Saturday, 31 January 2015

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, Part 4

We're heading towards the end of the first half of the Deathly Hallows pair of films. I remember seeing this one in the cinema and feeling devastated that there would be only one more after it. At least there have been other film series since then to keep me going, though rarely do I get the same buzz that I had seeing the Harry Potter films for the first time.

In the last part the trio took on the Ministry which nearly ended in disaster and did end with Ron getting splinched, they did get a Horcrux of course but it made Ron all moody so he left. This made Harry and Hermione kind of sad.

80. I quite like this next bit. Hermione is all sad and miserable listening to the radio, so Harry gets up and makes her dance with him. On the one hand it’s really grown up and mature and on the other it’s kind of childish. Also I suspect that this one scene fuelled about a hundred Harry/Hermione fan fictions. When the music stops, the moment is over as quickly as it started.

81. Next up, both Harry and Hermione consider their gifts from Dumbledore. For Harry this means having a quiet little kiss with his snitch… which sounds a lot dirtier than it really is. This reveals the words ‘I open at the close’.

82. It’s a big day for discoveries. Hermione’s found a little symbol in her book from Dumbledore. Harry reminds us that Xenophilius was wearing that exact same symbol.

83. I love Harry’s little ‘yes’ as Hermione agrees that they have to go to Godric’s Hollow. Then she tells him not to let her give him a haircut again, hehe.

84. Unlike the book, they don’t polyjuice themselves to visit Godric’s Hollow. Also, it’s Christmas Eve (aww, my anniversary. When we watch films and it’s Christmas Eve in them, Mr Click and I always say Happy Anniversary, because we’re dorks like that).

85. Harry and Hermione pay a visit to the graveyard to check if Harry’s parents are buried there. I used to spend a lot of time playing in graveyards as a child so don’t find this nearly as creepy as some people I know do.

86. Hermione finds the same symbol as is in her book, while Harry finds his parents. It’s sweet the way she makes the little flower wreath for them. What is creepy about this scene is the creepy old lady who is standing in the background staring at them. Hermione agrees with me about the creep factor. Creepy old ladies who don’t say anything are way scarier than graveyards at night time, just saying.

87. And look, it’s the ruin of Harry’s old home, which earns us another flashback, this time to Harry’s parents being killed.

88. There’s a little clue as they stand outside with Bathilda. A buzzing noise. Told you the old lady was creepy. Harry’s not at all creeped out by her, so leaves Hermione downstairs and follows Bathilda.

89. Hermione finds a copy of The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore by Rita Skeeter, while Bathilda is upstairs finding the locket and speaking in Parseltongue. We don’t actually get to hear what she’s saying to Harry and a moment later Hermione has found a room full of flies and Bathilda’s turned into a giant snake. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

90. It’s really jarring the way that Harry and Nagini sort of crash through a wall into a bright blue baby’s bedroom, after all the darkness inside Bathilda’s house. I also hate the way it all goes still and quiet for a second before the snake bursts out again. Things bursting out of places in films is guaranteed to make me jump!

91. And now we’re in a snowy forest. The Forest of Dean to be exact.

92. This leads Hermione into contemplating how the forest looks exactly the same as it did when she came with her parents, but actually everything is different now. It’s all very deep.

93. She explains who the boy in the picture is, Gellert Grindelwald, and oh, by the way, Harry’s wand is broken in two. Harry takes it very well. If it was me and my wand was broken I’d probably be curled in a crying ball on the floor.

94. It’s dark again now and Harry’s still outside. Luckily for me there’s a doe Patronus in the distance casting a little bit of light on the scene. Doing the logical thing, when the entire Wizarding World including the forces of evil are looking for you, Harry follows it. Not only does he follow it. He wanders out onto a frozen lake.

95. He does at this point spy the sword beneath the water, but then, proving that really he needs to keep Hermione around at all times to be the logical thinking, he takes his clothes off and hops into the freezing cold water.

96. This plan backfires because the locket decides that this would be the perfect time to drown him. I think this just goes to show how hopeless Voldemort is. He can’t kill him, but a necklace almost succeeds. In fact, it probably would’ve if Ron hadn’t shown up just at that moment.

97. I know that Ron’s shown up because I can hear his voice, but as all this is taking place outside in the dark I’m just guessing at what’s happening on the screen.

98. Harry thinks that seeing as Ron just saved his life a fair reward is to let him kill the Horcrux. Ron does not deal with this very well. Maybe it’s the spidery shapes on the floor, or the voice telling him that his mother doesn’t really love him, or maybe it’s the fact that a fake Harry and Hermione pops up out of the locket, tell Ron how much they hate him and start having a naked make out session. Actually this last one seems to do the trick. I suspect that Ron was aiming for fake Harry, but along the way he hits the Horcrux and kills it. Well done Ron.

99. Harry wakes up Hermione to show her who’s come back. Hermione responds much as I would and starts beating Ron up; first hitting him, then throwing leaves at him, then grabbing his bag and hitting him with that. She’s obviously a little bit annoyed at not really knowing what’s going on, how the horcrux got destroyed and why Ron’s got the sword.

100. Then Ron gets all gooey, telling Hermione about how he heard her voice coming from the deluminator and the light that came out of it led it back to her. Aww. Harry looks quite touched. Hermione’s trying not to.

101. I love Harry and Ron having grown up talks together. Then Ron pulls out a convenient wand for Harry. Hehe I love ‘Engorgio. Reducio!’ with the little flame in the jar.

And that's where we'll leave things for now, since everyone is happy and the very last bit of this film gets very, very dark.

In the final installment we'll see the trio pay a visit to Xenophilius Lovegood, learn just what the hell the Deathly Hallows actually are, and have a rendezvous with some Death Eaters. Good times.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Slippery Slope

I love that we've reached the tenth book in The Series of Unfortunate Events now. We're sailing through the series and aside from a few little hiccoughs where I've ended up behind, we're making good time. I'm enjoying rereading them and I think I'm looking at them a little closer as I'm writing these posts. That's got to be a good thing, since I quite often speed-read these books and so I've obviously missed things before.

I don't remember much about this book, other than the fact that it takes place in cold and snowy mountains and that Carmelita Spats makes a reappearance in it. I think I have a fairly valid excuse for not remembering these ones so well as the earlier ones. I used to reread each book when a new one was coming out, so I've read the first ones many more times than the later ones.

That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

The cover of this book shows Violet, sporting a stylish poncho and climbing up a steep mountainside. I think that's a candlestick in her hand. I'm guessing this is one of Violet's super duper inventions. Beneath Violet is someone's hand, I'm going to guess that's Klaus. It looks pretty wild and windy up there... a little like the weather we've had in Scotland over the last few weeks.

This book's spine is a nice light blue colour with a reddish coloured border. At first glance I thought they were Violet's bows but looking at them closer I think that they might be bugs or flies. I think there are some sort of vicious insects in one of these books so this might be it.

Other than that I know nothing about this book. I just hope that Violet, Klaus and Sunny are reunited in this one because they've come to rely on their little sister to act as the series has gone on. Without Sunny around Violet and Klaus could very easily become utterly paralysed in inaction!

Film Review: Paddington

On Monday I mentioned that after we'd visited Caerphilly Castle and my Nan's we took a trip to the cinema to see Paddington. I'd not heard much about the film, apart from my Aunt telling me that she'd been to see it and had enjoyed it, so I didn't really know what to expect.

I will admit, the fact that one of the adverts in the run up to the film starting was for Peppa Pig did have me wondering if perhaps we were making a mistake. I was slightly reassured by the fact that despite there being several groups of people at the showing, only one or two of them had actually brought children with them. I needn't have worried. It was a really lovely film.

Paddington is the film about everyone's favourite marmalade sandwich scoffing bear. In the distant past his aunt and uncle met a British explorer who, after a disaster destroys their home, Paddington's aunt decides to send him to find. Paddington arrives in London and soon makes the acquaintance of the Brown family who (temporarily) take him in, but find that they care about him a lot more than they realised when an evil taxidermist is out to get him.

It's such a sweet little film with just as much in it for the adults as for the children. If you're familiar with the Paddington stories then you kind of know that nothing truly bad will happen to the lovable little bear, but that doesn't mean that you're not on the edge of your seat at many moments throughout the film.

Although the poster up the top says Colin Firth is the voice of Paddington, he was actually replaced at the eleventh hour by Ben Wishaw. At a couple of points during the film I found myself trying to imagine Paddington voiced by Firth and I just couldn't do it. Wishaw definitely fitted the cute little bear who has learned English through old records.

I liked the way that throughout the film there were little bit that were mentioned in the beginning and came back into play at crucial moments; Mrs Brown's work illustrating a book, Judy's ability to learn languages (including Bear) and Jonathan's skills in science and construction. At the time they seemed like throwaway comments but then they popped up again and you couldn't help but think 'oh, I see what they've done there'.

I also loved the Brown's house. I want to live there. It's just beautiful. I especially liked the tree on the wall and the way that it changed at a couple of important points in the film. Besides, the Doctor lives right next door.

Peter Capaldi basically plays his character, Mr Curry, as a crazy/grump/Doctor-like sort of person. I do love the way he falls in love with Nicole Kidman's Millicent. The highlight has to be when he brings her dying flowers that he found tied to a lamppost since no one else seemed to want them!

I think that it's one of those films that will stand up to repeat viewing. I definitely want to see it again because I bet that there are bits that I missed this time around. Also, Paddington is seriously cute and I wouldn't really mind if a little teddy bear showed up on my doorstep with a tag saying 'Please look after this bear'. I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Definitely one that I'm hoping to add to my film collection in the future!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Carnivorous Carnival, Chapter 13

At the end of the last chapter we were told that this final chapter was going to be really short. Snicket wasn’t kidding. Sometimes I do wonder if chapters are written purely to complete a quota of thirteen for each book and I normally reason it away that it works that way, but sometimes the divisions are not very equal. And this is one of those times.

Chapter Thirteen clocks in at the grand total of four pages so this'll be a short one today.

What Happens?

Thoughts as I read:

The picture for this chapter is of the tent which we first saw earlier in the book. You can just make out the V.F.D. insignia now that you know what it looks like, except that it's hard to see it all clearly as the tent is being consumed by flames. Looks like Klaus has done a good job there.

Also, is it just me or does the way the flames are going look a little bit like Count Olaf's hair? Maybe I'm reading too much into these pictures...

The final chapter has Klaus and Violet looking out the window at the front of the caravan where they can see Hugo, Colette and Kevin forming a human chain as Kevin uses a big knife to saw through the knot Violet tied. Despite the Devil's Tongue being a relatively strong knot, it wasn't designed to withstand a knife blow, and so it comes undone.

And so we leave the Baudelaires; Sunny whizzing ahead up the road in the clutches of Count Olaf and his crew, while Klaus and Violet start rolling backwards.

As far as endings go, this isn't a happy one.

The last picture of the book shows the caravan rushing down the slope, one wheel precariously over the edge of the road, while small rocks and things tumble out. One of these things is a book with 'Snowscout Handbook' printed on the front cover, which is our clue to the next book.

And then we get a badly typewritten message from Snicket to his editor. It's not printed well because wherever Snicket was writing from was so cold his typewriter ink kept freezing. It tells us that the next book will be The Slippery Slope and that 'UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU' but we don't find out what because the next paragraph is blank.

We'll take a closer look at that tomorrow.

Wreck This Journal: The Front Cover

I’ve neglected my Wreck This Journal and Finish This Book since before Christmas. In the run up to Christmas I seemed to be spending my time doing things like cross-stitch, making paper chains and doing Christmas doodles, so my other ‘interactive books’ were sort of set to one side and not really opened.

So I’m trying to get back on track with them, especially as I’ve also now got my The You & Me Book and my Q & A a Day book that I’m working on. And my journal. And my book journal. I’m beginning to suspect that I might have a bit of an obsession here.

But this is my attempt to start sharing my progress again, so we should go back to the beginning.

I knew when I got this book that it was unlikely that it was going to stay looking smooth and nice for very long. But I was kind of hesitant to actually get started. When a friend let me have some stickers, I decided to use those to spice up the cover a little bit, purely to pretty it up and make it a little bit easier to destroy further down the line.

And after being carried around in my bag daily for the last few months it’s starting to show it. The corners and edges are getting a little bit worn and creased now which somehow makes it a little easier to think about wrecking it more. If it’s already looking a bit ruined, it’ll make it easier to help it along on its way.

I quite like that you can see along the bottom edge how it's getting worn and that there are some dings to the spine. Normally I'd freak out a little about a book, or even a nice notebook, getting marks on it like this. I think I'm doing a pretty good job of wrecking this one even without following the wrecking instructions for a few weeks!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Carnivorous Carnival, Chapter 12

Once again we’re one chapter away from the end of a Series of Unfortunate Events book. Welcome to Chapter Twelve. It's a long one, so why not get yourself a drink before we get started.

Ready? Good, here we go!

What Happens?

The Baudelaires head to Madame Lulu’s tent to see if they can find anything that will help get them away from the carnival. Unfortunately, after they’ve found a map and some food, Olaf and Esme show up to tell the children to torch the tent and then take ‘Chabo’ away with them. The children have no join but to join Olaf’s troupe and take their place, as directed, in the caravan connected to Olaf’s car. It’s only when they’re actually in the caravan and starting to move that Olaf reveals to them that he knows exactly who they are.

Thoughts as I read:

Throughout this book we’ve had little hints about how Snicket has returned to the site of the carnival everything has been destroyed by a fire. I suspect that this is going to be the chapter when this happens. My clue comes in the form of the blazing torch which is the picture for the chapter opening. It’s held by someone with a frilly sleeve so I’m going to guess that Esme will be the one to blame for this little bit of destruction.

We catch up with the Baudelaires outside Madame Lulu’s tent. Everyone else is crowded round the tent watching the violent and sloppy deaths of Lulu and the bald headed man so for now they’re relatively safe, that is provided that no one looks round and realises that they’re over there.

Violet has her priorities straight, she’s wondering where the fan belt has gotten to. Klaus is understandably annoyed at his sister. Despite her determination to feed the older Baudelaires to a bunch of hungry lions, Klaus is clearly more affected by Lulu/Olivia’s death than her. But Violet is really just trying to focus on anything rather than what has just happened and worrying that their chosen course of action might not have been the right one, considering that it’s led to the death of two people.

Klaus tries to talk Violet round, telling her that she couldn’t have finished the invention, for obvious reasons, and that it’s not her fault that Lulu died. Sunny adds ‘And bald’ as she doesn’t want to take responsibility for his death either. But it’s dawning on Violet that they helped to rile up the crowd, who were already pretty bloodthirsty to start with, into an even more bloodthirsty fever. This is very true. Klaus does make an equally valid point; Olaf started it.

None of this is making Violet any happier, they did after all make a promise to take Lulu/Olivia with them when they left. This will be somewhat tricky to do now. They’ve been trying but Violet is not satisfied that this is good enough. I think it’s all getting to be a bit too much for her. She’s suffering from a massive amount of guilt right now and I’m not sure that anything Klaus does or says is going to make her feel any better. There are so many things that they still don’t know and still haven’t figured out and we only have four more books to get to the bottom of it all! I can understand why she is worrying.

Klaus is determined that they shouldn’t give up. He is a researcher after all, that means that there’s one good way to get to the bottom of things. And what was there in the tent that might be able to help them? Sunny says ‘Ghede!’ meaning ‘I almost forgot about the archival library!’ It’s okay Sunny, I forgot about it too.

Madame Lulu was obviously planning to leave with the children since she had packed up a lot of her belongings in the tent. I’m hoping that the guilt of the children isn’t going to stop them from making off with some of the things that she’s prepared because some of those things like the map and the food will probably come in handy. Klaus sets to studying the map straight away.

I love all the place names in this series and there are a few of them in on the map. So we get Plath Pass, Richter Range, Silent Springs, Paucity Peak, the Valley of Four Drafts and Stricken Stream. Do you see which one we might end up aiming for? The children spot it straight away, with even Sunny shrieking ‘V.F.D.!’ There’s no markings there but Madame Lulu has spilled coffee there which seems to some sort of unofficial map marker. It probably has a name like the ‘veiled facial disguises’ which abbreviates to V.F.D.

The children are hesitant. They’ve come up against several other instances of V.F.D. all of which have been red herrings, what’s to say that this one isn’t as well? Besides, the Quagmire notebooks led them to believe that the first word was ‘volunteer’. Sunny says ‘Winnow?’ meaning ‘But where else could the headquarters be? There’s no other marking on the map.’ Violet does point out the fact that is is supposed to be a secret organisation so they’re highly unlikely to advertise where their headquarters are.

How will they ever find this out for certain? Well, the only way to find out is to go there. This has its own problems as they don’t currently have any transport to get to the Mortmain Mountains. Violet’s starting to get over the shock of what has happened though, she’s starting to think of something else that she might be able to invent. Violet and Klaus decide they need to separate so that one can start inventing and the other can start researching. ‘Ingredi’ says Sunny, meaning ‘Meanwhile, I’ll look through all this food and make sure we have everything we need to prepare meals.’ Which I’m pleased about, because they’re going to need to eat while they’re travelling.

It’s at this moment that Esme and Olaf show up; the former carrying a bouquet of ivy and the latter carrying a flaming torch. And they’ve found the children. They still don’t seem to be aware of who the children are which is probably a good thing for the Baudelaires. The evil duo have generously decided to allow everyone to join their crew, even though they didn’t entirely uphold their side of the bargain, they’re nice like that. They go on to reveal that their latest plan is to burn down the carnival, in fact, they’ve already started, so the children don’t have much of a choice!

The children don’t have much choice but to go along with them. And then Olaf spots the map and realises exactly what the coffee stain is there for. He learn this particular code as a small boy. Ooh, another little clue about Olaf’s past. I wonder if we’ll ever find out exactly what the deal is with him. Maybe, but now is not that time.

Instead Olaf wants to know if there is anything else of use in the tent. He’s quickly told there isn’t, as everyone holds their breath waiting to see if Olaf realises there is a massive pile of useful notes under the table. Luckily he just spots the boxes of food and then takes Chabo, aka Sunny, out with him after giving Klaus the instruction to torch the tent.

Once again, the children have no choice but to do as Olaf has told them, sparking another moral dilemma for Violet. The one thing that is keeping them going is the fact that joining Olaf’s troupe will give them the transport they need to actually get into the Mortmain Mountains. Whenever Violet suggests an alternative, Klaus quickly shoots it down. They have no alternatives.

Outside the tent the carnival is in chaos. None of the people who remain are very impressed with this turn of events. They prefer the violence when it’s happening to someone else, when they’re the ones in danger they’re a lot less impressed. It appears that Olaf has told The Daily Punctilio reporter that once again this is all down to the Baudelaires, so they’re going to cop the blame for something else that he’s responsible for.

Now the large black car Olaf drives is hitched up to a caravan which the Baudelaires are told they will be riding in, or rather the older Baudelaires will be riding in. Sunny is sitting on Esme’s lap. Poor Sunny. I think I would much rather be in a caravan than with Olaf and his gang. At least this should give them the freedom to discuss what they will do next without worrying about being overheard.

We get to see the Devil’s Tongue knot again as well as the walkie talkies that he used way back in The Marvellous Marriage. Violet is hating all of this. She feels like they’re using their skills for bad rather than for good but Klaus is determined to focus on the bigger picture and tells Violet this as they feel the caravan starting to move.

And then we get a shock. Olaf’s voice comes through the walkie talkie as he reveals some terrifying news. He’s perfectly aware that Beverly, Elliot and Chabo are in fact the three Baudelaires, which considering this information came from Madame Lulu hopefully makes Violet feel slightly less guilty about playing a part in the woman’s death. But they don’t have time to dwell on this because Olaf has Sunny and Sunny doesn’t seem very happy with this development.

Since Olaf has Sunny he doesn’t need Violet and Klaus any more, so there’s no need to keep pulling the caravan with the other Baudelaires in it.

But we don’t get to see this next bit because these books have to have thirteen chapters and we’ve had a warning that the next chapter is short so the action has to stop here to keep us turning the pages.

Tune in on Thursday to find out just what will happen to the Baudelaires next!

Book 34 of 2014: She Who Remembers by Linda Lay Shuler

When my Grampy died I took possession of a number of his old books, namely the Jean M. Auel Clan of the Cavebear series which I'd read the first one or two of some time before. Along with those was She Who Remembers which had a quote from Auel across the front cover. I was informed that it was reasonably similar, so I took it, stuck it on my bookcase and only got around to reading it at the tail end of August last year.

Like Auel's series of books, this is a heavily researched book set in America before it was officially 'discovered' following the fortunes of a young woman named Kwani, from the Anasazi tribe. She is the offspring of an Anasazi woman and a Viking, resulting in her having striking blue eyes and causing her tribe to fear that she is a witch. Driven away she meets Kokopelli and is accepted into a tribe to become She Who Remembers.

Right from the very beginning I was struck by how close this was in style to the Earth's Children series of books. The author obviously really knows her stuff about the various tribes and people that Kwani comes into contact with and I loved reading the descriptions of the places, rituals and day-to-day things that the people do.

The main difference between this and Earth's Children is that Linda Lay Shuler is a hell of a lot more concise with her descriptions. I couldn't help but think, while reading the action packed events of the first few chapters (as Kwani is driven away from home, meets Ute, realises she has to leave him, etc.) that these chapters probably would have been whole books if they were written by Jean Auel. The conciseness is definitely a good thing in this case!

It's a fairly hefty book. My copy is a large hardback, weighing in at four hundred pages, so it's not exactly portable. All the same I managed to finish it in under a week because I just did not want to put it down. It was one of those 'just one more chapter' books!

I think one of the things that helped in that respect was the fact that while the book revolves around Kwani's experiences, I didn't always like her behaviour. I realise that a lot of that was due to differences in culture, but it made me keep on reading to find out how the other characters would react to what she was saying and doing.

Kwani does also get through men quite a bit, there's Wopio, Ute, Kokopelli, Okalake and Tolonqua. But again, it's a different culture with different expectations of women and so I enjoyed it, especially as there were certain cultural taboos that were being broken virtually every other chapter. Kwani did make for a very compelling character.

I don't have the other books in the series, but they are available for the Kindle so I'm thinking that I might have to pick them all up in ebook format at some point (to help preserve my groaning bookshelves). The book has a fairly open ending and I'd like to know what will come next in Kwani's story.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Carnivorous Carnival, Chapter 11

We’re coming to the close of the ninth book in The Series of Unfortunate Events, The Carnivorous Carnival. We’ve got three chapters left to go this week (and take it from me, one of those chapters is really, really short compared to some of the others in this book).

So let’s get on with Chapter 11.

What Happens?

Violet and Klaus step onto the plank, still trying to work out how to get out of this situation. They suggest that Olaf be the one to push them into the pit, when he declines Madame Lulu is suggested as an alternative. After a lot of stalling the crowd gets more and more bloodthirsty until, in the general pushing and shoving, two people fall into the lion pit.

Thoughts as I read:

We’ve got another picture of the crowd to start the chapter off again. This time they don’t look very happy. The man at the front has a club and is having his tie pulled, someone behind him seems to be punching him, so I guess that explains his look of displeasure. There’s someone off to the right who looks like Olaf and someone with a bushy beard and moustache which looks like a disguise. Meanwhile above their heads there are all sorts of things flying around; a drinks cup, popcorn, a toupee and someone’s purse. In short, it appears that chaos will soon descend.

There is another writer I know, who, like myself, is thought by a great deal of people to be dead. His name is William Shakespeare, and his has written four kinds of plays: comedies, romances, histories, and tragedies.

Anyone care to guess which one Snicket knows the most about?

If you said tragedies then you’d be right. Snicket explains that the latter is what the Baudelaire’s story is all about and then goes on to give us a quick rundown of King Lear which basically allows him to quote from Shakespeare about how people can hurt one another. This is especially apt considering that everyone is currently waiting for Violet and Klaus to be eaten by lions.

Despite their certain doom, Klaus actually starts to thank Olaf for selecting them to go into the lion pit. This surprises Olaf somewhat, I’m surprised too, since if I’d just been told I was expected to jump into a lion pit I’d kick the person in the nuts and make a run for it. Probably just as well I’m not one of the Baudelaires. All the same it’s easy to wonder if the Baudelaires aren’t suffering a little from the stress of the situation because suddenly Violet starts suggesting that perhaps the crowd would like to see ‘someone push a freak into the pit’. The crowd, unsurprisingly, agrees to this.

It doesn’t look like the children have any other option but to step a little closer towards the pit full of hungry lions. If you remember they’re trying to employ the dual tactics of stalling and mob psychology though I’m not entirely sure how this is supposed to work. According to Snicket, their plan is working though.

The next minute Klaus is saying that Chabo thinks Olaf should be the one to push them into the pit. This is all just getting weirder and weirder but everyone agrees that this would be good. Despite being deeply honoured, Olaf declines this suggestion as he’s allergic to cats and can’t get too close to the lions. It’s soon pointed out to him that he didn’t have any problems with his allergies when he was whipping the lions the other day.

Soon he’s coming up with other excuses (it’s not his job since he’s an actor) so Madame Lulu is suggested as an alternative by Esme. Lulu is quick to point out that her job is fortune telling, not murdering freaks. But everyone decides that they would be perfectly happy to witness Lulu doing the pushing. I still have no idea where this is going. And I realise I’ve read this book several times before, but I honestly can’t think what will happen next, though I have a funny feeling that I know what is going to happen to Lulu/Olivia.

So Lulu’s taken her place on the plank ready to push Violet and Klaus in, while the crowd hopes for a good show and the possibility of Esme falling in as well. By this point the elder Baudelaires are teetering on the edge of the plank and I discover that the reason for the stalling and mob psychology was to get the crowd all worked up to give them an opportunity to slip away. Unfortunately now that they’re standing on the edge of a plank over a pit of hungry lions there doesn’t seem to be much of an opportunity for an escape.

By now everyone is getting fed up with the delay and despite Klaus’s assertions that he’s trying to increase the suspense, the crowd, Olaf and the henchpeople just want to get on with the show. Although Madame Lulu seemed a bit apprehensive about pushing the children into the pit, faced with the prospect of being whipped, she’s probably pretty much decided that she’s going to have to do it. At that moment though the hook-handed man steps forward to take her place, since he’s the only one brave enough. This sets Hugo off because obviously he, Colette and Kevin are also brave enough.

They want to demonstrate to Olaf how brave they are so that they can become his henchpeople as well. This latest development is of little interest to the crowd. They don’t want to hear people professing how useful they can be to Count Olaf, instead they want to see people being eaten by lions, preferably as sloppily and violently as possible. Violet, as Beverly, suggests that she get off the plank so they can all discuss things calmly, which just sets everyone off complaining about this instead.

So Madame Lulu decides that the moment has come. To be fair, she does apologise to Violet and Klaus as she snatches the fan belt away from Violet and prepares to push them in. Sunny is shocked by this development and yells ‘Trenceth!’ meaning ‘ You ought to be ashamed of yourself!’ though I can’t say I’m all that surprised. Madame Lulu has always seemed like a bit of a flaky character so I was kind of expecting something like this all along. Oh, and of course I have read this book before (though I’ve forgotten most of it).

No sooner has Lulu said that she’s going to do it, so do half a dozen other people, setting off a half page chorus of people yelling ‘I’ll do it!’ Olaf is unimpressed by this so starts waving his whip around and promising a ‘special reward’ for whoever actually gets on with doing the deed. This sets off a disastrous domino effect. Everyone wants the special reward so they all start pushing and shoving to get to push and/or shove Violet and Klaus. As you can imagine, this does not end well.

On the one hand, it’s not all bad. The Baudelaires are able to get away from the edge of the lion pit. Unfortunately not everyone is that lucky. The children hear the noise of the lions and the crowd cheering, so we learn that it is Madame Lulu who has fallen into the pit. This doesn’t surprise me because it’s been one of the only bits of the whole book I’ve been able to remember! What I didn’t remember was that with Lulu goes the bald man and with them both goes the fan belt.

We’re used to unhappy endings in these books but this is definitely an unhappy ending for Olivia (who was apparently Snicket’s former associate) and the bald headed man (even if he was a bad guy and part of Olaf’s troupe).

It’s not looking so happy for the Baudelaires either.

Trip to Caerphilly Castle

Once we'd recovered from our journey to Wales and gotten our second Christmas out of the way, we decided that it was time to go exploring. My one request for the week had been to visit St. Fagans, everything else I left up to my Mum and her husband to select. They often go out to visit castles and gardens so they know all the good places to go.

And so on the Wednesday we took a trip to Caerphilly Castle. Our trip coincided perfectly with a school party that was also making its way around the ruins, and provided us with a little entertainment as we watching and listened to them,

Caerphilly Castle has a link to the Isle of Bute where we live as the 4th Marquis of Bute was responsible for a lot of the reconstruction work on the place. On one of the interactive displays there was a picture of the big stately home that is basically in my front garden. I may have squeed a little bit at that.

That picture up there on the left is the entrance to the Castle, which was a little bit slippy with slush from the smattering of snow we'd had in the night. It was pretty much dry all day, though very chilly. I'm used to Rothesay Castle which is teeny tiny by comparison. Caerphilly is surrounded by concentric moats and has several towers which you can climb up to check out for invading armies (or look at the nice snowy views).

There was a lot of Up at Caerphilly Castle. Up is not something I'm always good at, especially when it involves winding castle staircases. We did pretty well going up on the first one, but going down became kind of difficult, especially as my bag kept catching on the railings so I'd take a step and then find I couldn't go any further.

When we came to going up the four flights of stairs to the very top of the castle I suggested that Mr Click might like to hang around down at the bottom. I knew that it was way too much Up for him. It was nearly too much for me. But I did it, even if I couldn't bring myself to go too close to the edge of the top.

I also treated myself to one of the only souvenirs I bought on the trip. After solemnly telling myself that I wasn't going to come home with lots of cuddly toys, I bought myself a cute little red dragon from the gift shop (an absolute bargain since my Mum used her discount card for me). Technically he's a Beanie Baby called Legend, but he's been renamed Ffili, as in Caerffili Castle.

We'd packed a picnic lunch to take with us but as it was a bit chilly at Caerphilly we ended up taking our picnic lunch to my Nanny's house. I did come away from there with another souvenir of my trip away; a massive bag of books which I'm yet to get organised on my bookcase.

And then it was off to the cinema. Just another busy day in Wales!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Weekly Rundown: Return of the Click

You may have noticed that I’m back from Wales. I actually got home shortly before 6pm last Sunday but thanks to careful scheduling of posts and spending Monday getting caught up online I’ve managed to stay pretty much on top of my blogging. I’m terribly behind on actually reading the blogs that I follow though. That’s my task for the day; reading through the hundred or so blog posts from the blogs I follow, so if you see me commenting on a post from three weeks ago, you know why.

I won’t say too much more about my time in Wales here because I’m gradually writing posts about the things we got up to while we were away. I took squillions of photos as well which I’m slowly sorting through and organising. Suffice to say I think I’ve got my Wordless Wednesday posts sorted until this time next year! This week’s Wales posts are about the things we got up to on the Wednesday we were away, so expect to see some nice photos of Caerphilly Castle very soon.

In theory the travelling time should have been perfect for getting through my Reading Challenge reading, but it wasn’t really. After whizzing through Jane Austen’s Emma in four days, it took me a full week to read Pride and Prejudice and even then I finished it at about ten minutes to midnight on the Wednesday. I suspect that the delay in getting through it was partly because I’m already really familiar with the story, despite never having read it before, so there wasn’t the same element of surprise (like when Lydia and Wickham took off together). I just didn’t have that same sense of urgency to get through it and find out what would happen next because thanks to the BBC series, the more recent film, Bride and Prejudice, and even Bridget Jones’s Diary as well as a host of other stories that have taken inspiration from the book, I already knew.

I moved straight on to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for my Week 3 book (a book that’s been turned into a movie). This was a much quicker read for me (helped along by reading it on the journey from Wales to a family get together in High Wycombe). Considering it was a reread, I remembered surprisingly little of the story. It’s a beautiful book and I loved the way that it was written.

I’m yet to see the movie but I think it’s one I might pick up at some point soon because while I was reading I was picturing certain things playing out on screen in a specific way and I want to see how close I am. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle the way that Death narrates the story, particularly as it’s a very visual sort of story, considering all the description; if it’s done right it’ll make for a beautiful film.

The Book Thief was followed by another reread, The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, this one was a non-challenge read and at just under 500 pages, it was a bit of challenge to get it finished before Week 4 started on Thursday. Again, I stayed up rather late to finish it and now I’m reading Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hall. It’s a Kindle Early Release book, technically not published until the 1st of February, making it perfect for the book published this year.

When I’ve not been reading I’ve been catching up on laundry from being away and surviving the sprinkling of snow we’ve had this week. Oh and cuddling with Tara, Yoda and Wicket (not all at once) who I really missed while we were away. I’ve not really got much else planned for this week either (with the exception, hopefully, of having the snow, I could do without any more of that) except just getting back into the routine at home, and getting caught up on everyone’s blogs!

Oh and in case you're wondering about the photo above. I had a slight injury last night. For our Christmas in Wales my Nanny gave me two cross stitch kits. Instead of continuing with my knitted socks I decided to start organising one of the kits. As the threads came in one big clump and I needed to separate them into the right colours for the project I decided to make a little card which I could thread the colours onto and mark up which was which.

I carefully cut out a piece of card and then set about punching holes into the card. Did I use the hole punch from up in the spare bedroom? Of course not. I merrily sat in bed stabbing holes into a piece of card with a pair of scissors.

At one point I thought I might have missed and caught myself, but when there was no sign of anything on my finger, I kept going. Then I realised that my finger was sticky. As was the card. And my finger which had no sign of any injury was pouring with blood.

Mr Click chose that moment to ask why I was using the scissors instead of the aforementioned hole punch. He did very kindly also fetch me a plaster to patch myself up.

So kids, don't play with scissors!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, Part 3

Here we are at the half-way point of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. I can't believe we're almost at the end of this entire series. I've really enjoyed rewatching them. I certainly pay more attention to them while I'm writing these posts, I've noticed a whole load of little things that I've missed on past viewings.

Last week we saw the celebration and abrupt end finish of Bill and Fleur's wedding, the trio were nearly run down by a double-decker bus, and then figured out just how to get into the Ministry.

54. Harry and Hermione pause to take a look at the new statue showing Muggles being crushed beneath the might of the Ministry. Come on guys, you don’t have time to stand and admire the interior decorating, you don’t know when the polyjuice potion is going to wear off.

55. And now Ron’s worrying about his wife who’s blood status is on trial at the moment. So they’re getting separated, which really isn’t a good thing at all. Especially as Umbridge has just gone off with Hermione, leaving Harry to look for the locket by himself.

56. Umbridge has got Mad-Eye’s eye in her door. It’s just swivelling around all over the place.

57. I think the decoy detonators are quite cute. They certainly do the job. Soon Harry is in Umbridge’s office, which looks almost exactly like her office at Hogwarts, though with less pink and kittens.

58. The bit where Harry finds the files with crosses over the photos of people who have been killed is quite sad, helped along by the sad music.

59. Then it’s down to the trial where Umbridge has taken Hermione (in her disguise). And the woman who is on trial thinks that Ron is her husband. Even though I know what is going to happen next, I can’t help but feel sort of tense and on edge at this bit.

60. Harry looks like he’s about to go for Umbridge. He’s spotted the locket. Oh and the polyjuice potion is wearing off.

61. Luckily the lift gates stop the dementors for long enough for Harry to Expecto Patronum them. Unluckily Harry and Hermione are having to leave through the main entrance without being noticed. They might have done it too, if Mrs Cattermole hadn’t kissed Ron as he transformed back to himself.

62. And now people have noticed him. And the bad guys are not happy.

63. Harry and Hemione make it into the fireplace with Ron right behind, but they’re being chased and so there’s a little fight as they’re travelling. Suddenly we’re outside looking up at trees. Yay! It’s still daylight.

64. Hermione is remarkably calm considering Ron is sort of shaking around and his arm is all cut up. Actually, having sad that she sort of starts to lose it while she’s trying to tell Harry to get the essence of dittany. That stuff works fast. I could do with some of that in my medicine cabinet!

65. I like the way that as Hermione starts putting up the defensive spells you see a little ripple. I like the way that works later on in the film as well.

66. It doesn’t take long to establish that nothing will actually destroy the locket. I have to add that I really like Hermione’s top in this scene. Also Ron does not look well at all. I don’t particularly like angry, ill Ron. Though he does make a good point when he mentions that Ron should’ve told Harry how to get rid of the Horcruxes.

67. And there’s another little trip into Voldemort’s mind. He’s visiting Gregorovich who is telling him about something that was stolen from him. This is evidently not what Voldemort wants to hear because he Avada Kedavras him right afterwards.

68. Hermione decides that this is the right time to berate Harry for not shutting out these thoughts, while Harry repeats everything with just saw in the flashsideways, just in case we weren’t paying attention while that was on the screen (or haven’t read the books).

69. Harry’s getting wound up about Ron listening to the radio too. Harry’s getting all hormonal and tetchy with Hermione now. Apparently she’s not doing enough. There’s this whining noise which stops when Hermione convinces Harry to take the necklace off, apparently that’s where all the bad mood was coming from, and now it’s her turn to have it.

70. The radio informs us that Snape is the new Hogwarts Headmaster, I’m not sure I’ve noticed that before. Harry’s studying the Marauder’s Map. I like to see it pop up in this film.

71. This next bit is one of my favourites. Even if it does take place outdoors which means I can’t see much of it. Some people walk almost right paste Hermione and we get to see just how good her defences are. On one side we can see her and the man outside, then the camera moves round, ripples slightly, and we see him looking at blank space where Hermione should be. I don’t think they could’ve done that better if they tried.

72. Hermione is wearing perfume which Harry tells her not to do again. Ron walks out of the tent just to hear Harry say ‘don’t wear any’. Then they have to walk because Ron can’t apparate. He keeps walking apart from the others, giving them evil looks because they’re obviously against him or something. He’s also miffed that Harry doesn’t actually know what he’s doing.

73. This bit seems to go on forever in the book, so I’m glad it’s kept short in the film.

74. Hermione is cutting Harry’s hair when she suddenly gets an idea and does what she always does when she gets an idea; consults a book. She’s figured out that the sword of Gryffindor has sucked up Basilik venom, thereby meaning it will destroy a horcrux.

75. I love Hermione’s response to Harry calling her brilliant: ‘Actually I’m highly logic which allows me to look past extraneous detail and perceive clear that which others overlook.’ Hehe.

76. And Ron’s got the locket so he’s not happy to hear other people being happy. So he turns out the light with his deluminator. He’s peeved that now they’ve got to go look for something else.

77. Hermione’s figured out that the locket is making Ron like this. And then there’s lots of shouting which becomes almost a full blown fight, before Harry tells Ron to go. Ron’s expecting Hermione to come with him so when Hermione doesn’t he ‘realises’ what’s going on. Harry’s comment about not wearing anything seems to have bitten them in the backside now.

78. And then there were two.

79. And those two head to Yorkshire.

Come back next week to see Harry and Hermione pay a visit to Godric's Hollow, an old woman turn into a snake, and the Return of the Weasley.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Carnivorous Carnival, Chapter 10

You may have noticed that I posted about my trip to Wales this morning, instead of my traditional double Chapter-by-Chapter post. That's because I've got a lot to say about my trip to Wales, but also because if I just do a single Friday post this week, I'll have my Chapter-by-Chapter posts all rejigged back to the way they should be.

Then I just need to not fall behind again and everything will be on track to finish before the end of April... we'll see how that goes.

What Happens?

The crowd begins to assemble at the lion pit ready to find out who will be thrown to the lions. Madame Lulu escorts the children to the pit, refusing to answer their questions about whether or not she remembers their deal. Violet discovers that Lulu has got the piece of rubber to make a fan belt. Olaf slowly draws out the announcement of the name on the piece of paper and when it is eventually revealed, it's not really that huge a shock.

Thoughts as I read:
This chapter is another of those ones where the picture interacts with the text. In this case we've got the lions' paws swiping away the C and the H from the words Chapter Ten. The paw at the bottom of the page has actually torn four large scratches into the page as well. This shows us just how dangerous and ferocious these lions are. And they have absolutely no regard for the sanctity of books!

The assembled crowd are heading for the lion pit. In fact, there's already a crowd there. News of the violence and sloppy eating have spread far and wide; it looks like it's popular. Count Olaf announces that he should lead the way, prompting The Daily Punctilio reporter to plan the newspaper headlines. Someone does question whether this is the same Count Olaf who was murdered by the Baudelaires, but someone corrects them, that was Count Omar of course.

This then leads to the suggestion that they thrown the Baudelaires into the pit when they are found. I hope that the Baudelaires manage to keep their heads down during this chapter!

Lulu takes responsibility for escorting the 'freaks' to the lion pit, ready to see who will be picked to hang out with the lions. Meanwhile the reporter is still planning her headline:

"Oh, yes," said the reporter. "I can see the headline now: 'EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH COUNT OLAF, WHO IS NOT COUNT OMAR, WHO IS DEAD.' Wait until the readers of The Daily Punctilio see that!"

It's not the most snappy of headlines, really.

Lulu holds the Baudelaire's hands as they walk towards the pit and we're giving a little clue of what is to come, though I can't work out what it might mean. One of Lulu's hands has a streak of dirt on it, the other is tightly closed. She's obviously holding something and has been... I don't know, digging something up perhaps?

The children try to speak to Lulu/Olivia about their plans for her device to make their escape, but Lulu/Olivia won't speak to them. Not even when Sunny says 'Fan belt'. Hopefully Lulu's got a plan all of her own.

When Klaus asks Violet to speak to Lulu/Olivia, Violet notices that the older woman is holding something made of rubber in her hand. That would mean that Lulu/Olivia is sticking to her side of the bargain and has got the fan belt for their escape vehicle. This is somewhat reassuring for the children, though I suspect that things can only go downhill between here and the end of the book because we all know that there are no such things as happy endings in these stories.

We get a little reminder about the feeling of deja vu here because what the children have come to witness is not entirely unlike the sensation experienced at Heimlich Hospital. There's a big crowd wanting to see something horrible. I think the Baudelaires are the most normal people in these books, including Sunny the biting baby!

Olaf kicks off proceedings by warming up the crowd and allowing them to speculate about who will be eaten by lions. Hugo is looking forward to getting out of his freakish clothes and joining Olaf's troupe, when Klaus points out that he could be chosen, Hugo's response is simple; he'll just thrown Madame Lulu to the lions instead. Easy.

"Observe Hugo's funny back. Think about how silly it is that Colette can bend herself into all sorts of strange positions. Giggle at the absurdity of Kevin's ambidextrous arms and legs. Snicker at Beverly and Elliot, the two-headed freak. And laugh so hard you can scarcely breathe at Chabo the Wolf Baby."

The crowd does as they are instructed by Olaf and start calling out the ones they want to see eaten. Some of the people they call out aren't even 'freaks', one is the hook-handed man and another is spotty member of the crowd. Someone even suggests throwing Count Olaf in, that's the one I'd vote for I think.

The method for choosing the victim is fairly simple. It's just a question of names out of a hat... well, a box. Olaf's the lucky one doing the selecting and, after a brief moment of someone asking whether this is in fact legal, he gets down to business. Very S-L-O-W-L-Y.

We get a blow by blow account as he undoes each fold in the paper. This helps to heighten the suspense of the crowd and causes me to wonder whether we'll find out the lucky victim before the end of the chapter.

The delay also allows the Baudelaires to consider their escape plan. The crowd is so big that the children might not be able to get to the rollercoaster and Klaus can't remember anything that might be useful to stop the lions from eating a person. Violet's only got the fan belt and although she's good, she's not that good at inventing things. It's Sunny who helps, once again, as she says 'Deja vu!' meaning 'We must be able to think of something that can help us. We've escaped from bloodthirsty crowds before.' This is very true, in fact it's becoming something of a speciality for them.

The older Baudelaire's briefly reminisce about stalling the crowd in the hospital and using mob psychology against the villagers but can't work out how this will help them now. Sunny suggests 'Both' but Olaf is still unfolding the paper and it's getting near to the moment for the big reveal now.

Snicket tells us that we probably don't need to be told just whose name will be on that piece of paper. It takes another page of building up to the moment when we are told:

"Ladies and gentlemen," Count Olaf announced, "Beverly and Elliot, the two-headed freak, will be thrown to the lions today."
"Ladies and gentlemen," Violet Baudelaire announced, "we are thrilled to be chosen."


Cardiff & a Second Christmas

As I mentioned yesterday, Mr Click and I took a trip to Wales. After a long journey and a bit of a late night, I left Mr Click at home on the Monday for a trip to Cardiff with my Mum.

I was very, very restrained during this shopping trip. The only thing I bought for myself was a new top for our family get together at the end of our week in Wales. I also bought a gift for a Secret Santa for the same get together. I did however, ooh and ahh, over lots and lots of pretty stationery and nice new pens.

Mum and I must've walked miles around Cardiff! It's been a really, really long time since I was in Cardiff and I didn't really remember much about the place. I'm already looking forward to my next trip back there (next time I'll maybe treat myself to something there as well). I especially enjoyed the discovery of Hamley's, the Disney Store and the Lego shop just as we were wrapping up for the day (if only I had a spare £100 to spend on a Smaug Lego playset).

The next day was our second Christmas. We did the full works. The tree was put back together, cards came out, table decorations were constructed. It was lovely.

That evening the family descended (these are people who I have spoken to online or over the phone recently, but haven't seen for nearly twenty years) and we had a lovely Christmas dinner. There was a lot of laughter and talking, jokes, messing around and teasing. It was perfect.

And I'm not going to lie. I did love the presents. I'd had great fun coming up with gifts for my family in Wales (two of my favourites that I gave were a pair of secateurs made out of chocolate, but painted to look like the real thing, and a kit containing edible flowers to grow).

Between us Mr Click and I received a strawberry planter (ready for the strawberries I've been saying I'm going to grow for the last three years, with the promise of strawberries to follow), chocolates and drink, things for the kitchen and a lovely picture frame. I've also got Frozen on blu-ray and a pattern book for knitting lots of different teddies (really need to finish my socks so I can get on with some bears now).

Not even Tara was forgotten. She's got lots of biscuits and treats, courtesy of my Aunt and Uncle. She got her own little mini Christmas when we got home.

And believe it or not, that Christmas on the 13th of January wasn't even the last one! Some people do Christmas once, some might even do it twice. We did it three times this year!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Carnivorous Carnival, Chapter 9

Thankfully this chapter is relatively short so it didn't take too long to read and review. I've got lots of photos to organise from my trip to Wales, not to mention all the blog posts to write.

No rest for the wicked!

What Happens?

The children rise early and head to the rollercoaster to get to work on repairing the carts. Together they make good progress before heading towards the fortune telling tent to get the last piece they need to get it running. Just as they get there Olaf comes out and announces that he has had his fortune told and it was exactly what he wanted to hear.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter opens with a sketch of three lions. They're just lolling around and don't look particularly happy. In fact the one at the front looks pretty starved, you can see all his rib cage. He seems to have one eye open, so I'm guessing that we're going to see them up close in this chapter. They must just be waking up ready for a meal... any guesses what (or who) that is going to consist of?

Snicket's opening bit for this chapter is about how if you try to 'go to bed on something' then the chances are you won't actually be able to go to sleep at all, you'll end up lying awake thinking of nothing else.

Just last night, I was troubled by a decision involving an eyedropper, a greedy night watchman, and a tray of individual custards, and this morning I am so tired that I can scarcely type these worfs.

Hehe, nicely demonstrated Snicket.

Obviously the Baudelaires are planning not to be at all involved with Olaf or any of his murderous schemes, they're hoping to be riding into the sunset in a converted rollercoaster cart. We're told that Violet's been worrying about how she will adapt the mirror gadget into a fan belt for the car, Klaus has been worrying about finding the way to the V.F.D. headquarters, and Sunny is worrying about how they'll all eat while they're on the road. Plus there's all the other things they were already worrying about to continue worrying about. I'm surprised they haven't exploded with anxiety!

Hugo, Colette and Kevin are perfectly happy to join Olaf and the gang so they're sleeping perfectly well when the Baudelaires get up to set the plan (and hopefully the rollercoaster cart) in motion. We get a brief view of the lions down at the bottom of the pit. They need a visit from the RSPCA as they're covered in marks from where Olaf was whipping them, and they're half-starved. Even the children feel sorry for them.

They actually go on to speculate how alike them the lions are, wondering if they are orphans and if they have a surviving parent. I don't think that lions care about their children in quite the same way as humans do. 'Edasure' says Sunny, meaning 'Maybe someday we can rescue these lions.' I was just about to mention that they should really focus on rescuing themselves, when Violet does it for me. Thanks Vi.

At the rollercoaster they set to work getting the ivy off the carts. Sunny says 'Easy' and gets to work with her teeth. While they work they run through all the other risky plans they've had in the past. Thus far they've all served them quite well, even Sunny adds 'Whaque' meaning ' Or pretending to be surgeons' which was perhaps the riskiest of all. They're getting riskier and riskier and everything comes together in the end, so we should be fairly optimistic about this one really.

Even Violet is feeling optimistic, and it tends to take a lot to make her feel optimistic. She then establishes that the axles are fine and then gazes off into the distance where they can just make out the Mortmain Mountains. Turning her attention back to the carts she establishes that the pistons are rusted away but she can make a substitute with latches from the sides of the cart, but they're going to need something to join the two carts together.

Sunny comes to the rescue with 'Ivy?' and is set to work taking the leaves off, while Klaus and Violet get to work replacing the pistons. Violet's feeling a lot less optimistic as she wonders if Esme will throw someone else in the pit when they all escape. Klaus doesn't even have to think about it before he answers; of course she will.

And soon they're speculating why people actually want to work for Count Olaf, deciding that perhaps it's because they look weird, or can't get work elsewhere and Olaf doesn't laugh at them but instead treats them like one of his gang. Klaus is less philosophical and suggests that it's just because they like to commit crimes. I'd say that's more likely, certainly in the case of Esme.

When Sunny's asked how she's doing, her reply is 'Lesoint' which means 'I'm nearly done.' Just as well because the sun is rising and it won't be long before Olaf is off to ask Madame Lulu his next question. Obviously Lulu/Olivia isn't able to give the children what they want, which is to know if one of their parents is still alive, and if going to look for them is the right thing to do as they might be looking for their children someplace different, so will miss one another. Like that bit of An American Tail where Fivel and his family pass so close to one another but don't see them.

This has happened to the Baudelaires before and Klaus and Violet, because they obviously have time to spare at this point, stop to reminisce for a moment. Sunny says 'Esoobac?' meaning 'I don't remember' because she wasn't actually born at the time when they got separated at a train station and had to enlist the help of 'the local shoemaker, blacksmith, chimney sweep, and computer technician' to find their parents. This taught the children that they were to just stay put if they got separated.

But this isn't an option any more. If they stay put they're likely to be accused of being murderers again or grabbed by Count Olaf and bumped off or something. It's much safer by far to keep on moving!

Snicket goes for a mental wander and in his own special way, after about a page and a half, tells us that Caligari Carnival is no more; all that now remains is burnt and twisted and covered in ash. Interesting how that seems to happen to places the Baudelaires have been. When we rejoin the story Sunny is saying 'Worf' which echoes my sentiments exactly, meaning 'I don't think we should stay put. I think we should leave right now.'

But that's not an option just now, they need to finish their getaway vehicle, but they can't do that until they've got the bit of the fortune-telling machine they need to make a fan belt. The lions are starting to wake up now as well and Sunny says 'Aklec' meaning 'Let's move out' so they all head back in the direction of Madame Lulu's tent.

Already there's a crowd gathering, looking forward to seeing who will be eaten later on, after all violence and sloppy eating is the highlight of any social gathering.

There's a break in the text here in the form of a full page picture. It shows Count Olaf in the fortune teller's tent. Madame Lulu is in full fortune telling gear, complete with turban and hoopy earrings. She's staring into the crystal ball. It's a shame she's a fake otherwise she might see that there's something very bad coming up in her future.

The children walk straight into one of the audience members from the previous day, who takes this time to berate them for not looking like other people and the children are asked when the show will start. This is Olaf's cue. It's right now!

He's just heard his fortune and he's heard exactly what he wanted, so it's time to get the show underway.

Just what that fortune is, we'll have to wait to find out though, it's time to head to the lion pit.

Journey to Wales with Leerdammer Light

On the 11th Mr Click and I set off down south to visit my family in Wales. Now when you live on a small Scottish island, any journey off the island can be a bit of a trek, but a trip to Wales was obviously a slightly different kettle of fish.

With Yoda and Wicket shipped off to a colleague for a week of tormenting her cats, and Tara booked in for her longest stay at the kennels yet, we headed off for the first boat on a Sunday morning. Considering it was 8am, it was surprisingly busy.

I don't drive, so it was all down to Mr Click, and I wish I'd taken photos on the journey. We started off making good time, until we hit Dumfries and Galloway and discovered snow. For a while we'd been noticing cars going by on the opposite side of the motorway which had more than a sprinkling of snow on their roofs. Little did we know that less than twenty minutes later we would be travelling at 25 miles per hour with two lanes of the motorway submerged under snow!

It was a little hairy at points. Particularly when an ambulance overtook us and threw slush up onto our windscreen, temporarily blinding us. They almost ended up with a new customer after that!

Luckily it wasn't snowy all the way down, though it drizzled for much of the day. We'd planned for the journey accordingly, knowing the prices of food and refreshments on the motorway, we packed a picnic lunch for ourselves; a few rolls, some sliced chicken and a pack of Leerdammer Light cheese slices.

I recently signed up on Bzz Agent and my first freebie to review was a pack of the Leerdammer Light cheese. I'd originally planned on just scoffing it at home, but having a long journey and needing food to keep us going, I used my voucher for my free pack of cheese and packed it into the picnic bag with our other supplies for the journey.

The pack contains eight slices of the Leerdammer Light cheese, which I will admit, I didn't think it was a lot. I'm one of those people who, when feeling peckish, will sit and munch on a block of cheese. It turned out that it was just the right amount though. I used a couple of slices in my rolls, Mr Click tried a slice and I still had enough left over for a snack before we hit the M50!

I tend to refer to cheese slices as 'rubber cheese' because, well, obvious reasons really. Sliced cheese tends to have that slightly rubbery texture and light cheese is usually pretty flavourless. Not so with the Leerdammer Light. The packet advertises that the cheese is smooth with a hint of nuttiness, and that's exactly what I tasted. It's quite a creamy cheese and the flavour is quite strong. On the way home I picked up an own brand cheese to compare and the taste was stronger, but it wasn't balanced with the smooth and creamy flavour so it wasn't as nice.

I was also especially pleased with the packet. We'd taken a bread knife with us (as you do) for opening the rolls but I knew I didn't fancy sawing my way into the packet of cheese. No such worry was necessary. It just peels open and although it doesn't reseal, you could stick it into a sandwich bag to keep it fresher once it's opened. As you can see from the picture above, it also made for a handy plate while we were eating in the car!

Our local Co-Op sells this pack of eight cheese slices for £1.79, though I received a coupon in order to get my pack for free. Normally I would go for a cheaper cheese, but I think I'd definitely pick up Leerdammer or Leerdammer Light again if we were planning a picnic in the summer. Eight slices would be just enough for two people as a bit of a treat. I'm already planning on using some to spice up a summer salad as well.

Disclaimer: I received this item for free in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and I received no monetary reward.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Carnivorous Carnival, Chapter 8

This post was originally scheduled for about ten days ago, so we're not so far behind in the grand scheme of things. Here comes Chapter 8 of The Carnivorous Carnival.


What Happens?

Esme shows up at the caravan to suggest a little business proposition to the 'freaks'. She wants them to toss Madame Lulu into the lion pit instead of one of the 'freaks'. In return they will be allowed to join Olaf's troupe. Hugo, Kevin and Colette immediately agree to this, but the Baudelaires are against it. Esme gives them a little time to think it over, reminding them that there is nowhere else for them to go.

Thoughts as I read:

I was momentarily distracted by this page as there's a bit of writing that shows at the very bottom of the page of this book. I don't think that's supposed to be there. The only letters I can make out are the last three: USA. Anyway.

The picture shows someone wearing a dress which may be patterned with the stylised V.F.D. eye/logo design, it's all sort of swirly shapes at least. The woman is wearing a sash that says 'I [heart] freaks]'. I'm going to guess it's Esme Squalor, it's the sort of thing she would probably put on.

Having left Madame Lulu/Olivia, the children have returned to the caravan where the others are playing dominoes and making tom ka gai. We're told just what's in tom ka gai and I'm sold on it, it has water chestnuts which are quite possibly one of my very favourite things to eat! Which is really not the point of this bit as the children are so nervous and wound up they can barely eat.

Colette comments on how quiet everyone is, apparently feeling relatively unconcerned about the prospect of being eaten by a lion. Klaus points out that it's not really an 'interesting dilemma' at all, considering the fact they they're expected to just jump into a pit of hungry lions for the entertainment of the masses.

Unfortunately for the other inhabitants of the freaks' caravan, they're pretty much resigned to their fates. After all, they've taken Madame Lulu's motto to heart, they must give the people what they want, and what they want is to see lions eating people. But the Baudelaires cannot seem to convince the 'freaks' that there is anything else more worthwhile for them to do with their lives.

They do seem to make some progress, however, with Klaus telling them that 'opportunity can knock at any moment'. Sure enough, at that moment there is a knock on the door. It's not opportunity, though. It's Esme.

Unfortunately Hugo sees this as his 'opportunity' and all the other 'freaks' resolve to be as unfreakish as possible. Sure enough it was Esme that we saw in the picture at the beginning of the chapter, wearing her 'I [heart] freaks' sash as well as a fancy ballgown type dress. She's also got a fake head attached to her shoulder and a cushion to make it look like she has a hunchback, this is to demonstrate how much she likes freaks. Unfortunately Colette tells Esme she looks 'very freakish' which Esme is a little bit put out about. Silly Esme.

Esme starts sucking up to Colette, Kevin and Hugo, who fall for it completely. Colette is so happy she twists her body into a K and an S shape. Suspect those are going to be some new important initials now we're learning a little more about V.F.D. Apparently Esme is sad to think of her new friends being eaten by lions. Not sad enough to consider not throwing them to the lions, of course, but sad nonetheless.

Klaus's comments about an opportunity coming knocking are about to backfire, because that's just what Esme is offering them. An opportunity to join Count Olaf's troupe. Hugo questions what this job description actually involves:

"It's a theatrical troupe," she said, "so you'd be wearing costumes and doing dramatic exercises, and occasionally committing crimes."

Sounds like a brilliant opportunity. Definitely one not to be missed!

Hugo, Kevin and Colette are thrilled by the prospect. Even though it means doing pretty much all that they do now, just with a greater likelihood of committing crimes. Olaf doesn't even mind working with people who are as strange as them. I suspect that's probably got something to do with the fact that he's just as strange as they are!

Now there is a sort of a job interview for this position, but Esme reassures them that it's relatively simple. All that's required of them is to throw Madame Lulu to the lions the following morning. It's easy.

Thankfully this does give them a moment of pause. Though it's just a moment. Esme convinces them by saying that it's what everyone wants. Sunny adds 'Grr' to this, meaning 'Everybody except Lulu' but Hugo, Colette and Kevin don't understand her and are beginning to see that this might actually be a good thing to do after all. Jeez! Adults in these books are morons!

Colette is possibly the most normal of all of them and asks why they should throw Madame Lulu into the pit. Well done Colette. In short it's because Esme is jealous and doesn't want Olaf buying another woman presents any more. Violet voices her skepticism of the plan, but Esme thinks that they've all agreed to do what she wants so starts handing out presents.

Hugo gets a big coat to cover his hunchback, Colette gets a big baggy rob to cover her twisty body, Kevin gets a rope to tie one hand behind his back (so he can be 'left-handed, like normal people', hehe). Even the Baudelaires aren't overlooked. Sunny, or rather Chabo, gets a razor, while Violet and Klaus get a sack to put over one of their heads to make them look like they only have one. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are not particularly enthusiastic about this.

When Hugo and Colette ask them what's wrong Violet is forced to say that they don't think this is something they should do. Esme is absolutely shocked by this development, as are the others, after all as Sunny is part wolf she must be dying to watch someone get eaten by lions! Violet tries to explain that perhaps Lulu doesn't deserve to be eaten by lions, at which point Esme delicately tells them that 'People don't always get what they deserve in this world.' She and Olaf are living proof of that little fact.

Esme offers to let the crew sleep on it and decide in the morning, but Hugo, Colette and Kevin are already completely on her side. They're given the task of convincing the three Baudelaires who are still resolutely refusing to feed anyone to the lions. Esme leaves them with a parting thought, if they don't join Olaf's band of merry men (and women), where else can they go?

Well, hopefully up the Mortmain Mountains to find out what's at the V.F.D. HQ, but we all know that getting away from the carnival isn't going to be as easy as that.

Book 33 of 2014: Death of a Gossip by M.C. Beaton

Death of a Gossip is the first of M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series of books. I picked up a set of about ten of them for Mr Click a while ago and when he'd read the first one I decided to give it a go myself as he really enjoyed it.

This one follows a group of people from all different walks of life who have converged at the hotel in Lochdubh for a fishing course. One of the women, the snobby Lady Jane Withers, is found murdered and so an investigation is launched. While the detectives from the nearby town are investigating the murder, local bobby Hamish Macbeth takes up the case as well.

I enjoyed this one. After the fairly heavy-going The Plague Dogs, this one was a nice quick, light sort of read. It's the sort of book you could gobble up on a long train journey or flight. It was also funny, which sort of surprised me. I know that there was a TV series of Hamish Macbeth but it was a little before my time, so I wasn't sure what to expect from it at first.

As is often my complaint with crime/detective books, I didn't feel like I got all the information I needed to solve the crime myself. Hamish has this technique of phoning his numerous relatives for information, which we're not privy to until he makes the big reveal to someone. I like crime books where I can join in on the investigation.

I also kind of felt like Hamish solves some of the aspects of the case purely by guesswork. He's a little like Morse in that respect. It does make it hard to follow along yourself, but like I said above, if you're after a book which doesn't take much thinking about then it's fine.

I like the character of Hamish and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him in the future books. He kind of reminds me of someone I used to know and I'm enjoying the Scottish location because I don't often read books set up here. The references to the scenery and the way of life are really easy for me to relate to.

We've got quite a few of the books from this series and I think it's definitely one I'm going to continue to dip into in the coming year.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Carnivorous Carnival, Chapter 7

We're returning to our usual schedule for these posts now. It'll kind of put us out of sequence for a few posts, but I'm sure that things will work themselves out in the next week or so. I'm sure I'll have another delay in the future which will prompt me to miss some more posts and that will help even things out. ;-)

What Happens?

Madame Lulu is actually Olivia who is just telling Olaf what he wants to hear because her motto is to always ‘give people what they want’. She knows about V.F.D. and their system of disguises; she believes that the children know more about the organisation that they do because they have adopted their method of disguising themselves. Together they make a plan to get away from Olaf and Caligari Carnival, but the children can’t be entirely sure that Olivia won’t betray them when Olaf asks her his next question.

Thoughts as I read:

At the bottom of the page there is a picture of a broken crystal ball surrounded by lots of scraps of paper. There’s a menu from Cafe Salmonella. There’s also something that says ‘SNIC’ which I’m going to assume is to do with the Snickets. I think there’s a map there as well. Oh, and one of them has a little V.F.D. eye logo like on the outside of the tent. I’m guessing we’ll learn more about all this in this chapter.

Madame Lulu wants to know what the Baudelaires are doing in the tent and why they are under the table. Surprisingly, the children stand up to Madame Lulu, instead of being frightened. They know she’s a fraud and so they’ve got something they can use against her. Madame Lulu doesn’t seem to notice this, she just keeps ranting at them for coming into her tent and breaking her crystal ball.
Sunny says ‘Fraud!’ another of her phrases that doesn’t need translation. Violet takes the lead from her sister and calls Madame Lulu out on her trickery. Go Violet!

This has a surprising effect on Madame Lulu. She starts to cry and wail about how ashamed she is of herself. The Baudelaires are a little bit like myself. When people cry around me I always feel really awkward and don’t know what I’m supposed to say or do, this is pretty much the reaction of the children. She also tells them that her name isn’t Madame Lulu at all, it’s Olivia and she isn’t even a fortune teller.

Her motto in life is a rather dodgy one ‘give people what they want’ which means she does exactly that. While she’s at the carnival people want her to be a fortune teller, so that’s what she does. She does mention Jacques Snicket coming in to ask about his brother at this point, but the Baudelaires are focussed on other things and want to know where she gets her information. It’s mostly from libraries apparently, though I don’t know how she gets it to her, considering the carnival is right in the middle of nowhere. Though she does admit to making up some of her information.

Before we can find out any more, Klaus asks whether the information about the Baudelaire parents was true or made up. Unfortunately he phrases it as ‘our parents’ which alerts Olivia to the fact that they’re speaking with their normal voices, Violet (or Beverly) is wearing a hair ribbon, and Klaus (or Elliot) has glasses on.

As Olivia has come clean, the Baudelaires decide that the time has come to do likewise, and so remove their disguises. Olivia is somewhat surprised to learn that the Baudelaires are in her tent. Meanwhile, the Baudelaires are just pleased to find someone who knows who they are and doesn’t seem to think that they are murderers. And they need to know if one of their parents is still alive.

They then have to come clean about only having one page of the Snicket file. Olivia tells the children that she’s been looking for the file herself, though her methods are somewhat questionable: “Every time I see a piece of paper blow by, I chase after it to see if it’s one of the pages.” I think she might be waiting a while to find it that way.

Olivia’s suggestion that the Baudelaire parent would be in the Mortmain Mountains was just a guess based on the knowledge that it’s the last surviving V.F.D. headquarters and that’s where they would be most likely to go. Olivia assumed that the Baudelaires would be aware of this, why shouldn’t they be? After all, they’ve got the hang of disguising themselves following the principles of V.F.D. Disguise Training:

… veiled facial disguises, with your fake scars, various finery disguises, with the clothing you wore, and voice fakery disguises, with the different voices you used.

Just in case you were wondering.

Olivia even has many of the same disguises in her own disguise kit. Curiouser and curiouser! She even has the same shirt that the children have been wearing, which makes me wonder why she didn’t suspect that this was a disguise from the moment she met them. The fact that it came from Olaf’s trunk shows that he has the same disguise kit as Olivia and presumably the other V.F.D. peoples.

The Baudelaires are still none the wiser. This makes four of us because neither am I, and I’ve read these books before! Olivia explains that V.F.D. is not merely good or bad, but that the disguise kits can be used for either good purposes or bad. She gives the example of the lions that have been brought to the carnival; her friend trained lions to smell smoke, but now they are being used to eat people.

And so we learn of the V.F.D. schism, though it doesn’t actually answer any more of our questions, of course, that’s not how these books work.

Olivia’s turned to talk of the bad things people must sometimes do, even when they don’t want to do them. So the Baudelaires remember doing bad things, like tricking Hal and Sunny says ‘Flynn’ meaning ‘And I never thought I would become a violent person, but I engaged in a sword fight with Dr. Orwell.’ Olivia points out that people often do things that they think are good. This is very true. I’m glad that the Baudelaires have met her, but I suspect that she will be just as useless as all the other adults the children have met.

This is kind of confirmed when Olivia reminds us of her motto, ‘give people what they want’. Sunny says as much ‘Dubious’ meaning that she’s not sure it’s a very good reason. Violet points out all the trouble that Olivia has caused with her fake fortunes. When Olivia says that she doesn’t know what else to, Violet suggests not helping Olaf any more. That would be the obvious place to start, wouldn’t it.

Luckily she’s got Violet there to help. They could adapt one of the carts from the rollercoaster to make into a vehicle using parts from the fortune telling gadget. The idea is to sneak out early in the morning when Olaf and the others are waiting for Madame Lulu to peer into her crystal ball. This will be tricky considering the crystal ball is not shattered to pieces on the tent floor. It’s okay though, Olivia’s got a spare.

The children are more worried about Olivia telling Olaf that they are at the carnival. Olivia agrees to keep their whereabouts a secret if they take her to V.F.D. With that settled on, they agree and ask her what V.F.D. actually stands for. For a moment it looks as though we might finally get an answer to one of those questions we’ve been looking for an answer to for what seems like forever.

But it’s not to be. Olaf chooses that moment to call on her from outside the tent. She tells him that she’s doing a secret ritual with her crystal ball so he can’t come in which seems to satisfy him. He also tells her that it’s been ten days since he last took a shower and suggests that he has no intention of taking another one any time soon. Lovely.

So Olivia doesn’t have time to answer the questions the children are asking. They’re reassured that they’ll find out the answers plenty soon enough, but we all know how these books work. They’re not going to find out anything any time soon, I’m sure. It’s all going to go horribly wrong at some point in the next few pages!

Violet agrees to let Olivia help them back into their disguises as everyone will be wondering where they have got to. ‘Proffco’ says Sunny, meaning ‘I guess so’. I think we’ve seen her say that before. It’s not long before the children are back in disguise and Olivia has slipped back into her own accent disguise. The fact that she mentions practicing it so she doesn’t forget it worries the children a little, after all, if she can forget her accent so easily what’s to stop her from forgetting her promise to the Baudelaires.

She’s back to being Madame Lulu now, she’s calling the children by their assumed names as she waves them off out of the tent. So now the Baudelaires have something else to worry about as the chapter ends; will Olivia keep her promise to them or will she betray them?

We’ll have to wait until next chapter to find out, but my money is that it will not be good for the Baudelaires.