Ernest Shackleton

shackletonOne thing that attracted me to this movie was it is a true story about  Sir Ernest Shackleton.  In 1914 he set off on an Antarctic expedition, something he probably shouldn’t have survived but he did.  But not only did he make that epic journey, he kept his entire crew alive after their ship was destroyed in ice.  The worst possible conditions anyone could conjure and they survived.  Barely.

The lead role was played by Kenneth Branagh. Most recently I have watched him in Murder on the Orient Express and of course I am fond of his role in the Harry Potter series.

It’s a total of almost 4 hours and I believe this could’ve been cut short if they had spent less time focusing on his fundraising and more time on the actual journey. They was a bit about his wife and his mistress, as well as conversations those women had, which I thought had no place in film. You could’ve replace that bit and told us more about what happened at the end. While it’s an amazing story it seemed at the very end they had to hurry to wrap it up.

I just read that Tom Hardy will reprise the role of Shackleton, read that HERE. So far any movie I’ve seen Tom Hardy has been a hit with us.  OK, the exception would be the movie This Means War with Chris Pine.  Hardy will be amazing in this role.

Again they could’ve spent more time telling us what happened to Shackleton‘s men, his other explorations and how he had ended up having a heart attack.  Also I would ahve liked to know more about the crew of the Endurance rather than wasting time with some of the fund raising and the scenes with his mistress.

If you’re in the mood for a true story about an epic journey to explore Antarctica then I would suggest this film. I think there are other versions but our library happened to acquire this one.  It was made in 2002.

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Thursday’s Children by Nicci French {Book 4 in the Frieda Klein series}

thursdayThursday’s Children is book #4 in the Frieda Klein series. This one moved slowly.  I’m glad it wasn’t my first acquaintance with Frieda Klein as I may have put the series on the back burner.  So, having read five books in this eight book series, I will still say the Sunday book is still by far the best.

Looking at the positives first, I will say I learned more about our elusive main character in this book than any of the others. It dragged a bit when she went back to her childhood home of Braxton and I think the story line could have been abbreviated.

I like how her friends gather to bring her nice meals, the support they show her, the wine, the mystery aspects of the story and the English setting.  Both London and the little rural town of Braxton.

My favorite supporting character is still Josef.  Hoping to see more of him in the next few books.  I felt very sorry for Frieda’s boyfriend and thought she was too cold with him.  Don’t want to reveal spoilers but I will be adding my thoughts on Goodreads where I can hide the spoilers.  I had it narrowed down to two characters as the main perpetrator but have to say I was actually surprised who the baddie turned out to be.

Side note on an unrelated documentary:   The musical group Thursday’s Children was focused on in the book, however, Thursday’s Children was also a documentary  about the Royal School for the Deaf in Margate, Kent.  It won an  Academy Award for the Best Documentary Short of 1954. The subject deals with hearing-handicapped children.  They learn what words are through exercises and games, practicing lip-reading and finally speech. Richard Burton was the narrator.

It doesn’t appear the name of the fictional band has any relation to the documentary.  There isn’t a mention or connection in the novel.

Food mentioned

Hot buttered tea cakes
Avocado, arugula, sun –dried tomatoes and hummus on focaccia bread.
A sandwich of goat cheese, tomato and salad leaves.
Butternut squash soup with rolls
Garlic- mushroom soup and eggplant and red pepper flan.
Oysters, scallops with bacon and risotto.

“Reuben cooked only four or five dishes and he served them in rotation.  Frieda had eaten them all, over and over again.  There was chili con carne, lasagna, baked potatoes with sour cream and grated cheese.  Tonight it was pasta with the pesto he bought from the local deli.”

“There was a bowl of thick red soup with dumplings, there was something wrapped in cabbage, large sausages, pickled fish, beetroot salad, chopped potatoes and unfamiliar kind of little mushroom, a huge wheel of bread, small pastries, a whole duck, pancakes………..”

Representative meal is a risotto with wild rice, herbs and bay scallops.  A glass of Chardonnay is a great pairing here.

risotto

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Murder on the Orient Express {Meh}

We watched this recently and didn’t find it remarkable.  I wish the other characters had more time to develop. Branagh didn’t work for me as Hercule Poirot. Loved him as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter but Poirot wasn’t a good role for him. (in my humble opinion)

gilderoy-lockhart

It’s amazing you can gather such acting talents as Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz (they managed to dowdy her up!), Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer (LadyHawk 🙂 and Olivia Colman and it doesn’t grab you.  ( I loved Colman’s character Ellie in Broadchurch, just FYI)

Maybe that’s just me but…this movie was one I looked forward to but found a bit dull. I have a British series called Peaky Blinders at the library so I will give that a go next week.  So far the big winner for British shows has been Taboo with Tom Hardy.  Let’s see how The Peaky Blinders work for us.

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A Year in the Life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen

shepherd

I have had a fondness for stories set in Yorkshire and have read all the James Herriot books.  We are such big fans that we named our son Tristan after one of the characters.  When I discovered another Yorkshire author named Amanda Owen I knew I was in for a treat.

First I followed Amanda, aka The Yorkshire Shepherdess, on Twitter.   The photos of the Yorkshire countryside, the sheep, cows, horses, chickens and of course Amanda, her husband Clive and their 9 children are beautiful. Her handle is @Amandaowen8 if you want to take a look.

All children are up at 6:00 a.m. and eat on the go, all have chores they do, automatically working as a team.  Even the 7 year old goes out to gather wood and brings it to start a fire in the black range.  No fire means cold baths. Yikes!

york

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these 12 chapters broken down by each month’s events.  Here is a great article from The Guardian and one from Country and Townhouse if you want to read more.  If you enjoyed James Herriot then this will be your cuppa of tea.  Fresh bread, cakes and stews are always on the menu so I thought I would share two freshly baked loaves I made this week.

Bread

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British Movie Nights #BriFri

We’ve been enjoying some British movies lately so I thought I’d give the roundup for Joy’s British Isles Friday.

Taboo is a series recommended by a friend in Wales.  Of course it takes a while for these shows to arrive in the U.S. and without streaming ability, I patiently wait for our excellent library to acquire the DVDs.  This show stars Tom Hardy and he is excellent in the character of James Delaney.

“James Delaney, believed dead, returns to London to attend the funeral of his father, Horace. Other than owning a small part of the west coast of North America, Horace has left nothing of value. The land, Nootka Sound,  is in dispute between Great Britain and the United States, who are at war. The East India Company had an agreement to buy the land from Zilpha Geary, Delaney’s half-sister, but Delaney knows the war is coming to an end, greatly increasing the value of the land, and scorns their offer.”

I read a description calling the show a “slow burn” and that is so true.  There is action but it’s a slow build up and lots of intrigue.  Very dark production.

The Full Monty – what can I say?  It’s a fun romp with lots of music, an off-beat comedy where you can see Robert Carlyle and Mark Addy in their youth. Definitely a wine night.

The Darkest Hour was one we’d looked forward to since seeing a preview.  Can you believe that was Gary Oldman?  I read it took 4 hours to apply the makeup and “fat” so he looked the part.  The speeches were well played out, such a vivid portrayal of Churchhill.

dark1

I looked up some of the events, such as that train ride with the “common folk” of London, to see about accuracy.  Yes, liberties were taken but I thoroughly enjoyed the film and recommend it for history buffs.  Good acting here.

That’s it for our “BriFri post about movies.  I am finishing up The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen and will have book talk next Friday.

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Waiting on Wednesday by Nicci French

waiting Waiting on Wednesday is book 3 in the Frieda Klein series. There were quite a few things that weren’t believable and yes, you do need to suspend disbelief when you are reading a novel but….Frieda is coming off as unbalanced in this book. She did suffer horrific attack and injuries in the previous book so I can somewhat sympathize with some of the actions she takes.
The story starts off with the murder of Ruth Lennox. Ruth is a wife and mother of three and by all outward appearances, she’s perfect. I’m not talking about the physical attributes, rather her very organized life, devoted to her family and no little secrets.

Except yes! She has a big fat secret and once revealed, the plot takes off in multiple directions. Two of her children will figure prominently, opening up to other subplots.

One of the things that bothered me was the side story about a missing girl. It had zero to do with the Lennox murder or investigation. An offhand story relayed to Frieda had her tracking the girl named Lila, all on her own. Now introduce a newspaper reporter who had been trying to find a link between several missing young women and he and Frieda combine forces, sharing information. So, no link to the Lennox murder but a huge story on its own.

It weaves together at the end. I want to discuss some things that weren’t resolved but it will spoil the book for any who plan to read it. Goodreads has a feature to hide spoilers so I will discuss there when I post my review. I’m hoping the DCI Malcolm Kaarlson’s story will develop more as well as his detective Yvette Long. Would love to know their backstory and where they are heading.

For the record, Hal Bradshaw, the psychologist working with the police, is unbearably smug and it wouldn’t hurt me to see him written out. Hopefully with shame and discredit somehow. Frieda’s nice Chloe can be a distraction but I see we need that sometimes, so you can see Frieda’s caring side. Notice I didn’t say warm side. Ha!
I like Josef very much and also the gruff DCI Kaarlson.

Hoping this is a miniseries one day.  Who would you want as Frieda Klein, for anyone who has read this series?  Maybe Anne Hathaway for her dark features or Nazanin Boniadi, a Persian-British actress.

frieda
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Atonement by Ian McEwan

atonementThis book gets many 5 star  ratings and I certainly see why with the complexity and detail of the writing.  There is so much internal dialogue, some a stream of consciousness as we see the perspective from different points of view. It took concentration to read this novel and after a while, it wasn’t pleasure reading.  Yet, that being said, I was never tempted to bail on this book as the writing is lyrical and the perspectives interesting.

The descriptions were great enough that it could be 5 large wordy paragraphs to capture a few moments, this paired with what the character was thinking.

An example – Thirteen year old Briony Tallis considers herself a playwright and penned The Trials of Arabella with her playing the lead character.  As her cousins will be visiting for an extended stay (due to unfortunate family circumstances) Briony intends to cast her cousins in supporting roles.  Lola, the older cousin, asks to play the plum role of Arabella.  Briony graciously acquiesces as she feels sorry for Lola, but it doesn’t make her happy.  Additionally, the younger boy cousins state that playwriting is just showing off and they didn’t want to participate but, as visitors they will.  Arrogant Briony is upset by these turn of events as it ruined her play and plans.

She goes to a meadow and viciously hacks down the nettles, pretending they are people she is upset with, starting with Lola.  She then “kills” the male cousins and others she’s unhappy with, the moments captured in 4 very long paragraphs as her thought process, documented while she beheads nettles. The massacre allows her rage to dissipate as she considers a change of career from playwright to newspaper reporter.  She has a high opinion of herself, by the way.

One of the hinges of the plot is Briony observing her sister Cecilia and the lower class friend Robbie Turner. There is a scene at the fountain where a vase is broken.  I read the scene and the verbal exchange between Cecelia and Robbie.  Cecelia strips to her underwear and wades into the fountain to get the broken vase pieces.  It’s a scene full of both anger and sexual tension.  Now, Briony obviously sees things with the only reference and experience a 13-year old mind can articulate.  Her confusion with flirtation and sexual encounters, real or imagined, were complex.  She observes silently from a window inside the house.  She can’t hear what was said, nor can she understand the attraction between the two adults.

When a rape occurs later in the first part of the book, unjust accusations lead to devastating consequences.  If you’ve read this you know what happens and if you haven’t, I’ll not add spoilers if you are taking this journey.

The end surprised me. If this were a true story I would feel very sad for so many lives shattered.

So, that’s number #15 on the BBC Culture Books Project.

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