Monday, March 31, 2014

{Audiobook} Review: The Shining

 photo shining_zps0c6ae2ab.jpg

  The Shining
    by Stephen King
  Genre: Physiological Thriller, Horror
  Date Read: 22 March 2014
  Reading with my ears
  Narrator: Campbell Scott
  Unabridged audio - Length:
  15 hours 54 minutes

Danny was only five years old but in the     words of old Mr Halloran he was a 'shiner',   aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.
As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?
Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel - and that too had begun to shine...

My thoughts:
I read THE SHINING a lifetime ago and I still remember how scared I was – I even had to put the book aside for a bit between some of the scenes.  This was the first book that scared me enough to stop me reading.  I loved it! 

I watched the (original) movie a week or two ago and decided to re-read (listen to) the book again.  I must admit that it lost some of the scary-ness for me.   This time round it felt more like a physiological thriller.  It black-1was about a man slowly losing his grip on reality and sinking into madness and not so much about a haunted hotel.  I could see that Jack Torrence wanted to blame everyone around him for his own failures and short comings.  Unfortunately only his wife and son was around and they made excellent scapegoats.  

I have also lost some of my sympathy for Danny (I did not enjoy DR SLEEP as much as the rest of the world).  I realize that he was just a little boy but I was unable to think of him as such.  He seemed to be much more mature than a five year old child.

The narrator of the book, Campbell Scott did not seem like a good fit when I started.  He talked too slowly and in such a dull tone.  But as soon as the real story begun, he was perfect.  That tone just made all the bleakness and emptiness of the snowed in hotel more real.  He quite literally scared me with Jack’s screams a few times.  He was an excellent fit for the story.

All in all, this was still an enjoyable read and I would definitely recommend it.

My Album 37-004

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: Bite Me

 photo 18167468_zps7871a5b3.jpg Bite me
by Shelly Laurenston 

Series: Pride Series #9
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Humor
Source: NetGalley 
Release date:  25 March 2014
Date Read: 12 March 2014

Livy Kowalski has no time for idiots. When you shapeshift into a honey badger, getting through life’s irritants is a finely honed skill. Until she gets stuck housing her nutso cousin and dealing with her dad’s untimely and unexplained demise.

That’s where Vic Barinov comes in—or his house does. Vic can’t step outside without coming back to find Livy devouring his honey stash and getting the TV remote sticky. It gets his animal instincts all riled up. But he’ll have to woo her at high speed: all hell is breaking loose, and Livy is leading the charge…

My thoughts:
I was just ecstatic when I received the eARC of book 9 of the Pride series by Shelly Laurenston. 
Her books are my most anticipated book every year.  I just cannot wait for the release dates to come around.  And once again, I was not disappointed.

We met Livy, a honey badger shifter, in the last book, Wolf with Benefits.  What a wonderful surprise she is.  She is the definition of snark in a world full of crazy characters.  Unfortunately her dysfunctional family's reputation means that she is not the most loved in the shifter community.  After all, she comes from a family of thieves  and crooks . . . very successful thieves and crooks. 

Our story starts with Livy at her father's funeral.  It should be a tough time for Livy but her father's death is not the reason for her unhappiness (after all she hated him).  Her distress is all about the way he died.  A way no shifter should have to die.   Pretty soon almost all of the shifter world are involved and it is all about the good guys against the bad (shifter and human).

Off course there is also a lot of romance.  Livy and Vic are made for each other - their personalities are so far apart that it just works.  After all who else would keep their anger in check when their home is constantly raided (okay damaged with badger holes everywhere) and their honey stock erased.  It could only be a soft spoken white tiger/bear hybrid that enjoys finding a little honey badger in his cupboards.

We usually get a sense of who the next book's "happily every after" couple will be, but this time, Shelly has kept it close to her chest.  There are a few possibilities and we have a whole year to digest and debate this. Personally I hope it is one of the beta characters who do not usually have the opportunity to let their personalities shine.  I have a little soft spot for a certain kaolo bear shifter.

This is one of my favorite series and has been from Book 1.  Shelly Laurenston has a gift of making you want to cringe your teeth in some parts and in others, she makes you spit out your drink laughing.  It is just a wonderful combination as you never know what will come next.   The story is always important but it is more about the way it is delivered that makes this a win for me.  I think it is time for a re-read of the series.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

{Movie} Review: The Shining (1980) and Room 237 (Documentary about the movie)

The Shining (1980)
Starring:  Jack Nicholsen, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers 
Genre:  Psychological Horror, Suspense

In the film, Jack Torrance, a writer and recovering alcoholic, takes a job as an off-season caretaker at an isolated hotel called the Overlook Hotel. His young son possesses psychic abilities and is able to see things from the past and future, such as the ghosts who inhabit the hotel. Soon after settling in, the family is trapped in the hotel by a snowstorm, and Jack gradually becomes influenced by a supernatural presence; he descends into madness and attempts to murder his wife and son. 

I was browsing around in my collection and found the documentary ROOM 237 which details the different theories of the possible symbolism of the movie, The Shining and I was immediately drawn in again.  I just love these kind of "conspiracy theories".  I am not able to think up these theories myself but I love reading about them!

Some of the deliciousness are:
The TV in the first scenes in the hotel does not have a cord (and why . . . )
Continuity in the movie (shown and debated if it was done on purpose)
The typewriter changes color continuesly.  Also the old German typewriter (and the repeating of the number 42 in the movie) represents the Holocaust.
Odd angles of shots and the reason for it
Symbolism in the movie suggest that the "fake Apollo landings" was supposedly filmed by Stanley Kubrick and he tried to tell the world.
The blood flowing out of the elevators are a metaphor . . . and on and on and on . . .    

After watching this, I had to re-watch the movie also.  Wow, no-one does crazy like Jack Nicholson.  The movie is a little dated but it is still a favorite.  

Now I will have to re-read the book!

Monday, March 17, 2014

{Audiobook} Review: Joyland

 photo joyland_zps3c246b60.jpg Joyland
by Stephen King

Genre: Crime mystery; Fantasy
Date Read: 01 February 2014
Reading with my ears
Narrator: Micheal Kelly
Unabridged Length:
07 hours; 31 minutes 

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

My thoughts:
Stephen King books are a curiosity these days.  You just never know what you are going to get.  I am sure that he has already touched every genre there is (including time travel!) and this time we get a type of cozy crime mystery with tones of fantasy.  

In comparison with some of his epic novels, this one is a shorty (almost a novella) but I am not sure if it packed the punch we were hoping for.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this novel and it kept my attention but it did not have the wow-factor that I was hoping for.  

We meet Devin at a juncture in his life.  He has taken a summer job at a carnival with history in a neighboring town.  Here he comes to know and love this fellow carnies and some of them will stay with him for the rest of his life.  There is a murder mystery connected to one of the rides and it has become a ghostly legend.  The story follows Devin's journey into adulthood while trying to uncover the strangeness of Joyland.  I think this was more about the journey of the characters than a serious murder mystery. 

I cannot really say more because I might give some of the uniqueness away, so let's just say that this is a quietly flowing river that will fill a few lazy hours in your vacation.  If you have nothing against audiobooks, I would recommend that version.  The narrator, Micheal Kelly, has a beautiful raspy voice that complements the story beautifully.  He definitely added to the story.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Polenta Chocolate Cake (yay, for gluten free!)

(Photo credit:

My husband has developed a gluten/wheat allergy in the last few years and it has really put a damper on our sweet tooth.  I am not much of a polenta fan but he loves it, so this week I made a polenta chocolate cake and I have to say . . . . yum!  The recipe was from an afrikaans South African magazine, Sarie Kook (which I am a bit fan of - just look at the photo above!).  The recipe can be found here  but I will help with the translation (and my observations) below:

Sarie Kook Chocolate Polenta Cake
250ml water
65ml polenta
125ml butter
200g dark chocolate (I used a bit more - just some mini milk chocolates I had)
4 eggs, devided whites and yokes
1 egg yoke (I used a whole egg and it did not affect the cake)
125ml castor sugar
1 tub of cream cheese

Heat oven to 180c.  Cook the polenta in the water according to instructions (about 5 minutes).  Throw into mixing bowl and add butter and chocolate.  Allow to melt. (I decided to only chop about half finely and leave the other half very roughly chopped - this made little chocolate pockets in the cake).  Beat the egg yokes and half of the sugar till foamy.  Put aside.  Beat the egg whites and rest of the sugar till soft peaks form.  Now add all the different mixtures together very gently.  Pour in greased pan (mine was about 25cm in diameter) and bake for 35 minutes.  Allow to cool.  The recipe calls for the cake to be frosted with only the cream cheese but we are not too fond of the taste, so I added a bit of ready-made cream cheese icing to the plain cream cheese which just gave it a little sweetness.

And that is it!  Definitely worth the extra effort. 
Thank you!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Clifton Chronicles series by Jeffrey Archer

The fourth spellbinding book in the epic Clifton Chronicles series was released by Pan MacMillan this week.  I just love this cover - isn't it beautiful.  I am such a terrible cover lover, I was intrigued and had to go and check out this series.

 I watched the You Tube interviews, and I knew I had to get involved with these characters.  The interview with Jeffrey Archer is so good - check it out.  He is such a nice guy!  Here is a link to all four interviews. 
 As I have not read the series yet, so I decided to get the first in the series, Only Time Will Tell in audiobook form this week.  Look out for my review on this blog in future.

The epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the words “I was told that my father was killed in the war.” A dock worker in Bristol, Harry never knew his father, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he’s left school. But then an unexpected gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys’ school, and his life will never be the same again.

As he enters into adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth only leads him to question, was he even his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who spent his whole life on the docks, or the firstborn son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?

This introductory novel in Archer’s ambitious series The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler’s Germany. From the docks of working-class England to the bustling streets of 1940 New York City,
Only Time Will Tell takes readers on a journey through to future volumes, which will bring to life one hundred years of recent history to reveal a family story that neither the reader nor Harry Clifton himself could ever have imagined.

Be Careful What You Wish For opens with Harry Clifton and his wife Emma rushing to hospital to learn the fate of their son Sebastian, who has been involved in a fatal car accident. But who died, Sebastian or his best friend Bruno?

When Ross Buchanan is forced to resign as chairman of the Barrington Shipping Company, Emma Clifton wants to replace him. But Don Pedro Martinez intends to install his puppet, the devious Major Alex Fisher, in order to destroy the Barrington family firm just as the company plans to build its new luxury liner, the MV Buckingham.

Back in London, Harry and Emma's adopted daughter wins a scholarship to the Slade Academy of Art where she falls in love with a fellow student, Clive Bingham, who asks her to marry him. Both families are delighted until Priscilla Bingham, Jessica's future mother-in-law, has a visit from an old friend, Lady Virginia Fenwick, who drops her particular brand of poison into the wedding chalice.

Then, without warning, Cedric Hardcastle, a bluff Yorkshireman who no one has come across before, takes his place on the board of Barringtons. This causes an upheaval that none of them could have anticipated, and will change the lives of every member of the Clifton and Barrington families. Hardcastle's first decision is who to support to become the next chairman of the board: Emma Clifton or Major Alex Fisher? And with that decision, the story takes yet another twist that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

About the Author

Educated at Wellington School, Somerset, and Oxford University, Jeffrey Archer gained an athletics Blue, was President of the University Athletics Club, and went on to run the 100 yards in 9.6 seconds for Great Britain in 1966.
Jeffrey has served five years in the House of Commons, twenty-one years in the House of Lords, and two at Her Majesty’s pleasure, during which time he wrote three highly acclaimed Prison Diaries.  His other bestselling novels include Paths of Glory and A Prisoner of Birth. The success of the first three volumes of the Clifton Chronicles confirms that Jeffrey’s books are as popular as ever. Only Time Will Tell, The Sins of the Father and Best Kept Secret reached Number One in the hardback fiction charts and were also huge global successes – in India, Only Time Will Tell was at Number One for twelve weeks; in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa it reached Number One and spent six weeks in the top ten bestseller lists.
Jeffrey is also an amateur auctioneer, conducting around 30 charity auctions a year, and has raised over £40 million for various charities during the past 33 years.
He is married to Dame Mary Archer DBE. They have two sons, and live in London and Cambridge.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

{Audiobook} Review: The Martian

 photo martian_zpsa13fee07.jpg
The Martian
by Andy Weir

Genre: Science Fiction, Humor
Date Read: 15 February 2014
Narrator: RC Bray
Reading with my ears
Unabridged audio - Length: 
10 hours 28 minutes 

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.
It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.
But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?(Goodreads)

**Beware of Adult language**

 My thoughts:
I am not exactly sure how I got interested in reading The Martian.   I admit I am a cover lover. Pretty covers always catch my eye.  
This cover would not have caught my attention and I would have assumed that it is directed at a male audience (well, look at it.  don't you agree?). 

This is exactly the reason why I am so glad that that it was discussed in one of the audiobook discussions on Goodreads.  I would have missed an amazing journey - both mine and Mark's.   

The online book club discussions intrigued me.  It brought forth such a wide range of feelings from the participants.  But everyone agreed, you have to read this . . . now!

So I went in search and  when I heard the first few sentences . . .

I am pretty much f*cked . . . that is my considered opinion.  F*cked.

I was hooked.  (how can you not love that!) 

This is a story of one man left behind after a failed Mars mission.  But Mark is not ready to give up even if all rational thought leads to the conclusion that there is just no way that he will be able to survive until a rescue mission can be launched.   But Mark has not lost his sense of humor and it carries him through some difficult situations.

Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be “in command” if I were the only remaining person.”  What do you know? I’m in command

Luckily Mark is the perfect MacGyver type guy and before long he is making water (yeah, that is right - he MADE water).  With that somewhat important problem solved, he goes ahead and starts growing potatoes.  It looks like there might be some hope but before long slight oversights causes big problems.  Luckily Mark has duct tape.

Also, I have duct tape. Ordinary duct tape, like you buy at a hardware store. Turns out even NASA can’t improve on duct tape.    

You will not be disappointed by his story.  I am not sure if all the science is accurate but that is really not important.  This science fiction story is about a man and his fight for survival.

I devoured Mark's story in two days and I am sure you will not be able to put it down either.  Grab a copy today!

Also look out for the movie!  Andy Weir has become one of those one in a million success stories.  From selling the ebook for 99c to having the movie rights bought by a huge movie company.  Congratulations, Andy and here is to many more.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tech Tips for the "not-so-savvy" blogger (just like me)

I found two awesome tutorials that I thought I would share with you guys. 

The first tutorial is for making 3D book covers for your blog posts.  
This looks so easy and I will definitely be trying it out soon.

The second tutorial is about getting picutures in you blog post to look good.  I love this tutorial and have tried the code below with two random photos.  It is now so easy to place them next to each other :)

Let me know if you have a secret about blogging that you want to share.

Friday, March 7, 2014

{Audiobook} Review: Charles and Camilla: Portrait of a Love Affair

 photo Charles_zpsa3a6fd40.jpg Charles and Camilla: Portrait of a Love Affair 

by Gyles Brandreth 

Genre: Biography
Source: borrowed copy
Date Read: 06 March 2014
Narrator: Stephen Thorne
Unabridged audio - Length: 
13 hours 08 minutes

This is the definitive account of one of the most extraordinary stories of our time. Gyles Brandreth, who spent many hours with Prince Philip in both formal and informal interviews, presents a unique portrait of his son, Charles, Prince of Wales, and of the one "non-negotiable" love of his life, Camilla Shand, now Duchess of Cornwall. What are Charles and Camilla really like? What is their heritage? What has made them the way they are? This is both a revealing portrait of two unusual individuals and a family saga like no other, told with unrivaled authority, insight, and humor, by a bestselling writer who has met all the key characters in the drama, including Charles, Camilla, and Diana, their children, families, and friends.

My thoughts:
I am not British and am not a big groupie of the Royals. But I needed something to play in the background while I completed some tasks and this fit the bill perfectly. 

Before I begin my rant, let me just say that I loved Diana. I thought she was beautiful and an asset to the Royal family. I have since learned of Diana's faults but we all have our problems. It is easy for me to understand all the “games” she played especially since she had a cheating husband that was jealous of the attention and love she received from the public.

I assume that this book was meant to create greater sympathy for Charles and Camilla but for me, this has just made me dislike them more.  Camilla was the Royal mistress. But the author tried to downplay this by giving us a history of the all the extra marital affairs of the royals
since before history began it felt at times. I am sure he tried to desensitize us to the fact that Charles cheated on Diana.

I would love to write exactly what I think of Charles but will let it stand at the fact that I do not have any time for him. How could you think it appropriate to bed your mistress in the same week as your marriage (and in the years thereafter with your wife in the same house). 

Even though a blind person would be able to feel how bias the author is, and I certainly did not agree with all he said,  I still thought that the writing was excellent.  The “story” flowed easily from one chapter to the next and kept my attention throughout. 

The narrator was fabuous. His calm voice was made for this book. He read some of the facts that could easily have become tedious in such a way that I did not feel like fast forwarding through any places. I just felt sorry for him to have to read the same sentence every few minutes “Charles is the Prince of Wales after all.”

If you are a big fan of the Royal family,  this is a must read even if only to be able to rant about it afterwards, like I did :)  


Sunday, March 2, 2014

{Movie} Review: Argo

Argo (2012)
Starring:  Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Adam Arkin
Genre:  Drama, Biography, History

In 1979, the American embassy in Iran was invaded by Iranian revolutionaries and several Americans were taken hostage. However, six managed to escape to the official residence of the Canadian Ambassador and the CIA was ordered to get them out of the country. With few options, exfiltration expert Tony Mendez devised a daring plan: create a phony Canadian film project looking to shoot in Iran and smuggle the Americans out as its production crew. With the help of some trusted Hollywood contacts, Mendez created the ruse and proceeded to Iran as its associate producer. However, time was running out with the Iranian security forces closing in on the truth while both his charges and the White House had grave doubts about the operation themselves.

My thoughts:
I greatly enjoyed this movie.  It is not your average CIA movie.  It is full of emotion, fear and dread (from the captives as well as from their would-be rescuer, Tony Mendez).   I cannot believe that this was all based on real events . . . I cannot believe that it actually worked. On the other hand, we all know that Hollywood is full of hype and lies, so why would a "fake-movie" not be believed.  

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but let's just say that In the end, the most unlikely of the captives becomes a hero. 

This movies comes from a terrible time in history.  In November 1979,  Islamist militants took control of the U.S. Embassy in Iran. They took 52 Americans hostage and only released them 444 days later.  Six embassy workers were able to escape before their colleagues were captured.  This is the story of how they were smuggled out of the country under the noses of the militants. 

I highly recommend this movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Horror Series)

The Haunting of Hill House
The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre. First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting;' Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

About the book: 

Part of a new six-volume series of the best in classic horror, selected by award-winning director Guillermo del Toro.
Filmmaker and longtime horror literature fan Guillermo del Toro serves as the curator for the Penguin Horror series, a new collection of classic tales and poems by masters of the genre. Included here are some of del Toro’s favorites, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ray Russell’s short story “Sardonicus,” considered by Stephen King to be “perhaps the finest example of the modern Gothic ever written,” to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and stories by Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, Ted Klein, and Robert E. Howard. Featuring original cover art by Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley, these stunningly creepy deluxe hardcovers will be perfect additions to the shelves of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal aficionados everywhere.

Thank you Penguin Books South Africa!