A Year in Books 2020 – July to September

the-year-in-books
A Year in Books

Oh well!

This quarter of 2020’s A Year in Books has been very sparse indeed. With only one book read and currently still struggling through two books. This review will be very short and a quick blog to write.

The books I am currently reading are; The Sight of You – Holly Miller and Under the Stars – Matt Gaw. I wonder if I shall finish them by the end of the year?

Beyond the Moon – Catherine Taylor ✩✩

A strange twist of fate connects a British soldier fighting in the First World War in 1916 and a young woman living in modern-day England a century later, in this haunting literary time travel novel.

Two people, two battles: one against the invading Germans on the battlefields of 1916 France, the other against a substandard, uncaring mental health facility in modern-day England. Part war story, part timeslip, part love story – and at the same time a meditation on the themes of war, mental illness, identity and art.

The premise to this novel was good, a sort of time travel but I wasn’t totally won on the romance side, it seemed a little contrived to me. The author depicts the horrors of war and the barbarism of the medical treatment in the field quite well. However the narrative looses its way half way through and it all got a little tedious and repetitive. I did lose the will at one stage but found a fresh wind and managed to finish it.

I feel like I’ve given up on reading this year. Who knows perhaps the cold, darker nights of winter my plunge me back into the pages of a book.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

A Year in Film: September 2020

September was another full-on month for movies, with a total of 22 films watched. We tried to have a mix of films we had seen before and ones we had not. Have you seen any of the below? If so, what were your thoughts? 

Peninsular ✩✩✩

A sequel to Train to Busan. A soldier and his team battle hordes of post-apocalyptic zombies in the wastelands of the Korean Peninsula.

Train to Busan is my favourite zombie movie. Though this sequel isn’t as good as the first film in the franchise, there’s enough zombie action to keep the viewer entertained. 

The Philadelphia Experiment ✩✩

In 1943, a top-secret experiment aboard a Navy destroyer backfires and two sailors are propelled to 1984.

The fashion and special effects are very 1980’s in this not so exciting sci-fi adventure. 

Mulan ✩✩✩✩

To save her ailing father from serving in the Imperial Army, a fearless young woman disguises herself as a man to battle northern invaders in China.

I’ve not seen the original Disney version of Mulan so can’t comment on the differences, but I really enjoyed this epic, live action production. 

Silver Streak ✩

While on a cross-country train ride, overworked book editor George Caldwell (Gene Wilder) begins an unexpected romance with an enigmatic woman. His vacation is interrupted, however, when he witnesses a murder for which he is then accused. 

I found this film tedious to say the least. David said it was good back in the day but it had not aged well. 

Gangs of New York ✩✩✩

Amsterdam sets out to avenge the death of his father who was killed in a gang fight at the hands of a crime lord, Bill ‘The Butcher’. Whilst doing so, he gets caught up in the Civil War.

This film would have gained more stars but for the fact that I thought it could have been much shorter. There were no holds barred when it came to the brutality of some scenes.  

Die Hard: with a Vengeance ✩✩✩

John McClane must enlist the help of Zeus Carver, a local shop owner, to stop Simon, a former colonel from East Germany, from detonating bombs across New York.

A typical Bruce Willis action movie, full of explosions and unbelievable action sequences. An enjoyable watch.  

Glory ✩✩✩✩

Robert Gould Shaw leads the U.S. Civil War’s first all-black volunteer company, fighting prejudices from both his own Union Army, and the Confederates.

My favourite Matthew Broderick film! The story of the first all-black regiment in the American Civil War has themes that are as relevant today as they were back in 1863. James Horner’s score is simply beautiful. 

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion ✩✩

Romy and Michele are best friends who weren’t very popular in school. This fact suddenly occurs to them when they are invited for their high school reunion which they attend with fake identities.

Not the best comedy but its message of just being yourself is something everyone should embrace. 

La La Land ✩✩

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are drawn together by their common desire to do what they love. But as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart.

La La Land burst onto the scene in 2016 boasting awards and accolades galore, however on watching it for the first time I have to say I didn’t like it. If you like musicals then it’s a film for you. 

Conspiracy Theory ✩✩✩

Jerry Fletcher, a New York taxi driver who publishes conspiracy theories in a newsletter, suddenly falls in danger when one of his claims turn out to be true.

Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts star in this fast paced thriller, it was entertaining enough.

Frozen 2 – ✩✩

No matter how happy Elsa the Snow Queen is to be surrounded by the people of Arendelle, Elsa finds herself strangely unsettled. After hearing a mysterious voice call out to her, Elsa travels to the enchanted forests and dark seas beyond her kingdom — an adventure that soon turns into a journey of self-discovery.

After the astronomical success of Frozen in 2013, there was undoubtedly going to be a sequel. In truth the second film is much weaker and I’d say not as entertaining. 

The Terminal ✩✩✩✩

Viktor Navorski gets stranded at an airport when a war rages in his country. He is forced by the officials to stay at the airport until his original identity is confirmed.

When I first saw The Terminal in 2004 I didn’t warm to it very much, however on second viewing I appreciated the subtle nuances of Tom Hanks’ performance.  

The Haunting ✩✩

Dr Marrow enlists Theo, Luke and Nell for a study of sleep disorders at the Hill House. As soon as the terrifying truth about the mansion is revealed, everyone is found fighting for their lives.

A disappointing scary movie, it started off well but went down hill half way through. 

Catch Me If You Can ✩✩✩✩✩

Notorious con artist Frank Abagnale has duped people worth millions of dollars with his masterful art of deception. With his scams getting bolder, he is soon pursued by FBI agent Carl Hanratty.

Is this one of Spielberg’s finest films? I think so, and Tom Hanks and Leonardo diCaprio both churn out believable performances. 

The Longest Yard ✩✩✩

Paul, a famous football player, lands up in jail and meets the warden, Rudolph, a football fan, who asks him to put a team together consisting of prison inmates to challenge the prison guards.

I’m not a fan of Adam Sandler films but this film is funny enough, a modern retelling of the 1974 original. 

The Count of Monte Cristo ✩✩✩✩

Dantes, a sailor is falsely accused of treason by his best friend Fernand, who wants Dantes’ girlfriend Mercedes for himself. Dantes is imprisoned on the island prison of Chateau d’If for 13 years.

Swash buckling adventure of love and revenge from France in the 1800’s. A great movie!

Paranoia ✩✩

An entry-level employee at a powerful corporation finds himself occupying a corner office, but at a dangerous price: he must spy on his boss’s old mentor to secure for him a multi-billion dollar advantage.

There wasn’t much paranoia happening in this rather sedate thriller. I’d give it a miss if I was you!

The Interview with a Vampire ✩✩✩✩

After the death of his wife and daughter, Spanish lord Louis is turned into a vampire by Lestat de Lioncourt. To keep Louis by his side, Lestat converts a plague-ridden girl.

I enjoyed this film much more than David did. An epic sweep through the centuries with vampires, what’s not to like?

Limitless ✩✩✩✩

With the help of a mysterious pill that enables the user to access 100% of his brain abilities, a struggling writer becomes a financial wizard, but it also puts him in a new world with lots of dangers.

David and I both liked this thriller, full of action with sci-fi elements. Would you take a pill that made you super-human?

Titanic ✩✩✩✩✩

Seventeen-year-old Rose hails from an aristocratic family and is set to be married. When she boards the Titanic, she meets Jack Dawson, an artist, and falls in love with him.

I’ve warmed to this film over the years. I love the message that one person can save another person’s life. Awesome cinematography, with a fantastic soundtrack to boot. 

Frailty ✩✩✩

A mysterious man arrives at the offices of an FBI agent and recounts his childhood: how his religious fanatic father received visions telling him to destroy people who were in fact “demons.”

This was a rather uncomfortable film to watch. Bill Paxton is menacing as the dad who has visions from angels and sets on a path to kill demons. A good thriller. 

Enola Holmes ✩✩

When Enola Holmes-Sherlock’s teen sister-discovers her mother missing, she sets off to find her, becoming a super-sleuth in her own right as she outwits her famous brother and unravels a dangerous conspiracy around a mysterious young Lord.

I really, really wanted to enjoy this but sadly it was a little disappointing. Millie Bobby Brown was good as Enola but the rest of the cast fell flat for me. Watchable none the less. 

Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

A Perfect Day

It’s a sad day today.

I live in a region of England that has been put under stricter Covid-19 restrictions, meaning that only travel from the region is for work and not recreation.

Thankfully, on Tuesday David had a day off work and we managed to escape to The Lake District for a day out. We brought our gentle giant of a border collie, Riley along with us.

The day started before the sunrise. We drove for 2.5 hours up the M6, taking a stop at Lancaster services for a comfort break. The destination of the day was Buttermere. As we drove past the neighbouring lake Crummock Water, David stopped at a lay-by. The surface of the water was so still it was like a mirror. We got out of the car and headed towards the peaceful, quiet shores of Crummock Water. David got Buzz, his drone out and I ran around with Riley.

The village of Buttermere is much busier. The National Trust car park fills up quickly but luckily there were still a few parking spaces left on our arrival. We paid £6 for four hours, you could pay with coins or by card. We donned our walking boots and rucksacks before taking the short walk towards the lake.

Like Crummock, the water of Buttermere was perfectly still. In all my visits to the lake I’ve never seen it so calm. The sun had burned off the remaining mist and a warm day was ahead of us. It was a very surprising day weather wise. I’d planned on it being a cool autumnal day but in reality there was no wind, the sun was warm and it felt like another last gasp from summer. It was a perfect day!

Following many other people, we took the northern path which passes the lone tree and has wonderful views of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks. We made camp (Camp Riley) at a wide pebbly beach. Before we had lunch, I was going to have a swim, with the hope that Riley would come into the water with me. However the shore sloped steeply into the water and Riley was a little tentative. Not wanting to frighten him, I left him on the shore with David, who had taken Buzz into the air once again, to the amusement of passers-by.

The water was glorious! It wasn’t as cold as I’d expected. Indeed I’d swam in Buttermere previously when the water was much colder! You can read that post, here. I swam for about 15 minutes, but I could have stayed in for longer. It was so lovely. However Riley was getting stressed that he couldn’t reach one of his humans, so I waded out so he could run me around the shoreline in my swimsuit. The sun was so warm I didn’t even get cold nor have difficulty getting dressed, which is a novelty.

Once we had picnicked, we packed up and headed slowly back to the car. It had been a beautiful day. Riley seemed to have enjoyed himself and I’d got a swim in one of my favourite lakes. It’s a day I shall remember and smile at for a very long time.

Have you ever had a perfect day out?

Thanks for your support,

Christine x

First Line Fridays

It’s been such a long time since I wrote a First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

Joel, I’m so sorry. To see you again like that… Why did I get on the train? I should have waited for the next one. It wouldn’t have mattered. I missed my stop anyway, and we were late for the wedding.

The Sight of You – Holly Miller

Would you read on?

The lines are from the debut novel The Sight of You by Holly Miller. Joel is haunted by premonitions about the ones he loves.When Joel meets Callie it feels like a new start for them both, until Joel has a dream about Callie. The novel isn’t a laugh a minute, but I’m enjoying the narrative and wondering how it will end. It makes you question that if you knew when your life would end, would you live it differently?

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by, Christine x

A Year in Film: August 2020

I have a confession to make, the first movie on this list of films watched in August, was actually watched on the last day of July! Oops! However the number of films seem to be increasing as the year progresses. Some 20 films were watched in August, a new record! If you have seen any of the below films, let me know what you thought of them.

The Old Guard ✩✩✩

A group of mercenaries, all centuries-old immortals with the ability to heal themselves, discover someone is onto their secret, and they must fight to protect their freedom.

I surprisingly enjoyed this graphic novel adaptation of immortal warriors fighting for good. I thought Charlize Theron was fantastic in her portrayal as Andy/Andromache. I look forward to the sequel.

Happy Death day 2U ✩✩✩

Tree Gelbman wakes up in horror to learn that she’s stuck in a parallel universe. Her boyfriend Carter is now with someone else, and her friends and fellow students seem to be completely different versions of themselves. When Tree discovers that Carter’s roommate has been altering time, she finds herself once again the target of a masked killer. When the psychopath starts to go after her inner circle, Tree soon realizes that she must die over and over again to save everyone.

I preferred this sequel to the original. I liked the fact that the groundhog day-esque film had a reason for why the loop was happening. Good fun!

Please Stand By ✩✩

Wendy sees things differently: she’s fiercely independent, with a brilliant mind and a mischievous sense of hilarity. Wendy also has autism. To her, people are an indecipherable code and the world is a confusing place. Inspired by her no-nonsense caregiver, Wendy comes of age and escapes from her care home on the road trip of a lifetime to deliver her 500-page script to a screenwriting competition.

One of those pull at the heartstrings kind of films. Dakota Fanning plays an autistic woman who travels by public transport to hand deliver her script for a competition. Quite enjoyable.

Naked ✩✩

Rob Anderson is all set to marry the girl of his dreams, but can’t quite get to the altar. He finds himself caught in a time loop, waking up naked in a hotel elevator over and over again.

Continuing with the groundhog day theme, an easy to watch comedy with some laugh out loud moments.

Masterminds ✩✩✩

When David Ghanatt is convinced by his work crush, Kelly Campbell and her accomplices to join in a far-fetched plan to rob a bank vault, David soon throws everything on the line for love, money, and a life of excitement.

Another comedy supposedly based on true events. The moral to the story is beware of who you become friends with!

7500 ✩✩✩

Tobias Ellis starts his shift as a co-pilot and everything seems normal, but things quickly take a turn when terrorists storm the cockpit of his Airbus A319, and hijack the plane.

I enjoyed this film more than David did. I felt empathy for the pilot and enjoyed the tension throughout.

The Majestic ✩✩✩

Peter Appleton, a scriptwriter suspected of being a communist, meets with an accident that makes him lose his memory and live with a different identity.

A case of mistaken identity ultimately helps a town heal from its losses after the Second World War, with Jim Carrey in a a more mature role.

Life of Crime ✩✩

A corrupt real estate developer refuses to pay ransom to two amateur criminals for the release of his kidnapped wife. Confounded, they try to find different ways to deal with the unusual situation.

It pays to learn about your target before kidnapping them in this crime/comedy drama. It was a miss from me however.

Thanks for Sharing ✩

A recovering sex addict (Mark Ruffalo) tries not to fall off the wagon as he woos a new girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow) who feels the need to express her rampant sexuality.

Thought this was an awful film, I really couldn’t warm to any of the characters. I was glad when the end credits rolled.

Knowing ✩✩✩✩✩

A teacher chances upon an encrypted code in a time capsule that makes him believe he can alter the chain of events that are about to unfold.

I love this film! There is just enough mystery, threat and menace to keep you on the edge of your seat with a powerful ending. It could happen!

The Mist ✩✩✩✩

David and his son are trapped in a supermarket along with some other townsfolk, when suddenly a mist engulfs the entire city, bringing along bloodthirsty creatures that devour anyone in their path.

Felt like watching end of the world films hence Knowing and War of the Worlds! The Mist has a heartbreaking ending and the monsters are really good graphically for the age of the film. A good watch.

War of the Worlds ✩✩✩✩

Ray Ferrier, a dockworker, is ready to spend a weekend together with his children. However, an alien tripod descends on Earth threatening to wipe out humanity.

When I first watched this 2005 Tom Cruise film I didn’t really like it, but on second watching I’ve developed an appreciation of it. I still love the tripods though.

The Day the Earth Stood Still ✩✩✩✩

An alien lands and tells the people of Earth that they must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets.

This is the original 1951 version and was an enjoyable watch. It was a film of it’s time, during the Cold War, and had a peace not war message. A surprisingly good film.

Interstate 60 ✩✩✩

Neal Oliver, a young artist travelling on the mysterious highway 60, meets a half-leprechaun who grants him one wish, but has a wickedly funny way of fulfilling them literally.

A film David enjoyed more so than I did. Be careful what you wish for is the morale to this story and with a star studded cast I wanted to enjoy it more than I did.

The Invasion ✩✩

A psychiatrist finds out about an epidemic that changes human behaviour. She also discovers that her son might be the key to preventing this deadly epidemic.

We were looking at body snatcher films and saw this modern version from 2007 with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. It wasn’t a bad thriller.

Trainwreck ✩✩

A young magazine writer is made to believe that relationships and marriages hold no value. However, a chance meeting with a sports doctor forces her to rethink her principles.

I quite enjoyed these two comedy films by Amy Schumer. Trainwreck was a heartwarming romance whereas I Feel Pretty was a film empowering women of all shapes and sizes.

I Feel Pretty ✩✩✩

An ordinary woman who struggles with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy on a daily basis wakes from a fall believing she is suddenly the most beautiful and capable woman on the planet. With this newfound confidence, she is empowered to live her life fearlessly and flawlessly, but what will happen when she realizes her appearance never changed?

Deuce Bigalow ✩✩

Deuce Bigalow, an aquarium cleaner, is forced to become a male prostitute in order to repay the man whose house he wrecks while he is babysitting his pet fish.

I think I laughed more at the trailer than the actual film! Silly fun with Rob Schneider.

The War With Grandpa ✩✩✩

Peter and his grandpa used to be very close, but when Grandpa Jack moves in with the family, Peter is forced to give up his most prized possession: his bedroom. Peter will stop at nothing to get his room back, scheming with friends to devise a series of pranks to drive him out. However, grandpa doesn’t give up easily, and it turns into an all-out war between the two.

Another comedy from Robert De Niro and one I enjoyed. The rivalry between grandpa and grandson had hilarious consequences. A good watch for all the family.

Frozen ✩✩

Three snowboarders are stranded on a chairlift while riding up Mount Holliston. When the night lights suddenly go off, they either need to find their way down or freeze to death.

Not the Disney Frozen but a 2010 release where three skiers get stranded on a chairlift and a life or death fight ensues. Watchable.

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Tesla

Tesla ✩✩

Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla fights an uphill battle to bring his revolutionary electrical system to fruition, then faces thornier challenges with his new system for worldwide wireless energy.

A hero of mine really deserves a better film than this, however Ethan Hawke didn’t do too bad a job portraying the Croatian visionary. David was disappointed at the lack of pigeons!

Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

Batty for Bats

Seven years ago David and I began work on creating a wildlife yarden. We focused on attracting as much wildlife to an inner city walled yard as we could.

garden

Yarden

Bird feeders were the first and easiest addition to the yarden and during late summer/early autumn the feeders are usually awash with different coloured wings and bird calls. From chattering charms of goldfinches and the happy chirruping of sparrows to boisterous gangs of starlings. The odd blue tit is seen nervously snatching away a sunflower heart as well as two delicate greenfinches who’ve visited among with the goldfinches. All this activity has caught the eye of several sparrowhawks whose presence in the yarden is a wondrous sight to behold.

About three years ago we put in a wash bowl pond. It’s in a sheltered spot so we don’t have dragonflies or damsels visiting but we did have a little frog for a short while.

Over the years we have planted shrubs and herbs which flower at different times of the year to attract insects. We even have the odd sapling tree, with a hawthorn being my pride and joy!

Trying to increase the insect population means that other predators will hopefully move in. Imagine my excitement and surprise when I discovered that a bat frequents the area!

I know nothing about bats so here’s a few facts on them:

  • There are 18 species of UK bat, with 17 breeding here
  • They all eat insects and are a natural pest control for e.g. mosquitoes
  • A pipistrelle can eat up to 3000 insects a night
  • They use echolocation to find food
  • They are indicators of biodiversity
  • They pollinate and spread seeds
  • Like the dormouse and hedgehog they hibernate
  • The mating season is from September and females give birth to one pup around June in maternity roosts
  • Cats and birds of prey are their main predators
  • They are the only mammal that can fly

I wonder what type of bat is visiting? It could be the most common bat in the UK, called a common pipistrelle. I’d need a bat detector to discover the identity of our new visitor, perhaps I’ll add one to my birthday/Christmas wish list. :p

Have you got bats visiting your garden? What is your favourite bat?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

The Oak Tree Experiment – Update

acorns

Acorns

Two years ago I wrote about collecting acorns on my walk to work and then returning home and planting them in the hope they would grow into oak trees. You can read that post here.

Since writing that first post, I had given up hope and forgotten about the little acorns I had planted. Notice my surprise whilst releasing the second batch of painted lady butterflies from Insect Lore, I glanced into a pot and noticed what looked to me like oak leaves. I asked David for confirmation and he agreed.

oak tree

Baby Oak Tree

I was stunned and overjoyed. We have our very own little oak tree! It may have taken two years but we have success!

Have you successfully grew a tree from its seed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Film: July 2020

The list of films watched in July has equaled June’s tally of 16 films! Though its certainly been a mixed bag of movies! Let me know if you have watched any good films recently?

Extraction ✩✩✩

A black-market mercenary who has nothing to lose is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. But in the murky underworld of weapons dealers and drug traffickers, an already deadly mission approaches the impossible.

This wasn’t a bad film. Lots of action and suspense. I partcularily liked the on screen relationship between Chris Hemsworth and young actor Rudhraksh Jaiswal who plays the boy Hemsworth is fighting to save.

Advent Children ✩✩

An ex-mercenary is forced out of isolation when three mysterious men kidnap and brainwash the city’s children afflicted with the Geostigma disease.

I only really wanted to watch this again due to recently playing the PlayStation game, Final Fantasy VII Remake. It was nice to see the beloved characters fighting the bad guys (again), but there wasn’t much of a story.

Greyhound ✩✩✩

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause is assigned to lead an Allied convoy across the Atlantic during World War II. His convoy, however, is pursued by German U-boats. Although this is Krause’s first wartime mission, he finds himself embroiled in what would come to be known as the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history: The Battle of the Atlantic.

If you like your World War Two films, then you will like Greyhound, with its moments of tension and threat. It is quite amazing how anything got through the North Atlantic with German U-boats on the prowl.

The Wrong Missy ✩✩✩

Disaster strikes when a man invites his dream girl to an island resort — but a previous blind date shows up instead.

I laughed at this film more than I expected. A comedy with no pretensions. Lauren Lapkus was hilarious as the bat-crazy Missy!

Stuber ✩✩✩

A quick-tempered cop who’s recovering from eye surgery recruits a mild-mannered Uber driver to help him catch the heroin dealer who murdered his partner. The mismatched pair soon find themselves in for a wild day of stakeouts and shootouts as they pursue violent criminals through the seedy streets of Los Angeles.

Another comedy I enjoyed, more silly fun to switch off too.

Amundsen ✩✩

Roald Amundsen was the first researcher to reach both the North and South Poles. The British explorer Robert Scott was hot on his heels on the trip to the South Pole 1910-1911. The discoverers were in a bitter competition with each other. Amundsen’s expeditions were largely organised and financed by his brother Leon. However, there was constant conflict and conflict between the two.

I wished this film had been better than it was. Amundsen sure was a man who continued to explore until his death. Inspiring story but a rather lackluster way of telling it.

National Treasure ✩✩✩

Benjamin Franklin Gates seeks a war chest hidden by the Founding Fathers during the Revolutionary War. He must find it before his competitor does and also avoid getting arrested by the FBI.

One of Nicolas Cage’s better films, full of action and adventure. Another movie to switch off to at the end of the day.

National Treasure 2 ✩✩✩

Ben finds that his ancestor was implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, a president of the USA. Through the help of a clue in a diary, he ventures out to clear the name of his ancestor.

Perhaps not as good as the first movie in the franchise, but an enjoyable romp as Cage follows a trail to the legendary City of Gold.

A Street Cat Named Bob ✩✩✩

A stray ginger cat changes the life of James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a homeless London street musician and recovering drug addict.

Knowing that poor Bob had recently passed away, I thought that we’d give the film based on his origin a watch. I really enjoyed the portrayal of struggling man meets cat whose presence actually helps save his life. A heart-warming tale of redemption and how animals can offer solace in the darkest of times.

Fight Club ✩✩✩

Discontented with his capitalistic lifestyle, a white-collared insomniac forms an underground fight club with Tyler, a careless soap salesman. The project soon spirals down into something sinister.

I’d seen many references to Fight Club in popular culture but never actually watched it. Rather bizarre in parts, I think it was a well made foray into the instability of mental health.

Hotel Mumbai✩✩✩✩

A hotel staff risks everything to keep its patrons safe during a terror attack, especially a British heiress, her husband and her infant.

I really enjoyed this film! It was full of edge of the seat tension and being based on true events made it all that more poignant.

Old Dogs ✩✩

Two best friends and business partners on the brink of finalising a huge deal are forced to take care of seven-year-old twins and get into a series of misadventures.

Not the best film of either Robin Williams or John Travolta. It tries too hard to be funny when its not!

Faster ✩✩

After serving a ten-year sentence, Driver sets out to avenge his brother’s murder while being pursued by a police officer and an assassin.

A rather forgettable film by Dwayne Johnson. That memorable neither David nor I could remember the plot.

Night at the museum ✩✩✩

Larry, a night security guard at the Museum of Natural History, gets some help from the exhibits who come alive at night to foil a robbery attempt of a magic tablet and proves that he is not a loser.

A staple family feel-good movie, always good no matter how many times you watch it.

Vacation ✩✩✩

Rusty Griswold plans a cross-country road trip with his wife and two sons in a bid to revive the lost ties between them. However, their trip turns into a series of mishaps for the family.

A sequel to the National Lampoon films, and if you like the humour of the first films then you’ll enjoy Vacation. David really enjoyed this film, more so than I did.

Corporate Animals ✩

An egotistical megalomaniac CEO leads her staff on a corporate team-building trip that involves a weekend of caving in New Mexico. When they become trapped underground after a cave-in, the group must pull together to survive.

Another comedy that tries too hard to be funny and ends up being the antithesis. Sadly a waste of an hour and a half.

Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

A Year in Books 2020 – April to June

the-year-in-books

A Year in Books

Since the end of June I’ve been in a bit of a slump regarding this post. I’ve just had no inclination to write it. Do any of my fellow bloggers ever feel that way? Anyway, better late than never! My reading in April started well due to lockdown but slowed as the summer months progressed. I’m bogged down at present with Catherine Taylor’s Beyond the Moon, I just don’t care for the characters or narrative. Have you ever read a book that you struggled with?

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult  ✩✩✩

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

Quite a hard book to get into at the beginning but once the story warmed up I grew to enjoy it. There were some parts regarding racism that were not easy to read but the court case was entertaining enough.

Silver Bay – Jojo Moyes  ✩✩✩

Liza McCullen will never escape her past. But the unspoilt beaches and tight-knit community of Silver Bay offer the freedom and safety she craves – if not for herself, then for her young daughter, Hannah.

Until Mike Dormer arrives as a guest in her aunt’s hotel, and the peace of Silver Bay is shattered. The mild-mannered Englishman with his too-smart clothes and disturbing eyes could destroy everything Liza has worked so hard to protect: not only the family business and the bay that harbours her beloved whales, but also her conviction that she will never love – never deserve to love – again.

This Jojo Moyes novel is definitely a book to read on a hot summers day. The characters were likable and I enjoyed the descriptions of dolphin and whale watching. With a heart warming ending, it made for a pleasant read.

The Five – Hallie Rubenhold  ✩✩✩

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.

Now, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.

Ever since I was young I’ve always loved anything to do with the mystery that was Jack the Ripper. This book is trying to give voice to his victims. Some of the information gathered is vague but what a revelation regarding Annie Chapman, who was a well do woman who sadly became down and out and faced her end at the sharp edge of a knife. A very thought provoking book.

Swimming Wild in the Lake District – Suzanna Cruikshank  ✩✩✩✩

An informative and inspiring book for both new and experienced wild swimmers, exploring the larger lakes in the beautiful Lake District National Park. It contains sections on getting started in wild swimming, how to look after your own safety and impartial advice on all the essential kit you’ll need.

Illustrated with stunning photography, and featuring overview maps, the book has all the practical information you need to plan your wild swimming adventure.

Whether you’re an experienced wild swimmer or just dipping your toes in the water for the first time you’ll find plenty to inspire your next adventure.

This book came out at exactly the right time. During lockdown I’d been itching for a wild swim fix and this book helped relieve that itch somewhat. With detailed chapters on access to all of the big lakes in the Lake District, there were only two in the book that I hadn’t visited. The information from this book helped me plan my first swim of 2020 in Coniston Water.

Reader, I Married Me! – Sophie Tanner  ✩✩

After breaking up with the love of her life, Chloe’s friends tell her she needs to get back out there, and find another man before it’s too late. But after a particularly disastrous date and one too many gins, Chloe has a revelation – she doesn’t need a man to make her happy. It’s up to her to do it herself.

Never one to do things by halves, Chloe decides to make the ultimate commitment to self-love – she’ll marry herself! But planning a solo wedding isn’t easy, and soon Chloe finds herself on a bumpy journey of self-discovery. Will she finally get her happy ever after?

Oh dear, this isn’t my kind of book and I don’t know why I even downloaded it! Looking for something to read during lockdown, I saw an advertisement for the book and well, I’m glad I managed to get through it. There were just too many stereotypes for my liking.

Max, the miracle Dog – Kerry Irving ✩✩✩✩

In 2006, a traumatic car accident changed Kerry Irving’s life forever.
 
Suffering from severe neck and back injuries, Kerry was unemployed and housebound, struggling with depression and even thoughts of suicide. He went from cycling over 600 miles a month to becoming a prisoner in his own home.
 
With hope all but lost, Kerry’s wife encouraged him to go on a short walk to the local shop. In the face of unbearable pain and overwhelming panic, he persevered and along the way, met an adorable yard dog named Max. As the Spaniel peered up through the railings, Kerry found comfort and encouragement in his soulful brown eyes. This chance encounter marked a turning point in both their lives.
 
In Max, Kerry found comfort and motivation and in Kerry, Max found someone to care for him. This is their remarkable, inspiring story.

A lovely heart warming read about a dog rescuing a man. Max and Kerry, with Paddy and Harry in tow have a strong following on their Facebook page, Max out in the Lake District.

The Botanist’s Daughter – Kayte Nunn ✩✩✩✩

Present day: Anna is focused on renovating her late grandmother’s house. But when she discovers a box hidden in a wall cavity, containing water colours of exotic plants, an old diary and a handful of seeds, she finds herself thrust into a centuries-old mystery. One that will send her halfway across the world in search of the truth.

1886: Elizabeth Trebithick is determined to fulfill her father’s dying wish and continue his life’s work as an adventurer and plant-hunter. So when she embarks on a perilous journey to discover a rare and miraculous flower, she will discover that the ultimate betrayal can be found even across the seas…

Two women, separated by centuries. Can one mysterious flower bring them together?

I really enjoyed this book and will look out for more novels by Kayte Nunn. Both female protagonists were likable and the adventure to Chile was exciting. Nunn managed to weave an entertaining narrative with a sad and shocking end.

Holding – Graham Norton ✩✩

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste. So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel.

I’m sorry but I didn’t like this sedate bumbling novel by Graham Norton. I found the narrative rather boring and didn’t care what happened to the characters.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Thirty.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_30Day 30: For my final post of 2020’s 30 Days Wild, I shall look to the future. There are several questions I want to address.

  • How does spending time in nature make me feel?
  • What can I do to carry on being wild for the rest of the year?
  • How can I help wildlife more?

Firstly, who would have thought that I’d be able to blog everyday during a pandemic? When lockdown commenced I have to admit that I became a little worried on how I would be able to make 2020’s 30 Days Wild exciting and interesting for my readers. Hopefully I have managed to keep you all interested and entertained and a little more educated along the way. I know I’ve certainly learned a lot participating in this initiative. Like badgers are the UK’s largest predator. There’s around 40 species of ladybird in the UK. Dolphins have names or a unique whistle to identify them from each other. Great Tits have territory wars with pied flycatchers. The UK’s tallest tree, the Douglas Fir has a non-flammable bark which protects forests from fires. Gulls can drink fresh and salt water due to a special gland above their eyes that filter out salt. 

Part of what makes blogging everyday for 30 Days Wild a challenge, is which new topics to cover. Though the UK is one of the world’s most nature depleted countries, we do have an array of wildlife that should be celebrated. I’ve not even scratched the surface in my blog, and I know there is a lot more to learn. I may focus a lot on birds but that is because they are easily surveyed. I would love to know more about trees, insects, arachnids and marine life. Which brings me to one of the questions I want to raise, What can I do to carry on being wild for the rest of the year? Keep being observant and open to wildlife is a positive thought. I think having a childlike look on the world isn’t a bad thing. Continuing to read blogs, follow nature sites and keeping an eye open for new wildlife sightings are easy ways to carry on being wild.

At the beginning of the year David and I became members of Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trust. Because of Covid I’ve not been able to visit sites in this area but I hope to do so in the future. Joining a Wildlife Trust, the RSPB or the Woodland Trust is one small way to carry on being wild and also to help wildlife more. Feeding the birds all year round is another small thing one can do and an easy task too. Planting nectar rich plants for pollinators is another positive action and can be done on a small balcony or in a garden. Sign petitions and shout out for wildlife by writing to your MP! Go on litter picks. Join webinars (I’ve recently watched two from The Wildlife Trusts, on owls and wildflowers), and even tweet, blog or Instagram your findings. Sharing your knowledge will help others learn too.

Lastly, how does spending time in nature make me feel? 

I believe nature is a great healer and it has been scientifically proven. From shinrin yoku or forest bathing to the joys and health benefits of wild swimming. Just spending 20 minutes a day walking in your local park, at the beach or woodland helps improve mood and promotes positive mental health. When I am feeling blue or struggling for motivation just observing the wildlife around me helps greatly. For me feeding the garden birds helped me overcome a bereavement. Do you know of when nature helped you during a difficult time?

Anyway, that’s enough from me. Thank you for joining in my 2020 30 Days Wild. Hopefully we can do it all again next year?!

Until then and for the final time, Stay Wild!

Christine x