Category: Miscellaneous

I’m so excited… and I just can’t hide it!

Thank you so much to HarperCollins Canada and Raymond E. Feist for the eArc of King of Ashes. I’m SOOOOO excited to read this.

I credit Mr. Feist with reawakening my love of reading; after studying literature at university I couldn’t stand to read anything more involved than a Cosmo magazine. Then a friend put a copy of Shadow of a Dark Queen into my hands and I’ve not stopped reading since.  He is a master storyteller.  It’s always “have to read one more page, one more chapter.” then before you know it, it’s 6am and you have to get ready to go to work…

The Riftwar Saga was also the first books I migrated to ebook format when I got my very first Kindle, so you can understand the place Mr. Feist holds in my heart.  You can certainly expect a review of King of Ashes once I have finished it.

Doctor Who – Ranking the Regenerations

Hello, as a Doctor Who fan who has just watched the Twelfth Doctor regenerate into the character’s first female incarnation, I thought it would be a good time to rank them in my estimation.  My rankings are purely personal, and are based on a mixture of the storylines, the performances and the whole caboodle.

14 Sixth Doctor to Seventh Doctor, Time and the Rani 1987 (Colin Baker to Sylvester McCoy)
Cause of regeneration: fatally injured in a TARDIS crash caused by the Rani

Coming in at the bottom spot, we have the regeneration from Six to Seven.  This really is pretty bad as a regeneration story.  Due to conflict between Baker and the BBC, he did not come back to film his regeneration scene or even tie up his era.  Instead we were given McCoy in a blond wig.  Awful  In addition, because of this, the regeneration story was very underwhelming.  No build up, no farewell to the outgoing Doctor.  A poor showing all round.

13 Third Doctor to Fourth Doctor, Planet of the Spiders 1974 (Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker)
Cause of regeneration: fatally poisoned by radiation

I have no strong feelings on this particular storyline.  

12 Fourth Doctor to Fifth Doctor, Logopolis 1981 (Tom Baker to Peter Davison)
Cause of regeneration: fall from the lighthouse

Again I have little to say about this regeneration.  It’s most notable for the Fourth Doctor’s final words “It is the end; but the moment has been prepared for.”

11 Fifth Doctor to Sixth Doctor, The Caves of Androzani 1984 (Peter Davison to Colin Baker)

Cause of regeneration: spectrox poisoning

The Caves of Androzani is widely considered to be one of Davison’s best performances and I agree.  This regeneration is notable for the distinctly uncomfortable feeling of the Sixth Doctor’s first words about change and not being a moment too soon.  This is clearly a new Doctor to be wary of.

10 Second Doctor to Third Doctor, The War Games 1969 (Patrick Troughton to Jon Pertwee)
Cause of regeneration: forced regeneration by the Time Lords due to breaking time lord protocol

This is an unusual regeneration storyline in that the incoming Doctor was not introduced in the regeneration episode.  I’ll be honest and say I’m not so familiar with this regeneration storyline, having only seen the minutes of the regeneration.  I don’t have much to say about it really.

9 Eleventh Doctor to Twelfth Doctor, The Time of the Doctor 2013 (Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi)
Cause of regeneration: old age

Of the reboot regenerations, this is definitely the weakest, which is a shame as I really liked Matt Smith’s Doctor.  The two big issues I found were; 1) they had a powerful storyline here with Eleven believing he was at the end of his regeneration cycle and would die for reals this time around.  They diluted that strong storyline with a whole bunch of crap.  Secondly, having Matt’s Doctor age to become an old man meant that Smith had to wear a lot of prosthetics and makeup which impacted his performance.  Still, on the positive side, his final monologue was beautiful.

8 Seventh Doctor to Eighth Doctor, Doctor Who, the Movie 1996 (Sylvester McCoy to Paul McGann)

Cause of regeneration: shot by a street gang and died due to the human doctor not understanding his Gallifreyan physiology

I’m happy Sylvester McCoy got the opportunity to say goodbye to his Doctor and I’m sad that McGann only got to play the role on screen in this movie and the webisode.  Nothing much to add.

7 Tenth Doctor to Tenth Doctor, The Stolen Earth 2008 (David Tennant)

Cause of regeneration: shot by a Dalek

This was a lovely fake-out regeneration, although it is still officially a new regeneration.  In essence the Doctor was shot by a Dalek, and started to regenerate, which was the cliffhanger at the end of part one of a two-part story.  Of course people were pretty shocked – normally when a Doctor leaves it’s announced well in advance.

6 War Doctor to Ninth Doctor, Day of the Doctor 2013 (John Hurt to Christopher Eccleston)
Cause of regeneration: similar to First Doctor, body growing old after the trials of the Time War

I liked this regeneration because it filled in the missing gap.  As Ecclestone was involved in the series reboot where his Doctor was already in place we never got to see his regeneration until eight years later.  I would have liked to have seen more of the Ninth Doctor’s first moments, but this is what we got.

5 Ninth Doctor to Tenth Doctor, The Parting of the Ways 2005 (Christopher Eccleston to David Tennant)
Cause of regeneration: absorption of the Time Vortex

This is of course the first regeneration of the new reboot.  They did some nice effects for the regeneration which continued into the other regeneration scenes in the show.  I enjoyed the storyline which is a typical Doctor sacrifices himself to save his Companion.  Nothing much else to add.

4 Tenth Doctor to Eleventh Doctor, The End of Time 2009 (David Tennant to Matt Smith)
Cause of regeneration: radiation absorption

David Tennant was one of the most popular Doctors of the modern era, and they made a big deal out of his departure.  Tennant’s last series was a collection of specials and his departure storyline was threaded through all of them.  I did feel though that they did milk the departure a little too much with a rerun of Ten’s greatest hits so to speak.  It was a regeneration specifically crafted to tug at the heartstrings.  It did have a beautiful score by Murray Gold – I adore Vale Decem.

3 Twelfth Doctor to Thirteenth Doctor, Twice Upon a Time 2017 (Peter Capaldi to Jodie Whittaker)

Cause of regeneration: electrocuted by a Mondasian Cyberman

Coming in at number 3 we have Twice Upon a Time, the most recent regeneration story.  Of the modern era (post 2005) this is my favourite, perhaps because I saw it so recently.  I loved the interaction between the First Doctor and Twelve and their common theme of rejecting regeneration.  I would have liked to have seen that given a bit more emphasis rather than the Testimony, but whatever.  Capaldi’s last monologue as Twelve was beautiful – moving, appropriate and the delivery was perfect.  “Laugh hard.  Run fast.  Be kind.  Doctor, I let you go.  “  A fitting end to Capaldi’s time on the show.

2 Eighth Doctor to War Doctor, Night of the Doctor webisode 2013 (Paul McGann to John Hurt)

Cause of regeneration:  assisted regeneration after a starship crash.

Eight’s regeneration into the War Doctor comes in at my number 2 spot.  McGann’s inclusion in the fiftieth anniversary celebrations in the webisode The Night of the Doctor was unexpected and wonderful.  I loved this regeneration story for several reasons.  First, we got to fill in a gap in Doctor Who lore; seeing Eight’s regeneration.  Secondly, in Eight’s salute to his companions from the Big Finish audiobooks confirms his stories as canon which is excellent.Thirdly, I loved the concept of assisted regeneration and the fact that the Doctor got some say in his next incarnation.  

Mostly though, I loved it because of seeing the growth in Eight’s character.  When we last saw him on screen seven years previously in the Doctor Who movie, the Eighth Doctor was a lighthearted alien who danced with joy because his shoes fitted so perfectly.  Here in the webisode we see a time lord beaten down by the struggles of the Time War, who still clung to peace and wanted to do his best for everyone, even those who hated him.  This really intrigued me and I was very motivated to learn more about this character and what brought him to this place.  This was the point at which I started listening to the Big Finish audio productions.  If you aren’t familiar with them, check them out.

1 First Doctor to Second Doctor, The Tenth Planet 1966 (William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton)
Cause of regeneration: Original body getting old

At first glance, this isn’t a particularly exciting regeneration story.  The Doctor has been in his original incarnation for a while and his body is wearing a bit thin.  There is no dramatic conflict imperilling his life.  1960s special effects mean that the regeneration scene itself is pretty basic.  In actual fact, we only have a few moments of it as the episode was lost due to the BBC purge of videotapes.  

The reason this is my number one pick is because of what it started.  Without this story and concept, Doctor Who would never have survived to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The concept of regeneration to replace a lead actor with someone who looks and acts in a completely different manner is nothing short of brilliant.  And in a time without the internet and spoilers, can you imagine the shock value?  This gives the show a fresh perspective every few years and I believe that has contributed to the show’s longevity.  1960s showrunners, I salute you.

There you have it, my ranking of the Doctor’s regenerations.  How would you order them?  Let me know in the comments.

Upcoming book releases Autumn 2017

Hello, now that summer is drawing to a close, we’re coming into prime book release time.  As usual, I have a metric tonne of books about whose release I am super excited.  Some of these are continuations of series in which I am already invested, some are new series from authors I love and some are reissues of old favourites.  So, let’s get into it, shall we?

To kick off, I was really excited by the recent news that Raymond E.Feist has managed to resolve the ebook rights issue for North America.  While most of his newer works have been released in ebook, his earlier novels have so far been unavailable in my preferred format.  This will all change on August 22nd when his Riftwar saga as well as his Empire trilogy with Janny Wurts will be released as ebooks.  I understand audiobook format will follow later this year.  Although I have read all of these, I am very happy to add them to my collection.  I consider Feist a true master storyteller and if you are not familiar with his work, this is a great opportunity to get started.  Be aware, though,that the series does have a somewhat slow start.  It just gets better and better.  Silverthorn remains one of my favourite books by this author.

Also in August, I will get to experience the mashup of one of my favourite authors with one of my favourite characters with the release of Leigh Bardugo’s take on Wonder Woman.  I’ve always adored this superhero and I can’t wait to read Bardugo’s take on her.  Wonder Woman: Warbringer is a coming-of-age story set before Diana of Themiscyra becomes Wonder Woman.  Sounds awesome.  Wonder Woman: Warbringer is released on August 29th.

On September 5th we have the release of Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas, the next instalment in the Throne of Glass series.  I think I’m unusual amongst Maas fans in that I’m more invested in the Throne of Glass series than her Court of Thorns and Roses series.  In fact, I’ve not yet read the third book in the latter series.   Tower of Dawn focusses on Chaol Westfall.  I look forward to reading about the continuation of this story.

Moving onto October, and this is going to be a really painful month for my bank balance.  

At some point in October, date not yet specified, we have the release of Harry Potter in his 80th translation – Scots.  The title is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane.  Note this is isn’t Gaelic, but the lowland Scots dialect that I grew up hearing.  This will be a fascinating read, I’m sure. 

First off on October 3rd we have the release of the culmination of Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle, The Core.  I really love the wordbuidling in this series and am engaged in the stories of our protagonists  It takes a great deal of skill to write two characters who are both equally honourable, equally justified in their opposing beliefs and who both want the best for their world – and who are in direct conflict.  The previous instalment finished on a real cliffhanger, so I can’t wait to read the conclusion.

Ian Doescher will publish the next installment in his William Shakespeare’s Star Wars saga with The Force Doth Awaken on October 3rd.  In this series he reworks the Star Wars screenplays as if they were written by Shakeapeare complete with iambic pentameter.  This time I was overjoyed to see that Random House Audio is once again producing a full cast audiobook production.  Do yourselves a favour and pick up the audiobook – Shakespeare (and Star Wars) are not meant to be read but to be experienced through performance, and if previous instalments are any guide, this will knock it out of the park.  These audiobooks are presented like a radio production and the production values are incredible.  I can’t recommend them highly enough and can’t wait to listen to this one.

Robert Langdon returns on October 3rd in Dan Brown’s latest novel, Origin.  While I wouldn’t call Brown’s writing great literature, they are very entertaining reads and I’m looking forward to this one.

Also on October 3rd we have the release of Ringer by Lauren Oliver.  This is the sequel to Replica.  While I didn’t find the characters or plot of Replica anything special, I was intrigued by the format;  the book can be read in multiple ways.  Either you can read Gemma’s story through first, or Lyra’s – or read them chapter by chapter.  This is enough to make make me want to read the second book.  

October 10th is the book birthday of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black’s The Silver Mask. This is the fourth in the Harry Potteresque Magisterium series.  The synopsis for this book is very vague about the magic and the mystery intesifying.  I have really enjoyed this series so far, and am looking forward to the continuation.

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater is another book I’m anticipating.  This is a new series from the creator of the The Raven Cycle., which gave me such a book hangover.  I don’t know much about the new series, except that it’s set in Colorado.  Stiefvater’s name is enough for me to autobuy.  All the Crooked Saints is released on October 10th.

Kevin Hearne, author of The Iron Druid Chronicles, has a new seriesstarting off entitled A Plague of Giants.  Unlike in the Iron Chronicles Hearne has created a completely new world for this series in addition to a new mythology.  The synopsis indicates that one of the main characters is a kickass warrior and mother.  I’m interested to see how Hearne handles a female protagonist.  A Plague of Giants is also released on October 10th.

After a break of nearly 17 years, Philip Pullman is returning to his Dark Materials world with a new trilogy entitled the La Belle Sauvage. He describes it as an “equel” rather than sequel or prequel.  It will return to Lyra’ story both before she came to Oxford and as a young woman in her twenties.  I note that Michael Sheen is narrating the audiobook.  I’m a little surprised we don’t have a female narrator, but I’m sure it’ll be great anyway.  The first book in the trilogy, The Book of Dust will be published on October 19.

Moving onto November we have the release of Renegades by Marissa Meyer.  This is a new superhero series from the writer of the Lunar Chronicles.  Again an auto buy for me.  Renegades will be published on November 7th.

Next up we have Oathbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. This is the third book in Sanderson’s epic fantasy The Stormlight Archive.  This is another bookstopper at 1200+ pages or 49 hours of listening.  I might consider listening to the Graphic Audio adaptations of the earlier books to get caught up.  Still, it’s another auto buy for me, despite the fact that I’m not reading much epic fantasy these days.  Oathbringer is released on November 14th.

The final book I have on my upcoming releases list is Artemis by Andy Weir, the writer of the Martian.  I LOVED the blend of science and character development in the Martian and I”m hoping for more from Artemis.  Artemis is also released on November 14th.

We have a female Doctor Who!!!!!

Congratulations Jodie Whittaker, our 13th Doctor.  Here’s the video of the announcement.  As a Brit, Doctor Who is part of my cultural DNA, and the casting of a new Doctor is a national event.

I am so, so excited about this.  I was so happy when I saw the hand taking the TARDIS key and knew we had a woman! 

First, I’m just really happy it’s not Kris Marshall.  No disrespect to Kris – I’m sure he’s a very fine and talented comedic actor, but I don’t think he was at all the right person to fill Capaldi’s shoes.

Now I’m even more excited for the Christmas special with the First Doctor.  Regeneration is bound to be a major theme given that both Doctors are within hours of their respective regenerations.   As an older gentleman product of the Sixties, the First Doctor is very patriarchal.  I really hope we get to see his horror at the prospect of turning into a woman!

I’m not familiar with Jodie Whittaker’s work personally, but I understand she’s handled some really tough storylines on Broadchurch so I’m satisfied.  I don’t think Who has ever miscast the Doctor.  Even poor Colin Baker only played the Time Lord as he was written.

I’m a little concerned at Chibnall’s comment that “13 was always going to be a woman.”  I’m hoping that means he has some ideas for interesting ways in which the gender swap will come into play, not just because he wanted to make his mark on Who by making the Doctor a woman purely for shock factor.  Clearly, Moffat was asked to prepare this.  The Master becoming Missy; the other Time Lord regenerating into a Time Lady; the Master’s snarky comment about the women taking over.

Speaking of gender swap, I hope they don’t drag the issues on too long.  The Doctor is a woman; get over it.  Let’s find out what kind of Doctor she will be.

The gender swap is more impactful than a racial swap.  It’s been shown time and time again that race has no meaning in the Whoniverse.

I wonder if that’s why Bill had to go?  Whittaker is a similar physical type to Heather, Bill’s love interest.  Maybe a Sapphic vibe between the Doctor and her companion was a step too far for Auntie Beeb?   Now I’m wondering about Companions!  Male, female?  How many?

Oh, please let us have River meet 13!  I think she’d be totally down with being married to a woman!

My weekend with the Fantastic Beasts (spoilers)

As some of you who have been following my blog may know, the last couple of weeks I’ve been obsessed with the new film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  This is the latest from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and follows the adventures of Newt Scamander, a British magizoologist (student of magical creatures) who encounters some issues when visiting 1920s New York.  As well as following Newt’s attempts to recapture his fantastic beasts, the movie also explores the challenges facing the American wizarding community of that era.

As well as seeing the film on release day, I also purchased the screenplay (available on Amazon) and the LEGO Dimensions story pack for Fantastic Beasts.  As well a six levels of gameplay taking you through the entire movie, the pack gives you LEGO bricks to build the MACUSA building.

For those who have not yet seen the movie, I’ll continue after the cut as I will be discussing spoilers.  Warning;  complete nerdout follows.

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The Olympics Book Tag

Good morning.  This week I’m going to do something different.  Quite honestly, none of the books I’ve read over the last couple of weeks has inspired me enough to write a full book review for a post, so I’m going to do the Olympics book tag.  Thanks to RiverMoose Books for bringing it to my attention.

Ancient Greece:  the book that started it all for you.

As a child I was always reading.  Like many British kids I grew up with Enid Blyton – I loved the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and the St Clare’s boarding school series.  I’m not sure how well known they are in North America.  I can also remember at school on Friday afternoons it was story time and the teacher used to read the Three Investigators stories.  I loved those and read a lot more of them on my own.

The first book that I can remember being totally and utterly sucked into though was the classic Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I was around eleven at that time and I just couldn’t put that one down.  This has led to a lifelong love of fantasy literature.

Opening Ceremony: a series that you love that has a lot of excitement and fanfare surrounding it.

For this one I’m going to pick Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles.  This is such an awesome series and there is usually a lot of hype around a new release.  The books easily live up to the excitement though.  It does remind me of a regular discussion I had with my parents.  Every time I mentioned Harry Potter they’d react by saying “bah, it’s all hype.”  No matter how often I tried to convince them that the hype was well justified, it happened every time.  That is until I gave them a Kindle and access to my Kindle library and Dad actually started reading Potter…

Gymnastics: a book full of twists and flips.

My choice for this category is one that perhaps not many of you will have read yet.  I’m going to go with Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Reader Copy at BEA this year and it’s definitely one of my top reads of 2016.  The world Garber has created is breathtaking and the ground is forever shifting from under our protagonist’s feet.  I really can’t wait til January when you all can read this and share your thoughts.

Wrestling: a book that you keep picking up and putting back down.

For me this has to be Red Rising and the rest of the popular trilogy by Pierce Brown.  I know, many people love this, but I have been unable to get into it despite a couple of attempts.  Sorry.

Track & Field: a book made up of a lot of parts.

It took me a little time to come up with an entry for this category.  In the end though I’m going to go with A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.  For those of you unaware of the history, Robert Jordan sadly passed away before completing his Wheel of Time series and Sanderson was tapped to complete it.  As they say, “the story grew in the telling,” and at the time Sanderson picked up the baton, the series had a huge, unwieldy cast, massive scope, a shedful of prophesies to be fulfilled and a metric tonne of plotlines to be resolved.  It took him three books, but in the end Sanderson crafted an ending out of these parts worthy of its Creator. 

Weightlifting: a book you have trouble picking up due to its size.

OK, I have nothing for this one.  I’m a hardy reader – big books don’t scare me!

Archery: a book that missed the mark for you.

For this one I’m going to go with Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, the Austen Project’s retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  From the initial preview I’d been cautiously optimistic.  Sadly though, the book itself didn’t measure up to my hopes.  While it had many positive aspects, I felt that Sittenfeld had not remained true to Austen’s much loved characters.  This led to my giving this book the lowest GoodReads rating of a book this year.

Badminton: a lesser-known but equally amazing read.

Here I’m going to pick The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.  This novel focuses on the lives of the inhabitants of a small English village in the leadup to the First World War.  The social history is fascinating, the characters are interesting and very well written and the plotline is very touching. An excellent read.

Rowing: a book with an awesome team of characters.

In this category I’m going to nominate The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare.  This series has one of the most powerful love triangles I’ve ever read in YA, and the whole intricate relationship between Will, Tess and Jem is just so beautifully written.  And dang it, that ending to Clockwork Princess.  <sniff>

An honourable mention to The Lunar Chronicles for the awesome female characters and their teamwork.

Diving: a book that you easily jumped right into.

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott is the book that fits this category for me.  When I picked it up, I was in the middle of a really bad reading slump and the worldbuilding and the characters still drew me in immediately.  The sequel, The Poisoned Blade, is high up on my TBR.

Closing Ceremony: a book/series with a bittersweet ending

For me, you can’t get much more bittersweet than the ending of The Lord of the Rings.  The whole idea of Frodo’s having gone on that journey to save the Shire, but being so damaged by it that he cannot enjoy the peace he won with so much struggle is heartbreaking.  The whole scene at the Grey Havens where the Fellowship breaks for the final time gets me right in the feels each time.

This seems a good point to express my concern about the ending of A Song of Ice and Fire.  George R.R. Martin has gone on record to state that the ending he has planned is “bittersweet.”  Knowing Martin, that means I’ll need to buy at least 10 boxes of tissues before reading A Dream of Spring.

Let me know in the comments if you agree with my choices!

The Great Illness Recovery Movie Rewatch of 2016

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I spent a couple of days in hospital being treated for a skin infection.  I’m back at home now, and although I have not been doing a great deal of reading, what I have been doing is watching a whole lot of movies.  

Chariots of Fire.  I’m not certain if I had seen this before, but I had a real hankering to watch the Oscar winning movie about two very different British Olympian hopefuls in the 1924 Paris Olympics.  This film was sheer perfection, from the casting to the script to the cinematography to the music.  I loved every moment of it, from the opening scene with the runners running along the beach to Vangelis’ stirring musical theme to the heart lifting final race.  I definitely have visions like Mr Bean at the 2012 London Olympics of running down that beach with the athletes.  Go watch this movie.  Now.  

A Walk in the Woods.  The second movie I watched was A Walk in the Woods, an adaptation of Bill Bryson’s travelogue about hiking the Appalachian trail, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.  This got pretty mixed reviews in the cinema, so I was happy to wait to watch it at home.  I’ve read quite a bit of Bryson’s travelogues and usually find them very witty and insightful.  I thought Redford did a great job of bringing across Bryson’s humour, and it was fun to see Emma Thompson as his English wife.  The scenery was wonderful to look at even on the small screen.  However, I did have a problem with Nolte’s character.  I’m not certain if it was how it was written, directed or acted, or a combination of all three, but the character turned me off completely far more than the original character in the book, which I have naturally, read.  This is despite a few sweet moments between his and Redford’s characters.  I wouldn’t rush to pay $14 dollars to see this one, but certainly worth checking out free on Netflix if you’ve nothing else to do of an evening.

Wild. This is the adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s travelogue about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and stars Reece Witherspoon, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the role.  You may see somewhat of a theme here.  I guess I was missing my running and walking more than I realised during my vacation and hospital stay!  Anyway, Wild is another excellent movie.  I loved the character development the scenery and the performances, and it deserved all the accolades it earned.  This is another one to check out.

The Third Man.  This is Carol Reed’s murder mystery set in post-war Vienna and stars Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten.  Having spent time in Vienna myself I really enjoyed seeing a movie set there, even if it was a very much dishevelled version of the city I love.  Having said that, the film itself did leave me cold.  The more I learned of Harry Lime’s character, the less I was invested in finding out what happened to him, despite Holly’s obvious affection for his friend.  By half way through the movie I was ready for Holly to take Major Calloway’s advice and to get the heck out of Dodge, so it was a struggle for me to finish the movie.  However, I can’t fault the acting, script or direction.  It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I know many people have loved this movie, so your milage may vary.

Spectre.  Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as James Bond, 007.  This is definitely not the strongest Craig Bond movie, especially coming after the wonderful Skyfall as it does.  Craig turns in a good performance as do the other actors, the stunts and special effects are breathtaking but for me the pacing was a real problem here.  Lengthwise it comes in as an average Bond movie, but it felt much, much longer.  It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly where the issue was – perhaps there were too many plotlines going on, or perhaps the peaceful interludes between action sequences dragged on too long, but for me it was definitely not the greatest Bond film.  I do hope Craig comes back to do one more, but sadly that’s looking less and less likely.  Maybe I can just pretend he went out with a bang in Skyfall?

Rain Man.  This is another classic movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise about a road trip taken by an LA businessman and his autistic brother.  Again this is a classic for a reason.  The script, performances and character development are all wonderfully portrayed.  Much is made of Hoffman’s performance as the autistic Raymond, and rightly so, but to my mind Cruise delivers an equally strong and nuanced performance.  Now, I’m not the greatest of Tom Cruise fans, but I can very much appreciate how he slowly developed his character from a greedy businessman focussed on money to wanting to do the best for his brother.  The scene towards the end where Charlie finally accepts that he cannot provide the care that Raymond clearly needs and yet still wants to have a relationship with him is beautifully acted.  Another must-see movie.

So those are the movies I watched during my recovery.  Do you agree with my thoughts?  Let me know in the comments!

Travels with lymphedema

Good morning.  First of all, apologies to my regular book review readers.  This blog post is somewhat off topic, but I felt I wanted to write about it.  Feel free to skip it or pass on to someone who may find it interesting.  I will recommence regular book reviews shortly, I promise!

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it on this blog or not, but I have a condition called lymphedema which means that my lymphatic system isn’t great about moving the lymph fluid around my body.  This means that without management, it collects in my lower extremities leading to swollen, uncomfortable feet and legs.  Normally this is well managed by my compression stockings.  The other issue with lymphedema is the risk of cellulitis infection.  The lymph fluid is extremely protein rich, so it is basically an all you can eat buffet for bacteria.  If one gets in, it invites all its friends and the infection can go very bad very quickly.  That is what happened to me after my vacation.  I got an infection that sent me to the hospital for a couple of days for IV antibiotics.  Fortunately, I reacted quickly this time and was able to get treatment before it got too bad. 

The lessons I took from that is that vacation is not an excuse to neglect basic skincare, which is a cornerstone of lymphedema management.  My infection was probably due to a whole combination of things; rushed skincare, long periods spent travelling without getting up to move around, poor maintenance of my compression garments.  In other words, I need to be more aware of the basic requirements of living with lymphedema and speak out to ensure they are being met.  Lesson learned.

It got me thinking though.  What words of advice would I have for someone newly diagnosed with lymphedema, perhaps someone younger and more active?

First of all, I would explain that I am not an expert, simply a fellow traveller perhaps a few miles further along the road.  The tips and techniques I have picked up have worked for me, but they may not be be appropriate for every situation.  When in doubt consult with your lymphedema support team.

Secondly, lymphedema is a scary diagnosis to hear.  It cannot be denied; managing lymphedema takes hard work, commitment and lifestyle changes, none of which are easy.  However, with the right professional support and attitude it is very possible to keep on top of the condition.  If I can do it, anyone can.

Build your support team.  My doctor was able to refer me to the extremely knowledgable and passionate Dr Anna Towers and the amazing lymphdema therapist Lina Desmenins.  These are both wonderful women whom I am privileged to have in my corner.  I understand that it is not always easy to be put in touch with the appropriate resources.  Here in Quebec the Lymphedema Association of Quebec acts as an invaluable resource point for patients and practitioners dealing with lymphedema.  I imagine there is a similar organisation in each province/state.  That would probably be an excellent place to start.

Put together your tool set.  Lina likes to refer to the various techniques for lymphedema management as tools in a toolset.  I find that a very positive way of looking at it.  As tools, they put you in control; they can be used as appropriate to manage your lymphedema.  Together, you and your lymphdema professional will put together a tool set which is apppropriate for your particular situation.  You will almost certainly be introduced to compression bandaging, compression garments and basic skincare, which are the cornerstones of lymphedema management.  Others include manual lymphatic drainage, weight control and exercise.  I am certain there are others, of which I’m not aware as they were perhaps not the most appropriate tools for my situation.  Now, I won’t pretend that the tools are always easy or fun to use, but they are effective and they do their job.  I don’t think anybody really enjoys compression bandaging.  Your lymphedema specialist will also provide guidance as to which tool is most appropriate for the situation.  I know on several occasions, I’ve followed up with Lina asking exactly that question and always received invaluable support and advice.

There will be setbacks.  See; above.  I can also remember being in tears in Lina’s office at the thought of having to continue bandaging for a few more weeks in a hot Montreal summer.   With Lina’s support I got through it and continued to reduce the fluid in my legs considerably.  Lymphedema management isn’t a slow straight line of improvement.  It’s more like a series of peaks and troughs, hopefully always heading in a positive direction.  It’s best to be prepared for that.

Find something to motivate you.  For me, exercise was an important tool in my toolset, especially walking, something I didn’t generally enjoy.  I invested in a pedometer (a FitBit to be precise) and I found that was a great motivator for me.  At first I really struggled with it.  Even hitting 5000 steps a day was a challenge at the beginning.  The recommended 10,000 steps a day seemed very difficult to achieve.  Nowadays, most days when I’m not working I can easily do 10,000 steps and it’s not a problem at all.  Seeing the number of steps I could manage increase slowly was a real motivator for me.

These days I jog as well as run.  I have been working through the Couch to 5K plan which takes you from being a couch potato (me, to a T) to being able to tackle a 5K run.  It builds you up over 9 weeks with walking/jogging intervals starting at jogging for 30 seconds until you’re jogging for 30 minutes straight.  I found this a fantastic program, although that jump from 8 minutes jogging to 20 minutes jogging in week 5 is a real hurdle!  Do I enjoy jogging?  No.  Is it a struggle?  Yes. Am I fast?  Heck no – a tortoise could overtake me.  But I can take real pleasure with Chariots of Fire playing in my ears pretending that I’m running along that beach with all those Olympian hopefuls from the movie.  I can also take great satisfaction in seeing that this week I ran for 25 minutes whereas last week I struggled with 20 and several weeks ago five minutes was a challenge.

One of the things I regret most about my lymphedema is not being able to wear cute shoes.  So when I was finally able to move from compression bandaging to compression garments I hunted around until I found a cute pair that would work with my feet:

IMG 0031

I was so happy to find them!

Take pride in your achievements. Living with lymphedema is not easy, so when you achieve something, own it.  I am very proud of the circumference reduction I’ve achieved in my legs.  It’s taken a lot of work, but I am very happy with the result.  Earlier this year, I also completed my very first 5K fun run.  OK, it was more of a 5K power walk, but I did it and I have the participant’s medal to prove it.  It is so important to value these moments to get you through the tougher times of lymphedema management.

I think that’s about all I have to share on this subject. I hope you’ve found it useful.  If you have any comments or questions, let me know in the comments.  Thanks for listening!

Mary Poppins a la Québecoise

Mary Poppins a la QuébecoiseMary Poppins - the Musical Buy from AmazoniTunes
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Every summer a large, Broadway style musical comes to Montreal – read about my Wicked obsession from a couple of years ago.  Generally it’s in English and plays at the huge Salle Wilfred Pelletier.  This year, as the flagstone show of the Juste Pour Rire festival a Quebecois it was decided to stage a French language version of hit show Mary Poppins.  It was considered quite a risk, given the size of the production, but judging from the bottoms on seats and reviews it one which has paid off in spades.

Yesterday I took myself off to see it at the Theatre St Denis and had a wonderful afternoon.  In terms of production values, the show was superb.  The sets are gorgeous, the cast is talented and well prepared, the magic tricks/stunts like when Mary Poppins enters or exits by flying high above the audience or the Banks disaster of a kitchen suddenly fixes itself are breathtaking.  Add to that the incredible Sherman Brothers’ songs and astounding choreography and you have a wonderful spectacle.  It produced one of the few mid show standing ovations I’ve experienced in North America.   The cause of that was the showstopping dance number Step in Time – sorry, Juste a Temps as it is here – and was well deserved.  

The theatre was as full as I’ve ever seen it and for every child in attendance there were at least three or four adults.  It certainly shows the place Mary Poppins still holds in people’s hearts.  Even now Feed the Birds – excuse me, Pour Nourrir les P’tits Oiseaux – brings a lump to my throat.  It is certainly very different seeing Mary Poppins as a child and seeing it again as an adult.  As a child, you are drawn into the wonder of Mary Poppins’ magic.  As an adult, it’s easier to see things from the adult Banks’ perspective, especially with the way the roles have been expanded for the stage musical rather than the Julie Andrews film.

Instead of a suffragette, Winifred Banks is a young former actress who has married into the upper middle class and struggles to adapt to her new role as wife and mother as well as to understand her husband, coming as he does from a different social background. She has a beautiful character arc (and some touching new songs) which is really touching.  Mr Banks’ role, too, is developed from the film with the revelation of his unhappy childhood under the tutelage of the show’s antagonist Miss Andrews, missing from the movie.  These are aspects that adults can pick up and appreciate while still leaving kids to enjoy the spectacle.

Mary Poppins, whether in London, Broadway or Montreal is a fantastic show and well worth going to.  Enjoy

 

five-stars

Game of Thrones Season Six – Spoilers

Game of Thrones Season Six – SpoilersGame of Thrones Season 6 by George R. R. Martin, David Benioff, D. B. Weiss
Format: Video
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazoniTunes
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

One of my pleasures on a Sunday evening has been watching HBO’s Game of Thrones season six.  This is the first time that the show has outpaced George R.R. Martin’s books which made it a particularly fascinating season.  The season was for me a mixture of highs and lows, with more highs than lows.  I will split the post here for those who don’t want any spoilers about season six.

(more…)

four-stars
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