Reading - July 2021

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison (1961)
An old favourite, which I have had the great pleasure of introducing to Z by reading it to him every night. Simple fun, dated in places but nevertheless an involving enough story for Z to enjoy it - enough to want the next one now!
Guitar Magazine (August 2021 / Issue 395)
Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox (2009)
Not so much of a chronological autobiography as Lucky Man, this nevertheless tells the next seven or so years of Fox's life in a consistently interesting way. The main focus of his life is the work of his charitable foundation, and it's clearly been a success. I wouldn't be surprised if ultimately he becomes better known for this rather than his acting which, you realise, covered a surprisingly short period.
The Duke & I by Julia Quinn (2000)
This is the first book in the Bridgerton series, which has already been watched (and, partially, read) by a couple of other members of my family. I think what they were hoping for was more in the style of Jane Austen, and they've been disappointed in this. I can understand why: instead of something as classic as P&P or Emma, what you get instead is ISO-standard, fairly average, modern romantic fiction. Sure, there's a superficial smattering of period flavour when the author remembers, but basically these are modern characters, speaking in modern idiom about modern concerns. Quinn is from the US and sadly, it shows: it's a pantomime version of Regency England, for Americans, by an American, and bears about as much relation to Austen as One Direction does to Beethoven. But despite all that, and a number of other flaws, I enjoyed it enough to read it and finish it - if only because I am a complete sucker for a happy ending, as always.

Watching - July 2021

The Book of Life (2014)
I'd heard from my kids that Pixar's Coco was basically a replay of this film, but I'd never seen it for some reason. Conveniently it's now on Disney+ so we were able to make the comparison. At least, Z was, as I haven't watched Coco for ages. The themes are very, very similar, as they are based on the same cultural references, but outside of that, I think they're different stories and different films. The animation in this is nicely quirky, avoiding an attempt to be super-realistic, and if the plot is a little predictable and generic, then it's still good fun.
Military Wives (2019)
You don't need to know the story to understand where this is going from about ten minutes in, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. A good mix of the affecting - it's particularly good at illustrating the emotions around the partners leaving to go to Afghanistan - and the comedic elements are reliably in place. Good enough to keep watching, but not brilliant.
Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars (2018)
Eric Clapton is one of the reasons I started playing guitar - not the only reason by any means, but definitely a big part of it. Yet for some reason I know little of his music past Derek & The Dominoes, nor much of his history since then either. Interestingly, this biography doesn't actually tell you much past this time either, other than, basically, he was drunk for about twenty years. His albums from about 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974) to Journeyman (1989) are dismissed with the one-liner "I can hear how drunk I was", yet I suspect that much of his wealth comes from the music he made during this period. He's obviously had hard times, some through no fault of his own and some entirely self-imposed. The film ends on happy notes: as well as setting up the Crossroads centres, he finds love and has children (about the same age as mine, incredibly). Moving in places, fairly stark in others, this was an interesting watch but I felt it obscured some things.