A Year in Film: September 2020

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

Peninsular ✩✩✩

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

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

The Philadelphia Experiment ✩✩

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

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

Mulan ✩✩✩✩

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

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

Silver Streak ✩

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

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

Gangs of New York ✩✩✩

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

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

Die Hard: with a Vengeance ✩✩✩

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

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

Glory ✩✩✩✩

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

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

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion ✩✩

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

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

La La Land ✩✩

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

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

Conspiracy Theory ✩✩✩

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

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

Frozen 2 – ✩✩

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

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

The Terminal ✩✩✩✩

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

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

The Haunting ✩✩

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

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

Catch Me If You Can ✩✩✩✩✩

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

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

The Longest Yard ✩✩✩

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

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

The Count of Monte Cristo ✩✩✩✩

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

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

Paranoia ✩✩

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

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

The Interview with a Vampire ✩✩✩✩

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

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

Limitless ✩✩✩✩

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

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

Titanic ✩✩✩✩✩

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

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

Frailty ✩✩✩

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

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

Enola Holmes ✩✩

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

A Year in Film: August 2020

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

The Old Guard ✩✩✩

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

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

Happy Death day 2U ✩✩✩

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

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

Please Stand By ✩✩

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

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

Naked ✩✩

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

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

Masterminds ✩✩✩

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

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

7500 ✩✩✩

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

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

The Majestic ✩✩✩

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

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

Life of Crime ✩✩

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

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

Thanks for Sharing ✩

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

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

Knowing ✩✩✩✩✩

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

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

The Mist ✩✩✩✩

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

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

War of the Worlds ✩✩✩✩

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

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

The Day the Earth Stood Still ✩✩✩✩

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

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

Interstate 60 ✩✩✩

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

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

The Invasion ✩✩

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

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

Trainwreck ✩✩

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

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

I Feel Pretty ✩✩✩

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

Deuce Bigalow ✩✩

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

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

The War With Grandpa ✩✩✩

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

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

Frozen ✩✩

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

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

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Tesla

Tesla ✩✩

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

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: 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 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 #59

I’ve been wanting to update you all in a Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), for a few weeks now but have not had enough photo content to warrant a post. However I’ve decided to put together pictures from the past two weeks. I hope you enjoy the update?

Family walks:

Sundays have become days when we are joined by members of our family and take Riley on a long walk. Last weekend we visited Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and walked six miles following the paths overlooking flocks of black tailed godwits and teals.

This Sunday we took a leisurely 4.5 miles walk around Liverpool’s Otterspool Prom and Festival Gardens in thick mist. It made for some atmospheric pictures.

#walk1000miles:

The days are noticeably getting longer! This week I have managed to walk 48 miles, which brings my overall total to 356 miles. I am enjoying every step!

Book I am reading:

I’ve just finished reading Joanna Cannon’s Three things About Elsie. I won’t spoil the plot for you but I found many passages in the novel profound. The last chapter had me in tears! Have you read a novel that has affected you?

For my next read I have picked up JoJo Moyes’s last installment of the Me Before You trilogy, Still Me. Have you read any of these books?

Yarden:

With all the early Spring-like weather we have been having recently in the UK, the plants in the yarden are beginning to wake up! During winter I feared for the raspberry but I’ve recently noticed new leaves starting to sprout! The crocus is giving the yarden a splash of colour and there are bluebells leafing. The greatest surprise was that the camellia which usually flowers in April has already begun to bloom!

RSPB Membership:

Saturday, David and I visited Burton Mere Wetlands. It’s the first reserve we’ve visited with our new membership. We spent an enjoyable three hours and 4.6 miles walking the trails and viewing the pools from the hides.

I love discovering new species and learning about them. We saw a flock of redshank, shoveler ducks and a little egret. I can’t wait to visit another RSPB site in the future. Where do you think I should visit next?

So, that was my week(s), how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – July to September

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books.

The summer months for me always seem to be the hardest when it comes to reading. Even when we’ve had such a wonderful summer as 2018. This year, I’ve managed to sit in the yarden and sunbathe while delving into a novel or two, but my tally is still low compared to cooler months.

This quarter I have managed to read nine books. Much better than last years quarter but no where near my tally for April to June this year. Here’s what I read this quarter.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

After what seemed like an age, I finally managed to get my hands on this Costa award winning novel and it didn’t take me long to love it! Eleanor is a young woman struggling to cope with a traumatic event from her childhood. She has been mentally and physically scared and her out look on life is shaped by her past. This book is not only about survival but about facing and dealing with daemons. It is funny and sad but ultimately it is about redemption.

What are your thoughts if you’ve read this novel?

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

As a suspense novel, the narrative just didn’t grab me. Perhaps it had a lot to live up to after Eleanor Oliphant? Even so, despite the tension, this Stephen King-esque failed to hit the mark. There were some weird episodes but I couldn’t feel for the characters and was left feeling deflated at the end of the novel. It felt like a poorly written M Night Shyamalan script.

The Ice Twins – S K Tremayne

This was a novel suggested by my mum. The premise was of twin sisters, where one had died. A year on the surviving twin begins to believe she is the dead sister. Did they get the identity of the dead twin wrong? The narrator, Sarah is estranged from her husband and still mourning her daughter. Angus (the husband) inherits a house on a remote island on the west coast of Scotland and moves the family there. This isolation brings the psychological drama to a head. It was a quick read but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Tess Gerritsen’s Playing with Fire.

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Surprisingly I enjoyed this political satire. George Orwell wrote his critique on the Russian Revolution but in theory it could be a reflection of any revolution. The animals of Manor Farm have had enough of being ruled by farmer, Mr Jones and stage their own revolution led by the intellectual pigs. However as time progresses, life under the new regime seems at odds with the origins of the revolution and to stop the dissenting farm stock the pigs unleash a brutal regime which cripples, maims and kills many of the cast. You can’t but be sympathetic to the likes of Boxer and Clover who are ground down by the machine that the pigs enact. The final act of betrayal is when the pigs are seen to walk on two hooves. This can be read that the pigs are just bad as the humans they hoped to replace. It is a piece of writing that makes you think!

Have you read this satire, what were your impressions?

Sarah Millican – How to be Champion

I am not a reader of autobiographies. I only downloaded this book as it was on offer for .99p. It took me a while to get into the narrative but I quite enjoyed it in the end. Sarah isn’t much older than myself and I noticed we did similar things and used the same items when we were both growing up in the 1980’s.

Outlander – Diana Gadaldon

I’m still slogging my way through this tome, and there are several more sequels in the series! Though a good premise, of a woman from the 1940’s travelling back in time to Jacobite Scotland, however I found the narrative boring. I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of the series. Perhaps the TV adaptation is better?

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

Swim Wild – The Wild Swimming Brothers

I delved into the realm of wild swimming again. This time I quite enjoyed reading about the tales of the three brother’s expeditions, of swimming the entire length of the River Eden and the maelstroms around Norway and Scotland. The narrative is fractured by personal reveries and memories of growing up by the author, Jack Hudson, but I found it a nice book to read none the less.

If you’d like to read more of the Wild Swimming Brother’s adventures, then follow the link to their blog.

Me Before You – JoJo Moyes

I bought this book on the recommendation of comedienne Sarah Millican, from her autobiography (see above). I got into the first person narrative quickly enough and really enjoyed the banter between Louise and Will. Both characters are scared but in different ways. I liked how the writer sculptured their unlikely relationship and the ending had me shedding silent tears. I am a softy sometimes!

If you have read the book? Seen the film? What did you think?

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

I thought I would give this sequel to the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson a go. I really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the other sequels not so. So far it seems a slow burn. I’ll let you know how I go.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #49

I love sharing my weekly updates with you in the form of a Sunday Sevens. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series. 🙂

seven wonders of industrial worldBook I’m reading:

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World – Deborah Cadbury.

I’ve picked up a book from my library, (OMG I can say library!) OK, a very small library! :p (David is cringing with the amount of books I am buying!) It’s a book I bought years ago and not had the time to read. So I thought I would read it for my 2018 Year in Books. Deborah Cadbury’s book accompanied the acclaimed 2004 BBC series Seven Wonders of the Industrial World.

I have to admit the series was inspirational. The Industrial Revolution created revolutionary thinkers such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose world changing designs were built by the superhuman navvies who toiled, bled and died creating a modern world! It made me stop and think of how we take for granted these wonderful works of engineering.

Awe-inspiring accounts of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, (which to me will always be the Roebling Bridge), and of Joseph Bazalgette’s Cholera defying London sewers are among the best episodes of the series. Add wonderful music by the then up and coming Hollywood composer Steve Jablonsky and you have the ingredients for a superb TV series. I was gifted the DVD set for a birthday and the book only adds to the incredible achievement of these men of vision.

Have you seen this TV series, read the book? What are your favorite industrial wonders?

Cooking:

Returning to the mundane, this week I managed to do some cooking. It’s been a while since I cooked a meal from scratch. It may have been for one (as David cooked himself a curry) but I was happy with the result. I followed the recipe from the Quorn site, of Fajitas with Quorn Pieces. I served with warmed tortillas. The meal was filling yet ultimately healthy as the main base was vegetables.

Yarden:

All the sun of last week has made a big difference to the yarden. The potato chits and wildflower seedlings have pushed through the soil and the red campion has started to flower. The only sad demise from this winter was my beautiful Salvia Mystic Spires. It was loved by bees well into the autumn months. I am mourning this beautiful plant and hope to find a replacement in the shops in future.

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#walk1000miles:

My miles this week have been an accumulation of walks with Riley, housework and sessions on the cross trainer. My miles this week has been 30, bringing my annual total to 607 miles.

 

Walking the Dog:

This Sunday David and I got up at the ungodly hour of 5.30am to take a drive to Formby Point for an early morning walk with David’s sister, partner and doggy nephew, Bennie! It was the first time both dogs had met each other. After a good sniff both dogs walked side by side as we took to the sand dunes and walked along the beach. I think they both enjoyed their 3.5 mile walk.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x