Sunday, 14 July 2019

Review: Crosley Cruiser Briefcase Style Vinyl Turntable

Crosley Cruiser Deluxe Briefcase Style Three Speed Portable Bluetooth Vinyl Turntable with Built-In Stereo Speakers

There are two things that happened since we bought our own home: one, after twenty years of travelling around the world in a sealed box, I finally unpacked my record collection and two, my favourite husband bought me a Crosley vinyl turntable. It's a far cry from the Sony multi-component sound system that we had in the 80s but let's be honest, if I hadn't unpacked my records in 20 years, I couldn't exactly justify replacing my sound system.

I was absolutely thrilled to receive the Crosley turntable for my birthday. I wasn't expecting it at all and it is amongst the most thoughtful gifts my husband has bought me. I'm notoriously hard to buy gifts for - I hate trinkets and 'things' - but he usually wins me over through my love of music.

The Crosley turntable is lovely. It is a tiny briefcase style turntable that barely takes up more room that the LP itself. It was so simple to set up that even I figured it out - just unpack, plug in and play.

It has three speeds - 33, 45 and 78. How I wish I had my grandmother's collection of 78s and how I wish that an entire box of 45s hadn't been lost over the years. Still, I have over 300 33s, dating from the 60s to the late 80s, so that should keep me busy. No, I'm not old enough to have a record collection like that; I have all my father's records which he left behind when he left South Africa.

The turntable comes with built-in speakers and they're okay, somewhat lacking in both treble and bass. I still have a Samsung CD player, amp and speakers so am hooking that up to get a better sound.

The Crossley turntable also comes with a couple of nifty features which were available on later turntables but were definitely not on my parent's Sony turntable which was bought in the early 80s. Firstly, it has auto stop which you can switch on or off. I switched it on, thus saving myself the heartache of yet another ruined needle on a forgotten record or that endless scratching at the end of the side.

The turntable also has a tone arm control which allows you to softly lower the tone arm onto the vinyl without dropping it or scratching the record.

There is a 45 RPM adapter which makes my heart ache for my lost 45s and a headphone jack for quiet listening. I'd rather make my neighbour's floor shake which is why I'm opting to wire the Crosley up rather than go that route.

Finally, the turntable comes with a hold down clip for the tone arm which means that it can be stored upright when not in use which is very useful!

For convenience and connecting me with my much-neglected record collection, I give Crosley Cruiser vinyl turntable an excellent four out of five stars, deducting just one star for the slightly tinny speakers.

★★★★☆

If you're convinced and would like to buy a Crosley Cruiser Deluxe Briefcase Style Three Speed Portable Bluetooth Vinyl Turntable with Built-In Stereo Speakers, you can click the widget below. I'll earn a small amount of commission which will go towards the running of this site.

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Saturday, 13 July 2019

Devastating and Horrifying: 'Heroine' by Mindy McGinnis ★★★★☆

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis | Superior Young Adult Fiction | Review

I never thought I’d see the day where I recommend a book that I did not enjoy or where I absolutely disliked the protagonist but here we go. In Heroine Mindy McGinnis, author of Female of the Species and Not A Drop to Drink has decided to tackle the growing opioid crisis in the US with a brutal, no holds barred account of a teenager who becomes addicted to heroine. It is not a pleasant book to read but I could not put it down.

Mickey Catalan and her best friend Carolina are local softball stars, the talk of their town and no doubt heading to college on scholarships. Until one day, they are involved in a terrible car accident where Mickey’s hip is shattered along with Carolina’s arm. In those first weeks following the accident, both girls need Oxy to help them deal with the pain and get back into training. Why is it then that Mickey travels down a much darker path than Carolina, one that will destroy nearly everyone close to her and end some relationships forever?

Mindy McGinnis starts at the end, so we know in the very first page where this story is going but that didn’t make it any less compelling or devastating.

The only problem is that Mickey is so awful.

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis | Superior Young Adult Fiction | Review I don’t usually like it when people say they don’t like a protagonist, preferring instead to try understand why the author wrote them that way. That didn’t make the book any more enjoyable to read because Mickey is first and foremost an addict and what is there to like in a novel about an addict becoming addicted? I speak from deep personal experience when I say that addicts are selfish, duplicitous, lying, thieving people who will stop at nothing to get their next fix. You’re not meant to like an addict.

Mickey’s downfall is horrendous and messy. There is not really any chance of liking that.

"Realistic, frustrating and terrifying"

So is the book worth reading? Yes. Mindy McGinnis has done such a good job of writing this catastrophically flawed character that she draws the reader right in to the events in a book. I don’t mean simply that I was engaged or riveted, which I was, I mean that I felt emotionally drained and traumatised by the end of the book.

Heroine definitely does a better job of showing the harm of drugs than Christiane F or Go Ask Alice. I haven’t read any more contemporary YA books on substance abuse because, like Heroine, if it is well written it is never going to be an enjoyable or uplifting read. I’ve also gone through that in real life and don’t necessarily want to be reminded of it.

Heroine is realistic, frustrating and terrifying. I give it an excellent four out of five stars and definitely recommend this book for classroom discussions on opioid abuse and addiction.

★★★★☆

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Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Cover Reveal: 'Chessboxer' by Stephen Davies

Chessboxer cover reveal | Stephen Davies | Superior Young Adult Fiction In my endless search for superior young adult fiction, I've discovered some brilliant authors whose books I always look forward to. One of my favourites - and he's British as well - is Stephen Davies, author of Outlaw, Blood & Ink and Survivor: Titanic.

It's been a little while since Stephen released a young adult novel and so I'm thrilled to host this cover reveal today for his brand new novel Chessboxer. The cover is edgy and striking and I am so ready to dive into Leah's world.

'Gripping and surprising. I gulped it down' Sarah Crossan

Synopsis

Leah Baxter is a genius. She's a few wins away from becoming a junior chess grandmaster, and her life is on course to achieve everything her mom and coach want for her.

But Leah is at stalemate – grieving for her father, and feeling suffocated. She decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and quit chess. But chess doesn't want to quit her. Soon Leah discovers her new gambit: chessboxing, a dangerous hybrid sport which will test her body and mind to their limits. Can the pawn become the queen?

Chessboxer will be released by Andersen Press on 3 October 2019. That's 93 days away, just in case you're counting, which I definitely am. Watch this space for a review and giveaway closer to the time! In the meantime you can preorder here (this is an Amazon affiliate link - I will receive a small commission if you click and order).

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Sunday, 30 June 2019

Conversations with Nick Cave, Brighton Dome, 29 June 2019

Conversations with Nick Cave review | The Brighton Dome | 29 June 2019

I went to see Conversations with Nick Cave at Brighton Done last night. It was an intimate event, with Nick Cave sharing such painful, private things, that it feels almost wrong to share what was said and discussed. I would like to record that I was there though and to note that it was a life-affirming, powerful evening that is playing over and over in my mind. I am never surprised when Nick Cave does something that makes me love him more than I already did and last night was no exception. My heart swells.

There was one question and answer that I would like to share because it went a long way to explaining what Cave is doing and why he began talking to his fans on his blog The Red Hand Files and in his 'Conversations with' events. A member of the audience noted that Cave often responds with extraordinary empathy when speaking to fans and she asked whether he doesn't suffer from empathy overload.

Cave responded that following the death of his son Arthur, he received an outpouring of support from fans and members of the public via letter and email. These people didn't know him but often they would share their own stories of loss and grief. He mentioned that it had changed him and it had saved him. He realised that he wanted to give back, to share that empathy in some way.

Cave took a moment to distinguish between empathy and compassion and said that what people really need when they are grieving is compassion, that person who just makes cups of tea or simply sits and listens.

He said that he realised that we are all the same, that we might not be there now but we will all experience grief and devastation in our lives.

It struck me that this might be Nick Cave's finest hour, for out of his darkest moment he has taken the time to create something beautiful and illuminating, to lift people out of darkness. Which is exactly what he has been doing since I discovered him at age 15.

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Saturday, 22 June 2019

Randy Ribay's Devastating 'Patron Saints of Nothing' ★★★★★

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay | Superior Young Adult Fiction | Book Review

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is waging a war on drugs. Since 2016, he has promised to rid the Philippines of drugs and has encouraged civilians to kill suspected dealers and drug addicts. The numbers vary depending on the source but it is estimated that between 5,000 and 20,000 people have been killed in extrajudicial killings since 2016. It is against the backdrop of the Philippine Drug War that Randy Ribay bases his latest young adult release Patron Saints of Nothing about a Filipino-American teenager and his quest to find out the truth about his cousin's murder.

For Jay Reguero, senior year is a done deal. He's secured a place at University of Michigan and intends to spend spring break playing video games with his friend Seth. But then his cousin Jun is murdered in Manila as part of President Duterte's War in drugs and no one in his family will talk about it. On a whim, Jay flies to the Philippines to visit his family and to find out the truth for himself.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay | Superior Young Adult Fiction | Book ReviewIn ten short days, Jay's entire life changes. With themes touching on poverty, slums, addiction, drug use, extrajudicial killings, guilt and redemption, Patron Saints of Nothing is a powerful and devastating story. I felt destroyed by the climax, utterly raw and vulnerable as I cried frustrated tears for the sheer injustice of it all.

Patron Saints of Nothing is an important novel that is as valuable for introducing readers worldwide to life and society in the Philippines as it is for shedding light on the themes that it covers. It is also a touching coming-of-age story with real character development not only for Jay but also for his cousin Jun. I love that Randy Ribay explored both boys' lives through the similarities they shared and the differences between them. Considering how long this book has stayed in my mind, I imagine it will be a great book to discuss in classrooms.

There are no easy solutions in this story or neatly wrapped up storylines. This complexity and refusal to sugarcoat reality are what sets this novel apart from others and I'd be interested to read Ribay's other works.

I give Patron Saints of Nothing a superb five out of five stars and recommend to fans of superior young adult fiction as well as readers seeking to learn about Filipino culture and life in the Philippines.

★★★★★

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Saturday, 15 June 2019

Claire Legrand's Explosive Fantasy 'Furyborn' on Audiobook - Review ★★★★☆

Furyborn by Claire Legrand | Audiobook Review | Superior Young Adult Fiction

I haven’t read a good young adult fantasy novel in ages, except for Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, but then I read (and loved) Claire Legrand’s Sawkill Girls and knew that the next logical choice had to be her epic fantasy Empirium series. Furyborn, the first in the series, is everything that young adult fantasy stopped being ages ago. Too often, young adult fantasies feature rushed and weak storylines, with authors drawing out plots so that they can turn a single story into a trilogy. More often than not, those plots focus on love interests and the ever-present love triangle, rather than exploring the magical worlds that the authors work so hard to create.

Furyborn is different. Claire Legrand writes powerful, complex female characters and Furyborn features two strong protagonists. Rielle Dardenne has grown up with her best friend Prince Audric and his betrothed Lady Ludivine. When Audric is the target of an assassination attempt, Rielle rushes to his defence and exposes to the world her unique and formidable magical powers. Such power can only mean one of two things, that she is a prophesied queen of great good or of great evil. To prove her worth and save her life, Rielle is forced to undergo a series of trials that may yet kill her in the meantime.

Furyborn by Claire Legrand | Audiobook Review | Superior Young Adult FictionOne thousand years later, Eliana Ferracora is a bounty hunter, working on behalf of the Empire to eradicate the rebel Red Crown. Her life is changed forever when her mother is abducted and the mysterious figure The Wolf convinces her to join him in looking for her.

Told in alternating chapters as we switch between the stories of Rielle and Eliana, Furyborn kept me up for far too many nights as I devoured just one more chapter. The story begins at the end of Rielle’s story, only to take readers back to the very beginning, ever conscious of the tragedy that awaits. When we meet Eliana, she is at the start of her story, with no idea of what awaits her. Despite thinking you might know everything, Legrand takes the reader on an explosive journey as you slowly start to unravel what really happened.

At over 500 pages, Furyborn is an epic tome yet I was surprised at how captivating and uncomplicated it was for such a lengthy fantasy novel. I really appreciate this – fantasy novels are often far too complicated for their own good and keeping notes to keep up with a novel is not my idea of fun.

Despite this, I was nevertheless pleased to have listened to this on Audible. Fiona Hardingham does a fantastic job of bringing this story alive and her voices for each of the characters was superb, especially the creepy Corien. I'm really enjoying listening to audiobooks lately but I'd especially recommend them if you're struggling with a lengthy or complex novel.

Ultimately, Furyborn is fascinating, fun and intriguing. I wouldn't go so far as saying it ends on a cliffhanger but the story is far from resolved and I'm pleased to arrive late to the Empirium party because sequel Kingsbane is already released and next on my to-listen pile.

I give Furyborn an excellent four out of five stars and recommend to kindred seekers of superior young adult fantasy fiction.

★★★★☆

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Thursday, 13 June 2019

Horror Film Review: Boo! (2019) ★★★★☆

Boo! (2019) | Horror Film Review | Starring Aurora Perrineau

Halloween night, suburban Detroit. A family is settling down to eat when the doorbell rings; on the doorstep is a sinister package promising the recipient certain harm if the curse isn't passed on. Caleb is terrified for he alone knows the legend of the Boo! and of the terrible fate of the Vietnam veteran who failed to pass it on. Unfortunately for Caleb, he can't convince his religious father, alcoholic mother or rebellious sister to take the curse seriously and the Boo! is destroyed.

It's not immediately obvious the danger the family faces but soon an insidious terror pervades the home. As each family member is forced to face the worst of their memories and burdens, it becomes clear that none of them may survive the night. In scenes reminiscent of The Babadook, the horror represents all of the dysfunction and emotional trauma evident in this family and every way in which they failed each other. It is gory and graphic with unsettling scenes of trauma, self-harm and mutilation.

Boo! (2019) | Horror Film ReviewWith a healthy doses of scares and reliance on wild imagery, Boo! is an exhilarating ride though the dark undertones of a dysfunctional family. Interestingly, the film also delves deep below the surface and into the horror of everyday living in a city that is devouring itself. Could it be that the curse is a blessing that could save the family from their nightmare existence?

Alas, for all of its promise, Boo! falters in the final act, which is to say that I didn't like the ending. I'm not saying the outcome should have been different, just that the way there should have been better.

Directed by Luke Jaden in his directorial debut, Boo! stars horror regulars Rob Zabrecky and Jill Marie Jones (Ash vs The Evil Dead) as parents James and Elyse. Relative newcomer Jaden Piner (Moonlight) gives a thoroughly disturbing performance as Caleb and Aurora Perrineau gives a standout performance as his sister Morgan. Charley Palmer Rothwell has departed (Dunkirk) England for Detroit and stars as Morgan's surprisingly honourable boyfriend Ashton.

Boo! (2019) | Horror Film Review | Starring Rob Zabrecky

I enjoyed Boo! and give it four out of five stars. I was wavering between three and four stars, having firmly deducted a star for the ending, but it is scary with decent character exploration and great imagery so I feel it deserves better than an average rating.

★★★★☆

Boo! (2019) Trailer

Boo! is available on Digital Download from 17 June 2019.

Boo! (2019) | Horror Film Review | Starring Jaden Piner

Boo! (2019) | Horror Film Review

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© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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