November 28, 2016

Recent Reads

166. The Fair Fight
Someone described this book as Fight Club meets Jane Austen. I concur.

This story has lots of characters, but is told through three main narrators: two women and one man. I think many of the reviews and blurbs give away half the fun of discovering who these narrators are and how they will connect in the story, so all I'll say is that if you are a fan of historical fiction with a wonderful sense of place and gusty women move this to the top of your TBR pile. The writing is really good, one can almost smell and taste the place, the characters are fully fleshed out, the story compelling, and you'll want to read just one more chapter to see what happens next.

The only reason I docked a star is that for the first third of the book the same incidents are described from various points of view, so there is a bit too much repetition. This gets much better as the characters age, so maybe this was intentional on the author's part, but still it's a tad annoying.

I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Fiona Hardingham, Justine Eyre, Steve West. Their accents and dramatization added to the ambiance of the story, and I'd highly recommend you try the audiobook as well. Rating: 4 stars.

167. 5,000 km Per Second
Sometimes people come into your life, and you can't seem to shake them. Piero and Lucy meet as teens, go their separate ways, and then reconnect years later. This is a strange and melancholy story about people who are unhappy on some fundamental level, the years continue to pass, and roads taken and not are not what they would seem. I liked the watercolor settings in the various locations, particularly the backgrounds, but am not a fan of the how the people were sketched. Overall, I'm left with a moody feeling that seems to have no cause - and maybe that's the point of the book. Rating: 2 stars.

168. The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man
The Vision is a superhero, and not human, but he wants what most humans have - a family and to be ordinary - and as you'd expect him to do, he goes back to the lab and creates a wife, and twin children, and moves his family to the suburbs. What could possibly go wrong?

The art in this volume is quite fun and creepy, but the story line is rather weak. I liked the exploration of what differentiates humans from robots - much of Vision's theories are hilarious - and watching his family try to be normal was amusing. Still, not enough of a story to warrant a higher rating from me. Rating: 3 stars.

169. Saudade
I picked this one up to read in preparation for a recent trip to the Azores. In some ways it was exactly what I was looking for, and in other ways it missed the mark completely.

Ann Parker's life is falling apart, so she decides to spend an indeterminate amount of time in Pico, licking her wounds while continuing her genealogical search into her family's connection to the Azores.

What I really liked about this novel is the setting - place, history, traditions, the people, natural history, etc. Learning about the islands and the migrations of vast numbers of people to the US, including the Boston area, was fascinating. But then, about halfway or so through the book things started to get strange, and a fantasy element seeped in that had me shaking my head in disbelief. What was the point of that angle? I'll never know. Still, if you find yourself looking for a fictional story set in the Azores, I'd recommend the first half to two thirds of this one. Rating: 3 stars.

170. Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2)
At 15.0%: Oh Danny boy.
At 61.0%: Oh my goodness, but this is a page turner, so why do people insist on talking to me?

The end of sailing season means it's time to dive into another King tome, but I had such trepidation going into this one. How the heck does he top The Shining, and why even go back and re-visit those characters? I gingerly plugged in my headphones, took a deep breath, and set out for a long walk. It did not take King long to spin his magical yarn, and I was hooked.

There are loads of plot summaries out there, so all I'll say is that as usual King develops wonderfully creepy and/or deeply flawed characters, and while quite disturbing, this story is not as scary as The Shining. The plot and pacing are both really good in this one, and there are so many little touches that really help flesh out the story. However, as is my usual gripe with King, the girl/women characters in this one are not very well developed. Rose, the Hat, in particular, is rather two dimensional in a story otherwise peopled with interesting characters. After reading this one, you feel like you are all caught up on little Dan Torrance, and you'll never look at those old timers in their RVs quite the same way again.

I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Will Patton. If you've ever wondered whatever happened to young Danny T, get your hands on this one, buckle in, and enjoy the ride. Rating: 4 stars.

November 24, 2016

Cinemascope: Great Performances | Hamilton's America

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

Released in 2016.

Plot line: Hamilton’s America, the documentary film that brings history to vivid life through the lens of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pop culture Broadway phenomenon Hamilton – winner of 11 Tony Awards® and the Pulitzer Prize – explodes onto thirteen Great Performances, as the season premiere of the PBS Arts Fall Festival.

This is a behind the scenes look at the art and people responsible for this award wining musical. I loved it.

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

November 17, 2016

Inktober 2016 Part 3/4 (Video)

Week 3.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

November 10, 2016

Michael Moore’s “Morning After To-Do List”

Could not agree more. Why is it that we complain about the Electoral College every four years, and yet do nothing to fix it?

You can see his original Facebook post here.

Morning After To-Do List:
1. Take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people. They have failed us miserably.
2. Fire all pundits, predictors, pollsters and anyone else in the media who had a narrative they wouldn't let go of and refused to listen to or acknowledge what was really going on. Those same bloviators will now tell us we must "heal the divide" and "come together." They will pull more hooey like that out of their ass in the days to come. Turn them off.
3. Any Democratic member of Congress who didn't wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that's about to begin.
4. Everyone must stop saying they are "stunned" and "shocked". What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren't paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair. YEARS of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew. Along came a TV star they liked whose plan was to destroy both parties and tell them all "You're fired!" Trump's victory is no surprise. He was never a joke. Treating him as one only strengthened him. He is both a creature and a creation of the media and the media will never own that.
5. You must say this sentence to everyone you meet today: "HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!" The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact. If you woke up this morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don't. The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump. The only reason he's president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we'll continue to have presidents we didn't elect and didn't want. You live in a country where a majority of its citizens have said they believe there's climate change, they believe women should be paid the same as men, they want a debt-free college education, they don't want us invading countries, they want a raise in the minimum wage and they want a single-payer true universal health care system. None of that has changed. We live in a country where the majority agree with the "liberal" position. We just lack the liberal leadership to make that happen (see: #1 above).

Let's try to get this all done by noon today.
-- Michael Moore

Cinemascope: The Knick (Season 2)

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

Image result for the knick season 2 poster

Released in 2015.

Plot line: Season 2 of the Emmy-winning drama, directed by Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh and starring Oscar-nominee Clive Owen as John Thackery, a brilliant but drug-addled surgeon who pushes the boundaries of medicine, morality and race in 1900s New York. Thackery’s absence (hospitalized for cocaine addiction), a lack of affluent patients and financial missteps have led to a decision by the hospital’s board to shutter the downtown location and move uptown. Algernon Edwards (AndrĂ© Holland) jockeys to become Thackery’s successor as Chief of Surgery, while fellow doctors, nurses, nuns and others grapple with personal and professional challenge.

This continues to be a gritty and fascinating show. Highly recommended for fans of medical dramas and historical fiction. I've never understood people who want to go back in time. Let's just start with the approved medical practices of the day. Sends shivers up my spine.

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

November 5, 2016

The art of being yourself | Caroline McHugh (Video)

Stumbled across this interesting talk the other day, and it gave me lots to think about.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

November 3, 2016

Cinemascope: Playing by Heart

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

Image result for playing by heart movie poster

Released in 1998.

Plot line: In this tale of how love binds 11 random people from Los Angeles, a married couple (Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands) prepare to renew vows; a widowed mother (Ellen Burstyn) cares for a dying son (Jay Mohr); a couple (Madeleine Stowe, Anthony Edwards) have an affair; a theater director (Gillian Anderson) strikes up a relationship with a stranger (Jon Stewart); an aspiring actress (Angelina Jolie) pursues a shy young man and a lone man (Dennis Quaid) talks of heartbreak to strangers.

I watched this oldie again recently, and love it as much as the first time I watched it. Really good acting and dialogue don't ever go out of style. Part of the fun is figuring out how all these people are connected.

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

November 2, 2016

Azores Island Hopping | Faial

25th anniversary trip got off to a rocky start with canceled flights, but here we are wallowing in beautiful Horta. #faial #azores #travel #marinadahorta #25down25togo

Enjoying that famous 'Azores High' with long rambles to get fab views of #Horta. #ilovetheazores #montedaguia

The views get better round every turn. I kid you not. #getoutside ##hiketheazores #montedaguia

Postcard snapshots. #snailmail #happymail

Lucked out with lovely weather for our final morning in #Horta. Even shy Pico shed her layers of clouds to grace us with her presence. Spent our final hours strolling again around #marinadahorta admiring the open air painting gallery. These are created by sailors who crossed the Atlantic, no small feat, and oh what tales they tell. #boats