A Year in Film 2020: Advent Calendar – Day One

For the last month of my Year in Film 2020, I wanted to do something a little different. Since it’s December and Christmas is getting nearer, I’ve decided to make a Christmas movie advent calendar. Every day for the next 24 days I shall be blogging about the Christmas films I’ve watched. David and I have already decided on a list – so without further ado, here’s day one!

The Christmas Chronicles

Christine’s rating: ✩✩✩✩ David’s rating: ✩✩✩

Siblings Kate and Teddy Pierce hatch a scheme to capture Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. When the plan goes awry, the kids join forces with a somewhat jolly Saint Nick and his loyal elves to save the holiday before it’s too late.

I just loved this Christmas movie when it came out in 2018! Kurt Russell is perfectly cast as Santa Claus. It’s just an action packed, heartwarming, fun film!

What is your favourite Christmas movie?

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

A Year in Film: May 2020

How can we be at the end of May! Where has the time gone? I know for many that this pandemic has been a stressful period but I feel in some ways it has brought people together, maybe not physically but electronically definitely. In the past few weeks I have shared in family Facebook quiz nights when in ‘normal’ times we would hardly see each other from one week to the next. One positive that has come from this lock-down is that my road now has a Whats-App group where neighbours, I never knew I had, can join in social distance events such as street bingo and leaving favourite recipes in house windows. I for one feel more connected than ever before. How are you coping? Let me know in the comments box below.

In May David and I watched a grand total of eight films together, some rather more miss than hit. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my reviews.

Philadelphia ✩✩✩

A young Philadelphia lawyer who is infected with AIDS keeps his homosexuality hidden from his employers. When he is suddenly dismissed, he hires a homophobic lawyer for a wrongful dismissal suit.

This 1993 film really shows its age, starring a very youthful Tom Hanks in his first Academy Award performance. Watching in 2020 I wouldn’t say the film was riveting and David wasn’t too impressed but it is definitely a film from its decade. Worth a watch.

The Best of Enemies ✩✩✩

Civil rights activist Ann Atwater and local Ku Klux Klan leader, CP Ellis, who regard each other as enemies, co-chair a meeting to discuss racial desegregation of schools.

I quite enjoyed this film starring Taraji P Henson (who was great in Hidden Figures) and Sam Rockwell. Based on a true event, a Ku Klux Klan leader and civil rights activist find there is more similarities between themselves than differences.

Sonic the Hedgehog ✩✩

The world needed a hero — it got a hedgehog. Powered with incredible speed, Sonic embraces his new home on Earth — until he accidentally knocks out the power grid, sparking the attention of evil genius Dr. Robotnik. Now, it’s super villain vs. supersonic in an all-out race across the globe to stop Robotnik from using Sonic’s unique power to achieve world domination.

We finally succumbed and watched Sonic. I remember playing the game in the 90’s. This film, though not as good as the original game was watchable. I think one for the children! Looks like a sequel with Tails is on the cards!

Inheritance ✩✩✩

A patriarch of a wealthy and powerful family suddenly passes away, leaving his wife and daughter with a shocking secret inheritance that threatens to unravel and destroy their lives.

I like most things with Simon Pegg in, though he should keep away from writing Star Trek films! This recently released thriller wasn’t bad. I enjoyed the twists and turns of this dark mystery. I’ve read reviews and not many people enjoyed it, but I thought it was worth a watch.

The Goldfinch ✩✩

Theodore Decker was 13 years old when his mother was killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The tragedy changes the course of his life, sending him on a stirring odyssey of grief and guilt, reinvention and redemption, and even love. Through it all, he holds on to one tangible piece of hope from that terrible day — a painting of a tiny bird chained to its perch.

You all know I couldn’t even finish reading Donna Tartt’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner, The Goldfinch, but imagine my surprise when I managed to sit through two plus hours of the film! Knowing a bit of the story helped, however the film is just as plodding as the novel. The only highlight was Finn Wolfhard’s performance as young Boris.

The Island ✩✩✩

Lincoln Six Echo is just like everyone else who waits to go to the island. But he soon discovers that his existence is a lie and everybody including the other inhabitants are human clones.

This 2005 release was a film I remember seeing though somehow I had mixed up the character names and only remembered certain scenes. The music by Steve Jablonsky is one of the highlights of this film for me.

Vivarium ✩

Hoping to find the perfect place to live, a couple travel to a suburban neighbourhood in which all the houses look identical. But when they try to leave the labyrinth-like development, each road mysteriously takes them back to where they started.

I don’t know whether I enjoyed this unsettling thriller or not. Both Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots portray convincingly a young couple trapped in a strange housing estate taking care of a ‘cuckoo’ child given to them by their captors. Who these captors were was never realised. However there were more questions than answers. On reading further it seems the film was a commentary of suburbia and post natal depression. Who knew!

Escape from Pretoria ✩✩

Based on the real-life prison break. Two white South Africans, imprisoned for working on behalf of the African National Congress (ANC), determine to escape from the notorious white man’s `Robben Island’, Pretoria Prison.

Daniel Radcliffe plays a convincing South African in this real life prison escape. Set during the apartheid in South Africa, Radcliffe plays Tim Jenkin a political activist supporting the ANC who is imprisoned for distributing leaflets. The film is full of tense moments and you do care about the fate of the cast, it just fell a little flat for me.

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

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Christine x

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

Dear Jason, I’ve done a lot of things in my life but I definitely think writing a letter without knowing if it’ll ever get read has to be one of the maddest!

half a world away

Half a World Away

Would you want to read on?

The line comes from the 2019 Richard and Judy book club selection, Half a World Away by Mike Gayle. This is the first novel I have read of his. The story of siblings separated by the care system and then finally meeting after 30 years reads true. I’m halfway through and think the narrative is building to a poignant ending.

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

A Year in Film: April 2020

final fantasy 7 remake

Final Fantasy 7: Remake

Well, it’s been a whole month of David working from home and myself not knowing whether I will be Furloughed or not. In a strange way I have enjoyed my time off work. I take Riley out every day on my Boris walk and check up on my mum and brother, who live next door and also some of my more vulnerable neighbours. In a stroke of luck, a new game for the PlayStation® was released which has occupied my afternoons. It’s been a long time since I was a gamer but the release of Final Fantasy VII: Remake has made being at home that much more bearable. Whilst playing the game and heavily reminiscing on the 1997 original release there has been little time to watch films, so below is a mixed bag of films watched in April.

The Two Towers ✩✩✩✩✩

While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron’s new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard.

Before the arrival of my copy of Final Fantasy VII: Remake, I spent my Covid-19 afternoons either reading whilst sunbathing (April was a very sunny and dry month), or watching my extended versions of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Mo’ Money ✩✩

A con artist manages to find a job in a credit card company and falls in love with one of the employees. However, he soon finds himself drawn into a world of crime.

David chose this film as he remembered it being good in the day. Being from 1992 it really has aged and wasn’t that funny to be honest.

The Return of the King ✩✩✩✩✩

Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron’s army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring.

The finale of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, where good overthrows evil and friends are reunited. It is a film that always gets me crying at the end.

Brahms: The Boy 2 ✩✩✩

When a young family moves to the Heelshire’s residence, terror strikes when a boy from the family discovers a doll called Brahms that appears to be eerily human.

I really enjoyed this sequel to the 2016 film, there was a lot of suspense and the manikin of Brahms is unsettling!

My Spy ✩✩✩

Nine-year-old Sophie catches JJ, a hardened CIA operative, spying on her family during a routine surveillance operation. In exchange for not blowing his cover, JJ begrudgingly agrees to show Sophie how to become a spy. What at first seems like an easy task soon turns into a battle of wits as Sophie proves you don’t need much experience to outsmart a seasoned agent.

I didn’t think I would enjoy this film as much as I did. A good family film with lots of jokes and action.

Like a Boss ✩

Best friends Mia and Mel run their own cosmetics company — But they’re also in over their heads financially, and the prospect of a buyout offer from an industry titan proves too tempting to pass up. The beauty business is now about to get ugly as the proposal puts Mia and Mel’s lifelong friendship to the ultimate test.

Oh dear. I was looking forward to seeing this film but from the beginning it was appalling. It wasn’t very funny!

The Help ✩✩✩✩

Skeeter, an aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

Looking for a feel good film to cheer us up from all the depressing news around, I picked this title from 2011. With an all woman cast and great story, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

Fallen ✩✩✩

Detective John Hobbes witnesses the execution of a demonic serial killer, Edgar Reese. However, the killings resume and are very similar to the style of Reese.

David chose this supernatural thriller from 1998 unfortunately I fell asleep for the majority of the film and woke up at the end. Oops!

The Current War ✩✩

Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse — engage in a battle of technology and ideas that will determine whose electrical system will power the new century. Edison dazzles the world by lighting Manhattan. But Westinghouse, aided by Nikola Tesla, sees fatal flaws in Edison’s direct current design. Westinghouse and Tesla bet everything on risky and dangerous alternating current.

Another film I was looking forward to watching but was left feeling disappointed. Nikola Tesla is a hero for both David and myself and we were hoping for more of him in this film but it was mainly from the view point of an arrogant Edison and an impotent Westinghouse.

Misbehavior ✩✩✩

A group of women hatch a plan to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty competition in London.

Surprisingly a film I wanted to watch and actually enjoyed, with an all star cast and set during the second wave of feminism. It was a few hours well spent.

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

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Christine x

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

This week’s First Line Fridays comes from Currer Bell.

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. 

jane eyre

Jane Eyre

A rather understated start to the wild, gothic novel we have all come to know, written by the famed Charlotte Brontë.

Have you read Jane Eyre? What did you think? Do you prefer any of the other novels by Charlotte or that of her younger sisters, Emily and Anne?

I personally prefer Charlotte’s novel Villette, full of dark foreboding and passionate love, with an ending that is left unfulfilled.

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe! Christine x

A Year in Books 2020 – January to March

the-year-in-books

A Year in Books

During this unprecedented moment of restriction there’s never been a more lucrative time to enjoy reading. Hopefully in the coming weeks I can delve a little into my ever growing library of books to be read.

I’m not setting a target to read this year. I am just going to enjoy the simple pleasures of turning a page. How about you? Will you be joining in the initiative?

The Girl who Lived Twice – David Lagercrantz ✩✩✩

In the pocket of an unidentified homeless man, the police find a list of telephone numbers. Among them, the contact for Millennium magazine and the investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Following the scorched trail of her twin sister Camilla to Moscow, Salander nevertheless continues to watch over her old friend. Soon Blomkvist will need her help. But first, she has an old score to settle; and fresh outrage to avenge.

Unfortunately, though this book was easy to read, it had the weakest plot of all the new Salander novels. I have a feeling Lagercrantz doesn’t have a handle on the character of Salander which is why she hardly features in these new stories, it is a shame, as she’s a great character!

The Disappearance – Katherine Webb ✩✩✩

When Frances’ best friend Bronwyn disappeared over twenty years ago, her body was never found. The mystery over what happened has cast a shadow over Frances’ life ever since.

Now, it’s 1942 and bombs are raining down on Bath. In the chaos a little boy – Davy Noyle – goes missing. But bombs conceal, and they reveal – and as quiet falls and the dust settles, a body is disturbed from its hiding place. What happened all those years ago? And can Frances put the wrongs of the past right again…?

I feel this novel was Webb’s weakest to date. I couldn’t gel with the characters and there was an underlying sadness to almost every sentence. It was a good story, it just wasn’t for me.

The Girl you left Behind – JoJo Moyes ✩✩✩✩

France, 1916: Sophie must keep her family safe whilst her husband Edouard fights at the front. But when she is ordered to serve the German officers who descend on her hotel each evening, her home becomes a place of fierce tensions. And from the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait – painted by Edouard – a dangerous obsession is born, which will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision . . .

Almost a century later: Sophie’s portrait hangs in the home of Liv, a wedding gift from her husband before he died. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and its troubled history. A history that is about to resurface and turn Liv’s life upside down . . .

This was a much better stand alone novel than JoJo’s earlier The Horse Dancer. I felt the character of Sophie was better written than the modern Liv but it was a unique and often emotional story.

The Stranger – Kate Riordan ✩✩✩

Cornwall, 1940: In the midst of war three women arrive seeking safety at Penhallow Hall. Each is looking to escape her past. But one of them is not there by choice.

As the threat of invasion mounts and the nightly blackouts feel longer and longer, tensions between the close-knit residents rise until dark secrets start to surface.

And no one can predict what their neighbour is capable of . . . In a house full of strangers, who do you trust?

Another book I was rather disappointed in. The narrative I felt was quite fractured and the ending was like a puzzle that the reader had to pick apart themselves. Good writing, just not the greatest story.

Bird Therapy – Joe Harkness ✩✩✩

When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended but nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is.

In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves.

This book named a lot of birds, some I knew, others I didn’t. It shows how nature and bird watching especially can have a healing effect on the mind and body.

The 24 hour Cafe – Libby Page ✩✩✩

Welcome to the café that never sleeps. Day and night, Stella’s Café opens its doors to the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is always welcome, where life can wait at the door.

Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They love working at Stella’s – the different people they meet, the small kindnesses exchanged. But is it time to step outside and make their own way in life?

I think The Lido was a hard debut to follow, and the 24 Hour Cafe I’m sad to say was rather disappointing. The writing style never really got inside the minds’ of the characters, there was a whole lot of telling not showing and I finished the novel not really caring about any of the characters.

The Call of the Wild – Jack London ✩✩✩

Buck, is a dog born to luxury and raised in a sheltered Californian home. But then he is kidnapped and sold to be a sled dog in the harsh and frozen Yukon Territory. Passed from master to master, Buck embarks on an extraordinary journey, proving his unbreakable spirit…

This classic novel was gathering dust on my shelf for years until the release of the film made me decide to give the book a go. The novel is not an easy read, full of violence and dying dogs. I was glad to get to the end and when I did I was left feeling a lingering sadness for hours after.

Circe – Madeline Miller ✩✩✩✩

In the house of Helios, mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child – not powerful and terrible, like her father. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens the gods, she is banished to the island of Aiaia where she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs and taming wild beasts. Yet a woman who stands alone will never be left in peace for long – and among her island’s guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.

So Circe sets forth her tale, a vivid, mesmerizing epic of family rivalry, love and loss – the defiant, inextinguishable song of woman burning hot and bright through the darkness of a man’s world.

I studied The Odyssey for my degree and love all things Greek! I thoroughly enjoyed this modern retelling of Circe. The language was beautiful and the story, though slow to start, once it picked up I couldn’t put it down. A really good book!

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by and stay safe!

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – October to December

the-year-in-books

A Year in Books

Sorry this post is a bit late. I’m still trawling through the backlog of planned blogs for the end of 2018!

I aimed to read 40 books by the end of the year, and I can happily say I reached my target, by reading 41. Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge. For 2019 I will keep the target at 40, which I think is a manageable figure. Do you fancy joining in?

Below, find reviews of the books I read in the final quarter of 2018. What books have you enjoyed this past year?

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

I enjoyed the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, so imagine my surprise when I found they had rekindled the series. It may be written by a different author but the same cast of characters feature. Although the plot is a slow burn the narrative soon picks up and races through to the end, leaving the reader breathless. I would have loved more Salander in the story but nonetheless it’s a good start to the continuation of the series.

Have you read the two new sequels? What were your impressions?

After You – Jojo Moyes

I enjoyed Me Before You and even laughed/cried at the film. So I purchased the sequel After You. However the story was not as good as the original. It followed Louisa Clark coming to terms with life after Will. There was still moments of joviality interlaced with poignancy but it didn’t pack as much punch as the first book. I will probably read the third installment once it comes out in paperback.

Have you seen the film? Do you think it kept true to the novel?

The Comfort of Strangers – Ian McEwan

Why, why, why do I keep doing this to myself? I keep subjecting myself to the dull, banal writing of Ian McEwan! Again I was disappointed in yet another of his novels. I can’t recall much of the plot which I found rather vague. The third person narrative really detracts from the reader caring a jot about the characters and the horrors that happen to them. The plot, a couple holidaying abroad befriend a man who invites them back to his home where they meet his crippled wife. I had heard a radio adaption of this book in the 90’s which I found deeply unsettling. However the book I just found boring.

Perhaps you felt differently?

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

The bad writing just continues I’m afraid with this depressing post apocalyptic novel. A film was also made starring Viggo Mortensen. If the film is anything like the book, then I’ll pass. The plot is of a father and his son travelling a road to the coast after the world has been decimated by some kind of cataclysm. Anguish and misery pour from this novel in floods. Reading scene after scene of human desperation in a ravaged world devoid of food and warmth is hard to stomach. The conclusion leaves the reader unsatisfied and I wonder if the ulterior motive of the author was to depress his audience? I was shocked to read that the book won a Pulitzer Prize!

Maybe you had a different experience of this novel?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

My choice of books were not going well this quarter. I decided to try another book that has been adapted for film and which again I’ve not seen. The issue I had with this novel was not the plot, which was rather twee but the language. I found that it seemed too modern for the 1950’s. The plot, a writer comes from London to Guernsey to research the German Occupation and in the process finds herself among a colourful cast of characters.

Have you read the book? Seen the film?

One Day in December – Josie Silver

I really wanted to like this book, I really did. The advertisement for the book kept popping up on my Instagram with rave reviews. So I downloaded a copy. The premise, a girl on a bus makes eye contact with a boy whom she looks haphazardly for over a year until she eventually meets him but there’s a catch. I won’t ruin the plot for you if you enjoy rom-coms but I felt rather bored with the characters and the sugary sweetness of it all.

Perhaps you felt differently if you’ve read this book?

9780857056436The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye – David Lagercrantz

I seemed to get into this second sequel to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy much quicker than the first. The characters were more detailed and the story I felt was much better than the first Lagercrantz uptake of the series. Salander featured much more and the plot was fast paced. Its not a patch on the Stieg Larsson originals but I enjoyed it none the less.

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

I’m struggling to find books for 2019 that really grasp my interest. Have you any suggestions on books you think I would enjoy?

Thanks for visiting and happy reading!

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #53

Last week I wanted to participate in either a Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins or the monthly #photoanhour organised by Louisa and Jane. However I ended up doing neither. So for this week I have decided to try and gather pictures and gossip for another Sunday Sevens.

Guest:

Last weekend David and I had our first guest staying at no. 49! My online friend Jennifer, who was touring Europe, decided to free up a weekend to visit myself and Liverpool. On her two nights stay with us, she met Riley whom she is a big fan of and took in the sights of the city. It was a fun weekend!

Beatrix Potter 50ps:

In the past couple of weeks I have been successful in obtaining not one, but two 2017 Beatrix Potter 50p’s. Mr. Jeremy Fisher and Tom Kitten have joined my collection.

coins

From 2016’s collection all I need is Jemima Puddle Duck. In 2017’s collection I require Benjamin Bunny. I have just discovered that in 2018 there is another collection of 50p’s produced, featuring yet another Peter Rabbit, Flopsy Bunny, The Taylor of Gloucester, and Mrs Tittlemouse. I wonder if I will find any of them?

Have you collected any of these 50p’s?

championBook I am reading:

At present I am reading How to be a Champion by Sarah Millican. It was on offer on Amazon Kindle for .99p so I could not say no. I’m not au fait with autobiographies, but I can imagine the narrative to be spoken in Sarah Millican’s quirky voice. I can’t say that I’m enjoying the narrative style much. Though being of the same age, I’m finding many parallels with my youth. I can only read further and see where the text progresses.

Have you read this autobiography? What were your thoughts?

Bee in the City:

On Wednesday David and I had a day off work, so we decided to pop over to Manchester and see a few of their bees. We spent two hours walking the trail and spotting 28 bees. There are over 100 to see!

#walk1000miles:

certificate 2018Though I have already accomplished 1000 miles. I am still accumulating my mileage for 2018. This week I have managed a reasonable 30 miles, bringing my annual total to (all the ones), 1,111 miles. I am eagerly awaiting the production of the 2018 medals, so I can add it to my certificate.

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x