Best of 2013: Moments

moments

Since it is nearly 2014, I leave you with the best moments in my life in 2013. Enjoy and feel free to comment 🙂

  1. Getting my license. Not having a license felt like the biggest weight on my shoulders. Now that I have it, it naturally feels like I should never have stressed about it.
  2. Saw a COMPLETE ass get told off. This may be the best part of my year actually. He had been asking for it for YEARS, and justice finally happened.
  3. Continued with my studies and passed 4 subjects / 5 (it will hopefully be 6/7 when I get my latest results)
  4. Went and experienced the beautiful Mother City of South-Africa, Cape Town.
  5. Checked that I am registered for the general elections next year. If you don’t vote, you don’t complain.
  6. Went for an HIV test. I work in a pretty infectious environment, and the test was more for peace of mind than any real concern. It came back negative (whoop and thankfully) and I was glad to put myself on the list of South-Africans who know their status. I am extremely passionate about preventing the transference of infectious diseases, especially HIV and AIDS, as it is responsible for many unnecessary deaths across the globe. In South-Africa AIDS is a pandemic, with people refusing to get tested, accept their status and promiscuity without protection. I could go on for days, and the simplest solution is to know your status and manage it, since AIDS doesn’t mean death.
  7. Saw my sister marry her long-term boyfriend, Stefan.
  8. Tracked my life better. I did my tax immediately when the tax season started, checked my budget religiously and worked to bring down my debt. I’m really proud of being more on top of things now.
  9. Discovered the power of forgiving and moving on. I was angry at many people for legitimate reasons, but I finally realised the true power of letting go.
  10. Brought my Alcatel T10 tablet. It is truly an amazing product for its price range.
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Book Trilogy Review: Born in series (Nora Roberts)

Born in Fire

Book: 69/100

Margaret Mary Concannon’s life changes the day Rogan Sweeney tracks her down. CEO of Worldwide Galleries, Rogan has become obsessed with Maggie’s work as a glass artist. He heads to County Clare, Ireland, to try and reason with her, and quickly becomes exasperated. Maggie’s fiery temper makes conversations difficult, but he is determined to showcase her work. Maggie agrees when she realizes that the extra income will enable to buy her mother a house – not out of love but to get her out of the house Maggie’s sister Brianna runs as a B&B, where Maeve constantly makes life difficult for Brianna.  Rogan and Maggie start to act on their attraction as Maggie tours the world with him, but they have all the obstacles from Maggie’s unhappy childhood to overcome. Raised by a hateful mother and adoring father, Maggie is still saddened by her father’s death. She and her sister and their faithful friend Murphy needs to deal with her mother’s tantrums and selfishness, and Maggie has the added burden of hearing her father mention another woman’s name before he died. Things become serious between Rogan and Maggie, and when he proposes, she tells him that she could never enter marriage because she saw how destructive it could be. Will Rogan be able to prove to Maggie that all relationships aren’t like her parents’? And who is the Amanda Tom Concannon mentioned seconds before his death?

Rating: 7/10

A potential reader should be warned that this is not a Nora Roberts crime novel – it is a romance novel, with basically no antagonist and a predictable end. However, it is fantastically written and I had a great time reading it. I have always adored the author, and she doesn’t disappoint. Ireland is so wonderfully described that you can imagine sitting there and taking in the scenery. Maggie’s love for her sister, her work and her country is very well portrayed, as is her anger towards her mother and her fear to become like the woman who raised her. I enjoyed Maggie’s temper and found that Rogan’s charm was the perfect offset for her abrasiveness.

Born in Ice

Book: 70/100

Brianna Concannon’s bed and breakfast in the Irish country side is straight from a dream. She is a culinary witch and a domestic goddess, and has the side benefit of being beautiful and intelligent too. She has had her share of sadness – an unloving, demanding mother and a man who left her a few weeks before her wedding, and she still has no idea why. Her controlled personality is in direct contrast to her sister Maggie’s abrasiveness.

One day cleaning the attic, Brie finds letters written to her father from another woman – someone who obviously loved their father very much. She discusses it with Maggie and Rogan, who is now married, and after a short debate they decide to search for the woman.

Famous crime author Grayson Thane heads to Country Clare to do research for his next book. Brianna, his landlady at Blackthorn Cottage, is miles away from the matronly aunt he was expecting. He is immediately fascinated and attracted to her, but finds it difficult to match his worldliness to her innocence.

When Brianna learns that her fiance left her because her mother had told him she was sleeping around with Murphy, Brianna is shocked, angry and betrayed. Grayson bears the brunt of her anger and disillusionment, but eventually they sort things out. Their next challenge is that Grayson is a traveling gypsy, scared of settling down even though he really loves her. Will their love be able to survive all the challenges?

Rating: 7/10

This is once again a good book by Nora Roberts, and a strong second book for the series. I enjoyed Brianna’s nature – she is the epitome of hospitality and kindness. Her inherent sadness makes you hope that she will find future love, and when she does you hope she will be able to keep it this time. I still think their mother is such a mean, sad person, constantly estranging the people who were born to love her the most – her children.

Born in Shame

Book: 71/100

Amanda Dougherty is dying. She knows she has to tell her daughter Shannon that the man she believed to be her father is in fact her stepfather. She tells Shannon about Tom Concannon and her love affair in Ireland as a young woman, and Shannon is shattered by the truth. Her mother dies shortly afterwards with hard words between them.

When Shannon is contacted by a detective hired by the Concannon sisters and their husbands, she is irritated. She feels that she doesn’t need the family she never knew existed, and relays that to the detective. When she receives a kind, compassionate letter from Brianna, she is intrigued enough to agree to head to Ireland for a few weeks.

Ireland, and her sisters, catches her by surprise. The country is incredibly beautiful, and going there is like a remembrance to Shannon. She and Maggie immediately hit it off on the wrong foot with their mutual distrust and similar abrasive personalities. Brianna is naturally her saintly self, content to just meet her new sister.

Shannon’s first impression of Murphy Muldoon is of a slow witted man. He is dumbstruck by her, the woman literally from her dreams – from childhood Murphy has dreamed of her. Shannon, more logical minded, doesn’t entertain these conversations but the truth is that she has dreamed of him too.

Maeve Concannon, Brianna and Maggie’s difficult mother, naturally takes the information that her husband cheated on her very badly, even though she never showed him any real love. She makes things very difficult for her daughters although it isn’t even something they were a part in. Shannon quickly takes her on, telling her that neither she nor her two sisters are responsible.

Murphy, meanwhile, has been courting Shannon, certain that she will fall in love with him. She does, but her practical mind knows the impracticality of staying in Ireland and leaving her high powered job in New York. Will Murphy succeed in making her stay? And will she and her sisters be able to connect?

Rating: 7.5/10

As far as trilogies go, this series was rather well done. I enjoyed all three books – each sister is entertaining in their own right and their love stories keeps you glued to the books. Shannon is the most modern of the three. She is used to the fast paced life of New York, but is still artistic enough to appreciate the charm of Ireland. Pairing her up with Murphy was a good idea – she will obviously never be bored because he is an intelligent man.

I would recommend this series to all Nora Roberts’ fans if you haven’t read it yet, or if you love good romance books J

Merry Christmas! (And what it means to me)

Christmas LOTC

Christmas is such a special time. I don’t have a big family, and I am not very close to anyone outside my immediate family. For us it is usually just the Five (now six with my sister’s husband). I never feel deprived – I love them more than anything in the world so I’ve never wanted for more.

When we were young, my two sisters and I would sleep downstairs on “Christmas beds” – all our mattresses on the floor with a pile of blankets, and try to catch Santa. Getting older and realising that Santa was actually just my mom sneaking down and putting presents under the tree didn’t deter us. For one, my little sister is six years younger than me and eight younger than our oldest sister, so we wanted for her to have the same good time we always had had. Secondly, it was ridiculously fun to sleep downstairs. Thirdly we probably hoped that Santa would someday appear, and that my mom was only helping him out. Now we stay in the bed but it is still fun.

A lot of families open their presents on Christmas Eve. It’s not Christmas yet! We open our presents Christmas morning, sitting around the tree in our pajamas. Now we refrain from opening most of it until my sister and her husband arrives. We all sit in a big circle and open it together, laughing and cheering. Afterwards we head to church and return home following the sermon.

My mom’s turkey and filling is renowned. I love that so much. It is possible that I love it more than the presents. Okay, maybe not. But I still love it a whole lot. And the potato salad. No one makes potato salad like my mama.

So today is Christmas, and I am probably doing what I’ve been doing the past 23 years of my life. Today, in a month’s time I am 24. I will deal with that when I get there. For today, I hope you have a wonderful time, like I plan to.

Merry Christmas!

Book Review: Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)

Book: 68/100

HG covers

Katniss Everdeen’s second trip into the Hunger Games’ Arena – a survival of the fittest death match between the Capitol’s elven submissive districts – ended when the rebels pulled her out after an explosion caused by Beete – another tribute who was in on the escape plan everyone had known about except Katniss and Peeta. Katniss is taken to safety, her injuries gets treated, and her friend Gale tells her right after the rescue mission that they couldn’t pull Peeta out and that he is now in the hands of President Snow and the Capitol.

Katniss is taken to District 13 – a district that was supposed to have been obliterated during the Dark Days but had secretly survived and sustained itself underground. Katniss meets President Coin, the leader of the resistance, and can’t seem to shake the feeling that Coin intensely dislikes her. She also meets Boggs, her bodyguard who eventually becomes her friend. With them is fellow Tribute Finnick Odair, a young man Katniss originally thought was a pretty playboy but who was forced to sleep with people President Snow approved of. He is also suffering for he knows if the Capitol captures the Annie Cresta, the girl he loves, she will be tortured as well.

President Snow realises that Finnick and Katniss are too stressed about Annie and Peeta to focus on being the faces of the rebellion. To rectify this, she sends in a special task force to the Capitol to save them. Gale is one of the team going to the Capitol, and Katniss is once again torn between her feelings for him and Peeta. The task force brings Annie, Peeta and Johanna Mason back, another Tribute who was part of the rebellion.

Peeta is unrecognisable from the sweet boy Katniss used to care for. Under the Capitol’s brilliant but cruel torture made him to believe that Katniss is his enemy. Their first reunion is abruptly stopped when he tries to choke her, and she is devastated by the realisation that he wants to kill her. Peeta’s rehabilitation begins, and it is a difficult process because some of the cruel things he remembers of Katniss is true – how she couldn’t decide about her feelings and her abrupt actions.

The rebellion manages to get control over all the Districts in time. The last coup happens in District Two, and Katniss gets shot by one of the civilians there. She recuperates, and when she learns that Coin is planning to send in troups to conquer the big one – the Capitol, Katniss is determined to go and finish of Snow. She trains hard, and is eventually rewarded by being included in an elitist group of soldiers. She, Boggs, Gale, Finnick and some others head to the Capitol, and they are shocked when Coin sends in Peeta as well. Katniss realise that Coin wants her dead, and Boggs explains that it is because Coin knows that Katniss will never support her for a presidential candidate when the time comes. Will Katniss manage to kill Snow, and will all her loved ones survive? Will Coin get her wish and see Katniss killed by the boy she loves? Is there a chance for Katniss and Peeta to reconcile or will she end up with Gale?

Rating: 8/10

In post Potter depression, I never thought I could truly love a series again. I was relieved when I discovered the Hunger Games and realized that while nothing would ever reach the epic proportions of Harry Potter, there were other material in the world that was worthy of attention.

Mockingjay is a good end to a good series. I enjoyed the distinct change that there is no happy ending – even at the end where peace is restored, you know Katniss will be safe but will never forget what happened. The characters remain scarred and thus the book stays respectable – in a world like theirs, how could true happiness ever be possible?

The second installment of the franchise, Catching Fire, is currently in cinemas. I would recommend a movie and book binging to anyone who hasn’t made the time yet.

Read reviews of Hunger Games and Catching Fire here and here.

N

5 Things Friday: Five things to do while on holiday

5 things friday pic

Hello, dearest friends. While you are reading this I am blissfully on holiday. I am writing this while not on holiday (being a responsible blogger and planning my posts), so I am decidedly sad that it isn’t that time yet. To cheer myself (and hopefully you) up, here is a list of Five things to do while on holiday.

Sleep

Yep. You might think it is time wasting to catch up on sleep while there are so many other things you could do right now, sleep is ESSENTIAL for your holiday happiness. Now is the time to make up for all those mornings where you had to awake at five o’clock. You can even catch a nap during the day if you want.

Get back to your good habits

There was a time, approximately a year ago, when I drank only two cups of coffee a day, constantly went for walks and ate perfectly all the time. Then, the year happened, and I slacked with everything that is good for me, and did everything that is bad for me. So I am using this time to get into my healthy habits and prepare for 2014.

Do fun things

Go out and reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in a while or go see a movie during the day. Whatever it is, as long as you get the most fun from it.

Find a new cocktail

Let go of that ciders that you “love so much” There is an entire OCEAN of lovely drinks to drink. Explore, find one and have fun experimenting. They are usually a bit more pricey, but completely worth it.

Go to new places

Even if you are not planning on traveling, find some places close to home that you haven’t explored yet. In Johannesburg there is the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, the Soweto Towers (you can bungee), Gold Reef City (a theme park with a casino and where you can visit old mine shafts), and plenty of other lovely places just waiting to be explored. Don’t be deterred by cost – a lot of things are pricey, but for example the Kliprivier’s Nature Reserve is beautiful and entry is free.

Let me know what you are planning to do this holiday!

XX

N

Best of 2013: Books

2013 has been the year of books for me. I have always been an obsessed reader, but when I created and took on my own challenge to read 100 books, I realized that while I would have to stay dedicated, it was actually possible. I think in a year’s cycle I would normally read about 80 books, so if I worked a little harder, 20 extra isn’t that much more. It is challenging to find new, interesting material all the time. With my book challenge, I promised to explore books I haven’t read yet, discover authors I haven’t tried yet, and look into genres I’m sure I wouldn’t love.

Here is my list of the best books I read so far in 2013 

*These are all books I read for the first time this year, not necessarily brought out within 2013.

The Indigo Spell – Richelle Mead (2013)

Book three in the Bloodlines trilogy. I read the first two and anxiously waited for this one’s release. It was as good as I hoped it would be. Bloodlines is mostly about Sydney Sage, an Alchemist that had been taught to hate vampires, is forced to live with them to do her job. It puts a new twist on the vampire/human romance, because she really hates vampires. Her love story with Adrian keeps me glued to the pages. The latest book in the series, the Fiery Heart, has just been released, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

The Witness – Nora Roberts (2012)

Nora Roberts have written enough books to create her own universe. With over two hundred books her universe has good and bad parts. The Witness falls into the part which is equivalent to the Maldives – it is beautiful and brilliantly written. Elizabeth Fitch’s life goes horribly wrong the one night she chooses to defy her mother. She witnesses Mafia murders and is forced into witness protection. Her mother deserts her, and after the murder of the two Marshalls she trusted, she knows she must escape her name or die. Years later, Elizabeth has turned into Abigail Lowry, a brilliant computer hacker. She meets Brooks Gleason and has to decide whether she will hide forever, or come forward and imprison Ilya Volkov for his crimes.

The book is suspenseful and emotional. I pitied Elizabeth Fitch, a true pawn in her mother’s master plan. Nora Roberts spins a tale that keeps you up at night that haunts you until you finish it. This is one of the books I would really recommend to her new readers.

The Villa – Nora Roberts (2002)

Another brilliant book by Ms. Roberts, the Villa is about Sophia Giambelli and the Giambelli-MacMillan wine empire she will inherit one day. When it becomes obvious that someone is out to get her and her family, Sophia realizes she is in great danger and must be careful with her trust. Her love interest with Tyler MacMillan becomes intense, and together they must field the danger directed at their heritage.

The Villa is superb with its superb description of details, and an interesting mix of strong and weak female characters.  I am so glad I stumbled upon this book. It is a fantastic read and I would recommend it to everyone.

Veronica Roth – Divergent (2011)

Instead of being another Hunger Games knock-off, Divergent and the two other books in the series is original. Set in Dystopian Chicago, society is divided into factions – traits that represents the good in society. Beatrice, of Abnegation, is the main protagonist and Divergent follows her story how she changed factions to become Dauntless, what it means to be Divergent and how she witnessed the demise of her world.

Veronica Roth – Allegiant (2013)

This is the last book in the Divergent series. It is better than Insurgent,  and I enjoyed it more. Tris and her boyfriend Four help lead the resistance against Jeanine Matthews and the Er Finally,

Honorable mentions

*These are books I have read for a second time and enjoyed it more this time around (or books that simply didn’t make the first 5)

  1. Eat, Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
  2. Insurgent – Veronica Roth (2012)
  3. Carnal Innocence – Nora Roberts (1991)
  4. The Mystery of Mercy Close – Marian Keyes (2012)

Book Review: Carnal Innocence (Nora Roberts)

Book: 67/100

CI

Violinist Caroline Waverly heads to the town Innocence, a town in Mississippi, to recover from the emotional breakdown she had when the years of stress and her manager/lover’s betrayal became too much for her.

She meets Tucker Longstreet sitting at her pond one afternoon. He seems laid back and content to be a trust fund baby, but she soon learns that looks can be deceiving. Tucker is deeply involved with his family’s farm and financial issues, and carries the additional weight of keeping an eye over his alcoholic brother Max and eternal flirt of a sister, Josie.

Caroline’s peaceful recovery is disturbed when she finds a woman in her pond who has been brutally murdered. The woman, Edda Lou Hatinger, had publicly accused Tucker of making her pregnant days before her death. Tucker immediately becomes the suspect. Tucker has to deal with Edda’s father as well – a religious, abusive nut who is intent on killing Tucker for his alleged crime.

As more and more bodies start to turn up, all linked to Tucker even in the most distant of ways, the Longstreets come under the spotlight. Caroline must deal with her attraction to him and even though she is 100% sure he didn’t kill the women, she knows that it is definitely someone in Innocence. Will their love survive and who is behind the murders?

Rating: 8/10

If there was a book for the worst names for books ever, Carnal Innocence would be first in there. What a stupid name for an excellent book! The name is accurate as you real further – the town Innocence certainly has an obsession with lusty business. The name, while better than the other titles books have received (I’m looking at you, Katie Fford), will discourage a new reader immediately. That is just bad, since the book is extremely well written, and you will not expect the murderer EVER. If you can read past the title, you will find a book full of the trademarks of Nora Roberts – incredible imagination and description, strong characters, a murderous villain, a good love story and a lot of suspense.

Movie Review: Breaking Dawn Part One (2011)

Breaking_Dawn_Part_1_Poster

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is finally ready to marry Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), her vampire boyfriend. Her marriage to him will mean the final severance of her friendship to werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) who is in love with her and also a mortal enemy to vampires. Bella plans to become a vampire to be with Edward forever, but this means that a war could break out between the Cullens and the Quileute werewolf pack.

On the night of her marriage, Jacob unexpectedly shows up. She lets it slips that she plans to sleep with Edward while she is still human, and he is outraged. His pack restrains him before things get ugly, and he runs off into the woods.

Edward takes Bella to Isle Esme for their honeymoon. They have sex for the first time, and Edward is appalled how he hurt her. With some convincing she gets him to try again, and it goes much better the second time around. Their honeymoon is only marred by a native who suspects that Edward is something supernatural.

Bella wakes up one morning suddenly very sick, and realizes her period is late. She is stunned when she sees a slight bulge in her stomach. They realize that she is pregnant and Edward is furious with himself. They fly back immediately, and Edward promises to save her life – by aborting the unknown thing growing inside of her. She secretly calls Rosalie (Nikki Reed) for help – the vampire who had always secretly wanted a child more than anything. She and Bella are able to convince the rest of the clan to wait and see what happens.

When Jacob hears Bella is back, he races to see her. He is nauseated when he realises what happens, and turns into a werewolf and runs away. His pack makes sense of what is happening, and Sam Uley, the pack leader, decides they must annihilate the creature – and Bella too as it is growing in her. Jacob stands up against Sam, and claiming his heritage as the true leader of the tribe, breaks away. He alerts the Cullens of the wolves’ plan and with them on alert Sam doesn’t dare attack just yet. Jacob is soon joined by Leah (Julia Jones) and Seth Clearwater (Booboo Stewart), turning his pack into three members.

Bella becomes weaker and weaker because her body won’t sustain any food. Jacob is first to notice that the foetus is craving blood. After that, Bella’s health increases slightly. A few days later she goes into labour and gives birth to Renesmee. It seems that she is dead, but Edward refuses to give up. Jacob heads downstairs, fully intending to kill the new-born, but he imprints on her – a powerful love only a werewolf can feel to its true mate.

When the werewolves learn of Bella’s death, they head to the Cullen’s to kill the baby. They stop when they realise that Jacob imprinted – they would never kill his soul mate. While Bella lies on the table, “dead”, Carlisle (Peter Fascinelli) realises that her heart is beating rapidly. She starts to heal as the vampire venom spreads through her veins, and the Cullens clean her up. Bella’s heart finally seizes up, and she awakens as a vampire.

Rating: 7/10

The second last movie of the franchise Twilight was surprisingly good. I know Twilight has a lot of haters out there, but I suspect it has just as many secret fans too. This movie is decidedly gory at times. The birth of Renesmee is disgusting, and Bella’s deterioration during her pregnancy is excellently done. She looks BAD. Kristen Stewart’s acting has developed enough so that she can grimace in pain and look in love (which is not actually acting since she was dating Pattinson at the time. She still mostly looks vacant, but I have to say I spotted improvement.

The rest of the cast pretty much continues to act as the always have done. I don’t know why, but when Kellan Lutz smiles it looks like he is grimacing in pain. Maybe he just forgot his lines. Looks like the type. He should stick to Calvin Klein-ing around (as mentioned before). I think Elizabeth Reaser should have stayed golden haired for the entire series. Her dark hair isn’t true to the books and doesn’t suit. Can vampires even get dye to stick to their hair though?  I still like Nikki Reed as Rosalie. As the character, I am glad she found some happiness by being part at the end with the birth of Renesmee. Rose’s story is perhaps the saddest of all of them, because she just wanted a kid and a husband to grow old with.

The wedding was beautifully done. I loved the dress.  It was as extravagant as in the book, just like Alice planned.

The movie is definitely better than the first three, and it is a decent enough watch.

5 Things Friday: Five outrages gifts I want for Christmas

Unless you are living under a rock, you are well aware that in twelve days it is Christmas. I love this time of the year. Suddenly, people become much more friendly and kind. It is also the time of the year for PRESENTS. I will never claim I am too old for presents. NEVER. I have compiled all the outrages gifts I want for Christmas below 🙂 Enjoy!

A Tea-Shack in Hawaii

My friend Zoe and I decided a few years back that owning and operating a tea-shack in Hawaii would be the perfect way to live life, and that it would be our dream to one day do it. I think now is the time! Just look at how lovely it is there.

hawaii

-See?!

 

My very own pair of Christian Louboutin shoes

Christian Louboutin shoes is like shoe-porn. They are perfect. There is nothing like it. I have to own a pair. I want a pair. RIGHT NOW.

christian-louboutin

A fancy pants Laptop

So that I can write lovely blog posts on it. Duh

Laptop

The CAR

I really, really want a car now. Soon

Big Gift

-See, it is even Christmassy colors

Chris Hemsworth

thor-the-dark-world

Because DUH

What is on your IMPOSSIBLE wish list?