Sunday, January 31, 2010

Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter

Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter
by A.E. Moorat

Wow, this book is a good one. I read it hot on the tail of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the cover led me to believe it'd be another 'zombie' thing. But no! Sure, there are some zombies in it, but it's mostly about demons and other otherworldly evils, and the fact that Queen Victoria is often attacked by them as a young woman. Why? You'll find out!

It follows the real life of Queen Victoria quite accurately, which is slightly 'scary'- for all you know, it could be true, because who's to say that demons aren't real and they're just hiding themselves well? Reminds me of that bit in Doctor Who about The Royal Family (you know what I mean if you've seen it.)

It's quite funny in places, and has a good love story between Victoria and Albert, plus all sorts of great actiony scenes. Plus zombie servants, mad scientists, werewolves, rats, Intrigue, and much much more.

Tagline: She loved her country. She hated zombies.

Blurb: There were many staff at Kensington Palace, fulfilling many roles; a man who was employed to catch rats, another whose job it was to sweep the chimneys. That there was someone expected to hunt demons did not shock the new Queen; that it was to be her was something of a surprise.

London, 1838

Queen Victoria is crowned, she receives the orb,t he sceptre and an arsenal of blood-stained weaponry. Because if Britain is about to become the greatest power of the age, there's the small matter of the demons to take care of first.

But rather than dreaming of demon hunting, it is Prince Albert who occupies her thoughts. Can she dedicate her life to saving her country when her heart belongs elsewhere?

With lashings of glistening entrails, decapitations, and foul demons, this masterly new portrait will give a fresh understanding of a remarkable woman, a legendary monarch and quite possibly the best Demon Hunter the world has ever seen...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Books I'm Looking For

Updated list of books I'm looking for. I've put a hold on the books that are at the start of the original list. I have a limit of I think 10 books on hold, hopefully more will come in soon!

Neverending Story
Bring the Jubilee

Pretty much all the books on this list.

The Catcher in the Rye, because I've not read it yet
What I saw and How I Lied
The '100 Ideas' books for education
Little Brother- I really like dystopian kinds of books.
Saturn's Children, about a sexbot after the humans have died out.
Zoe's Tale
The Last Colony
Books by Lois McMaster Bujold
Briefs for the Reading Room by Dan Marvin
The Magicians
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
The Handmaid's Tale- read it before, but I want to read it again.
The Time Traveller's Wife... I'm not totally sure on this one but I'll give it a go.
Before I Die - if I'm wanting a tearjerker.
More of the Jeeves and Wooster stories
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Up the Down Staircase- about teaching
To Sir With Love
More books by Mark Billingham, one of the guards in Maid Marian and Her Merry Men. He writes crime novels.
A book by Hugh Laurie. I forget what it's called, it's a detective story
The Picture of Dorian Grey
Books by Dickens
Gods Behaving Badly
Galex-Arena A book that has stuck with me since my early teens.
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
The Brief History of the Dead
Geek Love, Catherine Dunn
Catch 22
Buying Time
Starship Titanic (again)
The Difference Engine
Diary of Anne Frank
The Minpins
Something Beginning With
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Beka Cooper series by Tamora Pierce
Bartimaeus Trilogy
Stranger in a strange land by robert heinlein.
Full Tilt
Books by Shel Silverstein
Playing Beatie Bow
To Sir With Love
more Terry Pratchett books

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blind Faith

Book: Blind Faith
Author: Ben Elton

I've been sitting and staring at this draft (with only the above on it) for quite a few days now. Why? Because it's hard to explain how good a book this is.
I read it a while ago, and then asked to get it for Christmas. I got a good quality second hand copy- that's all I need.

Ben Elton is a British comedian who did/does stand up comedy, wrote many fantastic britcoms and is friends with Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson. He also writes novels: something that people might not know.

I think "Blind Faith" is my favourite Ben Elton novel, and I've read quite a few of them.

I like that it plays on many classic novels like 1984, Farenheit 451 and quite a few others, in its portrayal of the future, but makes it more 'relevant' for modern times (not that 1984 isn't still relevant, but he bases his dystopian future on a world that we, now, could fear happening).

I like that it's written in a way that is very readable, and entertainingly (in a non funny way). I like that it all seems so ridiculous, but at the same time possible. It makes me think about social networking, the internet, privacy, religion, and the nature of technology.

Without giving too much away, Blind Faith is set in the future, after a Flood that the citizens believe was a message from God to kill off people for their vanity and pride, however is clear from the start was the ice caps melting- the whole city is too hot as a result of global warming. Everyone is crowded in, and 50% of children die. There's also a lot of media everywhere, even little screens on coffee cups. People are constantly watched on webcams by fellow citizens, and are expected to watch other people as well. They're expected to blog and to read blogs, and to post up videos of all major life events. This is a matter of religion- you're taking pride in what God has given you. Similarly, you should not wear too many clothes, or that's not taking pride in the body God gave you. 'Disrespecting' someone is a crime that could get a mob after you very easily. Fiction is banned. Cake is good and therefore God must want you to eat more of it.

You are never alone.

And the main character lives in this world.

It sure makes me thankful for not joining Facebook.

I really, really, love this book.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Weight Loss 'Secrets'

In 2008, I went from 69 kgs to 55 kgs. I am very short, so this was a huge difference. I felt really proud of myself.

People asked me 'how did I do it?'

Here are my 'secrets'.

1. Eat stuff you like.
Yep. I'm serious. Don't waste calories eating stuff you don't like or don't really want, out of politeness. Learn to say 'oh that looks lovely but I'm not really hungry right now' when offered biscuits, cakes, or even a giant steak. And don't just eat random junk because you're a bit peckish. How much do you REALLY like those chips? Really? Wouldn't it be better to eat some cherry tomatoes right now, that you actually enjoy and are better for you? Or eat nothing?

2. Don't feel bad about eating. Just eat in moderation.

There's no food that's really bad- it's just bad in certain quantities. You like chocolate? Eat two squares instead of 2 rows. Then put it away. You've had your chocolate pieces for today! Full? Stop eating that meal and put it away for lunch tomorrow. Want dessert? Go for it. Just don't eat five scoops of icecream. This way you don't 'miss out'. Don't feel you have to live a life just eating vegetables and nothing else. This is what put me off originally. It depressed me.

3. Save foods- understand it'll most likely be there for you tomorrow too.

I think I got a big possessive about my foods, I was thinking if I don't eat it now, it'll be ruined tomorrow, or eaten by someone else! Just because I don't eat it *now* doesn't mean I can never eat more of it again ever, even if it is ruined tomorrow- I'm full now, and had enough now. It doesn't matter if other people have had more. So, make use of doggy bags, of gladwrap, fridges, freezers, and leftovers for lunch. And that chocolate will still be there the next day.

4. Eat frequently but little.

This way your metabolism can keep fuelled, and you don't feel hungry. By 'frequently', I was eating a little every two hours. This totally stuffed up when I went back to uni though, this year. :(

5. Gum.

Chewing something sweet actually convinces my body that I've just had some sort of tasty snack- but it's very very few calories.

6. Know calories.

Understand how calories and metabolism work. You don't just need to eat less than what you're eating now, if you're already eating way too much for your body size- that's still gaining weight, just less quickly. And understand that the fitter you are, the faster your body processes energy. I figured out how many calories my body actually needs. I ate about that, and then did more exercise every day. It was also illuminating to find out how many calories are in different foods. When I was in my first degree at uni I'd often eat two packets of dried noodles for lunch. I found out in 2007 that those noodles are about 400 calories or more a packet- I could certainly not afford to eat 800 calories just for lunch! Finding out some of the foods has now put me off those foods for life, and I don't even miss them.
Some people get too stressed about calorie counting- my mother for one. But if you don't have at least a vague awareness of it, I think that you're less likely to be successful.

7. Drink water

This hydrates you, which does all sorts of wonderful things for your body and metabolism, makes it easier to exercise (at least it did for me!) and also, most of the time when your body is saying it's a little peckish, it's actually thirsty. I'm really bad at remembering to drink water- it could be good to get into a habit (like I did) of tallying how much water you drink a day.

8. Food/drink diaries
Just for a few weeks, write down what you ate that day. Perhaps get a trusted friend to look at it. Just knowing that a friend will look at it, in combination with a promise to yourself not to cheat, can make you moderate what you eat, and how much water you drink.

9. Diet soft drinks and other low calorie options.

I don't feel like drinking my calorie intakes. So yep, 'diet coke, and a pizza please', if the pizza can fit in for that day. Coke has a lot more calories than you realise.

10. Home Made Foods
Home made pizza is soooo much better for you than pizza from Pizza Hut. And if you have my boyfriend's recipe, you'd be drooling. It also doesn't take that long to cook!

11. Find an exercise you like

Not me.

I can't stress this enough. In late 2007, I took up ballroom and latin dancing with a group of friends. Decided I'd take the plunge and learn, I'd always been interested. That then moved to some of us taking up swing dancing, which I still do today, slowly rising through the ranks of abilities. I LOVE it. I love that I get to dress up, get to chat to all sorts of different people, that I'm feeling far more coordinated and less clumsy in day to day life, that it's all vintagey and feels wonderfully old fashioned that I can go out dancing with my friends and not have it involve alcohol and loud music, that I feel good and happy doing it, that I can help newbies out, and I'm proud of my abilities. I could have just gone walking on the treadmill alone.
Find an activity that suits YOU. You need to combine healthy eating with exercise- make it something you're NOT going to resent and put off. Don't just hit the gym, unless that is the activity that suits you.

12. Put signs up.

I put signs up saying "Do you really want these biscuits?"
"Are you really actually hungry? Drink some water".
It only works as long as the signs are 'fresh', but it does work.

13. Stress/willpower

Sadly, I think one of the things that made me lose weight was stress. It gave me more willpower somehow. Don't do that if you can avoid it. But I thought I'd be honest. Willpower however is important- people say 'oh, I couldn't possibly lose weight!'
But they CAN! If they have the willpower. (Well, 99% of people who say that could if they wanted to. But perhaps not with their current mental state).

11. Have a goal.

I wanted to be able to fit into pretty dresses. I also wanted to win a weightloss competition. It was fun competing against my friends, and also having a goal to work towards.

12. Go do things

Don't just sit around at home. Get hobbies. Go out walking. Walk to the shops. Get a 'life'. (not just a job). You're moving around more if you do, and are distracted from thoughts of food.

13. Don't be afraid that you're too fat to be seen.

You're not too fat to dance. Too fat to swim. Too fat to go to the gym. Too fat to find love. Too fat to do anything at all, unless I suppose you're housebound but even then you could dance with just your arms!
"Ugh, no one wants to see me in bathers"- you're not THERE to be seen. You're there to swim and have fun. "No one can dance with me, I'm so big". Well, I know two very large girls in my dance classes, and a few very large guys- it's no big deal. And we're not doing lifts anyway, you don't until you get muuuuuuch better than I might ever be.
If people laugh at you for being in your bathers, that is THEIR problem- you are out, getting exercise, doing what you want to do and having a fun time doing it. Force yourself into some self confidence, and go out and do it all.

A sad note though: I've gained weight back, because of university- university meant I was sitting still for longer, couldn't see friends as often, eating less frequently and worse foods, had to sit around and read and write a lot at home, and so on. I'll be trying to follow my own rules again from now on.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pride and Prejudice And Zombies- Review

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains"

By Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

A much talked about book, that I finally finished on the 4th! But just in case you've not heard- it is awesome, if you're a zombie geek, and a Jane Austen lover (or hater even, I think). It's even great if you're like me and like the concept of zombies but can't cope with too much gore so don't go much further than Shaun of the Dead in terms of Zombie Movies, as it's all in text format and is just so funny juxtaposed with Regency England!

The basic idea is that someone has added zombies to Pride and Prejudice. Woah there, don't get angry- they did it in a completely awesome way, and most of the original text is still there! The zombies have been woven almost flawlessly into it. I was expecting normal Pride and Prejudice, and then sudden Zombie attack, like what often happens in movies- they have no awareness of zombies before that point. No. They've written it so that quite a few decades ago, a plague started, a strange plague, that brought the dead back to life. Now, it is usual and expected for young ladies of a certain social standing to add 'zombie killing' and 'hand to hand combat' to their list of accomplishments, for children to be sent to China, or better (according to Lady Catherine) to Japan, for martial arts training, for groups of militia to travel about the country side killing the afflicted and for deadly blood oaths to be sworn rather than mere grudges based on pride or prejudice.

Yet all of the original story is still there (though altered sometimes due to the zombie changes).
I also love the fact that it is *illustrated*!

I will have happy memories of this book forever, as I started reading it in the tent while I was away on the Yorke Peninsula, lit only by a torch, and I was laughing away at all the changes Seth made. If you love Jane Austen (or Zombies) you'll love that there's some more stuff to read that could easily get people loving the original (rather than just loving the most recent P&P movie which was sadly lacking in my opinion. No, not talking about that one where she jumped into the book through a portal, which I quite liked!). If you hate it, it'll make it more entertaining for you.

I look forward to the movie that is being made, and also to reading Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters, which I got for Christmas.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Do Not Buy From

Haha awesome, I'm on a Do Not Buy From list of someone on Etsy because I'm an 'Unbeliever'. Like she was going to buy dollhouse miniatures anyway.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Yiddish Policemen's Union -Review

The Yiddish Policemen's Union
by Michael Chabon
Genre: Detective/Crime/Alternative History

I picked up this book from the library as it was on my list of books that sounded cool- it was on an alternative history sci fi list. This is a genre that I quite like. The author changes something that happened with history, and writes their story set in that world. The changes can be big or small, and have varying levels of difference to reality. The stories can be set in any time in the past or present or future as well.

This story, by Michael Chabon, is set in the present, but the point where time diverged into a different dimension, was that after the second world war a safe haven was created for Jews in Alaska. In 1948, the fledgling state of Israel collapsed. Now, sixty years later, the Jewish state of Sitka is about to be reverted back to Alaskan control. A homicide detective, a workaholic after the shameful divorce from his wife (bit cliche for a crime novel...), investigates a murder that took place in the same 'flophouse' he's been living at.

What do I think of it? I think people should give it a try, but I didn't get more than a few chapters in. Perhaps I will keep reading it, but it doesn't seem like 'my' sort of thing. I didn't realise when I borrowed it that it was a crime novel, and though I don't mind crime novels, I like specific sorts. To be honest the Jewish stuff confused and frustrated me- I don't know nearly enough about Jews apparently to understand things, and though I tried to just read it and piece it together like I would for an alien culture, it was difficult for me, and I gave up, I wasn't sucked in. I LOVED the concept of the alternate history, however, and he writes decently, just in a style that I'm not used to. And I know nothing about Chess.

Maybe I'll try reading it again in a while.

Apparently a movie is coming out - I'd watch it.

edit: People on Library Thing had a hard time reading this too, this makes me feel slightly less bad about it!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Favourite Gingerbread Recipe

Not made with my recipe, but looks similar.

I made a lot of gingerbread this holiday season! Once we tripled the batch and it wouldn't fit into the mixer anymore.

I thought I'd share the recipe that I've been using, and perhaps you can enjoy it next Christmas, or maybe 'just for'. :)

* Melted butter, to grease
* 125g butter, at room temperature
* 100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
* 125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
* 1 egg, separated
* 375g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
* 1 tbs ground ginger
* 1 tsp mixed spice
* 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
* Plain flour, to dust


1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush 2 baking trays with melted butter to lightly grease.
2. Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined. Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc shape. Cover with gladwrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

3. Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 4mm thick. Use cutters to cut out shapes (we used star shapes). Place on trays about 3cm apart. Repeat with any excess dough.
4. Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven. Transfer to a rack to cool.
If you want to, decorate the gingerbread with icing.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Eco Friendly Lifestyle- Guest Post

This is a guest post from Frugal Mom in MA. AKA, ShabbyChic72

I am just your ordinary thirty-something stay at home mom who tries to make an effort each day at living an eco-friendly lifestyle. One of my biggest attributes ( at least I consider it to be one!) is that I am frugal. There is a distinction between being cheap and being frugal. I prefer to reuse, reduce and reycle! And from this comes my love of all things vintage! I believe things were forty or fifty years ago were better quality and back then people were eco-friendly before things changed.

One of my favorite things to do is to shop at thrift stores and yard sales. I find beautiful cloth napkins that make me feel like I am dining in a five-star restaurant when I use them at home. The other option is to use paper napkins and feel like your are eating at your local fast-food restaurant and killing trees! Vintage napkins are eco-friendly, cost effective AND beautiful!

Another love of mine is Pyrex. The beautiful designs from decades ago that our moms had when we were growing up. Before microwaves and plastic covers were invented! And the best part is you can find them at yard sales and thrift stores! They are inexpensive, beautiful AND they have glass lids so you don’t have to worry about chemicals being released into your food!

And like many women, I love, love, love jewelry and purses! I love it when I stumble across a beautiful purse or piece of jewelry from years ago. What a hidden treasure! It is usually inexpensive and I am reusing and recycling, so how can my husband complain?

I am a coffee and tea drinker. Over the years I have found many beautiful vintage teacups and tablecloths at yard sales and thrift stores. I am a bit of a girly-girl, and I have two daughters, so to me this is fun to be able to have my tea in fine china and a fancy tablecloth! I don’t need the Queen of England to invite me for tea, I can feel special right at home and know that I am recycling and at little to no cost!

Maybe thrift store and yard sale hunting is not for everyone, but at least it is my passion and my conscious effort to having an eco-friendly lifestyle! This is also why I started shabbychic72, my online vintage store at Hopefully others will find the beauty and benefits of all things vintage!

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