Real Life (Brandon Taylor)

Real Life is the first novel by Brandon Taylor.
Finished on: 13.3.2022

Content Note: child sexual abuse, sexualized violence, (critical treatment of) racism

Wallace works on his doctorate in Chemistry at a small Midwestern university. His life is spent mostly in the lab, with occasional meet-ups with his friends, most of whom are also pre-docs in Chemistry. Wallace, being the only Black person in the lab, coming from a poor background and being one of the few queer people at university, doesn’t feel like he belongs, but so far he has muddled through. But over the course of one weekend, the balance he has found in his life shifts considerably, though.

I expected Real Life to not be a happy book, but I didn’t quite anticipate just how heavy it would be (content notes in the book would have been nice). That being said, it is a sign of how well-structured and well-written it is to make you feel this weight. And it is certainly worth subjecting yourself to it.

The book cover showing black boxes on a red background, vaguely reminiscent of lab results. On top of one of the boxes is a sparrow.
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The Batman (2022)

The Batman
Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig
Based on: Bob Kane‘s and Bill Finger‘s comics character
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard, Barry Keoghan, Jayme Lawson, Gil Perez-Abraham
Seen on: 9.3.2022
[Here are my reviews of other Batman things.]

For the past two years, Batman (Robert Pattinson) has been a vigilante in Gotham City, one who divides opinions. On Halloween, he is called to a crime scene be Lieutenant Gordon (Jeffrey Wright): the mayor was brutally murdered, and a riddle was left for Batman. When he takes up the trail, it leads him to a nightclub run by Oz (Colin Farrell) with ties to Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). And it leads him to Selina (Zoë Kravitz) who works as a waitress there and has her own investigation. As more people are murdered and more clues left, it becomes a race against time.

I really did not expect much of The Batman. Everything about it screamed that it would not be a good experience. But it is a Batman film, so I couldn’t resist. Anyhow, turns out that I was mistaken: The Batman is even worse than I thought it would be.

The film poster showing The Batman (Robert Pattinson) standing in a fog of red lighting.
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Black Sea Dahu

Black Sea Dahu are a singer-songwriter and her band from Switzerland. They played a show in the Porgy & Bess in Vienna.
Seen on: 7.3.2022

It has been almost exactly two years that I was on my last concert. And while it felt weird to get back to live shows, watching and listening to Black Sea Dahu was an excellent way to get back into the groove of things in that department.

Singer-songwriter Janine of Black Sea Dahu holding a guitar.
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The Power of the Dog (2021)

The Power of the Dog
Director: Jane Campion
Writer: Jane Campion
Based on: Thomas Savage‘s book
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Thomasin McKenzie, Alice Englert, Peter Carroll, Frances Conroy, Keith Carradine, Alison Bruce
Seen on: 6.3.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, misogyny

Rose (Kirsten Dunst) is a widow who runs a restaurant with the help of her son Pete (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Their restaurant lies on the herding trail of brothers Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons). When they stop at Rose’s restaurant, Phil starts making fun of Pete’s softness, while George starts courting Rose. After they actually marry, and move to the brothers’ farm, Phil is taken aback and does his best to make Rose feel utterly uncomfortable. When Pete joins them during the summer break from school, things start to shift, though.

The Power of the Dog both ambles through a sprawling landscape taking its time, and it is a sharp analysis of power when it comes to gender and sexual orientation. I thought it was really interesting.

The film poster showing a rope tied to a saddle.


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No Filter and Other Lies (Crystal Maldonado)

No Filter and Other Lies is the second novel by Crystal Maldonado.
Finished on: 4.3.2022

Kat loves photography, and she has carefully curated her instagram to show the best of her photos. Nevertheless, her follower count remains low – much lower than her best friends’, Hari, Marcus and Luis. She suspects this might have to do with the fact that she is fat and Brown. After a fight with Hari, with whom she has been making out despite the naggling suspicion that he likes her more than she him, Kat makes a bad decision: she takes the photos of her friend Becca who is blond, thin, beautiful and not on social media and creates a fake account with them. Kat starts regretting it pretty immediately but when the account keeps raking in likes and this really cute girl, Elena, starts messaging the fake profile, Kat can’t quite give it up.

No Filter and Other Lies is cute and has a queer, fat Latina as the protagonist which is something I am completely here for. And yet, it didn’t quite make me happy.

The book cover showing a drawing of a fat Latina with a camera. Behind her a snapshots of a fat girl with pink hair, a blond girl, and a Brown guy.
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The Ultimate Pi Day Party (Jackie Lau)

The Ultimate Pi Day Party is the first of the Baldwin Village novels by Jackie Lau.
Finished on: 3.3.2022

Josh Yu is the CEO of a rather successful tech company. He has a pretty good life overall, although it is lacking in the romantic department. There is only one person he seemingly can’t impress: his own father, a retired math teacher who hasn’t spoken with him in 17 years. But Josh has an idea to finally get him to pay attention: he will throw a Pi day party. No, he will throw the Ultimate Pi Day Party and show his father everything he has achieved. That this plan includes working with Sarah Winters, owner of Happy as Pie and looking for her break into catering, is another bonus. The question is whether they will ignore the sizzling chemistry between them.

The Ultimate Pi Day Party is a sweet, quick read with two very likeable protagonists. In short, it is a very fun read that hits just the romance spot I was looking for.

The book cover showing a shirtless East Asian guy in front of a Toronto skyline.
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Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac
Director: Jamie Lloyd, Tony Grech-Smith
Writer: Martin Crimp in an adaptation of Edmond Rostand‘s play
Cast: James McAvoy, Anita-Joy Uwajeh, Eben Figueiredo, Tom Edden, Nima Taleghani, Michele Austin, Adam Best, Nari Blair-Mangat, Adrian Der Gregorian, Kiruna Stamell, Brinsley Terence
Seen on: 1.3.2022

Cyrano de Bergerac (James McAvoy) is a poet and soldier, known for his big nose that practically disfigures him, and his hot temper that earns him a certain respect and fear. Cyrano is very much in love with Roxane (Anita-Joy Uwajeh) with whom he connects over their shared love of poetry. But he has never told her, fearing that she couldn’t possibly love him because of his looks. When she tells him that she is in love with the newly arrived soldier Christian (Eben Figueiredo) and asks him for help, he is reluctant. But when he learns that Christian also loves Roxane, but has trouble with words, he suggests that he could help him find the right ones to court her.

This production of Cyrano de Bergerac is a wonderfully modernized, exciting adaptation with a frankly astonishing McAvoy in the lead. I was utterly enchanted by it.

The poster for the play showing Cyrano (James McAvoy) leaning against a mirror, his reflection looking at the viewer.
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Blood of Elves (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Blood of Elves is the first novel in the Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski. I read the English translation by Danusia Stok.
Finished on: 28.2.2022
[Here are my reviews of the short story collections preceding this book.]

After Cintra was conquered by Nilfgaard, Princess Ciri only barely made it out of the city and was finally found by Geralt of Rivia who took her to Kaer Morhen, the Witcher’s castle. There, she starts the witcher trainig herself. But this training isn’t enough – there are magical powers in her that need more attention. Attention by a sorceress. At first, Geralt and the other witchers ask Triss Merigold for help with that. But even Triss is a little overwhelmed with Ciri’s education. There is only one person who can help, though her history with Geralt doesn’t make things easier: Yennefer. So, Geralt, Ciri and Triss make their way across countries that are teetering on the edge of war towards a safe place for Ciri and Yennefer. Their trek is made more dangerous because more than one person is looking for Geralt and Ciri as Ciri is the key to ruling Cintra.

After a rather mixed reaction from myself regarding the first two short story collection, I finally delved into the series proper and I rather enjoyed reading it, though there were still some elements of it that didn’t jive with me.

The book cover showing a red liquid. In the middle there is a silver circle with the silhouette of a wolf and within the silhouette, there is a ship.
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