Audiobook Recommendation- I Am Number Four

They walk among us!

A near extinct alien race here amongst us, in hiding hunted down by another alien race determined to kill each and every last one of them. But for a charm which protects them (the Loric), a charm determining that they could only be killed in order. But who knows this order? They themselves know, but they don’t know each other! There are 9, arriving on our planet after a battle which destroyed their own home planet. They arrived as 9 children, but now they are teenagers with developing super powers, and they are helpless no more!

Each of them have gone into hiding, with their Cepân (adult guardians), constantly moving, and constantly changing identities to keep the Mogadorians (aggressor species) off their heels.  However they caught-killed Number One in Malaysia, Number Two in England, Number Three in Kenya, and now Number Four is next in line for termination!

So after that little intro, are you intrigued? I randomly stumbled on ‘I Am Number Four’, I hadn’t heard of the book before (released in 2010), nor was I aware that a film of the same name had been released in 2011. But I was completely drawn into the story, only after the first 30 minutes of the audiobook.

I AM Number Four is the first book in a series called the Lorian Legacies, written by Pittacus Lore (the pseudonym for the writer duo of James Frey and Jobie Hughes). Although the first book and the series has received mixed reviews, however I’ve personally found it to be an absolute marvel, as it’s not just your typical Young adult science fiction novel like Harry Potter or Twilight, but it reads more like a Marvel superhero comic! And I think this detail is lost on most people. Yes you can criticize it, as it’s not the most well written book, and the storyline can be both predictable and hard to believe at the same time, and it’s also cheesy and cringing at times. However readers must understand that the author was attempting to describe an out-of-this-world story using words alone, encouraging you and me to use our imagination to picture these scenes. While in my own opinion, I believe that the story was better suited for a comic book strip or a major cinematic film. And thus why we haven’t seen many superhero novels before.

Personally I was very impressed in how Pittacus Lore was able to describe to us using words alone an alien race, describe the discovery of developing super powers (called legacies), and describe out-of-this-world monsters, all without the use of visual aids. I’ve read quite a few novels in my time, however I don’t seem to recall ever reading a novel like this before, where the book had superhero types in it. And once people realise how rare it is, to attempt to write a sci-fi novel like this, then you may forgive the novel for some of its failings.

I found the story to be fascinating i.e. learning about an alien race, and learning of their cultures, social structures, and powers; it was contrasting as in, here’s Number Four (John Smith) trying to fit in at a new high school with the usual teenage angst, while he’s developing super powers and learning what he is capable of; it’s fast paced, as in the story unfolds rapidly so much so that at the end of the book you’re left wondering “how did we get here?”; and it has a touch of teenage romance as well, which I like as I’m a sucker for the lovey dovey.

And just when you’ve reached the end of the book, the final paragraphs sets the scene (and often leaves you hanging in suspense) for the sequel, so the only thing you can do, is to jump straight into the next book. To date we’ve read/listened to 5 books in the Lorian Legacies series, and at the conclusion of each book we tell ourselves that we’re going to give it a break. But low-and-behold, a few days later we’re binge listening to the very next one.

In my personal opinion, the first is always the best! So I’ve got a soft spot for ‘I Am Number Four’, while the subsequent books are good as well, as we meet more and more of the Garde (the 9 Loric). And in the next books, you’ll get to experience the uniqueness of having multiple authors- as different chapters and different characters have a completely different feel to them.

So if you want to check out the Lorian Legacies series, click HERE to start off with book 1- I Am Number Four!    

Netflix recommendation- The Crown season 3-4

Can we send an abusive message to Prince Charles?

The Crown cinematic universe phase 2? Can I call seasons 3-4 that? As labelling it a historical drama, suggests to the audience that what we’re about to view is true and factual?

Ok, just to take a step back, seasons 3 and 4 of The Crown covers the years from 1964 to 1991- with an entirely different cast to play members of the Royal family. And may I add, all of them played their roles perfectly, absolutely no degradation from the cast of phase 1. And like in seasons 1-2, I enjoyed how the film makers selected significant historical events, 10 per season to tell the story of the Royal family and the United Kingdom, moving their individual stories forward through a span of decades. Not an easy task to pull off, but it was done very, very well indeed.

And as a TV series, from an entertainment point of view it was fantastic! Such great acting, brilliant storytelling, a drama series heads and shoulders above the rest. Something which I’d happily recommend to anyone.

And now that we’ve caught up to where everyone else are at, I thought I was truly more knowledgeable about the Royal family now. Seeing them for who they really are, a normal family with its own dysfunctions like all families are (be that on a grander scale). When previously I could only picture them in the context of their official duties, stoic and lacking personality.

But minutes before writing this post for you, I took some time to read through Wikipedia’s entry on The Crown, and although I knew this was going to burst my bubble but I was super curious to read the content under ‘Historical accuracy’ (or should I say Historical inaccuracies). But now I sit here, actually quite disappointed and angry that critical elements of the show were significantly dramatized, historically inaccurate, embellished, or were outright lies! Sure, I wasn’t naive enough to believe that everything that was spoon fed to me was the gospel truth. However I didn’t think that I was being actively manipulated either!?

To be honest with you, after finishing the last episode of season 4, I was left feeling extremely hateful towards Prince Charles! Throughout the season I’d whisper into my wife’s ear “can we send an abusive message to Prince Charles?” It was our internal joke, after we learned that fans of The Crown were sending him hateful messages after watching season 4. But now to find out that his relations with Camilla were not as they were depicted? I feel a tad silly and foolish now, as I had been manipulated into feeling hostility towards a real life living being (not to mention who may become our future King).

But it wasn’t only Charles who was depicted in an unflattering light, but literally every character in season 4 were depicted to have character flaws! From the Queen on down, right down to Mark Thatcher who had less than 10 minutes of air time. I’m just left thinking now, why? Why has the producers of The Crown manipulated us in a way, so that we think that all privileged and  powerful are A-holes? What are they trying to achieve here?

So after investing more than 40 hours of my life into The Crown, am I more informed about the goings on behind the closed doors of power? Probably not, but now I’m just left cycling through my memories, trying to sort out what was fact and what was fiction. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like being lied to.

From an entertainment point of view, The Crown was great! But they should warn impressionable viewers like me that what I was going to watch was a work of fiction. Otherwise people may walk away and believe that they’ve just watched a historical account of what really went on behind closed doors.

To view the second instalment of The Crown cinematic universe, click HERE! And to learn what was historically inaccurate click HERE for the Wikipedia entry on The Crown.   

Product recommendation- Apple News+

Can you want something that you don’t want?

Here is my dilemma, I’ve trialled Apple News+, and although the concept is great! I.e. access to hundreds of magazines and newspapers all in one place, but who really has the time to consume all of this content?

The value proposition is there, $14.99 per month to have access to all of these magazines from the US, Canada, UK and Australia- titles which could easily cost upwards of $7.95 each! But you have access to all of them, in the palm of your hand, in an environmentally friendly package!

But have you ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content that you have? I suspect you’ve felt this way if you subscribe to too many podcasts. You know that feeling of anxiety, when you see the list of unlistened content piling up. And now I’m having the same issue with Apple News+, and it hasn’t even been a month yet!

The first thing after securing News+, was that I went into the list of all the magazine titles, and subscribed to everything which caught my interest (from cooking to cars). But less than a month on, I already have this month’s unread title sitting there (July), and now August’s issue has also made its way onto my unread list. Now I have double the amount of content to work through, we’re talking about upwards of 15 titles. Yikes!

I attempted to read one magazine cover to cover…… still haven’t quite got there yet. And meanwhile I’ve lost my spot. Boo! But here are the 4 reasons why I’m going to maintain News+ beyond the trial period.


I’ve already mentioned how it’s value+ even for just one user, but with family sharing and the ability to share with up to 6 people in your family! That’s value++. If you divided that cost up, that’s $3 per person per month!


Yes, it’s super easy to access, as titles automatically download to your device each month after you’ve subscribed to it. But it’s also blind accessible! Previously there were no means for me to get my hands on periodic print material like magazines, but because my phone talks, and the format of the magazines are in accessible text so my phone reads out the articles to me! All of a sudden, a whole new world is opened up to me! That in itself is priceless! Hey?

One day, one of these days I’m……

Yeah, one of these days I’m going to find myself lost for something to do, perhaps in-between audio books? Perhaps with a spare 20 minutes to burn? And what better, than to read a short article to pass the time? One of these days, it’s going to happen!

It’s just such a darn good product

I’m not exaggerating here, but it really is a great product! Depending on the magazine title, but it may be a proper digital magazine which is interactive (opposed to just a PDF file); the magazine articles are presented as an individual block, thus you can sit back and allow your screen reader to read the article from start to finish, without the need to turn each page, while the reader doesn’t just read and read either, blending together two articles which could be confusing and annoying; all of the print content is in there, including adverts and images so it’s just as good as the real thing; you can share an article with friends (haven’t tried, but the option is there); and to date I haven’t mentioned much about the available newspapers, or the fact that you’ll no longer hit pay-walls on normal Apple News! There’s really so much value for $14.99 per month.

Although I’m going to keep it, however is anyone using it? The main reason why I got News+ in the first place, was for my mum. My idea for her birthday was to buy her an iPad, loaded with magazines that she might be interested in (I think we subscribed to 20 cooking/lifestyle titles on her behalf). But when I checked in with her, she told me that she had tried flipping through one magazine, but found it unnatural. I guess mum is more used to a physical magazine, and being able to flip through quickly and only stopping when something caught her eye. So that’s one family member not using it.

My sister said she preferred to use Google news, preferring to put up with pay-walls than to change news providers.

My wife just doesn’t have the time, and just prefers reading news which friends share on Facebook.

And my dad who I thought would be the biggest fan of News+, he too preferred what he already has (has subscription to Sydney Morning Herald), which he says there is already enough content there to keep him occupied.

So here is my dilemma, I want to keep a product and keep paying for it although it seems that no one wants it! Maybe it’s a reflection of our changing times? People prefer content in small digestible bite sized pieces; people only want what they’re interested in (not spoon fed a 70+ page document); and perhaps people rather watch something than read something (my mum loves Disney Plus, which we also downloaded to her iPad).

The value is definitely there, now it just requires an audience who has the time and patience to read. But if you want to learn more about Apple News+, click HERE! It might be just what you’re looking for! But for now, Apple you can keep having my money, God knows how much you’ve already taken from me.

Product recommendation- Bass guitars

Oh, Covid lock-down blues……

Ok, this isn’t exactly a product recommendation, because I don’t have a product to recommend to you just yet……. But I’m putting forward an idea, a concept, a spark to stimulate your own thinking? It just might help you pass time quicker during isolation.

So a few months back I received my Roland Hand Sonic, a multi-purpose digital percussion instrument, and as I was banging away on it bashing along to tunes off Spotify, I came to the realisation that I actually preferred the bass part of songs, than being the beat…….

Hmmmm, this posed a few problems, as I had just dropped over $1500 on the Roland, and only now at this late stage I’m realising that I prefer to learn how to play the bass guitar, Than Drums!? D’oh!

So I started to watch YouTube tutorials, to find out how difficult (or achievable) it might be to learn; and I was checking online music stores to find out how much a bass guitar can be, to allow me to join this bass playing fraternity. But like fads or phases, after a week or so, I got over it and I didn’t think much more about it.

That was until one Sunday, as we were waiting for church to start, a friend came to us and handed us a bass guitar, “Um, someone said that you guys were looking to learn how to play?” He said, as he handed over the bass guitar which was enclosed in its bass guitar bag to us.

“Um, yeah….” I could only mutter, as it felt so unreal, like I had only been thinking about it, and only my wife knew of this desire to try, but here it was, handed to us solid in my hands. It turned out that my wife had mentioned it to a friend (a bass player), and her second bass was making the rounds around the church, being lent out to people who wanted to tinker around on its 4 steal strings. And now it was my turn to tinker!

First impressions, boy it’s heavy! Carrying it back to the car I was so surprised by its weight. And trying to play it for the first time, boy the strings were stiff and quite painful to press down. And only after a few minutes of mucking around on it, I decided that the bass was probably not for me, as I couldn’t stand the pain on my fingers. I know! I’m a wimp! So I packed it away, and my largest achievement that day, was to find space in our apartment to store it. As we live in a small apartment, and everything has its place, and I hadn’t devised a spot for it during my day-dreamings. But I found a nook for it, and it was now out of sight, out of mind. To be returned back to our friend, the next time we saw them.

However in the first week, I kept going back to the bass, pulling it out and flick at the strings, still not knowing what I was doing. But the turning point was when I started to use a bass guitar pick. Sure, a “proper bass” player would never use a pick, as they’d be using their index and middle fingers to do the walking along the strings, But I simply couldn’t stand the pain! After following one YouTube tutorial, I already developed a blister on my middle finger pad, which annoyed me to the nth degree. But the pick was a vital key in unlocking the next subsequent stage- which was just spending more time playing it.

So after just putting in the time and playing it, I started to get familiar with where everything was. In tutorial one on YouTube, it was all about the E-string, so I’d play every note only using the e-string. Thus I’d move half way up and down the neck, taking way too long to play different notes, until my wife walked in and pointed out: “You do know you can play that same note on the A-string”. And that was turning point No. 2! And an addition to this moment of enlightenment, was my wife’s tip bit that I basically only had to learn 12 notes, and all of them can be played on the E, A and D strings, without going past the 5th Fret. And this piece of wisdom, I believe has been the most important factor in why I’m still humming along, on my journey of learning the bass! Literally and metaphorically.

Now that I knew that the note that I’m looking for, can be found in this small hand span wide area, it has made it so much easier to pick-up a song, and start thumbing along to it, until through trial and error I’ve learnt all the notes for that song.

Other elements which had helped in this learning phase, was adjusting our amp’s setting to max bass and minimum treble- now the bass actually sounds like a bass! Before that, it just sounded like a slightly deeper electric guitar. Secondly it was taking the bass permanently out of its storage nook, and placing it on a guitar stand, thus its easy now to pick up and play whenever the urge comes. And after I got over my marcho-ness and got over needing to play it “like a man”, now I regularly take a seat rather than packing it in after standing for 30 mins and my neck and left shoulder are screaming out to me to stop! Therefore sitting equates to spending more time playing.

To date I’ve learnt the bass parts to 4 songs, and google and YouTube have been a God send! As you can literally find everything you need there, be that learning what key the song is in, or a step by step tutorial in playing the bass part. It’s all there!

And finally, Spotify premium! Nothing like being able to request the song that you want, and play along to it over and over until you’ve perfected the bass part- sounding like you’re one of the band!

So yeah, this latest round of Covid lock-down hasn’t been too bad, as I’ve been spending my indoor time learning a new skill. So Covid blues? No low mood here, just the blues….. of the musical kind. I imagine the next time I post about this, would be a proper ‘Product recommendation’, where I’ve pulled the trigger and purchased my own bass- so this one can be passed on to the next budding bass player.

What I’ve learnt:

  1. Borrow, don’t buy- only after some hands on experience, can you tell if an instrument is right for you. And sometimes it just isn’t for you.
  • Don’t be a man- if I stuck it out and held onto my macho ways, I think I’d given up on the bass after week one. A guitar pick and being willing to sit down to play, has bought me additional time to learn the basics- and now I can build on those foundational building blocks. Maybe in the future I might graduate to big boy pants, and I can do away with the pick, and stand on my own two feet. But for now, my ass is firmly planted in my chair, and I need to stop losing picks, as I’ve only got 2 bass picks left. Ah!
  • Persistence- I’m not musically inclined, and my natural reaction when something doesn’t come naturally to me is to give up. But by persisting with it this time, and of course obtaining advice from others and YouTube, the bass guitar has been achievable. A good entry level musical instrument for those who lack any musical talent. And for those who have it, then you’ll absolutely excel! As long as you don’t find the bass parts too boring, and lacking mental stimulation.  

Product recommendation- ESPN Radio on TuneIn Radio

FREE access to LIVE NBA finals coverage anyone?

You know that old adage, there is no such thing as a free lunch? And in this day and age of paid subscriptions, you’re probably right in 99% of the time in believing in no freebies.  

But I’m here to tell you, that there are still such things as freebies! And from all the various Medias I’m subscribed to at the moment, the media which I’ve been listening to the most ATM is FREE! Yep! FREE!

So the concept of free to air commercial radio isn’t ground-breaking, however the ability to listen to world wide content free to air, in an accessible format might be though?

The media/app which I’m talking about is TuneIn Radio. It enables you access to hundreds of radio stations, from talk back to music, from sports to finance, and heaps in-between. But the radio station which I’ve been keeping on in the background on low all of these weeks, has been ESPN Radio!

And the reason for this is because ESPN Radio broadcasts live the most crucial can-not-must-not miss games! 24/7 ESPN Radio is a Sports talk-back radio station, with Analysts discussing the sports topics of the day. However when there are major events e.g. NBA finals or MLB finals, they place all regular programing on hold and broadcast to you live the most critical matches!

So for us in Australia, all the way on the other side of the world, in the midst of a month long Covid lock-down- we can pass the time by listening to Live broadcasts of the NBA finals, sprinkled in with some MLB All-star action, and some clever American commercials along the way to keep things interesting. Yeah, I’m even enjoying adverts!

Never before have we been able to enjoy LIVE US sports like this, why? Because if this was the normal world, we’d be at school or at work during these hours. But now that we’re working from home, and a Google Home easily plays softly ESPN Radio in the background, we now can enjoy free live sports while still holding down a 9-5 job! Pretty wild hey?

Here’s to the new ways of working! If you too would like to follow live American sports while working on a spreadsheet, just ask your Google Home to “Play ESPN Radio on TuneIn!” So you’ll never miss a critical bounce or strike-out ever again!

Netflix recommendations- The Circle USA (Season 2

Hotel quarantine, even before hotel quarantine was even a thang!

You have to admit, it’s pretty funny that the only Reality TV competition we can safely hold during a pandemic, is a show where everyone are already socially distanced! And it’s pretty funny how the contestants are so willing to agree to be locked away for a fortnight of total isolation, in hotel like quarantine, as long as they have a shot at $100K at the end of the experience. Perhaps that’s the key in improving mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers, dangle a potential cash prize in front of everyone?

But for those who are unfamiliar with Netflix’s Reality TV game show ‘The Circle’, it’s essentially like ‘Big Brother’, but instead of a large share home where contestants live and sleep together, the Circle contestants are completely isolated from one another. Imagine a serviced apartment from a popular hotel chain, and it’s a bit like that- with occasional use of spa and gym facilities, but all times the contestants are isolated from one another. All interaction is done through an App called the ‘Circle’, and all of their communication is done via text. So plenty of opportunities for misinterpretation- and that is what the producers are hoping for. And if there aren’t enough drama from that alone, then the Circle throws spanners into the mix, by manufacturing scenarios and opportunities for contestants to anonymously back-stab one another! Nice hey?

In every second episode, the contestants are made to rank their fellow contestants , with the outcome being that the two contestants with the most favourable rankings, they are made ‘Influencers’; given the power to block other contestants from the game, evicting them from the Circle building. And at the following episode, a new contestant is brought in to replace the old (this occurs 4 times). But because all interaction is done over an app, contestants can enter the Circle as someone else, a term called Catfishing. And it’s this factor which makes things very very interesting. And surprisingly, when people find out that they’ve been catfished, they don’t really hold it against that person- I guess it’s a part of the game, and expected.

In season 1 we already loved this format, but in season 2 all of your favourite features of the game are still there, however a few more surprises are introduced- so the second season is even better and more fun! The contestants this year also seem to be savvier, as I guess they had seen seasons 1 and perhaps The Circle France and Brazil, so they all seemed quite switched on, except for Chloe. Haaha. But that’s why we liked Chloe. And that’s why season 2 was so binge worthy. We smashed through the 13 episodes in less than a week.

Things we’ve learnt:

If you’re going to catfish someone, at least use your own gender and someone younger than you. Because when you assume a fictitious character who you’ve never lived a day in their shoes, you’ll eventually slip up and you’ll pay for that slip-up (or not……).

In general, people don’t like drama in their lives. Thus don’t rock the boat or come in all guns blazing! Be harmonious and diplomatic, even if it pains you to do so. Well,…….. At least just to their face.

And the last thing I’ve learnt, is that it’s so easy to fool others on social media, that  case on any form of digital communication. As exhibited on The Circle, so this show actually acts as a fantastic reminder to all, to be very careful when online, as there are some pretty weird people on the internet.  

In the end, The Circle was entertaining for us, fascinating to see how people played the game when they can sit behind anonymity. So if you want to check out The Circle for yourself? Click HERE! For us, we’re looking forward to Season 3.