September 30, 2015

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Migrants and Refugees (Video)

I'm John Oliver fan, and this episode made my day. Did you see it?

Millions of migrants seeking asylum in Europe face hostility, racism, and red tape. John Oliver does one admittedly tiny thing for one of them.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

September 28, 2015

Recent Reads

106. Dark Places
I decided to move this up my TBR pile as I wanted to read the book before watching the movie.

This dark story is the second book I've read by the author, and I so much preferred this one to Gone Girl. The outlines of the story are quite basic: Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered. She testified that her fifteen year old brother, Ben, was the killer. We pick up the story twenty five years later.

It is what Gillian Flynn does with that skeleton plot that makes this a fascinating read. The story line is told through three narrators and two timelines: Libby Day in present day, Ben Day (brother) and Patty Day (mother) on that fateful day in 1985.

I am not a fan of multiple timeline stories, but this one should be taught in MFA programs to showcase how to use that device brilliantly. The people in this story are not likable, and the author excels in delving into the minds of flawed, broken, and ultimately very well fleshed out women characters. So much for sugar and spice and everything nice! You won't find that here. 

This is a story that explores themes of family and loss, damaged people and how they cope, memory and the passage of time, secrets and communal hysteria. I really liked how the story played out, the quirky cast of characters, and the slow reveal of the mystery at the heart of the story: Who committed the murders? Was it really Satanists? As an aside, this story had me Googling "Satanic Panic" which lead to some fascinating dinner conversations at our house. 

I listened to, and highly recommend, the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, and Robertson Dean. Rating: 4 stars.

107. Air, Volume 1: Letters from Lost Countries
Do you think you could tell the difference between a frequent flier and a terrorist?

This graphic novel is the first book in a series of four. I'm not even sure how to summarize it, so let me simply say that it would fit in the following genres: science fiction and fantasy, romance and political thriller, spy and espionage, magical realism and terrorism, and I'm sure I've left out one or two! It is strange and surreal and full of quirky characters, but did feel a little too rushed. The art is really good though, and I'm hoping the story settles down somewhat, and develops the characters better in the later volumes. Rating: 3 stars.

108. The Fishermen
Man Booker Prize Longlist Strike #2. I'm a huge fan of this prize, and like many fans I've started to make my way through the long list, and so far it has been a disappointing experience.

I really liked the premise of this story and had read great things about this one, but there is something missing. I did not connect with the story, the writing, or the characters, so I've thrown in the towel after 50 pages. 

This does not bode well... Rating: 1 star.

September 26, 2015

Why Humans Run the World | Yuval Noah Harari | TED Talks (Video)

I am currently reading a book that is blowing my mind, so went in search of finding out more about the author. Listen to his TED talk, and see if it does not whet your appetite to pick up and read the book too. This one is great on audio.

"Seventy thousand years ago, our human ancestors were insignificant animals, just minding their own business in a corner of Africa with all the other animals. But now, few would disagree that humans dominate planet Earth; we've spread to every continent, and our actions determine the fate of other animals (and possibly Earth itself). How did we get from there to here? Historian Yuval Noah Harari suggests a surprising reason for the rise of humanity."

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

September 24, 2015

Cinemascope: Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2014.

Plot line: Follow the shocking, yet humorous, journey of an aspiring environmentalist, as he daringly seeks to find the real solution to the most pressing environmental issues and true path to sustainability.

This documentary is enlightening, educational, and inspiring. I cannot even begin to talk about how important the topics covered in this one are - and that's me the omnivore talking. Do yourself a favor and just watch it. 

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

September 21, 2015

Recent Reads

103. Any Human Heart
I finished the book last night, and did not sleep well. What do I feel? Grief. How does one grieve for someone who was not real? Will write up a review after I've had some time to process....

Later ....

There is an old adage that what you observe closely you cannot help but love. That is how I feel about Logan Mountstuart. In many ways LMS is an ordinary man who lives in extraordinary times, but he is not the hero of the times he lives in, but rather on the fringes of it. Yes, he travels widely and has encounters with many famous people, but this is really a personal story of one man's life. One that unfolds through intimate journal entries. We first meet LMS when he is teenager, and follow along on all his (mis)adventures, loves, and heartbreaks through to his eighties. 

Such is the skill of the author, that not only did I get to know LMS, but I grew to love him, and when the book ended, it felt like a much beloved great uncle had died. Yes, grief is what I feel. There is a gap in my life that Logan Mountstuart used to inhabit. He will be greatly missed.

A word on the audio production. This story was narrated by the wonderful Simon Vance. The narration is probably the best work by Simon I've heard yet, and that is saying something. He changes the timbre of his narration, so we feel like a young LMS is sharing his secrets with us at the start of the story, and then as LMS ages, Simon's reading gets deeper, more crackly, and elderly. Simply wonderful.

I'm not sure why I waited so long to read this one, and if you have yet to read it, I highly recommend the audiobook. I've got my hands on the TV adaptation, and am delighted to be spending some extra time with Logan Mountstuart. Rating: 5 stars.

104. Ghost World
This graphic novel has the dubious distinction of being the first one to end up on my Did Not Finish pile. Actually, now that I think about it, it is the second one. The art is really fun, but this book is a collection of connected stories about two girls that did not make any sense to me, and reading that it was made into a movie only makes me scratch my head. Not for me. Rating: 1 star.

105. The Left Bank Gang
Book blurb: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce walk into a Parisian bar... no, it's not the beginning of a joke, but the premise of Jason's unique new graphic novel.

I really love the art in this one, and the story of these giants of literature re-imagined as graphic novelists and their escapades is a quick and fun read. I was especially delighted with the scenes where Gertrude Stein lectures Hemingway, and the fact that everyone is drawn as dogs. And it's all fun and games until it's not.
  Rating: 3 stars.

September 19, 2015

Connie Britton's Hair Secret (Video)

Have y'all seen this? Made my day.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

September 17, 2015

Cinemascope: Still Alice

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2015.

Plot line: Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease, Alice and her family find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring.

I read and loved the book with the same name when it came out. A 5 star read for me, so was delighted to finally see this movie adaptation. And it does not disappoint. So, so good. Julianne Moore is brilliant in this role. My only advice is to keep a box of tissues handy while watching.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

September 14, 2015

Book Review: Vincent

I find that graphic novel reviews are better with a look at the art, so trying this out. Let me know if you like it.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

September 3, 2015

Cinemascope: Belle

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2013.

Plot line: Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Captain. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle's lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar's son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield's role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

I'm a person who loves lists. I love making them, and I love checking items off them. Well, imagine my delight when I saw this - 84 Films By and About Women of Color, Courtesy of Ava DuVernay and the Good People of Twitter. I've seen some of these movies, by many I had never even heard of. Well, time to rectify that pronto.

I love historical fiction, both in books and movies, so started with Belle. Set in England, this movie explores themes that we don't often see addressed by Hollywood, and if you're a Jane Austen fan, you'll love this story with a twist.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.