Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Theatre of the Year

2017 At the Theatre

I was hoping to be trying to pick my favourite shows from a list of 36, but due to unexpected illness I had to miss the last three plays I had booked for the year. Annoyingly one of these has already finished and the other will come to an end before I am recovered enough to go. Oh well, health is more important.

So this year the Norfolkbookworm has written 33 reviews and also seen another 4 comedy shows which are just too hard to review, the improvised one for sure was something you had to be there for to find it all funny.

Right my top 8 plays for the year, and these are just the top plays - they are in no other order than the dates in which I saw them:
Even in a year where I was really disappointed with the Globe's offering two of their productions are still in my top 8 but it has to be said that I am looking forward to seeing where the new AD takes the theatre.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Book vs. Film

Call Me By Your Name - Andre Aciman

Rebecca introduced me to this book a few years ago and it has become a favourite of mine too. We've both been waiting for this film with some nervousness - how often have you heard me ask are adaptations ever as good as the original?

In this case I think my answer is a qualified yes. For the most part it stayed very close to the source material - although the film is set away from the coast and along a river, where as the book has a wonderful seaside setting. Surprisingly this didn't bother me too much, it just made me want to go to Italy!

The book is, for the most part, better. It is easier to overlook the harsh behaviour of Elio and Oliver on the page but I did prefer the ending to the film rather than that of the book. It came to an end rather than drifting on and on. This will become a film I'll watch again and it was a nice adaptation of a loved book.

It has been a while since I saw this, and I've been unwell in the meantime, so my thoughts are a bit foggy now.  In staying faithful to the book this is a film that is quite explicit so it won't be for everyone but it was good.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Quick thoughts on a new book

Artemis - Andy Weir

I was late to the party with Weir's The Martian but I loved it when I did get there. It was a gripping romp set in space with science that (mostly) worked, and it was in the 'hard' sci-fi camp rather than soft/fantasy end of the genre.

I was really excited when I got an advance copy of Artemis and, unlike so many of the reviews I've seen, I really liked the book. Yes the prose is clunky and there is a little too much 'Basil Exposition' in the plot but the story races ahead and I was swept away with it.  I'm not a fan of crime capers and this was the bit of the story that I enjoyed least but there was so much to enjoy...

  • A female lead
  • A female lead who is competent and tech savvy
  • A female lead who enjoys life, all of life - including sex and drinking without guilt.
  • Wonderful descriptions of what a moon base could look like.
So many of the reviews are calling Jazz things like "a middle aged man's fantasy", but I liked her. To me she seemed believable - she knew what she wanted and went for it without asking permission/feeling bad afterwards - oh that's right she behaved like a man whilst being resolutely female...hmmm I wonder if this is actually what many people dislike?

This book won't win prizes for prose (or possibly plot) but I found it a great read where the whole space set up worked and Jazz didn't fail because she was female but rather because she was too gung-ho and dangerous.  She definitely owed a lot more to the early American astronauts with her slightly reckless attitude rather than the much more cautious (and sensible) modern was of exploring.

Artemis was 'just' a romping good read, and in a week when the scary figures surrounding how few literary books are bought each year I think that it is a great that there are still some non chick lit/crime romping reads written.
I also liked the little jokes/word plays/assumptions that Weir led you towards - I'd never have thought that KSC stood for that.

My thoughts have got muddled as I write this - I know what I want to say... I liked the book a lot, and I hope that a base like Artemis is built on the moon eventually. I also liked a strong female character who was quite happy in her life choices. It might have been a bit stretched in terms of plot, and the language not outstanding but to be honest as long as people are enjoying the book then that's the most important thing. Enthusing, inspiring and entertaining - what more do you need from a book?

Friday, 8 December 2017

November Reading Round Up

For a variety of reasons in November I did a lot of rereading, one was to compare book and film (Andre Aciman's Call Me By Your Name) and others were Girls' Own type stories.

There were some new reads however mixed in and I enjoyed four of these enough to mention here.

Princess and the Suffragette by Holly Webb.
Back in 2015 I was very excited by Webb's updated sequel to A Secret Garden and I'm really pleased to say that she's done it again! This is a follow on to another Hodgson Burnett story (A Little Princess) and follows the lives of the girls left at Miss Minchin's seminary after Sara left. As stated in the title it is about the women's suffrage movement and I found it gripping - one that really should get lots and lots of attention next year as we mark 100 years of women getting the (limited) vote.

Wonder by R. J. Palaccio
I'm not sure how I've missed this book for so long, I know that colleagues have loved it and recommended it to me but somehow it just never rose to the top of the pile.  However Mr Norfolkbookworm went to a preview of the film adaptation and was really impressed so I read the book.  It is powerful and moving, as being a good tale. It borders on being didactic, saccharine and predictable but through beautiful writing and clever narration it stays just the right side of these line (for me) and was just a wonderful book that did make me cry.

Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Simms
I love reading Simms posts on Facebook where she chronicles her chaotic life in the form of spoof Peter and Jane tales.  I expected that this book was going to be just a collection of these social media posts but instead it was a full novel, told in diary form, using the same style as the posts. I laughed a lot.

White Chrysanthemum - Mary Lynn Bracht
This book was a proof thanks to Net Galley and is set in Korea starting in the Second World War. It deals with the Japanese occupation and atrocities, then the internal problems caused by the politics post war which ultimately led to the Korean War, the ramifications of these two conflicts then echo down the generations to the modern day.  I knew a little of the history here, especially regarding the Japanese history but what came next horrified me. 

In following the lives of two sisters we get up close and personal to this history and it isn't easy reading at all, at times it is horrific. However I feel that this is an important part of history all too often glossed over in the name of reconciliation and rehabilitation - there are a lot of lost stories in this part of the world that need to be told, whether in history books or in fantastic fiction like this.