My Reading Year – 2018

IMG_0794A good year for me in reading terms, which is no real surprise as I completed my first full year of retirement and was able to build reading into my regular routine.

My goal for 2018 was to read 52 books and I actually managed 62 with the possibility of hitting 63 if I finish my current read in the next 24 hours 😀

In terms of challenges, I took part in two (#ReadingMuriel2018 and Twenty Books of Summer), not completing either of them sadly but having a lot of fun along the way.

And here are my favourite 6 reads of the year – no reflection on anything else I read but these were the ones to stick with me for various reasons.

Here’s to an equally successful 2019!

On the Box – 2018

I don’t normally write about TV here but I thought it would be fun to capture the stuff I enjoyed this past year.

The stuff I knew I would enjoy and did

The stuff I came to a million years after everyone else

The stuff I’ve given up on because I just can’t any more

The stuff I enjoyed thoroughly despite possibly not actually being very good; though I will fight anyone who doesn’t like Instinct.

The stuff I rediscovered after thinking I would never watch it again

Do you have thoughts on any of these?

The Last Sunday Salon of the Year

IMG_0796I hope everyone had an enjoyable festive season. It was a lovely and relaxing time chez Bride, and here we are already at the last Sunday of 2018.

You would think that having had a fine selection of gifts given to me (see my haul post here) I would not have been buying myself any books but if you know me at all then you know that would be very uncharacteristic. So here goes….

Books bought this week:

  • Vigil by Angela Slatter – the first in a trilogy of urban fantasy set in Australia; really looking forward to this one
  • Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley – his second novel after the very successful and highly praised The Lony (which I still haven’t read, oops)
  • The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy – a recommendation by blogger Ali at heavenali.wordpress.com, beware that Amazon gives away much of the plot if you are thinking of investigating this one
  • The Lingering by SJI Holliday – it’s Gothic and therefore a no-brainer
  • John Dies at the End by David Wong – I just liked the title; no offence to anyone I know called John, of course
  • Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss – so many people have recommended this one so I thought ‘why not?’
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – I was at a party on Saturday 29th and a fellow guest recommended this to me; I think it’s been on my wish list for a while so I succumbed.

Books finished this week? Hmm? Move along, nothing to see here…..

I’m still reading The Hanging Tree and determined to finish it on New Year’s Eve, though to be honest I’m not particularly bothered about it drifting into 2019, it would just be neat to tie things up on the last day of the year.

Making good progress with Global Crisis, and the thing I learned this week that stuck with me most was the fact that

In 1595 Sultan Mehmet III had followed tradition and executed all 19 of his brothers, some of them infants, as well as pregnant slaves in the harem, and he later executed the crown prince on suspicion of treason, so that at his death in 1603 only two male members of the Ottoman dynasty survived: his sons Ahmed (aged 13, who became the new sultan) and Mustafa (aged 4)

Such a waste.

Hope everyone has a fine reading week and a very Happy New Year!

2018 Christmas Haul

IMG_0793As is traditional around these here parts, I thought I’d pull together a quick post to boast about, sorry, update everyone on the cool books and other stuff that I got for Christmas.

Book stuff

Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking by Deborah Cadbury – “In the late nineteenth century, Queen Victoria had over thirty surviving grandchildren. To maintain and increase power in Europe, she hoped to manoeuvre them into dynastic marriages.”

The Rig by Roger Levy – An astounding SF thriller for fans of Adrian Tchaikovsky, Neal Stephenson, Alastair Reynolds and David Mitchell says the blurb.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry – “Twenty years ago Helen Franklin did something she cannot forgive herself for, and she has spent every day since barricading herself against its memory. But her sheltered life is about to change.”

A Gentleman’s Murder by Christopher Huang – “The year is 1924. The cobblestoned streets of St. James ring with jazz as Britain races forward into an age of peace and prosperity. London’s back alleys, however, are filled with broken soldiers and still enshadowed by the lingering horrors of the Great War.”

Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull – “Great Barwick’s least popular man is murdered on a train. Twelve jurors sit in court. Four suspects are identified but which of them is on trial?”

Thomas Cromwell by Diarmaid MacCulloch – how many biographies of Master Cromwell does one need? All of them!

Cassandra Darke by Posy Simmonds – “Cassandra Darke is an art dealer, mean, selfish, solitary by nature, living in Chelsea in a house worth £7 million.” A modern-day Scrooge?

Non-book stuff

The Meg – Jason Statham versus an enormous shark; I know who my money is on…

Ghost Stories Based on Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s original Olivier nominated stage production, the same team have co-written and directed this adaptation for the big screen.

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Loved this in the cinema so it had to be added to the permanent collection

The Steampunk TarotRetooling the gears of the Rider-Waite tradition, the artwork evokes the imagery and spirit of this unique visual style. Another deck for my collection.

Something 16th century? Check. At least one crime novel? Check. Something horror adjacent? Check. Tom Cruise? Check.

Well, everything seems in order here!

November Movie Round-up

The last round-up of the year – everything finished will have been accounted for and posts from now on will be in real time. Which is nice. I may also do a couple of favourites posts but will see – depends on how full I am after eating all of the Christmas food.

Anyway – to the movies!

Locke

Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career that sets in motion a series of events that threaten his carefully cultivated existence

Tom Hardy is a compelling presence and I have enjoyed most of the films in which he has starred, but I was a bit wary of watching something in which he is the only physical presence; the remainder of the admittedly excellent cast is voice only. But I needn’t have been concerned – Hardy delivers an excellent performance as a man who is used to having all aspects of his life under tight control finding himself having to watch it all unravel as he tries to do the right thing.

It’s an odd but well made little film that turned out to be very different from what I expected. It’s a sad and compelling but not hopeless story, which could have done without the subplot of Locke’s Dad but otherwise delivers a very human situation. And of course, as someone who spent the bulk of their civil service career in procurement, I was most fascinated by the bits focussing on the concrete pour and project management with a side order of where was their contingency plan. I also had to check that Tom Hardy wasn’t Welsh as I thought his accent was pretty spot on.

Worth watching.

Deets: Directed by Steven Knight, Locke is 85 minutes long and rated 15 for very strong language

Hotel Artemis

Mr B spotted this one early on and who am I to deny him the opportunity to see it? I admit I was also intrigued.

Set in riot-torn near-future Los Angeles, follows the Nurse who runs a secret members-only emergency room for criminals

So as I said above this sounded very promising, but it didn’t really deliver on that promise. It’s probably deeply unfair to compare it to the John Wick franchise but given the subject matter, it couldn’t be helped.

In terms of casting, Jodie Foster and Sterling K Brown were both very good indeed, and Dave Bautista continues to delight. A star-turn cameo by Jeff Goldblum at his most Goldblmiest was also very entertaining, as was Zachary Quinto as his very shouty son.

A couple of the sub-plots didn’t really add anything to the storyline, and one was clearly just a convenient plot device. Having said all that, I really wouldn’t mind watching it again.

Deets: Directed by Drew Pearce, Hotel Artemis is 94 minutes long and rated 15 for (takes deep breath) strong language, bloody violence, injury detail and drug misuse. 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

IMG_2190Here we are with the last Sunday Salon post before Christmas. There are already a few book-shaped packages underneath our tree so no worries there. It has been a good week but I haven’t been able to do much reading.

Well, not actual books anyway.

So, what have I actually been doing since my last post? Well, there was the carol service I attended in London on Monday (hence the super picture above) in which my singing voice (such as it is) betrayed my recent chest infection. My voice cracked at all the best bits, but as usual I made up for being a lousy singer with significant amounts of enthusiasm. We also headed into London to do some Christmas shopping for luxuries. Have a look at my Instagram if you want to see a Bride’s eye view of the Christmas retail experience!

IMG_3187In terms of reading, there has been very little (as I said above), but I needed a self-care day yesterday so launched into Comixology for a heartening amount of violence. Say hello to my new special friend, Katana –>.

But you want the dazzling details I presume?

Books bought this week:

  • The Year of Less by Cait Flanders – how a young woman in her twenties stopped shopping, gave away her belongings and discovered that life was yada yada – I can’t resist these things so will read while no doubt rolling my eyes a bit
  • Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar – I love Margrate Millar and this is apparently a rediscovereed noir classic – not only that but its a physical book I bought in an actual bookshop

Books finished:

Zero. Zilch. Nada. Next question.

Currently reading (still):

  • The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch – I am determined to finish this before Christmas Day when I am more than likely going to be distracted by the bookish equivalent of Bright and Shiny Things

I’m also still reading Global Crisis, which brings me to this week’s fun fact from the 17th Century –

In Scotland, exasperated by the constant lawlessness of one particular clan, in 1626 the government deported all men named “Macgregor” to continental Europe, “sufficiently guarded by some of their officers who will be answerable for their not escaping”.

Indeed.

I hope you all have a wonderful festive season however you celebrate it or not.

October Movie Round-up

Thoughts on the films I watched way way back in October…..

Venom

IMDb is distinctly unhelpful on the plot, thusly

When Eddie Brock acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter-ego “Venom” to save his life

So many questions. Who is Eddie Brock? How did he get all symbiotic? Why is his life in danger? Who is the bad guy in this situation?

So I thought this was not as bad as most reviews have made it out to be, but it is fair to say that it’s a film with an identity crisis – it really doesn’t know what tone to take. Parts of it are really funny, and if they’d stuck with that it would have been so much better; there are some laugh out loud  bits when Venom him/itself finally appears. There’s a mismatch between the hero and the villain – Riz Ahmed is too subtle so he needed to ramp it up or Tom Hardy needed to rein it in. The final fight is messy and difficult to follow, there are lots of “but how?” moments and for a high security site, Riz’s megavillain lair seems pretty easy to get into when required by the plot. So fine, but Elon Musk may sue.

Coco

Miguel is a young boy who loves music and wants a performing career, but the problem is that his family has banned music because of the actions of his great-grandfather, who abandoned the family to go off and be a star. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel enters the Land of the Dead to find him and try to change the minds of his relatives. Things of course do not go according to plan.

This superficially is very similar to The Book of Life (you can find my thoughts on that here on the old Screen God), but to me it is far superior in both plot and structure. Coco is beautifully animated and incredibly charming. A lot of fun and I may have cried a tiny little bit because, you know, happy endings. Worth watching if you love animation and the music is very cool indeed.

Just lovely.

Blair Witch

After discovering a video showing what he believes to be his vanished sister, James & a group of friends head to the forest believed to be inhabited by the Blair Witch

The whole purpose fo this film seems to be to try to capture the mystery from the first film and cash in on its success, but that was a loooong time ago and we have all moved on since then. But it was Halloween and I wanted to watch a horror film and there it was.

It’s put together really were and is much less ambiguous than the original. It’s also more jump-scary and less creepy and intense than the first film. But its fine, no more than that.