• Books,  Movies

    Gone, Girl by Gillian Flynn

    This post will contain spoilers for the book and the movie. I generally do not do big spoilers, but the novel and the movie relies heavily on twists.

    Overall, while the book and movie were not perfect in terms of storytelling, they were still engaging and interesting. I think there is a lot of commentary on the media and bad romantic relationships in general. I would not necessarily recommend either of them to everyone though I think lots of people would enjoy it or find it interesting.

  • Books

    The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

    This has been on my TBR list for a little while. It is highly rated on GoodReads and by one of my good reading friends too. I am only recently getting back into reading book series. I find the good ones really help with my reading motivation. I am more picky as an adult on the book series I continue though, but I will continue with this one.

    While not exactly high fantasy, the uniqueness and strangeness of this world took me awhile to get into. While intelligent and talented I thought Locke’s personality was not easy to grasp at first. He is a con man so it does seem he keeps who he truly is close to his heart. However, it becomes clear how fiercely loyal he is. That helped. I liked his gang and I began to really enjoy him as well.

    The book employs non-linear storytelling. I did critique this technique in a recent book review, but it does work if the author is good. In this case, Lynch is a really good writer. Even when I was not yet fully immersed in this world, I could tell Lynch is a good writer. There’s a certain speed and confidence to his prose that is found in many other thrillers and successful fantasy writers. The world building was on point, but so were the dialogue and characters.

    The book is very violent and there is a lot of good time swearing. That actually reminded me of the Song of Fire & Ice series, but with a smaller cast and a smaller yet intense universe. It’s the adventure and many twists that you keep you engaged.

    I do not find myself addicted to it the way some other reviewers are so I’m going to wait awhile before I read the next book in the series. I have them all on Kindle, but I put the next one on request at my library. There is a lot of stuff I’d like to know that has not been explained in this book, but Lynch has satisfied me enough for this adventure and held out to entice a reader further. Good stuff.

    Read January 17-19, 2016 on Kindle

  • Books

    Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

    I have been waiting to read this for awhile and did make time for it this holiday season.

    I know this subject well. I was familiar with some of the studies and academics cited in this book. I read a lot of sociology apparently. On a more personal note, I have tried more than one online dating site, Tindr, and speed dating. I quit online dating a year ago. Due to some personal experiences, I have taken a break from the whole dating scene altogether. One of the reasons was exhaustion and a general jadedness with the sites and dating in general. I hate the games being played. I could relate to a lot of the book talked about. I also felt and did things differently, but I’m still single so I guess that did not work either.

    I digress. I liked this book. It was funny and informative. It also walked the line between being depressingly realistic, but also optimistic. I felt that Ansari delivered some harsh facts about dating in the modern age and around the world, but he noted the positives. He ended it on a high note as well. I generally read a lot of sociology and relationship books any way. This was definitely one of the easiest ones to read in terms of comprehension and tone. It was fun.

    I recommend it since it does give a lot of insight on people today, not just about dating. I would even reread this book. Instead, I decided to get the audiobook.

    Read January 1-2nd, 2016 on Kindle.

    Audibook

    I read this got rave reviews and I had heard excerpts from podcasts. I enjoyed it and in fact, for some people, I’d recommend it over the book. I think it is more entertaining and captures all the informational aspects just as well. It is more personal too.

    Listened January 7-17 2016.

  • Books

    Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee

    This book is based on the authors work with hoarders and hoarding. I was actually hoping the work was more about the general relationship humans have with things and stuff. This one had more case studies about hoarders and hoarding behaviour.

    I did find it interesting because it is true that everyone knows at least one person with hoarding tendencies or variations of excessive materialism. The book educates you on how hoarding itself is different from OCD and how it does not necessarily come from deprivation. It also seems to be a result of traumas and genetic or hereditary conditions. Hoarders can be very intelligent and experience world in a different way.

    The book presents more extreme cases of hoarding and it did make me uncomfortable reading about people keeping and owning so much. In the last couple of years, I’ve been trying harder to be more minimalist. This is not easy for me because like most people, I do enjoy stuff and things. When I was growing up, I did not have a lot so since working regularly, I would buy and spend more. However, I realize how society is materialistic and wasteful.

    Over the years, I also like to collect and amass things which I am not able to consume fast enough such as: Books, Yarn, Liquor, Handbags, Clothes, Pens & Stationery
    Digital Media, Food (pantry goods), Money (probably), and Cookbooks. While I have been able to curb the collecting and buying of the aforementioned, I still annually buy cookbooks. Last year, I bought at least 5.

    Currently, I’ve stopped myself buying and tried to sell or give away more things. I felt pity and also some vexation knowing how hoarders amass all these goods in their homes and subsequently, affect the lives of those around them.

    It is not to say that hoarding is unique to our culture. Ownership and clutter are normal and perhaps essential parts to being human. I do agree that in the end, having experiences and being engaged with people are more meaningful than objects. I recommend this book as a way of learning about hoarding in general but also as a reminder how consumer society can be detrimental.

    The antidote to this book would be The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

    Read Janary 11-16, 2016.

  • Books,  Food

    Sunday Salon: Cookbook Challenge – Reviews

    I have decided to challenge myself to read and use cookbooks from my vast collection. As of this writing, I have almost 45 cookbooks. Many that I have not properly read or used. This ongoing personal challenge will help me assess my collection, evaluate authors, and possibly, give/sell some away.

    I am going to make more of an effort on reviewing cookbooks. To help myself and anyone who reads these reviews, I have made some guidelines for myself and for anyone who is interested in these reviews.

    Most of these cookbooks are owned by me. Part of the reason I have a collection is that I love hardcover cookbooks. Their photos, their weight, their feel.

    Read most of the book cover to cover. This generally means reading all the non-directional aspects of the book including introductions to recipes. This can often be fun as some cookbook authors are good. When I have read a cookbook cover to cover, I will mark it as such on GoodReads.

    I have tried at least two to three of the recipes before writing the review. While this is a small number, I think it serves as a good first review. I may review the book in another time. In any case, it’s a good evaluation of my relationship with the book.

    Substitutions are sometimes inevitable. I will note that in my review if I made substitutions when testing some of the recipes I used. If not, I try my best to follow recipes as this follows the book closely.

    I often convert to metric when making most recipes. Not an issue with many books in my collection which were printed originally in the UK.

    Due to time and attribution, I will not generally take photos of what I make or copy a recipe. If I do replicate a recipe for the review, it is a more basic one because this way I am not violating copyright and supporting the author.

    In addition to the recipes, I will probably review the prose, techniques, chapters and layouts, the book binding and quality, and the photography if it exists.

    Overall, I try to get a “feel” of the book and how useful and inspiring it may be to me or not. I am generally fair even with cookbooks I do not like and will point out their merits. I use cookbooks to learn from, but also to be inspired by.

    I am looking forward to it. Hope you come along for the ride. Cheers.

  • Books

    The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

    This was what I think most people call a beach read. It even featured the ocean. It had some decent prose, an interesting premise, characters with pasts they want to forget, lots of drama, and an overall, neat ending. I have read a couple of other Australian novels like this, and I suspect these kind of novels are what they are good at.

    This novel started off with a great hook, but then the narrative went backwards in time. I have become aware that I’m not a big fan of non-linear story telling like this. In many cases such as this, it changes the pacing. I really want to get back to the actual hook rather than the long background that happens. I would not call it a literary pet peeve, but I do not find it that effective as a narrative device. It makes me want to skim through so the book can go back to the original “hook”. At least this book’s pacing meant that things moved quickly to the drama.

    The middle and end had a lot of drama and angst to the point. It was a bit too melodramatic for me at times because I struggled to feel sorry for Isabel at times. They have adapated this into a movie with three actors I adore: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz. However, reading the middle of the book made me anxious not to read it since it is very difficult on the all the characters involved. I’ll probably still watch it because I did like that the ending was neat. It had to be otherwise it would leave the reader very dissatisfied with the tumultuous middle.

    All in all, a decent and quick read. I did not love it, but I can see why it is popular.

    Read January 10, 2016.

    This was my fifth book of 2016. It was January 10th which means I finished one book for every two days of the new year. Go me! I don’t think I’ll be keeping this up, but I think my reading mojo is back at least a bit.

  • Books,  Movies

    As You Wish by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden

    An actor friend of mine recommended this book to me. I am glad for the recommendation and I was going to read this book any way. The Princess Bride is one of my favourite movies.

    For any fan of the movie, some of the stories here about making the movie are not new or a surprise. However, it’s still lovely to read the stories about this movie. It seemed like a great cast, crew, production, and all around great movie experience. What I liked most was the stories about AndrĂ© the Giant. He really exemplified his character more than any other as a gentle giant.

    After I read this book, I immediately rewatched the movie and that always makes me smile. As Reiner and Elwes discuss in the book, the movie worked largely because the cast played it so straight and so sincere. There is straight forward story telling that comes off so well.

    Read January 7-9, 2016.

  • Books

    Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

    The latest installment and book #8 of the Temeraire series. I’ve had some ups and downs with this series, but I think this one was one of the better ones.

    It was long though and I ended up staying late trying to read some of it as well. It’s separated in three parts with the first one being rather annoying as I tried to rush through it. An amnesia plot is used which is boring. The second part takes place in China which is good. Throne of Jade was a nice book and Temeraire’s lover returns. The third part was basically War and Peace in setting and tone, but thankfully not length. More brutal and grim war settings.

    I think Novik is improving. Laurence continues to develop and this novel had more of the characters I liked. The ending was a cliffhanger, but a darker one. In any case, I only need to wait five months until the release of book #9 which is apparently the last book in this series. I am finally glad we are coming to an end, but not sure how Novik will end it since there are so many threads and plots to tidy up.

    Read January 2-3, 2016.

  • Monthly Movies,  Movies

    Monthly Movies – December 2015

    Inside Out (03 12 2015) – I really wanted to see this when it was released in theatres. I knew I would like this film. I think I hyped it up, but I did get the emotional reaction that I hoped for. I’ve been having a rough couple of months. This past week, I’ve been particularly sensitive so I cried a lot during the Bing Bong scene. I did manage to laugh not too long after. I liked the world building of this movie and a sequel is something I’d like.

    Click (17 12 2015) – The premise of this show would be even funnier and more endearing if it weren’t an Adam Sandler movie. Not to say this movie is without merit. It has a great cast, but the humor does not work for me. It feels like it could be so much more. Not awful, but not great either.

    Ex Machina (17 12 2015) – An incredible film. I adore Gleeson and Vikander from other films so watching them in this was wonderful. Isaacs is chilling as well. I loved the writing and how it was shot. It’s a testament to all involved that it did so well on such a low budget. It was imaginative and well done. I’m glad Vikander is getting the accolades she deserves for this as she is one of my favourite young actresses. I am left unsatisfied with the ending, but it’s definitely a more British/European rather than a neat, hopeful Hollywood ending.

    Anna Karenina (18 12 2015) – I only watched this for Gleeson and Vikander who were playing my two favourite characters from the novel. I never wanted to watch this film because I am not a fan of Joe Wright’s style. I find it more style over substance and it lacks a certain level of depth. It’s pretty, but that’s it for me. The cast was great here; there were amazing sets, costumes, and cinematography. Everyone works except I’m not sold on the Vronsky. Law’s Karenin even more sympathetic than he was in the book and Knightley’s Anna wasn’t sympathetic enough. Then again, I’ve never been a big fan of Knightley which is another reason I avoid of Wright. All in all, a good looking movie, but not one I’ll yearn to see again.

    Frank – (21-22 12 2015) – The Gleeson marathon continues or rather, ends. This is the least likable of all Gleeson’s characters. This movie had many cringe worthy moments as a result of this blind protagonist. It’s a quirky film. Michael Fassbender is simply wonderful in it though. I wish he would do more comedies. The whole cast was good, but Fassbender as Frank carried this film with the pathos.

  • Books

    Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

    This book was better than the last and much more to the speed of the earlier books. It had Temeraire and friends go to South America. That was particularly fascinating actually. There was a lot of action and a lot of death. The world building was fascinating. I have given up almost all hope of any romance in this series, but at least there were far less annoying characters. Need more dragons. Can’t ever have enough dragons in this series.

    Onwards to the most recent installment of the series which mans I can reluctantly move on from this series. I’m actually not looking forward to the break. I have had a nice month with Temeraire and Laurence.

    Read December 31, 2015 – January 1, 2016 on Kindle.

  • Books

    2016 Book Goals

    I am generally not someone who makes new year’s resolutions for personal goals; however, this is mostly a book blog. I’d be remiss to not at least attempt it since I measure book read by the Gregorian calendar.

    In 2015, I read 42 books which is a goal I modified in the autumn down from 52 books. I did achieve it which is one more than 2014. I use to read 60-80 books a year. Even as an above average speed reader, I am finding it difficult to read over 50 books when I have to work full time, socialize, exercise, and my plethora of other hobbies (baking/cooking, knitting, colouring, TV/movies, and more). I think as long as I keep near to 50 that I am satisfied.

    Here are my goals for 2016:

    1. Read and Review at least 42 books
    2. Read more Classics for Classics Club: My end date is in 2017. I am very behind.
    3. Review and post about Colouring Books and Colouring: Picked up a new hobby at the end of 2015. While not reading, it does involve books.
    4. Read and Review one of my cookbooks: I have over 40 to choose from now. I have a problem.
    5. Read one French book: Been working on my French the last few months and will continue. Long overdue to finish one.
    6. Read one Poetry book.

    I think these are reasonable and ambitious considering I have not done the last three at all in the past year. A few years ago, I resolved to read more nonfiction and it worked. I have not been reading less nonfiction compared to then, but I think having these goals help.

    What are your reading goals for 2016?

  • Books

    Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

    Happy New Year!

    This was my least favourite of the novels so far.

    While this novel was still fine to read and not as boring as some other books I’ve read this year, it was not as interesting as the others in the series. Most of the book was spent in the wilds of Australia. Frankly, it was boring reading about the excursion. I do not enjoy reading about going thirsty in deserts. Usually, the action in these novels picks up at the half way mark, but I felt the actual plot did not begin into at least three quarters of the way through. Even then, it felt more like political filler than actual plot and character development.

    Speaking of characters, there were are lot of annoying ones. These books do have some amusing and interesting cast of characters. I have liked a lot of the supporting characters when Laurence has irked me. Since the last novel, I’ve grown more use to Laurence, so he and my other favourites (Temeraire, Granby, Roland) helped me through the long passages. However, there were many annoying characters including the new dragons and various random British characters. I know this is not a romance series and in war, there are lots of jerks, but goodness, even the dragons were annoying in this novel. That’s not a good sign.

    Of course, all this makes me want to read the next book more in the hopes things actually pick up.

    This was my 42nd read of 2015 which means that I achieved my modest reading goal this year in some part thanks to this series. Wonderful!

    Read December 29-31, 2015 mostly on Kindle and a bit on hardcover.