October & November 2018 Books

October & November (1)

Well this is not at all unexpected: I am still rounding up books I read last October. Never let it be said that I am not committed to finishing the things I start, even if I never do it promptly.

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
It’s been such a long time since I read this that I’m having a little trouble remembering anything about it! But my Instagram caption tells me that I really liked it, so I’m going to trust past Jane. It’s a boy-meets-boy story, about a young gay guy who gets involved with an older guy whose family are strict Mormons, and therefore totally against the idea of having a gay son. It’s a long book, and I don’t think it necessarily needs to be, but it’s a nice story

Everless by Sara Holland
I grabbed this from the library shelf on a whim, without knowing what it was about at all. It’s a YA fantasy book, and I don’t read an awful lot of them, so it made a nice change. The basic premise is that time is currency, and can be extracted from blood to be used, especially by poor people. The story itself is about as YA fantasy as you can possibly get – there’s a teenage girl at the centre of everything, with a mysterious past, and there’s a boy (or two) providing a love interest. But I think the central premise is interesting enough to hopefully sustain the series, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for the next one in the series.

House of Glass by Susan Fletcher
Read my full review of House of Glass.

A Keeper by Graham Norton
It’s easy to be a little bit sniffy about celebrity books (though I try to judge on merit rather than turn my nose up). But I read Graham Norton’s debut novel, Holding, when it was released a couple of years ago, and knew then that he’s just a writer who happens to be famous for other things. A Keeper opens just after the death of Elizabeth Keener’s mother, bringing her back to Ireland from the States, where she has re-located. The narrative splits between the present day, where Elizabeth is slowly uncovering the truth about her father, who she has never known, and the past, where Patricia, her mother, is meeting her father for the first time. It’s a story of secrets and lies, families and relationships. If you’ve not read any of Graham Norton’s novels, I highly recommend them. He handles his deftly written characters delicately, and here he weaves a plot backwards and forwards throughout two generations.

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Almost without a doubt, this was my book of 2018. I listened to it as an audio book, which I think is probably the best way to read this, as it’s read by Michelle Obama herself, and she’s just entirely wonderful. Her memoir feels like an entirely honest look back at her life, from her young years as a schoolchild, through her time as a young professional and then working mother, through to her time in the White House as the first African-American First Lady. I devoured this book, listening for hours at a time, and as a result I felt as though I had her voice in my head for days afterwards. She’s inspiring, and funny, and warm, and just wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed Becoming.

Books so far (up to this point) in 2018 – 44

I didn’t include December’s books in this round-up, because it would have made it entirely too long, so there will be a final 2018 books post in a few days!

 

This Week in Podcasts

podcast

Back in June, I decided that I was going to start a semi-regular series about my recent podcast discoveries. Semi-regular became not-at-all-regular, as that one post and this one are the only two in the series so far. But I’m on a new blogging kick, so I thought it was time to resurrect it and try and make it something I write a little more often. So, on with the recommendations.

Bag Man is a seven-part series from MSNBC, presented by Rachel Maddow. It tells the story of Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon’s first vice-president, who found himself under criminal investigation, and as a result, became the first vice-president to resign office. It’s a story that I was tangentially familiar with, as I think many people may be, as it’s inextricably linked with Watergate. But I was not at all familiar with the details, and this is a well-researched and well-presented podcast that is a must-listen for anyone who is interested in American politics.

Mark Kermode’s new (ish) podcast, Kermode on Film, is everything you would expect from someone as intelligent and knowledgeable about film as the nation’s favourite film critic. The best thing about the podcast is that each episode offers something different. Once a month, an episode is dedicated to the show that Kermode does at the BFI Southbank (which I attend as often as I can – I even make a fleeting appearance in episode 2!), featuring guests and general film chat. Other episodes finds him out on location, at famous film spots, including the alley from Peeping Tom, and the streets of Belfast from Good Vibrations. All in all, the perfect podcast for film fans.

I’ve been listening to The Daily from The New York Times, though I find it hard to commit to listening to it each day – the episodes are piling up! I definitely recommend it though; I recently listened to one about what happens when you enable location services through apps on your phone, and how that information is sold. It’s scary stuff!

Finally, I’ve been dipping into Dan Snow’s History Hit. Although my usual method of listening to podcasts is to go right back to the start and listen from the first episode, but with this I have just been cherry-picking episodes that I think will be most interesting to me. I recently listened to an interview with Charles Spencer about his biography of Charles II; and another one about genetics and history with Adam Rutherford.

Links

Bag Man
iTunes | Acast

Kermode on Film
iTunes | Acast

The Daily
iTunes | Acast

Dan Snow’s History Hit
iTunes | Acast

52 Films by Women ~ July – December

One of my ongoing goals is simply to watch more films that are written and directed by women, but I consistently fail in this attempt! I’ve attempted the 52 films by women challenge two years in a row now, and failed each time. It’s pitiful really, considering how many films I do watch (92 in 2018), that I can’t manage at least one a week by a female writer or director. But it’s a 37 Before 37 item now, so hopefully that will help boost my attempt! Here’s what I watched in the second half of 2018.52Films2

Set It Up – Directed by Claire Scanlon, written by Katie Silberman

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – Directed by Susan Johnson, written by Sofia Alvarez

Copycat – Co-written by Ann Biderman

A Simple Favour – Written by Jessica Sharzer

52Films3

Road House – Co-written by Hilary Henkin

A League of Their Own – Directed by Penny Marshall

One Day – Directed by Lone Scherfig

Widows – Co-written by Gillian Flynn

52Films4

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – Written by J.K. Rowling

The Prince of Tides – Directed by Barbra Streisand, co-written by Becky Johnson

The Princess Switch – Written by Robin Bernheim and Megan Metzger

The Gentle Sex – Co-written by Aimée Stuart

Along with what I watched in January, February and March, and April, May and June, that takes my total to 29. That’s quite far short of the 52 target, and only makes up just over 30% of all the films I watched last year. This is only partly down to me, of course: women just aren’t equally represented in the film industry! But I already have lots on my list that I want to watch, so hopefully I can hit 52 in 2019!

A Love Letter to… 2018

a love letter to...

 

Dear 2018

I’ve been doing this letter for a few years now, and if nothing else, it’s a good excuse to actually pull my finger out and blog. I probably write this post in the same frame of mind every year, with the start of a brand new year approaching, I feel motivated to give myself a kick up the bum and actually provide this blog with some content. We’ll see how long that lasts!

I’ve been thinking about this past 12 months a lot, and it’s been a pretty OK year. I’ve done lots of fun things, and nothing disastrous has happened (no broken limbs this year), but equally, nothing truly momentous has happened. I feel as though I’ve been resting on my laurels a bit, in all honesty; maybe kind of waiting for something to happen, but in my 36 years on the planet, if I’ve learnt nothing else (I’ve actually learnt a lot of things), I at least know that good things don’t actually come to those who wait, they come to those who go out and make them happen. So that’s going to be my mantra for the year, especially when it comes to writing. I’m going to try and make something happen in 2019!

2018 was the year I went vegan. As I write this, I’ve been vegan for a whole 364 days, as I took part in Veganuary at the beginning of the year. I have written a little bit about it before, and as we go forward, I’m hoping to actually blog some of the amazing food that I eat, both at home and out and about.

I’ve spent another year, on and off, going along to Mark Kermode’s regular monthly event at the BFI Southbank – this has been my third year, and though I haven’t made it to as many as in the past, I’ve been lucky enough to see the likes of Michael Caine, Hugh Grant, Mike Leigh, Josie Lawrence, Steve McQueen and Rami Malek, amongst others.

I’ve been abroad twice, (which is kind of a big deal for me, someone who doesn’t travel that much) to two countries that I have never visited before. The first was a press trip for the magazine I work for, to a beautiful hotel in the Austrian Alps, and then over Christmas, my friend Hannah and I went to Portugal, for an all-inclusive five days in the sun. It certainly made for a different kind of Christmas, and I’m missing the blue skies already!

I went to a Dodge Brothers concert, to a J.R.R. Tolkien exhibition in Oxford, went to Scaresville (a truly epic haunted village Halloween event), visited Audley End, I went to YALC, I had all my hair cut off (and regretted it). I went to see The West Wing Weekly being recorded as the show went on tour, at Union Chapel, and absolutely loved every single minute of it. If I had to pick a highlight of the year, that might be it. I survived the Beast from the East and all the annoying snow it brought, and the heatwave of 2018, and all the annoying high temperatures it brought (never happy, except in spring and autumn).

I gained a new baby niece, taking the nibling total to 456 (or something like that). I got to spend time with my friends and family, though never as much as I would like. I started my driving lessons again, in the hope that one day soon I’ll be able to take and pass a test, and be able to spend more time with the people I love, due to not having to rely on stupid public transport.

I worried, worried, and worried some more about the state of the world, and despaired at the actions of the people who are supposed to know what they are doing. We’re now staring down the barrel of the truly godawful prospect of Brexit in March, and who knows what’s going to happen then? I’ve realised that all I can really do is concentrate on me and what I can do, both for myself, and for those who are worse off than me, and hope that things don’t turn out as badly as we’re all expecting them.

What a cheery way to end this look back at the year! Farewell 2018, thanks for the memories.

A Love Letter to… is an ongoing series (that I tend to update once a year.)