Category Archives: Movies & Books

The year in review: books

This was a good year for reading.  I had more time to read than any year since I got pregnant with L.  According to Goodreads, I read 69 books, though that number includes a few I read to L and probably doesn’t include a couple I re-read.

5 stars books for 2016:

Euphoria, by Lily King – This was my all-time favorite.  I listened to the Audiobook, and I recommend reading it that way if you have the time.  My Goodreads review:

Nell, her husband Fen, and Bankson and anthropologists in in New Guinea in the 1930s. Nell is passionate and talented and has recently authored a highly successful book. Fen is jealous of his wife and insecure. And Bankson is terribly lonely and struggling with his own demons. The three of them come together in the wilds of New Guinea.

For me, Euphoria is a beautiful love story. I can’t help but thoroughly enjoy the two narrators. They are highly likable. The setting of the story itself is fascinating. Not just New Guinea, but the 1930s, and hearing about these old-time anthropologists and what that life must have been like.

I listened to this on MP3, and the narrators were excellent.

A Kim Jong-Il Production – My interest in North Korea continues.  My Goodreads review:

I’m not surprised that I loved this book. I find North Korea generally fascinating, and one of my all-time favorite books is Nothing To Envy, also about the DPRK. A Kim Jong-Il Production describes the abduction of a South Korean producer and director and his ex-wife and former muse in the early 80s. Apparently kidnapping was all too common in the DPRK at this time. Literally thousands of people were kidnapped, and most were never heard from again.

Kim Jong-Il turns out to be a huge film buff. Who would have guessed? Of course, film is very useful to dictators as an instrument of propaganda. Jong-Il, however, is very frustrated by the quality of film in North Korea and contrasts his minions’ efforts negatively with the movies of Hollywood and South Korea. Enter Shin and Choi. North Korea’s filmmakers are severely hampered by never being allowed to view films made outside their nation. Shin can teach them how to make high quality films. Choi is bait and a sweetener.

My Year of Running Dangerously – This was a surprisingly good book on running.  Usually sports books feel a little simplistic.  I couldn’t put this one down.  My Goodreads review:

Tom Foreman is a long-time runner who’s let life and work slow him down. His daughter challenges him to run a marathon with her, and he takes her up on her offer. Later, he decides to take on a 50-mile trail run.

I’m a long-time runner on a running kick, and I just could not put this down. It’s hard to put my finger on why I enjoyed reading it so much. Foreman just has a very approachable writing style and manages not to be annoying or conceited, unlike many memoirists trumpeting their accomplishments. His self-deprecation actually comes of as rather genuine.

I’ve shunned longer runs lately due to the constraints of two small children. This book didn’t exactly tempt me to run an ultra, but I did think perhaps another half marathon is in order.

Four-star books included Taking Flight, This Road I Ride, It’s All About The Bike, The Secret Race, Quiet, The Summer Before the War, Brooklyn, Speak, Our Souls At Night, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Constant Gardener, The Nightingale, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  The books in bold are the ones that stick out for me reviewing the list now.

The worst books this year were A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, The Testament of Mary, and Satin Island.  There were plenty of other mediocre 2-star books mixed in as well.

According to Goodreads, I give books an average rating of 3.3.  I try to horde the 4 and 5 star ratings and to be brutal when I find books really poor, in order to make ratings more meaningful.

L and I got through a fair few chapter books this year.  My favorites were Little House In The Big Woods and Matilda.

I’m looking forward to another great year of books in 2017.


Watching this made me tear up a little.  A mother and child lost and reunited while Nadal holds the tennis match.

My own little munchkin (the larger one) came home with a bloody lip today, sustained after a fall from her scooter.  The poor little thing takes bodily injuries so seriously, much as I do I suppose, except worse.  She has been this way since she was tiny, so I guess it’s genetic.  It’s hard because getting hurt is part of life.  Her little sister is much less sensitive.  I do think life is a bit harder for sensitive types.

On a side note, I enjoyed watching Streif.  I’m fascinated by downhill ski racing, so naturally, I’ve been interested in this movie for a while.  It’s not perfect – a bit choppy and over-edited in places – but if you’re interested in downhill skiing, it’s a must-watch.

jane austen characters

I have been re-reading an watching the various Austen books and movies.  Not all – but Pride and Prejudice (book, mini-series and movie), Sense and Sensitibility (book, mini-series and movie), Emma (book and mini-series), and Mansfield Park (movie).  I spent some time pondering which of the characters I might be most like . . .


Elizabeth – sensible, clever and witty, and beautiful.  kind of perfect.

Jane – beautiful and good, if a bit boring

Mary – ugly, accomplished, but utterly lacking in tact and taste

Lydia – a hopefully, foolish flirt without any sense


Elinor – emininently sensible, ever observant of decorum to a fault.  ethical.

Marianne – loves without reserve or sense.  not very discrete.


Emma – Mostly oblivious to men and not very perceptive about them in general.  Good-hearted, tasteful, talented, smart.

Jane Fairfax – Excessively reserved and shy.  Talented and diligent.

Harriet Smith – Easily influenced, read to fall in love with any man at a friend’s suggestion or slight indication of interest

I can see a little of myself in a lot of these characters, some good, some bad.  Mary from P&P is a little too close for comfort.  I flatter myself that I have a little Elizabeth, too.  Overall, though, I think I’m most like Marianne.  When I was younger, I loved impetuously and without caution, resulting in many a broken heart.  At the end of the day, I think that lack of caution certainly helped me end up with H.

So which Jane Austen female are you?  I feel I should do a follow-up post for picking the male we’re most like.



ten books

Obviously, I can’t resist Sarah’s book challenge!  From her page: “In your status line, list 10-12 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard — they don’t have to be ‘right’ or ‘great’ works, just ones that have touched you.”

These aren’t the best ten books I’ve ever read, but I stayed true to the meme, and they’re the first ten that jumped to mind.  They cover my favorite themes – feminism, our beautiful planet, foreign lands, immigration, and motherhood.

The Blind AssassinWhere the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing PredatorsNothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North KoreaEuphoriaThe Poisonwood BibleHistory of the RainCloud AtlasSnow Falling on CedarsPlainsong (Plainsong, #1)The Namesake


sense and sensibility

L had her second soccer practice today.  This time, she was again the other kid, but there were two coaches there.  Two!  I am so amused.

I’m re-reading Sense and Sensibility, and this time through, I’m really struggling with the premise that Marianne, age 16, should fall in love with Colonel Dashwood, age 35, despite his various qualities.  People died younger then, to be sure, and grew up faster.  Life expectancy at the time was less than 40, but this is greatly affected by the fact that perhaps 40% of people died before reaching adulthood.  Also, consider that Colonel Brandon is wealthy, and it’s no unreasonable to suppose he could be expected to reach at least his 50s and perhaps 60 years of age.  Being generous, assuming 60, and scaling the ages by 1.33, one could argue they are equivalently 21 and 47.  Should a 21-year-old consider someone nearing 50?  It is too much for me, even if the elder man is charming and rich.  But, living in poverty in the 1800s would have been a terrible thing, so I guess I would have been willing to put up with a lot to be well-off.  But I don’t find this reality charming or romantic.

I was talking with a (male) friend today at work about how I have a different personality that I show to men and women.  This is due in large part to the fact that I interact with many, many men professionally, whereas most of my friends are women.  Still, even at work, I treat women slightly differently, and I have a different way to trying to form friendships with men.  Do you, fair readers, interact differently with men and women?  I think even now as an old married woman, I am cautious about being too nice or too friendly towards men, lest they get the wrong idea.  It’s the old shyness I’ve carried since childhood about admitting any kind of affection to the opposite sex.


kids and books

I’ve just started reading James and the Giant Peach to L, and we are both tremendously excited about it.  I think we were still in our old house when I first read her Little House on the Prairie, so she was just 2.  Since then, we’ve enjoyed reading a fair few chapter books with pictures – LHOTP twice, On the Banks of Plum Creek twice, some Galaxy Zack books, and a few of the Frozen books.  (Frozen is a very big thing around here lately, but more on that later.)  We still read lots of little kids books as well, and she enjoys listening to the books I read to B, too.

We tried Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last year, but she just wasn’t really ready for it.  She’s older now, though, and JATGP has more pictures than Charlie.  James is illustrated by Quentin Blake, unlike Charlie.  We’ve only read the first three chapters, and I’m delighted with reading it already.  I did have to gloss of James’ parents getting eaten by an angry rhino.  Eek!

Meanwhile, B has mostly graduated from board books and is starting to enjoy simple children’s books.  She loves all the Jane Cabrera books, and Good Night, Good Night Construction Site is a new favorite.  We’re also reading Where the Wild Things Are, Chicken Soup with Rice, Ferdinand, Madeline, and Blue on Blue.  How I love Madeline!  Some of the old classics are just unbeatable.

the man in the high castle

I read a book recently that took place in a rural location in an oppressive regime – perhaps a former Soviet state.  I don’t remember.   A man who lives in the community is pick up by the government and tortured to give information about his neighbors.  He refuses and is badly damaged.  He is castrated.  The man returns to his home where is neighbors, who do not know what has happened, mock him and make him an outcast for being a eunuch.  When the government comes back for him, this time he decides to talk and accepts food and other bribes to rat out his neighbors who are then murdered or taken to concentration camps, one by one.

It makes me wonder how I would act if I lived in an oppressive regime.  Would I try to resist?  It’s all well and good to risk your own life, but there are some things worse than death, like your family members being murdered, or even being tortured.  On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine collaborating with, say, the Nazis.  I imagine, like most people, I’d just try to keep my head down.  But sometimes that doesn’t work.  Some people try to keep out of the way but find themselves, for whatever reason, having to make a choice between hero and traitor.

(The reason for this little reflection is that I’m watching The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime.)