20 blogging prompts in 1 post

When you have a WordPress account, you also have a ‘My Home’ page in the admin section of your blog or website. Occasionally when I check in there, I see a writing prompt question and some of them can be interesting but I never answer them. While checking my spam filter today I saw a prompt asking “What is your career plan?” As I’ve been working today and yes, I was by chance also briefly considering my career, that question felt quite timely. So, I figured I could jump in on that blogging prompt and answer that question. I then scrolled through a few more prompts but there were only 5 or 6 prompts left. I did a little extra search and found a few more prompts here. “Why not compile a list?”, I thought. And so I cherry picked some questions that don’t need very long answers and have decided to answer them here:

1- What is your career plan?
I don’t really have one, never did! I do have some requirements, though:

  • My job needs to be in a social or educational setting, something where I can feel that my work is useful to others. I love that I’m working in a library again, and one in education to boot.
  • I want to be challenged, do something I enjoy and can use my brain for.
  • I can’t only sit behind the computer all day, I also need the aspect of socially connecting at work.
  • I want to make enough money so that I can live in relative comfort.
  • The older I get, the less patience I have for management bullshit, so if it gets too hairy, I’m out.

2- What public figure do you disagree with the most?
Donald Trump. And many more but he’s got to be the worst.

3- List your top 5 favorite fruits.
Israeli Sharon fruit (Persimmon), Avocadoes, Red apples, Bananas, Grapes

4- What’s the oldest thing you’re wearing today?
A black Franz Kafka Prague t-shirt.

5- Reincarnation: do you believe in it?
Lovely thought but nope.

6- Tell me something you know you should do . . . but don’t.

7- Beach, mountain, forest, or somewhere else entirely?

8- Early bird, or night owl?
Night-owl. It is almost impossible for me to go to bed before midnight. Ideally I’d go to bed at 2 am and get up again between 9 and 10 am.

9- Is the glass half-full, or half-empty?
Half-full, mostly.

10- The last book you read?
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood. Fun book.

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend.

11- Is there a painting or sculpture you’re drawn to?
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. We have a huge, thin fabic wall hanging of the painting in our living room. This summer we’re going to Vienna where I finally hope to see it for real.

12- Tell me something most people probably don’t know about you.
In my real life, practically no one I know knows that I have this blog.

13- Tell me about the last time you had a real, deep, crying-from-laughing belly laugh.
I laugh and smile regularly but one that really had me in stitches must be from a few weeks ago about something (and I can’t remember exactly what) my daughter said at the dinner table.

14- Describe the last time you were moved to tears by something beautiful.
Yesterday, actually, watching this clip on YouTube. I adore the inclusivity of this group of young dancers and singers.

15- Finish this sentence: “When I look in the mirror, I . . .”
“… should tell myself to be kinder to myself.”

16- Finish this sentence: “My closest friend is…”
“… my husband and I love him so dearly.”

17- Cast the movie of your life.
Childhood and youth: Richard Armitage as my dad. Amy Adams as my mom. Maybe have Millie Bobby Brown play me?

Current self: As I have a bit of an Oedipus complex, it would be Richard Armitage again as Mr Esther (this time with beard), and Kate Winslet as me.

18- Do you know the meaning of your name, and why your parents chose it?
Esther, from the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, means “star”. My parents chose all Old Testament names for all my siblings and so they did for me as well. My dad was a doctor in Theology, specializing in Judaism and Jewish-Christian relations and my parents both liked having that theme for all our names. My middle name is for my paternal grandmother, albeit in a different version.

19- Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes, and where they’ve taken you.
Well, not the same pair because every now and again I buy new ones, but for the past 14 or 15 years I’ve been wearing Birkenstock slippers as soon as the weather allows. I have been on summer holidays all over Europe, Israel and even in the US on my Birkenstocks. Picture on the left is from 2009 in Canterbury, picture on the right is from last summer near Naples. Yeah, my feet got filthy, but I don’t care, I just love my Birkenstocks and I have several pairs.

20- Dog person, cat person or both and why?
I grew up with dogs and love them but I always wanted cats and have now had them for many years, so I’d say cats. I love their independence, their laissez-faire attitudes and the way they can curl into you and purr so endearingly. But really, the love for one species does not exclude the other and I love both. Here’s a picture from 1980, a few months before we moved from Israel to Germany. The little black dog on the left and the black and white dog were ours, the German shepherd dog belonged to our neighbour.

When I was 27 (in 1997) I got my first two cats and have not looked back since. Here are the four great cat loves in my life…

There you have it: twenty blogging prompts efficiently crammed into one post. If anyone else who reads this is inclined to play, I’d love to know what your answers would be (in the comments here or on your own blog).

Richard and Harlan

Earlier this week, Richard Armitage interviewed Harlan Coben about his new book I Will Find You. I had briefly considered actually travelling to London to be at this event (admittedly for Richard and less so for Harlan) but in the end it just wasn’t feasible with work and such to travel there on a Thursday. I couldn’t make the livestream, so I hoped for a video of the talk to be released and there is one now! ZedEffEye over on Twitter graciously shared a link for the video.

I see that the YouTube video is an unlisted video, so it will not show up in searches, but is only available through the direct link that I’m also embedding here:

I have just watched it and found it interesting to hear Harlan speak about his writing process. It was also lovely to hear Richard give his insights and I think I may have recognized Opera is Magic‘s voice asking a question (the one about thinking about other plots while writing the current one). She always has great questions at these things.

I took a buttload of screenshots, thought I’d share them here, as a little fan service, to do with as you please (click on images to enlarge)…

Some better pictures were posted on Twitter. Armidreamer, were you in the first row? You got some really good shots.

There are more nice pictures…

It looks like it was a nice event! Next time, if it’s on a weekend, I’ll try getting myself to London again as well.

The week in review

Saturday (March 11th) – Mini me had a sleepover with friends and Junior asked us to vacate the house so he could have a group of 6 friends come over to go out on the town with and then have them stay the night. Mr E and I packed ourselves off to Utrecht, which really was a delight. I’ve been sick again and was just recovering and Mr E had been busy, so we didn’t make any huge plans. Just walked around for bit, had a very nice Greek dinner, walked around some more and ended up in a lovely arthouse filmtheater bar. No movies, just a few drinks and then back to the hotel.

Sunday (March 12th) – Slept in at the hotel, then checked out, went for a lovely lunch, walked around town some more and hit a large bookstore. We don’t have them that large in the town I live in, so much choice! Bought two easy reading books and a book on the history of libraries. Then home again late in the afternoon. Hats off to Junior, the house was looking good, like no one had been around and partied/slept there. Sunday evening my friend came around to stay up with me and watch the Oscars.

Monday (March 13th)– Watched the Oscars which started an hour earlier (so 1 am and not 2 am) than we had anticipated due to daylight savings having just happened in California. It was a bit boring (didn’t think Jimmy Kimmel did so great), but I was stoked for the Everything, Everywhere All At Once wins, i.e. Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis! Would have loved to see Angela Bassett win but I was also very pleased for Jamie. The Brendan Fraser win was also well-deserved. Got to bed at around 5 am and slept. I slept a lot, actually, also after my friend left again, as I was still recovering from being sick.

Tuesday (March 14h)– Back to work again and although I am better, I am definitely not ALL better. Had two new student-assistants that started working at the library last week and needed to first join the one and explain all sorts of things to her and then in the afternoon did the same with the other who was at another location. I was exhausted when I got home and went to bed early, to read and sleep.

Wednesday (March 15th) – Another busy day. I had two very long appointments with two refugees at my refugee council volunteer work. Hoped to be done early but didn’t leave till 3 pm. Was already pooped but needed to go by my mom’s as promised so drove on, helped her with some stuff, chatted and then back home again. That evening, I actually finished a book again for the first time in ages, one of the books I had bought on Sunday. It was an easy romantic book read called Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood about two NASA scientists falling in love and it was fun.

Thursday (March 16th) – Really, really busy day at work with lots of meetings and then at the end of the day even a presentation to give. It was all good, but yeah, pooped again! Spent the evening mindlessly scrolling though social media and catching up on some YouTubers I occasionally follow. Came across this, which I loved and as a cat owner feels so relatable!

Friday (today) – Had the chance to work from home today which is lovely for a change and now that work is done I am typing this. Mr E has traveled to Bruges in Belgium today by train and bus for a Heraldry day there tomorrow and will meet up with people from his “nerd club” as mini me calls them (a Dutch heraldry society that he is a board member of). He’ll be coming home again on Sunday. I need to go get groceries for dinner now.

Tomorrow (Saturday) – we celebrate my younger sister’s 50th birthday. Man, seeing her turn 50 makes me feel even older. It emphasizes how long ago these were taken…

Let the weekend begin!

Persuasion 2022

So, I have said before that I am a sucker for a Persuasion adaptation. I think that together with Pride and Prejudice it is my favourite Jane Austen novel. The new 2022 Netflix version arrived just before I went on holiday and I got around to watching it during my holiday as soon as I had the time and headspace for it.

It stars Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Cosmo Jarvis as Frederick Wentworth, Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter, Nikki Amuka-Bird as Lady Russel and the marvelous Henry Golding as William Elliot.

I saw that the movie was trashed in reviews and in honesty I didn’t think it was that bad. It wasn’t great but not bad. I don’t mind adaptations veering off from the original source as long as it is well done and I have been very pleasantly surprised with some modern takes on books I love (like, for instance, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), so I thought I could maybe enjoy this too. I read this review on Roger Ebert and I think it is the review I most agree with. I especially liked what it said about it being a pop-culture full-circle moment:

If anything, director Carrie Cracknell’s “Persuasion” achieves an intriguing pop-culture full-circle moment. Austen influenced “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” and now Bridget herself seems to have influenced Dakota Johnson’s thoroughly charming portrayal of Anne Elliot. There’s lots of drinking red wine straight from the bottle, crying in the tub and lying around in bed, narrating her romantic woes with a familiar, self-effacing wit. She also repeatedly breaks the fourth wall, “Fleabag”-style, with an amusingly dry aside or a well-timed eye roll. Anne jokes that she’s “thriving,” and clearly she is anything but, but she’s so winning in her state of loss that we can’t help but root for her.

Warning: read on from here at your own discretion as there are some spoilers ahead (and pert opinions) in this review!

So, yes, this Anne is a little less, well Anne, and more Bridget Jones and once you get over that it’s OK. I didn’t even mind the fourth wall thing so much either, it gave a nice background narration to the story. I also read a lot of criticism on the language like Anne calling Frederick her “ex”, which yes, was weird, but, apart from it raising my eyebrows now and again, I could get over that and it really didn’t bother me so much. Some of the modernisms even really amused me, like Anne showing the ‘playlist’ Frederick had once put together for her.

I did like Dakota Johnson as this Anne, even though she’s not the Anne I envision, but that’s all down to the script in this version of the story. However, this Anne also did have some awful moments, like for instance that scene at the dinner party where she blurts out that she was proposed to by someone else. The Anne I know would never have said that and even for this Anne it was a very nonsensical thing to do. So yes, there were some real misses here in the script. And yes, she may have been a little snide and too self-satisfied with her own cleverness, but I could laugh at that. Overall I did like this Anne well enough and didn’t even mind her love affair with the wine bottle.

I also really liked Richard E. Grant in this, he is perfect as Anne’s very vain father, Sir Walter…

… and Nikki Amuka-Bird did a nice job of being Anne’s confidante.

The scene stealer in every scene he was in, though, was Henry Golding. So charming and a little wicked and smart. I swear he could level anyone with just one arrogant look. And that crinkle nose thing he does is irresistible!

In a link Herba shared on Twitter, he is one of the names mentioned for possibly being considered as the new James Bond. I’m not a huge Bond fan but for Henry Golding I would go see it on the big screen.

I also liked spoiled sister Mary played by Mia McKenna-Bruce. In the 2007 TV adaptation she was awful, but this Mary was quite perfect in being very annoying and self-centered and in all her spoiled mumblings she occasionally even did make sense. I love that line about men always getting out of disagreeable things, I’m really glad they kept that line in here.

So, with quite a few positives, what are the negatives you ask? Well, first and foremost that was Captain Wentworth for me. What a boring sap he was in this! I really couldn’t understand what made Anne pine for him so. What makes Wentworth Wentworth is that he has lost his youthful innocence, he has hardened and has become a self-assured man of the world whose pride was deeply wounded when Anne rejected him in the past. He is hell-bent on erasing her from his life, he perfectly hides his vulnerabilities and he is dismissive of Anne and yet in little miniscule details you get the suspicion he still cares for her and can’t quite let her go. The miracle of Wentworth is that he at the end can let go of his hurt and can soften again.

This Wentworth had nowhere near the stature of man of the world, despite his uniform, but I could forgive that. What I couldn’t forgive was his mooning all over the place instead of trying his best to ignore Anne. This just didn’t seem like a man who had grown in the intervening years since the break up. There was a scene at the beach where he wants to be friends with Anne again. What on earth was that about? It was absolutely cringeworthy. I think the “We’re worse than exes, we’re friends” bit may have been the absolute low point. Cosmo Jarvis is, I am sure, a gifted actor but this sappy puppy-dog-eyed Wentworth and his seeking Anne’s friendship was so not it!

From the first meeting he was just too openly soft with her and that just did not feel right. I feared then that this was not my kind of Captain Wentworth and as the film progressed I was sadly proved right. It’s a pretty bad scritping idea when you take away the central tension between Anne and Frederick in Persuasion.

I know it’s tough to touch on the standard of Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth in the 1995 adaptation but even other adaptations I have seen, whether good or bad, they at least did get Wentworth right. This adaptation totally didn’t.

And that magical letter scene at the end. Oh man, why did they have to mess with Jane Austen in that? The 2007 version was awful, the 1995 version was perfection…

… and this version was… meh… I mean, the kissing and hugging were fine (and that end song was very fitting and sweet) but the letter just wasn’t.

So, yeah, I could get over the character of Anne being different and the modernizations but I just could not get over Wentworth and the dynamic with Anne just not being right. That dynamic is supposed to be the heart of the story and it really wasn’t. I admit images at the end were evocative…

…. but other than that I’m sure the Mr. Elliot in this Persuasion would have been way more interesting for this Anne, he was the only one who could match her wit and insights and even playfulness.

OK, maybe not, as he is devious and slimy, so maybe Anne would have been better off with neither of these men and best on her own.

In ranking the Persuasion adaptations I have seen, I thought a Modern Persuasion Hallmark style version from 2020 was the absolut lowest of the lowest, the 2007 adaptation was pretty disastrous in some areas but with a few highlights (and Rupert Penry-Jones being the most watchable part in that), this adaptation was semi-alright, the 1971 adaptation was alright, but over long and somewhat stiff, and for me the 1995 Persuasion safely remains the best adaptation of the story so far.

Holiday reading

Herba tagged me on Twitter in a challenge to link to a book review on my blog. To my shame, I admit that I don’t really blog so much about books but I did link to my longest (and most critical) blog post about the book that described Audrey Hepburn’s youth during World War II in and near Arnhem.

While I don’t write about books enough, it doesn’t mean I never read and especially during summer holidays I catch up on reading more. I did so again this year and that Twitter challenge made me think maybe I should blog about that for a change (thank you for the push, Herba!).

I had tons of books on my e-reader but on my second day on holiday, my e-reader gave up and wouldn’t start up anymore! I’ve only had my Kobo e-reader for about a year and a half. I contacted their customer service and when they couldn’t solve the issue, they told me to get in touch with the shop I bought it from. Luckily, I have a back up of my e-book stash on my laptop (that came with us on our journey) and I was able to transfer some books to my phone. I wasn’t too happy reading from my phone, but I did persist and finished 5 books in the 3 weeks that we traveled. Not bad, I thought!

I have a lot of easy reading on my e-reader and I really needed that at the start of my holiday.

I started with a romance novel by Talia Hibbert called Act Your Age, Eve Brown. The flighty Eve is challenged by her parents to finally grow up and ‘get a real job’. She meets a very uptight B&B owner called Jacob, some chaos ensues, and she ends up running his B&B kitchen. Of course, they fall in love.

This was the perfect easy read to start my holiday with. I enjoyed the characters and the story. Apparently it is the third book in a series about three sisters finding love, so in due time I think I’ll try the other two as well.

I next read Book Lovers by Emily Henry, another romance novel. It’s about a high powered city girl book agent Nora who meets book editor Charlie in a small town. Not her first time meeting him, during previous occasions they did not hit it off at all, but in this small town they do while they also get to work together.

It sounds a bit like a Hallmark movie, except that this is a bit of an anti-Hallmark plot where small town life is cute enough but really nothing for the heroine who sticks with her big city love and life. Really fun book to read as well, with Nora finding what she really wants to do in life, with the help of Charlie and her sister (who does prefer small town life). The author even mentions that Hallmark movies drove her to write this book, which is a fun fact for me as a watcher of (some) Hallmark movies.

Because I was enjoying the ease of reading romance novels, I picked another one, Marriage for One by Ella Maise as my next read. It’s about a young woman named Rose entering into a marriage of convenience with a guy she doesn’t know named Jack. It’s a business deal – as her husband he gets to inherit the building of her uncle who passed away and she finally gets the dream of opening her own coffeeshop.

This was the least good read of the summer for me. It was OK, but I got some creepy, stalkerish vibes from Jack, even though he acted out of love. There was some cuteness but the power inbalance in this book bugged me and the chauvinistic condition made by the dead uncle that only Rose’s husband could inherit bugged me too. It was all a bit too contrived but there was a happy ending, so there’s that.

I next needed something better to read, so I picked the non-fiction book She Said by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey. It’s a book chronicling how these two reporters broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal and also about the sexual abuse accusations against Judge Kavanaugh before he was appointed to the Supreme Court.

It was a fascinating read, for me especially the Weinstein section was very interesting as I was more aware of that in the news than the Kavanaugh case. It really showed how understandably difficult it was for women to go on the record with this and kudos to those who finally did, with Ashley Judd as the forerunner. I also liked the end of the book when the authors described a meeting between all these women where they all discussed how the #MeToo scandal had affected their lives. I wish more of those conversations and insights could have been shared. The book gets a bit journalistic technical here and there but I really did find it quite riveting.

And finally, I returned to another romance novel called Indigo by Beverly Jenkins. It had a really interesting theme as it’s about a woman, Hester, who escaped slavery as a child and is now part of the Michigan underground railroad, offering runaway slaves help to flee to other free states or to Canada. She hides and cares for an injured man who turns out to be one of the heroes of the underground (who also happens to be extremely rich) and they fall in love.

I found the setting of the story very compelling but the love story itself somewhat sluggish and the sex scenes a bit too long. The second half of the book seemed to jump too quickly from the (more interesting) underground stories to the sex scenes, which annoyed me somewhat. All in all, not too a bad read but I’d love to read more and better fiction (not necessarily romance) on this topic. So, if anyone has recommendations, please do share!

I stopped reading once I got home again. So many other things to do and some family issues to deal with (my aunt is not well mentally right how, which is so unlike her, and that requires a lot of love and attention) and I have also started my volunteer work and my regular work again.

I was able to send in my Kobo e-reader for repairs. Luckily it had a two year warranty and when it became clear that it could not be repaired I was refunded my whole purchase price from a year and a half ago. I immediately used the money to order a new e-reader, this time going for Pocketbook instead of Kobo as I read that the e-reader freezing up problem seems to be quite common in Kobo readers. I hope it’s not the case for Pocketbook e-readers and if it is, please let it happen during the two year warranty period that I also have for this one.

I love seeing my Charlotte Brontë and John Thornton (picture of a beautiful bookmark Kate once sent me) screensavers again on my pretty new e-reader…

… and hope to get into the swing of reading again soon (and maybe blogging about it more too).