2019. február 26., kedd

Oscars 2019: Photo Recap

Welcome to my first ever Oscars recap! I've been planning to do this for years and what do you know, I finally got over my laziness this year and actually did it! Took pictures and everything! Hopefully it's not going to be a complete drag to read, and maybe my shameless attempts at trying to be funny will embolden some readers to share their own thoughts in the comments below. Also, forgive me for cutting out a good chunk of the winners, like most of the techincal categories. I'm just really not a good judge of those, you know? I still have no idea what's the difference between sound mixing and sound editing, for example, and let's be honest, as important as all these people are in making movies, their acceptance speeches are rarely among the more interesting ones. Right, here it goes!

2019. február 13., szerda

WWW Wednesday 02.13.

February started out pretty miserable for me: I welcomed it by lying in my bed for a week, trying to get rid of a nasty flu. But hey, at least I got to read a lot while I was home, provided I could find the one position where my back wasn't killing me from all that lying and coughing. Good times, but thank God it's over now. So let's see what I'm reading this sunny WWW Wednesday now that I'm back on my feet and have less time but slightly more enthusiasm for new books!

Recently finished: Just a couple days ago I finished Women Who Dared by Jeremy Scott, a book that promised to be extremely interesting and right up my alley, but which ultimately proved rather disappointing. I guess morally questionable con artists and downright abhorrent socialites are not the kind of "strong women" I am looking to learn about. No offense to poor Mary Wollstonecraft who somehow ended up in this book and was basically its saving grace.

Currently reading: The book I picked up instantly when I realized I was sentenced to rest and read all week was The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, a book I started years ago but put away when it got too much, and which I made tremendous progress on while I was sick. Then I started King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, which I thought was going to be smooth sailing since I loved all the previous grisha books so much, but unfortunately it didn't quite grip me as much as its predecessors. I was actually supposed to finish it yesterday but then I found myself not at all in the mood for it, so I started Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett instead. It's the first book in my "Books adapted into movies or TV shows in 2019" challenge, and I love it so far! And then there's the previously mentioned The Dark Ages by Sir Charles Oman, which I'm trying to read at work whenever I get the chance. So yeah... I got a little carried away again with all these books. Let's just hope I can actually finish all of them at some point.

Next read: Of course, the one book I should be reading is none of these. It's Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, the February choice in my reading group. Hopefully I can finish Good Omens in a few days and get started on this one.

Now tell me, what are YOU reading these days?

2019. február 12., kedd

Women Who Dared - Jeremy Scott (2019)

Having recently suffered through one and a half other books that promised to teach me about interesting women I've never heard of but which were, in reality, 60% Tumblr level "lol men are the worst am I right?" kind of jokes, 20% obnoxious pop culture references, 10 % insinuating that literally nothing has changed since the 19th century and women are just as oppressed as ever thanks to Trump obviously, and maybe 10% relevant information, I was excited for Women Who Dared because I really, really love to read about groundbreaking, trailblazing, amazing historical women, and just once I would like to be able to do so without straining my eye muscles from rolling them too hard.

Unfortunately, this book is also not the answer I was looking for, but this time it's harder to put into words why. Certainly it was not too political, which I appreciated, but it had numerous other problems. I couldn't entirely get behind the writing style, for one thing. Colloquial in certain places, pretentious in others, it was as if the author couldn't decide whether he wanted to write a serious, informative non-fiction book, or a gossip column-worthy, flippant account of the lives of these women, full of rumours told as facts, possibilites presented as certanties, and blatant misinformation.

And oh, these women. I can't for the life of me understand what possessed the author to choose these six women in particular for his book. Certainly they all fit under the "women who dared" title, and it's probably my fault that I expected to find actual role models in here instead of con artists, barely important socialites, and women whose only claim to fame is their messy divorce and all the men they fucked. And just to show that I'm not kidding or exaggerating about any of this, let's take a look at the book chapter by chapter.

2019. január 16., szerda

My Top Ten of 2018 - Books

It's that time of the year again when I try to think back on all the media I consumed in the past 365+ days, and select ten of each as best of the best, and let me tell you, this is one of my favourite times. True, it's incredibly hard to make a selection when there's so much good shit coming out, but I love talking about things I love and I love making lists too, so why would I complain? I don't. Except about my own performance when it comes to books, because you see... you can't really make a list of the 10 best books released in 2018 when you've only read 15 of them, and only about three of those can be deemed amazing. I promise I'll try to do better next year and read more new releases, but for now, I'll have to contend myself with a list of the 10 best books I read in 2018, regardless of release date. Oh, and in strictly chronological order because I don't want to play favourites among my favourites. Right, here it goes! 

1. I, Claudius – Robert Graves

I've been meaning to read this for a while now and I honestly don't remember what prompted me to finally do it, but boy am I glad I did! It was slow going because I read it on my work computer whenever I ran out of actual work to do, but I enjoyed every second of it. Graves' Claudius is now one of my favourite fictional renderings of any historical character, but all the others are written brilliantly too. It induced me to do tons of research and I subsequently learned a whole lot about this era of the Roman Empire, which is what I love the most about reading historical fiction: it always makes me want to look up the actual history behind it. I also love drawing the family trees for myself to keep track of all the characters and how they're related to each other, and this book has a hell of a crazy one:

From the distance of a year even I can't make sense of some of this. 

2. Queen Victoria - Lytton Strachey 

I actually had this bookmarked for years on my laptop at home, and I opened it so many times with the intention of reading it that I actually memorised its first line: "On November 6, 1817, died the Princess Charlotte..." But then one day I finally had to admit it to myself that I will never actually take the time to read it at home, so maybe I could just... open Gutenberg.org at work and have it bookmarked for reading there? Yeah I'm dumb sometimes. But I did it and I read it and I loved it so much. I said it before that I will never tire of reading about the Victorian era, be it fiction or non-fiction, and that's obivously true for the Queen herself too. I actually have several more Victoria biographies added to my TBR. Nevertheless, I think this one will always hold a special place in my heart. 

3. Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo

I'm actually so damn proud of myself for finishing all five grisha books in a relatively short time, instead of my usual routine of reading the first one and then abandoning the series for years. I loved Ruin and Rising too but I wanted to choose just one of these books for my list, and in the end I went with Crooked Kingdom because it was the more daring and unusual of the two. It took risks that paid off in full, went to places I never expected it would, and in the end still managed to be satisfying. I can't wait to see Nina's story continue in King of Scars. 

4. Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

This was definitely one of the most unique and innovative fantasy books I've read in recent years, and for that alone it deserves to be on my list. The worldbuilding is so rich and extensive that I was almost convinced to start taking notes about halfway through, which is always a good sign, and the characters were all incredibly vivid and interesting. It's especially noteworthy that the author managed to take the often-told story of "main character has to win a competition to achieve their goals" and managed to make it not only entertaining as hell but actually suspenseful. Even if you're pretty certain that she's gonna be one of the winners, you can be certain about absolutely nothing else, and other books with a similar premise (*cough* Throne of Glass *cough*) could learn a lot from Jay Kristoff. 

5. The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry (review)

I already sang odes about this book elsewhere and I'm not sure what else is left to say. Beautiful writing, haunting atmosphere, wonderfully unique characters, a story that I can't quite put my finger on but which grabbed me nonetheless and still hasn't let go. If only the author's 2018 followup, Melmoth, was half as amazing... still, I'm eagerly waiting fo her next book. 

6. Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking – Deborah Cadbury (review)

Oh how I loved getting lost in this wonderfully twisted, continent-encompassing, royal-imperial family tree. Some of the featured historical figures and their fates were already familiar to me, but others were new, and I would gladly read full biographies on any single one of them, they're just that fascinating.  

7. The Gown – Jennifer Robson (review)

Next to The Essex Serpent, this was the other book that most defined my 2018 reading year, one that I will definitely find myself thinking about for years to come. Again, I think I said everything I possibly could in my review. I adored this book.  

8. Babel – Gaston Dorren (review)

If there's one thing I love more than learning languages, it's thinking about learning languages. This book provided me with ample material for my "will learn one day" list, as well as some wonderful bits of etymological trivia. Highly recommended for any wannabe polyglot!  

9. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

Me and Dickens have a relationship that has so far rested on a pretty contradictory statement: I love his writing style, and yet I've never managed to finish any of his books. Not his fault, to be fair. It's just that so far I always tried to read his books while I was already reading twenty other books, and they always lost out to something else in the end. The idea that I should remedy this has been on my mind for a long time, so I was pretty thrilled when just as I decided that it was finally time for me to stop lurking in this one Goodreads group and start to actually participate in their challenges and discussions, they announced that their December group read would be A Christmas Carol. What an opportunity! So I devoured this wonderful little story in no time, and crowned a new favourite.  

10. Legendary – Stephanie Garber

Caraval was one of the best books I read in 2017, and the sequel definitely lived up to my expectations, even if I didn't necessarily agree with the direction it took in the end. I enjoyed being in Tella's shoes this time and all the lore-building that brought with it - God I wish I could have that pack of cards, magical or not. The new characters were fun to read about and the book even managed to manintain the same sense of suspense and feeling of never quite knowing what's going on that made the first one so enjoyable, and that's why I'm choosing to believe that even with the big revelation at the end, things are still not quite what they seem, and there will be more twists, turns and shocks to come in Finale. This is honestly the only thing I can believe because otherwise the answer to the question of Legend's identity is pretty lousy, and I refuse to believe that.

All right, so that was it for 2018! Please share in the comments YOUR favourite reads of the year! 

2019. január 6., vasárnap

Golden Globes 2019: Wishes and Predictions

Here's something of a confession: I love watching award shows. Since I don't base my interest in movies and series on whether they've won any awards, my enjoyment of these shows is 70% the beautiful dresses, and 30% the acceptance speeches. Plus, when it comes to the Golden Globes, I love seeing those little interludes between presentations when you can get a glimpse of celebrities you'd never guess even knew each other have fun chatting and joking away. It's so much more relaxed and light-hearted than the Oscars, and no amount of political grandstanding is going to ruin it for me, dammit! That said, I would prefer if they didn't do it, but since nowadays you can get the biggest cheers and social media buzz just by saying "lol fuck Trump am I right?", can I really blame these actors for trying? Anyway, here are my wishes and predictions for this year's Golden Globes! Only the movies this time because I can't believe this but I only managed to watch maybe like three of the nominated TV series, so I don't feel comfortable commenting on any of those categories.

Best Motion Picture - Drama

I feel like this one could go two ways: ridiculously transparent with Black Panther winning, or still predictable but at least making sense with Blackkklansman winning. To be clear, I liked both of these movies, but only one of them is acually award-worthy, and it's not Panther. I don't care how "important" a film you think it was because I guess it's not my place to discuss that, but skin colours notwithstanding, it was exactly as good as any other Marvel movie that came out in the past ten years, and you didn't see those winning any Globes, did you? This one shouldn't, either. Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star Is Born were both stunning movies too but sadly I don't think they really have a chance in this category.
Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy

I will never understand what's the big deal about Crazy Rich Asians, because apart from the whole diversity angle, it has absolutely nothing more to offer than any other romantic comedy out there. You know, the kind of which at least a hundred comes out every year and you never even hear of them. I'm afraid it still might win thanks to the hype alone, although I personally am rooting for The Favourite instead.
Best Animated Feature Film

I'll admit I've only seen one of these nominees, Isle of Dogs. It was pretty great and definitely the most unique of them all in terms of art style, but those few minutes I've seen of Into the Spider-Verse after the credits of Venom convinced me that it would deserve to win too. It looks beautiful, creative and very funny, so I'm all for it.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Rami Malek should be a shoe-in for this one, although Bradley Cooper was great in A Star Is Born, and John David Washington just as great in Blackklansman. In the name of fairness, I think Rami should win this, Klansman the best movie, and Bradley the one for directors. He might actually be prouder of that, too.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Many people are saying that this was Glenn Close's best performance she ever gave, but I wouldn't know about that because I only really know her as Cruella de Vil (shame, I know). She certainly was fantastic in The Wife, but I just couldn't relate to her character at all, which usually coloures my impression of any performance, however unfair that is. Anyway, I don't really want to comment on or make predictions about this category, since the only other film here I managed to watch was A Star Is Born, and however great Gaga was in it (and she was), looking at the other names and titles I don't think she should, or will, win.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

I haven't seen any of these movies yet so I'll pass this one.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Either Olivia Colman or Charlize Theron need to win this, because both of them were just WOW in their respective movies. Constance Wu is a terrific actress too, but as I said, Crazy Rich Asians did nothing to showcase that. Hopefully she can get a real meaty role one day and finally win herself an award, because unfortunately it doesn't look like she will be recognized for Fresh Off the Boat any time soon, even though THAT is a fantastic comedic performance. Every week, no less.

Best Supporting Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture

Again, only seen Blackkklansman, but based on that, Adam Driver would definitely deserve it. Then agian I love Sam Rockwell getting so much recognition lately, so I'm kinda rooting for him too.

Best Supporting Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture

It always makes me anxious when two people from the same film get nominated in the same category, regardless of whether I liked the film itself or not. But I did like The Favourite this time, and I think both Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone have an equal chance to win, unless Amy Adams beats them out both. Honestly I would be okay with any of them, they're all pretty amazing.

2019. január 3., csütörtök

WWW Wednesday 01.02. - January reading plans

I was thinking about getting back to the habit of writing by talking a little about what I've been reading lately, and what I'm planning to read for the rest of the month. So this here is my first WWW entry! I plan to make a regular feature of this, maybe not every week but whenever I stumble onto some particularly interesting new book. So let's see what Janury has in store for me so far!

Recently finished: I completed my 2018 Reading Challenge on the 26th of December by finishing Queen of the Conqueror by Tracy Borman, a pretty excellent biography of not only Matilda of Flanders but also William the Conqueror and their entire family. It was a worthy last read of the year and I didn't want to add any more books to the challenge so for the last few remaining days I was reading The Dark Ages 476-918 A.D. by Sir Charles Oman, whose title is pretty self-explanatory. It's a good read but so freaking detailed that I can only manage a few chapters at a time, so I'm still only halfway through it. 

Currently reading: I will eventually finish The Dark Ages, but for now I put it away in favour of a book that's been marked as "currently reading" on my Goodreads for three years, along with several other books I started and never finished. No wonder I no longer use this feature: these books haunt me every day and I swear I will finish all of them eventually... but I really don't need to add more to this cursed list. Anyway, the book I took up again after so much time is Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, third in the Outlander series. My relationship with this series is a bit complicated, I don't love it as much as I expected I would but I still enjoy reading it a lot. I think I might elaborate on this later in a separate post. So far I'm making good progress on Voyager. I completely forgot how absolutely engaging and readable these books were, and it's nice to be back in their world a little bit, even if I probably won't pick up Book 4 immediately after this.

Next read: While I would love to finish Voyager by the end of January, this time I decided that I won't fret it. No one's rushing me (not that anyone ever was), and I have a couple other books I want to pick up this month: Ready Player One for my Reading Challenge group, as well as a couple new titles whose releases I'm eagerly awaiting: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden, and The Wicked King by Holly Black.

Now tell me, what are YOU reading these days?

2018. november 22., csütörtök

Legends of Tomorrow 4x01-05

I don’t think I’ve ever written about Legends of Tomorrow before, so let me start this review with a little confession: it is my favourite Arrowverse show, and no one is more surprised by that than I am. For starters, I only started watching it for two, maybe three reasons: Arthur Darvill, Sara Lance, and to not miss out on any lore-building or continuity nods to the other shows (which, back then, were only Arrow, which I loved, and The Flash, which I liked quite a bit, but not enough to get all the hype for it). What’s more, I couldn’t stand Ray Palmer on Arrow (seriously, I even listed him as one of the many things that ruined season 3 for me), and I wasn’t at all interested in Captain Cold or Heatwave either: they were, in my opininon, unfairly lauded boring, one-note villains, just like every single other villain of the week on The Flash. So pretty much EVERYTHING was against Legends when it started, and season 1 didn’t inspire too much confidence either. But along the way, things started to shift imperceptibly. Ray became insanely likable, Snart and Rory were expanded and built upon as characters I could actually care about, and when season 2 got rid off all the deadweight and introduced Nate and Amaya to the cast, well, that was pretty much it. Couple that with Arrow’s increasingly dark storylines and stagnating quality, The Flash becoming pretty repetitive, as well as Supergirl’s subpar debut season, and Legends quickly became one of the shows I most looked forward to every week.

2018. november 14., szerda

The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky - John Hornor Jacobs (2018)

I'm not quite sure what to make of this book. Cosmic horror as a genre intrigues me because I think the fear of the unknown (and what lurks beneath) is so deeply entrenched in all human beings that, if done right, such a work can evoke emotions stronger than any psychological or gore-based horror novel ever could. That is why I’m so confused about and disappointed in this book, because at its most basic it had everything to tell an absolutely terrifying story, but instead it chose to meander and not say or do anything meaningful with the groundwork it laid for itself.

All of this is pretty confusing without mentioning some specifics, so I will try to do so without really spoiling anything. The two main characters are exiles from a fictional South American country that has been torn apart by rebellion and the subsequent rise to power of a military dictatorship. At first I didn’t understand the author’s decision to invent a such country when there are so many where such a thing actually happened in real life, but over the course of the book I came to appreciate the additional layer of otherworldliness this choice has added to the story. Our protagonist, Isabel, befriends Rafael, a mysterious poet from her home country, who eventually leaves his comfortable life in Spain to go home and search for his lost family, which leaves Isabel in charge of his apartment. There she discovers a written account of his friend’s former life, and the strange and more than a little distrubing path that led to his exile. This is where the horror elements really start to come into play, not only through the vivid descriptions of torture he has endured at the hands of his captors, but also through the interwoven story of his attempts to translate an old manuscript. For some reason his captors are really interested in this piece of work, in fact they even suggest that him taking it on was what drew them to him in the first place. Naturally, Isabel finds the manuscript and begins to work on her own translation, which is when she is forced to realize that Rafael is not safe back home and she decides to go and find him.

Sounds pretty amazing, right? Spooky, mysterious, bone-chilling even, thanks to Rafael’s memoir (you’ll see what I mean when you read it), this is the groundwork I was referring to earlier. Everything is in place for a spectacular conclusion where we finally get our answers for all the important questions, such as: Who are these people? What do they want with the manuscript? What IS the manuscript? What cosmic powers are at play here? Well, we never find out any of that. The ending of this book is a confusing mess, at least for me. I realize that so far I will be the only one giving it less than four stars, and I could praise the writing style and the character of Rafael (not Isabel, who was pretty bland in my opinion) as reasons why I liked the book overall – and I did, in a way, because it had beautiful imagery and kept me interested until the very end. But it had the potential to be so much more, and while I’m generally not opposed to open endings (sometimes I even like the whole „decide for yourself what happened after” approach), there was not even remotely enough material here for me to come up with anything that makes sense.

2018. november 12., hétfő

The Walking Dead 9x06 Who Are You Now?

Generally, I’m not a big fan of time jumps. I hate the feeling of missing out on potentially important developments concerning my favourite characters or couples (you hear that OUAT season 4? Those six fictional months were really important to me), and it’s even riskier when there’s such a big jump that characters invariably have to be recast with actors who will fit their new ages better. You can tell me that it’s the same character all you want, but if the new actors’s not good enough, I simply won’t feel about them the same way ever again. On the other hand, I will admit that sometimes it’s worth to have a time jump for all the new mysteries such a big change could bring (wait, when did that happen? Why are they not talking to each other? Oooh something BIG must have went down, I can’t wait to find out what!)… except when you have insufferable showrunners who handwave it all away with „oh you know, time has passed, people change, you’ll get used to it”… and then that’s another whole new kind of feeling fucked over. So with all that said, I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed The Walking Dead’s first post-time jump episode! By jumping forward a whopping six years, I was spared from having my heart broken from watching Michonne’s fresh grief over Rick’s „death”, which I appreciate a lot. Moreover, the only character who had to be recast was Judith, and her new version is wonderful so far, and there was even a little bit of mystery peppered in, although this is not necessarily the kind of show where I expect that sort of thing. So it was great! Overall I’m still surprised by how much I’m loving this season, and I’m a bit sad we only have two more episodes to go before the winter break.

2018. november 8., csütörtök

The Walking Dead 9x05 What Comes After

Well that was… an episode. I’m not sure what I expected since it’s been known for a while that it would be a kind of flashback/hallucination episode leading up to Rick’s departure, but was it wrong of me to want a little more out of it? Not more action, necessarily… in fact, I’m kinda loving how lowkey and subdued this season has been so far. It’s been nine years, I don’t crave outrageously gory zombie slaughter every second episode anymore. I like heartfelt conversations and small but meaningful character moments just as much. So was that the problem? That Rick spent his last remaining moments on the show conversing with dead people, instead of getting some closure with his loved ones? Nope. For me, the problem lies in the very fact that this was Rick’s last episode, or more accurately, the fact that I knew this was his last episode. How am I expected to enjoy anything about it when I know that whatever happens, by the end of it Rick will be gone? I guess I could say props to everyone involved for still managing to make it somewhat suspenseful, but that’s hardly consoling. Like, can you imagine the absolute gut-punch this episode could have been if they had kept Rick’s exit a secret? I know I complained about this before but it’s something that’s on my mind a lot, and not just regarding TWD. Generally, I would prefer never to know when an actor is about to leave a show. I want to be surprised and outraged, dammit, not just mildly sad when it finally happens after half a year of knowing it would.