Films I watched in August

film-reel-clip-art2It’s time for another round-up of movie madness!

Another month has passed, and, as usual, I’ve been going goggle-eyed in the wee-small hours while I’m up feeding a sleepless baby (Choochie STILL doesn’t sleep!), as it’s the one time I can really sit and watch anything for any length of time. I watched just over a dozen films this month, some of which are newer, but others which are classics. I hope I’ll inspire you to watch some of them and see if your thoughts on them are similar to mine.

1. noahNoah (2014) Like a Star @ heaven
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman
Incredibly disappointing interpretation of the  well-known bible story which shows some of the characters in a rather unsavoury light at some points and changes large parts of it for added drama. Basically, they decided to Hollywood-ize it. Lacklustre performances from the stars too – Crowe looks like he’s sleep walking, COnnelly is a wet hen, Watson’s burgeoning talent is wasted, and Winston tuns in a by-the-numbers performance as the bad guy. The money must have gone on whopping great salaries, because most of the special effects suck too. I’m afraid this was pretty much a wash out.

2. Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-PosterCaptain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford
Sequel to the very popular Captain America, and yet another in the juggernaut that is the Marvel Avengers franchise – I get the feeling these films could just keep coming and coming, as there certainly seems to be no end to them at present. Not as fun or exciting as the first film, but there’s just enough action and Avengers tie-ins to keep the fans interested. The addition of class act, Redford, increases the appeal for those who like a bit of extra quality in their movie-going experience, but overall, it’s an average offering that feels a bit like a place-keeper for the next film.

3. hot_fuzz_ver5_xlgHot Fuzz (2007) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Billie Whitelaw,Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Edward Woodward
The second in the Cornetto Trilogy sees a return of the main stars from Sean of the Dead along with a back catalogue of really great British stars – honestly, the cast list reads like a who’s who of Brit talent that will delight any fan. This is actually my favourite of the trilogy by far, pitting the super-cop, Nicholas Angel against a sleepy, peaceful country village that isn’t all it seems. It’s hilarious, action packed, and it also serves as a pretty decent who-dunnit.

4. few_good_men_ver2_xlgA Few Good Men (1992) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollak, J.T. Walsh, Christopher Guest
Nominated for four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Nicholson, Best Sound and Best Editing), it’s shocking that it failed to win any of them, because this is one of those occasions where every individual element is perfect, and when you put them all together, you get something that is sublime. This is actually Hubby’s favourite film of all time, and it’s easy to see why; with stellar performances from the entire cast, slick direction, and superb writing, it’s pretty much a perfect storm of a film. And I’m pretty certain there’s not a person on the planet over the age of 18 who hasn’t at some point yelled (or at least, wanted to yell), “You can’t handle the truth!” a la Nicholson!

5. draft_day_xlgDraft Day (2014) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Kevin Costner, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner
I’m not a fan of sports movies, but I do like a good film that looks behind the scenes, ans this one is pretty good! Costner is really returning to form and I can see him becoming every bit as popular again now as he was during his late 80s/early 90s heyday. This glimpse of a single, incredibly important day in the American sports calendar, it’s fascinating to see the almost political machinations involved in NFL Draft Day, when the college players are drafted to the big leagues. If you liked Moneyball or Trouble With the Curve then you’ll probably love this.

6._MaleficentMaleficent (2014) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley
This interesting new take on a classic fairy story, looks at the well-known and beloved story of The Sleeping Beauty from the other side. I’ve always loved a good villain, and Maleficent has always been one of the biggies in Disney terms, so it’s nice to see her story and see her in a more sympathetic light, as we witness the events that led to her becoming the vengeful being we thought we knew, and understand her motivations. It’s very nicely done and Jolie is perfectly cast as the titular character (those cheekbones – wow!).

7. The-Raid-2-Berandal-Movie-PosterThe Raid 2 (2014) Like a Star @ heaven
Starring: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra
This foreign language follow-up to The Raid: Redemption (2011) picks up where the first film left off and continues the story. It seems unusual to see an Indonesian film written and directed by a Welshman (Gareth Evans), but where the first film was exhilarating and thrilling to watch, this felt like it was rehashing old material. It’s every bit as bloody and violent as the first film, but it really felt like it was continually gratuitious this time, and I confess I kind of tuned out and lost interest pretty quickly, which is a shame, because I rather enjoyed the first one.

8. godzilla2014_fan_posterGodzilla (2014) Like a Star @ heaven
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston
Yet another reboot of a rebooted movie. Very disappointing. If you want to see a fun reboot of the old Godzilla movies, go back and watch the 1998 film starring Matthew Broderick, because it’s a hell of a lot better than the latest offering. The inclusion of a second kind of monster, the MUTOs, does little to add to the appeal, and it’s a decidedly lacklustre affair from start to finish.

9. Trouble-with-the-Curve-Poster-003Trouble With the Curve (2012) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake
I’ve mentioned earlier on in this post that I enjoy behind-the-scenes sports movies. I’ve also mentioned in other posts how much I enjoy watching Timberlake develop as an actor (I much prefer him as an actor than as a musician). Well, here we get both put together, so this was a win-win for me. When you add a good plot, rising star Adams, and established Hollywood gold, Eastwood, you have even more positives in the mix. This is one of those sports films that even those who hate sports and know nothing about baseball can enjoy, as it has really good characters who are very well cast and portrayed.

10. charlottes_web_ver13Charlotte’s Web (2006) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts (voice), Oprah Winfrey (voice), Steve Buscemi (voice), John Cleese (voice), Kathy Bates (voice), Robert Redford (voice)
Live action adaptation of the classic children’s novel by E. B. White. I remember loving the animated version of this as a kid, but this live-action version has the added adcantage of making everything seem that little bit more real. As a person who has always suffered terrible arachnophobia, it’s a strange sensation to feel endeared to a spider, especially one who looks pretty real, but one cannot help liking Charlotte, the little spider who weaves wonders within her web to try and save the life of a little spring piglet, so he can live to winter and see snow. The voice talent on display here is immense, and we see the young Fanning in one of her childhood roles, where she already shows a great deal of potential, and a talent that belies her tender age.

11. zombieland_ver2_xlgZombieland (2009) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson
I’ve never been a huge fan of zombies – shambling creatures that should be laughably easy to outrun, yet they always seem to catch the hapless idiots who lose a perfectly good lead by tripping over a tree root. But give me a zombie with speed, and I’ll lap it up! 28 Days Later (OK, technically not zombies, but cut me some slack!), and World War Z are examples of this, but I much prefer Zombieland with its quirky characters and list of rules for survival, as well as an element of humour (Sean of the Dead excelled here), but also a slight air of sadness and despair to it, as people wander, alone and friendless, in a world where trusting the living can be just as dangerous as failing to double-tap a zombie.

12. sin-city-movie-poster-01Sin City (2005) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Powers Boothe, Benicio Del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Elijah Wood
This was actually a re-watch for me. I saw most of it when it first came out, but hated it. Don’t get me wrong, I thought from the very start that it was beautifully shot and well cast, but I didn’t like how it jumped about all over the place – it just didn’t work for me. This time we watched the extended edition, which put all the individual stories together and showed them separately, and I enjoyed it a whole lot more. I’m all for convoluted plots and presentations (Hell, I loved Pulp Fiction!), but this worked better for me when the storylines were laid out in a more straightforward manner. I’m looking forward to seeing the sequel.

13. the-king-i-1-290The King and I (1956) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Yul Brynner, Deborah Kerr, Rita Moreno
This lush musical won five Oscars (Best Actor for Brynner, Art Direction in Colour, Costume Design in Colour, Sound Recording, and Scoring), and was nominated for a further three (Best Actress for Kerr, Director, and Cinamatography in Colour), and it’s easy to see why. It’s visually stunning, and Brynner is a commanding presence as the King of Siam. Brynner is one of my all time favourite actors anyway (Choochie’s middle name is Yul!), but this has always been one of my favourite performances from him. And this film is such a favourite in my family, that my Mam still says the name “George” the way it is said in the performance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in this film – every single time, without fail, and it always makes me laugh. We let Tadpole stay up a little later so he could watch the whole thing, and he enjoyed it too. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!


BOOK BLAST: What Counts Most Is How You Finish: Thoughts on Living Life to the Fullest by Shelia Payton

What Counts Most is How You FinishBook Details:
Book Title: What Counts Most Is How You Finish: Thoughts on Living Life to the Fullest by Shelia Payton
Category: New Adult non-fiction, 273 pages
Publisher: Xlibris
Published: January 2012
Available in: Print and e-book formats (mobi – for Kindle- or ePub)
Will send books to: US and Canada
Tour dates:  August 18 to 29, 2014
Content Rating: G

Book Synopsis:
What Counts Most is How You Finish is a book of short essays that shares ideas for addressing life’s challenges. The book (which uses experiences from the author’s life and the lives of others) is written with two ideas in mind:
• Each person has to find his or her own way in life
• We can learn worthwhile things from each other

To make it easier to find an essay that can help the reader address life situations in real time, What Counts Most is How You Finish is divided into seven topic areas: Being You, Taking Care of You, Dealing with People, Overcoming Challenges, Staying Focused, Achieving Success and Making a Difference.

While the primary audience for What Counts Most is How You Finish is people between the ages of 16-25, the book has received positive feedback from many older than that who say it’s a good reminder for them.

Finalist of The Next Generation Indie Book Awards, What Counts Most is How You Finish is filled with insightful lessons.

Shelia PaytonMeet the author:
Shelia Payton is an entrepreneur, former newspaper reporter, corporate manager and educator who spent all of her early life and much of her career in a time when people of color and women in this country were pushing for greater inclusion at all levels of society, and seeking greater opportunities to live life to the fullest. Like others in her generation, Shelia had to face and overcome barriers to entering and succeeding in non-traditional jobs, and create a place in civic and leadership settings. Also like others in her generation, Shelia’s motivation has not just been about what she can accomplish for herself, but also how she can open up opportunities for future generations. Shelia’s current focus is on creating books, plays and music that build human connections by breaking down barriers and stereotypes.

100 Days of Happiness Challenge

I’ve been seeing a lot of people doing this 100 Happy Days Challenge, and I thought to myself, what a wonderful way to remind ourselves of how much positivity we all have in our lives. If we cannot find one tiny thing each day about which we can be happy, we are in a sorry state indeed, but it’s so easy to forget to remember the reasons to be happy. I’ll display all the pictures depicting my happiness here on this page. It may not be updated every single day, but it will have something for every day of the challenge.

I hope you’ll enjoy my journey. :)

Rainy day activities – colour wheels and optical illusions

With still the best part of two weeks before school starts, the weather has turned from bright sunshine to dull and rainy, which has scuppered some of my plans for activities for my boys (well, for Tadpole, at least, as Choochie is happy turning a toy over in his hands). So I had to break out a couple of my rainy day activities today.

The first was the colour wheel experiment. I remember doing this at school when I wasn’t much older than Tadpole (he’s almost six years old now, can you believe it?). I got out some card and drew round a small bowl, then cut out the circles. Next I drew lines across the diameter to divide the circles into eight sections. We each took eight differently coloured felt-tipped pens and carefully coloured in each section. Next, I stuck the circles back to back (if you have card that is white on both sides, you’ll only need one circle coloured on both sides, but I only had card that had hologram patterns on the back), and threaded some yarn through to make a loop.

Then came the fun part – we wound up our colour spinner and then let it go to see what happened. Of course, when all the colours spin together, you see white – all the colours disappear!

Our second experiment was an optical illusion – on one disc we drew an empty fish bowl, and on the other, a little fish. We stuck the back to back with a loop of yarn between so we could wind it up. If you do it that way, you have to make sure that one picture is the right way up and the other is upside down. You can also stick them back to back on the end of a stick to spin, but if you do it that way. make sure both pictures are the right way up!

Tadpole was delighted when his little fish appeared to be in the bowl!

I think we might try a bird and cage one on a stick to see which way works best. Either way, it kept Tadpole entertained making them and he’s still playing with them now… He’s having fun and he’s learned something, which is a double-whammy-win.

Book Review: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

kingfisher clubTitle: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Author: Genevieve Valentine
ISBN: 978-1476739083
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
First Published: 3 June 2014 (Kindle) / 24 June 2014 (audio) / 3 July 2014 (hardback)
No .of pages: 289

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Jo, the firstborn, “The General” to her eleven sisters, is the only thing the Hamilton girls have in place of a mother. She is the one who taught them how to dance, the one who gives the signal each night, as they slip out of the confines of their father’s townhouse to await the cabs that will take them to the speakeasy. Together they elude their distant and controlling father, until the day he decides to marry them all off.

The girls, meanwhile, continue to dance, from Salon Renaud to the Swan and, finally, the Kingfisher, the club they come to call home. They dance until one night when they are caught in a raid, separated, and Jo is thrust face-to-face with someone from her past: a bootlegger named Tom whom she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Suddenly Jo must weigh in the balance not only the demands of her father and eleven sisters, but those she must make of herself.

This slick reimagining of the fairytale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses plunges the enigmatic sisters into the heady world of flappers, jazz music, and prohibition era New York City, and it couldn’t have worked better.

The captive heroines are each given their own distinct character, and their story is interwoven with illegal booze, shady dames, even shadier men, and the smoky, mysterious atmosphere of underground clubs. The desperation of the girls drips from every page, and their plight of being held virtual prisoners by a domineering father they never see, makes their precarious little freedoms all the more frenetic.

It retains the fairytale qualities of beautiful damsels in distress (even if the damsels in question are more than capable of taking care of themselves), and help from the most unlikely of quarters. It’s an interesting update on a classic tale, and it doesn’t drag on too long before hitting you with a payoff worthy of The Brothers Grimm – I think they would have approved with how Valentine has handled their original story.

Films I watched in June and July

film-reel-clip-art2More than half the year is gone and I have completely smashed my goal for movies this year (in fact, I’ve seen more than twice as many films in half the time!). I’ve not watched quite as many this month, and it’s been rather a mixed bag, ranging from the very very good, to the very very bad. Anyway, here is a list of those I’ve viewed in the months of June and July, along with a brief review of each.

01 money pitThe Money Pit (1986) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Tom Hanks, Shelley Long, Alexander Godunov
A young couple (Hanks and Long) buy a huge house at an outrageously low price, without realising just how much money it will cost them to make it livable. But could their labour of love cost them their relationship? Lighthearted comedy that falls short of the mark, not realising the potential of either of the charismatic leads, both of whom seem to sleepwalk their way through the film despite their obviousl onscreen chemistry.

YR1_ADV_IT_1SHT_4Year One (2009) Like a Star @ heaven
Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera, Olivia Wilde
When one comes across a movie written and directed by Harold Ramis, one expects it to be funny and clever. This is neither. Maybe old Harold was having a low period in his career during the late naughties, because this satirical look at a couple of prehistoric guys finding themselves in a load of biblical situations truly sucks. It shows nothing of Ramis’ usual style or intelligence, and not even the three leads, all stars in their own right, can save it.

03 mannequinMannequin (1987) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Kim Cattrall, Estelle Getty, James Spader
Nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar (for Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now), a young struggling artist creates the perfect mannequin, and when he lands a job at the store in which she’s displayed, finds she has come to life. Of course, they fall in love, and it’s all very twee, but it’s also very likeable. Even though Cattrall could easily be voted Woman Least Likely To Be A Convincing Egyptian Princess, she and McCarthy are great together, and Spader is at his slimy best playing a sleazeball executive determined to sell out the company.

04 night_at_the_museum_posterNight at the Museum (2006) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Ricky Gervais, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan
I’m a big fan of this family film – it has pretty much everything and everyone you could want in a comedy, and it delivers in spades. The whole idea of the museum exhibits coming to life at night harks back to the childhood belief that toys have a life of their own after-hours (in truth, I still kinda believe toys come alive when we go to sleep!), and when you have a T-Rex skeleton doing that, it will delight any child.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the SmithsonianNight at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonion Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest
This star-packed sequel is every bit as good as the first film, and introduces a few extra characters which are very welcome additions to the cast. I hear a third film is due out in December (nicely in time for Christmas!), and if it’s even a fraction as good as the first two, it’ll be a big hit. I know we’ll certainly be seeing it!

06 Bell-Book-and-Candle-poster1Bell, Book and Candle (1958) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, Elsa Lanchester
This is one of my all-time favourite films, starring some of my all-time favourite actors (Stewart and Novak are as great together in this as they are in Vertigo, which was released the same year). There’s something so sweet and wonderful about this romantic, funny, slightly mysterious movie that blends love and magic, all via a beautiful Siamese cat named Pyewacket, which remains my favourite cat name. If I were ever to get a cat (which I never will, as I’m highly allergic), it will be called Pyewacket.

07 Non-Stop-Poster-FullNon-Stop (2014) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery
When the action is confined entirely to one small space, a film can feel incredibly claustrophobic, and setting this film on an aeroplane in flight works that claustrophobia to the max. Neeson is an incredibly commanding presence in every movie he makes, and he has great chemistry with both More and Dockery (lovely to see Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary in something else!). The tension is ramped up high as Neeson’s off-duty air marshal tries to work out who is killing the passengers, how they’re doing it, and why they want him involved.

08 shirley-valentine-posterShirley Valentine (1989) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Pauline Collins, Tom Conti, Julia McKenzie, Joanna Lumley, Bernard Hill
A middle-aged wife and mother has a bit of a mid-life crisis, goes on holiday, and just doesn’t come home again. Sad and sweet by turn, with poignant performances from the whole cast. You’re never sure who to feel more sorry for – the downtrodden, bored housewife, or her clueless husband left at home.

09 days of futures pastX-Men: Days of Futures Past (2014) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender
The old guard meet the next generation in this cross-over super-hero film, where Wolverine is sent back in time, into his own past body, to change the past and avert an imminent disaster that could wipe out all mutants and humans alike. Definitely one of the best X-Men films to date, with the youthful reboot cast proving they can square up to their elder counterparts from the previous films. An interesting and well executed plot with snappy writing and slick performances. Highly enjoyable.

10 holy flying circusHoly Flying Circus (2011) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Ben Crispin, Steve Punt, Charles Edwards, Rufus Jones, Tom Fisher, Darren Boyd, Phil Nichol
Made-for-television film telling the story of what happened in the run up to the release of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, arguably one of the most controversial films ever given a general release and one that still divides opinions to this day. Personally, I fall firmly in the “love it!” camp, having been introduced to it by my own Mum when I was a teenager. The cast are superb in “being” the Pythons, and one of my old college buddies is an extra in it, so it was fun spotting her in a couple of scenes.

11 out_of_the_furnace_posterOut of the Furnace (2013) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana
An older brother goes on the rampage seeking justice for his younger brother. Despite the high calibre cast, it’s pretty much a paint-by-numbers affair and is incredibly predictable. Could have done with a bit more mystery and edge-of-the-seat tension, but it ultimately wastes the talent of the stars. It’s decent enough to keep you watching till the end, but nothing special.

12 17 again17 Again (2009) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Michelle Trachtenberg
In the vein of Vice Versa and Big, a man who wishes he’d done things differently finds himself transported into his teenaged body, but without going back in time, meaning he’s now in high school with his own children, and far too young for his estranged wife, who he desperately wants back. It’s a bit schmaltzy and nothing new, but Efron is passable as a young Perry and is charming enough to carry off the role without making it a cringeworthy watch.

13 madagascar_ver7Madagascar (2005) Like a Star @ heaven
Starring: Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen
Everyone I know (with kids) seems to rave about this animated feature where animals escape from a New York zoo and find themselves in the wilds of Madagascar, but personally, I thought it was one of the worst animated films I’ve ever witnessed. Despite the wealth of voice talent, it is entirely populated with the most annoying characters ever committed to the screen. I will most definitely NOT be watching the rest of the films in the series, and as (thankfully) Tadpole wasn’t impressed either, neither will he.

14 2 mules for sister saraTwo Mules For Sister Sara (1970) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Shirley MacLaine, Manolo Fábregas
A lone cowboy helps a young woman being attacked in Mexico, only to find she is a nun and is in need of further assistance to capture a French fort. Little does he know, she has a secret… One of my favourite westerns – MacLaine shines as Sara and Eastwood is his usual reticent self to great effect, as the cowboy who wishes he’d left well enough alone.

Review: Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

cover44728-mediumTitle: Jane Austen’s First Love
Author: Syrie James
ISBN: 978-0425271353
Publisher: Berkley
First Published: 5 August 2014 (Paperback/Kindle)
No .of pages: 400

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Inspired by actual events. Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen dreams of three things: doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling madly in love. When she visits her brother in Kent to celebrate his engagement, she meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor—a fascinating young man who is truly worthy of her affections. Jane knows a match between her and Edward is unlikely, but every moment she spends with him makes her heart race—and he seems to return her interest. Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention

Unsure of her budding relationship, Jane seeks distraction by attempting to correct the pairings of three other prospective couples. But when her matchmaking aspirations do not all turn out as anticipated, Jane discovers the danger of relying on first impressions. The human heart cannot be easily deciphered, nor can it be directed or managed. And if others must be left to their own devices in matters of love and matrimony, can Jane even hope to satisfy her own heart?

As a big, fat Austenite, I love reading novels written by the well-loved English novelist, but in recent years, I have also begun enjoying all the spin-offs, mash-ups, sequels, and semi-autobiographical material that has been released. This novel is inspired by actual events in Jane Austen’s teen years, and offers up plausible sources of inspiration for her wonderful writing which continues to delight readers to this day.

It’s an interesting look at a headstrong young woman, finding love for the first time, as well as the push to concentrate more on her writing, offering it up to a wider audience than just her immediate family to enjoy. I found this representation of her to be entirely believable and this little glimpse into her formative years is both fun and fascinating. At a time when women were entirely dependent on the men in their family for any kind of social standing, or a living of any kind, Austen struck out and earned a living with her wit and her winning way with words.

Many of the characters from Jane Austen’s established novels, as well as the plots for some of them, can be seen as having their seeds sown in this summer of social engagements surrounding the engagement of her elder brother. It’s a nice, knowing little nod for those of us who are familiar with these works, but is unobtrusive and as subtle as her own subplots.

This is a must-have addition to any Austenite’s collection, and will provide several sublime hours of entertainment in the reading, which will linger long after the last page has been turned.



Tadpole has always been terrified of dogs. Even puppies. Yes, that’s right, he has never been one for stroking teensy wriggly puppies or throwing a ball for a dog, even a small one, to fetch back.

For the past ten months, we’ve been living in a ground floor flat. Our upstairs neighbours have two dogs, and whenever they’ve been in the yard, Tadpole has been too afraid to go out to play, and has instead watched forlornly from the window till they went back indoors.

Until today.

Hubby went out and started kicking a tennis ball for the dogs to chase, then came back indoors. Then Tadpole said he’d like to try it if Daddy would come with him so he wouldn’t get to scared. After a few minutes, Hubby came back inside and Tadpole continued playing with the dogs.

I am SO proud of our very brave big boy, conquering his fear. He even went so far as to say he really enjoyed it and would play with the dogs from now on. Pity we’ll be moving in the next month or so!

What we did on our holidays…

Hubby has had two weeks off work, so we’ve used that time to do loads of day trips and family activities. Here are some of the photos of our adventures during the past fortnight, during which time we have:

  • Gone to a teddybears’ picnic, Blyth
  • Gone rockpooling at St. Mary’s Lighthouse, Whitley Bay
  • Gone to the circus, Blyth
  • Visited the Discovery Museum, Newcastle
  • Gone to Kirkley Hall Zoo, Ponteland
  • Gone to Beamish Open Air Museum, Durham
  • Gone to Alnwick Castle and Gardens, Alnwick

I hope the photos will give you an idea of the fun we’ve had!

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When the circus came to town…

I’ve not been to the circus since I was younger than Tadpole (he’s almost 6 years old) and every time I’ve seen an advertisement for a circus local to us, it’s been at a time we were unable to take him to see it. This time, however, the circus came to town while hubby is on holiday from work, and as tickets are cheapest for any seat in the house on the first day, we booked online and went early to get the best seats we could.

We got ringside!

OK, so it wasn’t Cirque du Soleil, but we weren’t expecting that, and what we DID get was a very entertaining show and a great family afternoon out.

Half way through, I asked Tadpole which part was his favourite so far. Here’s what he said:

As you can hear, he loved having his picture taken with the giant polar bear (obviously not a real bear, but someone dressed up as one, but it was a pretty good costume), and the rope act. You can see the rope act right here:

Even little Choochie couldn’t keep his eyes off the acts – the was absolutely glued to the action and awake for the entire two-hour show, clapping his little hands with everyone else at the end of each section.

I’m no fan of clowns, but their Ukrainian clown, Georgie, absolutely stole the show with his inter-act fillers, getting the audience involved, and even dragging some slightly unwilling “volunteers” up to take part in the performance.

We’ll definitely go again if and when they return – it was a wonderful family afternoon out.