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Category Archives: Pastimes
Title: 666 Park Avenue
Author: Gabriella Pierce
Publisher: Avon Books
First Published: February 2011
No .of pages: 320
Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
What if your mother-in-law turned out to be an evil, cold-blooded witch . . . literally?
Ever since fabulously wealthy Malcolm Doran walked into her life and swept her off her feet, fledgling architect Jane Boyle has been living a fairy tale. When he proposes with a stunning diamond to seal the deal, Jane can’t believe her incredible luck and decides to leave her Paris-based job to make a new start with Malcolm in New York.
But when Malcolm introduces Jane to the esteemed Doran clan, one of Manhattan’s most feared and revered families, Jane’s fairy tale takes a darker turn. Soon everything she thought she knew about the world – and herself – is upended. Now Jane must struggle with newfound magical abilities and the threat of those who will stop at nothing to get them.
If you like paranormal romances that aren’t too gushy and still have a bit of kick to them, then you’re going to love the first book in the new 666 Park Avenue series!
Seriously, I love paranormal stuff, but usually can’t stand the romance side of things, however this more than stands up to even the biggest haters of romantic fiction by having enough paranormal activity and believable characters to carry it off easily. Jane is a very likeable and flawed character; Malcolm is suitably suave and mysterious; and his mother is the perfect socialite matriarch. the settings are lush, the pace is fast, and the story is incredibly entertaining. Honestly, I had great difficulty putting it down and actually missed my bus stop because I couldn’t tear my eyes from the page!
I am now eagerly awaiting the publication of the sequel because I can hardly wait to see what the future holds for Jane!
DISCLOSURE: I was sent this book by the publisher for review purposes, but was not paid for the review.
Title: The Secret Life of William Shakespeare
Author: Jude Morgan
Publisher: Headline Review
First Published: April 2012
No .of pages: 400
Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
The greatest writer of them all, brought to glorious life. How well do you know the man you love? How much do you think you know about Shakespeare? What if they were one and the same? He is an ordinary man: unwilling craftsman, ambitious actor, resentful son, almost good-enough husband. And he is also a genius. The story of how a glove-maker from Warwickshire became the greatest writer of them all is vaguely known to most of us, but it would take an exceptional modern novelist to bring him to life. And now at last Jude Morgan, acclaimed author of Passion and The Taste of Sorrow, has taken Shakespeare’s life, and created a masterpiece.
I’m a big ol’ fan of Shakespeare’s many beautiful works, so when this novel exploring his early life and his start in the world of theatres and writing, I was over the moon!
Living up to the most famous writer in the world was always going to be a tall order, but Jude Morgan takes up the challenge with great aplomb and does a sterling job of showcasing The Bard’s works while presenting him as a real and very believable character in his own story – a fallible man striking out in the world on his own, trying to support a wife and family from a great distance whilst living out his dream
This is a beautifully written exploration into the not-so-glamourous world of Elizabethan theatre, where fickle audiences and the whim of Queen Elizabeth could make or break a play, or even a writer’s whole career.
If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, theatre, or Elizabethan historical fiction, give this one a try, and be transported to another time and place, where a young man struggles to prove his words are art and find his place in history.
DISCLOSURE: I was sent this book by the publisher for review purposes, but was not paid for the review.
That’s right, when we hit 50 likes on the Pretty McGorgeous Facebook Page, one person will be chosen at random to receive a free gift from Pretty McGorgeous – any one of the accessories listed at the Pretty McGorgeous Folksy store at the time of the draw!
All you have to do is like the Pretty McGorgeous Facebook Page HERE, and then spread the word to all your Facebook friends.
It couldn’t be simpler! And you can choose from hair clips, scrunchies and hair bands, so there’s something suitable for any length of hair in many different colour combinations.
Get sharing and good luck!
A quick round up of the films I watched for the first time during June. Yes, I know some of them are older films, but I’d never seen them before now…
Here are a few progress pictures for my afghan as well as the pattern I’m using for the squares. I’m using aran acrylic/wool mix in white, light grey and dark grey.
Circle in a square pattern
st = stitch
sl st = slip stitch
sp = space
ch = chain
dc = double crochet
tc = triple crochet
hdc = half double crochet
rpt = repeat
You will need three colours of yarn – A, B, and C.
Colour A. Ch 6 and join with sl st to form ring.
Chain 3. 15dc in ring. Sl st in top of ch3
Ch3. 1dc in same sp. 2dc in next sp (15 times).
Join with sl st in top of ch3. Fasten off and weave in end.
Join colour B with a sl st. Ch3 (miss next dc. 1dc in next dc. ch3). Rpt all the way round and join with sl st in 3rd st of ch6.
Ch4. (2tc in same sp. Ch3. 3tc in same sp. Ch1. 3dc in next sp. Ch1. 3hdc in next sp. 3dc in next sp. 3tc in next sp. ch3. 3tc in same sp). (nb The 3tc ch3 3tc makes a corner.) Rpt all the way round to end and ch1 to join with top of ch4 with sl st. Fasten off and weave in end.
Join colour C with sl st in any ch3 corner. 2dc in same sp. Ch3. 3dc in same sp. Ch1 3dc in each ch1 sp (4 times). At corners, 3dc ch2 3dc in same ch3 sp. Rpt all the way round to end and ch1 then join to top of ch3 with sl st. Fasten off and weave in end.
PLEASE NOTE THAT ALTHOUGH I’M BRITISH, I USE US TERMS BECAUSE THEY ACTUALLY MAKE MORE SENSE TO ME!
I very recently got into a new crafty hobby – crochet! I know, I know, it’s another “granny craft” – my hubby and sister are always joking that with my cross stitch, and now crochet too, people would be forgiven for thinking I’m in my 80s, not my 30s, but I reassure them that needlecrafts are the rock and roll of the crafting world! Yes, it’s now COOL to crochet, cross stitch, quilt, knit and do any number of other needlecrafts.
All the big celebrities are doing it. I kid you not – big stars who like to knit include Christina Hendricks, Felicity Huffman, Katherine Heigl, Kristen Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, and even David Arquette (yes, the guys are getting in on the action too!). And those are just some of the knitters! Crocheters include Madonna, Meryl Streep, Debra Messing and Bette Midler. That’s right – her Madgesty is hooked on the hook!
And with pioneering peeps such as Mr. Cross Stitch rocking the world of cross stitch, being into needlecrafts has never been so cool!
Anyway, back to my own early attempts at crochet. I did a few practice squares of a few stitches last year, but it was only a couple of months ago that I decided to seriously give it a try and I’ve now completed two afghans (the first of which I can’t show yet, because it’s a gift for someone and they don’t have it yet!), and have started work on a third!
Here’s the colourful blanket I very recently completed for my lovely son, Xander. Look at his little face! He was so excited to see it finished and on his bed (which is completely covers, by the way!) that he actually squealed! He doesn’t often agree to pose for photographs, but he was more than happy to sit with Mr. Wuffles and let me snap this picture of him sitting on his newly covered bed. He snuggles down under it watching the television as well as in bed at night. He loves it!
I also made a cushion to match his blanket. He was a bit unsure at first because he liked the old red faux leather cushion covers we had before, but since then he’s decided he rather likes it after all (phew!) and has it on his bed to lean against when he’s looking at his books. They’re both just a simple granny square design, so the project grew very quickly.
Then I decided to make a cover for my Cyclone tablet computer. I didn’t follow a pattern at all – It’s just single crochet till the pieces were large enough to cover the tablet, then crocheted together in single crochet. I made two little crochet buttons to fasten it.
The front is in lime green, the back is tangerine, and the flap and buttons are lemon yellow, so it’s a very fruity-coloured case!
Now I’ve begun work on an afghan for my own bed. It will be in very muted tones of white, light grey and dark grey, and will feature a circle-in-a-square motif. I’ve actually designed my own pattern for this quilt, which is a big step for me! Watch this space for progress pictures as it grows!
When the lights are turned off and the doors are locked, chaos reigns supreme for the products in this grocery store.
What I thought of it:
A new film showed up on the schedule of Kids AM at the cinema, so I jumped at the chance to entertain Xan on a rainy Saturday morning with a trip to the movies.
Did I say entertaining? I suppose Xan seemed to enjoy it well enough, but I hated every second of it. I’d never heard of it before – and there’s a reason for that! The animation is terrible – jerky, unnatural movement, sloppy mouth movements that often do not match the dialogue (they’re just generic lip flapping most of the time), and an unfinished look to the characters that make it seem like the production ran out of time and money to finish things off as they should have been.
There are recognisable names involved as the vocal stars, but they all sound like they just phoned in their performances, and in particular, Lloyd turns in a carbon copy of his character from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Xan only really paid attention to about half of the film, which is unusual as he LOVES going to the cinema and always sits nicely and pays attention to what’s happening on the screen. If even a three-year-old isn’t engaged by this inane nonsense, it doesn’t bode well for older children and certainly indicates a period of abject torture for the adults.
(Rating for adults is 1, but for kids its 3, so an average of 2 – but really, don’t bother with it – it’s dire!)
Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
The year is 1286 and Scotland is in the grip of one of the worst winters in living memory. Some believe the Day of Judgement has come. The King of Scotland is murdered by one of his squires, a deed pre-meditated by his own brother-in-law, the King of England, a thousand miles away in France. The Prophecy of Merlin has decreed that only when the four relics of Britain have been gathered will one man rule a united kingdom, and Edward I is determined to fulfil it. The murder of Scotland’s king is thus just the first in a chain of events that will alter the face of Britain forever. But all is not destined to go Edward’s way. Out of the ashes of war, through blood feuds and divided loyalties, a young squire will rise to defy England’s greatest king. His name is Robert the Bruce. And his story begins in INSURRECTION.
I adore historical fiction, so I jumped at the chance to read something set in Scotland and covering an exciting period in its history – Scotland’s political wranglings with the English date back centuries and are fraught with battles, both of words and combat. I was champing at the bit to get started and waded in.
I was right about the setting being spectacular and the story intense, but the realisation of it was pretty dry in places and such slow going I felt like I was wading through sticky Scottish porridge, trying to get to the end. Unusually for me, this book took an absolute age to finish and when I did finally get to the end, I felt like my brain had been stuffed full of stodge.
All this is not to say it’s a bad book – there are some really thrilling battle scenes and some fascinating glimpses of the life of Robert the Bruce as he slowly rose in position, both in Scotland and England, but there’s a lot to get through in between that slows the pace considerably, and at close to 700 pages, this felt even lengthier.
Recommended only for big fans of Scottish history who enjoy wrestling with hefty novels. There’s some really good stuff in there, but you have to persevere to find it.
I thought I’d get all caught up with the films I’ve seen but not yet reviewed in one go, so here they all are – my medley of mini movie reviews!
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace
Synopsis: Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.
Review: Explosive, visually superb, and a lot of fun. Better than the first film by virtue of RDJ neglecting to mumble (hurrah!). Jam-packed full of action with brilliantly devised slow-motion sequences which are then relayed in real time to great effect.
Synopsis: Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides.
Review: A simple premise and shot in shaky hand-held camera documentary style, this really hits the mark with top-notch visual effects that manage to look completely natural and performances that are completely unforced. Well worth watching, if only to play guess-who’s-going-to-go-all-Carrie and feeling that anything really is possible!
William and Kate (2011)
Synopsis: A Prince, an ordinary girl. And a very British love story.
Review: Made-for-TV and it shows. Low production values, people who look and sound very little (if anything) like the people they are portraying. A plodding, pedestrian, cash-in-quick scheme for Royalists around the globe. Should have been pitched into the abyss rather than to the production team who green lit the project.
Devil Inside (2012)
Synopsis: In Italy, a woman becomes involved in a series of unauthorized exorcisms during her mission to discover what happened to her mother, who allegedly murdered three people during her own exorcism.
Review: Bad. Awful. Sucky on a major scale. Poor performances and the real-life-documentary-shaky-hand-held-cameras style that has been done to death recently, as this film tries to cash in on the style of the popular Paranormal Activity series. It fails. Dismally. There are some uncomfortable moments during exorcisms with bone cracking contortions, but there’s nothing new here and nothing particularly scary or shocking. Avoid at all costs.
The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (2012)
Synopsis: Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz for the Pirate of the year Award. The quest takes Captain and his crew from the shores of Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London.
Review: Loved the book, but despite the wealth of voice talent, the film was slightly disappointing. Not nearly so many laughs as you might expect from Aardman Animations (the people behind Wallace and Gromit). A few giggles and playing spot-the-voice redeem this a little, and the kids will enjoy it, but not much for the adults this time round.
The Avengers / Avengers Assemble (2012)
Synopsis: Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army.
Review: With Whedon at the helm, you’d think this would be all kinds of awesome, and the trailer indicated it would be. It wasn’t. We saw this in the IMAX Newcastle and wish we hadn’t forked out for more than regular 2D. Pointless inclusion of Black Widow to provide a little eye candy for the boys, and thin plot. Good special effects and performances drag this out of the doldrums. The Iron Man films are still the best of this franchise. A little disappointing, but mindlessly entertaining in parts.
The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
Synopsis: Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures.
Review: Based on the popular series of books, this is a fun family film with great visuals and fabulous vocal talents. The child stars are convincing and the story engaging. Definitely one to entertain the kids on a rainy afternoon, but one the adults won’t mind too much either.
Mirror, Mirror (2012)
Synopsis: An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright.
Review: Visually stunning with vibrant colours everywhere and Roberts as the Wicked Queen, the trailer looked like it would be funny, or at least fun. It was not. The distractions of Roberts’ inconsistent accent, Hammer’s hamminess, and Collins’ massively overgrown eyebrows detract from what little there is. And then the whole thing is made worse by a bog Bollywood number at the end that doesn’t fit with the style of the rest of the movie. Fail.
The Lovely Bones (2009)
Synopsis: Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family – and her killer – from heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal.
Review: I hated the book, but the film wasn’t half as bad. In hands other than Jackon’s, this might have sucked royally, but it’s watchable fare, even if you didn’t like the book. Wahlberg turns in a surprisingly convincing performance as the grieving father, and Weisz came close to moving me to tears as the mother. Tucci is convincingly creepy, and Ronan naively sweet. Some very pretty dreamlike sequences cleverly meld the real world with that of limbo.
Iron Sky (2012)
Synopsis: The Nazis set up a secret base on the moon in 1945 where they hide out and plan to return to power in 2018.
Review: Riduculously hammy and fun. If you need a reason to watch, here’s a big one – Moon Nazis! Need another? Udo Kier! The effects are excellent and the action set pieces brilliant. The performances are pure ham and cheese but it suits the film exactly. A surprisingly good watch. If you’ve nothing else to do, give this a try – it’s worth it for the hilarious president alone!