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since 13/05/2008


Room - Emma Donoghue 17/08/2012

Jack is five. He lives in a single, locked room with his Ma.

Room - Emma Donoghue In a recent bid to become more cultured by embracing reading to widen my knowledge and vocabulary, I set about trying to find a book that would really stimulate my mind, yet be fictional and readable at my leisure. I happened across a review of Room by Emma Donoghue one day last year on the television, and it struck me as a book that I could really get into, due to my interest in psychology during my sixth form years. The Plot Room follows the story of a five-year-old boy called Jack, who knows nothing other than the four walls and the contents of the room he was born in, and his mother, who he refers to as Ma. He sleeps in a wardrobe, so as to be hidden away from "Old Nick" - their captor, who his Ma has occasional nightly visits from, and in the dark of his wardrobe, little Jack counts the creaks Old Nick makes upon the bed. Ma has been trapped in the room for seven years - can she and Jack come up with a plan to escape their captor's evil clutches? Getting into the story Being written from the perspective of Jack, the book is written in such a way to try and reflect the speech of a young child - not least one who has some stunted development from his unfortunate upbringing. I personally felt this a little difficult to cope with during the first few pages of the book, as it made the text feel a little disjointed. Over the next few pages I began to settle into the style of writing, and later was able to put it to the back of my mind rather than focus on it too ...

ilomilo (Xbox 360) 06/01/2012

ilomilo - a cute alternative for Xbox 360 gamers

ilomilo (Xbox 360) I was a very lucky girl this Christmas, but it seems Santa got his wires crossed as I got two copies of the same CD… in the words of Homer Simpson, “D’oh!” Luckily Santa kept his receipt, and I managed to swap one of the CDs for some Microsoft points, and in browsing the Xbox Marketplace, I came across a cute looking little game called ilomilo. Background A puzzle game created by SouthEnd Interactive and released in 2010, ilomilo is the tale of two creatures called “Safkas”, named Ilo and Milo. The two friends live on opposite sides of a park, and each time they leave at night, and go to return to meet each other the next day, the route to the meeting point becomes more and more complicated (hence the advancement of difficulty in the levels). The story goes that one night they were so upset at the thought of leaving each other, they cried, and their tears resulted in the subsequent levels being played underwater. They then go on to draw maps out for each other to make it easier to find each other, but this appears to make things even more confusing and difficult! In the last chapter, the two friends decide to search for the sun together rather than going home every night, so that they can always be together. I don’t know what happens in the end yet, though I could probably guess I don’t want to look it up and ruin the end of the game for myself! Gameplay According to the internet there are 49 levels (I haven’t made it this far yet so had to research to tell you!), and as ...

What is the most unusual New Year' Resolution you have kept? 30/12/2011

Give yourself a chance!

What is the most unusual New Year' Resolution you have kept? Last year I found myself unemployed over the Christmas period, and despite countless interviews and experiences of trying to start out in different careers, I just wasn’t getting anywhere. I became more and more depressed as time went on, and my anxiety disorder started to rear it’s ugly head, having been kept at bay for a fairly substantial time. Having always been an incredibly ambitious and academic person, I could not stand the idea of going to sign on, despite the fact that I was in dire need and had paid taxes and insurances for this very sort of circumstance. My parents gave me a kick up the bum to go there, but forever going in and looking over the disappointment of not getting a new job really took it’s toll – I wasn’t even being picky, I was probably overqualified for the majority to be honest. I spent New Year at a friend’s house, who had recently finished uni and was continuing on to do a masters degree. That got me thinking further about the student debts I have accrued from university, and it made me feel even worse. But as the clock struck twelve and the celebrations started, I decided enough was enough, and that this year I would set a resolution and stick to it… Give Yourself A Chance! I think this is quite an unusual resolution, because though most people take on things such as quitting smoking, dieting and the like, they possibly don’t always choose to be more positive towards themselves. What the resolution really boils down to is this: Health I have ...

Waddingtons Monopoly Stock Exchange 23/12/2011

I wouldn't take a chance in shares in some of these companies!

Waddingtons Monopoly Stock Exchange Another of the board games I was lucky enough to own when I was younger (and I still own now) was Monopoly Stock Exchange. About the game Released by Waddingtons in 2001, the aim of this game is to buy and sell company shares to increase your wealth and become the winner. The game comes with an electronic calculator-like device which helps you keep track of the complex figures in the stock market. Much like the original game you start from the GO space, but instead of buying London streets you float companies to become their President. Throughout the game you can buy shares in other’s floated companies, and if you buy more shares that the owner you become the new President. When you land on a company square, you pay your rent to the bank (unless you are the President of the company). You can build offices and head offices on the company squares as opposed to the traditional houses and hotels, which raises the price of rent, and if you need to raise money elsewhere you can sell your shares to the bank or trade them with other players. The other change is that instead of chance and community chest cards, you have Bull and Bear cards, which are obviously themed around stock markets. The cards are similar to their predecessors in content, in that they could send you to jail, or earn or lose you money. The issue most people find with Monopoly is that it can go on forever and ever. For this version of the game, it is suggested that you win when you are the only player left in ...

Hasbro Cluedo Super Challenge Edition: Passport to Murder 19/12/2011

Read the instructions or you will be left clueless!

Hasbro Cluedo Super Challenge Edition: Passport to Murder As a child, I loved board games of all shapes and sizes. Particularly the old favourites Monopoly and Cluedo. Every year I would put one or both on my Christmas or Birthday lists, and eventually I was lucky enough to get one of each. A few years on, different versions of the games came out, and I didn’t ask for them as I was happy with my two board games, but I was lucky again as my family bought me these as well. The second version of Cluedo I was lucky enough to own was this – Cluedo Super Challenge Edition: Passport to Murder. Background Published by Waddingtons in 2000, the story behind the game is that it is June 1926, and anthropologist Dr. Black is on his way to visit Cairo. Joining him on the Trans-Continental Express from London are a number of friends rounded up by Mrs Peacock in order to celebrate his birthday. The celebrations, like the journey are cut short soon after the train pulls into Istanbul’s Sirkeci Station , as three days later, Dr. Black is found murdered. Characters As per usual, the main characters provided as suspects are Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Reverend Green, Mrs Peacock, Miss Scarlett, and Mrs White. These are also the playable characters on the board game, and they are represented by a grey model of themselves standing on a coloured disk that represents the colour in their surname. However in this game, there is also Mr Brown, Earl Grey and Miss Peach. This makes it a little bit harder than normal because not only are there more ...

Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS) 14/12/2011

Worth Kart-ing around in your DS console!

Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS) Mario Kart has been a staple in the average gamer’s diet for many years, across different consoles or platforms, but perhaps one of the best versions of the game currently available is this: Mario Kart DS, for, you guessed it, the Nintendo DS. My friends and I bought our Nintendo DS’s when we were about 18 years old, and I am now 22, so they have seen a lot of use, and this game was pretty much the whole reason why we invested in the console! About Mario Kart DS in General As you probably could have guessed, Mario Kart is a racing game based on various characters from across the Mario franchise, each with their own specific skills, traits and karts. When you start the game, you are given the choice of playing single player, multiplayer, searching for opponents on Nintendo WFC, accessing your records or changing the options. I will tell you more about the modes available for both single and multiplayer games, but I think the most important element to tell you about is the items. What gives this racing game the edge is that although you might not be in a good position in the race in the beginning, you can help yourself climb the positions by using items such as turtle shells, star power, bananas and speed boosts. Some items affect the other players and hold them back, whereas others improve your own performance. This makes the game that much more playable because even if you haven’t played it before you can be in with a chance of winning! Single Player Gameplay As a single ...

Kinect Sports (Xbox 360) 13/12/2011

You might find it hard to be a good sport!

Kinect Sports (Xbox 360) I was very lucky in that when I decided to become an Xbox Live user, the membership deal meant that you would get a free game as part of the package of having Xbox Live for a year. The games you could choose from included Halo Reach and Kinect Sports – I can’t remember the other two but I have a feeling it might have been something like Kinectanimals and Assain’s Creed. You can tell which ones me and my fiancé went for can’t you! So my choice was Kinect Sports, as I wanted another game that made use of my Kinect and that I could play with friends on social occasions, and as it came with the Xbox Live membership, it was effectively free. Background Kinect Sports was brought out by Microsoft in 2010, as a launch title for the Xbox 360 Kinect hardware. It was intended to not only be a family game but also to demonstrate the motion-sensing capabilities of the Kinect hardware. This was achieved through the six sports games based on Football, Volleyball, Table Tennis, Boxing and Track and Field. There is now a new sequel to the game which was released in October 2011, which is called Kinect Sports Season Two, and this includes six new sports games – Golf, Darts, Baseball, Skiing, Tennis and American Football. About the Game When the game loads your first menu sees you outside a sports stadium, and you are asked to pick who the main player will be. I believe if you want to play as two players you can both select your profiles, but this is a little bit further into the game. You ...

Kinect Adventures (Xbox 360) 07/12/2011

Only slightly adventurous for a Kinect launch title

Kinect Adventures (Xbox 360) Kinect Adventures was the game launched alongside the Xbox Kinect in 2010, and given away with the hardware for consumers to play if they had not yet invested in other titles for the hardware. The game utilises the Kinect motion camera by tracking your body movements in order to control your on screen character. Five Mini Games The game is composed of five mini games based on sports and adventure, which makes it have a bit of a different spin to it rather than being Xbox’s answer to Wii Sports. I will give a breakdown of each game here: 20,000 Leaks Here your avatar is in a glass tank under the water, and you have to plug the holes that form in the walls and floor due to water pressure and marine animals. You use your hands, legs, feet, head and body to block the cracks to repair them, and as the difficulty increases you have to do several at once. You are given a specific amount of time to fix the cracks, and the quicker you do it the more adventure pins you earn. Any time left over at the end is also added to your adventure pins total. This can be a one or two player game. River Rush In this game you board a raft and use your body to steer it to collect adventure pins. You can step or lean to the left and right to move it in the direction you want it to go, and also you can jump to make the raft go on ramps. There are always more points up on the clouds and higher parts of the game as it’s more difficult to stay up there, and you usually have to continue jumping to ...

Flair Simpsons UNO 06/12/2011

Simpson-ly brilliant!

Flair Simpsons UNO It might come as a surprise to some that as a child of the 80’s, I didn’t discover UNO until I was about 15 years old. The first version of the game I played was the Toy Story version, shortly followed by UNO extreme. I then decided I needed to have a set of my own UNO cards, as it’s a great game to play with my nieces and nephew. So I popped down to Toys R Us, and got myself this set of Simpsons UNO cards. About UNO The object of the game in UNO is to get rid of all of your cards in each round, and score points for the cards your opponents are left holding. Points are totalled at the end of each round and the first player to reach 500 points wins. I know that not everybody plays the game entirely to those rules – I often consider a “round” as one game, rather than adding up the points to 500, as it’s one of those games that could go on forever, particularly if there are a few of you playing. In order to prepare for play, you are supposed to each draw a card and the player with the highest number should deal. The dealer should then shuffled the pack and deal seven cards to each player, then place the remainder of the pack in the middle of the players as the draw pile. The top card is then turned over to start a discard pile. When you are all set up and ready, the person to the left of the dealer starts the game. The idea is to match a card from your hand to the card on the discard pile, by either the number, the colour or the symbol. If you don’t have a card that ...

Scrapbook Page Maps: Sketches for Creative Layouts - Becky Fleck 02/12/2011

Mapping it out helped me find my direction!

Scrapbook Page Maps: Sketches for Creative Layouts - Becky Fleck I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated arts and crafts, but have never really given myself credit for being able to create something beautiful with my own hands. My best friend and her mother-in-law have been into making their own gift tags and greetings cards for some time now, and recently introduced me to the art of scrapbooking. Why I bought the book I decided I would give crafting a scrapbook a go for my recent holiday to Florida, and purchased a copy of Scrapbook Page Maps by Becky Fleck. Having never embarked on a creative project of this scale or nature for that matter, I knew I would struggle and perhaps leave it once I’d started it, which would have been really disappointing given the sentimental importance of the images I was looking to scrapbook. Having a basic sketch to draw from, get an idea of measurements and what layouts would suit pages of the size I wanted to fill was of importance to me, as it gave me a sense of comfort. Not necessarily because I’d know I was “doing it right”, but I felt I could envisage where I was going with my own ideas. About the Author According to the back of the book, Becky Fleck is a graphic designer and illustrator, and has owned her own design agency for more than 15 years. Her work has been published extensively in various media, and she also teaches at exhibitions, conventions and craft stores. In the prologue of the book, she says that her friends were forever asking her when she would write a book about scrapbook sketches. ...

Top Trumps Phineas and Ferb Top Trumps 01/12/2011

Phineas and Ferb comes up Trumps

Top Trumps Phineas and Ferb Top Trumps Tragic, pathetic, worrying – all words one might use to describe a 22 year old woman with a penchant for the Disney Cartoon Show, Phineas and Ferb. This is something I accept, yet cannot help but be filled with joy when I see the program, or in the case of my recent holiday to Disney World Florida, the opportunity to give them a hug and have my picture taken with them. Yes I do realise they are men/women in suits, and yes I do think it’s ridiculous to stand in the blistering heat for upwards of 45 minutes waiting to see cartoon characters, but I did it! What’s worse is the love for Phineas and Ferb has spread to my fiancé and my two best friends, and we actually get them to record new episodes on their Sky plus box. Oh how I long for a hobby… Anyway, a while ago my best friend and I took a trip to Toys R Us in search of my niece’s birthday present, and were shocked to see a whole display of Phineas and Ferb merchandise. I had discovered it watching American TV on holiday in Tenerife, and my best friend saw it actually over in America, so we were surprised to see it here so early since it’s inception – even Disney World did not have merchandise for the show at that point my friend informs me. We instantly forgot about the mission in hand, and she bought a model of the platypus come spy, Perry and his nemisis, Dr Doofenshmirtz, and I bought these Top Trumps cards for a laugh. About Top Trumps Many of you will be familiar with Top Trumps. The game centres on having 30 cards ...

Kinect Googly Eyes (Xbox 360) 23/11/2011

Oh Googly Eyes, you're so bad I could cry... *To the theme tune*

Kinect Googly Eyes (Xbox 360) Having downloaded Kinect Fun Labs to play on my Xbox after finding out it was a series of free games for the console, I looked through the options of the “app games”. I wasn’t a fan of Kinect Me as I previously reviewed, so in the hope of finding something a little bit more entertaining, I tried another game called Googly Eyes. About the game As I stated in the review for Kinect Me, the Fun Labs software has been developed for the Xbox 360 Kinect in order for Microsoft to showcase some of the hardware’s capabilities. In Googly Eyes, Microsoft are able to show that the Kinect is able to distinguish between the human form and inanimate objects. When I loaded the game, it opened with a splash screen playing the most annoyingly catchy song about googly eyes making stuff come alive! You hold your hand over the start button in the middle of the screen. You are then asked to hold an object up to the camera, and have a battle with the focus as it tells you that you that you are too near or too far away. Eventually it scans your object, and in every case for me so far, also my hands. The quality of the picture is poor, but I can still make out some qualities of the object I’ve been holding up. It then asks you to go through the very same process but showing the back of the item, so that it can create a sort of 3D image of it. The Kinect then takes a little while to produce the image, which when loaded is a 3D low graphics image with a pair of googly eyes attached to it. You can ...

Kinect Me (Xbox 360) 18/11/2011

Kinect Me, Not for Me

Kinect Me (Xbox 360) Whilst browsing, I came across a free game that could be downloaded for the Xbox. This was called Mutation Station, and I soon found that once I had downloaded this for free I needed to install software for the Kinect called Kinect Fun Labs. I’m still yet to try Mutation station because of an Xbox crashing issue, so instead I found this other game on the Fun Labs software, Kinect Me. About the game The Fun Labs software has been developed for the Xbox 360 Kinect in order for Microsoft to showcase some of the hardware’s capabilities. In Kinect Me, the main attraction is the fact that the camera can achieve good quality facial and body recognition. When I loaded the game, it came up with a start screen, which I had to hold my hand over on the screen to enter the game. It then tells you that you can’t wear a hat in this game and asks you whether you are male or female, and then comes up with a shape of a head and shoulders cut out on the camera, and asked me to move forward to align myself within the shape so it could get a good photo of my face. When I was perfectly aligned the cut out shape went from red to green, and I had to hold still so the picture wasn’t blurry. Then it asked me to move further back from the camera and fit myself into a spread out body shape, and again once I had aligned myself properly it went from green to red and then took the picture. It went on to ask me whether I wanted glasses, which I found a bit odd as it should have ...

Christmas recipes 16/11/2011

Christmas Recipe: Pistachio and Marzipan Yule Logs

Christmas recipes My fiance and I love cooking, and at Christmas we particularly like to give food as a gift to members of our family. This recipe was the gift we gave last year, and it proved exceedingly popular, which was so brilliant as it was quick and easy! Ingredients 150g milk or plain chocolate 50g dried sweetened cranberries 50g shelled pistachio nuts 500g pack marzipan 50g white chocolate icing sugar to dust Directions *Finely chop 50g of milk/plain chocolate with the cranberries and nuts - save a few pieces of nuts and berries to decorate. *Dust a work surface with icing sugar, roll the marzipan into a 23x33cm rectangle and cut it into four equal pieces. *Sprinkle the chopped chocolate and nut mixture over each piece and then roll them up tightly to make log shapes. * Melt the remaining milk/plain chocolate, spread it over the logs and leave it in a cool place to set. *Melt the white chocolate, drizzle it over the logs and decorate them with the remaining pistachio and cranberry pieces. *Leave them to cool and cut into slices. Serving You could easily just put these chunks out on a plate when you have guests over, but we did things slightly differently. We cut two equal sized squares of baking paper and wrapping paper, and stuck them together. We placed a few of the pieces in the middle of the paper, pulled all the sides up around the top of them, and secured it with an elastic band. We then covered the elastic band with decorative ribbon and attached a label to each with ...

What is the ideal Christmas gift? 10/11/2011

What is the Ideal Christmas Gift?

What is the ideal Christmas gift? What is the ideal Christmas gift? Is it under the tree? Is it a brand new iPad, Or an Xbox for me? Maybe it’s my Mum’s iron – But probably not, More likely DVDs Or a life-like robot. Perhaps for my sister It’s a gold diamond ring? One thing’s it’s not Is that singing fish thing. My fiancé’s a gamer, So for him it would be A copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. If you knew my niece I’d be inclined to think It would be edible, chocolate, Or something that’s pink! My brother loves surfing, Even more than his car, But he wouldn’t say no To a green Jaguar. Someone not so fussy Is my dear old Dad. He’s just crazy about gadgets – It drives us all mad! I know my best friend Would love a baby. She says that right now, It’s still just a maybe! It’s going to sound corny, But for me I would have Dinner with my family, My mum and my dad. Also my siblings, Aunts and Uncles too, My cousins, friends, And Grandparents who Have long since left us, And are so greatly missed. For me this would be The ideal Christmas gift. © Luvlylana, 2011
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