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 – 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.

Unfortunately, this quarter my reading has stalled and I am struggling with two novels.

This quarter I have completed four/five books with the said two still ongoing.

The Almanac (July, August and September)- Lia Leendertz ✩✩
As I’ve said in previous quarters I am not enjoying this book and wish it had more in-depth analysis of nature through the seasons.

The Heights – Juliet Bell ✩✩✩
A grim discovery brings DCI Lockwood to Gimmerton’s Heights Estate – a bleak patch of Yorkshire he thought he’d left behind for good. There, he must do the unthinkable, and ask questions about the notorious Earnshaw family.

A story of an untameable boy, terrible rage, and two families ripped apart. A story of passion, obsession, and dark acts of revenge.

I quite enjoyed this modern retelling of the Emily Brontë classic Wuthering Heights. The plot is set during the coal miners strike of the 1980’s and was just as depressing as the original.

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin – Beatrix Potter ✩✩

A rather strange children’s tale. Squirrel Nutkin’s siblings offer gifts to an owl called Old Brown but Nutkin badgers the owl and get’s his comeuppance with the owl taking a piece of the squirrel’s tail. I am enjoying the original Beatrix Potter watercolor illustrations but not the stories that much.

Convenience Store Woman -Sayaka Murata ✩✩✩
Keiko is 36 years old. She’s never had a boyfriend, and she’s been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years. Keiko’s family wishes she’d get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won’t get married. But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she’s not going to let anyone come between her and her convenience store…

This book was recommended by the lovely Sharon. I found the writing quirky. The narrative is a satire on modern Japanese society.  Perhaps we should all be a little more like Keiko and be happy in our lives rather than comparing to others and worrying about how successful we are or not.

A New York Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin ✩✩✩

new york

A New York Winter’s Tale

One night in New York, a city under siege by snow, Peter Lake attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks it is empty, the daughter of the house is home . . .

Thus begins the affair between this Irish burglar and Beverly Penn, a young girl dying of consumption. It is a love so powerful that Peter will be driven to stop time and bring back the dead; A New York Winter’s Tale is the story of that extraordinary journey.

This is one of the novels I am still tackling. When I downloaded the book to my Kindle the movie had just been released. This summer, looking for something to read I decided to give this a go. However I never realised how large the book was. I am 45% through and still nowhere near completing it. It is a strange book featuring a love story, a magic horse and many stories spanning through time. Have you read this strange book, seen the film? What did you think?

Thinking on my Feet – Kate Humble ✩✩✩
Thinking on My Feet tells the story of Kate’s walking year – shining a light on the benefits of this simple activity. Kate’s… narrative… charts her feelings and impressions throughout – capturing the perspectives that only a journey on foot allows – and shares the outcomes: a problem solved, a mood lifted, an idea or opportunity borne. As she explores the reasons why we walk, whether for creative energy, challenge and pleasure, or therapeutic benefits, Kate’s reflections and insights will encourage, motivate and spur readers into action.

I quite enjoyed reading this book. It spans a year of musings from presenter and smallholder Kate Humble. She shares memories of her walks and reiterates the benefits of this activity. Her challenge to walk the Wye River was the highlight of the book. I would read more of her books if given the opportunity. Have you read any of her books?

The Horse Dancer – JoJo Moyes ✩✩✩
In a hidden corner of London, Henri Lachapelle is teaching his granddaughter and her horse to defy gravity, just as he had done in France, fifty years previously. But when disaster strikes, fourteen-year-old Sarah is left to fend for herself.

Forced to share a house with her charismatic ex-husband, her professional judgement called into question, lawyer Natasha Macauley’s life seems to have gone awry. When her path crosses that of Sarah, she sees a chance to put things right. But she doesn’t know that Sarah is keeping a secret, one that will change all their lives forever . .

This was a spur of the moment purchase whilst I was shopping in Asda. I saw JoJo’s name and thought ‘ohh another book of hers.’ However the book is rather heavy to get into and I am finding the character of Natasha rather tiring. Maybe I shall finish this novel by Christmas? Have you read this book? Any other of JoJo’s?

So that was my rather disappointing quarter of reads. Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2019 – April to June

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A Year in Books

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

This quarter I have read a total of ten books, bringing my total to 17.

The Almanac is a book I’ll dip into throughout the year and I end this quarter and begin next’s with Kate Morton’s, The Clockmaker’s Daughter.

Almanac (April/May/June) – Lia Leendertz ✩✩

I really wish this almanac had more information on the natural world. It seems to focus too much on cheese and folk songs. The only information I’m learning is what is going on in the night sky i.e. meteor showers and life inside a bee hive.

Winter – Ali Smith ✩✩

It seems such a long time since I read this book! I enjoyed Autumn but I have to say Winter was a disappointment. Displaced heads and pretentious characters made the reading of this book a chore. Perhaps, if you’ve read this boo, you think differently?

The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame ✩✩

After watching The Wildlife Trusts’ add featuring Ratty, Mole, Badger and the mad Toad, who face a world encroached by mankind, I decided to read the book. It was a hard narrative to get into. It is definitely a book from its time! I am glad I have read it but would not read it again. Perhaps a film version would be more accessible? What do you think?

Whistle in the Dark – Emma Healey ✩✩

I loved Elizabeth is Missing, so when I heard Emma Healey was writing a second novel I was eager to purchase a copy. Unfortunately, I was not blown away by the plot of a girl who goes missing in the Peak District only to resurface days later reluctant to say where she went. The story is narrated by the mother who is neurotic and annoying. I did not enjoy the story at all. Have you read this book? What did you think?

The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker ✩✩✩✩

I devoured this book in a week. Pat Barker’s narrative was easy to read and I enjoyed following the fate of Briseis and her fellow captives during the Trojan War. There seems to be a resurgence of fiction from the Greek Myths and this book was just one of them. Have you read any of the others?

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde – Eve Chase ✩✩

This book was featured on a few online book clubs so I downloaded a Kindle version. However, I was not that impressed. Though the premise was interesting enough (an unsolved missing girl mystery), the style of writing did not engage me in the narrative. I felt there was something lacking. It would make me think twice to pick up another book by this author.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter ✩✩✩

For Christmas, David bought me the complete collection of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books. I thought I would read book 1: The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Mainly for children I enjoyed the tale and illustrations. (Poor Peter’s dad became a pie!!) I can’t believe it’s taken me over 30+ years to read it!

The Lost Words – Robert McFarlane/Jackie Morris ✩✩✩✩

I read this book during the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild. It is a beautiful book, full of lush art work (goldfinches are prevalent) and the poems can be read again and again. One to put on display on the coffee table I think.

The Lido – Libby Page ✩✩✩✩

Thanks to Sharon who sent me this book. I really enjoyed Libby Page’s first novel and look forward to reading more of her work. The story revolves around the proposed closure of a lido and the campaign to keep it open. During this time a friendship kindles between a young journalist, Kate and a regular of the lido, Rosemary. This friendship not only brings Kate out of her shell but highlights the sense of community. As a pay it forward – if anyone would like this copy of The Lido, let me know and I will send it to you!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter – Kate Morton ✩✩✩✩

I’m an avid reader of Kate Morton and have read all her publications. Though I’ve found this novel a little slow to get into, I am enjoying the narrative and it is an easy read. The plot has a colourful collection of characters and the going back and forth through time periods could be confusing to some readers, but I’m finding it ok at the moment. Have you read Kate Morton? If so what is your favourite book of hers?

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

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

A Year in Books – July to September

I can’t quite believe this quarter has gone so fast! I’ve hardly any books to share with you. It has been a very sparse few months of reading!

This is what I have managed to get through, plus one on Kindle! All of five books and I am still struggling my way through one. Can you guess which one?

july to september

Face Paint – Lisa Eldridge

Lisa Eldridge is a renowned makeup artist whose YouTube videos have helped plain women, like myself make their daily embellishment that little bit better! This book had been sitting on my shelf for well over a year. I’ve been meaning to read it, but somehow hadn’t found the time, nor the energy. One evening, I decided to read it before bed every night for a week. I enjoyed delving into the history behind makeup and how it’s intrinsically linked with womens’ suffrage. I particularly liked the the mini biographies of influential women throughout history.

The Child in Time – Ian McEwan

I was expecting greatness when I picked up this book by Ian McEwan, (1987 Whitbread winner, now Costa Award). I thoroughly enjoyed his writing in Atonement, so expected more of the same. However, as I made my daily commute through Liverpool to work, this book was not a welcome companion. Perhaps it was the theme of the book, of a couple who have their child taken from them? Whatever it was, I was not blown away by the narrative. I felt rather bored with the plot that didn’t seem to go anywhere. I guessed that the actual child in time was the narrator, Stephen. We are perhaps all children in time one way or another. I hope that the new BBC production starring Benedict Cumberbatch captures the imagination a bit more. Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

I’ve consciously been trying to read books this year with birds featured in the title. However I’ve hit a snag with The Goldfinch. Being 700+ pages long, the narrative is about a boy who loses both his parents (in different incidents) and what befalls him thereafter. It’s been rather hard to read. Perhaps I have been lazy? Even though Tartt’s writing is elegant and creative, I have struggled with the content. It leaves me feeling sad. I can’t wait to finish this book. Have you felt the same over another book?

And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini

I really enjoyed Hosseini’s previous books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. However Hosseini seems to have fallen down with his third novel. I can see what he meant by the type of narrative he went for. Of an interweaving of differing stories, all coming from the same source, but it somehow fell flat. I got through the book eventually, but would not recommend. Would you?

9781780748436_13A Siege of Bitterns – Steve Burrows

Can you see a pattern develop? Yet another book with a bird in the title, but again I have been struggling to get through the narrative. It’s a detective novel set in Norfolk, but I just can’t warm to the cast of characters. The style of writing is more tell than show which doesn’t lead well to character development.

So, there you have it, my abysmal tally for this quarter. Are there any books you have read recently that you have enjoyed? Do let me know.

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x