Reading Habits of the Last Few Years

So I’m several years overdue on blog posts of my riveting reading habits, but to make up for it, I have graphs!

Graph of books read per year.

My reading rate seems to have gone down. This is peculiar given with COVID lockdowns in Melbourne I would have thought I would have read more books in 2020 and 2021. However I seem to have gone from between 60 to 70 books read, to around 50 for the last few years.

The number of audiobooks has been pretty healthy though. I did spend some of 2020/21 working through the Dune series from the first, Dune, through to the eighth, Sandworms of Dune.

Looking at days per book and pages per day, I don’t think the slowdown was because I was reading longer books!

Graphs of days per book and pages per day by year.

Taking a gander over what I’ve read in the last five years, there have been a lot of good books and series. The Rosie Effect and The Rosie Result were good follow-ups to Graeme Simsion’s charming The Rosie Project. Cover image for The Rosie Result The Xandri Corelel series by Kaia Sønderby was set in the far future, featuring one of the few remaining autistics in the human race, I found quite captivating and wish there were more books following this character. I also got my hands on a copy of The Tripod Trilogy, which is a young adult series by John Christopher I’d read several times in my youth. It was a delight to have these and read them again.

There were also a couple of stand-out autobiographies. There was Becoming Superman by Joe Michael Straczynski, who I’ve always thought was a terribly interesting human ever since he created the Babylon 5 television series. Cover image for Ten Steps to Nanette And more recently Ten Steps to Nanette, Hannah Gadsby’s story of life from growing up in rural Tasmania, becoming a comedian, and the journey that lead to the titular stage show. Watch Nanette, and then watch their follow-up, Douglas which I believe are both available on Netflix. Then listen to them narrate the audiobook of Ten Steps.

Looking at ratings I’ve given, perhaps I’ve gone for quality over quantity with 2020 being a standout year with 94% of the books I read rated three starts or better.

Graphs showing my book ratings

In the last five years my average rating was 3.04 versus Goodreads of 3.94. I seem to hover round one star difference to Goodreads ratings, 2020 again being the exception where it narrowed to 0.7 starts.

Graph showing articles read per year

The number of articles I’ve read in a year has also dropped a bit, and just about halved in the last year. Don’t know why.

Cover image for The House of Styx

Other good readings were The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, and of course, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. The House of Styx by Derek Künsken I found a bit difficult to get into at the start, but it must have drawn me in as it got a solid four stars from me. True Biz by Sara Nović, another good four star book, is a young adult entry set in a school for the deaf.

Cover image for The Lost Man

Lastly, I’ve been reading a lot of Australian authors more recently. Anything by Jane Harper goes to the front of the queue when it is released. The Caleb Zelic series by Emma Viskic is also a good read. As is the Judi Westerholme series by Sherryl Clark. Simon Rowell and Chris Hammer are worth your time. And I’m working my way through the catalogue of Sally Hepworth’s musing.

With over 300 books in my mountain of to-be-read, I might have to lift my game.

Mini Movie Reviews

Over the years I’ve posted various brief movie reviews on social media. Decided to trawl back through and collect the bulk of them for my own amusement. Starting at the most recent.


Recently watched The Menu, a treatise on perfect being the enemy of good and the forces both internal and external that drive you there. Set in the world of haute cuisine with lavish servings of pretentiousness and homicide, I’ll never hear the word degustation again without a shiver running up my occipital.

Jan 08, 2023

So just watched Violent Night and it’s a great Christmas movie. Maybe even better than Die Hard.

Dec 27, 2022

So I thought Nope was pretty good right up until the final act when a… creative decision… in the visuals had me going, “What the? Did I miss something?” which of course totally distracted me from the end of the movie. Looking at discussion online, it appears I didn’t miss anything, it was a total non sequitur. There were one or two story points along the way that didn’t quite make sense to me, but they were minor in an otherwise quite enjoyable movie. This sudden visual change (that I’m talking around to avoid spoilers) had, “Nope,” become more of a, “Yeah, Nah.”

Aug 27, 2022

Movie poster for Come From Away

Just finished watching Come from Away which was excellent. If I ever get the chance to see it live I will. Very cleverly uses twelve cast members to tell the stories of hundreds with humour and poignancy.

Jun 05, 2022

So The Batman was quite disappointing. Slowly paced in an attempt to be moody. A police procedural with lots of police, but light on the procedural. For me, it adds little to the body of work around this character – and its worst sin: it’s boring.

Apr 24, 2022

“Why do I want to know about your son? Because he killed mine.” Mass is a movie that doesn’t try and give answers, but instead explores the spaces left afterwards. I suspect I will need a second viewing to better appreciate its nuances.

Apr 14, 2022

The Outfit is a wonderful, twisty little slow-burn of a movie.

Apr 12, 2022

Really enjoyed this musical take on the well known Cinderella story. Fun song choices, a fabulous godmother, and just a bit of snark made it stand out.

“Why we are spending money on catapults when we have so many already? It really just benefits the catapult makers.”

Sep 19, 2021

So I decided to watch Interstellar again and enjoyed it more than I ever did previously. I think I’ve gained sufficient distance from the experience of watching it in the theatre with my ears being blasted out, combined with inaudible dialogue. Yes the soundtrack is very mediocre (to put it kindly, it could have been so much better) but services the movie well enough, and subtitles fix the dialogue problem (although I’m wondering if I have a remixed version as it was a lot clearer this time around.) Good movie despite some flaws.

Dec 20, 2020

In Tenet, Christopher Nolan continued the penchant he started with Interstellar for terrible sound design, including dialogue so muddy it was not comprehensible a lot of the time. At least the music score was better. But inaudible dialogue did make it hard to follow a complex movie with complex ideas about time travel. Overall it was very good. I will need to watch it again with subtitles (although it is entirely possible I already have.)

Nov 29, 2020

Just watched and enjoyed The Old Guard. Good fun if you don’t ask too many questions like, “Would they die if you dropped them through a wood-chipper?” or, “Would she have to stab her earrings though her ear lobe every time?” Kind of like the perennial, “How does Superman shave?”

The only spot where I really lost my suspension of disbelief was during a big gunfight in a lab. They are ducking around all these cylinders labelled flammable and such and nothing went boom.

Jul 12, 2020

Movie poster for Togo

Togo is a surprisingly good movie about a sled dog run to retrieve serum for an diphtheria outbreak in an isolated Alaskan town in the middle of a huge storm. From what I’ve read, hues closely to the true story upon which it is based.

Jan 12, 2020

If Frozen had been written by an Australian, the main anthem wouldn’t have been called, “Let it go,” it would have been, “Build a bridge and get over it.”

Dec 04, 2019

So Rambo: Last Blood was every bit as bad as I expected it to be, which made it gruesomely enjoyable in an odd sort of way.

Dec 02, 2019

Okay, so just saw the new version of The Lion King and I thought visually it was excellent. A lot of the criticism I read was that in going for the visual realism the characters just didn’t emote like the animated version. I thought they emoted fine. My issue? The voice cast just wasn’t a patch on the original. Where was the evil relish of Jeremy Irons as Scar? Or the wonderful full-throated baboon cachinnations of Rafiki as portrayed by Robert Guillaume? This performance was… restrained. Flat. The only one that even came close was the guy who voiced Mufasa. And how could they cut the line, “They call me ‘MR. PIG’!”? I think the tonal changes lost a lot of the humour beats and cherished significant moments. I want the visuals of 2019 with the performance of 1994.

Oct 11, 2019

So John Wick 3 (Parabellum) was a lot better than the second movie. I’d say the first movie was the best, at the very least by the virtue of being the first. The third movie is a close second though, with the second movie a distant third speck on the horizon.

Aug 25, 2019

Really like the movie, The Martian (and if you did too, you should absolutely read the book it was based on) but one thing irritates the hell out of me every time. He is supposedly on starvation rations, but every third scene he is eating something. Honestly he should weigh as much as me by the end of the movie. End rant.

May 12, 2019

If you have not seen the previous movies, then Glass will be opaque. Overall, I liked it.

Jan 25, 2019

“What’s the plan?”

“Cause a distraction, break your people out, and save the fucking planet. That’s the plan.”

Occupation wasn’t a bad little Australian alien invasion movie, but a weak ending and an overall struggle to find its tone made it ultimately unsatisfying.

Jul 21, 2018

I was really on the fence about watching Annihilation, but thought it was pretty good in the end. My reluctance was because I really hated almost everything about the book, from the style of writing, to not giving the characters names, to being all mysterious with no reveal at all by the end. Reading a review of the movie that mentioned it was only loosely based on the book, and took things in a different direction, I decided to give it a go - and all the things I disliked about the book were absent from the movie. You understood the broad strokes of what was going on from the very start, the visual style was very well done and the acting was excellent (with the notable exception of Jennifer Jason Leigh. I don’t know what she was going for, but if it was wooden to the point of ossification, she nailed it.) Overall, a solid, understated, watchable film.

Mar 16, 2018

So overall The Cloverfield Paradox was pretty good. It would have been a lot better if it had stayed as a stand-alone movie (as originally scripted as “The God Particle”). The expectations put on it for being part of the franchise did it a disservice. Also, the dumbest parts of the movie were the ham-fisted bits trying to tie it in to the Cloverfield mythology.

Feb 05, 2018

So even with the whole Statesman plot thread, the new Kingsman: The Golden Circle movie was pretty good. Mercifully it turned out Channing Tatum only had a small role.

Oct 07, 2017

So Atomic Blonde was really good. The plot is a little convoluted in places so you need to pay attention. There was one fight scene that went for almost ten minutes in what looked like one take - which ended up distracting me as I started looking for cuts. Turns out it was over forty takes with bits of CGI to stitch them together. I tell you this now as a public service so you can just enjoy it without getting distracted like I did.

Aug 11, 2017

So War for the Planet of the Apes was really good. Read just about any review and they will tell you. Two things, however, drove me to distraction throughout the entire movie. (Potential spoilers ahead, read at your own peril.)

Woody Harrelson’s character, The Colonel, is so bad-ass he can wear his sunglasses at night without walking into things. Kids, do not try that at home except in a well lit room. Shaving his head with a straight razor in front of hundreds of his men during reveille, without a mirror, yeah very manly. Sure, he was a little cuckoo, but he had to make some horrible decisions in the past that pretty much broke him, so that made sense. But wearing sunglasses in the dark? Utter insanity.

The other thing, and this was what really distracted me throughout the movie, was that Caesar almost exclusively spoke instead of signing (except in situations where the noise would likely get him killed), whereas all the other apes of his community signed almost exclusively, eschewing speech even if it was more practical, such as communicating with someone who didn’t know sign language. There was even one scene where Caesar was looking off into the distance through binoculars, and the ape next to him signed something and he responded. (Verbally of course.)

In the second movie it was handled much more rationally where all the apes, including Caesar, mostly preferred to sign, but would speak, sometimes even just a word or two, for emphasis or because it was impractical to sign (like if you had your hands full or the other person wasn’t looking at you). The change in the third movie was stupid and internally inconsistent and distracted me the whole time.

So yes, definitely recommend seeing the movie if you enjoyed the previous ones or you think you’ll like this one. And if now these above quibbles distract you too, at least they don’t have the little black circles in the top right corner to signal a reel change any more. That distracted me for years after someone pointed it out to me.

Jul 29, 2017

Watching The Belko Experiment has totally put me off working in an office cubicle ever again.

Jun 09, 2017

So chapter two of John Wick was fairly disappointing. Whereas the first movie had extremely well choreographed and unique fight scenes, the second movie had the same three fight scenes repeated several times throughout the movie. Though I do still like his predilection for head shots just to make sure. The plot also just had no drive to it, and was sharply nonsensical in a few places. Less of both style and substance than chapter one.

May 25, 2017

Logan was brutal and pretty awesome.

Apr 02, 2017

The Girl with All the Gifts is not another mindless zombie movie. (See what I did there?) Lots of well regarded actors such as Paddy Considine, Gemma Arterton, and Glenn Close give nuanced performances without having to chew on the scenery.

Jan 23, 2017

I seem to be enjoying a run of, if not outright horror movies, then some thrillers that skate very close, lately. Just finished watching The Invitation, which had a really good, small budget, slow-burn build up of paranoia.

Watched Hush a couple of weeks ago, which is definitely in the horror genre about a deaf women trapped in her home, which was pretty good apart from one stupid bit in the middle.

May 09, 2016

So finally caught up with Batman v[sic] Superman. I think the kindest word for it is contrived. Pretty good action scenes, but pretty scattershot with everything else. Weird dream sequences that made me wonder if Batman snorts cocaine didn’t help. If, like me, you’re not an avid follower of DC comics, I suspect a lot of stuff in the movie is lost on you. Judging by reactions of avid followers of DC comics, that may have been a blessing.

Apr 25, 2016

So Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny was not bad as sequels go. Amused that the first movie was in Mandarin but the sequel was in English. Funny thing was there was a few Aussie actors in it, and there was no real effort made to match their accent to the other actors, which was a bit jarring.

Mar 25, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane was a fun, tense little movie (that had no relation whatsoever to its titular predecessor).

Mar 13, 2016

Movie poster for Interstellar

I’m beginning to wonder if Christopher Nolan peaked with Batman Begins and The Prestige. His movies since seem to have lost something (although Inception came close). Interstellar was a great concept, and for the most part enjoyable, but there were two things that really detracted from it greatly. First, Matthew McConaughey’s drawl has become so thick in his recent work that I can barely understand him. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s had a stroke and nobody noticed. Second, the music score in this was awful. It was so loud it drowned out dialogue at times, and had all the subtlety of a televangelist.

Nov 15, 2014

Enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy. It reminded me a lot of Serenity (Firefly) but more light-hearted and less acerbic. Okay, maybe not so much like Serenity, but it did remind me of it. Honest.

Aug 09, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was only okay when it could have been great. They jettisoned almost all character development, world building or subtlety in favour of throwing as many caricature bad-guys in as they could. The previous series waited until the third movie to go that route. Honestly, it was like something out of a comic book.

Apr 20, 2014

Captain America 2 was pretty good, although they did their best to try and ruin it with choppy camera work during the fight scenes.

Apr 11, 2014

There was one point during Man of Steel where I thought, “Yep, Edna Mode was right.” But overall very enjoyable.

Jul 10, 2013

Showed the kids one of the fight scenes from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Never seen their little eyes bulge so far out of their heads. They reckon it beats Ninja Turtles, hands down.

Oct 08, 2010

Just saw Avatar. Very good - no Ewoks! 9/10

Dec 28, 2009

Saw Wolverine, which made the cut (sorry). Only thing that threw me is they go though all this carnage yet their cloths remain immaculate.

May 16, 2009

Just watched the new The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) It is both good and original, but the parts that were original were not good, and the parts that were good were not original.

Apr 28, 2009

Reading Habits of 2017

The annual blog post of my reading stats for the year.

I read 65 books in 2017 which is a bit more than last year. A total of 21,650 pages, a respectable 2,672 over last year. This works out to 59 pages per day, or a book every five and a half days on average.

Of the 65 books, I read 63 in ebook format and two were physical books. I also listened to Artemis as an audiobook which isn’t counted above. I listen to a few audiobooks a year, but they are usually books I have already read previously so I don’t track them. In this case, the expert narration by Rosario Dawson made ‘reading’ for the first time as an audiobook a no-brainer.

My average rating was 2.94 compared to Goodreads of 4.00 which seems a bit harsh. There were five books I didn’t finish, which is a high number compared to previous years so perhaps that indicates I was taking more risks with my reading selections than previous years, and that is showing in my ratings.

I also read 875 articles and blog entries which is the most I’ve read since I started tracking in 2014. A word count of 1.16 million.

Cover image for We Are Legion (We Are Bob)

There were a lot of good book series this year. The biggest surprise would be the Bobiverse trilogy which kicks off with We Are Legion (We Are Bob). I was a bit dubious with it at first, but ended up quite engrossed.

Cover image for The Rosie Project

The Intrepid Saga and Orion Wars series, following the adventures of Tanis Richards are a consistently good read. While I’ve enjoyed that character and the world around her, I haven’t been tempted to read the other offshoots of the Aeon14 universe yet.

Finally, The Rosie Project was such a completely charming surprise I ended up reading it straight through in one night.

Reading Habits of 2016

So one year I’ll find something else to blog about, but in the meantime here’s my reading stats for 2016.

I’d read about 72 books in each of the previous two years, but only read 61 in 2016, which is a marked drop. A measly 19,278 pages which works out to 53 pages per day, or a book every 6 days on average. This is a drop from the previous year’s 57 pages per day or a book every 5 days, so I’ve perhaps not slowed down that much it seems.

My average rating was 3.31 compared to Goodreads of 3.96, so I seem to be continuing the trend of getting kinder in my ratings (or sticking to books more likely to appeal to me). Like 2015, there was only one book I gave up on.

Cover image for Over Your Dead Body

I also read 654 articles and blog entries. I really love the ereader integration with Pocket (although to be honest, I would probably love integration with Instapaper just as much if not more).

Favourite book would have to be Over Your Dead Body which chronicles the continuing adventures of John Cleaver that started with I Am Not a Serial Killer. Fortunately the disappointing movie adaptation of the first book hasn’t dampened my appreciation for this series.

I also enjoyed Harlan Coben’s Fool Me Once so much I read it twice! So it turns out I only read 60 unique books.

Special mentions have to also go to:

Cover image for Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and its sequal because while the story lines seems to meander around with not much point, the sheer inventiveness of the world building still drew me in.

And, Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard for making me care about the fate of anthropomorphic elephants in a post-human universe.

I also read the The Three-Body Problem trilogy, which was recently released in English and has got a lot of attention. While I liked it and would certainly encourage science fiction fans to give it a go, it didn’t appeal to me as much as it did to others (3 star rating from me, against 4.29 on Goodreads).

Three books rated with five starts, 26 with four stars, and 17 with three makes 79% of books with a three star rating or better, compared to 60% for the previous year, so seems I went for quality over quantity this year. As with last year, all these books were read as ebook format on my trusty Aura HD.

Lastly, there were two series I plowed through which I found thoroughly enjoyable reads. The first is The Rho Agenda which I recommend reading in published order, not chronological. Initially thinking this was more of a young adult read, it sucked me in and kept me going through seven books (so far). The second is The Expanse which I decided to give a go after watching the first season of the TV series. Shame we’ve got to wait until November for the next installment.

Are You There?

So I’ve got a new little guy sitting on top of my monitor.

Presence sensor.

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

It is an ultrasonic distance sensor that I use as a presence sensor to tell the computer when I’m in front of it or not.

This is connected to a LeoStick to read the distance and notify the computer when the threshold changes from “present” to “away” or back.


A shell script on my computer listens to the serial port on the LeoStick, so if music is playing when I walk away from my computer, it pauses the music player. When I return, it starts playing again. It will also wake the monitors from power saving mode when I return, too.

It was one of those little annoyances where I would walk three steps away from the desk, stop, then turn around and walk back to press the pause button.

The only issue is when the cat sits on my chair it is just on the distance threshold and you can hear the music chopping on and off from the other room.

I’m also starting to fiddle a bit more with some infrastructure for home automation, so I post presence change events to an MQTT server and a time series database, which will allow me to pull some interesting stats out while I’m at it.

I also stuck a switch on a little bracket under the desk to detect if it is at sitting or standing height, which I also post to MQTT and the database just for the heck of it.

Desk Switch.