A Year in Film: November 2020

I don’t know about you, but November has been an awfully long month! It’s been gray and bleak for most of it. I think this depression in weather hasn’t been great on our mental health. So curling up and watching films has been a sort of comfort blanket. Somehow the stresses and strains of life seem more hard during the dark winter days. Roll on the twinkling lights of December.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective  ✩✩✩

Ace Ventura, a private detective, specialises in finding lost animals. When Snowflake, a football team’s aquatic mascot, goes missing, he is called to investigate.

Jim Carrey is his mad cap self in this comedy about a missing dolphin. Worth a watch.

The Nun  ✩✩✩

When a young nun at a cloistered abbey in Romania takes her own life, a priest with a haunted past and a novitiate on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate. Together, they uncover the order’s unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls.

A prequel to the Conjuring movies. Though I enjoyed the origin story of the demon Valak, it didn’t give me chills the other two films did.

Awakenings ✩✩✩✩

When Dr Malcolm Sayer discovers a cure for an epidemic, numerous catatonic patients get a second chance to live. However, the cure eventually leads to more complications.

A sad yet inspiring movie, made all the more poignant as it was based on a true story.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ✩✩✩

A man living a dull life dreams up romantic and action-filled scenarios in order to escape from monotony. When his own job is threatened, he sets out on a real romantic and action-packed journey.

This Ben Stiller comedy wasn’t the best, but it definitely wasn’t the worst. A film to switch off too.

The Brave One ✩✩✩

After a brutal attack which results in the death of her fiance, Erica is traumatised. She decides to take the law into her own hands and track down the killers.

Jodie Foster plays a woman with a vengeance in this thriller. A bit dark but I enjoyed it.

The Cable Guy ✩✩✩

Steven befriends Chip, the person who installs cable at his new home. However, Chip wreaks havoc in Steven’s life when he rejects their friendship.

The crazy but lovable Cable Guy is a hilarious comedy, everyone should watch it once in their lifetime.

Dead Poets Society ✩✩✩

John Keating, a progressive English teacher, tries to encourage his students to break free from the norm, go against the status quo and live life unapologetically.

A rather sedate, depressing movie about the confines of society and how difficult it is to break from it.

Single White Female ✩✩

After her breakup, Allison places an ad for a roommate. All the applicants seem weird except for Hedra. However, Hedra has a secret past which haunts her and messes up Allison’s life.

Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the girl next door but her true colours soon develop when she becomes jealous of her room mate. Not a film that has aged well.

A simple plan ✩✩✩

While in the woods, upstanding local Hank Mitchell (Bill Paxton), his dim brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) and their friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) discover a crashed plane with a dead pilot, and a stash of more than four million dollars. Although Hank is reluctant to keep the money, Jacob and Lou convince him otherwise, and they devise a plan to split the fortune. Things quickly go wrong, however, dramatically affecting the trio and those around them.

Surprisingly not a bad film. I hadn’t seen it before. I liked how the plot spiraled out of control as the cast of characters grew ever more paranoid and greedy!

Donnie Darko ✩✩✩

Donnie Darko, an awkward teenager, befriends Frank, a figure in a bunny costume only he can see, who informs Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays the disturbed antihero in this indie movie that still has a cult following today. Gets better after each viewing.

Cujo ✩✩

Donna, a suburban housewife along with her young son Tad, drives out to the home where a perturbed St Bernard is driven insane by rabies. She must now save herself and her son from a brutal attack.

A thriller from the pen of Stephen King. I think this movie was probably scarier when it was released in the 1980’s, when rabid stray dogs were more prevalent on the streets, than today.

Bridesmaids ✩✩✩

Annie, a jobless chef, is asked by her best friend, Lillian, to be her maid of honour. Issues evolve when she ruins the wedding rituals in a rage of conflict with one of the bridesmaids.

The rivalry between Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne is hilarious in this 2011 comedy.

Police Academy ✩✩

A group of misfits enlist themselves in a police academy. They embark on a series of zany adventures resulting in mishap, mayhem and mismanagement.

Are there any 1980’s films that have stayed the test of time? Police Academy sadly hasn’t.

Zoolander ✩✩

At the end of his career, a clueless fashion model is brainwashed to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

More silly Ben Stiller fun, this time with Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson satirising the fashion industry.

Rear Window ✩✩✩

Professional photographer Jeff is stuck in his apartment, recuperating from a broken leg. Out of boredom, he begins to spy on his neighbours and comes across a shocking revelation.

A Hitchcock classic. I really enjoyed this film. It may have been slow to start and the interactions between the cast a little dated but the tension and climax was thrilling!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles ✩✩✩✩

Neal, who needs to reach home for Thanksgiving, goes through a series of misadventures when his flight gets cancelled and he ends up meeting Del, a goofy salesman.

A really good movie, lots of belly laughs but this film has a real heart.

Bringing Down the House ✩✩

A man and a woman meet on the Internet. She is a prisoner. She escapes from prison and comes to his house. She then proceeds to wreak havoc on his middle-class life.

Not one of Steve Martin’s better comedy’s.

Greenland ✩✩✩

John Garrity, his estranged wife and their young son embark on a perilous journey to find sanctuary as a planet-killing comet hurtles toward Earth. Amid terrifying accounts of cities getting levelled, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity. As the countdown to the global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.

A good action packed, survival movie. It had me on the edge of my seat!

Mr. Destiny ✩✩

There comes a time in life, when people seem powerless and no matter what you try, nothing works. Something like that happened with Larry Burrows who was so lost in life.

Not the greatest film about pivotal moments in life and one man’s opportunity to live both.

The Breakfast Club ✩✩

Five high school students, all with different mindsets, face detainment in their school library on a Saturday morning. As time passes by, their egos fade and they become close buddies.

I hadn’t seen this movie and missed all the hype when it came out. However I didn’t think much of this teen angst film. Perhaps you think differently?

Filofax (Taking Care of Business) ✩✩✩

Jimmy wins a ticket to the World Series but cannot make it there as he’s serving his time in prison. He somehow manages to escape and takes over the identity of Barney, an advertising executive.

Filofax was an entertaining watch, I would recommend.

Face Off ✩✩✩✩

Sean Archer, an FBI Agent, undergoes plastic surgery in order to impersonate and get hold of his son’s killer and his arch-enemy, Castor Troy. Trouble brews when Castor begins impersonating Sean.

I love this film, it has everything you need, action, drama and emotion. An all round good movie!

Wild Hogs ✩✩

Four middle-aged friends decide to rev up their routine lives with a freewheeling road trip, but after a run in with a Mexican motorcycle mob, they are less than eager.

A predictable comedy, but watchable.

Pleasantville ✩✩✩

David and his twin sister, Jennifer, are transported into ‘Pleasantville’, a black and white TV show. The two must stay in character while completely changing the town’s dynamics.

I enjoyed this thought provoking film about racism portrayed within a black and white 1950’s TV show.

Laggies ✩✩

In the throes of a quarter-life crisis, Megan panics when her boyfriend proposes, then, taking an opportunity to escape for a week, hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year-old Annika, who lives with her world-weary single dad.

I don’t think this was Keira Knightly’s best film, cringe worthy rather than romantic.

Miss Congeniality ✩✩✩

Gracie Hart, a tomboyish detective, is made to infiltrate the Miss United States beauty pageant as a contestant after her department learns that the event is under threat from an anonymous bomber.

A likable comedy with Sandra Bullock as the boyish cop who has to infiltrate a beauty pageant.

National Lampoon European Vacation ✩

The Griswolds win a vacation tour across Europe where the usual havoc ensues.

Where these National Lampoon movies ever funny? Think they are a product of the 1980’s. This European venture didn’t raise many laughs.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 ✩✩

Kate Pierce, now a cynical teen, is unexpectedly reunited with Santa Claus when a mysterious troublemaker threatens to cancel Christmas – forever.

I loved the first Christmas Chronicles when it came out in 2018. However the sequel falls somewhat flat. A decent Christmas movie but nothing new to the series.

Oceans Eleven ✩✩✩

Danny Ocean, a gangster, assembles a group of eleven people in an effort to steal money from three popular casinos in Las Vegas owned by his rival, Terry Benedict.

This casino heist was a slow burn but once the plan was set in place it snowballed to a satisfying conclusion.

Apollo 13 ✩✩✩✩

Astronauts Lovell, Haise and Swigert of the Apollo 13 moon mission find themselves stranded when their spacecraft gets damaged. NASA must now find a way to bring them back before it is too late.

Not as bad a film as I remember, full of drama and tension, based on real life events of the Apollo mission that almost ended in tragedy.

Oceans Twelve ✩✩✩

Within two weeks, Danny Ocean and his associates must return the money they swindled from a Las Vegas casino tycoon, Terry Benedict, or Terry will kill them.

A decent sequel with lots of big names. Though I have to admit the plot twists and turns confused me a little.

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

Thanks for reading! Christine x

A Year in Film: October 2020

As the dark nights begin to draw in, it looks like David and I are aiming for a film watched per night, or so October’s count is suggesting! We don’t watch TV, so for entertainment we rely heavily on playing PlayStation games, watching films and endless streams on YouTube. Our go to channels are Harald Baldr and Simon Wilson, who both document their trips abroad. I think we are dreaming of holidays taken away from us by Covid restrictions!

Rocky 4 ✩✩✩✩

Rocky trains his friend Apollo Creed in a match against Drago, an indestructible Russian boxer. But when Apollo is killed in the ring during the match, Rocky vows to avenge his friend’s death.

I surprisingly enjoyed this offering from Sylvester Stallone. It had everything, comedy, friendship, love and loss and with a banging 80’s soundtrack, there’s not much to not like about this film.

The Social Network ✩✩✩

As Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg creates the social networking site that would become known as Facebook, he is sued by the twins who claimed he stole their idea, and by the co-founder who was later squeezed out of the business.

I wouldn’t say this was a particularly exciting movie, but it’s worth a watch.

Duel ✩✩✩

David, a businessman, passes by an old tanker truck in a dessert while travelling for a meeting. The driver of the truck is a psychopath who finds David’s overtaking offensive and decides to kill him.

This was Steven Spielberg’s directorial debut and surprisingly it wasn’t too bad, brings road rage to another new level!

The Thing ✩✩✩

A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims.

Kurt Russell is the no-nonsense talking hero in this John Carpenter film. It’s not aged well but the tension is all there and the puppetry for the mutating alien is good for it’s time.

They Live ✩✩

A drifter discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to wake up to the fact that aliens have taken over the Earth.

Staying with the theme of John Carpenter films is They Live starring wrestler ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Pipper. A bit of a slow burn but not a bad watch.

Monsters Inc ✩✩✩✩

In Monstropolis, best friends Sulley and Mike are the top scarers working at the Monsters, Inc. However, their lives are hugely disrupted when a human girl enters their world.

I love this movie! It has the right amount of comedy, threat and emotion and Sully’s relationship with Boo is heart-warming. I definitely had a tear in my eye at the end.

Ghost ✩✩✩✩

Sam and Molly love each other, but their romance is short-lived when Sam is killed by a thug. Unable to tell Molly that her life is in danger, Sam’s spirit takes a psychic’s help in order to save her.

Another film that is bound to get the tears flowing. A brilliant thriller with an even better soundtrack.

E.T. ✩✩✩

An alien is left behind on Earth and is saved by young Elliot who decides to keep him hidden. While the task force hunts for it, Elliot and his siblings form an emotional bond with their new friend.

E.T. was the first movie I saw at the cinema. I remember going to see it with my dad. I was five and came home with a crush on Elliott (Henry Thomas) and a sticker book!

Toy Soldiers ✩✩✩

Terrorists, seeking the release of a South American drug baron, take schoolchildren as hostages. However, the captives fight back.

Before watching this film, I thought it was Small Soldiers of 1998 but this stars Sean Austin and is centered around a boys school overrun with terrorists. It was worth a watch.

Dog Soldiers ✩✩✩✩

During a routine training mission in the Scottish Highlands, a small squad of British soldiers expected to rendezvous with a special ops unit, instead find a bloody massacre with a sole survivor. The men are rescued by a zoologist who identifies what hunts them as werewolves. Without transport or communications, the group is forced to retreat to a farmhouse to wait for the full moon to disappear at dawn.

In my opinion, Dog Soldiers is one of the best werewolf films ever made. The cast are brilliant, and there’s enough mystery, threat and violence to keep you entertained. The make-up and werewolf design is on point.

The Birds ✩✩

Melanie, a rich socialite, follows Mitch, a lawyer, to his home in Bodega Bay to play a practical joke on him. Things take a bizarre turn when the birds in the area begin to attack the people there.

I think Hitchcock films are a product of its time, as I found The Birds, rather disappointing and boring. Yes, there is a lot of tension and build up in the first hour, but was I terrified? Not likely!

Insidious ✩✩✩

Josh and Renai move to a new house, seeking a fresh start. However, when their son, Dalton, mysteriously falls into a coma, paranormal events start occurring in the house.

I think Insidious is only scary on the first watch. by the second I wasn’t terrified at all and expected half of the thrills before they appeared. Still a decent scary movie though.

Dead End ✩✩✩

Christmas Eve. On his way to his in-laws with his family, Frank Harrington decides to try a shortcut, for the first time in 20 years. It turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life.

I thought this wasn’t a bad film. I sort of guessed the end but it didn’t detract from the shocks and laughs the drama on screen produced. I’d give it a watch just for the gore!

The Others ✩✩

Grace moves into a new house with her two photosensitive children in Jersey. When a series of inexplicable events occur, Grace starts believing that her house is haunted.

I found this movie rather pedestrian in its execution and the thrills and scary moments were few and far between. More psychological than a horror.

Poseidon ✩✩✩

On New Year’s Eve, a giant wave crashes into Poseidon, a luxurious cruise liner, and flips it upside down. As the ship begins to sink, the passengers struggle to find a way to survive.

A film I’d seen before but enjoyed watching it a second time round. There were lots of action sequences and tension to keep me enthralled until the credits.

The Fog ✩✩✩✩

Folks get ready to celebrate the centenary of Antonio Bay. But, many had suffered due to crimes that founded this town. Now, they rise from the sea, under the cover of the fog, to claim retribution.

I never get tired of watching this spooky movie. One of John Carpenters’ better films. The story telling is at it’s finest. Though 40 years old, and looking a little dated, The Fog is one of the best ghost stories of all time!

Carry on Cleo ✩✩

After being trounced in Europe, Caesar dispatches Antony to forge an alliance with Ptolemy, who is squabbling with Cleopatra for the Egyptian throne, but the plan goes awry as Antony is captivated by Cleopatra’s asp, and together they plot Caesar’s downfall.

A watchable film but the jokes were very dated and I don’t think the youth of today would get it!

The Conjuring ✩✩✩

The Perron family moves into a farmhouse where they experience paranormal phenomena. They consult demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren, to help them get rid of the evil entity haunting them.

I hadn’t watched this movie before. I enjoyed the storytelling and the thrills and liked the cast. Would recommend a watch.

The Witches of Eastwick ✩✩

Three single women in a village have their wishes granted at a cost, when a mysterious and flamboyant man arrives in their lives, to satisfy all their desires. Will good triumph over evil?

Oh dear, this film was awful! I think giving it two stars was generous. I’m not a big fan of Jack Nicholson, his portrayal of Satan just made my skin crawl!

Hocus Pocus ✩✩✩

Three witches resurrect after 300 years to exact revenge and begin a reign of terror after Max, a young boy who moves to Salem with his family, lights a cursed Candle of Black Flame.

An all round fun, family movie. Almost 30 years old but it’s still as good now as it was back then.

Practical Magic ✩✩✩

After the death of their parents, Sally and Gillian Owens move in with their aunts, Jet and Frances. The two sisters have nothing in common except their hereditary gift for practical magic.

This film started off well, a family of witches with a curse on its men but by the end it had gone all soppy and romantic. Watchable.

The Witch ✩

In the New England of the 17th century, a banished Puritan family sets up a farm by the edge of a huge, remote forest, where no other family lives. But sinister forces then start haunting them.

I watched this when I wasn’t feeling well one day and David was busy working. I’m glad I didn’t subject David to this drivel. It is an account of how religious paranoia and hysteria can result in terrible events happening to a family in the 1600’s. I could see where the director was trying to go with this film it just fell short for me.

The Witches (2020) ✩✩

In late 1967, a young orphaned boy goes to live with his grandma in the rural Alabama town of Demopolis. As the boy and his grandmother encounter some deceptively glamorous but thoroughly diabolical witches, she wisely whisks him away to a seaside resort. Regrettably, they arrive at precisely the same time that the world’s Grand High Witch has gathered her fellow cronies from around the globe — under cover — to carry out her nefarious plans.

Oh dear. Why did they have to do a remake of an already good film? I like Anne Hathaway but in this retelling of Roald Dahl’s classic The Witches, she was no Anjelica Huston. The film relied too much on CGI at the cost of the story. I wanted to like it but sadly couldn’t.

Escape From Alcatraz ✩✩✩

Alcatraz is the most secure prison of its time. It is believed that no one can ever escape from it, until three daring men make a possible successful attempt at escaping from one of the most infamous prisons in the world.

Clint Eastwood is his enigmatic self in this tense prison escape, based on a true story.

Goosebumps ✩✩✩

RL Stine, the author of ‘Goosebumps’, is shocked when demons from his books come to life and spread havoc in Delaware. He, along with his daughter and her friend, tries to get them back in the books.

A good family film with lots of comedy, thrills and action. I would recommend a watch if not seen before.

The Blob ✩✩

The Blob, a slimy substance made as a part of a chemical experiment during the Cold War, spreads havoc in the city of Arborville, California, and disfigures the people who come in contact with it.

Not the Steve McQueen version but a comical 1980’s remake. Best to watch for the cheesiness.

The Conjuring 2 ✩✩✩

Peggy, a single mother of four children, seeks the help of occult investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren when she and her children witness strange, paranormal events in their house.

A strong sequel and a good retelling of the Enfield poltergeist. One of my favourite scary movies. I am liking the direction these films are taking.

What’s your favourite scary movie?

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

Thanks for reading! 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.

Filmplakat_Tesla_A1_2mm.indd

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

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

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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: February 2020

What a horrible stormy month February has been! Most evenings I’ve locked the front door, blocking out the cold, driving wind and howling gales outside and hibernated. Listed below are the films we’ve watched this month.

Harriet ✩✩✩

The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman‘s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

The month began with two films adapted from historical moments and people. I never knew about former slave Harriet Tubman and her colourful life. From becoming a Union spy during the American Civil War to being the first woman to lead an armed military raid that saved 700 slaves. She was a brave lady. I just wish the film had been that little bit better!

Midway ✩✩✩

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese forces launch a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base in Hawaii. Six months later, the Battle of Midway commences on June 4, 1942, as the Japanese navy once again plan a strike against American ships in the Pacific. For the next three days, the U.S. Navy and a squad of brave fighter pilots engage the enemy in one of the most important and decisive battles of World War II.

The Americans are very good at making patriotic films, full of heroics and Midway is no exception. If you liked Pearl Harbor, then you’ll like this.

The Hustle ✩✩

Josephine Chesterfield is a glamorous, British woman who has a penchant for defrauding gullible men out of their money. Into her well-ordered world comes Penny Rust, a cunning and fun-loving Australian woman who loves to swindle unsuspecting marks. Despite their different methods, the two soon join forces for the ultimate score — a young and naive tech billionaire.

The Hustle is a female remake of the Steve Martin and Michael Cane film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels ✩✩ which we watched a few days later, just to compare. I chose two stars for both films as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels looked dated and some of the jokes in The Hustle fell flat. If you like comedy, you’ll like these films. 

Dolittle ✩✩✩

Dr. John Dolittle lives in solitude after losing the love of his life. His only companionship comes from an array of exotic animals that he can speak too. But when young Queen Victoria becomes gravely ill, the eccentric doctor and his furry friends embark on an epic adventure to a mythical island to find the cure.

I read that this film had a lot of bad reviews but I actually enjoyed it. It was a good family film with cute animations of animals and I was entertained by the fantasy adventure.

Jumanji: The Next Level ✩✩✩✩

When Spencer goes back into the fantastical world of Jumanji, pals Martha, Fridge and Bethany re-enter the game to bring him home. But the game is now broken — and fighting back. Everything the friends know about Jumanji is about to change, as they soon discover there’s more obstacles and more danger to overcome.

This film was another good adventure romp into the video game world of Jumanji. I’d say the first film, Welcome to the Jungle was slightly stronger but with the same cast and peril at every turn it was an enjoyable watch.

Jumanji ✩✩✩✩

Two children come across a magical board game. While playing it, they meet Alan, a man who was trapped inside the game for decades, and face a host of dangers that can only be stopped by finishing the game.

We thought we would go back to the beginning and watch the original Robin Williams Jumanji. Though now 25 years old the film is just as good a watch in 2020 as it was back in 1995.

Countdown ✩✩✩

When a nurse downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die, it tells her she only has three days to live. With time ticking away and a figure haunting her, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.

I thought this wasn’t a bad thriller/horror, definitely a social commentary of today’s world of apps. A few jumps but with a predictable ending setting up a sequel. Do you like scary movies?

JoJo Rabbit ✩✩✩

Jojo is a lonely German boy who discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend — Adolf Hitler — Jojo must confront his blind nationalism as World War II continues to rage on.

The Hitler Youth and Nazi Germany isn’t a subject that comes to mind for a comedy but JoJo Rabbit is a satirical film centered on a young boy, brain washed into thinking the ideologies of Hitler. When JoJo meets Elsa, a Jew his mother is protecting, he first see’s her as alien but as the film progresses they become friends and JoJo soon comes to question what he has been told. 

Spies in Disguise ✩✩✩

When the world’s best spy is turned into a pigeon, he must rely on his nerdy tech officer to save the world.

I’ve been wanting to see this film since I saw the trailer for it. The fact pigeons were a major part of the plot made me think of David and his pigeon friends. Sadly the film didn’t live up to my expectations and I found the film wasn’t as good or as funny as I had hoped. However there’s enough action to keep kids entertained.

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

Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Film: January 2020

Recently, while trying to think of something to write about, I recalled a good film I had just watched. This got me thinking of starting a new series, a year in film. Each month I will write about the good and not so good movies I have watched.

Black and Blue ✩✩✩

A rookie policewoman in New Orleans inadvertently captures the death of a young drug dealer on her body cam. After realizing the murder was committed by corrupt cops, she teams up with the only person from the community who’s willing to help her. Now, she finds herself on the run from both the vengeful criminals and the lawmen who desperately want to destroy the incriminating footage.

Not a bad film to watch, full of action and tension. I enjoyed the plot and wondered how the main character was going to get out of a tight fix.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ✩✩✩

Maleficent travels to a grand castle to celebrate young Aurora’s upcoming wedding to Prince Phillip. While there, she meets Aurora’s future mother-in-law — a conniving queen who hatches a devious plot to destroy the land’s fairies. Hoping to stop her, Maleficent joins forces with a seasoned warrior and a group of outcasts to battle the queen and her powerful army.

I was quite disappointed with this film. I loved the first Maleficent but the second film left me feeling empty and dissatisfied. The plot was weak and I really didn’t care for any of the characters.

Ford v Ferrari ✩✩✩✩✩

American automotive designer Carroll Shelby and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary vehicle for the Ford Motor Co. Together, they plan to compete against the race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.

I thought I would be bored watching this film but I was pleasantly surprised. I loved Christian Bale’s adaption of Ken Miles. He got the Brummie accent down to a T. I like films that get me engrossed. I enjoyed this film from start to finish!

Uncut Gems -✩

A charismatic jeweller makes a high-stakes bet that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime. In a precarious high-wire act, he must balance business, family and adversaries on all sides in pursuit of the ultimate win.

One of the worst films I have seen! There was hardly any plot and the cast seemed to just shout over each other! With an awful soundtrack, it didn’t make for an enjoyable watch. Adam Sandler’s foray into a straight role should be forgotten. Best keep to awful comedy films in future!

Doctor Sleep ✩✩✩✩

Struggling with alcoholism, Dan Torrance remains traumatized by the sinister events that occurred at the Overlook Hotel when he was a child. His hope for a peaceful existence soon becomes shattered when he meets Abra, a teen who shares his extrasensory gift of the “shine.” Together, they form an unlikely alliance to battle the True Knot, a cult whose members try to feed off the shine of innocents to become immortal.

This film was slow to start but once it did I thoroughly enjoyed it. In parts it reminded me of The Sixth Sense. I don’t remember much about The Shining but I think you could watch his without seeing the first Stephen King film.

Terminator – Dark Fate ✩✩✩

In Mexico City, a newly modified liquid Terminator — the Rev-9 model — arrives from the future to kill a young factory worker named Dani Ramos. Also sent back in time is Grace, a hybrid cyborg human who must protect Ramos from the seemingly indestructible robotic assassin. But the two women soon find some much-needed help from a pair of unexpected allies — seasoned warrior Sarah Connor and the T-800 Terminator.

Not the greatest Terminator film made, however it was a good shoot ’em up and nice to see Arnold Schwarzenegger reprise his T-800 role. However Linda Hamilton’s role as Sarah Connor was much harder to like.

1917 ✩✩✩✩

During World War I, two British soldiers — Lance Cpl. Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake — receive seemingly impossible orders. In a race against time, they must cross over into enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow comrades — including Blake’s own brother.

Though not a true account of an incident in World War One, I enjoyed this film set in the Great War.  Though the narrative just followed two guys travelling across France and into the trench system, the cinematography really drew you into the action and conflict on screen and the characters were likable. There were some hair raising scenes. Definitely a film to make you think!

Dark Waters ✩✩✩

A tenacious attorney uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths to one of the world’s largest corporations. While trying to expose the truth, he soon finds himself risking his future, his family and his own life.

This legal thriller based on a true account of the case against DuPont, a chemical company who produced a non stick coating on every day products knowing that it caused cancer and neonatal deformities. This product known as PFOA was branded as Teflon and was only banned in 2019. Definitely a film to make you think of how safe products actually are.

richard jewellRichard Jewell ✩✩✩✩

During the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, security guard Richard Jewell discovers a suspicious backpack under a bench in Centennial Park. With little time to spare, he helps to evacuate the area until the incendiary device inside the bag explodes. Hailed as a hero who saved lives, Jewell’s own life starts to unravel when the FBI names him the prime suspect in the bombing.

I never knew about the 1996 Atlanta bombing. This film was such a roller coaster to watch. First Richard Jewell was a hero and then a prime suspect. Clint Eastward’s direction really drew you into the narrative of the film. The cast were superb. I really enjoyed this film.

Have you seen any films recently that you enjoyed?

Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2019 – October to December

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books. My aim for 2019 was 40 books, however I managed to read 30 over the year. A combination of not so good books made this years challenge hard going. I am still plodding through the last novel of the year.

I’ll be joining in this year’s challenge and aim for 40 books again. Will you be joining in, if so how many books will you aim to read?

The Almanac (October/November/December) – Lia Leendertz ✩✩
As I’ve said in previous quarters I’ve not enjoyed this book and would not recommend it to others. Do you know of any better almanacs?

New York City – Lonely Planet ✩✩✩
A useful and helpful guide to the culture, food and sights of New York City. It helped me whilst planning our New York adventure last December.

The Tailor of Gloucester – Beatrix Potter ✩✩✩
The Tailor of Gloucester has a terribly important commission to complete for the Mayor of Gloucester’s wedding on Christmas Day but is ill and tired! How will he possibly complete the beautiful coat and embroidered waistcoat? Luckily, there lives in the dresser, some very kind and very resourceful mice who set about helping the poor tailor with his work.

I really enjoyed this tale by Beatrix Potter. It was much better than Peter Rabbit in my opinion.

The Woman at the Window – A.J. Finn ✩✩✩✩
Agoraphobic Anna Fox’s only lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something horrifying. Now she must uncover the truth about what really happened. But if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

I enjoyed this book. I thought the main character was interesting and I felt engaged with the story until the end. It really made you question what was real and what was imagined. I’ve recently learned that there also has been a film made which is out later this year.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse – Charlie Mackesy ✩✩✩✩
Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos.

This is a beautiful book, with touching words and sketches to ease a troubled mind.

365 Days Wild – Lucy McRobert ✩✩✩✩
365 inspirational suggestions for enjoying nature. These ‘Random Acts of Wildness’ will encourage you to fall in love with, learn about or even help wildlife and wild places near you.

If, like me you love The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild then this book is right up your alley. Filled with lots of ideas to keep wild all year round. I’d already completed many of the suggestions but there were a few I hadn’t even thought of.

The Girl at the Window – Rowan Coleman ✩✩✩✩
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from… Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

I quite enjoyed this book. It was an easy read and the characters both past and present were likeable. The ending was a bit contrived but the addition of Emily Brontë as a character was a nice touch. If you like supernatural stories then you’ll enjoy this book.

The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy ✩✩
This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana jam vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma.

This is the novel I’ve been slogging though. There are some beautifully written passages but none can detract from the boring story even if there is political unease and a family tragedy, getting to that point was long winded. I really couldn’t warm to any of the characters and can’t believe it was a Booker Prize winner! Perhaps I’ve missed the point of this novel, if you think differently let me know in the comments below.

I’m always open to recommendations, so if you have read a book that you have enjoyed and think I would like it too, then do let me know.

Thanks for following my year in books 2019. Here’s to some good reads in 2020 (hopefully)!

Christine x

A Year in Books 2019 – January to March

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A Year in Books

Welcome to 2019’s A Year in Books. This is my third year following the initiative run by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees, and I have decided 40 books in a year is achievable for me.

A new year means a new batch of books to read. For the first quarter of 2019 I managed to read a total of eight books.

Here’s my reviews below.

Almanac – Lia Leendertz (January/February/March) ✩✩
I don’t know what I expected from this almanac but some of the content in Lia’s compilation just doesn’t inform me enough. I particularly like the history behind the naming of months, stellar events and information from a bee hive but I feel I want more than what I am reading. Do you know of any better almanacs?

The History of Mary Prince – Mary Prince ✩✩
I don’t even know how this book got on my Kindle! It’s a recount of the life of a slave Mary Prince, in the 1800’s. Some of the accounts of torture are difficult to read. Mary finally escaped her brutal enslavement and took up residence in England. She is the first woman to present an anti slavery petition to parliament.

Into the Water – Paula Hawkins ✩✩✩
From the author who gave us Girl on a Train. Into the Water is billed as yet another thriller but it felt more of a detective novel. Just days before her sister drowned, Jules ignored her call. Now Nel is dead, and Jules must return to her sister’s house to care for her daughter, and to face the mystery of Nel’s death. But Jules is afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of this small town that is drowning in secrecy. From the reviews on Amazon not many people enjoyed this book, but I enjoyed it even though it was hard to get a grip of all the characters (there were a lot of them!)

The Turn of Midnight – Minette Walters ✩✩✩
I quite enjoyed this book. I didn’t rate the first installment of Minette Walter’s historical plague novel but I found that the pace got better in this second book. Character development seemed more progressive and the novel concluded satisfactorily.

Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon ✩✩✩✩
By far the best book I have read this quarter. I found some of the passages were written so profoundly! 84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, she considers the charming new resident who looks exactly like a man she once knew – a man who died sixty years ago. His arrival has stirred distant memories she and Elsie thought they’d laid to rest. Lying prone in the front room, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light … Even though I had second guessed the third thing about Elsie, the narrative and how the story slowly developed had me gripped. The final chapters left me aching with sadness. Have you read a book that left a lasting impression on you?

Still Me – JoJo Moyes ✩✩✩
The third and final installment of the Louisa Clark series. Louisa relocates to New York for a job as a Personal Assistant. During her time in the Big Apple she meets many colorful and zany people. However these people are what save her from disillusionment and a miscarriage of justice. At the end of Still Me, Louisa Clark finds her true self worth and ultimately, happiness. I think this was the second strongest novel of the trilogy after Me Before You. Have you read any of these books or anything by JoJo Moyes?

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris ✩✩✩
I had read good reviews about this book so when I saw it in Asda, I decided to buy it. Though the novel is in third person narrative it is told from the viewpoint of a survivor of the Holocaust. In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a jack-the-lad, it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too. I found the writing style was easy to read but being third person I felt a lot of the descriptions of death were a little matter of fact, but perhaps living so close to extermination on a daily basis made you see death like that? The Tattooist saw a lot of the Nazi’s Final Solution, of the gas chambers and crematorium to the final destruction of records before the Russian’s arrived. In a time of death it was a story of determination and survival.

The Gap of Time – Jeanette Winterson ✩✩
A baby girl is abandoned, banished from London to the storm-ravaged American city of New Bohemia. Her father has been driven mad by jealousy, her mother to exile by grief. Seventeen years later, Perdita doesn’t know a lot about who she is or where she’s come from – but she’s about to find out. Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of The Winter’s Tale vibrates with echoes of Shakespeare’s original and tells a story of hearts broken and hearts healed, a story of revenge and forgiveness, a story that shows that whatever is lost shall be found. I found this modern retelling of one of Shakespeare’s later plays rather hard to digest. I felt the text rather crude and I cared little for the madness of Leo(ontes). The other characters seemed all rather ineffectual to the angst of Leo whose actions shouldn’t have been so easily forgiven. I had waited a few years to read this book. I really wish I hadn’t now.

I’ve felt this first quarter’s reading has been rather mediocre. Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #60

It’s Sunday! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens!

Cinema:
How to Train Your Dragon 3
It’s been some time since we’ve been to the cinema. To see the last installment of the How to Train your Dragon trilogy, David and I visited the newly opened Cineworld in Speke. The film was a fitting finale to the trilogy and I’m not ashamed to admit that I shed a tear or too.

Family walks:
Last Sunday we took a four mile walk around Mere Sands Wood nature reserve. Unfortunately the rain put a dampner on any nature sightings but we enjoyed the rain sodden walk anyhow!

This Sunday, with the weather no better, we headed towards Liverpool’s Calderstones Park.

#walk1000miles:
Even though David and I have had a few days off work this week, even taking in a two mile walk around The Countess of Chester Country Park. Longer days in work has meant that my miles this week has been down on previous weeks.

david

David looking for otters

My total for this week is 38, bringing my overall total to 435 miles. If you are participating in the challenge, how are you doing?

RSPB Membership:
On Monday, David and I visited RSPB Leighton Moss, near Morecambe. We spent a leisurely four hours walking the paths and taking lunch with hungry robins, tits and pheasants. Among the highlights of the visit was hand feeding a great tit and robin and seeing a marsh harrier hunting. Have you visited this reserve? What were your impressions?

Anniversary:
13 anni

Monday was also our 13th year anniversary!

Book I’m reading:
I’ve picked up The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. I’ll let you know what I think of it! Have you read it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

The Aviary:
On Wednesday David and I said goodbye to Pie our Cut-throat finch. He was five years old and hadn’t shown any signs of illness. It was a shock and a sad loss.

Philharmonic

phil

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

This Saturday David and I attended an eclectic concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, featuring music from Vaughn-Williams, Tchaikovsky and Villa-Lobos. I enjoyed it very much!

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading, Christine x

Sunday Sevens is a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins!