Following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.
I am very much a fan of and adherent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which often pains me as before all of these movies hit the screen way back when I had been staunchly a DC girl. Of the Marvel heroes Spider-Man was probably the one I knew best, and I have watched most of the Toby Maguire, all of the Andrew Garfield and the first Tom Holland films. It’s taken me a while to get to this latest one but I’m pleased to say that it was great fun, especially for a London-based viewer who enjoys trying to work out how they think the city works. Elevated by the presence of Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio and featuring the best Tower Bridge action since Northing Important Happened Today by Will Carver. Good Saturday night movie.
Directed by Jon Watts, SM: FFH is 2h 9 and rated 12A.
A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.
I have a complicated relationship with Westerns because my late Dad was a huge fan and I was brought up on a diet of John Wayne, Audie Murphy, Randolph Scott et al and I was burned out at a relatively early age. But the Western has changed and I am back in the fold. Cue Tom Hanks as a veteran of the Civil War who has seen A Lot and travels the West bringing news to isolated communities. He comes across a young girl and agrees (well, is kind of forced) to reunite her with her family, but of course that isn’t easy and there are some nasty folks out there. Elegiac and more violent than I expected from a Tom Hanks movie, I thought this was very well done and the ending in particular worked well. I may have shouted “GO BACK” at one point, and he must have heard me because he did.
Directed by Paul Greengrass, News of the World is 1h 58 and rated 12A
A veteran hunter helps an FBI agent investigate the murder of a young woman on a Wyoming Native American reservation.
I have reservations about Jeremy Renner; I just do not warm to him at all though I have enjoyed several of the films in which he has appeared. Having said that I thought he was really good in Wind River, a film I missed first time out and came to now because of my girl crush on Elizabeth Olsen.
I really admire Taylor Sheridan having loved both Sicario and Hell or High Water so this is a hidden gem as far as I’m concerned. Will watch again.
Directed by Taylor SheridanWind River is 1h 47 long and rated 15
Here we are with a quarter of the year already gone and it’s time for another monthly round-up.
April was a good month for bookish matters.
Books read = 8
Pages read = 2846
Goodreads challenge = 5 books ahead of schedule and already at 40%
Pre-orders for May
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon – “Vern – seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised – flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world. But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman.”
Phase Six by Jim Shepard – reading a book about a global pandemic while in the middle of a global pandemic seems counter-intuitive but I am unable to resist. This was written pre-Covid btw
Last Days in Cleaver Square by Patrick McGrath – I have always had a great fondness for McGrath but it’s a while since I’ve read anything by him. The premise of this – set in 1975 where an old man is haunted by visions of the dying General Franco – sounds fascinating.
The Beresford by Will Carver – two of my favourite books so far in 2021 were written by Will Carver and I fully expect to love this new standalone thriller also
Witch by Iain Rob Wright – all I know about this is it is horror, there’s a witch (duh) and there may or may not be cursed manuscripts…….
The Nine by Gwen Strauss – my interest in the experiences of women caught up in WWII continues; this is the story of nine women fleeing a German forced labour camp.
I get my second Covid vaccination this week about which I am very glad. Mr B is already fully vaccinated and I’m looking forward to feeling more confident about heading into London again as the museums re-open.
A BBC adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love by Emily Mortimer starts next weekend. It looks lush and enjoyable with a great cast and high production values and I for one am sold.
I have a couple of challenges coming up:
Cathy at 746Books is hosting Twenty Books of Summer from 1 June to 1 September and I’m already compiling my list. This will be my year to finish, I can feel it 🙂
I’m challenging myself to read David Copperfield, prompted by having watched Armando Ianucci’s recent film version. These days I do tend to struggle with classic Victorian authors so I’m giving myself a chance and planning to read in line with the original publication schedule, which means I should finish around November. November 2022, that is.
Apart from that all is quiet (despite the howling wind outside at the moment). Hope you are all staying safe and have a great reading week!
Part of me is thinking “How is it nearly May?”, but the other part of me, the one who was out in our tiny back garden today (Sunday) planting in the warm sunshine, was convinced that we are well into late spring!
This is a good thing.
And, despite being a little unwell and the (luckily) unsuccessful attempt to cut off my thumb with a craft knife – don’t ask me to explain the REALLY stupid thing I did that resulted in said injury – it has been a really good reading week. I’ve been on a bit of a roll, but of course now that I’ve said that I’ll hit a slump, but I don’t care.
Anyway, I read three books this week and I fully intend to review them over the next wee while. My track record on that has been appalling, so just in case…..
The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie – cult survivors going back to Red Peak work out what actually happened on that fateful last night
An Evil Mind by Chris Carter (Robert Hunter #6) – the best of the Hunter novels so far IMHO, bit Silence of the Lambs, bit Israel Keyes, all good
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots – what happens to the people who are collateral damage when the supes fight the villains?
Of these I would say that the greatest is Hench which I read in a single sitting on Friday, only stopping for comfort breaks and lunch.
This week’s impulse purchases were:
The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray – because the end of the world is always fascinating even in a pandemic
I Am Death (Robert Hunter 7) by Chris Carter – because this is one of my favourite series and I’m going to read them all
Shimmerdark by Sarah Mensinga – because I loved Sarah’s previous fantasy novel and the premise of this one sounds so good
Silenced by Solveig Palsdottir – because I have purchased (but not read) the first in this new series and the recommendations are many and uniformly favourable
For the second year in a row I am not pulling an all-nighter to watch the Oscars. I just haven’t been paying attention to the eligible movies and performances so would have been solely focusing on outfits and the red carpet will be a bit weird this year.
Sadly we have come to the end of the very last episode of Elementary. We’ve been watching these steadily over the past few months having come to it late due to misplaced snobbery. It’s now my favourite incarnation of the Great Detective (other than Basil Rathbone of course) and I may at some point go back to the beginning and start again just because I can. We shall see. Now looking for something else to fill the gap – may go back to The Blacklist as I’ve only watched the first two seasons.
Spent Sunday night focussed on the penultimate episode of Line of Duty S6 – as Ted Hastings would say “Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey”; if you know, you know 😀
Anyway, enough rambling from me. Hope you are all staying safe, and have a great reading week.
A lawyer defending a wealthy man begins to believe his client is guilty of more than just one crime.
Giving away the fact that the defendant is guilty in the first place I guess, so not really a spoiler? Also Ryan Philippe is agreeably arrogant and superior not to mention smug so just by looking at his face you would guess that he was guilty in any case. I watched this largely because it’s based on the first in a series of novels by Michael Connelly and this household has been deeply addicted to Bosch, but the same author. The Book God, who has read many of the books in both series advises, me that the two lead characters are half-brothers (I think) and so there is a shared universe vibe in the background.
I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would; not sure why I had not seen it before to be honest, though I suspect it may have had something to do with not really rating Matthew McConaughey – well. until I watched True Detective season one. But he is very charming in this, justice is served and can we really ask for anything more?
Directed by Brad Furman, The Lincoln Lawyer is 1h 58 long and rated 15 for themes of sexual violence.
Wonder Woman 1984 
Diana must contend with a work colleague and businessman, whose desire for extreme wealth sends the world down a path of destruction, after an ancient artifact that grants wishes goes missing.
So, ancient artefact (check), greedy businessman who really only wants to make his son proud of him so is he really that bad (check), overlooked female academic who becomes glamorous and powerful and doesn’t want to give it up (check) and by the way she taps into her inner Big Cat, a heroine grieving for her lost love (check) who has somehow come back from the dead in an unfortunate manner (don’t see that every day) and a showdown involving lots of smashing of people and things (check).
I was really looking forward to the new Wonder Woman movie and while its a solid entry into the DC Universe (which lets face it needs all the help it can get) I felt that it didn’t really hit the eights of the first film. Well, it did once at the very beginning when we had tiny wee Diana being awesome. I think it suffered from too many villains, neither of whom was really sufficiently nasty, plus the whole love interest thing which was mildly creepy when you stopped to think about it. Still enjoyable but a little Too Much.
Also, the 1980s; who really wants to revisit that?
Directed by Patty Jenkins, WW84 is 2h 31 long and rated 12A for moderate threat, violence and a scene of domestic abuse. Not to mention the psychological impact of the means used to bring Steve Trevor back from the dead (not a spoiler, Chris Pine is on the cast list)
Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
I recently rewatched Inception so felt that I was sufficiently prepared for high-class wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey shenanigans but readers I WAS NOT.
This is a classy film benefitting from excellent performances, especially Sir Ken as a very, very nasty Russian person, properly villainous and deserving of everything that might happen to him, and Elizabeth Debicki who continues to be luminous in all that she does. Shout out to Robert Pattinson being dashing, some fabulous set pieces and young Mr Washington as the Protagonist.
But do not ask me (a) what this is about or (b) what happens because I was Confused. Enjoyably so, but Confused nevertheless.
I feel I may need to watch this again but that it might not help.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, Tenet is 2h 30 long and rated 12 for moderate violence, threat, domestic abuse and infrequent strong language
A plane crashes into the Irish Sea triggering an investigation, because although four men had arranged to fly on this charter it appears that only three actually boarded the flight.
It isn’t clear who didn’t fly, and the only information that the police have are snatches of overheard conversation and the Wade family’s recollections of what happened in the few days before the trip; the Wades knew all of the men involved, you see.
The blurb poses some questions for us to consider:
who was the man who didn’t fly? (obviously)
what did he have to gain? (presumably by not flying)
would he commit such an explosive murder to get it? (presuming there actually is/was an it)
What did I think?
I kept on referring to this as the Man Who Wouldn’t Fly, picturing some traditional 1950s bloke stamping his foot and refusing to embark.
This is not that story.
What it is, is an odd little book. The structure is unusual, starting with the investigation then heading into the recollections of Hester and Prudence Wade and their father as if we were watching them living through it, and flipping back into the investigation and its conclusion.
It’s not entirely clear why the police are involved in this mystery at all because, despite the question raised about the crash, the suggestion that it was as the result of a deliberate act is a red herring.
It is all about identification, apparently:
After the accident comes the casualty list; deaths must be documented, and no man is allowed a death certificate without first dying for it
The puzzle is very interesting and (without giving away the end) is solved almost entirely through the application of logic rather than actual physical evidence. Reassuringly, there is actually a crime
The puzzle is very interesting and (without giving away the end) is solved almost entirely through the application of logic rather than actual physical evidence. Reassuringly, there is actually a crime – well, more than one – but the nature of that crime isn’t apparent until very late on, along with the identity of the criminal. So from that point of view the book worked well for me.
I was less enamoured with the characters (police officers aside; I particularly enjoyed the detective sergeant explaining various cultural references to his superior). The men are all unpleasant and/or deeply irritating to varying degrees and both the girls are hugely frustrating, especially Hester who made me roll my eyes on more than one occasion.
I made an allowance for Prudence as she’s a teenager and presumably doesn’t know any better.
To be fair this novel was published in 1955 so the stereotypes are current for the time, I suppose. What does stand out is the clever structure, which is very different to the classic mystery, but the fact that it is so unusual is what probably makes it a Marmite book.
Have you read this, and if so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments.
Not a bad week if truth be told, in that not very much happened. It was bitterly cold so I stayed indoors without even an exercise walk, so I need to get back to that this week. I’ve downloaded some suitable classes I can take at home but haven’t yet found the best way to integrate them with what I laughingly call my daily routine.
The big excitement of the week was not Valentine’s Day – we don’t really celebrate that any more after *cough* 32 years together – but the arrival the day before of my new dishwasher. So exciting. I am in love.
I couldn’t settle to any one book this week, so I’ve been dipping in and out of the six that are on my Goodreads Currently Reading shelf, which you can see over there in my sidebar.
I did finish one book though – The Disappearing Act by Florence de Changy, an investigative journalist. This is the story of what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight 370 which disappeared seemingly without a trace in 2014. Totally fascinating subject; over the years I’ve watched the various documentaries and read the newspaper stories covering the various theories about what happened and why, but as de Changy says:
At the risk of stating the obvious, a Boeing 777 doesn’t just disappear. Such a plane might be hijacked, it might be the target of a terrorist attack, it might explode if a bomb goes off on board, it might be the victim of the pilot or co-pilot’s murderous madness, it might experience a serious fault that the pilots are unable to fix, or it might be shot down accidentally or on purpose in an act of war.
She highlights the way the media contributed to the official theory by blindly accepting the information given to them even when it doesn’t make sense. She has absolutely no time at all for the Malaysian or Australian governments, and presents her own suggestion of what might have happened, very much stressing the “might” as she acknowledges even her plausible explanation still contains gaps.
If you are interested in this sort of unexplained event then I think you would enjoy this. I certainly did.
There are no new books in this week’s round-up. This is not because I didn’t get any (heaven forbid), just that I am still planning to publish a book haul post in the next few days. I’m also hoping to finish at least one of the books on my reading list; we shall see how that goes.
Plus a better late than never January 2021 round-up!
So (at the risk of offending those people who don’t like those of us unable to start a sentence without using SO) it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post which wasn’t an intentional gap but I think we can all allow ourselves some grace during the Great Quar (as coined by the Bananas podcast). When I last left you I had had a pretty bad week, but things have really improved since then.
So let’s start with a look back at January
Books read = 5
Pages read = 1636
Goodreads challenge (2021 = 60 books) = on target!
It was my birthday at the end of January – which helped with the improvement in mood – which means that I have more new books than it’s sensible to mention here. I’m probably going to do a separate book haul post. That seems like a good idea, doesn’t it? But it’s worth mentioning here the pre-orders heading my way in February.
Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford (already delivered) – November 1944. A German rocket strikes London, and five young lives are atomised in an instant. November 1944. That rocket never lands. A single second in time is altered, and five young lives go on – to experience all the unimaginable changes of the twentieth century. Because maybe there are always other futures. Other chances.
The Library of the Dead by TL Huchu (already delivered) – Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and she now speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honour bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
The Disappearing Act by Florence de Changy (not only already delivered but currently reading) – subtitled The Impossible Case of MH370 – writing for Le Monde in the days and months after the plane’s disappearance, journalist Florence de Changy closely documented the chaotic international investigation that followed, uncovering more questions than answers. Riddled with inconsistencies, contradictions and a lack of basic communication between authorities, the mystery surrounding flight MH370 only deepened.Now, de Changy offers her own explanation.
Princess Mary: The First Modern Princess by Elisabeth Basford (already delivered) – Princess Mary was born in 1897. Despite her Victorian beginnings, she strove to make a princess’s life meaningful, using her position to help those less fortunate and defying gender conventions in the process. As the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, she would live to see not only two of her brothers ascend the throne but also her niece Queen Elizabeth II. Another entry in my collection of biographies of very posh women.
The (Other) You by Joyce Carol Oates – In this stirring, reflective collection of short stories, Joyce Carol Oates ponders alternate destinies: the other lives we might have led if we’d made different choices.
The Requisite Courage by Tracy Cooper-Posey (Adelaide Becket Book 1) – In Edwardian England, Lady Adelaide Azalea Margaret de Morville, Mrs. Hugh Becket, lately of the Cape Colony, was born the daughter of an Earl, but is now the widow of a commoner. She straddles two worlds, speaks fluent German, and can ride, hunt and shoot. Her talents draws the eye of spymaster William Melville, who recruits her to help him fight a shadow game with German agents both at home and aboard.
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers (Wayfarers Book 4) – when a freak technological failure halts traffic to and from the planet Gora, three strangers are thrown together unexpectedly, with seemingly nothing to do but wait.
The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War – A Tragedy in Three Acts by Scott Anderson – At the end of World War II, the United States dominated the world militarily, economically, and in moral standing – seen as the victor over tyranny and a champion of freedom. But it was clear – to some – that the Soviet Union was already executing a plan to expand and foment revolution around the world. The American government’s strategy in response relied on the secret efforts of a newly-formed CIA. The Quiet Americans chronicles the exploits of four spies.
The Edge by James Smythe (The Explorer Book 3) – Years ago, a vast and mysterious object known as the Anomaly was discovered in deep space. All missions to explore and explain it failed.Now, the Anomaly has almost reached Earth, threatening to swallow the planet whole. On an orbital research station, a team of scientists desperately search for a way to stop it or destroy it.
On This Day She: Putting Women Back Into History, One Day At A Time by Tania Hershman et al – On This Day She sets out to redress this imbalance and give voice to both those already deemed female icons, alongside others whom the history books have failed to include: the good, the bad and everything in between – this is a record of human existence at its most authentic.
The Divines by Ellie Eaton – The girls of elite English boarding school, St. John the Divine, were notorious for flipping their hair, harassing teachers, chasing boys and chain-smoking cigarettes. They were fiercely loyal, sharp-tongued, and cutting in the way that only teenage girls can be. But for Josephine, now in her thirties, her time at St. John feels like a lifetime ago. She hasn’t spoken to another Divine in fifteen years, not since the day the school shut its doors in disgrace . . .
I’m hoping to get back to properly posting on books read soon, but there are a couple that I’ve finished recently but won’t review fully:
Death in the City of Lights by David King explores the case of Marcel Petiot, a doctor in Paris during WWII who was exposed as a serial killer responsible for the murders of at least 27 people, most of whom were Jews who had come to him for assistance in escaping the Nazis. Deeply appalling. The description of his trial is quite astonishing – his arrogance and claims that he was a member of the Resistance killing people who were collaborating with the Germans were just so awful, but the investigation itself was messy, not least because the Parisian police had to contend with potential interference by the Gestapo.
Shards by Ian Rogers – a very effective horror story with a Cabin in the Woods vibe. I probably shouldn’t have read it at bedtime as it lingered with me. Loved it. Creepily nasty.
The first week of February has brought me fascinating non-fiction and a really excellent crime novel which already feels like it’s going to be a favourite read of 2021. Also my dishwasher died so purchasing a replacement was my focus for the week, but, you know, I used to buy things for a living so that was OK.
And it’s sort of snowing at the moment, so that’s cool. Literally and figuratively.
Hope you all have a great week. See you next time 🙂
Here we are almost at the end of the first full week of January and given the events of the past week I’m not hopeful that this year will be much better than the one we’ve just endured, but I can be a bit of an Eeyore so let’s hope I’m wrong.
I often am 😀
This is the first post I’ve uploaded since early October. I just wasn’t in a blogging frame of mind for the last few months and I decided that I really wanted to start with a fresh slate, so I won’t be looking back at books read and movies watched in the last quarter if I haven’t already reviewed them.
A wee look back
Having said that, I thought I would share the results of my Goodreads challenge for 2020 – I had a target of 60 books and managed to reach 66, representing 21,320 pages. I’m really pleased by the result given that I had a couple of slumps; just goes to show what being stuck at home can lead to.
Where I am now
Savage Spring by Mons Kallentoft – this is the fourth in the Malin Fors series; I read and thoroughly enjoyed but did not review the first three novels. Scandinavian noir still looms large in my TBR;
The Collected Ghost Stories of MR James – no new ghost story for Christmas on the BBC (sadly) but Mr B and I dipped into our DVD collection to watch some of the old adaptations, which led me to start a major re-read and I’m very glad that I did;
Death in the City of Light by David King – the story of the serial killer Marcel Petiot who was active in Paris during WWII and how he was caught. The guillotine might be involved….
Bought since the beginning of the year:
Marion Lane & the Midnight Murder by TA Willberg – “plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.” [Pre-order]
Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard – “When a mysterious corpse is found in the quarters of Vân’s student, Vân and Sunless Woods find themselves following a trail of greed and murder that will lead them from teahouses and ascetic havens to the wreck of a mindship“
The Man Who Didn’t Fly by Margot Bennett – “Four men had arranged to fly to Dublin. When their aeroplane descended as a fireball into the Irish Sea, only three of them were on board. [..] Who was the man who didn’t fly?“
Wintering by Katherine May – “a poignant and comforting meditation on the fallow periods of life, times when we must retreat to care for and repair ourselves.”
Cardiff by the Sea by Joyce Carol Oates – “a bold, haunting collection of four previously unpublished novellas.”
Hopefully I’ll be posting back here soon on my first completed book of the year. Hope you have a great week, stay safe!
Whenever I see the name Chris Carter I immediately think of the X-Files but this Chris Carter is not the creator of the Truth is Out There, but the author of several (I haven’t gone to look at exactly how many) crime novels featuring his homicide detective and all-round whizz-kid Robert Hunter.
Hunter’s expertise is such that he gets all the really weird and gruesome murders that are almost always carried out by serial killers.
Earlier in the summer, I read the first three novels in the series, which are:
The Crucifix Killer – the body of a young woman is found in an abandoned cottage; tattoo on her neck is the signature of said Crucifix Killer but surely it can’t be him because he was caught, convicted and executed. More deaths follow. Did Hunter get the wrong man?
The Executioner – the body of a priest is found in his church on the altar steps, grotesquely mutilated and with the number 3 written on his chest in blood. More deaths follow, all numbered. What links the victims and who knows what they fear the most?
The Night Stalker – a woman has been abducted and murdered in a deeply gruesome way. More deaths follow. What links the victims and why are they being killed like this?
First things first, I really enjoyed these novels. The style, which is very straightforward and almost journalistic, is reminiscent of two other favourites writing in the genre – Richard Montanari and Chelsea Cain, both of whom I love.
The key to whether you’ll enjoy these books, assuming you are willing to accept without flinching the descriptions of murder and mutilation, is whether you like Robert Hunter or not. He has a very specific set of characteristics:
he is super-intelligent, a child prodigy who raced through school and college and whose unpublished thesis is, of course, required reading by those in the field
he is damaged – of course he is – for him it takes the form of insomnia
he self-medicates with single malt whisky so he gets extra points from me for that 😀
he is extremely good looking, and every woman he comes into contact with flirts with him
he is empathetic
he is attracted to strong women but these relationships do not end well, usually for the woman but just as often for him
people around him often get hurt; it is risky being his colleague
is there anything he doesn’t know and did he really learn it all from books?
At the moment I like him, and also the author’s style with one exception – his tendency to be overly specific about cars; I will definitely be reading the whole series.