• Books

    Calypso by David Sedaris

    I’ve not been reading much the last couple of months and when I have, I haven’t been reviewing them. Even this book I waited a number of days before remembering that I should review it. I am hoping I get back into the flow of reading and reviewing as the weather warms up.

    I really like Sedaris and I think his writing is getting more personal and better as he gets older. I think his humour and writing style is polarizing. I am not sure exactly why I enjoy his writing so much. In many ways, we are not similar at all. I am much more of an optimist and sometimes do find what he says and does to be rude. On the other hand, there is an honesty in his writing that feels real and human.

    I laugh out loud at the weird situations him and his family are in. He writes in this book about getting a small tumor removed in the middle of the night by a fan. It’s so odd. It’s stranger than fiction really. There’s a lot of weirdness and absurdity to the stories, but there is also pain especially in regards to his departed sister Tiffany and his ageing father. It’s fascinating and painfully human.

    I guess one of the reasons I like his personal essays are that while he does want to make you laugh and there is an aspect of him that wants to show off, I do get a sense of rawness with humor in his writing. There isn’t a lot of personal essay writers I feel that way about.

    Read April 8-11, 2019.

  • Monthly Movies,  Movies

    Monthly Movies/TV – March 2019

    “Dix pour cent (Call my Agent!)” Season 3 (05-07 03 2019) – French comedy series on Netflix that I have been following. My French has been dropping off lately and I haven’t been watching as many French things. I try to do it while knitting so this helped me finish the Pavement sweater.

    “Russian Doll” Season 1 (07 03 2019) – I like the time loop trope. I went in unspoiled and am so glad. I like how well written and acted it was. While it was sometimes crass and crude, the heart of it is about empathy and human connection. Good stuff.

    Ant-Man and the Wasp (07-08 03 2019) – Enjoyable largely because of the cast. Wish it had more Pffeifer!

    “Plan Coeur (The Hookup Plan)” Season 1 (11-12 03 2019) – Not as good as Dix pour cent. So many unlikable characters but at least the two leads and some of the supporting characters are OK. They hooked me with the cliffhanger ending. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone though.

    Le Jeu (Nothing to Hide) (12 03 2019) – French film that about boring middle aged French married couples having problems stuff. Mostly boring and full of unlikable characters. It was short at least.

    Bienvenue a Marly-Gormont (The African Doctor) (19 03 2019) – Better than the last French movie but had some second hand embarrassment from the first hour or so.

    Le Monde est a toi (The World is Yours) (19 03 2019) – I need to take a break from these French movies. I think I’ve watched most of the ones available on Netflix now. This one also had a bad start and the script is not great. The actors made it bearable. Vincent Cassel and Isabelle Adjani are in it. The best thing about this movie was the small moment of genuine friendship between an older guy and a little girl who experiences being abused by their parents.

    Your Name / Kimi no Na wa (24 03 2019) – Beautiful. I’ve been meaning to watch this for awhile. I use to grow up watching a few anime series but I feel like the best ones lately and for most part are the movies.

    Hidden Figures (30 03 2019) – A nice period piece with lots of good acting. There is aspect of feel good Hollywood but at least it’s about Women of Colour.

  • Knitting & Crafting

    FO: Pavement

    A fingering weight top-down raglan that took many months as I expected but could have been done faster if I didn’t have a lot of other things going this past winter.

    I usually choose more fitted sweaters but I wanted to go out of my comfort zone and Veera is one of the few pattern designers I trust with sweaters. Originally, I was going to make a Featherweight Cardigan with this yarn, but I thought Pavement would be a more suitable choice for years to come.

    The sweater was not difficult to knit, but I found it exasperating at the end. I didn’t like the look of the short rows and I didn’t understand why there were increases so I omitted it. The pattern does not allow for enough underarm room ether. The neck is wide as well, but that’s probably more me than the pattern.

    The sweater is soft and I hope to wear it more often.

  • Monthly Movies,  Movies,  TV

    Monthly Movies/TV – February 2019

    King of thieves (18 02 2019) – We watched this for the great cast and while there are some funny moments due primarily to the cast chemistry, the script and pacing was off. Tone was a bit weird too; it was darkly funny but then other times it couldn’t balance the darker moments.

    Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse (22 03 2019) – Very fun and worth the praise and help. This movie uses the animated medium to the best of storytelling. Great music and soundtrack and probably the best Sony spider-man movie ever. Will rewatch some of my favourite parts.

    TV shows currently watching:

    • Masterchef UK
    • My Kitchen Rules
    • Great British Sewing Bee
  • Monthly Movies,  TV

    Monthly Movies/TV – January 2019

    Movies

    Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (04 01 2019) – Finally got around to watching this. It was on the long side but enjoyed most of the movie and its characters.

    Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (06 01 2019) – Very fun. I love the jokes about video games and its tropes. Jack Black really stole his scenes. The cast was all great except Kevin Hart played himself. Definitely in for a sequel.

    Bohemian Rhapsody (19 01 2019) – The casting including the stellar Rami Malek and the last Live Aid scene was good, but this isn’t the best film I’ve seen in awhile. The script and directing were both lacking and I know Singer had to drop out (never liked him any way). The movie felt a bit staid bordering on having that manufactured biopic filming. I enjoyed it overall but it’s a testament to Queen’s music and the great cast.

    Me Before You (25 01 2019) – Yes, it has taken me years to watch this film after reading the book. I liked the book and I adore Emilia Clarke, but I put this off because I knew the ending. I managed not to cry by basically watching most of this while preparing for and eating dinner. Then cleaning up. Clarke and Sam Claifin have a lot of chemistry. I’m glad they didn’t make the sequel as I hated it, but I wish Clarke and Claifin were in more things overall and together.

    TV

    I forgot to track this but I think I got most of it.

    Tidying up with Marie Kondo (01-03 01 2019) – I liked the books. I found the show relaxing except for a couple of home owners. I wish there was more of Marie and Iida.

    Strike (27 01 2019 to 01 02 2019) – All three series: Cuckoo’s Calling, the Silkworm, and Career of Evil. After reading Lethal White, I realized I hadn’t watched the BBC adaptation of the first three. I watched it with my SO and he’s never read the books but expressed an interest in the show. We really liked all three of them. I’ve always liked Burke and Grainger and I think the show did a good job of cutting out the angst of their relationships. It’s also an easy procedural to watch; maybe a bit too easy. It’s not trying to be cutting edge or different than other TV, but since it’s a BBC production, it’s still very good. I look forward to the Lethal White one.

  • Books

    Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

    Spoilers Alert: If you wish to know absolutely nothing about the plot of these books, please do not read the review. I usually do not reveal key plot details. I could not avoid it with this review as I critiqued a similar plot device used in this series.

    Harry Potter meant a lot to me as an adolescent and I have read most of J. K. Rowling’s books and will continue to read her books. I think she has improved as a writer. I really enjoyed reading this novel for a lot of ways, but by the end, I couldn’t give it a 4/5 stars. I have become fairly generous with four stars, but somethings bothered me too much.

    There are relationship issues in all of these novels with Strike, Robin, and their significant or ex significant others. This is focused more heavily in the first fifth of the novel, but then gives way to the actual mystery which I appreciated. I really can’t stand the dance between Strike/Robin. I do not really care for the angst that has been introduced and likely will be set up for the future. I much prefer to read them as partners in solving mysteries. While I understand all of their predicaments, I’ve had to slough through Robin’s life with the prick Matthew and Strike’s man pain and Charlotte issues. It has dragged on for four books and sadly, will likely drag on.

    As someone who has lived in London, it is a character in these novels as settings usually can be in mysteries. I have appreciated the detail Rowling goes into with the setting and the characters. The novel had many pubs, restaurants, and homes in London. I really liked the details that you can only get from a long novel like this.

    The novel had many characters for these settings. At first, I actually liked that there were so many suspects and secondary/tertiary character stories. Some of the suspicious characters were interesting and I didn’t mind the extra world building. The red herrings threw me off at first; however, after awhile, I began to see some of the foreshadowing clues. That in itself is not a big issue, but the longer the book was and the more details that were added, I wondered how the writer would resolve it. Disappointingly, the climax was a drawn out exposition between good and bad. By this time, I had predicted the mastermind but not the details so while I liked reading those details, it was contrived. More annoyingly, Robin was in peril again with the villain! That is two books in a row. She is pivotal to the plot and the villain does take an interest to her, but it is cheap it has to happen again. It makes her look stupid and naive.

    I still like Robin, Strike, and most of the supporting characters in this series. I still love the setting and most of the writing, but I did feel a bit deflated at the end. I was having a bad weekend when I finished so it did factor in, but I can’t escape my ambivalence about the ending. I will still read the next book and hope that that there are changes to the lives of the characters and the climactic moments.

    Read January 16-20, 2019.

  • Books

    Competence by Gail Carriger

    Often times when I pick up another book from this series, I forget why I like it so much. This was the first prose novel I’ve read in a few months so I felt a bit rusty getting back to reading.

    I’ve had mixed feelings about Rue, the main character of the last two books. She’s flamboyant and charming, but sometimes a bit too perfect. I didn’t find her relatable. However, these books are narrated more by her best friend Primrose and Prim’s brother Percy. Percy always seemed a bit of a wet blanket in these last two books, but his development here is a lot more easier to read.

    I like Prim because she’s very practical. She has an inner conflict all through the episode because of her feelings for Tash, but it is resolved by the end of the novel. It is romantic and so is the other love story in this novel. I think this novel was much better than the last two. I think Garriger has always been a fun writer of characters and she keeps getting better.

    Looking forward to another book in this series. I hope Percy gets a romantic interest now that he is the only officer left in this crew that is unattached.

    Read January 15, 2019.

  • Monthly Movies,  Movies,  TV

    Monthly Movies/TV – Autumn 2018

    It’s been awhile since I did these kind of posts. I haven’t really been watching as many movies or tv shows as I use to, but I’d like to mark it here on a seasonal basis.

    September

    “Bodyguard” Series 1 (BBC) – This is BBC’s most watched drama in years. I enjoyed it a lot. I like Richard Madden and I’m glad he gets to stretch some range with this role. My partner is a big fan of Jed Mercurio’s “Line of Duty” as well and I will start that soon.

    To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (21 09 18) – Reviewed here.

    October

    Ocean’s 8 (22 10 18) – I had moderate expectations going into this because I knew it was not the most critically acclaimed. I really enjoyed it because it looked good and the cast is extraordinary. It’s not as stylish as Soderbergh’s films but I like Gary Ross’s work. There is not much in the way of character development, but this is a fun movie. I actually hope there is a sequel.

    “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” Season 1 (Oct 2018) – A tad long side. Found the mortal/Sabrina friends storylines were dull but witch ones are fun. Good cast and styling.

    November

    Ethel & Ernest (03 11 2018) – Very lovely animated film about an English family in the early twentieth century

    December

    L Storm (12 12 2018) – I’ve developed a tradition of watching Chinese or Hong Kong movies on airplanes. Decent plotting and suspense, but not much in the way of character development.

    Gravity (25 12 2018) – Really like Curaon as a director so been meaning to watch it. Quite nice and definitely a theatre movie but we only watched on our small screen. We watched Charade earlier the same day (one of my fav movies growing up) and it was jarring to see Clooney as a second rate Cary Grant.

  • Books,  Food,  Knitting & Crafting

    2018 in Review and 2019 Goals

    Books and Reading

    My goal for 2018 was to read 32 books. 2017 was not a good reading year, but 2018 was much better. As of this writing, I read 45 books!

    The following are books that I dumped:

    • Georgette Heyer mysteries – I read the one that I owned then I tried to read one more from the library, but gave up. I enjoyed Heyer’s Regency romances, but her mysteries were rather flat.
    • The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory – I was already prepared to dump this, but I read the first prologue and some of the first chapter. I did not like it and skimming through a coupe of chapters.
    • Joy on Demand by Chade-Meng Tan – A book on meditation that I started and was then put on hold for months. I gave up and realized it didn’t grab me.

    2019 Books and Reading Goals

    1. Read 42 books for 2019 – This was my old standard goal of 42 books. I think 50 would be pushing my luck. I want to go back to the old days of my youth when I did read 50+ books in a year, but I don’t think there are gurantees of it.
    2. Read more cookbooks – So many cookbooks, so little time.
    3. Read remaining 2018 New Yorker magazines – I received a promo subscription in 2017. I only have about five to read.

    Knitting

    For 2018, I wanted to knit six projects. I finished three and am currently still work on my fourth. I am satisfied since my current project is a light sweater.

    2019 Knitting Goals

    1. Finish three projects in 2019 including my current sweater
    2. Continue to not buy yarn – With the exception of travel (and even on my last few trips), I have not bought yarn in a couple years.

    Food

    This year, I finally made kimchi. I continue to bake bread but always using the same recipe since sourdough is finnicky. I want to learn more recipes, but the most important is to keep baking bread.

    Some ideas for 2019:

    1. Make stollen next Christmas
    2. Find another reliable sourdough bread recipe that works for my starter and me
    3. Cook and Bake from my cookbooks

    Other Goals

    I have many other small goals. I am continuing to work on writing more, meditation, and fitness. I have planned and booked a few races in the new year.

  • Books

    Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyzaki

    This is a late review that has been hanging over me a month. I read all volumes of this manga series in October and November, but I wanted to review the work as a whole.

    I consider Hayao Miyazaki a genius and one of my favourite artists and film makers ever. The Ghibli films are special to me and his work does move me. This series is definitely one of his best works.

    This series has a lot on humanity and it covers so many facets of life. It’s beautiful. I found it emotional and so detailed to read through. The character of Nausicaa is incredible. I wish this series would be turned into a live action or a mini series. That won’t ever happen, but this to me is better than anything HBO or the cable networks put out to adapt.

    This work is more grim than some of Miyazaki’s films, but it does have moments of hope. It has moments of whimsy, magic, death, innocence, and honesty. As usual, there are many characters and amazing moments.

    I love this work. It is now one of my favourite graphic literary works. I do wonder if I should buy it for the ages.

    Read October to November 2018.

  • Books

    Circe by Madeline Miller

    Remember in the last review how I mentioned women in Greek mythology tended to be mistreated or abused? This book has a lot of that.

    Circe is a goddess. She is the daughter of a Titan and a nymph. She has been born with a mortal voice but even as an immortal, she is mistreated. This novel is well written especially in its in depth look at Circe’s character. I am impressed with Miller’s style and research. It does not surprise me that it takes her years to write each novel.

    I find this book harder to read than Song of Achilles though because Circe is a lonely characte and there are many unpleasant characters throughout the book. Her whole family is terrible and there are many spiteful immortals and mortals. Most of the book is sad and depressing actually. As with any book based on Greek myths, there are many deaths, monsters, and tragedies. This one has woven more Greek myths that were not in the Illiad or the Odyssey so it did feel almost like a Who’s Who? of Greek myths.

    After all of hardships that Circe and the reader go through together, there is a happy ending. It is sweet and features characters I did like from the Odyssey.

    With both of these novels, I definitely consider myself a fan of Miller and I look forward to her future books.

    Read October 21-22, 2018.

  • Books

    The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

    This is a long overdue read. I’ve had this in my TBR pile for a few years after hearing the raves.

    My interest in Greek mythology and Greek stories is an old one. I remember reading many of the myths when I was around nine. As a kid, I had a big interest in mythology especially those with the Greeks. I knew the stories of the heroes and the gods well. I read the Illiad and the Odyssey as a young teenager but my interested waned. There were other books and other interests. I had become wary of the capricious characters of the gods in these stories. The heroes were often all men and I noticed how the women were often mistreated, tricked, or severely underdeveloped while the men were venerated. In recent years, I have been less interested in reading about novels inspired by the Greek myths. Ultimately this is why I decided not to read the Percy Jackson series even though it would have been something I would have craved as a kid.

    Having said that, I had a feeling I would enjoy Miller’s writing. The reviews about the book were undeniable and her background as an academic in Ancient Greek made it easier as well.

    I enjoyed the novel. I found it easy to read. I like the shorter sentences and there is a simplicity and almost minimalism to the prose. Miller does describe things deftly. I have never been to Greece, but the style of the novel is reminiscent of Homer and he other Ancient Greek authors. However, it’s not as impersonal. She has given a viable voice to Patroclus. She also has made me sympathetic to Achilles. In the Illiad, Achilles is seen as proud but without much other personality except when he goes on a killing spree to avenge Patroclus.

    The pacing is actually more character oriented. The war does not even start until more than halfway through the novel. Half the book is dedicated to the childhood and early relationship of Patroclus and Achilles. I did not feel bored because I liked the sort of lazy and peaceful feeling of the earlier portion of the book. It was also sweet.

    I did like that the Gods and Achilles’s mother is a character in this novel. I do not want realism with my Greek myth retellings. The gods and goddesses in the stories are not given much character development or motivation either. While Thetis does act like an ambitious and single minded mortal, the book does emphasize that she loves Achilles in her own obsessive way. I liked the cameos from the other gods as well. I actually wished for more, but I liked Miller’s restraint in using them as well.

    An enjoyable read. Now moving onto Miller’s new book Circe.

    Read October 20-21, 2018.