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Archive for December, 2017

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I like to try and read a Christmas themed book at Christmas time, and having previously enjoyed ‘Love, Nina’ by Nina Stibbe, I was really happy to get my hands on this. Essentially it is a collection of observations, memories and a few short stories all – obviously – based around a Christmas theme.

Stibbe discusses such things as how to cook a turkey without it being dry (she has chops instead!), the art of Christmas gift giving, spending Christmas with your parents despite being well into adulthood and more. Just as in Love, Nina, she is an engaging and amusing narrator and provided lots of smiles and giggles while I was reading this.

It’s lighthearted and undemanding – I read it over two days but only because I was stretching it out – and because those two days were Christmas Day and Boxing Day and we had places to be – I would think that it would be an easy book to polish off in one sitting.

I will be keeping this book and revisiting it at future Christmas times. I definitely recommend it.

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Several thousand asteroids hit the UK and Britain is decimated. In the fallout, Ed Hill is separation from him wife and two children and he knows that his only chance of survival is to span the 550 miles that divides them. But with cities in ruins and no transport, he will have to run the distance. Together with a small group of survivors, Ed sets out on his long journey, with no idea of whether or not they will be successful…

On paper this book ticked all the right boxes for me – it’s post apocalyptic, it’s a dystopian novel (one of my favourite genres) and it’s set in the UK. And in many ways, it is a good read. Certainly it’s pacey and exciting – the story has twists and turns and it ket me interested,,,but for all that, I never really felt able to lose myself in it. I think the main reason is that I was not able to connect to the characters. It’s narrated by Ed himself, a lazy husband, giving the minimum amount of effort to his marriage and the raising of his children. He loves his family but he can’t be bothered to put himself out in any way for them. Only when he is faced with losing them forever does he realise how much they really mean to him. The other characters on his journey are basically a bunch of stereotypes, who we never really get to know beyond surface level and for that reason I didn’t really care what happened to any of them.

I did enjoy reading about the people they met on their journey – some good, some bad, some helpful, others with evil intentions, and the resourcefulness that Ed and his companions had to summon up in order to get out of certain situations. Overall though, while I can’t say that I actively dislike the book, I can’t say that it ever really struck much of a chord with me.

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Pastry chef Kylie makes it into the final stages of the American Gingerbread Competition but the oven she is planning to use breaks down so she has to turn to her ex-boyfriend Nick, who runs an upmarket pizzeria. Nick allows her to use his oven and the two reconnect…

This film is utterly predictable and riddled with cliches – and despite that it is charming, sweet and hugely enjoyable. I knew how things would turn out even before pressing play, but the two leads (Lacey Chabert as Kylie and Lea Coco as Nick) are charismatic and likeable and have good chemistry. If you are looking for a film that will surprise you then don’t bother with this one, but if you are looking for a feel good, warm and fuzzy Christmas movie, then give it a shot!

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Year of release: 2017

Writer: Erinne Dobson

Main cast: Lacey Chabert, Lea Coco, Jonathan Adams, Laura Gilchrist, Lane Edwards

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In this book, author Suzanne Morrison tells the story of how, aged 25, she went to Bali for two months for a yoga retreat – hoping to find the answers to life’s philosophical questions, such as is there a god? and also hoping to find her direction in life. She is preparing to move from her native Seattle to New York with her boyfriend, but there is another man who she just can’t stop thinking about, she is concerned about how much she will miss her family, and hopes that the retreat will provide the answers. (Almost) inevitably things do not turn out how she expects – the yoga instructor who she idolises turns out to have feet of clay and an ego, Suzanne struggles with having to give up alcohol, cigarettes and sugar, and is horrified to discover that her yoga friends all drink their own pee and insist she should do the same. And then there’s the whole issue of household items becoming possessed and needing exorcisms…

I really enjoyed this book, and I think my enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that I personally love yoga, but you definitely don’t need to practice yoga to read this. It is mostly told in diary form, although at the beginning of each chapter, Morrison writes from the present day (the retreat was in 2001) and reflects upon her current life. There are some extremely funny moments – who wouldn’t share her horror at discovering that it’s not coffee that her flatmate is downing every morning?! But there are also some more serious moments, as Morrison questions her faith or lack of, her relationship with boyfriend Jonah, and her purpose in life. She is witty and engaging and I think I would probably like her very much in real life.  I also liked her yoga buddies, especially Jessica and Jason (her flatmate and neighbour). The one person who came out of the book quite badly was the yoga teacher Indra, who to my mind was everything that puts some people off trying yoga. As just one example, the guilt that she piles onto Suzanne and Jessica because they – horror! – had a coconut vanilla milkshake, was completely unreasonable. If I joined a studio that was run by people like Indra and her partner Lou, I’d probably be cancelling my membership pretty quickly!

Lots of laughs and plenty to think about here – I would definitely recommend this book, especially to people who do have their own yoga practice.

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Action ‘dramedy’ starring Bruce Willis as retired CIA Agent Frank Moses, Mary Louise Parker as his romantic interest, and Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich (who basically steals the entire film) as his former colleagues who team up with him to unearth a conspiracy that goes to the highest echelons of power.

Lots of fun, lots of action and a completely unbelievable storyline make for an entertaining couple of hours. Bruce Willis plays his usual macho hero role, but almost parodying himself. Morgan Freeman – as great as you would expect although possibly underused. Helen Mirren and Mary Louise Parker are both excellent, but the real star of the show is John Malkovich.

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Year of release: 2010

Director: Robert Schwenkte

Writers: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis (graphic novel) Cully Hamner (graphic novel)

Main cast: Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman

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