I stumbled upon this film randomly, but it makes for a really good short watch (I believe it’s less than ten minutes!). It kind of follows a similar format to the Before Trilogy, with two people walking around and talking the entire time. This one centres around two friends, Jay and Alex, as they discuss the ins and outs of sexuality and how they know for sure that they’re heterosexual. They go back and forth on the matter, open-minded and bantering. I think the film could’ve used just a few more minutes of dialogue and maybe a few more topics and twists, but it works well as is. Definitely worth a watch!
It’s been a week of new awesome shows and I thought I’d share my thoughts on some of them.
A Discovery of Witches season two is here at last! I absolutely adored season one and have been waiting impatiently for season two ever since finishing it. (My review of the show; my review of the book.) Season two sees Diana and Matthew time-travelling to 1590 where they find themselves involved with Christopher Marlow, Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare, Walter Raleigh and more! I’m absolutely in love with the costumes – and of course Diana and Matthew have more chemistry than I could have possibly imagined. Watch it!
Deadwind aka Karppi is a Finnish crime drama. I love Nordic noir and this one is another brilliant addition. (Although few compare to Zone Blanche and Øyevitne). This one follows recently widowed detective Sofia Karppi and her new partner Sakari Nurmi after they find a body on a planned building site. The investigation isn’t as gripping for me as Øyevitne and Zone Blanche, but what I love about this one is the focus on the characters and their lives and development. Karppi and Nurmi have such a great progression from hating each other to tolerating each other to becoming friends, and I can’t wait to see how season one wraps up!
Little Fires Everywhere is another one I’ve just started. I haven’t read the book it’s based on, but I will watch pretty much anything with Reese Witherspoon and/or Joshua Jackson! My favs! Unfortunately, I’m really struggling to like the characters in this one. At least the main characters. Their kids are all great, but the adults are just so frustrating! I feel like that’s the point, but it’s definitely a struggle not screaming at my television when they get annoying. That said, the plot is enthralling, so I’m watching on.
What’s everyone else watching?
I’m absolutely delighted to unveil the new covers for The Outlands Pentalogy. My dear friend Heather made them (she’s a wonderful designer, for anyone looking for a book cover!). These books are dystopian/science fiction, with a dash of romance!
My sci-fi/dystopian novella Dust & Lightning just got a new cover! I’m so delighted with it!
In the near future, humans have gone beyond simple space travel. By the year 4054, multiple solar systems are inhabited, and taking a spaceship is as commonplace as taking an aeroplane.
Unfortunately, not everything about the future is so advanced. The central planets, led by Earth, have risen high at the expense of cheap labour on distant worlds. Dissent is widespread and arrests are common. Sometimes prisoners are released; sometimes they disappear without a trace, sent to labour camps in other solar systems.
When Ames Emerys receives a letter telling him that his brother Callum has died en route to the remote planet of Kilnin, he takes the first ship he can off Earth, desperate for answers. But the secrets Ames uncovers prove far more dangerous than he could have imagined.
And trouble isn’t far behind.
Add it on Goodreads!
New year, new reads, new shows.
I started off the new year by reading a few comic books and finishing Sylvester by Georgette Heyer, narrated by Richard Armitage. I’ve been having a hard time focusing on longer reads at the minute, simply because I have so much to do, so short reads and audibooks are very helpful right now.
I really enjoyed Oddly Normal, which has adorable illustrations and a fairly sad storyline; Die!Die!Die! was intriguing. It’s by the same author as The Walking Dead and has gruesome opener, but looks to be really interesting. I’m curious to see where it goes! Has anyone read any of these?
I also started two new TV series: Young Wallander and The Alienist. I adored them both and cannot recommend The Alienist enough. Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans and Daniel Brühl make a fantastic trio! The mystery is intense and fairly un-guessable, which is something I’ve been waiting for. The costumes are gorgeous as well. Everything about the show is well done, honestly. If you enjoy dark mysteries, this one is enthralling.
Young Wallander is based a Swedish book series and was brilliantly done. I love the whole cast and thought it ended well. It has a second series coming, I believe, so the few things that weren’t wrapped up I’m assuming will be addressed in the coming season.
I have listened to some lovely audiobooks over the break and thought I’d share a few recommendations for those who enjoy listening to stories as much as reading them! (These reviews are also cross-posted to Goodreads*).
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (1922), narrated by Richard Armitage. So utterly lovely! Cannot recommend enough.
The Collectors by Philip Pullman (2015), narrated by Bill Nighy. Bill Nighy could narrate dry socks and they would be interesting – thankfully, Philip Pullman is also a brilliant storyteller, and thus we have a perfect match. ♡
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (1911), narrated by Lily Collins. I haven’t ever read this one before, despite seeing a few of the adaptations, but Lily Collins is a superb narrator. Nana and Peter remain my favourites.
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel (1989), narrated by Gildart Jackson. What a great Hanukkah tale! ♡
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843), narrated by Hugh Grant. I’ve never actually sat down to read this one, but listening to Hugh Grant do the audiobook was a great first way to hear it! He’s an excellent narrator, the story is quite good, and I’m definitely keen to get to more Dickens now.
Billy and the Minpins by Roald Dahl (1991), narrated by Bill Bailey. I hadn’t come across this one as a kid, which is odd because Matilda and The Witches and The Twits are some of my most memorable childhood books/films, but this one is super cute.
The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar (2015), recorded on the Strange Horizons podcast. I’ve heard so much about This Is How You Lose the Time War, but alas I haven’t had the chance to read it yet. This novella really made me want to bump it up my reading list, though! If you want to read/listen to this book, go here.
Note: This is for things I read/watched this year and has nothing to do when they were actually released. I read so many short stories this year, which was lovely, but not as many full length novels, alas, so that list is a bit short. For the shows and films, I’ve starred the recs, but honestly the stars are more of a YAAAAAAS flail. My five star ones are those that had a ridiculously amazing romance (my jam!) or had me on the edge of my seat the entire time (also my jam!). And, as I’m sure there are some gems I’ve forgotten, this is likely not a complete list. See also my honourable mentions for all those ones that are wonderful but I haven’t reviewed yet. ♡
- Le Bazar de la Charité  french, romance, costume drama | ★★★★★ | that romance those costumes just everything
- Zoo  english, action, science fiction | ★★★★ | oh my gosh, animals and tension
- Zone Blanche  french, noir, crime, fantasy | ★★★★½ | so spooky, so good
- Øyevitne  norwegian, crime, lgbt+ | ★★★★★ | couldn’t relax, couldn’t look away
- Suspicious Partner  korean, courtroom drama, romance | ★★★★½ | adorbs, fab, whoa
- When the Camellia Blooms  korean, crime, mystery, romance | ★★★★ | awww romance and aaahhhh evil villain
- Crash Landing on You  korean, drama, romance | ★★★★★ | THEIR LOVE LASTS FOREVAAAA
- Anne with an E  english, costume drama | ★★★★★ | adorable frankly
- Peaky Blinders  english, drama, crime | ★★★★½ | dude holy crap
- Made in Heaven  hindi, drama, romance | ★★★★ | right in the feels
- The Exorcist  english, drama, paranormal, horror | ★★★★½ | why is there not a season three, whyyyyy
- Godless  english, western, drama, lgbt+ | ★★★★½ | perfection
- Schitt’s Creek  english, sitcom, lgbt+ | ★★★★ | um, like, adorable
- The Last Kingdom  english, costume drama, action | ★★★★½ | yaaaas, boy-o (I still need to write a review for this one, but it’s fantastic!)
- Cursed  english, costume drama, fantasy | ★★★★ | when you’re feeling bad for e’erybody
- The Umbrella Academy  english, superheroes, lgbt+ | ★★★★½ | can we get a little love up in here?
- Snowpiercer  english, dystopian, thriller | ★★★★½ | whoa
- The Man in the High Castle  english, dystopian, costume drama, alternate history | ★★★★ | what. the. fuck.
- The K2  korean, action, romance | ★★★★★ | I will never get over this couple. NEVER.
- Because This Is My First Life  korean, contemporary, romance | ★★★★ | d’aww, you guys
- Don’t Dare to Dream  korean, contemporary, romance | ★★★★★ | the storyline, the ending ♥♥
- Beautiful Gong Shim  korean, contemporary, romance | ★★★★ | I want to draw hearts around them
- Romance is a Bonus Book  korean, contemporary, romance | ★★★★★ | it’s like if snow and cotton candy made a show
- Where Your Eyes Linger  korean, lgbt+, drama | ★★★★★ | BODYGUARD. ANGST. ENOUGH SAID.
- Manifest  english, drama, mystery, fantasy | ★★★★★ | ThIS mYSTery IS isANE
- A Discovery of Witches  english, fantasy, romance| ★★★★★ | Everything I ever wanted from a vampire and witch show.
- Daredevil  english, superhero, courtroom drama | ★★★★★ | I AM BITTER THIS WAS CANCELLED.
- Days Without End by Sebastian Barry | lgbt+, historical fiction, audiobook
- Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski | lgbt+, romance, fiction, audiobook
- Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope by Megan Phelps-Roper | nonfiction, religion
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery | classics, fiction, audiobook
- What Kind of Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel | contemporary, feminism
- The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin | short story, dystopian, classics
- The Last Romeo by Justin Myers | lgbt+, romance, contemporary, audiobook
- The Magnificent Sons by Justin Myers | lgbt+, contemporary, coming-of-age, audiobook
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah | memoir, nonfiction, autobiography
- Release by Patrick Ness | lgbt+, fantasy, contemporary
- Lie With Me by Philippe Besson | lgbt+, historical fiction
- Mortal Engines  english, dystopian, steampunk
- Jonas  french, lgbt+, drama
- Lady Bird  english, indie, coming of age
- Mudbound  english, costume drama, drama
- The Old Guard  english, action, lgbt+
- Official Secrets  english, docudrama, politics
- Venom  english, superhero, action
- Knock Down the House  english, documentary, politics
- The Great Hack  english, documentary, politics
- #Alive  korean, action, zombies
- Onward  english, animated, fantasy
- The Trial of the Chicago 7  historical, drama, politics
- ‘Found Discarded: A Love Poem, Questionably Addressed’ by Cassandra Khaw | read here.
- ‘things you don’t say to city witches’ by Cassandra Khaw | read here.
- Ali Trotta, ‘Athena Holds Up a Mirror to Strength’ | read here.
- ‘For Our Country’ by Shahein Farahani | review here | read here.
top short stories;
- Lines of Growth, Lines of Passage by Marissa Lingen | Available here.
- We Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other Stories by C. Robert Cargill
- The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo
- Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams by Sunny Moraine
- A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow
- The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander
- The Eighth-Grade History Class Visits the Hebrew Home for the Aging by Harry Turtledove
- Five Arrows by Heinz Insu Fenkl
- Ring the Bell by Josie Jaffrey
I feel like there are so many films, books and shows that I wanted to review this year that I haven’t got around to for some reason or other. (Re: laziness). Oh well! I’m listing some of the ones I can remember below (and I’m sure there’s still others I’ve forgotten).
Shows: Summertime was a great show, for anyone looking for a warm and sunny show with cute romances. Set in Italy, diverse cast/rep. Curon is another good Italian show! I haven’t finished it, but the start is super strong. The Last Kingdom is soooooo amazing. I don’t know why I haven’t written up a review for this epic beauty, but it totally deserves one. Another Life is a great sci-fi adventure, with lots of diversity/rep and a solid plot. Got sci-fi queen Katee Sackhoff in it, too. Score! The Mandalorian is so absolutely brilliant, my Star Wars heart is a flutter. The Mess You Leave Behind is a fantastic Spanish murder mystery show. If you loved Élite, you’ll love this one. And Arón Piper is in it! Mismatched is the Hindi adaptation of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. I bought the book a while back and haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m definitely moving it up my list! This is a super cute romantic comedy series set in Jaipur and I can’t wait to finish it. The Great was fun as well, and I really liked the cast. I also just started Bridgerton, which I’m enjoying!
Films: The new Little Women was super cute. I didn’t love it quite as much as the Winona Ryder version, but the cast is fantastic, and I liked some of the changes. I think this one would have been great as a miniseries, actually. Spending more time exploring the romance and building up to the end would have been good, I reckon, as that seemed more the focus in this version, whereas the 1990s version was more focused on the growing up aspect, I felt. I caught up on most of the Marvel movies this year and really liked some of the latest ones. The new Spiderman is great, and I’m excited for Natalie Portman’s return to Thor in the next one. I’m also intrigued by the shows coming to Disney+! I really like the idea of WandaVision. I liked Solo, the Han Solo standalone for Star Wars. All the standalones have been pretty good, actually. Happiest Season is a new Christmas film with Kristen Stewart, I have a lot of thoughts on it. Did anyone else see this one? I also can’t even begin to review Hotel Mumbai, which was a truly heart-shattering watch and the actors were amazing in their roles. I think, rather than writing a review, this look at the true story behind the film is worth a read.
Books: I write a lot of mini reviews on Goodreads that I don’t bother linking here. But my page is here, for anyone curious. All of the nonfiction books I’ve picked up this year deserve their own review. Guns, an essay by Stephen King, was very poignant and thoughtful. But having the time, or even figuring out how to describe them is so hard sometimes on top of studying. Some recommendations for anyone looking to delve into more non-fiction: The Korean War at Sixty: New Approaches to the Study of the Korean War; A Violent Peace: Race, U.S. Militarism, and Cultures of Democratization in Cold War Asia and the Pacific; Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War; Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-Korea Relations; Framed by War: Korean Children and Women at the Crossroads of Us Empire; Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World; Name, Rank, and Serial Number: Exploiting Korean War POWs at Home and Abroad.
I love finding hidden gems! I’d never even heard of The Poison Tree until last night and I watched both episodes back to back. What a good find! It has Matthew Goode, MyAnna Buring and Ophelia Lovibond and tells the story of a married couple after the husband is released from prison. The husband did time for a double murder, but the wife is convinced he’s a good guy, and we’re slowly told their story through flashbacks.
The pair, Rex and Karen, met through Biba, Rex’s sister. They’re all something of free spirits, living hedonist lives in the family mansion, living off their father’s money. Biba brings Karen in and the pair fall into a rather obsessive friendship; its obsessiveness is matched by Rex and Biba’s siblinghood, which consumes them both. But it’s torn to shreds when Rex and Karen begin dating. They keep their relationship from Biba for a time, and when she finds out, everything falls apart. To get back at them, Biba starts dating a drug dealer that neither Rex nor Karen approve of and everything quickly unravels.
The story flashes between the past and the present, and at first you don’t know what happened to Biba and who Rex supposedly killed, but in the present, Karen starts getting creepy messages, pictures and break-ins that all seem pointed at uncovering their secrets and ruining the new life they’re making for themselves.
I was honestly not expecting some of the twists in this and was kept in rapt attention. The actors were all great and this is definitely worth a go for mystery/suspense fans.
I truly enjoyed the television show, but I never actually finished it. I’m glad I decided to just dive straight into the film, though! It was easy to keep up with everyone despite having not seen the final seasons and the film is decidedly an uplifting one. [semi spoilers from here]
The story picks up at the end of the 1920s, with Downton Abbey greatly changed from what it once was. The Crawley family have endured their share of losses, as have their staff, but there’s a great energy amongst the household’s inhabitants, with no real squabbles going on. I preferred that this one wasn’t about in-house fighting. I liked everyone being on the same team. That was so nice to see.
The drama in this film centres upon the arrival of the queen to the abbey and the tensions between the two staffs. As the household staff confront the overbearing new arrivals from the queen’s household who won’t let them do their jobs, a game ensues, with the Downton staff prevailing in their quest to serve the royal family. At the same time, Tom Branson, who is raising his daughter at Downton after her late mother’s passing, gets embroiled in a plot with a mysterious man; there’s also a side story with Thomas, now head butler and far more mature than he was when he was first introduced, finally getting some happiness! His storyline as a gay man in 1920s England was something I really appreciated them exploring, and his encounters with Richard were especially wonderful. I was afraid it was going to end depressingly and I’m so glad that it didn’t.
Everything wraps up quite nicely at the end of the film. There’s no extra drama or chaos. And I definitely feel like I want to go back and rewatch the show now, because I want to catch up with all the characters and see where some of them came into the storyline. Now that I know how it ends, I’ll feel less stressed!