3 Mini Audiobook Reviews: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), Nick and Charlie (2015), Serpentine (2020)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

It is remarkable that the visionary propensity I have mentioned is not confined to the native inhabitants of the valley, but is unconsciously imbibed by every one who resides there for a time. However wide awake they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative, to dream dreams, and see apparitions.

Oooooh, at last! What a perfect October read. I’ve seen the film, of course, but I haven’t ever got around to the book. So glad I finally did. I also recommend the audiobook. The narrator’s absolutely class and it’s a great hour-long Gothic horror bit of escapism. 

Nick and Charlie by Alice Oseman

This was my first Alice Oseman read and now I’m going to have to start all of her others asap! ♡

Serpentine by Philip Pullman

I read the original His Dark Materials so long ago that I don’t remember as much as I’d like, so getting back into the world of Lyra with this short story was really nice. I definitely want to reread the whole series again, as well as finally getting to La Belle Sauvage. The note at the end by Philip Pullman is really nice, too. ♡

Film Review: Christine (1983)

I’m one of the many who watches more spooky things in the month of October. I get in the odd mood for horror, but usually I watch the bulk of them in October. I’ve also been trying to watch more classic movies just in general. I’d heard about Christine before, and I know of John Carpenter’s other films, but I never got around to this one. I also didn’t realise it was by Stephen King until after, so that’s a fail on my part. For anyone who’s a fan of vintage cars and classic horror, this one is definitely worth a go.

Some spoilers herein

The film follows Arnie, a high-schooler who is frequently bullied. He’s best friends with Dennis and the pair of them face off against the bullies together. Arnie and his mum have a complicated relationship that only worsens when he impulsively decides to buy ‘Christine’, a vintage 1958 Plymouth Fury. Little does anyone know – except the seller – that the car has a dark history.

Arnie fixes Christine up and soon the car is in pristine condition, but Arnie starts to change as time progresses. He starts getting more confident, bolder. He also starts getting meaner and more violent. Any word against his car sets him off. Things only worsen when he starts to date Leigh. Christine seems almost … jealous. (Yep.)

After Leigh almost dies, she blames Christine and parts ways with Arnie, who won’t hear a word about it. Leigh turns to Dennis, who’s also starting to have his concerns about the car, and the pair decide they have to do something about it.

The soundtrack in this film was excellent, so that has to be mentioned first. Old horror really had a knack for those soundtracks. The CGI is fantastic – I was really impressed by the car fixing itself scenes – and the film relies on soundtrack, atmosphere and surprise more than loud screams, like so many others.

My one biggest nitpick is the standing in the centre of the road. There are WAY TOO MANY scenes where the characters could go literally in any other direction and yet they do not move out of the car’s path. One scene in particular keeps panning out from Leigh as she just … stands there, staring at the car, not moving. For. Ages. Gurl, I get that you’re scared, but move out of the fucking way! Oh my gosh. My partner and I kept looking from the screen, to each other, to the screen, to each other, and still Leigh did not move. It made no sense. Why wouldn’t you move?! The car isn’t even barrelling at her. It’s literally creeping towards her and she watches it. All I could think of is that scene in How I Met Your Mother where Barney is learning how to drive and doesn’t turn the wheel. (Also that scene in Bob’s Burgers where Tina’s learning to drive, but now I’m just wildly off topic …)

That said, overall it’s a really solid film and I’m definitely going to try and watch more John Carpenter soon.

Also, Dennis stole this whole movie. Four for you, Dennis. You go, Dennis!

Show Review: The Man in the High Castle (2015)

I put off watching The Man in the High Castle for ages. It’s based on the classic novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick and it stars Rufus Sewell, whom I love soooooooo much (if you haven’t seen The Pillars of the Earth or Cold Comfort Farm, hop to it!), but, being Jewish, it’s nightmare fuel to see a world where the Nazis won. (Side note: if you want a great movie with central Jewish characters, I wholeheartedly recommend Defiance.) I found out though that The Man in the High Castle isn’t just alternative history, it’s science fiction, and the focus is heavily on the Resistance and fighting against all the horrors of racism and eugenics, so I decided to give it a go. The science fiction angle just sounded interesting. It’s slow to come, but it’s there, so keep an eye out for it. (The show is slow to bring in the sci-fi like Game of Thrones was slow to bring in the fantasy. It’s very political and character based.) And, seriously, epic casting all around: Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, DJ Qualls, Joel de la Fuente, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and, of course, Rufus. (And more awesome actors come in as the episodes go along. Lots of great guest stars! Lots of rep!)

The show starts off in the 1960s, so it’s a costume drama-dystopian-alternative history-science fiction show. The backstory is that, during WWII, the Axis powers won their separate theatres of war, and so the United States is divided up under German and Japanese control. The Nazis control the east, which is known as the ‘Greater Nazi Reich’, while the Japanese control the west, known as the ‘Japanese Pacific States’. There is also a small sliver of land between the two known as the Neutral Zone. The Neutral Zone is basically keeping the Cold War between the Axis powers from turning hot.

The show begins in San Francisco, which looks totally different, and follows Juliana Crain and Frank Frink. They’ve been together for years, but they worry about having children as Frank has Jewish ancestry and Jews are still in danger in the Pacific States. They try and live under the radar until one day Juliana’s sister Trudy appears, frantic. She tells Juliana that she has a way out. Before Juliana finds out what she means, Trudy’s killed by the police. Juliana then finds a film Trudy had in her possession that’s meant to be delivered to the Resistance. On the film is something seemingly impossible: a world where the Nazis lost and the Allied Powers won. (It’s not quite our world, but it’s close.)

Frank begs Juliana to go to the police, knowing how dangerous being involved with the Resistance is, but Juliana decides to go instead to meet with the person Trudy was trying to give the tape to. When she leaves, it triggers life changing events for everyone: Frank is promptly arrested, as are his family, and their Jewish heritage is used against them; an undercover man named Joe encounters Juliana on the road and, though he has his own agenda, quickly falls in love with her. At the same time, the high officials on both sides are keeping secrets and plotting against each other. We’re introduced to Obergruppenführer John Smith, a high ranking figure in New York who is trying to bring down the Resistance and find ‘the Man in the High Castle’, who knows something.

My favourite character, bar none, is Frank. He’s deeply loyal, loving, kind, and his character progression is intense. His devotion to Juliana and Ed, his best friend, make him so endearing, but he’s also just such an innately good person. I don’t want to spoil too much of his character arc, just know he’s amazing. I like Juliana, but I definitely struggle with some of her choices. Ed is a hero. While I never liked any of the bad guy characters, the actors who play the bad guys are brilliant in their roles, and Rufus Sewell’s character has a very well written storyline. There was one storyline that I really feared would happen, but it didn’t. Huge relief! Without spoilers, if a romance had gone one way, I would’ve peaced out so fast there would be cartoon dust clouds behind me.

Heads up, though: this whole show is tough to watch. There are some truly gruesome, twisted scenes that broke my heart. There’s a storyline where they follow a character with a medical condition and you get to hear all the Nazi eugenics bullshit and it made my skin crawl. The antisemitism is appalling, disgusting, wrong and hard to watch. There’s horrific racism aimed at Blacks by both sides that will make you furious and leave you crying. The scenes with all the propaganda, insignia and symbols are also very painful to watch. But, again, it’s showing how wrong all this is. How we should be free, how everyone should be equal, so if you can handle the grim storyline to watch good characters kick ass against awful racists, it has great payoff.

What I found especially interesting is how the historical events that really happened in history are basically switched for alternative events in the story’s history. It blends the events a little, but it’s pretty much Opposite World. And as the science fiction comes in and you learn the ‘secret’ of the Man in the High Castle, the show spins you on your head while leaving on the edge of your seat.

The Joys of Horror Comedy

I feel like a genre there isn’t enough of is horror-comedy. And there are some winners out there! I watched three delightful ones today: Extra Ordinary (2019), Little Evil (2017) and Beetlejuice (1988). And I can wholeheartedly recommend them all!

Extra Ordinary follows a driving instructor with a Talent for the supernatural who gets roped into helping a man rid his house of his wife’s spirit. The spirit will go so far as to dictate what shirt he can and can’t wear, how much toast he should eat, or where the plates need to go into the dishwasher. Honestly, it’s hilarious.

Little Evil is about a man with a stepson who takes pranks to an extra level – to the point where the father starts to wonder if he’s actually evil. The opening scene is the wife having to dig her husband out of the ground because the stepson buried him. Adam Scott is honestly a gem in this! I laughed so much.

Beetlejuice is a classic Tim Burton! I remember, vaguely, seeing it as a child, but I couldn’t remember anything about it other than Winona Ryder was in it. I totally forget it had Alec Baldwin! It also has Catherine O’Hara and watching it so soon after finishing Schitt’s Creek gave me the giggles. She’s a star!

Anyone else love horror-comedy? I’d love some recommendations!

Currently Reading [27/05]

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman [nonfiction, philosophy, history] I’m a huge fan of Bregman’s talks and I’ve been meaning to get into his books for a while now. His recent story on the real Lord of the Flies was just wonderful, too. Really looking forward to this one.

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky [dystopian, science fiction] This is one BIG book! I’m really enjoying the audiobook, but it is 23 hours (!), so it’s gonna take me a while. The descriptions are great so far.

Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation by Imani Perry [nonfiction, feminism, history] The introduction was absolutely mind-blowing! The author relays the story of the novel Oroonoko by Aphra Behn, which was written in 1688 and is apparently one of the first English novels ever written. It’s about the love between the eponymous hero, and Imoinda, his true love. Perry writes: Behn’s bifurcated tales of fortune and misfortune, The Forc’d Marriage and Oroonoko are, in turn, comedic and tragic. They are twin narratives of the development of modern patriarchy. Another part that struck me was the case of Amanda Dickson that Perry highlights. Dickson was a biracial woman in the late 1800s whose white father sought to bestow his fortune upon. Perry writes, But in [Amanda Dickson] we have a record of a life that surely must have been dizzying, anxiety-rendering, and rife with heartache. In that she wasn’t alone; she certainly was a part of a staggering majority: those who failed to be and were failed by the patriarchs in their midst.

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry [historical fiction, lgbt+] Not far into this one yet, but so far the main lads Thomas McNulty and John Cole have spent an enjoyable stretch of time working as dancers and enjoying the dresses they get to wear and the dances they have with the men. Lovely prose as well!

Some great covers for these ones, too:

Mini Review Roundup [25/05]

This was an audiobook and poetry weekend, to be sure! After finishing Gold Rush Manliness and Everything You Love Will Burn, I decided to pick up some romance and poetry. I have a lot more nonfiction on my list, but mixing it up definitely keeps things interesting. I’m also enjoying Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky, an epic sci-fi book.

Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

All she wanted to do was stand there and look. Being by the sea always made Sarah feel small. Insignificant in a way that was comforting somehow.

I’m actually setting this one aside for now. About halfway done, and whilst I really do like O’Neill’s writing and I’m definitely going to try one of her other books, I’m not in the right mood for this one. I think what the book is trying to depict is an important topic to discuss – how bad relationships can become – but I don’t think I’m in the head space for it. As well, Sarah is a character that I’m struggling to connect to. I’ll probably come back to this at some point though. The story certainly does draw you in.

I also picked out a few poems to read this week as I was definitely missing poetry. Uncanny Magazine has a lot of great poetry, so I checked out some of their recent issues

Issue 31 / Issue 32.

I started with ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ by Ada Hoffmann.

Have you ever torn through a forest of books, trawling the half-naked
flotsam
of dream and the tarnish of myth, desperately seeking
a memory?

Pretty, right? I liked this one. What a lovely poem. Available here.

Followed it up with Brandon O’Brien’s ‘Elegy for the Self as Villeneuve’s Belle’, which was brilliant.

Wanting pretty things is hunger, too,
and having is feasting, denied by few.

Available here.

I also read Annie Neugebauer’s ‘The Wooden Box’. Really liked this one!

It’s a wooden box,
ornately carved, beautifully
stained a dark mahogany.

It’s dry as I lift it up
and gently slide out the
tongue-and-groove top.

Gave me chills, to be honest! Read here.

  1. Cage of Souls | science fiction, dystopian
  2. A Small Revolution in Germany | lgbt, fiction
  3. Agnes Grey | classics, fiction
  4. The Curse of the Black Cat | fantasy, lgbt

What’s everyone reading this week?

May Books 2020

currently reading

Gold Rush Manliness – [non-fiction, history] Really liking this one so far! It focuses on how race and views on masculinity affected the men and women of the gold rushes in California and British Columbia. I have to finish up its review by the end of the month.

Swimming in the Dark – [lgbt, historical fiction] I just started this one and I have a feeling it’s going to break my heart in beautiful ways. The writing is so lush. It follows a young gay man in 1980s Poland.

Agnes Grey – [classics] I’ve always loved Anne Brontë. Started this one after I got into a conversation about the Brontës the other day and reignited my FEELINGS on the fact that Charlotte tried to prevent Anne’s book from being republished after her death. There’s more here, but I will never get over Charlotte almost killing her sister’s career AFTER SHE DIED. She literally said this about her sister’s writing: “Wildfell Hall it hardly appears to me desirable to preserve. The choice of subject in that work is a mistake – it was too little consonant with the character – tastes and ideas of the gentle, retiring, inexperienced writer.” LIKE WHAT THE FRIKKITY FRAK DISCO TRACK IS THAT?!

 

What’s everyone else reading this month? 

Mini Book Reviews: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1964) & How to Train Your Dragon (2003)

book review

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

Okay, this was super cute. I saw the film as a kid (and somehow didn’t realise that the movie was co-written by Roald Dahl???) and I knew it was based on a book (and somehow didn’t know it was by James Bond‘s writer! I’m a loser, honestly) but I never got around to it. So glad I finally have. I think it’s lovely that this was written for Ian Fleming’s son. Reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ dedication to his goddaughter: But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

SUPER. CUTE.

And the fact that David Tennant narrated the audiobook just solidifies its awesomeness. His voices are PERFECTION.

 

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell 

And that, my friends, that is the hard way to become a hero.

THIS WAS SO BLOODY CUTE. The names are adorable. It’s all adorable. TOTES ADORBS. Definitely recommend for anyone who wants a cute little book about a boy and his dragon.

Book Review: Matilda (1988)

My Post (2)

Matilda by Roald Dahl

The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.

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This is one of my forever-favs. This book gave me so much joy as a child and it still holds a special place in my heart. Little Matilda Wormwood with her wretched family, her wretched headmistresses, and so much cunning in her mind that she devises a way to help herself, her classmates and the wonderful Miss Honey.

Four for you, Matilda.

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Audiobook Review: Anne of Green Gables (1908)

book review

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive — it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there? But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do.

Good freaking rainbow toaster sticks, this book is just every shade of adorable. Anne has absolutely no chill and I. AM. HERE. FOR. IT. She reminds me of me, as a kid, actually. The hyper active but deeply insecure girl who just has no filter and yammers on and on. Hehehe. Embrace your lack of chill, guys. 😉

I’m not surprised by how much I liked it, though I’m surprised by things I probably wouldn’t have picked up on if I’d read it as a kid. Watching Anne with an E had me drawing hearts around Anne and Gilbert, but this book totally had me wondering if Anne/Diana was the true OTP. And I’m not the only one. I could definitely see Anne and Gilbert being rivals and friends forever, with Anne and Diana being meant to be. But heck, they’re all so cute. Anne probably has chemistry with the flowers in her garden, though. Whatever your interpretation or OTP, this book is just wholesome. Like, it’s such a happy story, set in such a lovely, dreamy place. And crikey does it make me miss Canada. Nova Scotia’s the only place I’ve really been (and Anne comes from Nova Scotia!), but now I’m desperate to see PEI.

And this → → I’d rather have you than a dozen boys, Anne. Just mind you that. Rather than a dozen boys. ← ← was just the *chef’s kiss* of the book. Bearing in mind this was written in 1908. WE STAN A BIT, MATTHEW.

Also, I am perfectly content having Rachel McAdams narrate absolutely everything.

source

Gosh, she’s so lovely, isn’t she? (/◕ヮ◕)/

tr;dr read Anne of Green Gables, ya goobers. It’s a delight.