Tag Archives: review

Family Film Time – May 2017

Every week we have enforced family film watching time. Its partly to try and have a couple of hours down time, partly to be able to share our love of film with our kids, partly to have a tradition we hopefully will continue in the future. We take turns to pick. The participants are currently 39, 37, 6 and 4.



A surprising choice from the oldest child. I really like Tangled as far as Disney cartoons go. The horse is great. But the end is infuriating *spoilers ahead* so the whole family got a massive rant about how it was wrong of the guy to take the choice away from Rapunzel about cutting her hair. How very rude and presumptuous of him.



Minions are an entertaining watch for everyone. A safe choice by the littlest one this week.

the BFG


Ooooh I love Roald Dahl. Shame this version of the BFG is boring AF. *yawns*

We nearly watched:

Long Way North


which looks AMAZING. It looks beautiful and is 5* film. Of course I hadn’t realised there would be quite so many subtitles. Considering one viewer is 4, and can’t read, it was quickly decided to shelve it and try something else. I panic chose and we ended up with:

Shark Boy and Lava Girl


It’s actually quite good. And yes, that is a very young Taylor Lautner, of Twilight fame. I’m Team Run Away You Don’t Need Either Of Them btw


I’m so sorry

Book review: It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis

I’m glad I’ve read this book, or am I just glad I’ve finished reading it? At almost 400 pages of dense text, it’s not helped by starting with 150 almost unreadable pages. It’s interesting though, and much better when the action really starts after Buzz Windrip is elected President.


book and cat

I read this for a book club I’ve just joined. I’m not sure I’d have got through it if I hadn’t had a target to work too. In fact, I ended up working out exactly how many pages per day I needed to read to get it done. That’s not a good sign!

When I read the description I assumed it must be a very recent book. I couldn’t believe it’s from 1935. Does Sinclair Lewis own a time machine?


It’s eerie how lots of this story parallels with recent events in America. I like this description of the wannabee President while he’s a campaigning Senator:

The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic…

The story in It Can’t Happen Here centres on Doremus Jessop, a small town newspaper editor and his friends, family and acquaintances. It follows their lives as the country descends into fascism. It’s grim, unsettling, and makes you aware that it really could happen anywhere.

I found it a difficult read. Even after the startlingly unreadable first third, it’s really hard work. I wouldn’t normally pick up such a political book, so I was starting outside of my normal reading habits anyway. I’m glad I’ve finished it. I mean, I’m glad I’ve read it! But I will not need to read about politics, for fun, for a long, long time.


it can!

Book Review: The Man in the High Castle – Philip K. Dick

The Man in the High Castle is a classic, written in 1962, about a world where Germany and Japan won the Second World War. The USA has been split into three sections; the East is run by Nazis, the West by Japan, and the central zone is independent territory. A really marvellous Amazon series was made, based on the book, and I really think I ruined the novel by watching that first. If you haven’t watched the TV series, I would make sure you read this first.


We follow the slightly interconnected lives of several people living on the west coast and in the neutral zone. They are Frank Frink a metal worker who has just lost his job. He is Jewish and has changed his name from Fink. In his former job he was involved in making counterfeit civil war guns for a lucrative antiques market. He lives in Japanese ran San Francisco.

Also in San Francisco is Robert Childan, an antiques dealer. He is desperate to be accepted by the Japanese in society, whist simultaneously being repulsed by his desire to fit in. One of his clients is Nobusuke Tagomi, a high ranking Japanese trade official.

Over in the independent zone, we meet Juliana Frink, she is Frank’s ex wife. Juliana is a judo instructor and she becomes involved with Joe Cinnadella, an Italian truck driver from the Nazi east coast.

There is also the recurrence of a novel within the novel, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. Several characters are engrossed by this book about an alternate reality where the Allies won the second world war. It was written by Hawthorne Abendson. He is the Man in the High Castle. The alternate reality offered by Grasshopper is nothing like our world. It is, even for us, an alternate reality.

I’m not going to give away any of the plot but you do get some exciting action. There are many more characters than I have mentioned. It is a really interesting book.

The issue with having seen the TV series first is that the series (now 2 seasons of it) naturally has had to expand on the book. Unlike a film version that would have taken up 2 hours, the series is 10 hours per season. The characters have more family, they have expanded, and sometimes adjusted back stories. There are more Nazis in it! Part of the action takes place in the Nazi ruled parts of the world. The main characters have much more overlapping lives. It’s really, really good if you haven’t seen it yet.

Also, the weirdest book dedication:


Book Review: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – John le Carré

A classic Cold War espionage thriller from John le Carré. Gripping and, though I could predict some of the twists and turns, I didn’t get all of them and found it an enjoyable read.


lunchtime desk reading

Alec Leamas is a British spy, but not one of those poncey, Etonion ones, he’s a bit of a rugged, no-nonsense blokey spy.  He doesn’t want to talk about his FEELINGS, ok? Now pass the whisky.

Leamas has a mission to act as a defector from the British and to set up someone high up in East German intelligence. Plotting, double agents, and peril ensues.

We can kindly say the book is ‘of its time’ in terms of gender stereotypes. The women are either simpering fools, or ugly, battle-axes. This isn’t to say all of le Carré’s early books offer no strong female characters. His second book, A Murder of Quality, is much better in this respect. Here we have a female main character. An independent women who has achieved well in her field. We’re reading this for some exciting adventures though, so we don’t need to worry too much about it here.

This is a great book (appearing in top 100 book lists) and a very thrilling, enjoyable adventure in cold war era Germany and the UK. I read it because I have a very slow mission to read all of le Carre’s books. This is book three, and helpfully facebook memories tells me that I finished book 1 (Call for the Dead) 4 years ago today! Oh dear. I must make it less than a year before I start the next!


Martin Creed Exhibition – Harris Museum and Gallery, Preston.

Art is great. I’m no expert, and I think a lot of it is total BS. But it’s all still brilliant. It’s become particularly brilliant since I’ve been taking my children to art galleries.


neon excellence.

This Easter week we went to a Martin Creed exhibition at The Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston. There were paintings that looked very simple (like my 4 year old daughter could have done them), a line of cacti,  a light going off and on in a room, a video of people with different disabilities, unaided, getting across a zebra crossing, and a video of people making themselves sick on a floor (ewwww). Immediately we had a conversation about what is art. Everything can be art. My son, who is 6, said ‘art is creativity’ and I felt a bit smug. A bit ‘good job done’.

The next day my daughter asked me why some people have legs that don’t work. I didn’t realise at first that she was thinking about the zebra crossing video from the previous day. I got the link when she sat on the floor and started trying to move herself across the kitchen using her hands to lift herself back a little bit, like one of the people from the video. She was narrating it all, talking about it being difficult, wondering what could make someone’s legs not work, thinking about wheelchairs.


small child fascinated by videos of people being sick.

I never expected my children to mention what they saw again. We didn’t spend a lot of time there, and we certainly didn’t try and read all the descriptions. Just mooched about having a look, wanting them to just know these things exist and art isn’t just realistic looking paintings and sculptures. I think art should make you think, and this did just that.

The exhibition is on at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston until 3rd June.

Book Review: Bel Canto – Ann Patchett

Oh wow, this book is beautiful. Beautiful. I’m so sad I’ve finished – I wanted to keep reading it for a while longer. I was never bored reading Bel Canto, and I couldn’t wait to find out how it all turned out. You are kept waiting and don’t get any resolution until the last few pages. It’s mainly about love, and falling in love, but it’s more than that and it’s captivating. It’s also about opera. I’m not an opera fan – you absolutely don’t need to be to enjoy this book.


I won’t give any spoilers here – I wouldn’t want to ruin this book for anyone who hasn’t read it. If you haven’t read it I urge you to put it on your to-read pile and give it a go 🙂 I picked this up in a charity shop a few weeks ago because it is on my book challenge list for this year. I had no idea what it was about, but a twitter friend commented that it was a great book. I was sold, bumped it up my reading list, and it didn’t disappoint.

An unnamed south american country is trying to gain the business of a large Japanese electronics firm by holding a birthday party for its chief executive, Katsumi Hosokawi. He has no intention of investing in the country, but was persuaded to attend because they have managed to secure the internationally famous soprano, Roxane Coss, to sing at the event. Mr Hosokawi is a huge opera fan. Miss Coss is a phenomenal singer and people fall in love with her and/or her voice when she sings. The birthday party is well attended by many internationally important people who want the business of Mr Hosokawi’s company.

After the last note has been sung by Roxane Coss, terrorists storm the room to kidnap the country’s president. Unfortunately he didn’t attend the party because it clashed with his favourite soap opera. The terrorists have no back up plan and decide to keep the party guests hostage. This sets up the main events in the novel, and we are left with a cast of hostages and terrorists all cooped up in the large residence of the vice president.

The main characters are all interesting and the relationships between characters is the driving force of the novel. We don’t get to find out what’s happening outside of the house where the hostages are being held. I don’t want to give away any of the plot, but several characters fall in love, people make discoveries about themselves, and question what they have done with their lives so far.


his and hers swimming lesson reads

I loved this book and I think I need to re-read the last chapter again just to go over it more slowly. I read it so fast because I just needed to find out how it all worked out. Sobbing, obviously, because it’s that sort of book. It reminded me of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in that respect (one of my favourites, and the first book that had me in tears at the end). A good look for the swimming lessons waiting area, I think you’d agree 🙂

Book Review: Angels – Marian Keyes

I decided to give this a go after listening to Marian Keyes on Desert Island Discs. I’ve never read one of her books and have dismissed them as ‘chick lit’. A worse insult to a book I could not give. They talked on Desert Island Discs about misogyny and how her books are called ‘popular fiction’ and are dismissed and belittled because they are popular and they are largely, enjoyed by women. So here I am, checking my own prejudices and I chose Angels because, for some reason, it’s already on my kindle.



It was not as bad as I was expecting. Unfortunately it took until the book was over halfway through to discover it was about more than unrelatable shite.

Angels is about Maggie Walsh. Dependable, safe, a bit boring Maggie Walsh and what happens after she breaks up with her husband, after 10 years of marriage. She is 33 years old and decides to go and visit her script writer friend who lives in Los Angeles.

The second half of the book reveals that it’s actually about fertility issues, miscarriage, abortion, working on long term relationships, the desire and pressure to become parents. The second half of the book is good. Just a shame I had to read the first half to get to the second half.

My biggest problem with the first half is I just couldn’t relate to the characters. I don’t know if it’s just me. It might be! There was so much sniping about thin women. There’s a lesbian character and this seems to make everyone so uncomfortable. They’ve met loads of gay men, but have never met a gay woman before. It’s just astounding how naive Maggie is. She just can’t seem to cope with the fact that Lara is gay. There’s obsession with having a tan and, when she arrives in LA, she knows the beach is near her friends house, but is told ‘everyone drives everywhere’ so drives even though she wants to walk. Why?

Maggie is 33 years old and lived in Chicago for 5 years. She admits she can’t usually follow the plot of films where there’s any sort of complication. and is sad because her husband usually explains it to her after the movie. Jesus Christ. But it’s ok, she gets good hair eventually. She needed the haircut because she kept it long before because her husband didn’t want her to cut her hair.

I’m so conflicted over this book. Once the book revealed it did have some substance, I liked it. I even cried a bit – top level, praise from me. I really liked the second half. It was refreshing to read the second half. I related to it. It feels like two different books! I’m not sure I can forgive the first half, even though I really liked the second. Yet I’m wondering if I might read another just to check what I really thought.


That just about sums it up 🙂