Welcome to my Blogger page, thank you for visiting. This is where I will share my reviews of books, movies and other things I enjoy. If you would like to see my ramblings, fanfiction and other general posts, please visit my Livejournal: beren_writes. Visit my pages to learn about me and my books.
Top set of links above are external links, second set are pages local to the blog.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

My Parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary

So yesterday we were all celebrating with my parents on their 50th wedding anniversary. This was my fridge before the do :) - and that was only 2/3rds of the bubbly cooling off.
We had a service in church where Mummy had a replacement engagement ring blessed (her original one wore through and it was going to cost thousands of pounds to repair it) and Daddy had his resized engagement ring re-blessed (they did the whole retaking of vows, nuptial mass and having wedding rings reblessed on their 40th, so they decided to do something different this time :)). We sang lovely hymns and Soph and I sang "Fields of Gold" and "The Gaelic Blessing" (or the Garlic Dressing as everyone I know who has ever sung it refers to it ;)) for them with all of their friends in attendance.

Then we had a champagne reception in the church with the most wonderful canapés. We have friends who run their own catering company and we were going to hire them normally, but they insisted on doing it for cost because it was Mummy and Daddy. The food was amazing. If you're in Kent and need a caterer, they are awesome and I can put you in touch - I would post their details, but I don't actually know them yet since we organised everything over a cup of tea etc - need to get their card.

There were over 100 people there and it was so lovely to see how happy everyone was for Mummy and Daddy. We had their wedding vid showing on the wall (Uncle Ken has a colour camera at the time, which was unusual for home film making, so everyone got to see what everyone looked like then in full technicolour :)).

Then they had a few people back to their house and we did our best to eat what was left of the food :). There was so much and it was so yummy. I was especially fond of these little crab,  savoury biscuit (little crackers to my US friends, not scones ;)) and cucumber canapés - I may have eaten a few ;). We overdid buying the wine a little and now have bottles of the stuff left, but never let it be said it will go to waste in our family ::g::.

Rob hasn't sorted the photos yet or I'd post some, so you'll have to do with the fridge for now :).

It was such a wonderful day fully of love and laughter and happiness. I wish the same to every one.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

EYM - Bring Back The Listener

The Express Yourself Meme (EYM) is a weekly blog hop run by Jackie at Bouquet of Books and Dani at Entertaining Interests. Each month they post a Gadget with a question/task for each week in the month. Participants then answer the question in a post during the correct week. (Sorry I totally forgot about it last week).

There is a list of the participants at the bottom of this post.

This week's question/task:
Name ONE Cancelled/Retired TV Show you would love to see back on the air.

Now this one has only just finished, literally the last ep of the 5th season was shown on Aug 18th 2014 and it is The Listener. I have loved this show from the first ep to the last and wish it wasn't ending.


In season 1 Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik), our hero, is a paramedic with a big secret - he can hear people's thoughts. No one except the man who helped him control his powers when he was a kid knows, but slowly, through the season, people find out. Because of his ability he ends up helping Charlie Marks, a detective with the Toronto police department. Charlie also helps Toby when his past comes to haunt him  (Lisa Marcos) and she protects him.

The second most awesome character in the show is Oz (Ennis Esmer), Toby's EMS partner.

The show was actually cancelled after season 1, but was so popular in foreign markets they brought it back, however, it changed a bit.

In season 2 Toby is still a paramedic, but becomes a consultant for the IIB, the serious crimes department of the Toronto police force. Here he helps Sergeant Michelle McClusky (Lauren Lee Smith) on cases while struggling with the side effects of his telepathy with the help of Olivia Fawcett (Mylene Dinh-Robic), his doctor friend and ex.

In season 3 Toby becomes a special consultant full time for the IIB; they present him as a face reader and this continues through season 4 and 5.


I love this show. It's Canadian for a start so people don't just get shot for no reason. You may not have noticed this, but if you watch a Canadian show (and I mean one set in Canada, not one pretending to be the US just filmed in Canada) characters are much more likely to walk away alive at the end. It's not always true, but the deaths usually mean more. I mean there's a whole episode where Toby has to shoot someone and then deal with the PTSD.

The characters are engaging, the plots are good, there are lots of female characters and I wish there was going to be more.

 So do you have any favourite TV shows that are no more and you wished would come back?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Wonders of WordPress that I Never Realised


For a very long time I thought WordPress was just a blogging platform because we used it once on a site we had running and that was all it was at the time. However, when Soph and I rebuilt our website (WittegenPress.com) we found out just how wrong we were.

WordPress is not simply a blogging platform, it's a whole content management system with wonderful plugins and everything you could possibly need to build a site quickly, easily and in just the way you want. We were using Joomla before and compared to that WordPress is a dream.

If you would like to know the details of how we rebuilt WittegenPress.com then we created a post on that site about exactly how we did it: How We Built This Site (wittegenpress.com) With WordPress.

However, I'd like to talk about some of the advantages I've found with at least one of the plugins, other than the obvious that they let us do what we wanted to do.

We used iThemes Security, which is a plugin which greatly enhances the security of your site. I would recommend it to everyone using WordPress. However, one of the features I had no idea it had when I first installed it, that I have found very useful is the 404 lockout option, and not just because it prevents people from randomly trying to find ways into our site.

What the 404 option does is lock out users who bring up too many 404 errors too quickly in succession, which might be an indication of them trying to find a security weakness to your site. It has many customisation options so you can make sure it doesn't happen when it shouldn't, for example you can make certain files like images, ignored by this functionality. However, what it also does is log all those 404s. This is incredibly useful because we migrated our site from one platform to another and have used .htaccess to reroute requests for pages that no longer exist.

I thought I had been very thorough in making sure I had all the redirects we needed, but the 404 log showed me just how wrong I was. There were whole sections I simply hadn't though about because they weren't URLs I ever used. Over the last few days I have been watching the 404 logs and then adding required URLs to the .htaccess file so that all URLs which are still current go to the right places.

It also showed me that part of the SEO plugin we were using wasn't working and allowed me to fix it.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Heads up for Thor 2 collectors in the UK

So I was in Home Bargains this morning and they have the Thor 2 4'' figures in for £2.99 a pop. Not a price I have seen beaten anywhere :). These are all the figures they had in ours (click to see larger version) - so if you are after them I suggest you hightail it to your closest store (or they are selling them in random pairs on the website here).


How was I supposed to resist?

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

R.I.P. Robin Williams

The news about Robin Williams is so very, very sad. I remember seeing him in Mork and Mindy when I was a child and he's one of those people I just expect to be there with a new film every now and then. He was a great actor and an amazingly talented man and it is tragic he has lost his battle with depression. My heart goes out to his family.

Bye, bye Peter Pan, I hope you find your Never-Never Land and remember your happy thoughts so you can fly.

What is your favourite piece of Robin Williams' work? 
Mine is Bicentennial Man - it's in my top ten films ever made and I love it to pieces. It makes me laugh and cry and feel all warm inside.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Recipe: No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

So this recipe is one I tried out this week and it's actually from here on charisstoma's Livejournal. I've converted it to UK measurements and UK ingredients and it's not quite the same, but if you want the US version, just click the link :).

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Ingredients:
  • 227g peanut butter
  • 227g butter
  • 400g (1 pack) digestive biscuits
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 300g dark chocolate (or a mixture of milk and dark if you prefer - go with your taste)
  • 4 Tbsp peanut butter
Method:
  1. In a heavy base saucepan melt the peanut butter and butter over a low heat.
  2. Crumb the digestive biscuits either in a food mixer or in a bag with a rolling pin.
  3. Mix the caster sugar through the biscuit crumb.
  4. Add the melted peanut butter and butter and combine well.
  5. Press into a 9''x13'' greased pan (I used a throw away tin foil tray and it worked really well).
  6. Melt the chocolate and peanut butter in the microwave (or on the hob).
  7. Pour the chocolate mixture over the biscuit base and chill in the fridge for at least 1hr.
These are very rich so I cut them into little squares. They taste a bit like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, but with more bite to them because of the biscuit base. I just gave what was left over to the guys that work in the place next to our house because we couldn't eat it all :).


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy - Let me tell you how much I love this film :)

Title: Guardians of the Galaxy
Rating: 12A
Cast:
Chris Pratt ... Peter Quill
Zoe Saldana ... Gamora
Dave Bautista ... Drax
Vin Diesel ... Groot (voice)
Bradley Cooper ... Rocket (voice)
Lee Pace ... Ronan
Michael Rooker ... Yondu Udonta
Karen Gillan ... Nebula
Summary: Peter Quill is abducted from Earth just after his mother dies. All grown up he retrieves an orb for a high paying client only to find himself being chased down by the lackies of Ronan, a warlord with an eye to destroying planets.

Let's just get the squee out of the way first - I loved this film, it was awesome. It's a romp of an adventure and oh, so, so ,so funny. I was laughing so hard at points I cried.

Okay, now I can be rational and tell you why I enjoyed it.

This film is unashamed fun. It's fast, with engaging characters, a decent plot and lots of special effects.I didn't feel it was anywhere near as complex at any of the other phase 2 MCU films or even some of phase 1, but then, that wasn't what it was for. There is none of the political intrigue of Captain America: Winter Soldier or the schenanigans of Iron Man 3, the Avengers or Thor 2, but then this is the Guardians first outing, so that would have been difficult. I think they went the right way and gave us a very entertaining film to introduce the characters with a lot of laughs.

The bad guys in this are bad and the good guys are good (even though they are supposed to be a little grey) and even the neutrals are good really :). It's an honest adventure, which is really an epic fantasy quest in space.

The whole cast is great, but Chris Pratt is simply amazing and so is Bradley Cooper. They are the comic genius of the film and their timing is simply stupendous. Peter Quill is a self-centred, arrogant idiot - only of course he's not at all and you see more and more of his true self as the film goes on. Rocket is a Raccoon and you'd think that would be hard to relate to, but he turns out to be one of the deepest, most human characters in it. Rocket is brilliant.

I loved the relationships between the characters as well. They felt kind of real. No one is a real hero, except possibly Groot. The whole disappointed father and rebellious son vibe between Yondu and Peter is so well done. Yondu is also a brilliantly kick-ass character. The relationship between Gamora and Nebula is wonderful as well. Both adopted daughters of Thanos their interactions are complex and not simply good gal, bad gal.

The plot in general holds together well. It makes sense in a step by step manner. There are a few details that made me go -  huh, but that's more to do with physics and biology than the plot :). The only problem I had with it was the lack of detail about some of the players. Unlike in the Thor movies we didn't have an Anthony Hopkins voice over to introduce the main background conflict. We did have a Lee Pace voice over, but it didn't have enough detail for me. It didn't explain who both sides were and why they had been in conflict in the first place. I don't know anything more about the Kree at the end of the film than I did at the beginning, expect the fact that they're arseholes in general. Lee Pace's voice over talks about the traditions of his people, but never mentions what those actually are exactly.

The only other issue I had with the film is the same as I had with Thor 2 - the villain is two dimensional. Both Ronan and Malekith suffer from the same, I am the big bad, but I have all the emotional depth of a paddling pool problem. That's not to say the actors didn't do a good job, they did, but their characters weren't really given any depth to work with. They're both fanatics, but I never really understood why.

Ronan is bad and doesn't like the universe the way it is so wants to kill people. That's about all I got for his motivation. Yes he's a pawn of Thanos, but Loki was a pawn of Thanos too and he had depth out the whazoo. The good guys have so much more depth and even Nebula has a deeper character that is made Ronan look very uninteresting as an antagonist. I don't know, maybe I would get more from him on a second viewing. After all it is possible I was so focused on the good guys I just didn't take enough notice of him, but I'm not so sure. I've seen Thor 2 more than once and still find Malekith not very interesting.

That being said, this is still a great movie. I could watch it again and again. It has everything to push all my buttons, from funny characters to an epic adventure with a little bit of the mystical thrown in. This is my kind of film. I can't wait for Guardians 2. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

Have you seen the film, did you love it? Were there any parts you would have changed or was it perfect for you?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Wittegen Press 48hr Discount Blitz - 5th/6th August 2014

Wittegen Press 48hrs Discount Blitz


We at Wittegen Press have been doing some spring cleaning of their website over the last few months and it's time for our big relaunch blitz.

So...


over Tuesday 5th August and Wednesday 6th August 2014

and you'll find every book at 99c* for this exclusive 48hrs!

*check out each book for the Smashwords' code to claim the discounts

~*~

If you would like to repost these details, we'd be most grateful and here is the code, just copy and paste:

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Shopping, vibrating exercise machines and stuff...

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the reviewing of the vampire movies, I've just been really busy with the Wittegen Press site relaunch for next week, so I'll get back to them after that :).

So Rob had the day off yesterday and we went shopping in the morning. He needed some new shirts and I needed some new tops.

We went to TK Max first and I love that shop. I can never find any clothes (I'm not the right shape for designer stuff), but they have a wonderful household and toy section and Rob loves the shirts and jeans. He managed to find a pair of Levi 511s for £20 and he also picked up one of his favourite makes of shirt :). I found some socks ::g:: - they are soft top socks so they don't leave elastic marks and they were only a £1 for three pairs.

Matalan were also having a sale - yay - so I have stocked up on tops for the season :). My old ones were beginning to fall apart.

It was very good retail therapy.

The other thing I wanted to ramble and rave about is my new exercise machine. It's a Confidence Fitness Vibration Plate and it's is brilliant (Rob found me one on eBay for £50, but I've seen them for £130 new). Don't look at me like that, don't knock it until you've tried it.

Basically you stand on it, sit on it or otherwise make contact with it and then go through one of its programs where it vibrates you at various speeds for 10mins. It is a very good way of toning up with very low impact. I love it because it doesn't hurt my ankles. I was sceptical when I first heard of them, but it was my aunt who mentioned them. Her friend was actually advised to use one by her doctor because they are supposed to be very good for people with arthritis and my aunt was amazed at how her friend also toned up really well.

So my dear Mama bought one and has also found it to be brilliant.

No it won't give anyone a sixpack, but you know those flabby bits you just can't get rid of? They start to shrink!


Also it is very good for circulation and blood pressure. Another friend was pointed at using one by her personal trainer and ever since she started with it, her blood pressure is so much better. Ah, but it will be the exercise with the PT I hear you say and I will respond by mentioning that she has always been a swimmer and used to go several times a week way before she had the personal trainer.

This bit might be TMI for some, but it's very worth mentioning, Then there is the aid to, shall we say, the passage of food through the body. Yet another friend was having terrible trouble with her intestine, lots of pain and having had all sorts of tests at the hospital, with no luck. My parents bought her one of these for her birthday and she says she feels like a new woman. No pain and regular as clockwork. I have also seen the benefits of this aspect of the exercise machine.

When you first start you just stand there reading a book or watching something on a device for 10 mins, but there are exercises you can do too. I'm not that advanced yet :). I also lie on the floor with my calves on a pillow on the plate to loosen up my ankles and lower legs. I haven't had trouble with puffy ankles since I started using it like that. Because of my talipes it can be very painful to walk far (I usually use a crutch) and everything below the knee really doesn't work well (no calf muscles, fixed ankles, walk on tiptoe because my heels can't touch the ground), but this machine is a god send. It gets the blood flowing and gently massages my feet and ankles to get them moving again (well as much as they ever do - which is a tiny bit) after they've stiffened up because I've been shopping or something.

I love this machine to pieces and I would recommend it to anyone who has trouble with impact exercise. Actually I would recommend it to anyone, but if you're doing other types of exercise as well, the effects will be less visible.

Finally, have booked tickets to see Guardians of the Galaxy on Tuesday - can't wait :D.