Southern Cross is the sequel to Hornet’s Nest and, because I took such perverse joy in how much I disliked Hornet’s Nest, but enjoyed reading the bad writing, I dove in to Southern Cross. It did not disappoint – and what I mean by that is that it was also pretty darn terrible. Although I found the story made a lot more sense, and I did like the way several different plotlines tied together.
We have Hammer, Brazil and West back together, for some reason all three have been transplanted to Richmond, Virginia (which is the setting of many of Cornwell’s Scarpetta series). I say for some reason – it’s to clean up the Richmond Police in the same way they did in Charlotte. However… Hornet’s Nest showed no sign of this, and actually, neither does this book. I can really see no reason for a change of location. There are several crimes, there is a whole lot of misunderstandings (which I think might be the alleged comedy of the book, however I think misunderstanding ‘coon hunting’ which is racoon hunting for the potential lynching of black people was not at all humorous) and then there was the bigotry seen a lot in the previous book. And the unconvincing sexual tension. Oh, and the strange cat scenes from the previous book have been slightly replicated in this one, only it’s now a dog. Yup. And yet… I feel compelled to read the third in the trilogy. I blame lockdown… more time at home to make unusual reading choices.
Charlotte, North Carolina. Judy Hammer is the Chief of Police and has allowed Journalist and Volunteer Cop (I did not know that volunteer cops existed) Andy Brazil to drive along in a city that is overwhelmed with crime and poor policing. But Deputy Chief Virginia West will only allow him to ride with her, putting her back on the streets. Apparently, they hate each other but it’s all a cover for poor communication skills and sexual attraction. There’s also a serial killer, but these killings are so scattered through the book, and no-one seems to be dedicated to that case, so it’s hard to know exactly how important that plotline is. In case you can’t tell, I did not think this was a good book. At all.
Patricia Cornwell is mostly known for her Scarpetta series of novels, and this was a change of scene. Still a similar world, though more the policing rather than forensics. And, having read a slew of reviews (including many very hilarious one-star reviews), it appears that this was supposed to be comedy. I’m not sure how. For me, it was a confusing mess of story with characters who seemed completely incapable of interacting, who apparently had romantic attraction and/or chemistry and who accidently kind of maybe solved a series of murders by a serial killer… perhaps? Oh, and add in homophobia, transphobia (oh, the transphobia), fatphobia, racism. And a cat which apparently communicates with cats from the past, is able to identify the clues which are alluding the police and find a clunky way to communicate this to their owner… and… the owner… figures it out? I’m a fan of the Scarpetta novels, despite the flaws, but the only reason I couldn’t put this book down was because I enjoyed exclaiming disbelief aloud as I read.
Teenager Sam and elderly man Vic meet on a bridge, both with the same intention, and both save each other. Their lives are changed by their meeting, and each come to understand and support each other in a way that they could never have predicted.
Of all of the coming-of-age Australian books I’ve been reading recently, Honeybee is my favourite by far. It’s hard, I cried lots, and the frustration, the powerlessness, the strangeness of this world was hard to read about, but it was also wonderful. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Blanche is a French dancer who provides private services for gentlemen in San Francisco in the 1876. She came to the US with two gentlemen, her lover and his friend; all three met performing in Paris, but now she supports their lifestyles. Along comes Jenny who wears men’s clothes and acts in ways unbecoming to a woman. When Jenny is killed in the presence of Blanche, Blanche is left to try to work out what has happened, and how to move forward.
This book was all over the shop. I’ve loved other work by Donoghue, but this did not work for me. I loved the setting, and I think that she crafted some great characters. The structure jumped from past to present, which is often a strong way of revealing mysteries but, in this case, muddied the water for me. I wanted to enjoy this, but I didn’t.
Five brothers living alone in Sydney by the racetracks. Gradually we hear the story of their parents, of how they ended up in this situation and what it means for them.
Zusak creates strong characters that tug at our heartstrings, and he structures the story to give the reader enough information that they want to keep reading. I must admit that it took be about 150 pages to get into the story, and that if I wasn’t a finisher of books, I reckon I would have given up on it. As it is, I am stubborn and persisted, and it was worth it.
Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach
In the 1600s, there was a craze for a while in Holland for tulips. They became a form of currency, with underground auctions and all kinds going on. Tulip Fever is essentially a romance set against this background. Sophia was married young to elderly merchant Cornelis to save her family from poverty, and she doesn’t mind him. But when painter Jan comes to paint their portrait, an affair begins, and a complex plan is hatched.
I didn’t expect a romance, and it was fine, but not what I was after. It was very similar in tone to Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Miniaturist, both set in the same time. I enjoyed it, but I think I would have been more interested in more on the tulip craze. I did love that the copy of the book I read had coloured plates of art of the time, that was a delightful touch.
Tulip Fever (2017
I shouldn’t have watched this so close to reading it. I can’t tell if it was a good film, it seemed fine. The cinematography certainly caught the lighting of that style of painting beautifully. The story was changed a bit, though not the key points. It did allow Dame Judy Dench a small role, which is always nice. I hope someone watches it and lets me know if they think it’s any good.
A group of women whose friendship started when they worked at the same pizza joint in their youth get together for a holiday to wine country for a birthday, and over the trip, their weaknesses and resentments are exposed. Oh, but it’s super funny.
With this cast, it would have been almost impossible to not have a lot of real belly laughs – Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey and Jason Schwartzman. Tina Fey was in there too, but while all the other characters felt pretty much real and relatable (for the most part), Fey’s character was like a character from SNL, and stood out as being overly comic.
The structure was fairly predictable, with each character facing themselves, lots of passionate (and, at times, drunken) speeches. But despite that, I really enjoyed it. Sentimental and lovely and really, just a lot of fun.
There’s a war in the future against some incredible insect creatures, and these creatures have killed off all of the soldiers in the future. So there’s technology that allows the future people to come back, forcefully conscribe people in the present to skip forward and fight, and they go for seven days and then are sent back. Now, either I missed a bit, or they don’t address how that impacts on the future… you know, all the ‘rules’ of time travel and how they actually impact on the world and life and the like.
It’s one of those wonderful/terrible action films – things don’t necessarily make sense. But there’s heaps of running and fighting, and I love that many of the conscripts are pretty normal people. The creatures are awesome – genuinely creepy and scary, I love them. They make the film worthwhile. Overall, the film is too long, the plot is ridiculous (but I’m happy with that) but I didn’t mind spending a couple of hours with it.
Elisa (Sally Hawkins) lives a small life, spending time with her artist neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), having some special alone time in her tub each morning, working as a cleaner in a highly secretive governmental facility with her co-worker, Zelda (Octavia Spencer). But when a new item is brought in and Elisa finds she is drawn to it, her world changes.
This story is strange and beautiful and wonderful. Elisa is unable to speak, communicating mostly through sign language, and this makes the evil character, Strickland, underestimate her. Which raises a lot of issues about ableism in society and whether art reflects society, should using a disability as a plot point be acceptable, and should non-disabled actors play disabled characters. These are questions which are increasingly able to be discussed, and I think that is very important. Her inability to speak was crucial to the plot. I guess an argument could be made that this may be acceptable in certain films, especially when they are of a fantasy genre, but perhaps we need to get a lot more representation of disability into our media. Sometimes, it’s done well. But rarely.
The Shape of Water Oscars for Best Achievement in Directing (Guillermo del Toro), Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) and Best Achievement in Production Design and was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Sally Hawkins), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Richard Jenkins), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Octavia Spencer), Best Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and Best Achievement in Film Editing.
It’s Sheffield in the late nineties. The steel mill which employed most of the town has closed and unemployment and depression is high. Gaz (Robert Carlyle) is struggling to make ends meet and to keep his relationship with his son alive. After seeing a male review selling out the local club, he and mate Dave (Mark Addy) decide to put on their own review, but as they are normal blokes, not the societal image of perfection, they need a drawcard… their crew will go fully nude.
This was such a classic, it’s one of those films I feared revisiting. There are certainly aspects that clang, in particular the casual homophobic comments and the like. But overall, it holds up. It’s funny, it’s depressing, it’s heartwarming. It might try to cover maybe a few too many issues, but it works.
The Full Monty won an Oscar for Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Peter Cattaneo) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Simon Beaufoy)