Mostly birthday gifts with a single pre-order and a couple of impulse purchases. Let’s get to it….
The Fall of Robespierre by Colin Jones – an hour by hour analysis of the last 24 hours in the life of Maximilien Robespierre, architect of the Terror; a major turning point in French history. Fascinating stuff
Woodsmoke and Sage: The Five Senses 1485 -1603: How the Tudors Experienced the World by Amy Licence – “woodsmoke and sage, peacocks and cinnamon, falcons and linen” – an examination of the tactile world in which the Tudors lived
Cecily by Annie Garthwaite – a fictional take on Cecily Neville, a key figure in the Wars of the Roses, wife of the Duke of York, mother of 12 including Edward IV and Richard III, and politically very astute – looking forward to reading this
She Walks in Shadows, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R Stiles – a collection of Lovecraftian weird stories written by women – “they emerge from the shadows, to claim the night”
The Lunacy Commission by Lavie Tidhar – Adolf Hitler is a man forgotten by history, a man who never came to power, and who spends the 1930s making a living in London as a private detective; how could I not want to read that?
Pageant of Kings: the Nine Sovereigns at Edward VII’s Funeral by Julia P Gelardi – “Of all the impressive sights that they beheld, the gun-carriage carrying the late King’s body had made a profound impression. But so, too, did the unprecedented sight of nine reigning monarchs astride on their horses. For here gathered the monarchs of England, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Norway, Germany, Bulgaria, and Denmark to pay homage to King Edward VII. Follow these monarchs’ lives whose stories are filled with drama, pathos, tragedy, and heroism.”
The Grand Tour by Agatha Christie – a century ago Agatha Christies toured the British Empire and this book collects the letters and photographs she made on that trip – a glimpse into a past long gone (and a good thing to)
Trio by Aram Saroyan – I can’t remember now what led me into a Wikipedia rabbit hole but where I ended up was Saroyan’s book about the close and long-term friendship between his mother Carol Matthau, Gloria Vanderbilt and Oona Chaplin – the roll call of husbands alone ,are this a must read for me
Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt – “Travel journalist and mountaineer Nick Grevers awakes from a coma to find that his climbing buddy, Augustin, is missing and presumed dead. Nick’s own injuries are as extensive as they are horrifying. His face wrapped in bandages and unable to speak, Nick claims amnesia—but he remembers everything.”
Lots of history, a chunk of horror – not bad at all 🙂
At the end of the year the Book God and I reinstated Saturday Night is Movie Night chez Bride, and there are many good movies that for various reasons I haven’t talked about here as yet, but that’s all going to change with what I hope will become a regular monthly movie update.
DUNE Part 1 – 2021 * 2h 35m * Denis Villeneuve
Beyond fear, destiny awaits
I actually quite enjoyed the David Lynch version of Dune despite its occasional silliness and terrible ending, but I was very excited when I heard that Denis Villeneuve was going to direct a new versions, and I wasn’t disappointed. Such a great cast, stunning visuals and a fairly faithful representation of the story made this a real pleasure to watch. If you like beautiful, intelligent science fiction then this is for you, but let me warn you, its a long one…..
ETERNALS – 2021 * 2h 36m *Chloe Zhao
In the beginning…
… were the Eternals, immortal beings planted on Earth for reasons we don’t find out for ages, influencing humans, being celebrated in myth and legend and coming together after many years apart because the bad guys turn up and cause havoc. They are a nicely diverse bunch with different powers who have fractured as a group over time but are determined to save humanity from the nasties. Doesn’t turn out to be quite that simple. Cue two and a half hours of enjoyable shenanigans I didn’t know much about this aspect of the MCU before going in but I managed to keep up and it was certainly a spectacular film, though perhaps a tad too long. I’m, sure I’ll watch it again, especially given that one of the Eternals is very, very Scottish, which I appreciate. And my girl crush on Angelina Jolie remains intact.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE – 2004 * 2h 9m * Jonathan Demme
Everything is under control
Towards the end of last year I finally got around to watching the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate, based on Richard Condon’s novel and starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey & Angela Lansbury. I enjoyed it, although it was very much of its time. I decided that I would like to watch the remake where Sinatra becomes Denzel Washington, Harvey is Live Schreiber & Meryl Streep is the new Angela Lansbury, and the setting is moved from the Cold War to the aftermath of the first Gulf War, but the story is still the same – a group of soldiers is kidnapped and brainwashed to nefarious ends. Having watched them both I think I favour the 2004 version; there’s a feeling of dread and paranoia that’s missing from the original. Well worth a watch.
We are in New Mexico towards the end of the 1950s, in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. Most of the town is off watching the local high school taking part in a basketball game, but over the course of the night Fay, a young woman working on the town switchboard, and local DJ Everett discover a strange audio frequency and decide to investigate.
Among other things they find out that there have been suspicions goings-on over their town for some time, though nobody really noticed (or if they did they decided not to / were warned off from reporting it). Also, in response to a request for any information from listeners, a caller to the radio station at which Everett works makes it clear that the US government has been using African American soldiers to work on Top Secret Stuff because if they ever talked about, no-one would believe them. Fay & Everett end up involved in something they could not have imagined.
I knew nothing about this film before it came out, but I’m really glad I watched it. There is a real low budget Twilight Zone/Outer Limits vibe to it that is lots of fun, and although it’s undoubtedly low budget, the first time director has made a clever and enjoyable sci-f thriller.
Dazzling details: directed by Andrew Paterson, Vast of Night is 1h 29 long and rated 12 for infrequent strong language and brief moderate threat.
Also set in the 1950s but this time in New York, where Edward Norton is a private eye, a proper gumshoe type, who is afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome and finds himself investigating the murder of his boss, mentor and friend. Cue political shenanigans, wheels within wheels, stabs in the back and a resolution which is more or less satisfying.
Although it has an excellent supporting cast, the film lives or dies by what you think of Norton’s performance. In other hands the portrayal of Tourette’s could be very gimmicky, but I think he manages to toe the line between showing what living with the condition can be like and causing offence.
I thought it was well done; nothing groundbreaking but good and solid.
Dazzling details: directed by its star, Motherless Brooklyn was based on a novel by Jonathan Lethem, is 2h 24 long and rated 15 for strong language, violence and drug misuse.
NB: Drug misuse is an interesting phrase. I know they mean drug use, but it gives the impression that the certification board is looking at what’s happening on screen and thinking to themselves that everyone’s doing it wrong……
The Old Guard
A different take on the superhero movie, based on a series of comics and reportedly sticking closely to the original material, which pleases me.
So, we have a team of near-immortals, led by Andy (Charlize Theron) who has just about had enough. Although not stated explicitly, it looks like she has been around since at least Ancient Greece so she is understandably tired of all of the violence, plus it looks like her team is about to be discovered and for the first time in ages a new immortal has popped up.
Cue a story of redemption (not sure if that’s the right word but it will do), finding your place when your whole world has been turned upside down, the impact of living ostensibly forever and watching all of those you love die, and reinforcing that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
I really enjoyed this. The fight scenes are really excellently done, it’s a female director, Action Charlize is as always the best Charlize, and it doesn’t try to explain how or why these people are the way they are (or why their condition stops when it does), we are just asked to accept it.
They are a heroic bunch, but it takes almost being destroyed to show them the good that they have done hidden underneath all of the destruction.
Also, I knew that Dursley boy was going to turn out to be no good 😀
Really enjoyable and I hope they make more.
Dazzling details: directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Old Guard is 2h 5m long and rated 15 for violence and language
During these strange times we’ve started trying to watch a film together once a week to make up for how much we miss visiting our local cinema and I thought I’d pull together a post I was originally going to call Big Dumb Movies but as (a) not all of them are the same scale of bigness and (b) not all of them are particularly dumb, that idea was quickly set aside 🙂
(or as we must call it Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw – I felt there should be a “presents” in there instead of a colon, and lo I find that was the original title!)
Lawman Luke Hobbs and outcast Deckard Shaw form an unlikely alliance when a cyber genetically enhanced villain threatens the future of humanity
I have to admit to only having seen the first Fast & Furious film though I understand each sequel has only raised the stakes in stunts, loudness and presumably silliness in the many years since, but I really wanted to watch this one because of Jason Statham. I think he’s great.
Don’t get me wrong, I also love Dwayne Johnson but this was all about The Stath for me!
The plot is just on the right side of utter ridiculousness, the stunts are totally over the top and there is insufficient Ryan Reynolds (but when is there ever sufficient Ryan, I ask you) but it was an absolute hoot and gets bonus points for villainous Idris Elba. Enjoyed it very much.
Dazzling details: directed by David Leitch, F&F: H&S is 2h 17m long and rated 12A for moderate violence and infrequent strong language
After a failed mission to Mars, AI/ARTI is now used for the 2036 mission with a few human supervisors. A monolith of unknown origin is found there. It will have a big effect on Earth.
So we misread the Netflix description and thought that this was going to be a series and by the time we realised it was a feature we were committed and decided to see it through.
This was fairly disappointing to be honest. It started off well before getting a bit bogged down and then morphed into a wannabe 2001: A Space Odyssey for the final act., complete with philosophical gibberish and all the psychedelia you might require. A shame. Katee Sackhoff deserves better.
Dazzling details: directed by Hasraf Dulull, 2036:OU is 1h 54m long and rated 12 for moderate injury detail, threat
As the sun is dying out people all around the world build giant planet thrusters to move Earth out of its orbit and sail to a new star system. Yet the 2500 year journey comes with unexpected dangers and in order to save humanity a group of young people in this age of a wandering earth fight hard for the survival of humankind
Based on a series of (I believe) linked short stories by the author Liu Cixin which apparently I have had on my Kindle app for ages but totally forgot about, this is the biggest and most expensive sci-fi film to come out of China.
The special effects are great and I was pleased to spot some standard elements that I recognise from other Chines films I have seen (exaggerated comic relief being one of them).
It was a tad too long for my taste but the references to 2001 in this film were much more successful and on the whole, it was very impressive.
Dazzling details: directed by Frant Gwo, The Wandering Earth is 2h 15m long and rated 15 for strong language, threat, injury detail, intense action scenes.
It’s that time of year again where Cathy at 746Books hosts her twenty books of summer challenge and this year will be my year to actually finish all twenty of my picks. I’m convinced of it 😀
As you may have seen if you follow me on Instagram I have already posted the handwritten list that I created for my Bullet Journal, but here are the full details. In alphabetical order by title because that’s the way my Kindle app rolls; it’s worth noting that all of these are eBooks and all are fiction.
A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from multi-award-winning author Elizabeth Bear.
I’ve read some of her short stories but this will be the first of her novels I’ve picked up. I adore space opera.
Blood Pearl by Anne Billson – The Camillography Volume 1 Bought June 2019 – 180 pages
Millie Greenwood leads an uneventful life with her overprotective parents in Bramblewood, the most boring village in England – until one day, not long after her sixteenth birthday, she sneakily forges her mother’s signature to go on a school trip to Paris.
I love Anne, she’s a great film critic and I’ve read several of her novels so looking forward to this because, you know, there may be vampires.
Breathe by Dominick Donald Bought March 2018 – 528 pages
Amazon yells that a killer lurks in the worst fog London has ever known
London, 1952. Dick Bourton is not like the other probationer policemen in Notting Hill. He fought in Europe and then Korea, and has now brought his exotically beautiful Russian fiancée back to drab streets and empty bombsites. The new copper also has a mind of his own. After an older colleague is shot by a small-time gangster in a pea-souper fog, Bourton begins to make connections his superiors don’t want to see, linking a series of deaths with the fogs that stop the city in its tracks.
I picked this up after reading Death in the Air which I found disappointing, so will be interested to see how this compares, even though that’s probably unfair given only one of them is non-fiction.
Cataveiro by EJ Swift – The Osiris Project Book 2 Don’t know when I bought this – 400 pages
For political exile Taeo Ybanez, this could be his ticket home. Relations between the Antarcticans and the Patagonians are worse than ever, and to be caught on the wrong side could prove deadly.
I read the first volume in this series several years ago (I think I was on holiday in Vienna) and it has always stuck with me so it feels like a good time to pick up the story.
Welcome to Babylon, a typical sleepy southern town, where years earlier the Larkin family suffered a terrible tragedy. Now they are about to endure another: fourteen-year-old Margaret Larkin will be robbed of her innocence and her life by a killer who is beyond the reach of the law.
I discovered Michael McDowell through Christopher Fowler’s Invisible Ink, and have already read Gilded Needles which I really should have reviewed as it was awesome, so looking forward to this.
Under the watchful eye of The Company, three characters — Grayson, Morse and Chen — shapeshifters, amorphous, part human, part extensions of the landscape, make their way through forces that would consume them. A blue fox, a giant fish and language stretched to the limit.
Vandermeer is one of the authors I buy automatically regardless of what his new book is about. This takes place in the same universe as Borne, which I adored, so I’m excited.
The Deep by Nick Cutter Bought April 2015 – 401 pages
A plague is destroying the world’s population. The ‘Gets makes people forget. First it’s the small things, like where you left your keys … then the not-so-small things, like how to drive. And finally your body forgets how to live.
This is likely to be gross horror which feels about right.
Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and London is his stamping ground. At a time when the supernatural world is in upheaval and spilling over into the mundane reality of the living, his skills have never been more in demand. A good exorcist can charge what he likes – and enjoy a hell of a life-style – but there’s a risk: sooner or later he’s going to take on a spirit that’s too strong for him.
I feel the need for a new/additional urban fantasy series to follow, so let’s give this a go.
WHO IS CLAIRE’S FATHER? A privileged man, surrounded by devoted friends and a family he adores?Or the deranged killer who attacked Claire’s mother and then vanished in thin air? For thirty years Claire has been obsessed with uncovering the mystery at the heart of her life, and she knows her father’s friends – wealthy, powerful, ruthless – hold the key to the truth. They know where Claire’s father is. And it’s time their perfect lives met her fury.
This is inspired by the Lord Lucan case which I have always found fascinating. This has been well-reviewed and it will be nice to read non-genre fiction.
Sooner or later, death visits everyone. Before that, they meet Charlie. Charlie meets everyone – but only once. Sometimes he is sent as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. Either way, this is going to be the most important meeting of your life.
I met Claire at a reading once when her novel Touch came out, and as you might expect she was delightful and a Roger Zelazny fan and I love reading her stuff.
A girl is strangled in a London alley, the mangled corpse of a peeping Tom is found in a railway tunnel and the juicy details of the latest trunk murder are updated hourly in fresh editions of the evening papers. Into this insalubrious world steps Dora Strang, a doctor’s daughter with an unmaidenly passion for anatomy. Denied her own medical career, she moves into lodgings with a hilarious, insecticidal landlady and begins life as filing clerk to the country’s pre-eminent pathologist, Alfred Kemble.
This book is set in 1929 and speaks to my interests
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – The Locked Tomb Trilogy #1 Bought September 2019 – 479 pages
The Emperor needs necromancers. The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman. Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.
Everyone loved this and the sequel comes out soon so need to catch up.
Amazon yells this is the perfect ghostly golden age mystery
Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives. At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.
Keywords – WWI, spiritualist, islands, gothic. No brainer.
I’m Jack by Mark Blacklock Bought May 2020 – 272 pages
In this provocative novel, Mark Blacklock portrays the true and complex history of John Humble, aka Wearside Jack, the Ripper Hoaxer, a timewaster and criminal, sympathetic and revolting, the man hidden by a wall of words, a fiction-spinner worthy of textual analysis. In this remarkable work, John Humble leads the reader into an allusive, elusive labyrinth of interpretations, simultaneously hoodwinking and revealing
I was a teenager during the whole Yorkshire Ripper awfulness and remember hearing the tape being played on the TV news, so I’m very interested in what the author will do with this.
It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.
Full disclosure: I’m one of Jason’s supporters on Patreon and received a Christmas card from Mr Sparks (at least that’s who he said he was!) so it’s about time I picked this up.
In 2001, a woman’s skeleton was found in the woods overlooking Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital. Despite an audit of the hospital’s patient records, a forensic reconstruction of the woman’s face, missing-person appeals, and DNA tests that revealed not only where she had lived, but how she ate, the woman was never identified. Assigned the name Madame Victoria, her remains were placed in a box in an evidence room and, eventually, forgotten. But not by Catherine Leroux, who constructs in her form-bending Madame Victoria twelve different histories for the unknown woman.
Sounds intriguing, and different and I can’t resist.
The long-awaited novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.
I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of Jennifer Egan and this sounds cool.
For centuries the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by a god known as the Raven. But in their hour of need, the Raven speaks nothing to its people. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo – aide to the true heir to the throne – arrives. In seeking to help his master reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself… and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.
I have absolutely no idea why I haven’t read any Ann leckie, especially as her surname is one of my famil names, – but this isn’t about me) and I’ve heard really good things about this so thought it was a good place to start.
In 1940, eighteen-year-old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever. Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past.
Cross with myself that it’s taken so long to get to this but I’m here now, so that’s good, surely?
So here we are after a break of 3 weeks and I thought it might be fun to look at the books I’ve finished so far this month.
It’s been a fairly good month for reading but not a great one for blogging; what can I say? More mini-reviews are likely to follow, but let’s stick with these six for now, along with an update on what I’m currently reading and some other stuff that might be of interest.
Somewhere Beneath Those Waves by Sarah Monette – a collection of short stories missing fantasy & science fiction which I really enjoyed, especially as it includes a Kyle Murchison Booth story (see my review of her collected Booth stories here)
Follow Me by Angela Clarke – an enjoyably fast read, a police procedural with social media right at the forefront. I read it in one sitting and have bought the sequels
Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky – a very creepy sci-fi novel which was almost psychedelic in its language and imagery. Very unsettling. So good.
The Love-Charm of Bombs by Lara Feigel – as I’m getting older I’m finding that my interest is shifting from WWI to WWII, especially social history and the home front. This is a joint biography of several authors (namely Elizabeth Bowen, Rose Macaulay, Henry Green, Graham Greene and Hilde Spiel) who were all based in London in the Blitz. It was fascinating to find out about their complicated personal lives.
The Last Book on the Left – from the guys who write & present the Last Podcast on the Left, this is a quick trot through the lives and crimes of several very well-known serial killers. Now, if you’ve been here for any length of time you will know that I cannot resist true crime and I follow many podcasts (I’m a proud Murderino for example) but I’ve never found this one particularly engaging. The book is fine but the comic interjections just didn’t work for me.
The Killing Streets by Tanya Bretherton – another true crime read, this covers the story of what appears to be the first known serial killer in Australia. Set in the 1930s in Sydney, the main interest for me is the social history elements – the expectations on women, the behaviour of the police and so on – but I wasn’t totally convinced that these murders of young women were connected.
In terms of what I’m currently reading, I seem to be stuck in the middle of several books and not making much progress.
Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch – the seventh in the Rivers of London series, I started this in January and have been making very slow progress for reasons I don’t understand, but I do want to finish it because I have three more to read 🙂
The Outsider by Stephen King – enjoyed what I’ve read so far and really want to know how it turns out so this will get finished
True Detective by Max Allan Collins – the first Nathan Heller novel, I picked this up because the Book God has read many (if not all) of the series and thought I would enjoy it and so far he has been spot on.
As none of these titles is on my list for this year’s Twenty Books of Summer challenge, I need to make an effort to finish them by June 1.
As if that wasn’t enough, my need for non-fiction has led me to start a book about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, which ticks so many boxes for me it isn’t true.
And I have finally succumbed and signed up to Audible so that if nothing else I can listen to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman when it launches in July.
Being indoors apart from forays for groceries and exercise, we’ve been watching more films – I miss going to the cinema more than anything else – and some great TV. Killing Eve hasn’t finished yet so I’m reserving judgement, but last night, so much later than everyone else, of course, we finished watching DEVS. I loved it so much. I think Alex Garland is an amazing writer/director and the series was thought-provoking and beautiful. A highlight of this year so far.
How are you guys holding up in these unusual times?
My thoughts on the Kubrick film of The Shining have been aired here before (in short, it’s a good Kubrick film, but not a great King adaptation) and I read Doctor Sleep when it came out (you can find a review of it here) and I was therefore a bit wary of what I was going to see, given that director was trying to remain faithful to both. I needn’t have worried, this was a really good film with excellent performances (especially Ewan MacGregor). Not really a horror film IMHO but creepy and absorbing and will become a favourite I’m sure.
Directed by Mike Flanagan, 2h 31 minutes long and rated 15 for strong bloody violence, gore, horror, threat and language. All boxes ticked.
As you will know from my book reviews I love a good crime novel and also enjoy crime movies if they are done well. I was excited for Knives Out given the premise and the amazing cast and again was not disappointed. Daniel Craig was in his element, excellent use was made of Chris Evans (and his sweater) and of course Christopher Plummer was wonderful as always – he has been one of my favourite actors for many years and I love seeing him on the big screen. It’s definitely best if you know as little as possible about this film before you see it so I will say no more other than it is thoroughy recommended.
Directed by Rian Johnson, 2h 10 minutes long and rated 12A for brief bloody images, moderate sex and suicide references, strong language
I’m ambivalent about gangster films and their tendency to make heroes out of criminals, even if that’s not intentional, but The Irishman was getting great reviews and the Book God was very keen to see it so we settled down to watch it on our re-established Saturday Night is Film Night – something we used to do fairly regularly but lost impetus because of excellent TV options. Anyway, this was 3.5 hours long and my heart sank a tiny bit but as soon as elderly Robert De Niro started talking I became transfixed and happily watched the whole thing. Of course it’s morally dubious and Al Pacino presents a master class in scenery chewing, and the female characters are all woefully underused, but it was beautfully made and I enjoyed it very much.
Directed by Martin Scorsese becuase of course it was, like I said it was 3h 29 minutes long and rated 15 for strong violence and language
Well. I’m not going to say a huge amount about this here because everyone else is talking about it and I actually want to see it again before I go into any detail (avoiding spoilers as always of course) BUT subject to my disappointment at the lack of Rose Tico and the wasted opportunity that was Finn & Poe not being the couple we know they should have been, and the reminder that Carrie Fisher is no longer with us, I really really enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker. It’s not perfect but it is very satisfying.
Directed by JJ Abrams (self descibed as not good at endings), Episode IX is 2h 22 minutes long and rated 12A for moderate violence, threat
Have you seen any (or all) of the above? What did you think?
I was reasonably pleased with my reading in October, especially as I had a couple of mini-reading slumps. The issue for me at the moment seems to be that I get about a quarter of the way into a book then no matter how much I am enjoying it I kind of stop. See if you can spot a pattern….
More than three hundred infectious diseases have emerged or reemerged in new territory during the past fifty years, and ninety per cent of epidemiologists expect that one of them will cause a disruptive, deadly pandemic sometime in the next two generations.
Recommended by the ladies of This Podcast Will Kill You (a must-listen if you are at all interested in diseases etc.), this uses cholera as an example of how pandemics start and spread as the basis for theorising about how any future pandemic might behave. Fascinating and a bit scary, especially when the author talks about how groups are scapegoated when disease breaks out.
I have said here before that I am a great admirer of Quinn and support her through Patreon so that she can tell small stories through Twitter. Anyway, this is the second of her three books that I have picked up, and it is all about home-schooling her daughter. A mixture of personal experience and the history of the home-schooling movement, I found it fascinating and hilarious.
When I bought this I knew it was a short story but wasn’t paying enough attention at the time to notice that it was, in fact, the first part of a serial called The Witch Who Came in from the Cold written by multiple authors. So I treated this a taster and enjoyed it very much. I didn’t realise that I needed Cold War magical spycraft in easter Europe quite so much, but apparently, I do.
a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.
Less of a horror story than I expected, more of a creepy character study. I probably shouldn’t have read this in the wee small hours while in the throes of insomnia. It was totally worth it, but not for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia. Trust me.
All Maggie, Russell, and Henry wanted out of their last college vacation was to get drunk and play archaeologist in an old house in the woods outside of town.
Another short read, this was definitely a horror story. They probably shouldn’t have removed that thing from the trench they dug because of course there were Consequences. Really liked this but the end just sort of happened; the story concluded but it looked like there was going to be more. Which I would have welcomed.
Gunjita and Cav are in orbit. R&D scientists for pharmaceutical giant Gleem Galactic, they are wealthy enough to participate in rejuvenation: rebooting themselves from old age to jump their bodies back to their twenties. You get two chances. There can never be a third. After Gunjita has juved for the second and final time and Cav has not, questions of life, death, morality, and test their relationship. Up among the stars, the research possibilities are infinite and first contact is possible, but their marriage may not survive the challenge.
Not sure the payoff worked but there were enough thought-provoking ideas along the way to make it worth reading. I just wanted a bit more.
If ever there was a Marmite movie this is going to be it. I’ve seen Ad Astra described as thrilling and a masterpiece, but also as boring and dull despite having (MINI SPOILERS) moon pirates and killer monkeys.
My thoughts will follow a quick detour to Planet Synopsis
Astronaut Roy McBride undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.
So after surviving a quite spectacular fall from a space structure tethered to Earth which serves to demonstrate that space is dangerous and Roy is a very calm dude, he is called in by his bosses to take part in a secret mission to find out if his Dad is still alive and the cause of cosmic blasts from around Neptune which are wreaking havoc in the solar system (and actually caused Roy’s accident). Of course, he says yes because he wants to find out what happened to his father.
I will say no more.
The tone of this film is hugely important and it’s constant calmness, reflecting Roy’s view of the world, reminded me very much of 2001 with periods of silence interspersing the action.
It’s also key that this is not far-future space; the fact that much of the infrastructure shown is plausible in the next few decades allows the audience to engage with the characters. I say characters but this is very much Brad Pitt’s film. He is so good in this role, displaying a calm and dispassionate outlook but with anger and hurt and resentment just below the surface. Such a contrast to the last film I saw him in!
The supporting cast is excellent though most of them don’t have much to do. The scenes between Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones as his Dad are very powerful, and the great Donald Sutherland is always a treat to watch.