• Books,  TV

    Umbrella Academy

    Volume 1 and Volume 2

    I did not like the first volume. It felt disjointed and chaotic. There did not seem to be a lot of character development. I felt indifferent to most of the characters. This often happens with comics and graphic novels which is why I favour graphic novels with strong character work. As a result, I did not really care if the characters survived and the plot was rather loose too. The first irked me to the point where I almost didn’t read the second one.

    I did like the second volume much more as it seemed to work on character backstory more. There definitely more moments of character development and relationships. I looked forward to the third volume and the TV series by the end of it.

    Read Volume 1 on May 21, 2019. Read Volume 2 on May 24, 2019 in comic book reader file.

    Umbrella Academy Season 1

    For the most part, I liked season one. The music was good and the casting worked for the most part, but I found issues with certain characterizations and the length. The series was too long. I actually think this is a common problem with a lot of Netflix shows. The show would have benefitted from cutting some storylines much shorter and making this first season about eight episodes rather than ten.

    Having said that, the show really took the characters and gave them some character development. I think casting worked well for the most part. I do think Allison could have received more character focus especially compared to her brothers and even Vanya. I did not like the addition of Leonard/Harold or so much extra stuff with the Cha Cha and Hazel. A little goes a long way with these kind of villains.

    I am glad the show is renewed and it was a fun watch.

    Watched June 2019.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Books

    P. S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

    Of course, I had to read the sequels after I watched the movie. I read them both over the course of 24 hours without power. I read P. S. I love you mostly with a book lamp in the dark.

    The only reason I read the sequels was for the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter. That is the stuff of teenage dreams. The second novel had yet another love triangle. There were a lot of cheesey moments including the use of a feisty grandmother character who had a handsome grandson (called that grandson right away). I only cared about the family moments and the Peter ones. Everything else was just ok.

    The last book in the trilogy felt much longer than the first two. Han dedicated the book to her fans and the book lacked a real plot. It meandered a lot. If I didn’t like Lara Jean and Peter so much, I would have stopped at some point. I relate to Lara Jean and we have similar hobbies, but even in this novel, I felt my patience was growing short with her and the author. The conclusion of the novel is just there. I am glad that Han wrote a third book mostly with Peter and Lara Jean stable; however, the last book felt rudderless.

    I do hope they make the movies in the sequel if only to see the actors excellent chemistry, but they could really merge the last two books. The third book has no major plot so they can’t make a stand alone movie with it.

    Read Sept 21 and Sept 22, 2018 respectively.

  • Books,  Movies

    To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

    I wanted to read this book because of the buzz the Netflix movie. I wanted to wait until after I’ve read the book to see the movie.

    It took me a few chapters to get comfortable because the book is actually a bit longer than some young adult books. There’s a lot of character moments. The more that I read about Lara Jean, the more I could relate to her or rather how I was when I was her age.

    This book did give me the good feelings of being a teenager again. It helps that Lara Jean and I are both East Asian. Like Crazy Rich Asians and The Hate U Give, I wish I had more diverse novels like this growing up. I didn’t have books the reflected my experiences. I like that Lara Jean was quiet and dutiful, but also dreamy and into fashion and food.

    The novel was sweet. It made me laugh. There was a lot of nice moments with the characters. There was even a love triangle that I did not mind. The character beats were just right.

    About two thirds of the way into the book, I knew I had to read the sequel. The ending is a cliffhanger. However, I am not going to wait to watch the film.

    Read Sept 20-21, 2018

    To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

    With the book so fresh in my mind, I compared them a lot. I didn’t think Peter was dreamy enough at the beginning, but he won me over. The movie was sweet. It worked because I think the casting did well especially for the Coveys. I appreciated John Corbett as the good (and hot) dad and they even added more character moments between

    This movie would have been a mini obsession for me in high school. I liked what they added. Very cute movie and I hope they do make a sequel.

    Watched Sept 21, 2018.

  • Books

    Artemis by Andy Weir

    I liked The Martian well enough to try this novel. Like The Martian, this felt more plot driven than character driven even though the protagonist gets more development.

    I was divided between how I would rate this book overall. While the world building, plot, and the cast of the characters were good at times, I was also underwhelmed. I am still skeptical of Weir’s ability to develop good characters. Jazz is different and interesting, but there were moments where it did feel like a man was trying to write an edgy woman. The dialogue could be hit or miss.

    I do think this will make a decent film because of the plot.

    Started reading Sept 9-10, 2018. Returned it to the library, forgot about it then finished Sept 18-19 on Kindle.

  • Books

    Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

    This is a book about big data specifically the big data gleaned from services such as Google and Facebook. It has a look about how big data from these sites can reveal people’s true behaviour.

    This book took awhile to get comfortable. The author’s chapters were a bit disorganized. It lacked cohesion because each chapter was more focused on data themes and ideas and not on any specific topic. One chapter is “Is Freud right?” and it has a few facts on people’s sexual desires and phallic objects. The next chapter “Data Reimagined” has tidbits on the flu, unemployment rate, Google, and horse racing. Once you got use to this jumping around, there were some interesting insights on how this data can be used in social science. I also got use to the author’s wry and tongue-in-cheek tone.

    I listen to a lot of economics podcasts and read books by economists. If only I was this interested in economic ten years ago when I was actually in uni. I do think there some are interesting and insightful information when I read these books. However, I need to be more careful since I seem to request a lot of these books, but they aren’t always as informative or good as reviews lead me to believe. I have no regrets about picking up this book. It was a quick read and does show an aspect of human behaviour not explicitly studied in traditional academic social sciences. I like the ides in it and if the topics were more focussed, I would read another book by the same economist.

    Read Sept 13-19, 2018.