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      April Supporter Giveaway   04/01/2019

        "If you look the right way you can see that the whole world is a garden."   In honour of spring, the April giveaway is a print of this wonderful quote from The Secret Garden (thanks, once again to www.thestorygift.co.uk) along with a Secret Garden tea (Victoria Sponge flavoured!) from the  Literary Tea Company! (You can find them both at their own website theliteraryteacompany.co.uk and at their etsy store www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LiteraryTeaCompany ).   As always, patreon supporters will be entered automatically and if you don't support but want to be included in this month's giveaway you can join the patreon here: www.patreon.com/bookclubforum A winner will be chosen at random on the last day of the month!


Pagemaster Brian
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About Brian.

  • Rank
    This too shall pass
  • Birthday 11/24/1980

Profile Information

  • Reading now?
    A book
  • Location:
    SE England
  1. Project Oscar

    Title: Casablanca Release Date: 1942 Director: Michael Curtiz Format: Streaming, NowTV Staring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman Synopsis: World War 2 is ravaging Europe and as a result people are making their way to Lisbon in an attempt to escape from the war. Crossing France is a non starter and so people with enough money are making their way to Casablanca in the hope of catching a flight out of Europe. Our story follows a cynical American expat called Rick Blaine who runs a local club which is the focal point of all kinds of clandestine activity. Blaine won't get involved and chooses to sit in the middle while both sides try to pressure him into helping them. Things change all of a sudden when someone from his former life turns up, the beautiful Ilsa Lund played by Ingrid Bergman. This is one of those movies that I am slightly embarrassed to say I had never watched and one of the movies that lead me to undertake this project. I knew this is widely considered one of the best movies of all times and I think pretty much everyone in the English speaking world knows the quotes associated with this film. Despite this I knew almost nothing about it, I didn't know the synopsis or when it was set, all I knew is that it's filmed in black and white, stars Bogart and Bergman, and is meant to be a love story. I guess this is part of what is considered to be the golden era of Hollywood and the movie is presented in the way I would expect a movie from this era to be presented. The way of speaking is fairly old fashioned, doesn't contain over the top drama, and feels quite minimalist. Despite this I was hooked from the opening scenes and found myself quickly invested in the story of Rick and Ilsa. Even though the movie focuses on these 2 characters I also thought that Claude Rains as Captain Renault was superb. He adds a slightly comic element to the movie but done in a subtle way avoiding making light of the situation people find themselves in. I'm generally not someone who goes looking for hidden messages in movies but I caught on fairly quickly that Rick's inner turmoil is reflective on the debate at the time as to whether America should get involved in the war or not. Each of the main characters is a little reflection of different factions involved in the war. The Nazi's hold some sway in Casablanca and while certain groups are trying to push back against their power they can only get so far without the help from others. This help requires a leap of bravery and willingness to accept that you may have to sacrifice something so that others can survive. Of course there are also those out to just make money out of the situation, which camp will Rick end up in is the big question. I really really loved this movie despite being sure that it wouldn't be my thing. Of all the movies I've watched and logged on IMDB I have only given a 10/10 rating for 9 movies, Casablanca is one of them. I will definitely watch this again as I think it deserves repeated viewings.
  2. Project Oscar

    I definitely agree about the Oscars not being particularly relevant these days. As an example I enjoyed Argo and thought it was a good movie but certainly not the best of the year,
  3. Project Oscar

    I've watched 27 of the list in the past, mostly the winners from the 90's & 00's.
  4. Project Oscar

    I'll start with a movie I watched last night. Title: Midnight Cowboy Release Date: 1969 Director: John Schlesinger Format: Streaming, NowTV Staring: Dustin Hoffman, John Voight Synopsis: Native Texan Joe Buck (Voight) opts to leave his former life and make his way to New York. He thinks he is a real stud and a hustler who can make his way in the big city. He soon finds his hustling skills are naive compared to the locals and ends up getting hustled himself. Down on his luck and short of money he becomes friends with Ratso Rizzo (Hoffman) in an attempt to get one over the people who look down on them. What starts off as a meeting of mutual convenience soon becomes a proper friendship. This was a first time viewing for me. I knew the title and have heard of the director John Schlesinger but I had no idea what the movie was about going into it. My initial thoughts from the opening scenes were 'this movie is odd', it's definitely not a by the numbers movie and one that I think people will either love or hate. Buck decides he has had enough of his life as a dish-washer and he can make his fortune as a male prostitute/con man in New York. In his own mind people will be sad to see him leave and he aims to show them he is a big shot capable of capturing his dreams (as unconventional as they are). I've never been a big Voight fan, for some reason he always manages to distract me from his performances with his mannerisms. In this movie he is so young it's easy to forget who he is though and I didn't experience my previous issues with him. His naivety becomes obvious very quickly and an attempted hustle of an older woman ends up with him giving her money. At this point it is clear that he is living in a total fantasy land and that unless he finds help New York will chew him up and spit him out. Lucky for him he meets another hustler called Ratso Rizzo who lives in an abandoned building, living on his wits. Hoffman is superb in this movie and he is the stand out character for me. Hoffman is completely believable as a street hustler complete with his limp caused by a lame leg. I will stop here as I don't want to include any proper spoilers. I found this movie pretty surprising in many ways, it contains a large chunk of homosexuality which I assume at the time was rare on the cinema screens. It's not edited or presented in a linear fashion and there are a lot of flashback and dream scenes which always feel one step removed from reality. The BBFC gives it an 18 rating and I think I am right in saying that it is the only X rated movie in America to win an Oscar. On the whole I enjoyed the movie and gave it 7/10.
  5. Project Oscar

    I'm struggling with my reading a bit at the moment and when this happens I tend to end up watching more movies. Over years listening to Wittertainment I have become increasingly aware that there are loads of movies that are considered to be classics that I just haven't seen. Although the Oscars are renowned for 'making mistakes' with their winners I decided that Best Picture winners would be a good place to start a movie watching project. My intention is to watch all the Best Picture winners from the Oscars, including re-watching those that I have previously seen. I will be watching in random order as my mood and availability of the movie online dictates. I thought it would be a good idea to keep track of my progress here with my thoughts. When this project is complete maybe I'll come up with another one to work through. Feel free to join in and post. The list of movies is as follows in date order with release date. (Red = Completed) Sunrise (1927) Wings (1927) The Broadway Melody (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Cimarron (1931) Grand Hotel (1932) Cavalcade (1933) It Happened One Night (1934) Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) The Great Ziegfeld (1936) The Life of Emile Zola (1937) You Can't Take It with You (1938) Gone With the Wind (1939) Rebecca (1940) How Green Was My Valley (1941) Mrs Miniver (1942) Casablanca (1942) Going My Way (1944) The Lost Weekend (1945) The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) Gentleman's Agreement (1947) Hamlet (1948) All the King's Men (1949) All About Eve (1950) An American in Paris (1951) The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) From Here to Eternity (1953) On the Waterfront (1954) Marty (1955) Around the World in 80 Days (1956) The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Gigi (1958) Ben-Hur (1959) The Apartment (1960) West Side Story (1961) Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Tom Jones (1963) My Fair Lady (1964) The Sound of Music (1965) A Man for All Seasons (1966) In the Heat of the Night (1967) Oliver! (1968) Midnight Cowboy (1969) Patton (1970) The French Connection (1971) The Godfather (1972) The Sting (1973) The Godfather: Part II (1974) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) Rocky (1976) Annie Hall (1977) The Deer Hunter (1978) Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) Ordinary People (1980) Chariots of Fire (1981) Gandhi (1982) Terms of Endearment (1983) Amadeus (1984) Out of Africa (1985) Platoon (1986) The Last Emperor (1987) Rain Man (1988) Driving Miss Daisy (1989) Dances with Wolves (1990) The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Unforgiven (1992) Schindler's List (1993) Forrest Gump (1994) Braveheart (1995) The English Patient (1996) Titanic (1997) Shakespeare in Love (1998) American Beauty (1999) Gladiator (2000) A Beautiful Mind (2001) Chicago (2002) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) Million Dollar Baby (2004 Crash (2004) The Departed (2006) No Country for Old Men (2007) Slumdog Millionaire (2008) The Hurt Locker (2008) The Kings Speech (2010) The Artist (2011) Argo (2012) 12 Years a Slave (2013) Birdman (2014) Spotlight (2015) Moonlight (2016) The Shape of Water (2017) Green Book (2018)
  6. The Last Film You Saw - 2019

    Thanks Willoyd, I have added it to my watchlist.
  7. The Last Film You Saw - 2019

    I've watched a bunch of movies this week. Safe House - 6/10 True Story - 5/10 The Dawn Wall - 8/10 Gringo - 6/10 Free Solo - 9/10 Fighting With My Family - 8/10 Battle of the Sexes - 6/10 The climbing movies were the stand out, especially Free Solo which I would recommend to anyone, even if you don't have an interest in climbing.
  8. Your Book Activity - March 2019

    I've been traveling a bit recently so I have been quiet on here but I have managed to finish 2 books this month. The first is the audiobook of The Battle for the Falklands by Max Hastings and the second was the Kindle version of The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz.
  9. The Last Film You Saw - 2019

    In the last month I have watched or rewatched Mary Queen of Scots - 4/10 Moonlight - 7/10 A Bridge Too Far - 8/10 Cardboard Gangsters - 3/10 The Villainess - 8/10 I expected Cardboard Gangsters to be a bad movie and it was but Mary Queen of Scots left me very disappointed especially given how good both the leading actresses are.
  10. What's the weather like?

    Feels very old outside today and it's due to rain later as well.
  11. What's Up in March? - 2019

    I have most of March off work so I am heading to Madrid tomorrow for a few days. I also plan to spend a lot of time practicing my photography as I have started doing it again this year. I'm going to buy a new camera when I get back because my current dslr is 14 years old and technology has moved on so much since then.
  12. Dead Drop by Jeremy Duns Synopsis An astonishing true story of how the CIA, MI6 and a Soviet defector saved the world in 1962In August 1960, a Soviet colonel called Oleg Penkovsky tried to make contact with the West. His first attempt was to approach two young American students in Moscow. He handed them a bulky envelope and pleaded with them to deliver it to the American embassy. MI6 and the CIA came to believe Penkovsky was genuine and so the two agencies decided to run the operation jointly. It ran right through the Berlin crisis -- in an astonishing near-miss, Penkovsky learned that the Wall was going to be built four days before it happened but was unable to contact his handlers -- and the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which rocket manuals Penkovsky had handed over were crucial in determining what Khrushchev was doing, and helped Kennedy and his team end the crisis and avert a nuclear war. Penkovsky, codenamed HERO, is widely seen as the most important spy of the Cold War, and the CIA-MI6 joint operation to run him has never been bettered. But had the KGB already 'turned' Penkovsky and were the Russians making sure he saw the information they wanted him to see? If so, it may even have been possible that the whole Cuban Missile Crisis might have been a Russian deception operation. (taken from Goodreads) My Thoughts As far as I am aware Jeremy Duns is primarily known as a fiction author and this is his first proper foray into non-fiction writing. Casting my eye across the titles of his other books it looks like he writes espionage thriller exclusively. I first heard about Jeremy Duns on the Spybrary podcast and then I heard an interview on another podcast although I can't recall which one. Both podcast hosts held his writing in high regard and the descriptions he gave of the Oleg Penkovsky story sounded very interesting. Running a spy inside Russia, let alone Moscow was extremely hard so there aren't too many operations that lasted very long or could be considered to be successful. I just knew I had to read the book. Going into the book I had some passing knowledge of the Penkovsky story from the previously mentioned podcasts but I did not know the details. I'm not sure on how Duns came to write this book but I suspect he was doing some research for one of his novels and just found the story too interesting to leave alone. As a result this is extremely well researched and the appendixes at the back contain loads of great sources and material that has been recently declassified. The book is really well written and really gets into the people behind the story but also explains the climate at the time. In particular the Cuban Missile crisis is well explained and really brings gravity to the seriousness of the whole situation. Probably one of the best aspects of the book is the exploration of how reliable Penkovsky was. It appears to be an honest assessment of a guy, who although was a useful source was also quite conceited and a serial womanizer. You get the impression that he was a bit of a pain in the ass at times but tolerated due to the strength of the information he had. A question has always remained unanswered about Penkovsky. Was he working for the allies or was he in fact a double agent being fed information by the KGB? Duns really delves into this question and I found it hard to disagree with his conclusions and his justifications for these conclusions. He doesn't just present his opinion but always backs it up logically and presents sources where possible, a great way to approach writing a book like this. This is a well researched and well written book. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in espionage. 3/5 (I liked it).
  13. Atomic Habits by James Clear Synopsis People think when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions – doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single short phone call. In this ground-breaking book, Clears reveals exactly how these minuscule changes can grow into such life-altering outcomes. He uncovers a handful of simple life hacks (the forgotten art of Habit Stacking, the unexpected power of the Two Minute Rule, or the trick to entering the Goldilocks Zone), and delves into cutting-edge psychology and neuroscience to explain why they matter. Along the way, he tells inspiring stories of Olympic gold medalists, leading CEOs, and distinguished scientists who have used the science of tiny habits to stay productive, motivated, and happy. (taken from Goodreads) My Thoughts I've seen this book pop up a few times in the recommendations of people who seem to make their living from posting YouTube videos. These people are usually trying to either steer people towards clicking on more videos or towards their websites where they are selling guides or 'coaching'. You can probably tell from my tone above that I hold these people with quite a degree of suspicion but I do tend to find their videos quite entertaining. I have an interest in habits and the systems people or organisations develop to deal with everyday life and as this book kept cropping up in lists I thought it was at least worth a go. There isn't a huge amount to say about this book aside from the fact that it doesn't come up with anything new but collects together a host of information on habits in one place. Looking at his short writing history it would appear that this is Clear's first attempt at writing a full book and it must be said that it is an admirable achievement. His writing is detailed enough without getting bogged down in detail and at all times he gets the message across well. Clear has also done a lot of research into the subject matter with citations and experiments dotted throughout in appropriate places. A few minor niggles cropped up during my reading of the book, mainly centered around misunderstood quotes or urban myths used as examples. This book is like a very extended blog post instead of an academic look at the subject so that needs to be considered when reading it instead of taking everything presented at face value. In conclusion, the book was an easy read which on balance I enjoyed. 3/5 (I liked it).
  14. I have just finished Dead Drop by Jeremy Duns which was a fantastic read. I think next up will be the next book for me in the Orphan X series, The Nowhere Man.