Thursday, 5 March 2015

672 by J.S Lee - Review by Carlyn (Contains Spoilers)

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I was asked by J.S Lee to review their book so here is my review. 672 is a fantasy story set in the future where people live in giant towers after a world war. The towers were built to protect people from attack from other nations. The rich and important people live at the top, the middle class are at the centre and the lower classes are at the bottom. People are allowed to travel around the tower but it depends on their rank on how high they can go. Most people never leave the tower and spend their whole lives in it. The towers are wonderful places to live in for everyone; there is free food, floors devoted to entertainment and free healthcare.

Outside the tower live the piggies , uncivilized people who live out in the wild. Piggies are known for their low intelligence and large weight. The tower inhabitants hate the savages, viewing them as murderous people who would kill tower citizens if they had the chance. The tower inhabitants regularly slaughter piggies and hope to one day kill them all. However, the piggies may not be their enemies at all.

There are two main characters in the story, the first is a teenage girl named Emilia who doesn't remember her past or how she came to the tower. She lives with a room mate named Annie, a sensitive girl who loves watching soap operas. Emilia also has a caretaker named Silver who looks after her welfare. Emilia spends her time by exploring the tower; her favourite places being the zoo and conservatory to view plant life. At times, she is suspicious about life in the tower and fears that something underhanded is happening in secret.

The other main character is John who is a scientist. He  lives in the upper floors of the tower. The president of the tower assigns him the role of creating perfect humans that are beautiful and intelligent. John is married to Penelope who desperately wants a baby and begs him to steal one of his specimens.  

I thought the John character was more developed than Emilia and I liked John more. I thought John’s attitudes, actions and feelings were well described particularly his feelings towards his wife and the women in his life. I did not like how he patronized the women but they were a bit silly and na├»ve. 

 I found that there was a lack of detail on Emilia’s background story. When Emilia learns the truth about her place in the tower, she suddenly has new skills that make her into a good fighter and strategist. I think a flashback needs to be added into the story of Emilia’s past to make it more fleshed out. At first, I liked Emilia for her curiosity and bravery and as the story progressed I found her to be less believable.

I thought 672 was a novel when I first downloaded it but it’s actually a short story. So I was surprised when it ended abruptly and with unfinished business. Overall, I feel that the story is well written and has potential if a few things were fixed. The story feels like it is a very good draft for a novel.  I actually hope that the story is developed further. I would suggest the writer work on putting a bit more realism and detail into the story.

For example *Spoilers*
Emilia, Annie and Eli have never been in the wilderness before and have no camping equipment. Yet, they never complain about being cold or dirty. I thought it was surprising that Annie who is a very sensitive and sheltered person would enjoy camping in the forest.

I was also surprised that Emilia didn’t have the urge to rescue or take revenge. She abandoned the other cropplings and had no interest in the piggies once she was free.
John is ordered to take Emilia and Eli back to the tower after he captures them. The president knows how dangerous Emilia is so why doesn’t he send an armed guard to go get her?

Also , another aspect of the story I found jarring was how the president ordered for baby Olive to be sterile. To achieve sterility, she must drink a substance called milkwood so that she can never fall pregnant. The president orders that Olive will under guard to ensure that she does drink milkwood in the future. I think a better solution would have been to order a hysterectomy or have the child killed because then you don’t have as much doubt. I was surprised that such a ruthless president would not have murdered John, Penelope and Olive and be done with the mess.

I would have liked to have read more about the piggies.  They seemed like really interesting people and it would have been good if there were more interaction with the tower people. The tower people think the piggies are unintelligent but they are actually smarter than they look.


Despite these criticisms, I do believe that J.S Lee is a talented writer. I think J.S Lee was successful in creating a vivid world that is fascinating and sinister at the same time. I just think this story has some flaws that diminish the potential for a great read. 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Blogs of the Month: February 2015- Oops Forgot to post this-Better late than never. .....


Carlyn: A blog that I read regularly is A Cup of Jo by Joanna Goddard. Joanna is a lifestyle blogger from New York who write about relationships, food, childrearing, travel and home life. My favourite thing to read from her blog is posts about motherhood around the world from American mothers living abroad. I love that series because it offers insight about other cultures from a western perspective. Although I am not a mother, I appreciate the advice on childrearing in other countries as I may be a mother someday and I work in the education industry.  


Jon Bear's Site: I know that we do some book reviews on our blog site... well... mostly Carlyn as I have been a bum about the book reviews for a while now, but I still enjoy finding other sites that review books and give me a little insight into something that might peek my interest.  I Really like the breakdown of a synopsis when separated from a review in an easy to read and direct fashion as is the case at http://readingforsanity.blogspot.com/ .  I think the blog authors (as there are several reviewers on the site) of Reading for Sanity do a great job of making it easy to pick out books I might like to read.  The blog has something for everyone too.  While there are lots of children's book reviews, there are also books of interest for adults on the site.   Of course, I myself am a bit age-blind as a reader and could care less what target audience the book might have.  I'm just looking for fun and interesting stories to read.  Another feature I really like about the site is how they list other books the reader might like if they are interested in a particular review.  I have actually yet to put the site to use with regards to a book purchase of my own, but I fully intend to find a book or books reviewed at Reading for Sanity and give them a try.  =)  ---- Jon Bear

Fitness Challenge: Week 4 Final Week


DAY 23 MONDAY 23 2015 75 REPS
I was not a bum today. I did 75 reps!

DAY 24 TUESDAY 24 2015 80 REPS
I did 80 reps. Yays

DAY 25 WEDNESDAY 25 2015 REST DAY
Yay  Rest day!!

DAY 26 THURSDAY 26 2015 85 REPS
I did 85 reps

DAY 27 FRIDAY 27 2015 27 85 REPS
I only managed 40 reps today.

DAY 28 SATURDAY 28 2015 90 REPS
I didn’t do any reps today. I was going to do them after work but I decided to go to a Chinese New Year celebration and I went to watch a movie.

DAY 29 SUNDAY 1 2015 95 REPS
I did 95 reps today!

DAY 30 MONDAY 2 2015 100 REPS
This was the last day of the challenge. I did 100 reps.

SUMMARY
I thought this challenge would be easy but I did find it hard to be motivated to exercise. There were times when I didn’t want to do any tricep dips. I didn’t see much difference in my arm muscles during the challenge but that can be attributed to my not doing the challenge that often. What I did take from this experience is that an exercise diary is a good way to keep track of your progress. It helped me to see that I could be more active.



Monday, 2 March 2015

Entertainment Monday: Kingsman: The Secret Service (Monday 2 March, 2015)


Kingsman is a British action comedy film about a secret spy organization known as the Kingsman. After one of the Kingsman dies in a failed rescue attempt, the society needs a replacement member. Harry Hart (Colin Firth) reaches out to Gary "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton) to be the new Kingsman. Gary or Eggsy as he prefers to be known in the film is a hooligan who sees getting into the Kingsman to be a way out of his dismal life. Eggsy has to compete with other candidates to become a Kingsman in a series of dangerous challenges. In the meantime, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is plotting to cleanse the world in a most evil way.

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The movie is a celebration of the British spy genre, all the Kingsman are aristocratic and dressed in tailored suits with gadgets built into their accessories. My favourite gadget would have to be Harry Hart’s bulletproof umbrella that is also a shotgun. Eggsy is a wonderful contrasting character to the other upper class spies as he’s a working class lad. There are plenty of snide remarks made against Eggsy about his background but he refutes them easily because he’s use to being insulted.
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I thought Taron Egerton was engaging as Eggsy and it was nice to have a newcomer in the lead role. I always associate actors with their previous roles so it was good to have a fresh face and not know what to expect. I thought he was the ideal choice for Eggsy because he looks ordinary and unassuming yet he’s strong and intelligent.

Taron Egerton as Eggsy

There were other newcomers in the film as well such as Sophie Cookson who played Roxy, a fellow Kingsman candidate. She reminded me of Emma Watson because of her small figure and brunette hair. Another standout newcomer is  Sofia Boutella who plays Gazelle, the henchwoman to Valentine. Sofia Boutella is a professional dancer so she excelled in the fight sequences.
Sofia Boutella as Gazelle

Colin Firth was perfect in his role as a gentleman spy, walking tall and talking in clipped tones. Firth was able to balance the upper class mannerisms without being a snob.. Samuel L. Jackson was an interesting villain, although his characters actions were bad, he had a likeable personality.

Colin Firth as Harry Hart
The action scenes are pretty good although the scenes are sped up in some instances and some victims get some awful blows. The only thing I didn’t like about the movie was a part in the ending which was a sexual scene which I think cheapens the movie and was unnecessary. It would have been better if they used the end clip when the credits rolled up as the end of the movie. Kingsman is a fun action movie with a bit of everything. It’s definitely a good movie to see with friends and for date nights.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a sequel in the future or a possible franchise. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Exercise Challenge: Triceps Dips (week 3 into week 4)



Jon Bear:

DAY 19 THURSDAY FEB 19 2015 65 REPS
I did my 65 reps today by breaking them up into two sets of 25 and one set of 15 reps.  I also rode the stationary bike.  My stationary bike is actually one handed down to me by my family.  It was at our home on Long Island for about 15 years or from the time I was about 10 years old until the time I turned 25.  Then it was shipped north to my brother Robert's house.  I'm not sure how much use it got there.  I know Robert, Shirley and Katrina all exercise but they do a lot of outdoor activities.  After they had it for a decade, a couple of years back they told me I could have the bike if I like, when I was talking about trying to get into better shape.  I took it, and it mostly sat on the floor in my living room for a year.  The past year though I've been getting much more frequent use out of it.  Especially this Winter with the horribly cold weather in the north east United States.  So it's not the shiniest or fanciest or most modern exercise equipment, but it serves it's purpose. 

DAY 20 FRIDAY FEB 20 2015 REST DAY
YAY!  Rest Day.  Always a fun day.  I rested. 

DAY 21 SATURDAY FEB 21 2015 65 REPS
I see that Carlyn out-repped me today as I did only the required 65 reps, once again in two sets of 25 and one of 15.  No exercise bike today.  I've been keeping up with my healthy eating and sleeping though, so even on the days I don't do too much exercising I feel like I'm making progress towards good health. 

DAY 22 SUNDAY  FEB 22 2015 70 REPS
I cheated and did not do any reps today.  I am always a bit of an excuse maker when I don't get something done.  And it being the Lord's day, which should be a day of rest and all, I am a bit nonplussed about missing my Reps today.  Look to Jon Bear of course to find a way to use religion as an excuse to get out of exercising.  Okay (confessional), I admit it.  I was a bum.  >.<
 
DAY 23 MONDAY FEB 23 2015 75 REPS 
Oh noes!  I did not do my reps again.  I did some mild exercising and rode the stationary bike a bit, but did not really feel like doing the triceps dips.  I need to have a bit more discipline as I admittedly have become a bit bored with the whole triceps dip.  How do people do this faithfully through the whole challenge? 
 
DAY 24 TUESDAY FEB 24 2015 80 REPS
Back on track today!  I did my 80 reps, even though I broke them up into four separate intervals of 20 during the Islanders hockey game.  The Islanders had their struggles early but coasted to a 5-1 victory with 4 goals in the 3rd and final period of the game.  That made the reps easier to do. 
 
DAY 25 WEDNESDAY FEB 25 2015 REST DAY
I was feeling a bit guilty about the days I missed and did one set of 20 triceps dips today, but not feeling guilty enough to do any more than that.  Other than my 20 tricep dips I rested.
 
DAY 26 THURSDAY FEB 26 2015 80 REPS
Oh well.  I must not have been feeling too guilty I guess because I missed my reps again today.  That's the 3rd time this week.  And it's not like I even did any extra special exercising to speak of to make up for it today.  I am still eating well.  Getting my greens and my fruits and veggies and staying away from the Pizza and alcohol and other enticements.  Yes... I'm trying to build myself up a little.  Much like Carlyn's ashamed Cat, I must also face the music and fess up to a poor week.  Next week is the last week, so there is still a chance to finish strong!  Wish us luck!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Exercise Challenge- Week Three

DAY 16 MONDAY 16 2015 50 REPS
Felt better today. Did 50 reps. Did 50 Reps!!

DAY 17 TUESDAY 17 2015 55 REPS
I didn’t do any exercise today.

DAY 18 WEDNESDAY 18 2015 60 REPS
I didn’t do any exercise today.

DAY 19 THURSDAY 19 2015 65 REPS
I didn’t do any exercise today.

DAY 20 FRIDAY 2015 REST DAY
As it was a rest day, I didn’t do any exercise today.

DAY 21 SATURDAY 2015 65 REPS
I did 67 reps today.

DAY 22 SUNDAY 22 2015 70 REPS
Didn’t do any reps today.


I have been a bum all week. 
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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

It Cuts Both Ways by Jack Tate- Review by Carlyn


Last year, I won a book off goodreads which was Jack Tate’s debut novel Causality . I was also approached by Tate to review his latest book It Cuts Both Ways. Jack Tate is an Australian author who specializes in writing thrillers about anti-heroes who deal with people who have wronged them in ruthless and bloody ways.

In this new book, the story centres around a young anatomy professor named Alex Rain. Alex Rain had a turbulent childhood where his father frequently beat Alex and his mother. Fortunately, the violence stops when Alex’s father suddenly dies. What people don’t know is that Alex could have prevented the death.  His father’s death starts off Alex’s fascination with death and punishing bad people for their crimes.

In the midst of Alex’s dark dealings, Alex falls in love with a young woman named Claire Daniels. Suddenly, Alex has to juggle leading a normal life with Claire and fighting off the urge to kill. Unbeknownst to Alex, he is also pursued by Detective Belmont and Adams as they investigate the gruesome killings.  They believe that victims were killed by a serial killer because of the ritualistic nature of the deaths.

The crimes usually involved the victims offending Alex in some way and ending with them dying in some graphic and disgusting way. Only the beginning process of the murder is shown before the novel cuts to the detectives examining the crime scene. I found Alex to be a likeable character despite his evil intentions, mostly because I didn't associate Alex with the crimes. In the novel, there is no part where Alex prepares or cleans up after the crimes or even thinks about them after he is finished. As I didn't really see Alex’s thought process through the murders meant that I didn't really think of him as a bad person.

The people murdered in the novel didn't deserve to be killed except for one man. The rest of the victims were inconsiderate people when Alex met them but that doesn't mean they deserved to die. In each killing in the novel, the victims are posed in a way to symbolized what they did wrong in the world. For example, one victim had their eyes cut out for not looking where they were going.

There are lots of autopsies in this book as Alex dissects bodies for class and the police investigate the killing spree. I believe that Tate must have done some research into anatomy and cadavers because of the details in the book. I was a bit uncomfortable reading through the autopsies but I know some might find it fascinating.

I enjoyed reading the book towards the middle of the story where Alex’s life starts to unravel. In the book, it is mentioned that Alex hears voices however his evil thoughts aren’t included into the narrative. It would have been good to have read Alex’s thoughts to get a deeper understanding into his character.

On another note, I liked the changing perception that people had about Alex in the novel. In the beginning, Alex seems like a down to earth and decent guy. To his students he is seen to be exciting and theatrical because of his interesting teaching methods. At the end of the novel, people describe him to be a creepy weirdo loner who they always suspected of being evil. I think that’s typical of people to say that they always had a bad feeling about someone after a terrible event is uncovered.

At the end of the story, I thought Alex’s downfall was too convenient however there is a plot twist that changes everything! I thought the plot twist made the story more dynamic and changed the perspective of everything in the novel. As a result, I think it would interesting to re-read it with the new knowledge as it brings a different feel to the novel.
I enjoyed reading It Cuts Both Ways. I think the book would suit people who like crime novels and thrillers. I don’t normally read books in that genre but I did like reading this book. I look forward to reading other Jack Tate books and seeing the development of his writing.