impression of Delhi was that it is chaotic! The drivers seem to drive with their hand permanently on the horn! For someone who has honked while driving a maximum of two of three times in her life, this was an unusual experience! There were no lanes, everyone just drove wherever they want - the drivers in India must have nerves of steel to venture on the road! I wouldn't recommend hiring your own car unless you're incredibly brave.

                      We were staying just of Paharganj main bazaar which was a busy, crowded and loud bazaar street. Our hotel was less than nice, but we weren't paying very much for it and it was only for two days! After we had freshened up we decided to go out and get some food. I had been reading my guidebook on the flight, and thought that Connaught Place would be a good place to explore, as it was described as a more westernised area, which I thought would be perfect as everything was pretty overwhelming and we were pretty knackered. We jumped in an utoricksahw, told him where we wanted to go, and off we went!

                      I love autorickshaws - I think they're a great way to get about, and it is so much more fun than travelling by car! I blame this, as well as my general tiredness/doziness for the fact that I wasn't paying attention to where we were going. The driver took us to his brother-in-law's shop and claimed it was on Connaught Place. As it turned out, he wasn't lying, but on the map Connaught Place looked so tiny, and there were no restaurants or bars around! It turned out it was on one of the outer 'rings' of Connaught Place, but we were now a bit frazzled and stressed as well as hungry. We walked for a while and came across a really run down area with lots of children begging which was quite distressing. This was certainly a darker side of Delhi - there is an immense amount of poverty and it is all too easy to see why people living in poverty can just see you as walking wallets full of rupees. I found you need to adopt a certain mindset to deal with this otherwise you spend your holiday crying yourself to sleep (I am a sensitive little soul and this is exactly what I did do when I visited similar places previously) and when you get back you make a donation to a charity that will hopefully improve the situation on a long term basis - especially as I was told repeatedly that no money given to a beggar stays with a beggar. It is still incredibly sad though.

                      So, our first evening in Delhi started badly, but once we had some food and a good night's sleep, things seemed much better! The next day was spent on a trip to Agra and Fatehpur Sikri, which I won't talk too much about here as it isn't really relevant to Delhi, but during the day our driver suggested a tour of Delhi for the next day, an offer we eagerly took him up on as we had a night train leaving at about 8 o clock in the evening, but had hoped to see some of Delhi's sights.

                      It meant a fairly early morning, but I think we crammed everything in, and got a nice impression of Delhi over all! We saw the following sights:

                      - Gandhi's final resting place

                      Raj Ghat is its name. It is a really quiet little garden with a tomb for the great man. Everyone is incredibly respectful and quiet (which is really noticeable in a city like Delhi, which is so loud!) and it is obvious the affection in which Gandhi is held.

                      - Mahatma Gandhi museum

                      So that we could learn more about Gandhi and his ideas. He really was a remarkable man and it is unsurprising how respected he is. You got to see the kind of family he came from, and look at a lot of artifacts from his life. We certainly came out feeling as if we had learned a lot.

                      - The Baha'i (lotus) temple

                      This was amazing - like the Sydney opera house of India! A giant white marble lotus blossom in a huge garden. It was incredibly cool and peaceful, as well as being a staggeringly unusual building. It was really quite impressive to look at, and you also got to find out a bit about the Baha'i faith, which I had only heard of when researching the temple before coming to India!

                      - Humayun's tomb

                      I found it amazing that this place wasn't more famous - or maybe it was just me who hadn't heard of it before researching my holiday! This place was meant to be the inspiration for Shahjahan's Taj Mahal, and it really does look very similar, and although I feel it lacks the Taj's glistening beauty it is nonetheless an amazing monument.

                      - Qutb Minar

                      This is the world's tallest free standing minaret, and is surrounded by nice gardens. We found it a relaxing place to chill out and enjoy the shade of the towers and structures.

                      - Jama Masjid

                      The Friday Mosque is quite amazing. It is an incredibly imposing building in red on top of a huge staircase, and it is really quite awe-inspiring! We didn't go in (too much to see and do!) but I am really glad we were able to see it.

                      A lot of these were interspersed with shops or 'emporiums' and there was a lot of pressure to buy. Even though we asked our driver not to take us to any more, he kept trying! In a way I don't blame him as I know they get commission and it must be incredibly tempting to milk tourists for all they are worth, but it did get frustrating. The people in the shop also had an inflated idea of what I could afford - one suggestion was an enormous Kashmiri rug which looked about three times the size of my tiny sitting room in my London flat! A couple of thousand pounds was the price tag. They just didn't believe that I couldn't afford it.

                      Our driver was really nice and was a similar age to us, so we did get on well, but he also got a bit offended when we asked to go to a specific place for lunch that we had read about. In the end he 'couldn't' find it and thought it was closed, and we went to a place he knew which was perfectly nice, but I have since found out that it hasn't closed!

                      All in all, Delhi is a great place to spend a couple of days, and there is plenty to see and do (I certainly don't feel like I have seen/done all of it) but the city can be a stressful place with lots of begging, dirt, dust and pressure from shops and drivers. It would be such a shame to let this put you off though, as a lot of India can be like this, but it is definitely, definitely worthwhile going and getting past this to see all the amazing sights and sounds of this unique country.

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                        16.01.2009 18:09
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                        Some great stuff that's been on the telly!

                        1) Buffy the Vampire Slayer

                        ...and to a much lesser extent, its spin off, Angel. I know its cheating to put two shows in as one entry, but if I had to chose one it would obviously be Buffy. This show was hands-down my favourite thing on telly when it was on. A blonde cheerleading schoolgirl born with a heroic vampire slaying destiny - It sounds ridiculous, right? Wrong! This quirky offering quickly established itself as a cult favourite. Buffy's demons weren't personal, they were real. The show's great writing team ensured the characters were 'real' and engaging, the plot was always exciting and the quips were funny. It had its ups and downs like any other shows, for me, season two and three were strongest and seasons five and six were weakest - don't even get me started on Willow in season 6! It was innovative - how many shows manage to do one episode with almost no speaking, and still make it funny, or an entire show in musical format?

                        2) Battlestar Galactica

                        I have only just purchased season four of this, so can't comment further than season three. Again, most people who saw the original series (I'm told - I didn't see any of it) have fond memories of a kitch, camp, disco-in-space type show. If they watched the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica (BSG) in the hope of seeing something similar, they would be incredibly shocked by what they saw. The new BSG is darker, grittier, more dramatic and (from what I'm told) much, much better. The cylons are back - and they're deadlier than ever! The characters in this series are a deeply flawed, well written bunch. Starbuck is reincarnated as an angry, disobedient, reckless female fighter pilot who I think is one of the best characters, but all of them are incredibly real. The series explores the psyche of a species coming to terms with the possibility of its own extinction, learning how to survive in an atmosphere where anyone could be the enemy.

                        3) The Wire

                        I have only seen two of the five seasons of this show, but it has totally blown me away. 'The best thing on telly' seems an absolutely acceptable thing to say in relation to The Wire. It explores many aspects of Baltimore, Maryland, from the perspective of criminals and the police sent to deal with them. Very few characters are wholly 'good' or 'bad' - they tend to be shown in shades of grey, which I think is a good thing as it is very rare to find someone wholly 'good' or 'bad' - everyone has flaws and to ignore them is condoning certain actions from some people but not from others. Even the druglords are sometimes portrayed as sympathetic, something that has been controversial, but again, there is good in everyone. The writing and the pacing of episodes is exceptional.

                        4) The Sopranos

                        Exploring the life, loves and criminal schemes of everyone's favourite Mafioso, Tony Soprano. The Sopranos was brilliant. Like The Wire, it did an exceptional thing in showing the people in the mafia as sympathetic. They loved their families, were kind to their mates, and in time you forgot that these people are capable of murder, extortion and all sorts.

                        5) Lost

                        A plane gets lost in the pacific ocean, and crashes on a mysterious island, where invisible monsters can crush trees and polar bears appearing in tropical rainforests. What is the island's secret. The characters are good, interesting and each have their own secrets. However, I felt that the writers lack direction to a certain point. It was still exciting and fun to watch, and I'll keep watching til it finishes, but unlike in some shows, I don't feel like the writers have a grand plan - the sense I get is that they're making it up as they go along!

                        6) 24

                        The idea for this show is so cool - it is set in real time. You have to pity Jack Bauer, he has had some incredibly stressful days. The writing (I think) can be a bit clumsy and I don't think that the characterisation is that good, but the pacing more than makes up for this.

                        7) Scrubs

                        A really funny show about the staff of a hospital. This show takes the kind of 'element of the ridiculou' first introduced by Ally McBeal, and improves on it tremendously. The main character and narrator, JD, is a sweet, somewhat naïve and childish trainee doctor who idolises his 'mentor', the sarcastic and emotionally stunted Dr Cox. You see JD's daydreams and empathise with his desire to be a good doctor and human being. It is somewhat quirky, but gentle humour, and although the ending can be somewhat cheesy, with a 'lesson learned' at the end of episodes, it has made me laugh out loud repeatedly.

                        8) Heroes

                        As soon as I heard about this show, I was there. It has all the elements that a geek like me loves to see in a show - beautiful people with issues, and SUPERPOWERS! The characters are great (some better than others) and for the most part very likeable, and tha action gathers momentum as each series goes on. Very very watchable.

                        9) Malcolm in the Middle

                        Although it's a kids' show, this is one of the funniest things on telly. Malcolm is one of four (later five) boys. He is incredibly intelligent and is put in the 'special' class. He is also incredibly naughty and along with his brothers can cause some serious mayhem to his harassed parents, soft-touch Hal and scary Lois. Lois is one of my favourite things about this show. Every episode has a laugh out loud moment and the characters are great.

                        10) Family Guy

                        This cartoon shows the life of the dysfunctional Griffins. It is different to The Simpsons in that in the characters in Family guy have few redeeming features. It is also much funnier (I think - although I do enjoy The Simpsons too!) and more cynical.

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                        • Amazon DVD rental / Electronic Store / 66 Readings / 64 Ratings
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                          16.01.2009 15:03
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                          A great service and a cheap way of watching loads of DVDs!

                          Amazon is one of my favourite websites - it has most books or DVDs you could possibly want listed and available to purchase. But with DVDs, sometimes you don't want to go to the expense of buying it, you just want to be able to watch it once. Amazon's rental service is perfect for this.

                          There are quite a lot of these DVD rental services around, but in my experience amazon's is far and away the best. This is mainly due to the sheer scale of the selection. Anybody familiar with amazon will know it has an amazing selection of DVDs.

                          If you aren't registered with amazon, you need to do so to join the DVD service. If you are registered all you need to do is do to the DVD section, and on the top right hand side there will be an option to see 'Your Rental List'. Clicking on this page will take you to a page telling you that amazon's DVD rental service is run by LoveFilm. Keep clicking on the relevant options and you will be given the option to join. First you will need to choose your package. The various options include:

                          2 DVDs per month - 1 out at a time - at £3.99
                          3 DVDs per month - 1 out at a time - at £5.49
                          4 DVDs per month - 2 out at a time - at £6.99
                          Unlimited DVDs - 1 out at any time - at £8.49
                          Unlimited DVDs - 2 out at any time - at £11.49
                          Unlimited DVDs - 3 out at any time - at £14.49

                          Choose the package that suits you best. I chose the 4 DVDs per month package. The next step is to put DVDs on your rental list. As far as I'm concerned this is the easy part! You just do a search for any DVD you'd like to watch, and click the 'Add to rental list' button. You then get a chance to arrange them in priority. The website will tell you if they are available immediately or if there is a wait. Obviously if there is a wait you would be wise to move something available immediately up to a higher priority.

                          The service is very good, the DVDs arrive promptly in a little envelope and case, ready to be watched and returned in the same envelope. I found it took about 4-5 days between returning one DVD and another arriving. If a DVD arrives damaged, or you post it off and amazon don't receive it, you can log on and click an option to tell them this, no questions asked. At the moment they have a two week free trial as well!

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                            16.01.2009 13:25
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                            I think I have a nice mix of favourites here!

                            1. Amazon. I love love love it! All these great books and some at such bargain prices! I have a wishlist about eight pages long and every time I want to treat myself I'll buy myself one... or two... or however many it takes to make it up to the free postage because this make it *ahem* cheaper.

                            2. Facebook. I think facebook is a brilliant site. It is such a good, low-maintenance way of staying in contact with the friends and family members you don't get to see very often. I have cousins in Australia and Canada as well as friends all over the globe, and I find that this is the easiest way both to keep and to be kept updated with photos and messages. Its also great fun playing scrabble online with a childhood friend based across the other side of the world!

                            3. HSBC. Technically this isn't a 'favourite' as who likes being reminded that they have no money?! However, the website itself is easy to use and I check it every single day as I like knowing how much I (don't ) have in my account. It makes it much easier to stay on top of things.

                            4.EBay. Some brilliant bargains and some random crap to be found on here! Great for both buying and selling stuff from both these categories.

                            5. Hotmail. For staying in contact with everybody.

                            6. The Guardian. For all my news needs! I also read the Beeb but find that coverage is quite often not that in-depth. I also like the layout, I find it clean and easy to navigate. The Guardian also has the best coverage of media jobs!

                            7. Moneysavingexpert. Useful site for money saving tips, trying to keep myself motivated money saving wise! It also has great forums with lots of tips for other things - for example, we accidentally spilt a whole can of pink paint all over our carpet in our rented house, and it was this site that enabled us to get it all out - there were some great cleaning tips which probably saved our deposit!

                            8. Television without pity. If I miss any episodes of my TV programmes I can go to this site and read a recap. The recaps are often really funny and have all the info so that I can keep up to date. They're often quite critical and analytical too, so if you don't spot any recurring themes / clues, they're often pointed out here.

                            9. Wikipedia. In my workplace, Wikipedia has been turned into a verb - 'I'll Wikipedia it!' I genuinely don't know we would get through the day without it to settle our disputes on subjects like whether a poached egg, hollandaise sauce and spinach is an egg Florentine or just an Egg Benedict with spinach, or other important subjects like that!

                            10. Dooyoo. This is a new one but I am really enjoying this site. It combines a lot of things I enjoy - finding out stuff, learning from others' experience, great tips and nice people!

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                            • Beauty And The Beast (DVD) / DVD / 59 Readings / 57 Ratings
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                              15.01.2009 13:03
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                              A really really good Disney film with nice songs and a happy ending!

                              I love Disney and I'm not embarrassed to admit it. Perhaps I should be - I'm 27, far too old to be getting such a kick out of the antics and songs of animated characters, and yet... they just make me so happy and warm inside. Some people who share my age-inappropriate guilty pleasure claim that the older Disneys are where its 'at' but I disagree. Some of the modern ones have been fantastic too. And as far as I'm concerned, this is one of them.

                              Maybe I've always liked Belle as she's a reader too. I read a lot and get anxious if I have a long wait without any reading material - I'll dig out receipts just to read them on the bus if I haven't got my book! Belle enjoys a good book too, so much that she's considered strange in the provincial town in France where this film is set. Despite this odd hobby of hers, she's still considered a catch by the town's ladies' man, Gaston, a huntin' shootin' fishin' kinda guy who considers Belle a potential wife despite her reading, purely because she is actually the prettiest girl in town - and only the best will do for Gaston!

                              Belle's father is the stereotypical scatterbrained inventor, a lovable, bumbling old man who Belle loves dearly. Due to some problems he has, Belle ends up prisoner of 'The Beast'. And although I won't go too much further into the plot for risk of ruining it for anyone who hasn't seen it, I don't think anyone will be surprised to hear that they live happily ever after, after some arguments and adventures!

                              This film is really sweet, with some great animation and some lovely songs. Its definitely on the romantic side of Disney though - it was never one my brother watched much as a child, as opposed to The Lion King. I don't think it has one 'stand-out' song, either. But it is a lovely film and a great take on a fairytale.

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                              • What's In Your Bag? / Discussion / 30 Readings / 28 Ratings
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                                15.01.2009 12:19
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                                Well, that was an educational experience! I had no idea I had so much rubbish in my bag. I suppose I

                                What's in my bag?

                                Well, sometimes even I don't know. Pretty much everything I own seems to be in my bag. But let's take a look.

                                1) My purse. With my oyster card and pass to get into my office, as well as god knows how many cards, loyalty cards, membership cards and oh! My national railcard which is two years out of date. Must remember to take that out tonight. Also has a load of receipts, a cheque from my dad waiting to be cashed (thanks Dad!) and some Indian rupees. Oops, shouldn't have taken them out of India as it's a closed currency. I haven't got many though so I doubt the Indian economy will suffer because of me.

                                2) My mobile. If I forget this I feel like a part of me is missing!

                                3) My MP3 player. A little creative microphoto. This is also vital as I listen to it on my way in to work.

                                2) Two books. I always have at least two books in my bag - what if I finish one and don't have another to start on immediately? That would be awful, I would have nothing to read on my commute. I would have to look out of the window or something! *shudder*

                                3) A little tube of carmex lipsalve.

                                4) My gloves. Its really cold at the moment!

                                5) Some socks!! Clean, I hasten to add. Hmmm, I think I put these in one day when it was raining in case my shoes got soaked through. Nothing worse that wet feet!

                                6) My keys. With about ten keyrings so I can always find it in my bag!

                                7) Paper - wow, so much paper. A printout for train tickets I booked, a printout for contact lenses I ordered, a printout of a map to get to a bar for my friend's birthday a few months ago... I REALLY need to sort this out!

                                8) Diary - would be lost without this!

                                9) Seven red pens! Wow, so that's where they kept going. I'm an editor and often work on the bus on the way home which I suppose explains why there are so many.

                                10) Chewing gum - Wrigleys Spearmint of course. I'm firmly on the side of the spearmint against peppermint.

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                                • Looking Back at 2008 / Discussion / 36 Readings / 34 Ratings
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                                  15.01.2009 10:22
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                                  A pretty good year really, but here's hoping 2009 will be better!

                                  1) What did you do in 2008 that you have not done before?

                                  Went to India with my boyfriend - our first holiday just the two of us. Also went to the cinema by myself for the first time!

                                  2) Did anyone close to you give birth?

                                  My friend had a baby girl

                                  3) Did anyone close to you die?

                                  My cat, Connie, at the grand old age of 21.

                                  4) What Countries did you visit?

                                  India, Germany and the Netherlands

                                  5) What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

                                  Money!

                                  6) What dates will you remember from 2008?

                                  My birthday in India was pretty cool.

                                  7) Did you suffer illness or injury?

                                  Just a few colds.

                                  8) What was the best thing you bought?

                                  A new laptop for some freelance work - my old one just wasn't reliable any more. I am also pretty pleased with my £6 Primark bag that has lasted really well and is definitely value for money!

                                  9) Whose behaviour has merited celebration?

                                  My boyfriend who took me on holiday as a treat.

                                  10) Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

                                  Anyone who purposefully harms an animal. I'm so sensitive to animal cruelty, I think anyone who abuses a cat/dog/whatever should be removed from the gene pool.

                                  11) Where did most of your money go?

                                  Rent. Living in London isn't cheap.

                                  12) What did you get really excited about?

                                  My holiday in India - seeing the Taj Mahal, seeing a tiger in the wild, eating new foods, getting some sun, learning lots about the different places and making new friends.

                                  I got a new job offer at the end of 2008, which I'll start in the next few weeks, which I'm very excited about.

                                  13) What song will you remember from 2008?

                                  Sweet Home Alabama - my best song on Guitar Hero, and the only one where I regularly score higher than my boyfriend!

                                  14) Compared to this time last year are you... happier, fitter, more productive?

                                  About the same really. I do need to do something about my fitness, I hardly ever do any exercise!

                                  15) What do you wish you had done more of?

                                  Exercise! I actually enjoy it whenever I'm forced to do it, I'm just lazy.

                                  16) What do you wish you had done less of?

                                  Eating and faffing about online.

                                  17) What was your favourite TV programme?

                                  The Wire is pretty darned good. As is Battlestar Galactica!

                                  18) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate last year?

                                  Hate is a pretty strong word, but I will say that my list has grown a bit...

                                  19) What's been the best book of 2008?

                                  Wow, there have been loads that I loved. I think the best was The Kite Runner, though.

                                  20) What was your greatest musical discovery?

                                  I don't really make many musical discoveries - I'm fairly set in my musical ways! Although I did listen to MIA at my mate's house and she was pretty good.

                                  21) What did you want to get in 2008?

                                  A new job!

                                  22) What did you want & didn't get?

                                  More money... hopefully that will come this year!

                                  23) What is your favourite film of the year?

                                  I think the best film I saw in 2008 was The Changeling.

                                  24) What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?

                                  I turned 27! I was in Udaipur in India, and we splashed out on a really nice hotel (Udai Kothi) for a couple of nights. Sadly I was a bit poorly so I didn't actually eat much of the lovely meal I was taken out for, but I had a gorgeous day chilling out by the rooftop pool and drinking bottled water and coke! I allowed myself some alcohol in the evening but didn't want to drink to much as I was feeling quite rough.

                                  25) What political issue stirred you the most?

                                  I did get pretty excited by the American election.

                                  26) Who was the best person you met?

                                  Um, I liked most people I met! Can't think of a particular person!

                                  27) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008?

                                  Cliché but true - make the most of every day as the years seem to be rushing by so quickly!

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