Saturday 30 January 2016

Book Review: Streets of Sin - A Dark Biography of Notting Hill by Fiona Rule

Last Updated: 30 May 2021

Streets of Sin A Dark Biography of Notting Hill by Fiona Rule book cover

AD* | A short walk away from London’s West End lies Notting Hill - one of the capital’s most exclusive residential districts and a celebrity hotspot. But this outwardly genteel enclave has its shocking secrets.

Streets of Sin delves into Notting Hill’s distinctly murky past and relates the deplorable scandals that blighted the area from its development until the late 20th century. Bestselling London historian Fiona Rule sheds new light on notorious events that took place amid the leafy streets, including the horrifying murders at Rillington Place, the nefarious career of slum landlord Peter Rachman, the Profumo affair, and Britain’s first race riots, and reveals what life was life in Notting Hill during its dark years when murder, extortion, and disorder were everyday occurrences.

Friday 29 January 2016

Preview: Super Bowl 50

First published on Kettle Mag here.

The regular season is over, we’ve had the trials and tribulations of the post-season games, and now it’s just two weeks till Super Bowl 50.

Following Sunday night’s Conference Championship games, we now know the two teams who will go head-to-head at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California (home of the San Francisco 49ers) on February 7th.

Conference Champions

In the first game of the evening, we witnessed another chapter added to the long-standing rivalry between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, as the two greatest quarterbacks of this generation squared up in Colorado. In an incredibly intense game, Broncos QB Peyton Manning defied his age and injuries and, alongside the stellar defence, pushed his team to take the AFC Championship.

Meanwhile, over in Charlotte, things were only just getting started as the Carolina Panthers took on the Arizona Cardinals. QB Cam Newton led the Panthers to an early lead, and despite their best efforts, the Cardinals never recovered. Carolina easily took the NFC Championship title, with the final score 49 to just 15.

So with defending champions New England now out of the picture – who will lift the Lombardi Trophy?

Carolina go 15-1

Perhaps the most obvious choice are Carolina. Going virtually unbeaten in the season so far (with the exception of the loss to Atlanta in Week 16) they have a pretty impressive track record. What makes that even more impressive, is that almost everyone was writing them off in the off-season. They lost their top receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, to injury during practice last summer. Yet despite that, they still managed to go 15-1.

Cam Newton has been unstoppable this season. He set a new NFL record by scoring 45 combined touchdowns in the regular season, as well as leading all the quarterbacks in the league on rushing yards with a total of 636. Unsurprisingly, he’s the runaway choice for MVP.

But the Panthers haven’t won a Super Bowl yet. They lost their only other Super Bowl appearance in the 2003-2004 season to the Patriots.

Will the Broncos manage to keep them from their first win?

It could be a close game. Carolina have SuperCam, but Denver has the league’s best defense. Depending how things play out, this could definitely make for an interesting game!

Manning's last chance

However, it’s no surprise that Denver’s most important factor is number 18. Peyton Manning is widely recognised as one of the all-time great quarterbacks – some even hail him as the best QB in NFL history. He’s one of the NFL’s most prolific passers, he’s won MVP a record 5 times… but he’s only got one Super Bowl ring (with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007). When you compare that to Patriots QB Tom Brady’s four rings, it’s no surprise that Manning’s after his second.

But this season hasn’t been plain sailing for Manning. At 39, he was the oldest starting QB in the league this year, and with every passing year more and more people are questioning how long he can maintain the high level of health and physical fitness required to stay in the NFL.

At the start of the season things didn’t look good for him. Manning struggled early on in the year, and got benched after breaking the all-time passing yards record (previously held by former Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre). After a takeover by back-up QB Brock Osweiler, Manning returned in Week 17, and hasn’t looked back since.

This season is likely to be Manning’s last – but will he manage to end his career on a high and get that one last Super Bowl ring?

Who do you think will win? Let me know in the comments below! 

Saturday 16 January 2016

Book Review: Solarversia by Toby Downton

Last Updated: 30 May 2021

Solarversia by Toby Downton book cover

AD* | Solarversia is the story of an epic year-long game played by 100 million people inside a virtual world modelled on the real world Solar System. Given three lives, three vehicles, and told to master The Science of Solarversia to stand a chance of winning, players compete for the £10m grand prize, and the chance to help design the next game, starting in 2024.

Nova Negrahnu and her friends Burner and Sushi cannot wait to start playing. But when an international terrorist organisation sets its sights on the game and its creator, Nova finds her life turned upside down, as the line between simulation and reality blurs. Can she navigate between playing the game, coping with all the issues an eighteen-year-old girl faces and avoid the very real and present danger mounting outside Solaversia?

Sunday 10 January 2016

Book Review: The Gift of Charms by Julia Suzuki

Last Updated: 30 May 2021

The Gift of Charms by Julia Suzuki book cover

AD* | In a secret land, far away from the habitation of man, dwell the world's remaining dragons -- hoping the dragsaur beasts have vanished forever. Here they try to live their daily lives, but all is not well and their talents are fading.

Things change, however, when, from a strange egg, Yoshiko is born - a dragon with a unique destiny.

Great adventure lies ahead as many challenges must be overcome, leading to a dangerous mission to the human world in an attempt to return to the clans their missing magic!

Can Yoshiko make it in time?

Saturday 2 January 2016

5 books I want to read in 2016

Everyone has books they'd like to read. Most people just pick up a book that takes their fancy when they've finished their current book, but I'm rather more organised than that.

That's because, owning over 800 books (that's excluding the ones I've previously read and kept), I kind of have to be organised. So to retain some semblance of order among my many books, I made a master list of all the books I own and haven't read yet.

This, combined with the invaluable tool that is Goodreads, allows me to keep track of the books I own and have yet to read. Ever since I joined Goodreads, I've taken part in their annual reading challenges. In my first year on the site, 2013, I set myself the rather ambitious goal of reading 100 books in the year. For bookworms, that doesn't sound like a lot, but when you consider I read literally anything, long or difficult books can soon slow me down. Sadly I didn't complete the 100 books that first year (I managed 80) so I reduced my goal for the following year.

My 2014 goal was 50 books, but what with one thing and another, I only managed 36. So when it came to the time to set my 2015 goal, I was adamant I was going to read 50 books. And I not only completed my goal, but I surpassed it, reading a total of 54 books last year.

For this year, I've stuck with 50 books again. I know it's definitely attainable for me, but it's not too high that I'm speeding through books just to add to my total (I had a bit of that in 2013, and it's just not worth it).

Now, with all that in mind, I think it's important to set yourself reading goals. Last year I wrote a blog post about 5 books I've been meaning to read forever, and looking back on it now, I realised I've read one of those five during the last year. So - what 5 books am I going to try and read in 2016?

1. Ghost Hunter by Michelle Paver

The last book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, a series of children's books surprisingly recommended to me by my boyfriend, and a book I've been meaning to read for a little while. I read book 5 in the series, Oath Breaker, back in July of last year, so it's high time I reached the conclusion of this series.

2. First One Missing by Tammy Cohen

I can't remember where I first heard about this book, but it instantly piqued my interest. I quickly got a copy, and it's been sitting enticingly on my Kindle ever since. I haven't read a really gripping thriller for a while, so I'm looking forward to starting this.

3. Blog of the Dead: Sophie by Lisa Richardson

Another one that's been sitting on my Kindle for far too long. I try to make a habit of reading books from authors I know personally, and since Lisa is a fellow graduate from my university course, it would be rude not to read her book! Plus it's set in Folkestone, Kent, where I lived for a year, so it will be nice to read about places I know and recognise.

4. Spooky New York by S.E. Schlosser

I love paranormal tales, I've always wanted to go to New York, and my boyfriend bought me this book. What's not to love? Plus it's been sitting on my shelf for a year and a half (ever since he bought it back from NYC) so it's about time I picked it up!

5. The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Everyone raves about how good this book is. I've been intending to read it for a while, so I figure I might as well try to read it in 2016. After all, I try my best to read as wide a variety of books as I can, and books aren't as popular as this without good reason.

What books are you planning to read in 2016? Let me know in the comments below!