Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 2015 Books and Movies

Gregory V. Wilson

I still can't believe this short story couldn't get published. It's some of the best YA writing I've ever read. Inventive, with a serious story woven in, it grabs you and pulls you in. I really don't want to spoil the story, so please check out http://sensibleadventures.com/still/still-the-whole-story/ and happy reading!

A Fat Boy's Chronicle

Although a little to Christian for my liking, the story of positivity in the face of bullying and fat shaming was refreshing. Hollywood's obsession with thinness is destroying many young people with insurmountable pressure. The side stories about cutting and a teen who runs away further the overall theme that being a teen is tough, but you will eventually get through it. Not a bad pick for a Netflicks browse.


Fantastic. Though I was disappointed that they didn't chose a male lead who could sing, and over dubbed it instead. The ending was a little pat but forgivable. Dustin Hoffman was really great and it was nice to see the actor who plays Artie on Glee in something else. What I liked most of all though, was showing young boys who are interested in classical singing. Too many students seem to be moving further and further away from music that has any complexity or links to the past. Which is funny because most modern music is either drawing from or is a complete copy of what's come before. The music in this movie was absolutely breathtaking. They obviously had a wonderful music director. If you are a classical music fan, this is a good one.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015 Books and Movies

The Duff

Pleasantly surprised that I laughed as much as I did at this one. I was talked into it by a friend who is in the entertainment business, and knew the lead guy was from Toronto. It's a great teen movie along the lines of Easy A, be true to yourself because everyone else is just as insecure as you are, even if they seem fine. The main character Bianca is played by Mae Whitman and she reminds me of a Janine Garafolo for the 2010s. Bianca's mom was played by Allison Janney, who is always entertaining, she really made the most of a bit, comedic part. Remember how great she was in Juno? All in all, this film isn't something that will keep your grey matter in shape, but thoroughly entertaining.

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

Peter Jackson, shame on you for making a wee book into 3 movies. This last installment was 70% fight scenes and 30% story. Don't get me wrong, I like the Tolkien universe fight scenes as much as the next fan, but the story was kind of done two movies ago. Seriously, I got the impression that even Orlando Bloom was bored! I wish I could be more positive about it, but it really sucked. When sufficient time has passed, I'll watch the three of them back to back and maybe have something more to say.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 2014 Books and Movies

Wedding Night
Sophie Kinsella

Another easy, breezy, fun read. I actually laughed out loud at some of the antics Fliss pulls while trying to keep her sister from consummating her flight of fancy marriage, with the exception of the peanut allergy. That was just mean. I thought this was slightly better than I've Got Your Number, because I liked the older sister character who seemed to have half a brain in her head. The younger one was ditzy and impulsive, much like Becky Bloomwood from the Shopaholic series whom I always find annoying. Only read if you are a die hard Kinsella fan.

I've Got Your Number
Sophie Kinsella

Ah, back in familiar territory. Slightly awkward, foot in mouth heroine, good (but predictable) plot, funny moments and a satisfactory conclusion. Chick lit at it's best. Poppy is a very likable character and you really do root for her in the end. Using a mobile phone as a character is a clever twist. I'll leave it there to not spoil the ending, but this is a good summer read. 

A Desirable Residence
Madeleine Wickham (aka Sophie Kinsella)

Yuck. Unlikable characters, unsatisfying ending and a wasted few hours of my life. Set in the fictional town of Silchester, which just sounds hilarious, it stumbles along, each two dimensional character worse than the next. Liz was the most egregious and it was frustrating that there was no confrontation between her and her husband about the affair. I only picked this book up because it had been republished with a printed cover reading:

writing as 
Madelene Wickham

Obviously, a clever move on the part of the publishing  house marketing department, to capitalize on a mediocre novel written in 1996, five years before the Shopaholic series took off under her pen name. There is even a foreword from the author issuing a slightly veiled warning that books written under the name Madeleine Wickham are not in the same style as books written under the name Sophie Kinsella. The bones of what made that series so readable are there, which is why I finished it, but it is crystal clear that she has grown leaps and bounds as a writer since her first few attempts. I was also surprised to learn that the author's sister is Gemma Townley, another British chick lit author I've reviewed. I wonder who was published first, and if the second one was piggybacking on the first sister's name. Don't get me wrong, I've thoroughly enjoyed Kinsella books. They're funny, fast-paced and generally page turners. I'll try another Wickham novel to see, but definitely give this one a miss.

Friday, February 28, 2014

February 2014 Books and Movies

Trading Places 

An oldie but goodie from 1983 staring Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis. I laughed and laughed, which was good for the soul after such an emotional time in Regina. A wall street big wig and a street con artist trade places. These three will have you laughing your socks off in no time. (Warning, the vintage of this movie has elements of racism and sexism common at the time.)

Last Vegas

I was pleasantly surprised at how funny this was, for a "golden guys" type movie. Great cast (Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline) and great writing. Good diversion on a plane ride to Donna Lou's funeral in Regina, which was such a sad occasion. I really liked the 60+ bachelor party theme and the Vegas local was well shot. Give it a go!

The Great Gatsby 

I love, love, love this book, so was a little wary. That being said, it was pretty good due largely to the breathtaking cinematography and the subtle use of CGI. Leonardo DiCaprio excels in these old timey, slightly sketchy gentleman roles and did not disappoint. Daisy was a bit underdeveloped and I didn't love Toby McGuire, but the rest of the cast was stellar. The costumes and sets were to die for (I adore the twenties) and the director took great care to utilize plenty of symbolism from the book. I would watch it again, for sure.

Over You
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

These authors are famous for The Nanny Diaries, which I really liked (although the movie not so much) and Citizen Girl, which I also liked, so I was surprised when this wasn't a knock out. Maybe it was that the protagonist was 17 going on 30 but it was all at once too YA come chick lit or vice versa for me. There were some funny moments and I liked the Ex Inc. business model, but then there were some stupid SATC/The Devil Wears Prada rip off like the Teen Vogue closet. I'd still like to read more of their offerings, but maybe not the YA novels so much.

Friday, January 31, 2014

January 2014 Books and Movies

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 

As I mentioned in my reveiw of the first Hobbit installment, why in the world was this tiny book turned into three movies? I do love Benedict Cumberbatch and this film has a lot of him as the voice of Smaug, but it just drags on. I honestly don't know how they are going to stretch the story into a third movie. The CGI of the dwarves' cave was pretty cool though.

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction
Sue Townsend

Pretty good. I'm not sure I've I've actually read the prequel The Cappuccino Years, the last one I remember is when he was living with Pandora in Oxford. I grew up with Adrian Mole, so I really connect with his character, even though he does the dumbest stuff imaginable, has the most misguided opinions and his parents are nuts. I'm glad there is another installment of the series.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2013 in review

I don't normally post this kind of yearly review, but 2013 really ended up kind of sucking, so I will indulge myself and potentially scare of the 2.2 readers I do have by whinging. :) There were some bright lights too, as not to be too depressing.

January - July (and the last 2 months of 2012)

Trying to conceive, doing everything short of standing on my head and wondering what is wrong with me.

August 1

Mr. Fancy Pants fertility doctor says that of course it's my age and couldn't be anything or anyone else.

August 22

My baby cousin is born. He didn't come along the way anyone envisioned, and has a few hurdles to leap over but he is overall healthy and has a good set of lungs. :)

September 8

Another baby cousin is born, in perfect health during a fast natural birth.

My dad dies at 66 (nearly 67) from diabetes complications. I still can't believe he is gone. He was survived by his mother, which is definitely not the natural order of things. My mom, who is already mentally fragile and in poor health, is wrecked and we are trying to hold everything together with spit and glue. The stress is overwhelming sometimes. I've had to give up all my extra music outside of work, and sometime I feel chained to my home.

September 12

Funeral home. Two viewings. Emotionally exhausting. I was overwhelmed to see the number of people who turned up, some of whom I hadn't seen in years.

September 13

Funeral. No one else could stand up and give the eulogy from our immediate family, so I did it. It was hard, but I'm glad I did. JT played the trombone and a cousin played the accordion. It was a lovely service and a befitting send off for dear Dad.

 September 23

My mom moves into our spare room and the 3 of us start sharing an under 900 square foot condo. This of course does wonders for the likelihood of conception. Big thanks to my sister and brother in law for taking her the first 2 weeks.

September 30

Put on a cycle monitoring protocol, to "figure out the problem".

October 4

First Argos game without Dad. It was hard to tell everyone in the section that Dad wouldn't be coming to any more games. I wore his Argos cap with pride and only cried a little.

October 14

Thanksgiving. First holiday without Dad. HARD. It was like the world was just moving on as if nothing had happened. I knew it would be like this, but I was shocked at how much it hurt.

October 19

Ashes scattering at cemetery. The funeral director forgot to bring the ashes because he got the wrong end of the stick in a phone conversation and somehow thought that I would be picking them up from the crematorium in Whitby! He fixed it though, as soon as possible. I cried a lot at the scattering, more than I thought I would.

October 20

My friend's 70 something mom fell down the stairs in her home and broke practically everything between her neck and her pelvis. She is thankfully doing much better and is living in a rehab centre for the time being.

October 27

Got to play with Cmdr. Hadfield at Roy Thompson Hall. Met him and he signed his book for me. This was a really lovely ray of positivity in the middle of a difficult time.

November 8

Finally got off my butt and went to the chiropractor about the numbness and potential never damage in my right hand that kept me from playing. Have been going for treatments regularly and it's much better, but it was scary for a while.

November 9

Treated to Swan Lake by a good friend. Another beautiful distraction from a rough couple of months. This is one of my favorite ballets and the music is so lovely.

November 20

Had the opportunity to hear a good friend (who has moved to Europe to be an early music superstar) do his thing at a concert in Georgetown. Not only was it great to see him, I am in awe of his talent and passion for his art.

November 22-25

Grey Cup in Regina. Very fun. Another great distraction plus, hadn't seen the in-laws since the wedding. It was very cold though and prompted the immediate purchase of sturdy winter coats for both of us.

November 26

Another year older. Now with this notion of "fertility age" in the mix, feeling worse and worse about the passing of time. Thankfully that was mitigated by a lovely dinner at Nervosa and seeing my cousin in law play with his new music percussion quartet.

December 16

Mom's condo closing. In between all of the above, we packed, cleaned and staged every inch of the condo, including ripping up the carpet in the bedrooms and laying down hardwood. It was exhausting, but worth it in the end, as the condo was only on the market for 4 HOURS before selling.

December 17

Find out that my stats are fine, and we could have been looking into other causes for a whole YEAR.

December 10

School concert. This is always a lot of work, but particularly this year, when there were so many other stresses. Mom came to the concert and really enjoyed it.


Christmas quite plainly, sucked. Not just with missing Dad and having to create a whole new set of Christmas traditions so my Mom didn't lose her sh*t but also being surrounded by my family's happy families and just wanting everything to be sorted so I don't feel like a reject all the freaking time.

New Year's

No resolutions, just the determination that 2014 has got to be better than this crap hole of a year. I will do what I can to make this a reality. I feel badly that I don't have the same time I have had in the past for other things, but I know my friends understand. We have so much ahead of us, listing our place, finding a bigger place that has a separated space for Mom, selling our place, moving but taking it one day at a time is key. I am so lucky to have the world's most patient amazing partner because two heads are better than one. :)

Happy New Year!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

August 2013 Books and Movies

Bad Teacher

I went into this expecting to hate it. I don't like teacher movies that portray the profession negatively. But, Cameron Diaz is pretty funny, so I gave it a go. I ended up liking it, mostly because she has a change of heart by the end, and really ends up helping kids. It's a light, humorous rom-com, great for date night or a night in.

Life After Porn

Good documentary. It was sad to see that some people were not in the best circumstances, but most (save a few who were coerced into doing porn in the first place) weren't sorry they spent time in the industry. You get real insight into what really goes on, both on and off camera. A must see for people who consume porn without really thinking about it, as well as people who like an interesting documentary, who aren't afraid of a little boobage.

Hall Pass

Watched this as a way to pass time at the cottage. I expected raunchy from the Farrelly brothers, but I wasn't expecting how many times a the full monty would appear. Especially since I didn't know the movie at all and was watching it with a couple of teens. Their godfather fast forwarded though those parts, but I say as long as they're comfortable, don't make such a big deal about it. The concept of the movie was pretty funny. Two friends give their husbands a hall pass for one week from their marriage. This inevitably gives them the chance to live it up and the result is a sometime funny movie with a passable script.

Wreck it Ralph

Very well done. I haven't ever been a gamer, but I've been around long enough to recognize the different styles of video games in the movie. The animation is top notch, especially with crossing over between one style of game to the next. John C. Reilly and Jane Lynch (Sue from Glee) are fantastic as Ralph and Calhoun. A must see.

Crazy, Stupid, Love 

This was a pretty good rom-com with a surprise happy ending. I really like most of the cast (Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone) and they and the script gelled together nicely. As an audience member, I was really invested in the plot. To divorce or get back together, unrequited love, being romanced by two completely different men, the twist of how Hannah (Stone) relates to the rest of the cast all drew me in.  For me, Carell is at his best just hovering between funny and sad. Definitely a good date night movie.