A mostly wet June with little happening. I’ve been painting outside furniture in the garage to protect it from the rain and local cats making a mess of the paint until dry, and local cats from the wet paint, so they didn’t end up looking like felines from Wonderland. We once again had the problem of red mites, which we suffered last summer. Harmless but they like warm surfaces and are annoying as they restrict where you can sit out, mark everything if they get squashed (and they’re so fragile it’s not always avoidable), and make us have to think twice about opening a window.
City of Ember is a pleasant film, visually stunning, and I loved Bill Murray as the Mayor. Has many negative reviews, perhaps justified, perhaps not; I don’t know the source material. A film for the little ones and adults who know no better (I mean that comment in a good way). Dual starring Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul is a hard film to rate. Though slow in places, one could easily dismiss this, yet there was much I liked about it. There’s a lot going on here, though not everyone will see it. Hearing Karen deliver lines in such a rapid monotone becomes off-putting and disturbing — exactly what the film’s going for, I imagine. I rate this science-fiction, replacement clone story as black satirical comedy that’s thought-provoking with a disturbing reflection of life.
The Midnight Library, Matt Haig
Matt Haig has never disappointed me, and The Midnight Library is no exception. One could say that the author’s telling us nothing new in this story about a young woman giving up on life; nothing we don’t already know. But Haig makes us feel this universal truth and believe, or at least want to believe, that life, a new life, potentially begins just around the corner. That everything is one decision away from changing. And for all we know, it might be.
Fourbodings: A Quartet of Uneasy Tales, edited by Peter Crowther, featuring Simon Clark, Tims Lebbon, Mark Morris, Terry Lamsley
Like one of those old films that put together a quartet of spooky tales, this book promises a dip into the same chills and thrills territory, though I’m unsure whether it fully delivers. There’s poor old Gerry who finds an apartment best left unrented; Vic, who can’t leave his friend Paul, to rest, but questions the accident that killed him on a dangerous road; Mary, who’s lived in the wilderness too long, her story leading us to question what’s most poisonous — the belladonna that grows or the man she once knew; and Bridget and Colin, who may have moved to a house with a dark secret. All leave the reader a little disorientated, questioning what is and isn’t there, but the stories also feel somewhat disjointed and incomplete, even though I imagine that’s intentional.
Trust Me On This, Jennifer Crusie
A brief introduction from the author describes this as a screwball comedy. It is, although this led me to expect a more intricate plot with lots of mistaken identities. The book, therefore, proved much lighter than my expectations, but just as enjoyable for all that. This is light summer beach reading and there’s nothing wrong with that. Perfect for lifting the spirits and setting aside stress. My favourite line comes toward the end of the book when it turns out the dog is a deal breaker for the man as much as the man is to the dog. It’s almost a throwaway couple of lines, but I thought too right. Crusie does what she always does here: create great banter.
Casino Royale, Ian Fleming (audio read by Dan Stevens)
I’ve never read a James Bond book. They’re always going to be hard to judge considering the dated attitudes. Though I don’t believe people, and certainly not literature, of the past should be judged by today’s standards, one can’t help a modern view creeping in. One has to disregard the sexism to get any enjoyment from Fleming’s most famous agent. Also, Bond’s meant to be a great secret agent and yet always appears to slip up, leaving the average person in the street shaking heads. Here he walks into a trap to save the woman, but I had to wonder to what use if caught and unwilling to talk under torture. There are good things here: the start of the Bond franchise; a glimpse of a deeper man hidden beneath the appearance of an impenetrable surface, but both Bond and Vesper also come across as emotionally weak. A physical relationship between them could easily be understood, but love? Considering what they had gone through, their relationship seems rather unhealthy. Of course, without giving away the ending, Vesper shows rather more backbone and courage, while Bond reverts to sexist weakness. Bond hurt is a man who buries any possibilities of owning his feelings and turns toward hate, emotionally erratic. Perhaps this was Fleming’s way of creating the cool, hard-shelled agent we know, but it feels cheap. It shows us a man who is not as self-assured as he believes; a man unwilling to be vulnerable, though one has to keep in mind that this story is set in a time of the British stiff-upper-lip. I could go on dissecting the work, but it simply is what it is. Dan Stevens does a superb job of reading and making the book come alive.
The Salt Path, Raynor Winn
Beautifully written with an underlying longing for hope, this book offers a journey that will drag the reader through mires of sadness, love, and optimism. If I have any criticism, it’s that a few dialog tags in places would have helped me more easily work out when it was Ray and when it was Moth talking, but that is a minor point. It also throws a light on what it is to be homeless in a way that makes the reader question the easy statistics governments throw at us. In a world where it’s now even easier for the hardworking to find themselves in a similar predicament, one should feel for Raynor and Moth and ask themselves what they would have done in a similar situation, for both of them turn out to be extremely hardworking people who slept where they slept because they had nowhere else to go. I almost let a few negative reviews put me off reading this. Judging those comments now, I can feel some don’t get the situation this couple were thrust in. They were not killing time, but trying to find a new direction, working out how to cope with devastating news, and learning and relearning so much about themselves. True, there was one small incidence of shoplifting — for food when they were desperate. Those so easy to condemn need to walk in less fortunate shoes. For those who have a love for the southwest and who have walked any stretch of the path, this will speak to them. Their diet was far from ideal, but there aren’t exactly massive supermarkets along the route, and there’s not much such person can cook on a tiny gas stove. Anyone who questions or criticises the way they ‘survived’ on the South-West Coast path, I can only imagine they’ve walked no stretch of it. It’s not something I would want to do without B&B arranged along the way, and plenty of funds to pay for food. Apparently, the couple now live in Cornwall, do charity work for the homeless, and Moth got his degree.
The Bad Place, Dean Koontz
A re-read for me, which I almost put down a time or two. I can’t claim to like this book because the bad guy is almost comically grotesque in mind, manner, and his origins and ultimately this is a terribly sad story. Also, I found the passages focusing on him and his sisters simply didn’t hold my attention, but the mystery behind Frank, the detectives he hires, and the surrounding characters kept me reading. Of course, as this was a re-read — be it after many years — I knew the outcome, but had forgotten some details. Perfectly plotted, if there’s one big negative in the book is that it feels a little overwritten and could do with tightening to make a more punchy impact. And the somewhat excessively dangerous man and his kin is questionable.
Much the same as last month, only I outlined a brief plot for a story I’ve been wanting to write for sometime. Though I’m a way off starting it, that takes me a step closer.
Stay happy and healthy!