In case you didn't know, I like beards. And, I like books, particularly beautiful books with lovely covers and great illustrations. So, you can imagine how chuffed I was when my lovely friend Alex gave me this for Christmas. It's a short graphic novel about Dave, who, you've guessed it, begins to grow a very big beard. But it's no ordinary beard - this one's got a mind of its own and doesn't care to be trimmed... I need to read more graphic novels I think. This one was perfect for reading in bed just before going to sleep (you could easily read it in one sitting but I wanted to savour it). Also, the author/illustrator, Stephen Collins, is a south londoner so that's pretty cool plus the book itself smells amazing.
A chilling novella about a couple, Harriet and David, who decide, against the advice their respective parents, to buy a huge house and have lots of children to fill it. Sounds pleasant enough and about half of the book sets the stage - family life is good, one baby after another is born and the house is full of relations during the christmas, easter and summer holidays. But then, the fifth child is conceived and everything changes. Harriet's pregnancy is terrible and serves as a warning as to what is to come once Ben is born. His destructive presence slowly destroys the idyllic family set-up and it's Harriet who's ultimately left isolated. It covers a number of issues: people's perceptions and the effects of those judgements, genetic throwbacks, disabilities but it also seems to show that you plan your life to a 'tee' but that doesn't mean that life will follow your plan - anything can and will happen. Not up-lifting stuff (there's a scene in an institution which will probably haunt me for a long time) but it really made me think and has definitely encouraged me to read more Doris Lessing for sure.
The Maltese Falcon (1930)
One of the classic detective novels, it was originally serialised in a magazine in 1929 which is perhaps why each punchy chapter ends in such a way that you want to read on (even if the tube has pulled into Brixton and you've got to get off). The story centres around Sam Spade - clever, quick-thinking, if rather cold, private detective - who's boat is thoroughly rocked when the beautiful Miss Wonderly is ushered into his office and asks for his help. The plot moves at a fast pace, the narration following Spade from confrontation to confrontation as he attempts to solve the murder of his business partner and the mystery of the Maltese Falcon. There's a lot of talking which, along with the succinct descriptions, really sets the scene and gives the great characters a 3 dimensional quality. As if I hadn't tempted you enough already, it's super easy to read and there's a great little surprise at the end.
Having watched the first instalment of this story last Christmas, I confess I wasn't too keen on watching part II. But, eventually, I gave in and I was pleasantly surprised - it's way better than 'An Unexpected Journey'. Saying that though, it does have a few faults: 1. it's unbelievably long 2. there seems to be a lot of unnecessary 'laying the groundwork/backstory for the lotr films' 3. the weird love triangle between kili, legolas and evangeline lilly 4. it's unbelievably long. And the best bits? There's an excellent sequence which involves the dwarves escaping the wood elves via wine barrels in a river, whilst also killing orcs. But it's Smaug that really steals the show. The conclusion, or rather abrupt end, of this film is a bit of a cliffhanger and has obviously been engineered so that audiences will want to see how the story will conclude. But, if I remember correctly, there's really not much of the story left which either means "yay, the third film will be an hour long at most!" or "wow what a drawn out, misshapen, hash-up of a film, with all that CGI and added on stuff the book of my child-hood is unrecognisable". Perhaps I'm exaggerating a bit but I have a terrible feeling that it'll be more like the latter. We'll see.
Parks and Recreation
Oh my god, this show is amazing. Mitch and I only started watching it about a month ago and we're almost up to date, with season six ready to be viewed over the weekend. In some ways it reminds me of 30 Rock - a bunch of odd ball characters all thrown together into the only environment which brings all types of people together: work. It's so good to be watching a comedy again, because although I do enjoy a good drama (House of Cards season 2 - feb 14th!) I also love having a good laugh.