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The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part Two: a climatic conclusion.

Expect action, suspense and a bit of confusion in this firey finale.

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The highly-anticipated filmic conclusion of Suzanne Collin’s popular young adult books has arrived. Picking up from where Part One ended, the opening of Mockingjay Part Two reminds us that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is in the middle of a struggle to overthrow the Capitol and the barbaric President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

Recently rescued Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) joins the forces of the rebels to help free the districts from the President’s evil dictatorship, but his induction into the force is far from smooth sailing. His time imprisoned in the Capitol has left a detrimental scar on his famously gentle character, and with a damaged perception of reality, Peeta is as much as a danger to Katniss as President Snow is.

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Dramatic action scenes and nail-biting moments of drawn-out suspense keep attention rapt as Katniss, Peeta, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) advance to the Capitol, creating a separate mission to President Coin’s (Julianne Moore) stiff advances. Fans of the Hunger Games books may be dissatisfied with the altered ending, as well as being the only ones keeping up with the complicated plot-twists. All is explained in the end, but there are points in the film where spectacle overrides exposition as hectic action sequences are crammed in to fill out the fight scenes.

Definitely the better half of the Mockingjay adaptations, Mockingjay Part Two is a must-see for fans of the film series who want an explosive, shocking and emotional conclusion of the four films. Get ready to find out who really burns at the end of The Hunger Games.

 

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Crimson Peak – a tangle of romance, entrapment and horror

“Where I come from, ghosts are not to be taken lightly.”
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“Ghosts are real.” heroine Edith Cushing confesses in the opening scenes of Guillermo del Toro’s new gothic horror, Crimson Peak. Ghosts are promised and ghosts are delivered in this romantically twisted film.

Played by Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Edith is a young and aspiring writer living in New York. After a family tragedy, Edith moves with her new husband, the mysteriously dark and handsome Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston – Thor, Only Lovers Left Alive) and his tight-lipped sister, Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain – The Help, The Martian) to live in their house in England. But the reality of her married life soon proves to differ from the one Edith imagined for herself as the house breathes its own life.

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“Has anyone died in this house? Specific deaths? Violent deaths?”

Del Toro’s frightening and romantic narrative unfolds in a beautiful crumbling mansion set on the blood-red clay foundations of England’s Cumbria. It is artistic in every detail: leaves flutter through the centre of the house, stairs wind and creak into the many floors and hallways stretch out into candlelit shadows. The scenes within the house are fulfilling enough for the eye alone, but keeping the audience on the edge of their seats are whispers of ghosts and contained secrets which threaten to burst forth at any unsuspecting moment. The eerie piano playing of Lucille adds to the troubled yet beautiful atmosphere.

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“There are parts of the house which are unsafe.”

A heart-pounding tangle of romance, entrapment and horror, Crimson Peak unfurls its secrets piece by piece. Full of mystery and spectacle, the film is a hauntingly glorious thriller which should be seen by any gothic romance fans desiring to find out why you should fear and beware Crimson Peak.

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Rediscovering my favourite breakfast

I am easily pleased. I actually found myself getting excited over breakfast cereal in Tesco’s the other day.

Tragic? Maybe. But the reason I was so excited was because I discovered gluten-free Weetabix.

Ok, so now I really sound tragic. But when I was a kid I used to LOVE Weetabix- two biccies, lots of milk, whizzed up in the microwave so they go wonderfully soft, then sprinkled with a healthy amount of sugar which would crystallise on the warm cereal… It was the best breakfast ever.

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Unless you count December’s advent, when you’d melt your daily chocolate on top. With the sugar, of course. Ah childhood…

I can’t have eaten Weetabix for at least 12 years! Thankfully, I had my moment in the supermarket and now I am obsessed with Nutribix – the gluten-free alternative!

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The biscuits are slightly smaller than the original (suggested serving is three biscuits) but I’m sure they taste very similar to Weetabix. They also do that thing where they soak up all the milk, so you have to splash a fair bit on if you like them a bit soggy!

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Sadly, I can’t justify half a bag of sugar on my breakfast anymore, but I’ve been experimenting with almond milk, soya yoghurt, blueberries and raspberries in varying combinations, and it’s still delicious.

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With sugar getting a hugely bad wrap in the press, this breakfast cereal is actually pretty good. The sugar content is low, (2.2g in 100g), the fat isn’t high, it’s fortified with vitamins and it also provides a source of fibre and protein.

The grain used is Sorghum, which despite being relatively unheard of, has been around for a long long long time. It was reportedly first collected in Southern Egypt around 8000 years ago. There are several research papers about the health benefits of Sorghum, including its potential to fight diabetes and insulin resistance, help manage cholesterol as well as being a safe grain for coeliac disease sufferers.

The downside of Nutribix is of course the price. You’ll find any free-from product has a cheeky price increase over any original product.  A box of 24 Nutribix will cost you £3.79, whereas 24 Weetabix is only £2.39. This does suck, but if you ever enjoyed Weetabix and can no longer eat it, I recommend trying Nutribix. You won’t be disappointed🙂 .

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Rainy Day Treats

Ok, so it’s less than two weeks until term starts again. I’m skint, and the weather is pants so I have a few things to cheer me up:

1. Playstation 3: Lego Marvel

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I love Marvel, I love Lego and I love my playstation, so what could be a happier bundle?! My little sister and I bossed Lego Harry Potter earlier in the summer and have been itching to play another Lego game together before we both return to our academic timetables. These games are more fun to play in a team than alone, and Playstation 2’s Lego Star Wars games have also made a resurgence this summer. My sister is some ten years younger than me, but I refuse to consider it being ‘uncool’ to be playing Lego games rather than the new Batman or Assassin’s.

2. Fan ‘research’: Sherlock.

IMG_2621After re-watching all three series recently, my obsession with the BBC’s Sherlock has returned. I received this book, The Sherlock Chronicles, for my birthday and it is packed full of the production team’s archives, trivia, scripts, planning and designing episodes and lots of fab screen shots. I can’t wait for the return of the series next year, or for the Christmas special coming this December. Check out the teaser trailer if you haven’t already watched it!

3. A Sweet Brew

IMG_2618With the rain and wind bringing a chill to the air, I need to wrap up in my poncho and have a good cuppa with my Sherlock book. I spotted this intriguing Twining’s creation in Tesco’s and thought I’d give it a go. We all know fruit tea smells divine but actually just tastes rank, so I was a little wary of how tasty these tea bags would be. During infusion they give off a scent resembling cherry bakewells. They taste initially like green tea, of course, but the ‘aftertaste’ provides a hint of cherry bakewell/ marzipan. Sweet but delicate, these are worth a try🙂

4. Stretching Out

IMG_2619Ok, possibly less of a ‘treat’ and more of a necessity to counteract all my lazying about with the aforementioned goodies, this DVD makes the cut to keep me active! I like Jillian Michael’s DVDs, mainly cause they tend to be mercifully brief, but they really bring the sweat. I tried this DVD two days ago and am still sore! But its fun and doable, so I would recommend giving it a try if you like her workouts. Couch potato no more!

5. Clean and Fresh

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Ok, so after all my hard work with Jillian, I’ll need to freshen up of course. Here’s another lovely treat: the Bumble & Bumble Surf Clutch. Another present (no way could I afford/ justify this myself!), these hair products have a gorgeous fresh scent to them and leave your hair soft and clean. I have to say, I’m at a bit of a loss of how best to use the salt sprays, though, any tips/ how to links? Either way, the shampoo and conditioner are divine, so if you can afford it, I’d recommend treating yourself🙂 .

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How to spend a weekend in Amsterdam in your 20’s

Slightly skint, time-scarce, and not keen on long-haul trips? Here’s how six 20-something year-olds with similar predicaments handled a weekend in Amsterdam.

Each summer, me and my girlfriends plan and book a holiday together in order for us to get away, catch up and, of course, party. With one fearful flyer, three students and six nightlife lovers, our choice for holiday this year landed us a city break in Amsterdam. With only 45 minutes airtime (pray easyJet don’t delay!) and a half-hour taxi ride from Schipol airport to Jordaan, the Dutch city is a must visit for Britains.

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Six girls sharing one apartment was great fun. Two of us immediately shot-gunned the single beds in the downstairs area, which also housed the shower room and toilet. The remaining four of us slept like princesses on the ground-floor lounge’s impressive pull-out sofa bed (super comfy, plenty of space). The ground-floor also offered us a kitchenette, dining table and large tv, so we were fully kitted out.IMG_2465

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The area of Jordaan, now gentrified, was originally a working-class district in the early 17th Century. It’s probably for this reason that there aren’t many traditional sights, although there is a stunning canal running through its centre. Street markets (Noordmarkt) are held on Saturdays and Sundays, and I was told that, as a local area, hard-drinking goes down at the weekends too!

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We were superbly located, only a five-minute stroll from buzzing bars, tapas restaurants and a well-stocked supermarket, which was perfect for our self-catering accommodation. Oh, and for pre-drinks of course😉. Grab a bottle of Jamie’s Italian wine, or (screw-top) Prosecco for a very reasonable 5 Euros. If vodka’s your drink, however, you will have to look further afield as neither the supermarkets or corner shops had such spirits on sale.

Nightlife

Two out of the three nights we stayed in Amsterdam were spent in the party capital known as Leidseplein. Located in the Southern Canal Ring, this area is packed with bars, clubs, food joints and organised crawls – this is the square to be in if you’re up for a night out on the town. Cocktails are around 11 Euros, with long drinks (i.e. vodka lime and lemonade) between 6 and 9 Euros.

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If you’re a solo traveller/ sociable squad/ just really like drinking, may I recommend one of the bar crawls hosted in both Leidseplein and The Red Light District. For 20 Euros you get free drinks at each of the four/five bars you visit, entry into the club, technically a ‘tour’ around the streets of Amsterdam (haha!) and a free t-shirt (if you’re a lass). It’s fun, the guys who run it are brilliant and encourage various games and dancing, and its a good way to explore the streets of Amsterdam (if you can remember in the morning, that is!)

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Leidseplein is definitely worth visiting during the daytime, with historical architecture, canals, and diverse restaurants to explore. Check out the smaller streets peeling off the main square and you’ll find rows of budget pizza/pasta/steak joints as well as Thai restaurants, pancake houses and Ben and Jerry’s cafe. A main meal with a drink will cost around 10.50 Euros from one of these places, or if you prefer something more familiar, there are many Starbucks, McDonald’s and Burger Kings around.

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If you’re feeling a bit more flush, there is a Hard Rock cafe (and gift store) just a few minutes walk away. Other high street shops include H&M and the Apple Store. There’s also street artists to be found, bike hire to brave, and canal tours (14 Euros for 1 hour) to sit back and relax on.

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Dam Square & the Red Light District

Dam Square is in the bustling Medieval Centre of Amsterdam. The main thing to do here is wander – there are tons of shops, restaurants and food stalls, as well as street performers and incredible buildings. Jump in a rickshaw for a speedy tour around!

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Amsterdam wouldn’t be Amsterdam without its infamous Red Light District. The girls and I explored the RLD one afternoon to giggle at the obscene products in shop windows, and to wave at the working ladies in their windows. It’s a fascinating place to explore, with more to it than the explicit novelties such as other bars and canals. Not for the faint hearted, though, and undoubtedly the RLD has a different feel to it when the sun goes down.

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Another quirk belonging to Amsterdam are the coffee shops. The first thing to note about coffee shops are that you’re not going to find your British afternoon tea and biscuits in one, so head back to a cafe or Starbucks for a safe beverage. The second thing is to note that the guys behind the counter will have advice for you, and if they advise you to only eat half a space cake, really, only eat half a space cake. They know what they’re talking about. Google it if you’re intrigued. If you are keen to have the coffee shop experience and are either a bit nervous or unfamiliar with their products, then head to one of the Bulldog’s coffee shops- they are an international company and own a chain of coffee shops in Amsterdam. Enjoy!

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Amsterdam is a buzzing city with so much on offer it’s hard to pack it all in on one weekend, so you have to prioritise. The girls and I didn’t manage to hire bikes or pedalos, visit the museums (not that we were that keen to queue for 6 hours for Anne Frank’s House!) or ride a tram. We did so much in the time we were there, but we still left with a list of things to do on our next visit. Watch out Amsterdam, we’re coming back for you!

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We found our hostel on booking.com and booked flights direct with easyJet. The city also has many hostels, hotels and AirBnB spots. https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/

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We need education, not retaliation, when it comes to body image. 

From fat shaming to food shaming, abusing make-up free beauty bloggers to a tragic loss of life caused by a young girl taking toxic ‘diet pills’, surely it’s time for society to assume responsibility in supporting and promoting health over beauty?

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There has been an invasive obsession with the shape, size and ‘beauty’ of women for a very long time, but in 2015 this has plummeted to a disturbing and clearly detrimental level.

Numerous factors feed the anxiety and pressure for women to obtain the ‘perfect’ image- from influences of porn, celebrities, fad-diet campaigns, social media shaming, and even from the once popular Barbie doll, who’s figure has been said to be grossly misproportional. With children apparently subject to an ‘unhealthy’ representation of how girls should look, are we to be forever plagued by the unattainable, yet ever desirable (so we’re sold) willowy female body and supermodel face?

Perhaps I’m being a bit melodramatic, for even though a certain image of women continues to be given the limelight in 2015, there has been a rise in public awareness of advertising and promotional campaigns considered to have negative influence on body image expectations. There was the Topshop customer who instigated a social media backlash on the high street store after posting a photo of a mannequin supposedly of an ‘average’ build, yet appeared to be very skinny compared to the size-10 shopper. There was also the backlash against the infamous ‘Are You BeachBody Ready?’ Tube adverts.


In print media, UK Cosmopolitan published an insightful debate in their August issue, where Laura Beck wrote on “being a beautiful badass” at any size, shape or appearance.

These are significant movements towards publically highlighting the differences in body shapes and sizes, and in holding a mirror up to society and asking for reevaluation. But are these acts enough to promote a healthy attitude for vunerable girls and women, or is it causing more damage?

While these efforts are empowering and important in raising awareness that not everyone is supermodel thin, it fails, in some ways, to acknowledge the fact that some girls are naturally petite, thin or small, and for some that is an issue of self-confidence too. There has been a backlash against being skinny, that curves are good, but there are some girls who are naturally slim, as there are girls naturally curvy. Why do we need to be making out that one body shape is ‘good’ and the opposite is ‘bad’?

I believe that we need more than just reaction and retaliation. We need education.

This Girl Can is a great campaign with some brilliant videos for empowering females into accepting who they are, whatever their shape and size. and believe they can do whatever they put their minds to, while encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Jamie Oliver is on another mission, this time in the form of his Food Revolution: educating children and adults alike on how to cook healthy and nutritious meals. Less publicised, but still important, was a recent article in Healthy Magazine on reviewing and redesigning our outdated Eatwell Plate.


There needs to be a bigger focus on health- whether that’s diet, physical or mental, and we need to step away from the obsession with the outside image. We’re taking steps towards building healthier attitudes to diet and body image. But as Topshop remove their controversial mannequins, and the #youlookdisgusting trend simmers down, are we really any closer to ending the body-image crisis?

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Summer Reading Challenge #3- A Slow Project

Ok, so my book-a-week challenge has slowed down considerably since I began these posts, but with eighteenth birthday party weekends and playing London living, I’ve been slightly strapped for time!

Understandably so, I’d say.

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The Rosie Project

Graeme Simsion

Hardback; 295 pages

Date opened: 23/05/15    Date closed: 7/06/15

What can I say about The Rosie Project…

It’s charming.

It’s funny.

It’s a relatively easy read. 

Don Tilman, the narrator, is aware of his ‘incompatibility’ with women, and decides to draw up a quiz to pass onto female candidates of what he calls ‘The Wife Project’. Hoping to whittle down the ladies to the perfect partner, Don meets Rosie, who is completely wrong for his Wife Project criteria. 

The story has a fairly simple premise, and I found the main thread of the narrative to be predictable, but it is the language of the novel itself which is brilliant. Simsion has a quick and witty style in his writing, and his tight dialogue fills and connects his characters. 

The Rosie Project is a good choice for a holiday read, or an easy bedtime page-turner. It is a highly enjoyable but different rom-com book.