How Old is the Bride?

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This incarnation of the blog may only be 5 months old but the Bride has been around since 20/21/22 January (depending on what source you consult) in 2007 which means that the Bride is 12.

Cue balloons and cake!

When I was actually 12 years old it was 1974.

  • Christian Bale, Amanda Abbington, Alyson Hannigan & Matthew Macfadyan were born;
  • Agnes Moorehead, Georgette Heyer and Mama Cass Elliott died;
  • Tiger Feet and Waterloo (all hail ABBA)charted, and Andy Williams’ Solitaire was number one on my birthday;
  • Jeff Goldblum made his first appearance on the big screen; and
  • three of my favourite films were released – The Towering Inferno (still the best disaster movie in my view), Young Frankenstein and Murder on the Orient Express (the Albert Finney one, with a huge starry cast and a suitably sized moustache)

Elsewhere we had Watergate, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the publication of Carrie, the book that got me into contemporary horror.

That was indeed a year.

Here’s to another 12 months of blogging. Hope you will stick with me 😀

 

Mid-January Book Haul

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As mentioned in my Sunday Salon post, I have already bought enough books by the middle of January to justify their own post, so here we are. Try not to be tempted too much – I clearly failed!

These aren’t in any particular order of purchase or preference, I’m just adding them as they come.

The Histories

Hitler & the Hapsburgs by James Longo – I didn’t know that Hitler, because he loathed the Hapsburg dynasty so much,  pursued the children of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (yes that Archduke Franz Ferdinand) throughout his time in power. I am fascinated by all things Hapsburg and this has been well-received

The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman – subtitled “Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicines and Murder Most Foul”; I love all of these 😀

Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Diaries of Kenneth Rose 1944 to 1979 – from the bombing of London in WWII to the election of the Thatcher woman, this promises to be full of gossip; I can’t resist reading other people’s diaries and letters.

The Crimes

The Puppet Show by MW Craven – “A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.” Sometimes you have to make your own entertainment

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup – “October, Copenhagen. The police make a terrible discovery – a young woman is found brutally murdered, with one of her hands cut off.Next to her lifeless body hangs a strange doll made of chestnuts . . .” Murder and crafting. Written by the author of The Killing which I loved, except for the ending of Series 3.

The Katherina Code by Jorn Hier Lorst – “Katharina went missing twenty-four years ago. Each year on the anniversary of her disappearance Chief Inspector William Wisting visits her husband, the man he could never help. He re-reads her files, searching for the answer he could never find. The code he could never solve. Until now.” Wisting is the new Wallander, according to Amazon at least.

The “I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Read That Yet”

The Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins – in my defence I have seen and loved the film and toyed with the graphic novel but when my husband, a huge Collins fan who has been trying to get me to read his stuff for years, pointed out that there was a “new expanded novel” I finally agreed.

The Stuff That Only I Find Interesting

If you find this sort of thing interesting too, then you are my kind of people.

Declutter by Debora Robertson – “the get real guide to creating calm from chaos” Nigella Lawson said she needed this book and who am I to gainsay Nigella? Real solutions for real people. I am looking forward to reading this and comparing it to Marie Kondo’s approach (I’m reading her book at the moment and being irritated by many of the hot takes on Twitter). Whether I will actually declutter is yet to be seen.

L’art de la Liste by Dominique Loreau – I love lists and have been making them for as long as I can remember. I can’t decide if always writing things down has led to my memory becoming a little wonkier because I no longer rely on it so much, or whether I’m just getting older (I suspect it’s the latter). ” The humble list has the power to change your life. In its immediacy, its simplicity and its concise, contained form, the list enables us to organise, to save time and to approach facts with clarity.

Rituals for Every Day by Nadia Narain – “Let rituals bring you back to yourself.” I’m always looking for things to help me structure my day as a retired person, knowing that otherwise I would spend my life on the sofa reading. According to the Sunday Times this is non-patronising and authentic. I hate the word authentic in this sort of context but let’s give this a go.

Everything Else (otherwise known as the Bride gets bored with categorising)

Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek by Anthony O’Neill – “This brilliantly imagined and beautifully written sequel to one of literature’s greatest masterpieces perfectly complements the original work.” One of my favourite authors, Ronald Frame, thought this was fiendishly ingenious.

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire – A fourth entry and prequel to the Wayward Children series. I enjoy her stuff immensely. This was a pre-order.

Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee – I found this by going down one of those Amazon ‘customers who bought that also bought this’ rabbit hole. “When it begins, it begins as an opera should begin: in a palace, at a ball, in an encounter with a stranger, who you discover has your fate in his hands . . .  She is Lilliet Berne. And she is the soprano.” I know nothing about this at all. Liked the cover though.

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar – alternative-history novel, love those, and Tidhar is an extremely interesting author, so looking forward to this one very much.

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart – “The rambling house called Thornyhold is like something out of a fairy tale. Left to Gilly Ramsey by the cousin whose occasional visits brightened her childhood, the cottage, set deep in a wild wood, has come just in time to save her from a bleak future. With its reputation for magic and its resident black cat, Thornyhold offers Gilly more than just a new home. It offers her a chance to start over.”

So that’s it. For now at least 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Poppins Returns

step_payoff_poster3_united_kingdomThose of us who were children in the 1960s will have strong, and in my case very fond, memories of Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, so when it was announced that a new film was going to be made I was a little anxious about how it would turn out. Once Emily Blunt was cast as the lead I relaxed a bit, and began to be excited about seeing the film.

And before I go into more detail, I am pleased to be able to say that it is really lovely and charming and highly entertaining.

Mary Poppins Returns is set in the Depression, several decades after the original, with the Banks children all grown up. Jane has followed her mother into political activism (hands up anyone who’d forgotten that Mrs Banks was a Suffragette) and Michael is a recent widower with three children, a job in the bank at which his father worked, and financial difficulties which may lead to the loss of the family home.

Cue the arrival of Mary Poppins.

If the original film was all about saving Mr Banks (and if you haven’t seen that film with Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks then you really should), then MP Returns is definitely about saving Michael. I will fight anyone who says it isn’t.

It is fair to say (as others already have) that this is less of a sequel and more an exercise in revisiting the original film. Not sure?

  • Non-cockney Cockney? Check.
  • Cartoon sequence? Check.
  • Really good songs? Absolutely, though only time will tell if they will last as long as, for example, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious or A Spoonful of Sugar. But let’s give it time.
  • Lessons to be learned even in the middle of surreal situations? Yep.

Everyone will rightly talk about Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda but for me, Ben Whishaw was one of the best things in the movie. The children were also excellent and there were some very enjoyable cameos. And a special shout-out to Colin Firth’s moustache which made me very suspicious from the outset as to his intentions.

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Mary Poppins Returns was clearly made by people who actually love the original. It looks very familiar but also totally fresh and really manages to retain the spirit of the original film. And has made me want to re-read the books.

Highly recommended; it’s super.

Dazzling details: directed by Rob Marshall, MPR is 130 minutes long and rated U for everyone if you are OK with very mild threat. I feel I may have said this recently about something else….

A Christmas Carol @ The Old Vic

aac-18-017A Christmas Carol is my absolutely favourite Dickens work and probably one of my favourite stories of all time. I have seen so many versions on film (my favourite of course being this 1951 version with Alastair Sim, and the most recent A Muppet Christmas Carol which *gasp* my husband had never seen) but it has been a long time since I saw a version on stage, so when I relaised that the Old Vic was repeating its hit from 2017 I bought tickets for us to see the production, which we did on 4 January.

It was totally worth it.

A Christmas Carol was written by Dickens in just 6 weeks during 1843, fueled by his rage and disgust at the poverty he saw around him and the lack of care, sympathy and, most importantly, practical help from those in society who were signifcantly better off. Or, as Dickens himself put it in a letter to a friend, the

sleek, slobbering, bow-paunched, overfed, apopleptic, snorting cattle

The staging in this production is nothing short of magical, with mince pies and satsumas being handed out as you enter the auditorium and lanterns hanging from the ceiling – I took a picture when we arrived which you can see on my Instagram feed.

The story has been re-worked but is still essentially that which we know and love, and the changes both make sense and are successful which is all that you can ask for, really. Stephen Tompkinson takes on the role from Rhys Ifans (whom I would have loved to have seen, having just caught him on TV as Hector in season one of Berlin Station) and is really very good indeed in the role. The use of music is wonderful, with everything from Christmas carols to handbell ringing, adding up to a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

It’s on until 19 January I believe, so if you get the chance do go and see it 🙂

Mary & the Witch’s Flower

mv5bndvkymfinmqtmjc3ni00yty5ltk0ntatzdc4yjzizju2yjnlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjm4ntm5ndy@._v1_sy1000_cr0,0,684,1000_al_It’s a tradition chez Bride to select a positive, feel-good film to watch on New Year’s Eve as a way of avoiding the often terrible TV coverage, though we always make sure to be done by the Bells when we will have a glass of whisky and some shortbread.

I’m Scottish, what can I say.

This year’s film was Mary & the Witch’s Flower, a Christmas gift from my brother to the Book God . Mary is the first film from Studio Ponoc, the successor to Studio Ghibli, and is based on the 1971 children’s book The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart (or Mearî Suchuâtô as she is in Japanese.)

Mary is spending the summer at her great-aunt’s house waiting for her parents to return from a trip. She’s bored and spends her time investigating the local woods in the company of a black cat where she finds a beautiful blue flower and a broomstick. Temporarily possessed with magic powers, Mary finds herself at Endor College, a sort of proto-Hogwarts, where she makes a significant impression. But things are not at all what they seem.

This is a simply lovely film, full of beautiful imagery and excellent animation. Mary herself is a very engaging character. I hate the word feisty but I can’t think of an alternative just now to describe Mary, a child full of adventure and confidence.

There is darkness in the film, as the staff of Endor College (voiced by Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent) are obsessed with experiments in transformation which have a real Doctor Moreau feeling.

A number of the elements in the story are very familiar, and I would have liked to see more of Mary’s relationship with her great-aunt which has an important role in the later stages of the story in a way that felt a bit too convenient. But that doesn’t detract from a beautiful story which proved to be an ideal end to 2018.

Dazzling details: directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Meari to majo no hana (original title) is 103 minutes long and rated U – suitable for everyone as long as you don’t mind very mild threat.

The Hanging Tree

61d9sdyio4l._sx310_bo1,204,203,200_The Hanging Tree is the sixth novel in the Rivers of London series featuring PC Peter Grant and the Folly – the Met Police’s little-loved organisation called in to investigate crimes with a magical element.

It’s fair to say that new readers should probably not start here. There is a lot of referring back to previous cases and also developments in the main story arc, so although it would be possible to read this as a standalone a first-time reader would miss so much of the richness that is one of the pleasures of the series.

So, Peter is back in London and has been pulled into the investigation of a young woman’s drug-related death at a party in an expensive flat in Mayfair. Not normally his kind of thing in policing terms, but River Goddess Lady Ty’s daughter is involved in some way and so favours are being called in. It quickly  becomes clear that magic is involved; the young woman shows signs of being a magical practitioner. Cue the usual mayhem and double-dealing, especially when the Americans get involved.

There is a lot to be enjoyed in this novel. As always, Peter’s first person narration of the story really works and doesn’t suffer from the problems other first person stories often have. It also helps that his voice is distinctive and often very funny. All of the supporting characters are well-rounded and recognisable as individuals. And the ongoing story of the series’ Mega Villain (The Faceless Man) gets a major development that is both very satisfying and augurs well for future volumes.

The only quibble I have, which I’ve seen mentioned by other reviewers, is that there is insufficient Nightingale. But then I always think that’s the case…..

We all had to wait a long time for The Hanging Tree, but because I delayed reading it I already have the next volume (plus the novella released in between, and the comics) to hand, though I think I’ll space them out over 2019.

If you are a long-time reader of this series you won’t be disappointed.

The Lego Batman Movie

MV5BMTcyNTEyOTY0M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTAyNzU3MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_It’s Batman, Jim, but not as we know it. Or as IMDB would have it:

A cooler-than-ever Bruce Wayne must deal with the usual suspects as they plan to rule Gotham City, while discovering that he has accidentally adopted a teenage orphan who wishes to become his sidekick.

Batman learns an important lesson about teamwork.  That is all, but more than enough 🙂

It’s an interesting fact (to me at least, YMMV) that I have always preferred DC comics to Marvel but of course prefer the Marvel movies to those from DC. Apart from Wonder Woman which was and will forever remain awesome.

You will not be surprised to know that The Lego Batman Movie is the exception to this rule. It is a huge amount of fun, with one of the best iterations of Batman ever. It is full of amazing set-pieces all rendered in overwhelmingly bright colours with a catchy theme song over the end credits (though not as catchy as Everything is Awesome – I only have to hear (or type) the title to have that song stuck in my head) and so much detail that you don’t really know exactly where to look in case you miss something.

The voice cast is astonishingly strong but of course Will Arnett is the standout as the Bat, with Ralph Fiennes a very close second as Alfred. We missed this in the cinema but were able to watch it at home over the Christmas break and could not stop giggling.

Favourite quotes (the ones I remember, after all there are SO MANY every second):

I like to fight around

Okay, Robin. Together, we’re gonna punch these guys so hard, words describing the impact are gonna spontaneously materialize out of thin air.

The creators of the recent incarnations of the DC universe could learn a lot from this film, especially in relation to dialogue. You may not want this many jokes but the script is clever and entertaining without getting in the way of the action.

Very funny and highly recommended.

Dazzling details: The Lego Batman Movie was directed by Chris McKay, is 104 minutes long and is certified U – suitable for everyone unless you are offended by mild comic violence, rude humour and/or very mild bad language