alayna cole_TNAlayna Cole shares a simple Just Right biscuit recipe.

 

Just right biscuits6 tbl butter/margarine

1/3 cup caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 tbl milk

1 cup flour

2 cups cereal (for this batch I used a mixture of Just Right and Special K, but I’ve also used Crunchy Nut before and any similar cereals would also work)

 

  1. Cream butter and sugar with an electric beater
  2. Add vanilla and egg. Continue mixing until soft and fluffy.
  3. Add flour and milk. Fold.
  4. Add cereal. Fold.
  5. Place heaped tablespoons of mixture on a greased baking tray.
  6. Bake at 180°C for 10-15 minutes, until golden

 



Belinda_kisses_tnBelinda Hamilton compares the book and film version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

 

 

Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Book

I was a little surprised by how short this book is, but with a highly concentrated story. So much fits into such a small package. Confronting themes are abundant and–forget about staying comfortable–you’re forced to look at the beauty in the ugliness.

I love the diary/letter writing format. Though it allows you to easily put the book down and take a break, the story is strong enough to have you picking it straight back up the moment you’re able to.

The characters are easy to relate to and well fleshed out. I felt for each of them in their personal struggles and each and every one had their own arc and progression. It is no wonder this film has received critical acclaim.

 

The Film

Stephen Chbosky directed this one so it’s no surprise that it is a brilliant film adaption.

Emma Thompson, Ezra Miller and Logan Lerman are the perfect picks for their characters and, I must admit, Ezra as Patrick is my favourite of the three. *sigh*

The drug-use scenes are suitably disturbing and Charlie’s mental state is depicted with respect and brutal honesty. This is something I find to be extremely important when mental illness is still such a taboo.

I was gripped and entertained, but also kept off-centre and confronted. I did like it, but I’ll have to be in the right mood to rewatch this film.

 

The wrap up

There don’t seem to be any big scenes missing and the shock value is still as strong in the film. The book and the film were created by the same man, so the adaption is as close to the author’s vision as it could ever be.

Despite this, I’m still going to say the book is better in the long run.

The only difference for me is the internal voice as I was reading versus the narration in the film. In my mind Charlie is a gentler person, but that may be just down to my interpretation.



brashare_here and nowBefore reading The Here and Now, I had never read anything that focused on time travel and the consequences it can have on the future. I mean, I’ve seen movies, and I know that all kinds of crazy things can happen through just the smallest change in the past. When I picked up The Here and Now, I was ready for a mind blowing story that would completely twist my brain and make me think differently…

…but I didn’t get too much of that from this story.

The Here and Now is about a girl named Prenna who is from a futuristic world where mosquitoes have taken over and being stung by one causes a horrible disease and death. Prenna has lost her brother to this disease, along with almost everyone else she knows. When Prenna and her parents decided to travel to the past—our time now—she knew life would be completely different.

But she didn’t know that she would be living by a strict set of rules and under constant pressure to remain in hiding. These rules include no intimacy with a time native, keeping her real identity secret, and never interfering with history (which ties in with the other two rules). There are a few leaders in charge who make sure that no one breaks any of these rules through intimidation…even if it means spying, and possibly killing.

While a lot of these rules seem to be pretty simple and easy to follow, Prenna can’t help herself. She can’t stop thinking about Ethan, a guy from her class, despite knowing that she can never have a relationship with him, tell him who she is, or get too close.

Alongside this, Prenna has always questioned why people from the future have to wear glasses and take vitamins every day. The leadership claims that their eyes are damaged by time travel and the vitamins keep them healthy—but she doesn’t believe a single word.

Especially when a homeless man comes up to her and claims that he knows who she is and where she’s from. He says that he both knows what’s coming in the future, and knows a scientist who may be able to prevent the mosquito epidemic.

Prenna knows she can’t do this on her own. But with her best friend sent off to boarding school, her mum not standing up for herself, and the community doubting her, Prenna has no one—except for Ethan. She knows what she has to do: stop a murder.

I haven’t read any books that included time travel, so when I discovered The Here and Now, that was the element of the story that keenly anticipated! I was excited to see how the author would bring the concept into the story and make these two different worlds work. There was a bit of time travel stuff going on, but not as much as I expected, which was slightly disappointing. Though there was one really big twist that came out of nowhere and made up for it.

There weren’t very many characters in The Here and Now, and, sadly, I didn’t really feel much of a connection with any of them. Prenna wasn’t very open—I mean, she did give us some information about her feelings and what happened to her in the future, but I felt like I didn’t really know her. Ethan was a sweet guy who seemed to really care for Prenna, and I loved him for it. But, again, I just felt confused by how he knew so much about her. I understand that he was the one that found her in the woods, but what happened for him to know so much? Did I miss something?

Don’t even get me started on Prenna’s mum. She was the reason I strongly considered throwing the book across the room. Why wouldn’t she be on Prenna’s side? Why was she doing everything they told her to?

The ending wasn’t anything too crazy or surprising. For some reason, Prenna gets away with everything she did; the ‘leadership’ never really takes control or goes through with their ‘threats’. Overall, the story was okay, but the characters were a bit colourless, and the story only had one big twist. There wasn’t anything that kept me on the edge of my seat.



Jamie’s Japanophile Blog – Part 2 – First week in Tokyo

Our first week in Tokyo was action-packed to say the least.

On our first real day in Tokyo we headed to Harajuku: a part of the city well known for its alternative fashion culture, but also for its historical importance.

As we got there early in the day, we headed straight up to the Meiji Shrine. The shrine and its grounds, once the land of a local lord, take up a large part of the surrounding area and comprise of a long forested path up towards the shrine that include many beautiful Torii gates (usually large wooden gates that signify the entrance to a Shinto shrine).

tokyo 1

The shrine itself, dedicated to the Emperor Meiji who was the first modern emperor of Japan and one of the main figures in the modernization of Japan in the 19th century, is an impressive series of treasure houses, shrines, and courtyards.

On the walk to Harajuku proper we bumped into a man who had set up what was essentially a mobile cat café with five cats just relaxing in a stroller. He allowed them to be patted for 100 (about a dollar) yen for as long as you wanted. We of course took the opportunity to get some cat time and take pictures.

tokyo 3

We quickly discovered that Harajuku has changed since its heyday as an alternative hotspot. As with many places, once it got too well known, the crowds of alternative kids have moved on and been replaced with hipsters and American tourists.

tokyo 4

It was still pretty fun to see all the fun little fashion stores around the place, and discover that Japan’s love of crepes has yet to wane. We even saw our first few Japanese with facial piercings and tattoos, which is a change from most of Tokyo.

We quickly moved on to Tokyo proper, which is a huge town but eerily quiet for somewhere so big. At the end of the day we discovered that the lack of people was due to it being a public holiday and so no-one was really working.

As such we took advantage of the quiet and wandered up to the site of the Tokyo Imperial Palace gardens. A massive and beautiful site right in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities.

tokyo 6

To round off the evening we ventured into Akihabara. This place is true nerd central and home of the famed Otaku culture.

Even on a public holiday, every street is packed with bright neon, Jpop music, young men and women beckoning people into maid cafés and anime stores, and the luring songs of so many wonderful things to look at and buy.

tokyo 7

The next day we headed out of Tokyo for a day trip to Nikko. Partly to see some proper autumn colours and partly to see some of the amazing sights it holds.

And boy did we get colour. The mountain was spotted with deep reds and shining gold in between the evergreens.

tokyo 9

The main and most amazing sight however was up the mountain a little ways. The final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the man responsible for establishing peace amongst the warring clans of Japan for nearly three centuries and paving the way for the modern way of life here.

The complex is incredible and awe inspiring. We were both nearly overcome by the feeling of reverence and importance of this site, so was the impact of getting to walk through something of such historic significance.

During the next day, we decided to go for a run around in Tokyo for a bit. So first off we jumped into the famed Tsukiju fish market. We arrived well after the rush of the morning (we got in about 10am) but we still saw plenty of bustle.

And boxes of octopus…

tokyo 10

After an amazing sushi breakfast we headed south and ended up in the Hama Rikyu gardens. A sprawling garden with beautiful gardens with views of Tokyo through the foliage…

…and friendly cats who are happy to curl up next to you in the sunshine….

…and a wonderful little teahouse where we had proper Japanese tea and sweets with a beautiful view over the park.

And only a few blocks further south we ended up in the Tokyo Pokemon Center. A haven for my inner child who went more than a little crazy buying merchandise from my childhood…

…And going crazy fanboy at the Charizard hanging from the ceiling.

tokyo 12

Our final night in Tokyo was pretty relaxed. We spent a while running around in Asakusa, picking up souvenirs, and getting packed for the next stage of the trip. But we did have one last attraction to get to: Robot Restaurant!

 

Robot Restaurant is not something easily described. Flashing lights, blaring music, robots, costumes, barely conceived stage plots and just insane strangeness combine to make what I now believe to be the greatest show on earth.

We also got to get a photo with a robot and one of the performers.

tokyo 14

Since we were in Shinjuku, I had one final act to perform before we left.

I broke out my Kobo and read the opening line of Neuromancer by William Gibson. This book shaped a lot of the way I see the world, and since it is based in Tokyo, I felt no better way to honour it than to read it in one of the most Cyberpunk places in the world.

tokyo 11

Next up: Kyoto and Osaka!



taylor_god and monstersThe series has, to this point, been fast-paced and filled with questions about what constitutes good and evil, as well as heart-stopping moments that made me cry. Dreams of Gods and Monsters concludes this trilogy and, whoa baby, does it play with your emotions and leave you wanting to give Laini a standing ovation for a job well done.

If you’re reading this series wrap up review and haven’t started this trilogy, you probably want to know if it’s worth your time—the answer is yes. You will not be left wanting to throw the book at the wall. You will be sated and happy. I promise!

Laini’s portrayal of Prague throughout the series is stunning and dramatic. It was so good, in fact, that I have a good friend jetting off to Prague to experience Karou’s environment for herself.

I cannot imagine having the power to end a series. To write the words that finalise the material element of characters and allow the audience’s imagination to take its place. Authors talk about how having a book published is akin to sending your child off into the world to experience what they will. I would imagine finishing a series would be similar. What now? They will live on in our imaginations, effectively playing out in fan fiction.

Suffering from withdrawal symptoms? Laini has a short story in a Christmas anthology as of October 14, 2014. It’s called My True Love Gave To Me, and she writes alongside David Levithan, Holly Black, and nine other bestselling authors.

 

http://www.lainitaylor.com/

Paperback, UK, 613 pages

Published April 17th 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published April 8th 2014)

ISBN 1444722735 (ISBN13: 9781444722734)


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