Thursday, February 13, 2020

Book Review: Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories

Having been a long time fan of Horror and recent discover of Inhabit media, an Inuit-owned publishing company in Nunavut, Canada, I was thrilled to find this collection pop up on my FaceBook feed and then delighted to see my wife had already put an order in for it when I suggested we might want to buy it.

The stories included in Taaqtumi range from Thriller to Supernatural Horror and to Science Fiction/Horror. Standouts for me included Iqsinaqtutalik Piqtuq: The Haunted Blizzard, by Aviaq Johnston (who wrote a delightful children's story called What's My Superpower that I absolutely loved in 2017), and The Door, by Ann R. Loverock, although the book has stories that would work well for both Horror fans like me and those just peeking into the genre.

An excellent collection and from a company I hope does more like it in the future.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Book Review: The First Man in Rome, by Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough's The First Man in Rome is the first of her Master of Rome series; and this series of seven books (published from 1990 to 2007) cover near 90 years of history, will be my guide through the end of the Roman Republic over the next seven moths.

Following Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla through the events of Marius' rise from new man to soldier and eventually consul, the novel was a sweeping story of politics, war, economics, surprising romance and some really eye-opening examples of what kind of leadership qualities were needed to help the Republic evolve and grow.

A long but fascinating read, and one that has me really looking forward to the rest of this series.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Years!

Happy 2020 everyone!

Thanks to everyone who still stops by and don't worry, my New Years resolution for 2020 is to get a lot more consistent with these, although I'm likely to go to once a week.

Wishing you the best and hoping you all have a wonderful holiday season.

Your pal, Bookmonkey

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Movie Review: Ready or Not

One of my favourite things about seeing movies in the fall is that once we've left blockbuster season behind us, movies have to focus on character, concept, and story, rather than simply air conditioning, to get us back into our seats.
Probably my favourite horror movie this year, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett's Ready or Not, was a delightful thriller, with a neat little twist, and just about the best theme song for a game of hide and seek you could possibly imagine.

The film follows a young woman named Grace (Samara Weaving) on her wedding day to Alex Le Domas (Mark O'Brien), a member of an extremely wealthy family which owns a board game empire. As part of family tradition, newly married in members are invited to play a game at midnight on the wedding day, and Grace draws the childhood classic, Hide and Seek. Unfortunately for Grace, when Hide & Seek is chosen, the game becomes much deadlier than expected.

Overall there were two things I loved about this movie. First off, the portrayal of the Le Domas family, a group that had inherited their status in life, was a really fun look at what can happen when your only succession plan is based on birth, rather than merit, and the fact that Grace is portrayed as a foster child who grew up to be a smart, resourceful and decent person. So often in stories foster-care seems to be used as code for damaged, and I thought the fact that Grace had basically the opposite of every member of the wealthy family in upbringing was a nice touch.

The story moves quite nicely, has a lot great twists and turns and will definitely be getting a place on my DVD/Blu-ray shelves in the future.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Book Review: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann

The first David Grann book I read was The Lost City of Z a few years ago for a book club. The story, focusing on the disappearance of explorer Percy Fawcett in the Amazon in 1925, was pretty great, and really got me interested in both what drives people to explore and to see the costs that come with it.

Last year I found a copy of his 2014 book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI at a used book store and added it to my "to be read" pile.

The book begins with a single murder in Oklahoma in the 1920s, and then begins to spin a story including incredible wealth, Texas Rangers, the FBI, Oil Tycoons, and the systemic failure of a country to protect people it has declared its responsibility. The book was fascinating, eye-opening, and I could not put it down.

In the end I found this book incredibly compelling, what started out as an apparent random killing spreads out over time as part of something so horrific I could not believe this was the first time I had ever heard this story. Definitely recommended.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home

Ok - should you see Spider-Man: Far From Home?

Absolutely!

Now let me try to tell you why with as little spoilers as possible...

After the events of Avengers: Endgame I think there were a lot of "but what about..." questions by the audience, and Spider-Man: Far From Home attempts to answer as many of them as it can while staying true to a pretty fun, Spidey-goes-on-vacation style story.

The action scenes are a lot of fun, and the big players; Spider-Man, Mysterio, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill are all pretty great, but for my money this fill really shines with it's use of the supporting staff and focusing on Peter's normal life and attempting to balance it out with his superhero responsibilities.

For me, the standouts of the film are Peter (Tom Holland) and MJ (Zendaya), Ned (Jacob Batalon) and Betty (Angourie Rice), and a lot of great work from Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Although the action is really great, the way Spider-Man has always worked best in balancing the focus between the fight scenes and real world stories.

In the end, the film was funny, more emotional than I had expected, and has me looking forward to more in the future.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Book Review: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

So I've just spent a month away from pretty much all of my regular tech (including this blog!) and it's about time I explain what is what.

In late May I picked up Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, and found myself agreeing with a lot of what he had to say. At the simplest level it came down to the following three principles:

1) Clutter is costly
2) Optimization is important
3) Intentionality is satisfying

Looking at my technology usage overall I found there were a lot of things that were taking up more and more of my time with less and less return for my effort.

So, I decided to follow the author's advice and spend a month (June) in a state of declutter - I dramatically dropped my (non-work) time online, cut myself off from video games, YouTube, Facebook, and cut down TV watching to a pretty low level (for me).

The result was to find that I'd been spending much more time on being passively entertained than I was comfortable with. So it's time to make some priority changes.

Luckily for the readers of this blog - it actually was one of the big things I really missed - writing out to all of you is a fun part of my week and something I definitely want to make a higher priority for myself - so thanks for all the reading over the years!

The book itself is a pretty simple to follow guidebook on how to cut down your technology use in your day-to-day life, and my only actual complaint was that the author should have ended each chapter with key points or added an appendix putting them all together at the end. Readers can do this for themselves (I know I did), but it's much simpler if it's all spelled out in a way that can easily remind you what the goals are.

Well worth reading and full of advice I'm hoping to take going forward, Digital Minimalism was a pretty great read!