Dad’s and My Reading Challenge for 2022

I know you are as excited as I am to hear that we are doing this again!!! We are pairing Shakespeare plays with novels inspired by them and doing two-month periods so technically this challenge goes mid-way through 2023. We’ll see what happens!!

Jan-Feb: Lear + “Fool” by Christopher Moore

Mar-Apr: Hamlet + “Something Rotten” by Alan Gratz

May-June: Macbeth + “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith

July-Aug: Merchant of Venice + “Shylock is My Name” by Howard Jacobsen

Sept-Oct: Twelfth Night + “The Madness of Love” by Katherine Davies

Nov-Dec: Taming of the Shrew + Midsummer Night’s Dream + “Wise Children” by Angela Carter

Jan-Feb:  A Winter’s Tale + “Gap of Time” by Jeannette Winterson

Mar-Apr:  The Tempest + “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley

May-June: Romeo + Juliet + “These Violent Delights” by Chloe Gong (YA)

Movie Standoff: White House Down vs Olympus Has Fallen

Spoilers below if you haven’t seen these but they’ve both been out a WHILE.

White House Down

  • Channing Tatum and Jaime Fox, two hot sassy leads.
  • Jason Clarke amongst the villains.
  • Buddy movie.
  • Having the guy who becomes president in the emergency be the real bad guy = genius.
  • Cool use of the building and the lawn.
  • Has a little fun with it. Nice comic relief. Sometimes silly.
  • The kid is more important to the actual plot AND is super smart and relevant herself.
  • Better tension in the hero’s relationship.
  • President gets to be more of a bad ass.


  • Not as believable that the armed forces couldn’t wipe ’em out. They weren’t in the bunker!
  • Not as believable motivation on the bad guys’ parts.

Olympus Has Fallen

  • Slightly more believable in terms of the takeover.
  • Slightly more believable in terms of who the terrorists were and why.
  • Cool use of the building, especially the metal frames creating new inner walls.
  • Great direction, the military scenes are all shot beautifully.


  • Way too sanctimonious of an ending.
  • Loner movie. Seems too Bruce McClain wannabe in some ways.
  • The US insider/terrorist is too low on the totem pole to really do that much damage.
  • Takes itself a little too seriously, some of the torturing of officials was pretty gruesome.
  • The kid is only important to the plot in an implied way, no real worry.
  • Gerard Butler seems really out of shape for what his character is able to do.
  • Minimal and dumb use of Naomi Watts.
  • Would a secret service agent no longer on the president’s detail really still have the right fingerprint override for the security system and the right code for the safe with the SAT phone? Questionable.
  • President too wimpy about watching others be tortured. Man up, dude.
  • Beginning of the White House takeover is too drawn out, becomes nothing but a shoot em up movie for what seemed like 20 minutes.
  • I thought a gun shot out a tire in the beginning accident but since that never comes back around to mean anything, was it supposed to just be a random bad weather accident?

Both movies

  • Underdog wins. Underdog tricks all others. Underdog is really Overdog!
  • Scrappy outsider always does better than official protection details, whether they be secret service or military.


  • Moronic military commanders who repeatedly ignore the one guy with intel (the guy on the inside). If this ever happens, we’ll have to hope our military commanders have watched a few movies so they won’t make that mistake.

I preferred White House Down but Dad preferred Olympus Has Fallen.

Big Screen: Iris

Fabulous!!! This movie was just full of interesting, beautiful things, and interesting quirky people, and so many great anecdotes and little moments. Iris Apfel is really a fascinating person. AND it’s from a great director, Albert Maysles, who did the Stones’ documentary “Gimme Shelter” as well. Sad to hear he died in May

Dad and I both loved it.

Big Screen: Big Eyes

Christoph Waltz is SO (appropriately) creeptastic in this movie. And then I think about who and how he is in other movies…and then I listened to him being interviewed by Elvis Mitchell on The Treatment…and I’m wondering if creepy is where his true acting forte lies. (GAH. Horrifying.)

This is such an intensely weird, unsettling story. Well acted, well directed. But certainly not lovable.

There were some things about it that I thought could have been fleshed out more. And in some ways it’s one of those movies that doesn’t really GO anywhere with what it’s got to say (it just calmly tells this woman’s story from one point to another). But it’s worth seeing.

Big Screen: Young Adult

I thought the beginning was a little rough–some things take too long to get going, others seem to leap ahead and you wonder if you’ve missed something. There are a few weird continuity errors–i.e., at one point someone appears completely across town a minute later although she drove someone else’s car to their house so how did she get back there? type of things. And there’s some stuff that just feels like it wasn’t quite well though out enough plot-wise.

But once it gets going, a LOT of the dialogue is pretty fantastic. The wacky friendship / alliance between Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt’s characters was so great, there’s a lot of (not romantic) chemistry happening there. Dad kept saying he’d watch an entire show every week just about those two! 🙂 The going back to a small town, trying to define yourself in a different way stuff is all right on.

And the rigid unrepentive, unchangingness of the lead character really is what makes this work. She comes out of this movie the same person she went in. There’s no self reflection happening there…and it’s pretty awesome that there isn’t frankly. If this movie had ended differently, it would’ve shot itself in the foot.

Didn’t blow our minds completely, but definitely well worth seeing.

Fiction: King Hereafter, by Dorothy Dunnett

Our December challenge book. A re-read for me, new to Dad.

GirlReaction: I love this book sooo much it hurts. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve read it. I just canNOT get enough. The base in historical fiction with all the politicial intrigue and finagling around the moving bits of Europe at the time. The love story told in so many tiny bits and pieces. The looks and moves that are more important than anything anyone actually says. The choices and the consequences. I just can’t…

DadReaction: He couldn’t read it. Hated the tone of the narration, hated that there were always secrets kept from the reader (mostly by Thorfinn, decisions that come out of nowhere b/c he’s so closed off). Gave up.

Funnily, this is the second of the books I super much love that Dad just could NOT stand. I guess we aren’t the same person after all. 🙂 Heh. I didn’t get through Moby Dick or Sabbath’s Theater but b/c of school and not able to focus in on them, rather than dislike.

Fiction: The Old Devils, by Kingsley Amis

Our November challenge book (although I finished it in January. Heh). A re-read for Dad, new to me.

This book is such a study in the group dynamic: the circle is so much more entertwined than any of them even know. All the males are in love with Rhiannon; all the females have at one time or another slept with Alan; the level of alcohol necessary to keep this group functioning is mind-blowing (they bring three CASES of scotch on a weekend trip!); most of the group is joined by their hatred of Alan and his return to Wales throws everyone off kilter. It’s got the Jane Austen socialness without the social class stuff. Also lots of old-fart commentary: “They’re selling what there now?!?”

So well-written. Amis never overexplains where people are or what they’re doing, he just puts you in the scene and lets you go. The way he dramatizes things is so well-done as well, all the affair stuff happens in such a subtle way, you’re never in the middle of a sex scene, you just realize it’s happened when the chapter starts with, say, someone tucking their blouse in

These marriages / friendships have just kept going on and on; when the one wife leaves, it’s done in such an understated way, and you find yourself wondering why they don’t ALL leave when so many of these relationships have gone sour. There’s that focus on being stuck in the working class = how can you get out of your life? You have all these bonds to other things–not just this person. Kind of like a rocket leaving earth, you need a lot of acceleration to get beyond that pull of inertia, gravity. Either you start to hate it so much that you don’t care where you go, or you meet someone / see something that’s enough to draw you out.

Thumbs up from both of us, so many different things to enjoy / explore here. (How Malcolm really is the Welsh poet Alan pretends to be; how Charlie can’t stand to be alone, several drinks in by 10 a.m., etc.)