Thursday, August 31, 2017

An Astronauts Guide to Life On Earth - Col Chris Hadfield

If you ever dreamed that you could be an astronaut then this is the book to read.  It might make you realise that you should have tried harder at school.  Col Chris Hadfield is a Canadian who has worked his whole life to make it into space and you have to admire his extraordinary work ethic to achieve his goal.

It was fascinating to read about his journey to both Nasa and then into space.  Although it looks cool to float around the space station the realities of flight made me think I would be space sick the whole time and would not tolerate the lack of showers well.  Hats off to the men and women who step up to do this job.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Personal Shopper

Well this seemed to me a bit drippy and pretentious.  Little Kristen Stewart is playing a grown up in this movie, but seems to not have any other expression than the mopey one she has in most movies.  She is living in Paris following the death of her brother, who she is waiting for him to contact her from the dead.  To earn her keep she is the personal shopper for a rich celebrity.  Oh the horrors of having to go and get Chanel and diamonds and be paid for it.

I don't know - I didn't really buy into it, it just all seemed a bit dreary to me.  2/5

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Orphan's Tale - Pam Jenoff

Pam Jenoff has written another story set in the second world war.  Noa is sixteen, and thrown out of her Dutch home by her parents.  She finds shelter and a job cleaning at a railway station, when circumstances change and she is on the run.  Taken in by a local circus, she meets Astrid, an aerial artist who has also lost her family, and helps to train the young girl and look after her.

This was a unique spin on a second world war friendship story, and I could see this easily being a movie, but although I could picture the world they lived in and the villages they visited, I somehow didn't get a clear picture of Noa and Astrid, they seemed a bit flat for me. 4/5

Friday, August 25, 2017

Driving Miss Norma - Tim Bauerschmidt

This is a sweet memoir.  Tim and his wife have retired early, and sell up their home to travel in an airstream chasing the warm weather.  On a visit to see his parents, he realizes that his dad has become unwell, and declines rapidly.  As he is dying, his mother Miss Norma is diagnosed with uterine cancer.  Rather than conventional treatment of surgery, chemo and radiation, they offer to buy a larger RV and  pack up and take her on the road and show her America.

Using social media to document their journey, she becomes a celebrity getting invited to dinner and shows around the country.  It is though, the quiet moments, the new sights that meant more to me.  The chance to bond with her son that she rarely saw, and a chance to look at new sights.  I liked that it wasn't a bucket list thing, that they tried to just go with the flow and enjoy the dinners at diners, and sitting and looking at the view were important.   5/5

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Two Nights - Kathy Reichs

This is a new character for the author Kathy Reichs.  Sunday Night is a tough ex military girl, who now is living the quiet life on a remote island, minding her own business and busy feeding her squirrel.  Called in to help find a missing girl, she finds herself being the target and being stalked, chased and shot at.

 I wasn't quite convinced by this story, maybe the cheesy name put me off, but it seemed all a bit unbelievable, shoot ups in a hotel leaving dead criminals, where she seems to be able to explain to the local police in a couple of minutes.   Somehow the trail of dead bodies would not seem that hard to track down to the hired gun.  Maybe I am cynical, but it felt a bit like it was an attempt at creating a Jack Reacher type character and didn't quite ring true for me.  3/5

Monday, August 21, 2017

Music Monday - Heart of Glass

Time for a classic today.  Me and my bestie scratched the he'll out of my brothers copies of Blondies Parallel Lines in 1978.  I still like to dance round the living room to it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Handmaids Tale

Ohhh I have just started this one and am enjoying it.  Ever since I read Margaret Atwoods stunning book in the 1980s it is one of those stories that stays with you.

 After a change in society, infertility has become the norm.   Young women who are fertile are forced into families of wealth and connection where they are used as vessels to breed.

  I am only on episode one, but this  version is dark and ominous.  Elizabeth Moss is mesmerizing in the lead role.  If I weren't soon tired I would have been tempted to stay up all night and binge watch.  Luckily there are a few rainy spring days forecast so I can stay inside and binge.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Secrets of My Life - Caitlyn Jenner

Most of us are aware of the story of how Bruce Jenner, Olympic gold winning athlete and celebrity transitioned recently and revealed herself as Caitlyn Jenner.  In this memoir, she tells us the story of how she knew from a very young age she wanted to dress as a girl and felt wrong as a boy, but it took decades before she was able to  change her body and admit to her family her true self.

You have to admire people who are able to step up and reveal themselves, faults and all.  I like her bravery in writing this book and and enjoyed learning her story.   I left with the feeling that because of her secrets that she hidden, her life has been lonely and largely unhappy.  I hope she finds happiness now - life is short and to be treasured. 4/5

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fragile Lives - Stephen Westaby

Professor Stephen Westaby is a prominent UK cardiac surgeon.  In this book he tells us about his own life and family and how the death of his grandparents led him to deciding to become a doctor.  He has lots of fascinating stories about his training years.

Most of the book though is devoted to the heart patients that he has looked after over the years - the successes and the failures.  He started his training when cardiac surgery was a young speciality and there have been many advances is surgery techniques and tools available.   I could have listened to his stories endlessly as the were all so inspirational. 5/5

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Juliet's Answer - Glenn Dixon

Glenn Dixon is a Canadian English teacher, who tells us about his classroom and their experience of learning about Romeo and Juliet.  On one of his holidays, he heads to the real Verona in Italy, to work in an office where unlucky in love men and women write letters to Juliet Capulet, and a team of writers reply back giving them hope.

He does a good job of switching between stories, and in the process reminding us all of the beauty of Romeo and Juliet and their star crossed love.  It even made me want to read it again, which I last read many decades ago in high school. 4/5

Monday, August 14, 2017

Goodbye Pet & See You In Heaven - Bel Mooney

Bel Mooney was the owner to a small Maltese dog Bonnie, who had lived with her through a marriage that broke down, living by herself and now was living with her and her second husband at a rural property.  When Bonnie gets older and sicker Bel thought that she was prepared for when she would die, but when it happens she is surprised by the grief that she feels losing her small companion and friend.

Not only does she tell her story, but she talks with other pet owners who understand the loss of a beloved companion.  You may need a tissue, it may have made my mascara run a little. 4/5

Sunday, August 13, 2017

House of Z

Sadly today was the last day of the Film Festival and it was the last movie I had booked to see with a friend.  House of Z is a documentary about American fashion designer Zac Posen.  Like other shows about other designers, this one is about a recent collection shown but I think he has opened up his life more than many of the rest.  He was obviously a very talented and charismatic teenager and he was able to establish himself by having amazing support from his family, with his mother and sister working with him for some time.

 Even though my friend and I do not know much about the current high fashion world, it is a compelling watch, from him being fashions darling to being irrelevant in a short time and then having to make a comeback .  It is interesting to realize how much an illusion it is, when they haven't made any money in years, and that the money comes from investors  and deals made with outside companies.  4/5

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Womans Life

This is one of the last Film festival shows I got to see, and I must admit to nodding off a bit.  A subtitled French film often has the ability in a warm theatre, to do that to me.  Also I think I was lulled to sleep by the incessant chewing of the older woman next to me, who took 45 minutes to eat her ice cream cone.

So we get to meet Jeanne frolicking in the sun at her French chateau with her Mama and Papa dreaming of a handsome Beau.  Things are good, then they go bad and then they get worse .

I would have liked it more if there were a higher ratio of happy scenes to ones that made you depressed, but maybe I slept through those.  Also it looked like my uncle had filmed it in 1982 on his video camera that weighed 20kg - then showed it on our 70s tv, I am sure it was some arty sort of cinematography that the hipsters would know.  2.5/5

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Farthest

If I  had to recommend one movie from this year's Film Festival this would be the one I would tell everyone to go and see.

The Farthest  the story about NASAs Voyager mission.  Launched in 1977, these two small space ships were sent into the solar system to send back photos and data from distant planets.  It is fascinating stuff, especially when you consider the computer power that was available in the 70s.

They also talk about the golden record, stuck you the outside it is 2hours of music and messages, just in case there is some alien life out there.  The musical choices seemed a bit odd, with only one pop hit and lots of odd cultural picks.  Can you imagine ET playing a record?

It gives a fascinating perspective on just how small Earth is in a huge, huge universe.  The Voyager has made it now to the end of our solar system and is now in Interstellar space - the only thing ever to be out there, and may continue on  long after we are gone, and even after the earth is here.

Amazing stuff that may have even made me tear up at timesome and the best space movie I have ever seen 5/5

Thursday, August 10, 2017

It Comes At Night

OK so going in you know this might not end well.  This is the one thriller I chose to see at the film festival.  It is the type of movie I prefer to see at the cinema, rather than watch at home and not being able to sleep afterwards.  It is also kind of funny to sit in the cheap seats, where when someone in the row jumps, the whole row rocks with them.

It is post apocalyptic world and Paul and his wife and son are locked up in a house in the woods.  I won't tell you anymore.  4/5.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Alice Network - Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is one of those authors that you can escape into her books and picture the story straight away.  From the first few pages I knew I was going to enjoy it, and looked forward to being able to head to bed to read my book each night.

Like most historical novels, this book has two story threads.  Charlie St Clair, a young American socialite who in 1947 comes to Europe to search for her young cousin Rose, who was last heard of in France several years earlier.  When her search begins she meets the rough and tough Eve Gardiner, who has her own story of being in France over the first world war.

Their story begins to weave together as both women begin to rely on each other as they travel between cities searching for clues.

At moments the characters came across a bit cliched and predictable but I did like that they were a little flawed and trying to overcome their demons,  that made the story still feel a little fresh and not the usual war story.  5/5

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Beguiled

The Beguiled is a remake of a 1971 movie of the same name.  It is a dreamy Gothic drama directed by the clever Sophia Coppola.   It is the end of the civil war and at a small girls school one of the pupils discovers an injured Union soldier (Colin Farrell) and assists him to the school where the ladies look after him.

Using his charms and flirting with all the ladies, he convinces them to not hand him in, and tries to stay on as a gardener.  Just as he is about to be forced to leave, there is an accident and things begin to change.

I enjoyed watching Nicole Kidman, Kristen Dunst and Elle Fanning fawn over the handsome Colin Farrell.  The costumes were beautiful although I doubted that in wartime , without help they would have had such glamorous outfits so white and pressed.  3/5

20th Century Women

This one played in the early morning at the Film Festival and was a good start to the day.  A coming of age film done in a unique way.  It is the story of Jamie who is 15, and his single mother Dorothea.  Living in an old run down house they share their house with mechanic/potter William and photographer Abbie, as well as Julie - Jamie's friend who spends most of her days and nights with them.

Dorothea asks the girls to help educate Jamie as she can sense that he is beginning to struggle with growing up and she is struggling to stay relevant.  An interesting peek into growing up at the end of the seventies, with the best boy fight.  Not a film for the kids, this more of an adult drama 3.5/5.

Monday, August 07, 2017

My Life As A Courgette

Hats off to the team who made this stop motion movie which I think took them seven years.  It is the story of a young boy, who after an accident at home is sent to live in care with others of his age group, all of whom have been damaged by the absence of the adults in their lives.

It is not all doom and gloom however, and made me secretly smile throughout as it tries to  show how everyone blossoms with live in their life, and this can take many forms and come from many people you encounter.   4/5

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Chalk Pit - Elle Griffiths

Ruth Galloway is one of my favorite thriller characters, although she may be a bit too involved in cases than her job would usually permit, the ordinary  parts of her life make her a believable character and more real to me.  I like that she is a single mother just trying to do her best, even when her patience with her five year old daughter and elderly parents is tried.

Harry Nelson too feels real to me, I get a sense of him and there is a good balance of his police work and private life.  Nothing like hating the boss, and having an affair to make detective feel conflicted.

In this book several homeless men are killed and two women are missing and everyone is wondering if there is a link.  I guessed who the bad guy was pretty early on, but still 4/5 from me.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Big Sick

So in a little break from the Film Festival - I went to the movies!!! The Big Sick has had a bit of hype lately and this was it's first week of release here.  If you don't know the story it is based on the real life relationship between Pakistani/American comedian Kumail Nanjiani (who plays himself in the movie) and his wife Emily Gordon.  They meet when she heckles him at a comedy club.

Their relationship is new when Emily gets sick, and Kumail has to introduce himself to her parents that he had never met before.

Not a huge laugh it is a sweet movie, and although I did see a poster declaring it the best rom-com ever, I felt that was a bit of an exaggeration.   3.5/5

Friday, August 04, 2017

A Ghost Story

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a young married couple C and M, who notice some strange occurrences in their new house.  As we come to find out, the house is haunted by what becomes the main character in the movie, a ghost in a sheet with two holes in it, who has no spoken dialogue for most of the movie.  At times it is sweet and dreamy, but at times it is a bit confusing although Wikipedia does a good job of explaining the plot.

I did struggle with a long scene of eating a pie, and thought it was maybe all a bit too much hipster for me.  3/5


You know I was going to love this one, as I like my kitty cats and I had read good things about this little documentary.  Filmed in Istanbul, it follows about 5 street cats as they go about their days and the people that feed and look after them.  It must be a tough life, trying to find food and shelter and with markets and homes being pulled down to make way for apartment blocks and motorways, their existence is threatened.

Not only is it the story of the sweet cats, but it lets us learn about people and how it adds to their lives to feed and pat the cats, something most of us know.  5/5

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Paris Opera

This was the next documentary I saw, a show about the famed Paris Opera.   Following a season, it starts in the managers office, but we get to see lots of backstage organizing, onstage bickering, rehearsals, auditions and snippets of performances.  I have never seen an Opera myself, and not a big fan of classical music, opera or ballet, but still enjoyed this movie.  It showed a human side to this huge organization and I liked that they at least briefly discussed the elitist nature of their entertainment while trying to justify seat prices (prices have increased 91% while cost of living increases have only been 23%).

A couple of the stories withing a story that made me smile, was the introduction of a large bull into a live stage performance and the young 21 year old Russian Opera Singer who at the beginning of the movie is shown at his audition, where he is barely able to speak French.

It was enjoyable, the music although not my think was still great and worthy of a 4/5.

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

It was a lazy morning getting up this morning, as the first film I had booked didn't start until 10:30am.  This was another interesting documentry.  As urban populations increase by one million people a week, we are faced with changing our cities to fit everyone in.  How will we house and transport the increases in population.

This movie focuses on New York, that after WWII goes through immense change as urbanization takes hold.  Slum tenement buildings are pulled down and large scale housing projects go up in their place, and many historical districts are threatened to be pulled down to make space for motorways. On one hand this modernization is spear headed by power broker and developer Robert Moses, who with his posse of middle aged men seeks to change the face of the city.  With little opposition and not much discussion, his vision is not often challenged.

Jane Jacobs, a writer does offer up a different vision.  She questions the loss of eyes on the street that comes from having cafes and shops at street level, and with low windows and stoops there were places to talk and gather and spots for children to play safely.  She wonders why the people that live in the city aren't being asked what they want in new buildings and does the new developments actually serve the purpose they are made for or are they just hiding the poor people away on the city verges?

As well as being a compelling story that tells a story from the sixties, it still resonates today as our own cities swell and struggle to cope with everyone moving in.  I did enjoy looking at the historical images of New York - man that is one busy city. 4/5

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


A couple of years ago I saw the wonderful documentary Sherpa at the film festival. This year it was Mountain - a story about the lure of the mountains, to climb, ride, ski and snowboard on and to jump off.

Much of the movie is made up if beautiful natural scenery, scarily high Vistas and steep slopes.  I did feel a little like the middle part was a collection of youtube videos which was a bit distracting.  3/5

I Am Not Your Negro

This evening it was a documentary that I went to see, it was meant to be sold out, but some tickets were freed up while I was waiting.  It is based on a manuscript that the author James Baldwin was writing about race relations in the US.  In it he talks about his friendship with African American leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

At times it was immensely moving and relevant to look back at how much has changed and then realize that there is still much to be worked on.  As James Baldwin died in the 80s i wonder what he would think of what he would see around him now.  I did leave the cinema thinking though that I expected more and it underdelivered.   3/5.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


For the past couple of years at the film festival there has been a couple of documentaries that have outshone many of the other movies shown.   The ones that show us the world of high fashion are some of my favorites.   It may have been a dream of mine when I was 12 to be a fashion designer.  Now as an adult I have an admiration for their talent and the art of design.  I dislike the business side of it though and loathe the snobbery that looks down on people while trying to sell you a $900 tshirt.

Dries Van Noten is a Belgian designer who is shown looking at his past collections while trying to bring together his men's and women's new shows.  It is interesting seeing his processes, developing his own fabrics and what I like about his style is that so many if his beautiful clothes look like you would want to wear them, or at least a cheaper more diffused version that may filter down to the high street.

The shows were beautiful , in amazing sights around Paris.   When I see these fashion shows I am always surprised by the young gamine models on the runway, wondering why there is no diversity on stage.  When the designers spout off saying they love women, yet only seem to design for the one type of young tall and slim body type.

We get a small glimpse into the designers private life.  The lovely country home with beautiful gardens that he shares with his partner, and most touching if all was his lovely dog, who gets little bits of play time in between jobs.  4/5