Saturday, December 29, 2007

Phenomenon - Sylvia Browne

Phenomenon - Sylvia Browne (2005)
I definately enjoyed her other two books better. Done as a comprehensive guide to the paranormal, I didn't like the format of a whole book done in alphabetical order. Some interesting things, but I feel it was designed as a reference book and not really for casual pick me up reading 1.5/5.

Miss Potter

Miss Potter (2006)

Well it is not often in my life I have had a movie recommendation from my father. Dad spent a lot of years looking after mum, and movies weren't really his thing. Dr Zhivargo was the last one I went to with him when I was 14 ,a lot of years ago, but I'm not telling you how many, and no it wasn't the time of the original release - it was a re-release!! A few years earlier we had been to see ET, poor dad sobbed through that one. However I have never been to the movies as an adult with my dad. He didn't have the time, or wasn't interested in what I wanted to see.

Now he has some new interests and has been to see quite a few of the arthouse moives, usually the costume dramas and takes pride in being able to ask me if I have seen the movie.

So I finally got around to watching Miss Potter on dvd, which I must say is awfully English and frightfully delightful. True to the period, I think how lucky the spinsters of today are with all our choices and independence and hopefully without the meddling parents. I didn't know any of the background of Beatrix Potter, besides her being the author of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck and all the other beautiful childrens books she wrote. So a nice little snapshot of her life and her loves.

Good to watch on a cold Sunday with a large cup of cocoa. Good work dad. 4/5

Friday, December 28, 2007

Adventures of a Psychic - Sylvia Browne

Adventures Of a Psychic - Sylvia Browne (1998)

After reading one of her other books, I went to the library and sought out others by Sylvia Browne. This one is about how she grew up in a family where her grandmother , son and granddaughter all have psychic abilities.

A bit disjointed and I felt like some chapters were missing, ie not much about her son and granddaughter, but I still found it intriguing and it certainly makes me think about what it is I actually believe.

I'm going to keep reading, I still have another of her books to go - sorry to bore you, if anyone is reading.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth - Al Gore

An Inconvenient Truth - Al Gore (2006)

Another person who chose to help change the world is Al Gore, who with initially his power point presentation, and then his movie was able to spread the message about global warming. I loved that movie, sitting in a midweek movie theatre in Wellington with about 20 other people I thought it was extremely thought provoking and should be compulsary viewing!!

I found the book sitting in the library, and thought it would be an interesting quick read. It was really the movie in book form, but as it was a while since I saw the film it was good to read it at my own pace. Once again I was particularly drawn to the images of glaciers, and the huge loss of ice over the previous decades.

The thing I find most interesting when you talk about this movie or book, is that the people with often the strongest opinions are the ones who haven't taken the time to take a look. I applaud the rise of the smart documentry and films like this. I think we pump our kids full of celebrity driven rubbish on tv and in magazines, and tv is full of plastic ken and barbie actresses. Gone are days that you sat on the sofa with mum and dad and all watched the same documentry (you know the ones with the terrible oboe music) and talked about what you had seen (only during the tv ads mind you).

Al Gore - I''m going to give your book a 3/5

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World - John Wood

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World - John Wood (2006)

Maybe this is the perfect christmas book, if only I had read it before christmas!! I guess most of us are sitting surrounded by a pile of christmas presents, and looking for room to put more stuff into our already overstuffed lives. News reports are full of the millions/billions of dollars that people have spent on just one day on christmas presents. I can't remember what the figure was for New Zealand, but it was something crazy, especially when you think that there are only 4 million people living here.

John Wood was a high flying executive for microsoft, who while on a short vacation in Nepal, visits a small school which only has access to a small number of books for the children. Making a promise to fund raise and return with plenty of reading material. John realizes how few of the poor children in Nepal, can afford an education or have access to schools or books.

After much soul searching he eventually quits his job at Microsoft to set up his own charity 'Room to Read' where by using donations, is able to provide schools and libraries for $8,000. Initially in Nepal, his venture spreads to Vietnam,Laos, India, Sri Lanka, Africa and Cambodia where scholorships for girls, libraries, computer training rooms and schools are established.

I didn't want to put this book down, and highly recommend it if you are looking for a book about a good person, who decides to help try and save the world, and actually does something about it. This book would be a great present, especially for someone who has done a lot of travelling.

The room to read website is here: and is worth a visit.

I am going to give it a big 5/5.

Infidel - Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Infidel - Ayaan Hirsi Ali (2007)

I hesitated before adding this book to the list, I didn't want to get any hate email from anyone who felt strongly about this author. I just wanted to read it, to learn about Ayaan who was one of Times most influential people in 2005, and Readers Digests European of the year.

Growing up in a muslim culture in Somalia, Ayaan is uprooted by her parents and moved between Kenya, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. She is honest and frank about issues such as genital mutilation and forced marriages.

Escaping from her own forced marriage in her twenties, she escapes to the Netherlands where she becomes a refugee. Studying and working as an interpruter, she then becomes a member of parliament. Controvesial for her views, she makes a movie called 'Submission' with a Dutch film maker, who is later brutally murdered on the street and her own safety is threatened.

This autobiography is an interesting read, and I imagine very controversial in certain parts of the world. I found it a bit long and drawn out in some areas, maybe not the best christmas read.

Insight - Sylvia Browne

Insight - Sylvia Browne (2006)

Another psychics book. I did enjoy this one, although this book was really in the form of letters from clients confirming how helpful and reliable Sylvias readings were. She does expand a little on her beliefs, and connects many of the stories together.

It was good enough for me to look on our libraries website, and to reserve several other of her books to read.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Survivor - Sharon Osbourne

Survivor- Sharon Osbourne (2007)

Sharon Osbourne follows up her earlier very successful 'Extreme' autobiography, with Survivor which talks about her latest TV adventures, successful Ozzy tours and the changing relationship with her father. Dealing with her fathers Alzheimer's and eventual death she also considers her own mortality and the first chapter is a frank talk about the numerous surgeries she has undergone, and her frank questioning about aging and getting closer to sixty.

I enjoy her humour,her insights in the life of a rich celebrity (buying Chanel and Armani) and admire her passion for her family. What was most amusing, was that her autobiography was the biggest seller in that genre in British history. 3.5/5

One Last Time - John Edward

One Last Time - John Edward (1998)

Another book by a medium, I told you I seem to theme read, often reading books about similar subject material for some time and often several topics at once. John Edward is based in the US and has a successful television series where he does readings.

Part memoir/ part readings this was a quick read (probably only about 4 hours worth) but I liked his lack of waffle, and how he explained things, providing a clear insight into what he believes about spirits, souls and what happens when we die.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Touching From a Distance - Deborah Curtis

Touching from a Distance - Deborah Curtis (1995)

After watching the movie Control last week, I was browsing my library website and found the book that the movie is closely based on. The book is written by Deborah Curtis, the wife of Ian Curtis and tells of their life together.

I was glad I saw the movie first, as I had visuals and soundtrack playing in my head on every page. Hardly the life of P Diddy and the rest of the mega rich musicians today, Ian Curtis worked in the employment office and was lucky to earn 10 quid a week playing in the band. Tortured by depression and increasing seizures due to epilepsy, Ian Curtis foretold that he wouldn't live past the age of twenty five and would die young like so many other celebrities.

The first part of this book is memoir, and the second lists Joy Divisions discography, gig lists and lyrics. Although shopping days are limited now christmas is drawing near, maybe a good choice for the 25ish-40ish year old male in your life, with the best of Joy Division CD (only if he likes 80s alternative music). 3.5/5

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Spirit of Love

Spirit of Love - Jenny Crawford (2002).

Jenny Crawford is a psychic medium who works in the US, but is based in New Zealand. I recently went to see Deb Webber, an Australian medium who has had a hit show here "Sensing Murder". Her show is about real crimes, murders and missing persons that have occured over the last few decades. Deb and the other psychics have made breakthroughs in many of the cases shown, and in most cases given some peace to the family. Her live show although well practised, was really interesting. She gave readings to the live audience, several thousand and came very close to where i was sitting, making my heart pound like crazy. Unfortunately I didn't get to speak to her, but the readings she did were interested. I was disapointed as the people she read for, didn't seem that excited

I have also read Alison Dubois first two books( she is the real woman that the show Medium is based on), which I found very thought provoking and challenging to your beliefs. Searching for her new one at the library I came across this book and picked it up to read. A quick read (2 evenings), I liked the parts when she described readings with clients and what she was able to tell them. There were some airy fairy meditation parts I found slightly annoying, but they only took up a small amount of the book.

She has a website and does some readings and tours through New Zealand. I am drawn to some of these books at the moment - sometimes I tend to theme read around an issue. This is one of the current ones. 3/5

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Schindlers List

Schindlers List (1993)

After reading Thomas Keneallys book, Searching for Schindler I decided it was time to watch the movie again. In 1993 when it was first released, I was working in London, and went with some friends to an evening session. The people in the cinema were quiet except in some of the harrowing scenes when loud sobs escaped from many in the audience. I know that I had to hold back my own tears.

Since then, I have caught minutes of the movie when it has played on TV, but not watched the whole thing again til now. The viewing was enhanced, I think by reading Searching for Schindler first, as it explained many of the relationships and brought some of the characters into life. Bravo Mr Spielberg, I think this picture still looks fresh 14 years on.

I must say, that I was disturbed at work when one on my colleagues and I discussed some event of the second world war involving the Jews. We had a student working with us, 22 and very bright, yet she said that she knew nothing of the holocaust and very little about the second world war. After 17 years of education, it shocked me that she was so ignorant. However, in the weeks since I have thought about some of these young ones read little more than gossip magazines every week, never read non fiction, wouldn't watch any documentaries or the news. I guess for most of us oldies, we grew up watching whatever our father wanted to watch on TV (mum got the occasional vote - but not often) so in our house that was documentaries most of the time.

Maybe not the best movie for your holiday season, but definitely worth a revisit. 5/5

Searching for Schindler - Thomas Keneally

Searching for Schindler - Thomas Keneally (2007)

Thomas Keneally is the Australian writer of Schindlers List (also known as Schindlers Ark). This memoir tells of his first meeting with Leopold Pfefferberg Page (Poldek), in Beverley Hills who he met when he entered his store, looking to buy a briefcase. There they got talking and Poldek told him of his experiernce during the war, and of Oskar Schindler.

With the assistance of Poldek, Keneally travels across the US, Australia, Poland and Germany meeting and interviewing other survivors. He then turns the story into a work he describes as fation (a novel, but based on true people and events. This book then goes on to earn a Booker Prize, and Steven Spielberg buys the rights to make the movie.

More of an introduction to many of the real life characters, than a behind the scenes peek, this story about the making of a story is entertainment in itself. A prolific writer (over 25 novels) Thomas Keneally gives life to characters that only graced the screen briefly in the movie, and in the book.

It made me go out to buy the movie (luckily I found the dvd in a discount bin for $15). I had seen it when it was released at the cinema but wanted to watch it again after reading the book.


Saturday, December 15, 2007


Control (2007)

As promised, I did get to the movies this weekend to see Control as I had seen the review at last weeks movie, and was looking forward to it. Initially played at recent film festivals and returned to arthouse cinemas for encore performances, Control is a biopic about Ian Curtis the lead singer of the band Joy Division. Having spent many late night hours, listening to alternative music from English radio charts in the late seventies and eighties, I was a big fan already. I knew how the story ended, but didn't know the rest of the details. What a dreary dull existence it seemed - working in the unemployment office of a northern English town by day, and rock star by night. Certainly a stark contrast to the money wasting, high living pseudo celebrities of today. They seem to have one mediocre hit and then be rolling in money, wearing Prada and partying like crazy.

When I was a student, on the road across from our flat was a large wall with the graffitis sprayed 2 metres high - Ian Curtis RIP. Twenty years on, the graffiti is still there.

See the BBC review here:

A black and white film, showing his relationships, epilepsy, workings of the band and his depression, leading to his death at 23 - it it wrong to say I enjoyed it? Certainly there were awesome performances from Sam Riley as Ian Curtis and Samantha Morton as his wife, as well as a great soundtrack.

I am giving it a 4/5.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cesar's Way

Cesar's Way - Cesar Millan (2006)

Cesar Millan is the wonderful dog whisperer, who is able within minutes transform troubled pooches into obediant carm dogs. Letting us into his secrets (3 hour runs for fido), he is able to tell us that any dog problems are caused by us humans. Mainly that we put human emotions onto our dogs and think of them as four legged humans. Instead he teaches us how dog psychology works and how we can translate that into keeping our dog calm and obedient.

I wonder who will be the cat whisperer - can it be done?

Interesting read, even if you don't have a dog (I don't), but have known a few troublesome ones. 3/5

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Tommyland - Tommy Lee

Tommyland - Tommy Lee (2004)

I went into reading this book with no expectations, and had got it out as it was on our local librarys recommended reading list! What a wild ride, and with some drug and sexual content don't be buying this one for your grandmother or your kids for christmas.

But imbetween the bands exploits Tommy Lee comes across as a good dude. Sure, he loves the ladies, but he loves his music, his parents and his kids and has good relationships with his exes and ex wives Heather Locklear and Pamela Anderson. I like that in a fella - he knows to be good to the women in his life.

When he talks about reading he says "A good book can change your life as much a s a perfect piece of music or an amazing painting. It can take your world and show you parts of it you might be missing".

I let my best friend read a page last night - it made her pig snort with laughter. That's a sign it's funny.


Saturday, December 08, 2007


Once (2007)

Set in Dublin, Glen Hansard plays a busker who meets up with Marketa Irglova, an immigrant flower seller. Impressed with his music, they tell a tale of a gradual friendship and attratction through their music and songs.

Definately not a traditional musical, the music was refreshing and beautifully sung by the both of them. I was so relieved to see a normal story with normal people in it who show normal emotions and don't have forheads full of botox, and who wear the same clothes more than once a week. Hoorah for the rise of the independant movies!!

In Wellington we have 10 indie movie theatres in the centre of the city alone. There are also a large number now out in the burbs, many of which have comfortable couches to spread out on. My friend and I chuckled on the way in , as we were definatley in the younger age group for this show. Playing at 7.10 pm, it was sold out at least 15 minutes prior and they had to turn people away.

We have a big international film festival, that plays every year in July which is a great excuse to get out of the house in our winter. The more popular films then move onto the arthouse cinemas after this and are spread out during the year. The next one to go to is Control the story about Ian Curtis of Joy Division. I loved the shorts and have already booked friends into going next week!!

For me a 4.5/5

Bunny Tales

Bunny Tales - Izabella St. James (2006)

Behind the closed doors at the Playboy Mansion, by one of Hugh Hefners girlfriend of two years (along with at least four other girls). Interesting look at what really is an illusion, the playboy and his mansion. Izabella was doing a law degree when she took on the role of one of Hugh Hefners girlfriends and moved into the playboy mansion in LA. Being paid for the job ($1000 a month) it also came with a substantial amount of rules and curfews.

For a smart girl, she doesn't seem particularly happy in her situation and I wonder why she stayed so long, putting up with the girls bullying each other and living in such a strange world. At least it is a quick read and not too graphic. 2/5

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Sixth Wife - Suzannah Dunn

The Sixth Wife - Suzannah Dunn (2007).

Very enjoyable historical tale of Katherine Parr, Henry the VIIIs sixth and final wife. Told by her best friend Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk it explores Katherine Parrs life after the old king has died, her hasty marriage to Thomas Seymour and the two wards in their care. The Princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey.

Similar in style to Phillipa Gregorys series about Henry the VIIIs other wifes, this book held my attention to the end and was a very pleasant read. 4/5.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Good German - DVD

The Good German - DVD (2006).
Having a break from study gives me a chance to catch up on all the dvds and books I haven't had a chance to look at. I found this one at the local library, which does and awesome job of having recent things to borrow. The outstanding feature of the library is that you can search the catalogue at home, and reserve things while sitting in your underwear. This means I get to read many brand new books, only a week or two after they are released.

Harking back to the noir thrillers of the 1940s I found this movie, although beautiful to look at, a bit stilted and overacted. In black and white, it tells a pretty standard tale of the American journalist - George Clooney in uniform (sigh) and the Jewish/German SS oficers wife - Cate Blanchett. Of course they were both involved with each other before the war, and happen to meet up in postwar Berlin.

Maybe best left for a rainy and cold sunday afternoon 2/5.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Almost Moon - Alice Sebold, Animal Vegetable Miracle - Barbara Kinsolver

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver (2007).

Barbara Kingsolver and her family move from Arizona to their farmhouse in Virginia and plan to spend the year growing their own produce and buying the rest from local suppliers. Broken up into each month this is a delightful book. I really enjoyed the idea of eating seasonally ie asparagus is only available in New Zealand from Nov-Dec and strawberries from Oct-January. Unfortunately New Zealand gets a bad rap, as being the evil exporter of apples, kiwifruits and lamb. However I forgave her.

Filled with information about food, the local area and family recipes as well, I enjoyed this gentle memoir that also reminds us of the joys of eating and the labour involved in its production. This would be a perfect christmas present for the foodie in your life at christmas. 5/5

The Almost Moon - Alice Sebold (2007)

Helen Knightly narrates this book that starts with the death of her mother, who lives at home and is becoming increasingly demanding and senile. She tells us of growing up with a mother who is agrophobic and suffering bouts of depression, and the father who finding it difficult to cope also withdraws from family life. Helens grown-up life is also full of difficulties, an ex-husband and two daughters and a best friend who are also distant.

Alice Sebold who is also the author of The Lovely Bones - Peter Jacksons next movie project, and Lucky her true life story of her rape while a college student. I enjoyed this book the most out of the three, and although often I found it frustrating I think every daughter can relate to the intense relationship between mother and daughter. Maybe not the best book to buy your mother for christmas though. 4/5

Weekend reading

Girls of Riyadh - Rajaa Alsanea (2007)
Maybe I am a bit too old for this tale of 4 rich twenty something girls, trying to find love in Riyadh, Saudi. Told in a series of emails, four friends share their lives while living in a strict moral culture. Not overly long, in some parts very interesting and an easy read. 2/5

Sunday, December 02, 2007

1st Post

I have found a little place for me to write about the books I have read,the movies and dvds I have seen and other bits and pieces that interest me.

I hope you like my little blog header - the picture is of my dad, aunties and uncles all dressed up for a day at school, the boys are and oldest girl are in their school uniforms. They are standing in my grandparents back yard, and behind them is the primary school that my brother and I attended. My dad is the boy in the middle - the one with the skinny legs!

Silver Wattle - Belinda Alexandra (2007)

Klara and Adela are sisters who escape from Prague and their step-father, to an uncle in 1920s Australia. Adela becomes involved in the film industry and Belinda Alexandra writes about her family, life in the film business and loves. 3/5

I enjoy her writing and although easy to read, I enjoyed her two previous books more. White Gardenia and Wild Lavender are great favourites.

Vera Drake - DVD (2004)
Very moving dvd about Vera Drake, a cleaning woman in post war London. In order to 'help young girls' she goes to their homes and helps those girls who are in trouble. Most of the movie is the tale of Vera, her life and family. How different it must have been to be a female in the 1950s, without much money or choice. Imelda Stunton does an amazing job as the lead actress - it is worth watching for her performance alone. 4/5

Thanks for visiting.