Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Review - Chase in Shadow (Johnnies #1)

*Trigger warnings for this one for references to suicide, suicidal ideation, infidelity and homophobic slurs.

Chase Summers has, on the outside, an ideal life. He has the perfect girlfriend, a nice apartment, and he's studying towards becoming an engineer.

However, Chase also carries the burdens of secrets on secrets - secrets that he believes he can never share with anyone. When he starts making "gay for pay" porn videos, he thinks it will give him what he really craves with no real-world consequences: the touch of another man.

Chase loves his girlfriend, Mercy. But he knows she's not who he wants to be with. When he meets Tango - or Tommy - while he's filming, Chase falls hard. He can't stay away from Tommy, and he believes he can't give up Mercy.

Until the whole fragile house of cards topples down around him.

I really enjoyed Chase in Shadow. Although maybe "enjoy" is the wrong word given the relatively heavy subject matter. Chase has a LOT of self-hatred to unpack and his journey through that is a proper rollercoaster. And, although he spends most of the book lying to - and cheating on - his girlfriend, it's really hard to hate him. He's so vulnerable that it's painful to read on occasion.

I read Chase in Shadow in two days - every time I sat down I'd be reaching for the iPad to read a bit more, because I just had to know what was going to happen.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Sunday Post 85, It's Monday, What are you reading? 70

The Sunday Post - a chance for bloggers to have a chat and catch-up - is hosted by Kimba, here: https://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/ and It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Kathryn, here: https://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/

I had a fairly unremarkable week, I think. Just work and spawn and stuff really. Spawn goes back to school this Thursday and I think he'll be glad to see the back of the holiday programme I've had to put him in  and to see his friends again. Six weeks is a longggg break but hopefully next summer holidays I'll have some leave built up so I can take a bit of time off.

I went to my friend's last night for our weekly stitch-and-watch session. We're watching The Blacklist at the moment and I veer between loving it, ranting about it and absolutely hating some of the storylines. It's kind of therapeutic in a way, though. I haven't done much today - the usual Sunday bits and pieces, getting clothes ready for the next day, making lunches for myself and spawn, washing, cooking, that kind of thing.

I did finish a book today, though, so that was good. I've finished both Grace & Frankie and The Good Place on Netflix so I'm not sure what I want to tackle next.

I have a couple of review posts I'm going to schedule tonight and then ... try not to think about how hot it is.

I'm still reading It Devours, the second Night Vale novel, and also The Exodus Quest by Will Adams which is a silly Da Vinci Code style thriller, but it makes for good lunchtime reading at work.

How about you? How's your week? What are you reading?

Friday, 26 January 2018

Review - Snowpiercer

It's the year 2031, and the last of humanity reside on a massive train that spans the globe as the world is locked into another ice age.

Curtis (Chris Evans) is the leader of the lowest of the low on the train - the most desperate and poorest. They live in horrific and desperate conditions, living on protein bars and bargaining.

The train's Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) puts in an appearance once in a while to keep order.

When two of the youngest children are taken, Curtis decides it's finally time to take action and to get to the front of the train to talk to Wilford - the former transport magnate who created the train.

Curtis and his rebellion leave a trail of destruction behind them as they go. They free security expert Namgoong and his daughter Yona so they can disable the locks on the cars that lead to the front of the train - and to Wilford.

I've had Snowpiercer on my radar for a while, and I know people who've really enjoyed it. I found it....... weird. Like, really, really weird. Chris Evans was good, and Tilda Swinton is always great, and of course John Hurt and Ed Harris were really good too.

But. I don't know. I feel like some of the story was maybe sacrificed for shock value or that something, for me, was missing. I'm not sure what.

Worth watching, but a bit on the squeamish side.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Review - La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1)

La Belle Sauvage is the first book in a new trilogy by Philip Pullman, author the His Dark Materials series.

La Belle Sauvage is set in the same universe as HDM, and begins as a prequel. Malcolm - a boy of about eleven who lives with his parents in The Trout, a tavern on the shores of the Thames - has a fairly simple life. He helps in the pub, he rows in his canoe, La Belle Sauvage, and he visits the nuns across the river to do odd jobs for them to earn a bit of extra money.

When the nuns take in a baby, Malcolm's life is about to change, but he has no idea how ...

The baby in question is Lyra, the main character from the HDM series, and rather a lot of La Belle Sauvage is taken up with trying to keep Lyra and her daemon Pan alive and away from the people who want her dead for various reasons.

When an extremely damaging flood covers most of London, Malcolm knows it's up to him to try and save Lyra and get her to the one person who might be able to keep her safe - her father.

He sets out with Lyra, his own daemon Asta, and Alice and Ben - the rather surly young woman who works in the kitchen of his parents' pub, and her daemon - to get Lyra to her father before it's too late.

I have to admit, I really enjoyed La Belle Sauvage. Malcolm is really well-realised - he has some honestly unexpectedly grown-up moments, but then he says and does something and you're reminded that oh, right, he's just a young boy. Alice as a character has a lot of growth - at first she comes across as little more than a surly and unpleasant young woman, but as she takes the journey in La Belle Sauvage with Malcolm to save Lyra, she comes into her own.

I'm very much looking forward to book two.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Review - The Hound of Death

The Hound of Death is a collection of short stories by Agatha Christie.

I'm a big Agatha Christie fan, and I love her novels, and I've read other short story collections of hers. This one is a bit ... I would say hit-and-miss, to be honest. The title story in the collection, The Hound of Death, is ... odd to say the least, and has too few pages to develop its ideas.

There are a couple of really good ones in there - The Mystery of the Blue Jar is one that ended very differently than I expected it to, and The Last Seance was a really creepy little number.

The most well-known story in the collection at the moment is probably Witness for the Prosecution that was adapted as a two-part TV series with Toby Jones as the lawyer trying to prove the innocence of a young man accused of murder. The story itself is actually pretty slight and the mini-series took a fair few liberties with it, though it retained the original ending.

Out of the whole collection, The Witness for the Prosecution is probably the story most like Dame Christie's novels, while the creepiness of stories like The Last Seance have more in common with works like Crooked House and By the Pricking of My Thumbs.

Variable in tone and quality, it was still worth a read.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Sunday Post 84, It's Monday, what are you reading? 69

The Sunday Post - a chance for a chat and a catch-up with other bloggers - is hosted by Kimba, here: https://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/ and It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Kathryn, here: https://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/

I actually managed to write and schedule a couple of blog posts last week - go me! I reviewed Eye in the Sky, and also the live 2013 version of The War of the Worlds. I'm going to try and do the same thing this week, with reviews for The Hound of Death, The Book of Dust and the movie Snowpiercer. I'm a latecomer, somehow, to scheduling posts, but it makes blogging sooooo much easier!

Work continues. This Wednesday is my three-month anniversary, which means the 90-day trial that's built into most of our contracts now is up. I'm *pretty* sure they would have said something to  me by now if they were going to show me the door and demand back their keys, but I'm naturally superstitious. BUT I had my first evaluation last week as well, and passed, so there is that also.

I've been mainlining The Good Place on Netflix, and I am SUPER EXCITED because Grace & Frankie is back as well. I've watched, I think, five episodes since yesterday morning.

As for what I'm reading, I managed to finish The Hound of Death, and also The Book of Dust. Now I'm reading It Devours, by the Welcome to Night Vale creators, and also The Exodus Quest, by Will Adams, which is a bit Da Vinci Code, but I got it for 50c from the withdrawn bookshelf at the library, and it makes for good lunchtime reading at work.

This week - more work, more reading  (hopefully) and more Netflix (always.)

How about you? How's your week? What are you reading?

Friday, 19 January 2018

The War of the Worlds 2013 - review

I love The War of the Worlds musical, I have listened to it many, many times.  I bought the live version that was done in 2013 a few years ago and completely forgot that I had it, so when I sat down to do my nails on Sunday, I threw it in. I'm glad I did.

It was conducted by composer Jeff Wayne and had Liam Neeson as the narrator and it was just - it was really, really cool to watch.

Even though I kept expecting Liam Neeson to burst into his speech from Taken. THAT ASIDE, watching it performed live was a real and special treat.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Eye in the Sky - review

Eye in the Sky is Alan Rickman's last film, so my friend and I sat down to watch it with ... well, no expectations. I didn't even know what it was about.

And it's actually kind of riveting. Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman are both high-ups in the British Army and on the day the movie is set, they've found three of the most-wanted terrorists on Britain's list.

The movie plays out over the course of the day and shows the debates - moral, ethical and legal - that come up as Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman and various higher-ups try to decide what action to take against the terrorists.

Helen Mirren's character has been tracking one of the terrorists for years, and this informs the choices she  makes throughout the movie.

For a lot of the movie nothing happens except for a fair amount of talking, but it's somehow really, really, really riveting. By the end of it I was absolutely glued to the screen.

And it raised some interesting questions - where collateral damage is concerned - what's acceptable? What would people be more likely to forgive - the definite saving of one life, or the probable saving of many?

Definitely recommend Eye in the Sky.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Sunday post 83, It's Monday, What are you reading? 68

The Sunday Post - a chance for bloggers to have a chat and a catch-up - is hosted by Kimba, here: https://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/ and It's Monday, What are you reading? is hosted by Kathryn, here: https://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/

First of all, it's so hot here. Like. So. Hot. I haaaaaaaaaate it. It was over 30deg celsius here today, which is unusual and also terrible. We need rain pretty badly and honestly I just need it to cool down.

Work continues. And I got yelled at and hung up on for the first time last week. It's a rite of passage I guess, but I did not like it, Sam I Am.

I haven't been doing much besides work. I went to my friend's last night and we watched Eye in the Sky - Alan Rickman's last movie. I'm going to write a review but I really enjoyed it.

Today I painted my nails like I do every Sunday and watched the live War of the Worlds that was filmed in 2013. I love the War of the Worlds musical, and it was really fun to watch.

I'm still working through The Hound of Death by Agatha Christie, and I'm also reading The Belle Sauvage - the prequel to His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. Next up is possibly Sleeping Beauties or It Devours, I'm not sure yet.

So how are you doing? What are you reading?

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Dark is Rising Sequence

This isn't a review.

The Dark is Rising sequence is one of my favourite series, and has been since I was about ... 11, I think. When my mother and I would go to the public library, this series was one of my go-tos to borrow and read.

Many years later I bought my own copies and I've read them twice now as an adult.

For me, the series holds up really well. My favourite of the series remains Greenwitch, and I still feel a little desolate and heartbroken by the last few pages of Silver on the Tree.

What got me reading it again recently, was a readalong on twitter - search the hashtag #TheDarkisReading, and you will see what I mean. The idea of the readalong was to time the chapters of the second book - The Dark is Rising - with the 12 days of midwinter, starting with the winter solstice.

I started with the first book, Over  Sea Under Stone, because I'm a completionist, and also because ... it's summer here, so no atmospheric midwinter to go with the reading of it.

I did, however, greatly enjoy participating in the readalong. (I participated on my "other" twitter, janesgravity, which is my fannish space where I get loud and annoying about things, and where I saw the hashtag first, so I followed along from there).

The readalong - hosted by twitter users @RobGMacfarlane and @juliamarybird, it - for me - showed the best of what twitter CAN be. In this case, a community of readers brought together by the love of a book series. There was also an art related hashtag - #theartisirising, where very, very talented people shared their artwork inspired by the series and the readalong.

The series itself is steeped in Arthurian legends and follows the adventures of a group of children - though they don't all come together in the same space until the last book - as they battle against the last rising of the Dark that threatens to take over the world.

I loved it as an 11-year-old, sitting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu at Kingston, imagining myself adventuring with Will and Bran and the rest, and I love it just as much now, as an adult.

Sharing the reading experience made it all that much richer, and I hope there will be more readalongs to come.

And - funnily enough - I can still remember the opening stanza of the predictive poem that frames The Dark is Rising:

"When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back.
Three from the circle, and three from the track.
Wood, bronze, iron, water, fire, stone.
Five will return, and one go alone."

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Sunday Post 82, It's Monday, What are you reading? 67

The Sunday Post - a chance for bloggers to have a chat and a catch-up - is hosted by Kimba, here: https://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/ and It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Kathryn, here: https://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/

After a very quiet New Year's Day and day after, it was back to work on Wednesday. Which, as I'm sure you can imagine, was pretty busy. Thursday and Friday calmed down a bit, but were still steady. I'm still in the newlywed phase a bit, where I'm still starry-eyed about even HAVING a job, so I'm not really complaining about being busy.

Spawn has been on holiday as such, as, luckily, J's break from his job coincides with the holiday programme we have spawn in shutting down over Christmas/New Year. We are all back to "normal" tomorrow, however.

Other than that ... I've set some goals - I won't call them resolutions, because that never works. But, for this year, this is what I'm going to work on:

1) Finally getting my driver's licence
2) Read 52 books
3) Watch 52 movies
4) Finally finish my Circe cross-stitch that I started in 2004
5) Pay off my outstanding bills and be financially stable
6) Be kind, drink more water and eat more fruit
7) Write

It's not a bad list of goals as goals go :)

As for what I'm reading ... I took part in #TheDarkisReading - a The Dark is Rising readalong on the twitter.com - though, of course, I couldn't just read ONE book of the series and ended up re-reading the whole thing, and that series still holds up as one of my absolute favourites. I came into 2018 reading the last two books - The Grey King and Silver on the Tree, and greatly enjoyed the whole experience.

Now I'm chipping away at some Agatha Christie short stories in the form of the book Hound of Death, which contains the short story Witness for the Prosecution, recently made into a TV series.

J went to the library today and brought home The Book of Dust and SOMEHOW thought he'd be able to read it before I got my fingerprints on it, so that's on the go as well.

How about you? How's your week going? What are you reading?

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Review - Far from the world we know by Harper Bliss

After an extremely traumatic event, Laura Baker moves to the small town of Nelson, Texas. She moves in to the house owned by her Aunt Milly who has just gone into a resthome.

Tess Douglas was born and raised in Nelson, and the moment she lays her eyes on Laura she knows that there's the potential for something special.

But Laura's trauma - and her caution - runs deep, and Tess knows if she pushes Laura too fast and too soon, she could lose something truly remarkable.

The women agree to be friends,  and both find themselves exploring unexpected emotional depths.

I really enjoyed this. Both Tess and Laura are late 30s-early 40s-something, and so they both have life experience. Everything that they've gone through feeds into the way they negotiate their new relationship - especially for Laura, who has real and solid reasons to be wary of a new relationship.

The novel builds in a very satisfying way, and the emotional payoff is well worth it.