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Archive for December, 2018

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A disparate group of five students are given detention and only four of them walk out alive. Somebody killed Simon Kelleher while he was in the room and as the investigation gets underway, it turns out that each of the other students had something to hide…and Simon not only knew all of their secrets, but was planning to reveal them on his on his gossip app.

Although this book is marketed as Young Adult, I am certainly WAY past that category and I really enjoyed it. People like me who remember classic 80s movies may well remember The Breakfast Club, and it is difficult not to draw comparisons between the premise of that movie and the initial backdrop to this book. However, the story here is a lot darker – as all four students are investigated for the murder, it turns out that each of them had reason to want Simon dead.

I really enjoyed the story, and while I have no intention of revealing the ending, I will say that it came as a complete surprise and I certainly wouldn’t have guessed it.

If you like mysteries and dramas (this is more of a drama than a thriller), then I would recommend this book, no matter what your age.

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If you knew your future…would you want to change it?

Jess Mount logs onto Facebook one day, and is horrified to see tributes to her posted from 18 months in the future, suggesting that she has died. Is there some kind of magic at work? It is an evil prank, or is Jess losing her mind? As she falls into a whirlwind romance with a new boyfriend, she hurtles towards her seemingly unstoppable fate and wonders if she can do something to change it. But when her timeline shows her that she has a child and she falls in love with her future son, she wonders if she even¬†wants to change the future…

I thought this book had a really interesting premise and started out well. I would definitely say that the writing flowed well and made it an easy read despite some of the subject matter. However, I started to get annoyed with Jess quite early on, especially as all the important plot points were so clearly signposted and there were so many obvious things she could have done, but didn’t even think about (if and when you read this book, that sentence will make so much more sense!) I’m not sure that we ever really got to know Jess or her new boyfriend Lee, which made it harder to empathise with her. The story is told mainly from Jess’s point of view, with the occasional chapter written from the point of view of Lee’s mom Angela (who I couldn’t stand). There were also the Facebook posts and private messages, which somehow didn’t work for me; it was clear that they were there to fill in details for the reader, which meant that people said things that simply did not ring true. Intermittently, there were chapters from 2008 – eight years before the book is set – which take place just after Jess’s mother passed away, and I’m not sure what these added to the plot or if they were even necessary.

Most annoying to me was the fact that the Facebook posts were never explained. This just felt like laziness on the part of the author, and the ending was so quick that it felt rushed out.

I wouldn’t say I hated this book – I’d probably try another book by the same author – but I don’t feel that it lived up to it’s early promise.

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Christmas Eve in New York and there is a power outage resulting in six separate groups of people getting stuck in lifts. Throughout the night, tensions rise to the surface, bonds are forged and they learn a lot about themselves and each other.

As Christmas movies go, this is a new favourite for me. I love movies set all in one location, and this is kind of in that genre. It’s set in six locations but all very small and exactly the same people in each setting. A great cast including Patrick Stewart, James Roday, Cheryl Hines and Gary Cole all do a fantastic job. A great, sweet and heartwarming story.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Mitch Davis

Writers: Mitch Davies, Tyler McKellar

Main cast: Patrick Stewart, James Roday, Cheryl Hines, Gary Cole, Jon Heder, Julianna Guill

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Genre: Drama, Christmas

Highlights: Loved the shoppers and the boss and recently laid off employee. Didn’t actually dislike any of the groups

Lowlights: None. If I absolutely had to nitpick, I’d say I wished Patrick Stewart’s character had been trapped with someone rather than on his own (this happens right at the beginning of the film so it’s not a spoiler) but I imagine this was done to highlight his isolation and how he had cut off the important people in his life. But it’s a tiny niggle.

Overall: Possibly my new favourite Christmas movie, and a staple on my holiday rota from now on

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This is an epistolary novel, told by the main character Balram (who calls himself the White Tiger) to the prime minister of China, who is coming to India for a visit. Balram was born in an extremely poor part of India and was destined to live a life of labour or servitude, but as we find out at the beginning of the story he is a successful business. We also find out right at the beginning that he also murdered his killed his former master Ashok. The book tells Balram’s story and explains why he did what he did.

I am still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I definitely enjoyed it, in that it was written well and I liked it’s very descriptive chronicle of life in India. (Note: this book does not romanticise India in ANY way, shape or form). It was often witty, and the writing flowed well. I found it an undemanding read that kept me interested – but for all that, I never felt fully engaged with the characters and always felt a slight detachment from Balram.

Nonetheless if this is a genre you like, I would recommend this book and if it is different kind of novel to what you would normally choose, you might like this change of scene.

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Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman) is a primary school teacher with a failed ambition to be an actor. His girlfriend Jennifer (Ashley Jensen) left him five Christmases earlier to become a producer in Hollywood, and Paul hates Christmas as a result. So he is distinctly unhappy about being tasked with creating the school nativity play, and in an attempt to win one over his former best friend Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) tells Gordon that Hollywood are coming to see the nativity play. The rumour spreads and things start to get out of hand.

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Year of release: 2009

Director: Debbie Isitt

Writer: Debbie Isitt

Main cast: Martin Freeman, Ashley Jensen, Jason Watkins, Pam Ferris, Marc Wootton

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Genre: Comedy

Highlights: Lots of humour, lots of pop up roles from the likes of Ricky Tomlinson and Alan Carr. Freeman’s role was made for him, and even the kids were really cute without a sugary overload of sweetness

Lowlights: None really

Overall: A thoroughly enjoyable Christmas movie. Very British and clearly pretty low-budget, but all the more charming for it

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Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a recently divorced, borderline alcoholic, ghostwriter of a series of young adult books. When she gets an email from an old flame, announcing the birth of his and his wife’s first baby, she gets it into her head that she and the old flame, Buddy (Patrick Wilson) are meant to be together, and goes back to the small town she left years ago in an attempt to win him back.

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Year of release: 2011

Director: Jason Reitman

Writer: Diablo Cody

Main cast: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt, Elizabeth Reaser

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Genre: Drama

Highlights: Excellent acting all round from Theron, Wilson and Oswalt

Lowlights: None really (except this is usually marketed as a comedy, which I would not agree with)

Overall: I really enjoyed this, although it was certainly not the comedy I was expecting. Theron is wonderful as Mavis – an unlikeable, thoughtless and sometimes downright spiteful woman with nothing going for her except her good looks. She looks down on people in the small town she came from, failing to realise that they are actually more fulfilled and happy than she can dream of. Despite this, her attempts to seduce the unwitting Buddy do elicit some sympathy because they are so transparent and pathetic (I cringed!) Wilson is also great as Buddy – the character is understated and so is his performance. Massive kudos to Patton Oswalt as Matt, Mavis’s old classmate. She doesn’t remember him at first, because she always ran with the cool crowd, while he was bullied to such an extent that one beating left him permanently disabled – it is in fact this incident which prompts her to realise who he is when she sees his walking stick – “the hate crime guy” as she calls him, and recalls that he “got to have a lot of time off school” as a result. These two very different people somehow forge a genuine friendship which is the real heart of the film. Overall, I would recommend this movie.

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I listened to this audiobook, narrated by the author, mainly while out running – maybe I was hoping it would provide inspiration!

In this memoir of sorts, Rich Roll describes how on the eve of his 40th birthday, he realised that he needed to change his health drastically Рoverweight,  unfit and scared of dying early, Rich transformed himself into an ultra fit, vegan triathlete and this book tells how it did it.

I should have enjoyed this – it had all the hallmarks of a book I would love. I am fascinated by people who find the mental and physical strength to push their body and achieve things way beyond the capability of most of us mere mortals. And running five Ultra-triathlons in less than a week is way beyond impressive by any standard you care to use. But…I never really enjoyed this book.

Having overcome alcohol addiction and some years later deciding to turn his health around, it is difficult not to be impressed by what Rich Roll has done. But for me, there was too much whining – things didn’t always go well for Rich, but that applies to everyone – and he had a distinct ‘why me’ tone to his voice (both literally and on the page). And there was too much spirituality attached to fairly mundane events. For example, in Hawaii Rich is confronted by an angry homeowner, annoyed to find Rich trespassing on his property (to clarify – Rich was not actually trespassing; he thought he had found a quiet place to relieve himself during an Ultraman race). But instead of seeing this as something that could happen to anyone anywhere, Rich decides that this is karma for not respecting the island. And when approached by an alcoholic woman who wants to party, of course he decides that this woman must be some kind of angel sent to show him the kind of life he could have wound up living.

Also, while fully respect the author’s vegan lifestyle choice, I disliked his dismissive attitude to anyone who doesn’t share the same values.

The whole thing just came across as a big ego-trip, and honestly I was pretty pleased to finish it. Oh well, onto the next one…

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