Tuesday, 27 December 2016

#Blogmas 2016 - Day 26 - Musing Monday - What I'm reading & my Christmas book haul

Musing Monday December 26, 2016

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

 I’m currently reading…

I am still reading The Immortals, I'm up to page 206 but I haven't read it since yesterday morning. I went to my aunt's overnight last night for Christmas and I didn't feel like taking a library book with me because knowing me I'd end up forgetting it there in a completely different city than where I live. That's not a fruitless worry - after Thanksgiving one year I left my camera at my uncle's house also in a different city than the one I live in. So we had to make a point of picking it up when we went in the next month for a doctors appointment. For that reason I started reading a new book this morning, a Kobo ebook on the Kobo app on my phone:

Deceptions (Cainsville #3) by Kelley Armstrong

I finished Visions on the 21st and wanted to start Deceptions immediately but I knew I wanted to have an ebook to read today at my aunt's so I forced myself to wait to start this. It's a good thing I did because I got a Kobo gift card for Christmas so I used that to buy Betrayals tonight so that I don't have to wait to start that once I finish deceptions. Of course then it will be a long wait until the 5th book in the series drops mid next year. I am seriously loving this series, it's absolutely fascinating and I am so invested in the story and characters now. part of me wishes I had read the books when they were initially published so I could have loved them longer but the other part of me is thrilled that I am only getting obsessed with them now because I can binge read them and not have to wait ages in between each book. As I said I started reading it this morning when I woke up and then I read it in the car because the foggy, rainy weather was straining my eyes and the screen of my phone was easier on them, so I'm already up to chapter 11. I can't give you a page number because the Kobo edition doesn't have page numbers.

Here's the summary from Goodreads:

Olivia Jones is desperate for the truth. The daughter of convicted serial killers, she has begun to suspect that her parents are innocent of their crimes. But who can she trust, in a world where betrayal and deception hide in every shadow?
Liv does have one secret weapon: a mysterious sixth sense that helps her to anticipate danger. The trouble is, this rare power comes with its own risks. There are dark forces that want to exploit Liv's talents - and will stop at nothing to win her to their side.
Now Liv must decide, before it's too late. Who does she love? Who is really on her side? And can she save herself without burning down everything that matters most?"

Compared to the summaries for the first two books in the series this one seems strangely underwhelming.

        THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Did you get any good books for the holidays?

I got LOTS of books for the holidays!

  1. The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Magical Movie Handbook  (from my lovely Angie)
  2. The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them colouring and creativity book (also from Angie)
  3. Fairest of All : a tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino (from my Mum)
  4. Darkest Torment by Gena Showalter (also from my Mum)
  5. Betrayals ebook by Kelley Armstrong (via a gift card from my Mum)
  6. Lost Souls ebook by Kelley Armstrong (via a gift card from my Mum)
  7. City of the Lost ebook by Kelley Armstrong (via a gift card from family members)
  8. Winds Of Salem : A Witches Of East End by Melissa de la Cruz (via a gift card from family members)
  9. Black Widow Red Vengeance (a Black Widow Novel) by Margaret Stohl (via a gift card from family members)
  10. Fallout by Gwenda Bond (via a gift card from family members)
  11. Double Down by Gwenda Bond (via a gift card from family members)
  12. Supernatural : War of the Sons by Rebecca Dessertine (via a gift card from family members)
  13. Supernatural : One Year Gone by Rebecca Dessertine (via a gift card from family members)
  14. Supernatural : Coyote's Kiss by Christa Faust (via a gift card from family members)
  15. The Raven Boys: Book 1 of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater (via a gift card from family members)
  16. Figment 2 : Legacy Of Imagination by Jim Zub (via a gift card from family members/plum rewards points)

I am SO excited to read all of these in 2017 :D

Monday, 26 December 2016

My Top Five Christmas Movies

After spending all of Christmas Day watching films (all Disney I have to point out) I felt the urge to list my favourite five Christmas films of all time. I haven’t watched any of them today, although Frozen does feel like a Christmas film as it’s all snowy and wintery but as it’s not actually set at Christmas I don’t consider it a Christmas film.

So here are my top five in reverse order.

5. Arthur Christmas.  
I saw this at the pictures when it first came out and it was the first film me and my sister took my niece to see.  I haven’t actually seen it since until this year when I won a copy in a competition and fell in love with it all over again.  It tells the story of Santa and his sons Steve and Arthur.  Steve is the eldest son and hotly tipped amongst the elves to take over as Santa when his father retires.  Arthur is the youngest and works in letters, answering all the letters sent to Santa by the children over the world.  He is a total believer in Christmas, whereas to Steve it is just a case of proving how efficient he can be.  When a child’s present is accidentally undelivered, Arthur sets off to make sure no child is forgotten and deliver the gift in time for Christmas morning.  To do this, he enlists the help of his grandfather who is determined to prove the old way with a sleigh and reindeer is better than all the modern technology used by the current Santa and Steve.  Also along for the ride is a wrapping elf Bryony, who has a good heart but no delivery experience.  It’s a warm hearted tale that encourages children to never stop believing.

4. Beauty and the Beast Enchanted Christmas
It’s a Disney sequel and I usually don’t include these in any lists as generally they don’t live up to the magic of the first one.  Now although the animation isn’t as polished as the first, the voice casting is the same and it is included here mainly for the music it features.  I love the songs from this film, particularly As Long As There’s Christmas.  It’s a great song and the reprise is a touching moment towards the end of the film when Belle is giving up hope and Angelique the castle decorator (in the enchanted form of a Christmas angel tree topper) reminds her of her earlier words that As Long As There’s Christmas, hope is the greatest gift a person can receive.  It’s a sweet tie in movie that doesn’t take anything away from the original film and is a sweet story within a story made for Christmas.

3. Home Alone
What festive movie list would be complete without Home Alone featuring on it somewhere.  I have seen four out of the five movies that have been released and although each one has it’s plus points, the first and original one stands out above all others.  Kevin is accidentally forgotten by his family when they go on holiday for Christmas leaving him home alone.  At first he has a whale of a time, eating junk food, watching bad movies and raiding his brother Buzz’s bedroom for money and other goodies.  However soon he starts to miss his family as he realises just how much they mean to him.  If that wasn’t traumatic enough, two burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern try to break into the house knowing the family is away so Kevin sets multiple traps around the house causing them injuries and eventually getting them arrested.  As he wakes up on Christmas morning having successfully defended his home and preparing himself for Christmas alone, he finds his mother has finally made it back to him, closely followed by his father and his siblings for the obligatory happy ending.

2.  The Snowman
It’s hard to believe this short animated film is 34 years old but it has never lost its simple and childlike appeal for me.  It’s based on a children’s story by Raymond Briggs and tells the tale of a young boy James who wakes up to find his garden covered in snow and goes out to play, eventually building the perfect snowman.  He goes to bed but is unable to sleep and on the stroke of midnight he creeps downstairs and opens the door to see the snowman come to life.  After inviting him inside and showing the snowman the wonders of the human world, the snowman takes the young boy by the hand and flies up into the air and off around the world  accompanied by the lovely song Walking In The Air (sang in the movie by Peter Auty, NOT Aled Jones who shot to fame by releasing his own version of the song as a single).  Finally they arrive at the North Pole and are greeted by many other snowmen and Father Christmas himself. After a jolly party and a visit to the reindeer, it’s time to leave and head back home.  The Snowman leaves James at the door to go to bed and he finally goes off into a happy sleep and the snowman returns to his inanimate form.  The next morning James rushes downstairs to see his new friend for more adventures but alas he has melted away, leaving James downhearted with just the scarf he received as a gift from Father Christmas as a reminder that it wasn’t just a dream.  That ending gets me every single time and I think I have watched this film every year since 1982, I do remember watching it the first time it was released.  This story never ever goes out of date, I recommend every child should watch this and be enchanted just like I was.

1.  Muppet Christmas Carol
Oh where do I begin, words cannot describe how much I love this movie.  Obviously I love the Muppets so I was always going to love this film but everything in this film appeals to me so much.  I love Michael Caine as an actor and he is wonderful as Scrooge, with great comic acting alongside a zany muppet cast.  The songs are wonderful and I know every single one word for word, it’s so hard to pick my favourite from them as they are all fab.  The only thing I could have ever complained about was the song ‘When Love Has Gone’ which was sung by Belle when she broke off her engagement with Scrooge.  However since the DVD was released they cut this song from the film as it was considered to lose the interest of the audience (and I quite agree) so it was removed and if you didn’t know it used to be there, you’d never know as the film flows fine without it.  I especially like the little attention to detail in the film, little things which you pick up after watching it many times.  Little in jokes which give  a nod to the original Muppet Show, such as Stadler and Waldorf as Jacob Marley and his brother Robert (Bob Marley, geddit?) telling Scrooge to leave comedy to the bears, referring to them as hecklers for Fozzie’s act in the original show.  There’s little nods to Michael Caine such as a shop in the village called Micklewhites, in reference to Michael Caine’s real name Maurice Micklewhite and another called Stadler & Waldorf in tribute to the grumpy old curmudgeons.  The film itself was praised for how much of Charles Dicken’s original text was in the script as Gonzo portrays Dickens himself narrating the story and Rizzo accompanies him for some brilliant comic moments (Hey hey hey, light the lamp not the rat!)  
As such I can find myself watching this film many times throughout December each and every year and I am not averse to watching it at any other time of the year either, such is its appeal for me.I hope you enjoyed my top five Christmas movies.  How many of them would make it onto your list and which of your favourites have I not mentioned?  Do let me know in the comments section.  I’m off to watch the Muppets, just talking about them make me miss them, it’s been at least 24 hours since I last saw the film.  Cold turkey anyone?

Happy Christmas everyone!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

In A Galaxy Far Far Away (spoiler free Rogue One review)

On December 16th I was transported back to a galaxy far far away as I went to see the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise, the newly released Rogue One. It’s a stand alone adventure which fits neatly before the events occurring in Episode IV: A New Hope.  It was going to be interesting to see how all the new characters fit in and how they were going to tie it in with a film that was released almost 40 years ago.

So we settled back into the action right away.  The beginning is a little bit choppy and bitty as we are introduced to many new and interesting characters such as new heroine Jyn Erso and her scientist father Galen (Felicity Jones and Mads Mikkelsen respectively).  There’s our dashing new hero Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and sassy new droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk).  We also have our supporting cast of Chirrut Imwe, a blind spiritual warrior who believes strongly in the Force and his sceptical companion Baze Malbus, pilot Bodhi Rook and Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera.  Then you have your bad guys of course and here it is Ben Mendelsohn’s Director Orson Krennic.  

There are some surprising cameo’s as well helping to tie the whole piece and drag it in line with the original stories.  Once the introduction segments are out of the way and everything starts running in some sort of order, the action is non stop and fast paced.  The plot is centered around the building of the infamous Death Star and the rebels plans to destroy it.

The cast really make you care about their characters. You straightaway get gripped by their plight and are constantly willing them on in their quests, all of which seem to be at odds with each other until finally reuniting in the third and most thrilling act which continues to cut between the different characters as they race against time to find the plans for the Death Star. My favourite has to be K-2SO, he has no social filter, he just says whatever comes into his head, often quoting high odds for failure and is extremely comical.  His line to Jyn made me chuckle out loud when he says “I’ll be there for you…..Cassian said I had to.”  And Cassian himself is very adequate eye candy however he does have a very stirring speech which really makes you feel everything he is fighting for.

The film was visually beautiful with wonderful new planet locations and the final battle took place on a wonderfully tropical planet of Scarif, filmed on location in the Maldives and provides a deceptively contrasting paradise setting for a storming final battle. The other locations are all again visually stunning, all with the right setup and look for the Star Wars universe.

The ending was surprising and I wasn’t expecting it at all given the Star Wars franchise but I was happy with it and Rogue One was a welcome addition to the Star Wars storyline and I can’t wait to see it again, especially if watched in chronological order with the other 7 films.

A wholly enjoyable experience all round and may the force be with this franchise as long as it continues at this standard.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

#Blogmas 2016 - Day 19 - Musing Monday - Holiday reading habits & what I'm reading now

Musing Monday December 12, 2016

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

 I’m currently reading…

I know last week I said I was thinking of giving up on Zero Day - I didn't though, I sped read my way through it and finished it last night. After that I started focusing on:

The Immortals (Olympus Bound #1) by Jordanna Max Brodsky

This book was chosen for the same reason as Zero Day as a potential selection for my post for the January Calendar Girls challenge - it's a debut novel from this year. So far - and I am only 72 pages in at the moment - I am enjoying it MUCH more than I did Zero Day. It's one of my favourite fantasy sub-genres, modern takes on classical mythology, in this case Greek/Roman mythology which is one of my favourite types within the sub-genre. This novel is more like Rick Riordan's Trials of Apollo than it is his Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus in that it's from a god/goddess's POV. The main character is Artemis (here called Selene) and just like in Riordan's books the setting is New York City. Which should be obvious from Central Park featuring on the cover and the fact that the tagline says Manhattan.

The city sleeps. Selene DiSilva walks her dog along the banks of the Hudson. She is alone-just the way she likes it. She doesn't believe in friends, and she doesn't speak to her family. Most of them are simply too dangerous.
In the predawn calm, Selene finds the body of a young woman washed ashore, gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. Her ancient rage returns. And so does the memory of a promise she made long ago. To protect the innocent-and to punish those who stand in her way.
With the NYPD out of its depth, Selene vows to hunt the killer on her own. But when classics professor Theo Schultz decodes the ancient myth behind the crime, the solitary Huntress finds herself working with a man who's her opposite in every way. Together, they face a long-forgotten cult that lies behind a string of murders, and they'll need help from the one source Selene distrusts most of all: the city's other Immortals.
Much like Lev Grossman's The Magicians spoke to a generation of adults who grew up with Harry Potter, THE IMMORTALS will enchant anyone who loved American Gods or Percy Jackson." -- via Goodreads
Can't say that I'm crazy about the Grossman comparison - I hated the first Magicians book so much I had to stop reading it. The premise was intriguing and perfect and exactly something I would like, the characters were so over the top pretentious I couldn't stand it and they still make me angry 2 years later.

Now why am I only up to page 70? Because Friday night I forgot to bring the book up to bed with me and didn't feel like trekking down two storeys to get it from the basement so I started re-reading Kelley Armstrong's Omens on the Kobo app on my phone. So in between responses to Angie on Saturday and Sunday I devoured Omens finishing it sometime yesterday evening. I immediately wanted more, which always happens when I start reading Kelley Armstrong, I can never just stop at one book. Therefore I immediately started the second book in the series which I'm reading now to the neglect of my poor library copy of The Immortals.

Visions (Cainsville #2) by Kelley Armstrong

I had read Omens before but I never got around to reading the rest of the series which I now know will be on book 5(!) next year. That means I get to read 3 in a row for the first time so I am very excited. The Kobo edition I am reading on my phone does not appear to have page numbers and I can't judge the percentage either (it's not displayed) so I can't say for certain how far into it I am yet. But it's very exciting so far and pretty unputdownable. I love Kelley Armstrong's writing, I have yet to read a book by her that I haven't enjoyed and so far this one is not proving any different.

This series is another fantasy sub-genre, the paranormal romance one this time as with most of Kelley Armstrong's stuff. It's more like Age of Legends so far in that it leans more towards the paranormal fantasy side with the romance playing an important but not completely central role. There's also some mythological fantasy sprinkled into this paranormal fantasy in the form of Welsh mythology. I've had to bookmark a Welsh to English dictionary website!

"In the second book in bestselling author Kelley Armstrong's exciting new Cainsville series, Olivia's newly discovered power to read omens leads to the discovery of a gruesome crime with troubling connections to her hometown.
     Omens, the first installment in Kelley Armstrong's Cainsville series, introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh, the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes.
     Their success, however, is short lived. While Olivia takes refuge in the old, secluded town of Cainsville, Gabriel's past mistakes come to light, creating a rift between them just when she needs his help the most.
     Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed to look like her, but the body vanishes before anyone else sees it. Olivia's certain it's another omen, a sign of impending danger. But then she learns that a troubled young woman with a connection to Cainsville went missing just days earlier--the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. Someone has gone to great lengths to kill and leave this young woman as a warning. But why? And what role has Olivia's new home played in this disturbing murder?
     Olivia's effort to uncover the truth places her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don't want revealed." -- via Goodreads

        THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Do you tend to find that you make more time to read during the holiday season? Or do you have less time to read because of the hustle of the season?

I make time to read at all points of the year because reading is my jam. It is easier to make time to read even more during the holidays however because then I can do like I do on a standard weekend and just spend an entire day getting through a book. Aside from visiting family on Christmas day there's not much in the way of hustle and bustle in my holiday season and I always take at least one book along on those visits for reading in the car and later in the evening after things have quieted down. I remember one time when we stayed over at my aunt's house and I stayed up until 3am because I wanted to finish the book I was reading. No regret was had that day even though I was utterly exhausted the next morning.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Strictly Come Dancing - The Grand Final (Spoiler Alert)

So at last it is here.  The Grand Final of Strictly Come Dancing.   Over the last 3 months, fifteen celebrities have been slowly whittled down to just three. There has been tears as well as triumphs, history has been made and the end of an era approaches as Len Goodman hangs up his dancing shoes as Head Judge.  Who will replace him has yet to be announced and there is much speculation. However, my theory is that it won’t be decided or at least announced until the next series begins.

However we have one exciting night ahead of much dancing as the finalists perform not one, not two but three dances apiece.  Their first dance will be one they’ve already danced selected by the judges to dance again.  Their second dance will be the much awaited showdance, a dance which showcases the best of the dancers choreography to show off the celebs and how much they have learnt.  Unlike the other dances, there are no rules in the showdance, they can put anything into the routine and for my video choices I have chosen to insert these as they are never before seen routines. Their final dance is each couples favourite dance from the series.  I also must point out that the judges are only there for guidance in the final.  The winner is decided by viewers votes alone.

So after a thrilling opening number from the pros, our finalists enter the arena.  Welcome Danny Mac and his partner Oti Mabuse; Louise Redknapp and her partner Kevin Clifton; and Ore Oduba and his partner Joanne Clifton.

First to dance is Ore and the judges choice for him was the American Smooth from Week 3.  This was from Movie Week and he danced to Singing In The Rain.  It scored a huge 35 points back then and even Gene Kelly’s widow had got in touch with Ore to congratulate him.  So the judges wanted to see it again as they felt he could improve the routine even more.  It was danced to perfection, the steps and twirls were brilliant.  The judges could see the improvement and he scored a fantastic 39 points with just Craig marking him down for a minor pointing of the toes.

Next up was Louise and the judges had also returned to Movie Week for her as well.  They wanted to see her Cha Cha Cha again.  They felt that given how much her confidence had improved over the weeks, she would perform this much better and also the fact she had won the Cha Cha Challenge should mean her performance would be vastly improved.  They were right and she performed this fantastically, she was more confident and smiley during the routine and it was full of energy and very sexy.  Her score rose from 31 in week 3 to a huge 38 in the final.

Finally up was Danny Mac and the judges asked for him to perform the Quickstep from Week 4.  He had scored 36 for this previously, each judge giving him a nine.  However his performance wasn’t great this time round.  He was out of time at the beginning, he seemed to struggle to get moving and then his final run was horribly out of step.  However the judges gave him the same marks, each scoring him a nine which I felt was overmarked given the mistakes.  Had this been anything other than the final, I think they would have ripped him to pieces.

Next it was the much awaited show dances. Again first up was Ore and Joanne.  Joanne had packed so many different dance styles into the one routine danced to ‘I Got Rhythm’.  There was Jive, Quickstep, Charleston, even a bit of tap in there.  But the highlight was the section where they danced on a series of platforms made up to look like a drum kit.  They were leaping around on and off them, one false move and it would go horribly wrong but it was danced to perfection and I really can’t begrudge Ore his perfect 40 score from the judges.

Next up was Louise and Kevin.  I was really looking forward to this as I love Kevin’s routines and I’ve made no secret of these two being my choice to win.  Kevin had put together a beautiful routine telling the story of Louise’s journey through Strictly from a shy and nervous starter to a strong confident performer and dancer.  Set to Whitney Houston’s One Moment In Time, this was a stunning routine, elegant and fantastic lifts and the performance reduced me to tears.  She scored 38 from the judges but it would have been a 40 from me.

Finally performing to Adele’s Set Fire To The Rain was Danny and Oti.  Again I had high hopes as Oti is an amazing choreographer.  However this didn’t really live up to my expectations.  It seemed too much.  It was a good performance but not really to my liking.  It felt like they were trying too hard and Danny didn’t seem as at ease as he has in previous routines.  Maybe he was still recovering from his mistakes in the first dance but I didn’t feel it was his best performance.  However the judges gave him a full house and a score of 40.

Then we come to the final dances of the evening which were the choices of the celebs themselves.  No surprises in any of them as Ore went for his Jive which scored 39 first time round, Louise performed her beautiful Argentine Tango again which also scored 39 when she first danced it.  Danny chose the amazing Samba from a few weeks ago which scored him a history making 40.  All celebs performed their dances perfectly tonight and all three of them got a perfect 40 this time round.

So all the dances were done with and while the votes were cast, counted and verified we had a performance from Emilie Sande (I made my dinner during this point, I’m not a fan).  Then there was a lovely ballroom dance from the pro dancers in a tribute to Len Goodman and then finally all the eliminated celebs were reunited on the dancefloor for one final dance (minus Will Young who had declined to return after withdrawing in week 4).  It was great to see them all back again, even Ed Balls.  The dance routine highlighted each celebs best moments of their time on Strictly.  Anastacia’s splits, Ed’s Gangnam Style, Lesley’s Tango, Daisy’s bicycle ride, Greg leaping over a bar and spinning Natalie round, Judge Rinder shaking his bum again and Claudia cartwheeling down the floor to AJ who lifted her up in that amazing final lift from their Lion King routine.

Finally it was time for the result and after what seemed like an eternity, it was announced that the winner was ORE AND JOANNE.  I can’t say I am totally surprised, after all he was only one point off a perfect score all evening and he is clearly a favourite with the public.  Of course I would have loved Louise and Kevin to have won it but Ore was my second choice.  That being said the three finalists were the strongest performers from the series although I would have liked to have seen Claudia there too.

All in all, this series of Strictly has been amazing with great celebs, memorable moments and some truly outstanding dancing.  I can’t imagine the next series living up to this one but who knows? It could be even better.

There is still the Christmas special but these are never as good as the main series, however no doubt I will be watching it.

Roll on Strictly 2017, my Saturdays nights will be empty without my dancing fix.  But as they say……….KEEP DANCING!

Friday, 16 December 2016

#Blogmas 2016 - Day 15 - My 5 favourite Christmas movies

Today on Blogmas, a list of my top 5 Christmas movies.

1. Home Alone (1990) directed by Chris Columbus

I think this is the quintessential 90s kid Christmas movie. This is the film that started my crush on Macaulay Culkin. It's a kiddie action comedy and it balances both perfectly. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern make perfect villains and perfect foils to Macaulay. It's just such a fun movie to watch. It never fails to make me laugh and smile. You know what else makes me smile? The fact that thanks to Chris Columbus there only 2 degrees of separation between Kevin McCallister and Harry Potter.

2. Lethal Weapon (1987) directed by Richard Donner

It's set at Christmas therefore it is a Christmas movie, same as Die Hard (which would also be on this list if I'd actually ever sat down and watched it from beginning to end instead of just watching parts of it). I love action movies, always have. I remember the first Danny Glover movie I ever saw, Operation Dumbo Drop. Those were the two reasons I watched Lethal Weapon the first time, and now I've seen it so many times I could probably quote the entire thing without actually watching it.

3. Home Alone 2 : Lost in New York (1992) directed by Chris Columbus

I was going to invoke franchise rules and only name one of the Home Alone films and use Jingle All the Way as my alternate 5th title but then I remembered that I like the idea of Jingle all the Way more than the actual film - the only reason I ever watched it was because I am a Schwarzenegger fan. Besides why shouldn't I include Home Alone 2? It has everything to make a perfect action comedy Christmas film just like it's predecessor. With the original cast and director back it really would have been hard for this film to be a miss, and thankfully it wasn't.

4. Iron Man 3 (2013) directed by Shane Black

This may or may not be an unpopular option but I do like Iron Man 3 (I know popular opinion is to bash it hard). I love Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark and he is still spot on and perfect in this film. I am willing to admit that this film had HORRIBLE flaws, but I still find it enjoyable. And like with Lethal Weapon, it's set at Christmas and therefore is totally a Christmas film. One of the key scenes even takes place at a Christmas party!

5. Elf (2003) directed by Jon Favreau

Huh, 2 Chris Columbus/John Hughes movies on my list and 2 Jon Favreau's, how interesting! Anyway, it's kine of hard NOT to love Elf it's just such a joyful and heartfelt Christmas film. Obviously with it being a Will Ferrell vehicle it is also obviously hilarious. I had never seen it until about 5 years ago when my cousin Bill put it on for me and the little ones at Christmas. It was such a funny film. Now I want to watch it because thinking about it makes me want to see it again.

What are your favourite Christmas films?

Thursday, 15 December 2016

#Blogmas 2016 - Day 14 - My 2016 Reading Challenges...so far...

I last wrote an update about my reading challenges for this year back in June. At that point I was nowhere near complete. Back in June I was only 54% of the way to my minimum goal of 52 books. Now I've read 67 which means I'm at 129% of my goal already and I am also currently working on books 68 (the POA audio book - I only listen to audio books at work when it's slow), 69 (gotta finish Tao of Pooh sooner or later), 69 (The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them screenplay, I am savouring it), and 70 (The Immortals). I know on Monday I said I was considering quitting Zero Day but I ended up just powering through and speed reading it because I was still interested in the premise even though the writing wasn't fantastic. It was okay.

Even though my last update was halfway through the year I had only read 10 books to fulfill the 40 category Pop Sugar challenge. At this point I've read 23 (technically 24 when you count the prequel) and that's probably as many as I will get because none of the books I want to read for the rest of the year fit any of the remaining slots.

  1. A YA bestseller - Black Widow : Forever Red
  2. A book from the library - Blood Lite III : Aftertaste
  3. A book that is guaranteed to bring you joy - Feel the burn
  4. A book set in Europe - The Darkest Night
  5. A book with a blue cover - The Darkest Kiss
  6. A book you can finish in one day - The Darkest Pleasure
  7. A book and its prequel - book: The Darkest Night / prequel: The Darkest Fire
  8. A book that is published in 2016: The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1)
  9. A classic from the 20th century: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  10. A book that's under 150 pages - Clouded Vision (77 pages)
  11. A book you haven't read since high school - Gallows Hill
  12. A graphic novel - In Odd We Trust
  13. A book recommended by someone you just met - Nimona (recommended by our Student Assistant Sophia just after I met her)
  14. A dystopian novel - The Maze Runner (Maze Runner #1)
  15. A book that takes place on an island - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (British Isles)
  16. A science-fiction novel - Ready Player One
  17. A book recommended by a family member - Berlin Game (recommended by mum)
  18. A book based on a fairy tale - Six-Gun Snow White
  19. A New York Times bestseller - The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner #2)
  20. A murder mystery - Nevermore (Supernatural #1)
  21. A satirical book - Horrorstor
  22. A book that's becoming a movie this year - Our Kind of Traitor
  23. A book that is set in your home [province] state - The Summer Tree (Fionavar #1)
I am declaring this challenge as complete as it's going to get so what was my final score? 23/40 = 57.5% complete. Good enough for me!

What about Book Riot's Read Harder challenge? This one I am definitely still working on I have at least 2 books I play to add to it. Those two being Tao of Pooh and the POA audio book. Back in June I had only read 4 items making me 1/6th of the way to finishing the 24 item challenge. Now I've read 14 with 2 more completions on the horizon, but that's it for the same reason as Pop Sugar's challenge.

So if I do manage to finish both POA and Tao of Pooh and get to 16, I won't be eligible for the discount but I will have completed 66.6% of the challenge and since this is my first time doing a Read Harder challenge I am going to pat myself on the back for that and look forward to next year's list.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

#Blogmas 2016 - Day 13 - My year in books a Goodreads infographic

Since I'm having a bit of writer's block today and also had to run some errands this evening which made me unable to look at the library books I got about Christmas I thought I'd take a more graphical approach to my post tonight and share my Goodreads year in books infographic. This was such a in the butt to actually get saved as a single image!! So I'm putting it under a jump cut because it's HUGE. It was actually even harder to get it to upload without resizing itself to the point where it was unreadable but I finally figured out how.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

#Blogmas 2016 - Day 12 - Musing Monday - debut novels & reading and stress

Musing Monday December 12, 2016

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

 I’m currently reading…

Zero Day by Jan Gangsei

I requested this one from the local library last week after signing up for Flavia and Melanie's Calendar Girls challenge. They announced that the first challenge was going to be to pick your favourite debut novel from 2016. It was at that point, when I looked back on everything that I've read so far this year, that I realised that I hadn't actually read ANY debut novels. I feel like that's unusual for me. Either way though it meant I needed to hunt down and read at least 2 debut novels before January 4th.

Zero Day is one of two that I requested from the local public library. I started reading it first because at the time (until the next day when I brought home 3 Agatha Christie novels from work) my mum had decided that she liked and was going to read the second book I got (Jordana Max Brodsky's The Immortals). I picked Zero Day based solely on the teaser which really hooked my interest:

"Eight years ago, Addie Webster was the victim of the most notorious kidnapping of the decade. Addie vanished—and her high-profile parents were forced to move on.
Mark Webster is now president of the United States, fighting to keep the Oval Office after a tumultuous first term. Then, the unthinkable happens: the president’s daughter resurfaces. Addie is brought back into her family’s fold…but who is this sixteen-year-old girl with a quiet, burning intelligence now living in the White House? There are those in the administration who find her timely return suspicious.
When a national security advisor approaches Darrow Fergusson, Addie’s childhood best friend and the son of the president’s chief of staff, he doesn’t know what to think. How could the girl he’s missed for all these years be a threat to the United States? Still, at the risk of having his own secrets exposed, Darrow agrees to spy on Addie.
He soon realizes that his old friend is much more than the traumatized victim of a political fringe group. Addie has come with a mission…but will she choose to complete it?" -- via Goodreads

That makes this book sound like, to me anyway, a cross between The Manchurian Candidate, a really good episode of Law & Order SVU, and that cheesy Taylor Launter movie Abduction (which I will admit to enjoying the one and only time I watched it) all rolled into one. I was excited about it. Until I actually started reading it. I am up to page 58, which puts me at 16% through it according to Goodreads, and at this point I am seriously considering quitting it. It's just not well written. There's a lot of showing instead of telling and literally every single thing that has happened so far feels more contrived than, well I can't think of a good comparison because it's really contrived! And so forced. So yeah I think I'm just going to stop. I started The Immortals this morning hoping against hope it would be better and even though I am onl 3 chapters into it as opposed to 10 like with Zero Day I am already much more invested and engaged with The Immortals.

        THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Does reading help you to release stress during stressful times? Do you have a favorite book that you return to for calm?

This question takes me back. I remember at least mentioning/hinting at this in previous Musing Monday posts but I'll explain myself completely this time. This has kind of always been one of my traits, and I am well aware of its existence in my character. When I am stressed, any kind of stress, all I want to ever do is read a book. This was hard when I was in undergrad because as an English major I was always assigned to read specific novels, that's something I've never enjoyed. I want to be able to read whatever I am in the mood for reading at a given time, not being told what to read and when. So I'd get stressed from having to read all these books I didn't enjoy and I'd want nothing more than to pick up a book for fun and pleasure. Whenever I tried to do this however my body would practically seize up with guilt. I hated feeling guilty about reading the things I wanted to read. The guilt never actually stopped me caving in anyway, just ensured that I would have to deal with it after if I was lucky enough not to be caught out. I've since gotten a lot better about feeling guilty. But I definitely haven't stopped reading as a stress reducer/coping mechanism.

I do have certain books that I'll go back to over and over again, the Harry Potter series is the big one for that. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is another because it's soothing. Outlander is one I often go back to, but only the part AFTER Claire is sent back in time, because I find the part with Frank boring. Mostly though I just try and read whatever it is I'm in the mood to read. Because different types of stress seem to put me in the mood for different genres or different authors or even different formats (graphic novel vs. novel). So as long as I listen to those cravings whatever I read manages to calm me down.

Monday, 12 December 2016

#Blogmas 2016 - Day 11 - Getting to know winter holidays that aren't Christmas

As an undergrad I double majored in English and Religion and Culture before going to library school to become a Library Technician. I work in a library now, specifically an academic one, which allows me great access to a lots of different books on a wide variety of topics. I've been struggling all day to come up with an idea about what to write about today in trying to stick with the holiday theme. As I was sitting here playing pokémon sun and watching Fast and Furious films an idea finally started to form in my head, what if I were to put together a small reading list for every non-Christmas winter holiday to help people find books that could teach them about other holiday traditions around the world?

So that's exactly what I am going to do!

Here's a list of the holidays/traditions I plan to cover. As I do a post I'll come back and edit this one with a link so that it acts kind of like a hub.

Religious Holidays/Traditions/Celebrations

  1. Christmas.
  2. Advent
  3. Hannukah
  4. Krampusnacht
  5. Twelve Days of Christmas
  6. Pancha Ganapati
  7. Hanukkah
  8. Yule
  9. Winter Solstice
  10. Id al-Adha 

Secular Winter Traditions/Celebrations/Holidays

  1. Jólabókaflóð
  2. Festivus
  3. Boxing Day
  4. Kwanzaa
  5. Hogmanay

Are there any that I've missed that you'd like to see me put together a reading list for?

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Strictly Come Dancing Week 12 - Semi Finals (spoiler alert)

We’re at the semi final stage now and there are only four remaining celebrities.  Only three of them can be in next week’s Grand Final which means someone’s journey will end here tonight, falling at the final hurdle has to be the hardest moment of all.  But it has to happen to someone and there is no-one in tonight’s show that does not deserve a place in the final.  All four are capable of taking that trophy and all four would be worthy of it.

Tonight the celebrities have to perform not one, but two different dances which means they’ve all been training twice as hard as usual.  I couldn’t imagine being able to remember one routine in just a week let alone two.  This is where we really see who has what it takes to win.

So first in the running order is Louise Redknapp.  Her first dance tonight is the Tango.   I remember the week she did the Argentine Tango and scored an amazing 39 points.  Tonight’s Tango was very clean and sharp but also very fast.  Similar to Danny’s last week, it wasn’t the typical Tango music, more rock and roll than anything but Louise and Kevin made it work for them.

Next up was Danny Mac.  Danny has clearly been one of the ones to watch this series but has come in for a lot of criticism from the public given his background training and the fact he has already appeared in musicals.  He was dancing the Salsa this week and after the amazing Samba a couple of weeks ago, I was expecting great things but whilst he was good, he wasn’t at his usual high standard.

The sweet Claudia Fragapane was next and she dancing the very difficult Rumba.  She has been marked down lately due to the lack of chemistry with her partner AJ but this Rumba seemed to work and I felt the chemistry was there between them but the judges still found it lacking.  I think a 19 year old girl who has admitted she has never had a boyfriend would find it hard to demonstrate an in depth chemistry with a young boy she’s only known for 12 weeks but over the series she has developed her character as well as her dancing.  I’m just not sure what the judges are expecting from her.

Last up was Ore Oduba and he was dancing the Quickstep.  This was a modern quickstep to a rock number and it was very slick and fast and filled with energy and life.  I thoroughly enjoyed this routine, especially his leap over a motorbike at the end.  All these celebs are getting very brave and really upping their game in their determination to make that final.

So after their first dances the leader board looked like this

Ore Oduba & Joanne Clifton 38
Danny Mac & Oti Mabuse 37
Louise Redknapp & Kevin Clifton 37
Claudia Fragapane & AJ Pritchard 35

So then after a quick costume change (kudos to the wardrobe and makeup teams as the show is live), they were up for the second dance in the same order as before.

Louise and Kevin were dancing the Samba. This was probably Louise’s weakest performance for many weeks.  I felt like she wasn’t into the character and was struggling to let her personality show.  There was too much going on with her feet but nothing much happening above the waist.   It wasn’t for me, I’m afraid.

Danny and Oti’s second dance was the American Smooth.  Oh my word.  If I wasn’t impressed with his Salsa then this more than made up for it.  It was beautiful, elegant, graceful and classy and I really, truly adored it.  The lift at the end made me gasp with total surprise and it showed just how much faith and trust Oti has in Danny’s abilities.  It was astounding.

Claudia’s last dance of the evening was a Quickstep.  AJ had chosen a classic style Quickstep rather than the modern version like Ore’s.  They were perfectly in time with each other, they flew across the dance floor and her little feet never stopped moving for even a second.  Finishing off with a slide across the floor and this was Claudia’s best performance and even earned her a 10 from head judge Len as well as Bruno.

The final dancer of the night was Ore and he and Joanne did the Argentine Tango. I was curious about this one because I knew they would be dancing to Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head which seemed an odd choice for this dance.  However, the way it was sang slowed it down to the right tempo and mood for the dance.  The judges and audience loved the routine and it scored them a massive 39 points BUT for me, I just didn’t enjoy it.  It didn’t move me in the way Louise, Claudia and Danny had in their Argentine Tangos.  Still I’m not a judge, I just know what I enjoy watching.

So after both dances the leader board now looked like this

Ore Oduba & Joanne Clifton 77
Danny Mac & Oti Mabuse 76
Louise Redknapp & Kevin Clifton 73
Claudia Fragapane & AJ Pritchard 73

So who will be in the dance off?

Sunday night’s show and the opening dance by the pros was curious.  It was very beautiful and graceful but it was a little bit strange and I’m not really sure how to describe it.  I think as the main dance Janette started in a cage, they were supposed to be birds but it was just too odd for me.

So the first couple through to the final is Ore and Joanne and they were obviously over the moon about it.  However there were some amazed and stunned looks when the first couple into the dance off was Danny and Oti.  I don’t think anyone expected that to happen.

A performance from Sting who still sounds as good as he ever did and a close up look at some of the dances with the help of the final ever Len’s Lens (Len is retiring after this series in case anyone wasn’t aware) and it’s back to the results.  Joining Danny in the dance off unfortunately is Claudia and AJ which means Louise and Kevin are through to the final.  Now I don’t say unfortunately because I don’t like Louise, on the contrary I think she’s an amazing dancer but I just adore Claudia, I really do.

So both couples danced their hearts out, Claudia and AJ chose to do their Quickstep again and Danny and Oti performed the American Smooth again, both wise choices as these were by far the stronger dance for both couples.  In the end though all four judges opted to save Danny and Oti, which really I wasn’t surprised about but as Craig pointed out, both dance off routines were worthy of a 10 score so it must have been hard to choose between them.  It is stated that elimination should be based on the dance off performance alone but when both couples perform a perfect routine, I think past performance and overall performance must come into it somewhere.

So Claudia and AJ are eliminated and both of them were crying.  Everyone was sorry to see her go, none more than me because she has been so wonderful throughout the series and I really felt this weekend she had done enough to get through.  But the standard is so high, it was always going to be an interesting weekend.

So the finalists are Danny Mac, Ore Oduba and Louise Redknapp.   Do I have a favourite?  You bet I do but given my last two favourites Greg and Claudia are both out, I will keep my hopes to myself so I don’t jinx them.   It will certainly be a stunning final show of amazing quality.

Oh what the heck - GO LOUISE AND KEVIN!!!