Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Twilight (2008)
I thought why not leave 2008 with a bit of a bang. Maybe I am a bit too out of the movies demographic, but luckily my 12 year old neice arrived on a plane at lunctime and so I could drag her along. I told her if she came with me to this one, she could choose the next movie we saw (please let it not be High School Musical 3, Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler).

Anyway I haven't read the book, but I was aware of the hype and a little of the storyline. Because of that I think I enjoyed the movie for what it was, essentially a lost girl at a new school, whose love interest just seems to have a very interesting family and extracaricular activities (see that, I didn't give much away to you at all).

So pop some popcorn and grab a girlfriend and go along and see. Be prepared to see teenage girls swoon and enjoy. 3/5

Oh and Happy New Year to my two readers!! I love you both!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Short Fat Chick to Marathon Runner - Kerre Woodham

Short Fat Chick to Marathon Runner - Kerre Woodham (2008)
Kerre is one of those women who have drifted in and out of television screens here in New Zealand for the past fifteen years, sent on Intrepid Journeys, destined to dance with the stars and too clever to go on Celebrity treasure Island (I hope).

At 41 she is approached by a Salmon company, saying they will sponser her to do the Auckland Marathon. So with 9 months to train, she starts running with the help of her trainer Gaz. After completing the Auckland run, she then sets her sights on the New York marathon.

Amusing and short, I liked that she was not a runner going into this, didn't get all pompous and smarmy because she had run two marathons and still she managed to fit in the training and running with her busy schedule. Certainly if you are planning a new years resolution about trying something new, this is a good start - 3/5. Me, I won't be running anywhere.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Love of Her Life - Harriet Evans

The Love of Her Life - Harriet Evans (2008)
Girl and boy meet, have a fantastic night then keep running into each other and running away. She is in publishing, he is a doctor, she lives in New York and he lives all over the UK. Real chick lit stuff, should have been 150 pages shorter, could only raise a meager 1.5/5, sorry.

Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera (2007)
Holidays from study give me a chance to catch up on all of those books and dvds that I have looked at during the year, but had to turn away from due to limited spare time. This Christmas I have had to work, but spare time in the evening and the worst television in the world (Shrek and Sound of Music repeats) mean I have been able to indulge in lying on the couch.

Love in the Time of Cholera is definitely beautiful to look at, set in Colombia around the turn of the 20Th century, and felt exotic and lush. I enjoyed the story, even though I have seen a few reviews that say it is a poor interpretation of the book, I would think it hard to take such a complex long tale and limit it to movie length. I sensed the infatuation of the two main characters, but never quite saw the love, so sorry it will only be a 2/5 today (still it beats Shrek anyday).

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Persausion (2007)
Persausion is one of my fave Jane Austen stories. I had returned from my OE in 1995 when the Ciaran Hind, Amanda Root cinema version reached the local arthouse movie theatre. I loved the story, especially on a wintery afternoon in a movie theatre with only two other patrons, and even did the old fashioned thing of actually reading the book. Once the dvd of this version was released a few years ago, I purchased it and have watched it several times since.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find that this version, to me was even better, my new highly recommended. It is to Jane Austens credit that she gives us a heroine so lacking in any modern movies. One who can be brunette, and plain (compared to her guady sister and other companions), yet still have a strong character and sense of humour, and be pursued the more interesting and handsome males. If it were a modern tale, she would be bookish and have glasses, and then be madeover into some uniform plastic playboy model.

Sally Hawkins as Anne, and Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth do stellar jobs of capturing the two main characters, who were engaged 8 years prior, but had the engagement broken by the 'persuasion' of a friend due to the unsure nature of the Captains future and fortune.

Perfect for a cool winters night, and even the boys may enjoy it. 4/5 - almost perfect.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Going Gray - Anne Kreamer

Going Gray - Anne Kreamer (2007)
My friends and I have often sat around and discusses at what stage do you move to stop dyeing your hair, and let it be natural and gray? We think that in our fifties, we will consider it and certainly if prices increase at the hairdressers than we will make the change even sooner.

Anne Kreamer had been dyeing her hair an unnatural brown every three weeks, up until age 49, when she decides to let to the grays grow in. In this wee book, she looks at peoples reaction to how she looks and how women and men with gray hair are perceived. I was surprised to learn that up until the 1950s only 10 percent of woman changed their hair colour.

A 3/5 for this book. I also loved an article that Marie Claire did in the past year, where it got three women to stop washing their hair with shampoos and conditioner for three months. By just using water and occasional natural products their hair stayed healthy and clean. I hate missing even one day of washing my hair, and was amazed that their hair looked ok.

The Judas Strain - James Rollins

The Judas Strain - James Rollins (2007)
What a roller coaster of a book, definitely one I would put in the "I can see this as a movie, cause it reads like an action screenplay book". Lots of running, swimming, shooting, fast flights across the ocean and of course kidnapping.

One set of scientists discover in Christmas Island, a toxic plague that looks set to destroy all life, and has its traces in the historical journey of Marco Polo. Meanwhile and assassin lands on the doorstep of Sigma leader Gray Pierce, while he is at his parents house. Will they find the cure, will his mother get her fingers chopped off, will they escape from the boat, will they find the cure in time and who will save them?

A 3/5 for this as actually it was a rollicking good read, and the historical aspects made it enjoyable and interesting, in much the same way that the Da Vinici code questioned our understanding about Jesus and early Christianity, this book made me want to read about Marco Polo.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Moonstruck (1987)
Ahhhhhh Moonstruck. I think I saw it when I first came out maybe at the movies or on television, but lately I have searched for a cheap copy. I found it in the three pack, with Untamed Heart and When Harry met Sally. Anyway I enjoyed me a bit of early Nicholas Cage and Cher, on a Saturday night with a bowl of pasta and a lemonade and vodka on the couch. Life is good. 4/5

Testimony - Anita Shreve

Testimony - Anita Shreve (2008)
I had seen this book sitting on the shelves at the local bookstore, and was so quick in ordering it at the library that I only had to wait two weeks for it to come through. I ordered it based on the author, as I have enjoyed most of her previous writing, and I had not taken the time to read the blurb. In fact, I started the book not knowing what it was about, if I had I may have had reservations about the content.

At a private high school, the headmaster is given a video tape to look at. On it he finds a graphic and disturbing record of a fourteen year old girl student, involved in sexual activities with three much older male students. Cleverly, rather than taking one viewpoint, Anita Shreve allows all the characters a voice and a platform. We hear from the girl, the boys, their friends and roomates, parents and teachers, as this effects so many people. Although a clever method of telling the story, I did ultimately become a bit distracted and confused by who was who.

I have to say though that I will be only giving this a 2/5, as a tale of sexual assualt is not the type of story I would want to reread, or to recommend to anyone else.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cancer Vixen - Marisa Acocella Marchetto

Cancer Vixen - Marisa Acocella Marchetto (2006)
Marisa is a New York cartoonist, who lives the Sarah Jessica Parker lifestyle of expensive restaurants and shoes. After becoming engaged, and planning a new life she discovers a lump in her breast. She then chronicles her journey with breast cancer in an entertaining comic form, that is readable and believeable without getting sappy. 3/5

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Garden of Eden in Hell - Melissa Muller, Reinhard Piechocki

A Garden of Eden in Hell - Melissa Muller, Reinhard Piechocki (2007)

Alice Herz-Sommer was a gifted pianist who grew up in Prague in a Jewish family. She was deported with her husband and son, to Theresiestadt Concentration Camp in 1942. Here she gave over a hundred concerts to fellow prisoners and to guards and SS officers and was able to save her son, one of only 130 children who survived out of the 15,000 sent to camp.

Emigrating to Israel and then London after the war, she continued practising, playing and teaching music. Aged 103 at the time of writing the book, she still lives in London.

An interesting story, but I am afraid I was a bit distracted in reading it, and felt it spent to long telling us about being a child in Prague and all the older sisters friends. Maybe my lack of understanding anything about classical music hindered my enjoyment too. 2/5

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Queen's Sorrow - Suzannah Dunn

The Queen's Sorrow - Suzannah Dunn (2008)
When I searched for a picture of this book, I got this one from Amazon UK and noted that after 14 reviews it only got 1.5 stars. I thought that a bit harsh, and although tempted to read what had been written, I didn't want it to colour my own thoughts and I need to dry my hair, go to the supermarket and get some housework done.

So I thought that this was an original take on a story that has been rehashed a lot recently. Queen Mary (Queen Elizabeth 1st 1/2 sister), marries Phillip of Spain, her nephew (yuch). As he arrives in England he brings with him hundreds of Spanish men, who end up sitting around waiting to go home.

One of these is Rafael a sundial maker who is sent to board with a local family. I enjoyed this different take on a royal story, where we get to see tudor England through a foreigners eyes.

So I am going to up the stars and my feelings tell me it is a 3/5 for this one. Off to dry my hair now.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gluten-Free Girl - Shuana James Ahern

Gluten-Free Girl - Shuana James Ahern (2007)
I had passed this book at the library, it was sitting proudly on the new books shelf, and impressed me maybe more by the fact of its prissiness and unread conditon. Somewhere in blogland I had seen a quick refernce to it, so this time I did not ignore its charms. It was coming home with me.
Shauna spent much of her youth and early adulthood feeling crap, having abdominal pains and repeated viruses, when the suggestion was made that she had Celiac disease. A disease to Gluten, which is found in wheat, it causes the small bowel to treat it as a toxin and the body reacts to the poison.
After years of eating mainly processed food, this forces Shauna to start cooking and discovering the joys of fresh fruits, vegies, different grains and unprocessed meats. She started her own blog, journalling her adventures and recipes which is turned into this highly readable book for anyone who enjoys food. Beautifully written, it is a great way to look at your own eating habits. I was also touched at the end about how her love of food, led her to real love too. Very sweet.

Fractured - Karin Slaughter

Fractured - Karin Slaughter (2008)
I don't feel fractured after reading this book, more like I was in a big sumo suit and trying to swim laps of an olympic sized swimming pool. My general rule is to give a book 100 pages, and then if I don't like it I won't invest any more time in it. This one was ok, but about half way through I hit the wall. Every page felt so long and dreary.

It might not have been completely the books fault, I had my final assignment to submit, so Catholic guilt may have been guiding me. My overall impression was, girl abducted, conflicted detectives, read it all before. 1/5

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry

The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry (2008)
Well I really wanted to enjoy this book. I read about it in the bloglands and had carressed its covers in the bookshop. There wasn't a long wait for it at the library, and I was impressed to get a copy that looked brand new. I tried to enjoy it, and read twenty pages but couldn't go any further.

The lace reader is about a family where the women are able to read the future in a piece of lace. Towner returns to Salem when her great aunt goes missing and that is as far as I got. So sorry, but it is going to have to be a 0/5 as this wasn't the right book for me.

Paper Clips

Paper Clips (2005)
In 1998, a group of students in Whitwell Middle School in Whitwell Tennessee, started a project to study the holocoust to learn about prejudice, diversity and tolerance. Whitwell is a very small rural town, where most of the students are white and Christian and when one of the students says they have no idea of what six million looks like the students set out to collect six million paper clips.

This documentry follows the impact this project has on the students, teachers and community and how what happened 60 years ago still has an important message about tolerance and understanding.

It certainly frightened me to speak with a 19 year old student at work, who had no idea about the Holocoust or what happened to the jews during the second world war. I wonder what are students learning about in 13 years of school if they learn so little about history. 3/5 for this slow and gentle dvd.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Heretic's Daughter - Kathleen Kent

The Heretic's Daughter - Kathleen Kent (2008)
Oh I loved this wee book. At its heart is the impact of the Salem witch trials, but primarily it is Sarahs story of growing up on a farm with her three brothers, younger sister and parents in the late 1600s. A period of great hardship made even more difficult when the community eventually turns on each other, with accusations and increasing hysteria.

Kathleen Kent tells the story of her own distant family, and spent 5 years researching this novel and that hard work shows with an honest voice of the horrors of sitting in a Salem jail cell, with no comforts and little food or warmth and toiling on the land.

This book deserves a 4/5, and a highly recommended if you are looking for a good book to lie in bed with in the cold evenings.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett

The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett (2007)

Easily read in a couple of sit down sessions, this wee novel tells the tale of Queen Elizabeth II, and her discovery while walking the corgis that the local library delivery van comes to the palace every Wednesday. Upon embarking on her first novel, she begins a journey into loving books.

It is a delightful novel, even if the most annoying of characters is a New Zealander, and often ridiculed for such. A much better choice if choosing between this and . Just the size of book that is perfect to tuck into your bag, or read on a quick journey. However is it sizeist to say I wouldn't pay the money for such a quick read? I don't know what books cost where you live but they are creeping up the $40 NZ mark here ($27 US). It is seldom that I buy any books though, as our library is excellent.

So a 3/5 for me, it made me smile.

Friday, November 07, 2008

7th Heaven - James Patterson

7th Heaven - James Patterson (2008)
I hang my head in shame, I know pure trash but easy to read as you dry your hair on the bed (prime morning reading time, I have a lot of hair). I used to enjoy James Patterson, but then he started writing these by the book,predictable novels that I can see producers will have a whole cave of great looking model/actors to play. I tried to watch the tv show, but only lasted 10 minutes - what trash.

I enjoy the Alex Cross novels much better than this soapy womens murder club stuff. Alex Cross is my fave and is so wrongly cast in the movies. Don't get me wrong, Morgan Freeman is a great actor, but far too old and not saucy enough to play this psychologist. Now if you got Henry Simmons to play him, it would have been super. Oh well, we can all dream.

Anyways, 1.5/5 for this one.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Year of Living Biblically - A.J. Jacobs

The Year of Living Biblically - A. J. Jacobs (2007)
Agnostic A.J. decides to spend a year discovering the bible and living by its rules. These include stoning adulterers, not wearing mixed fibres, not lying, no lusting and not touching women.

I almost gave up after 100 pages, as it was all much of a muchness, but it was interesting to read about all the different views of Jews and Christians, many of whom interprut the bible to suit themselves. With between 400-700 versions of the Christain bible alone, one can see how that happens.

To be honest I thought it was all meant to be about love and getting along with one another. I'm not into the we are the best, hate the rest role of religion. 2/5 from me.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Nocturne - Diane Armstrong

Nocturne - Diane Armstrong (2008)
Nocturne is the new book by Polish born Australian author Diane Armstrong. I enjoyed her other novel Winter Journey so much, that I was quick to request her newest book from the library.

This story centres on Elzunia, who unaware of her families heritage goes from being a student to finding herself in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw with her mother, brother and a young girl. Struggling to protect her family she trains as a nurse, and assists with the uprising against the Germans.

Adam is a pilot with the Polish air force, who after defeat by the Germans ends up in Britain doing bombing missions with the RAF across Europe. Early in the story and at the beginning of the war, their paths cross and neither forgets each other.

I enjoyed this story, as you know I am drawn to the second world war/Holocaust tale. If these stories were not based on truth, you could not imagine how an author could conjure up such misery and hell. The two main characters were likable and I wanted to see what happened in their lives. A few of the circumstances at the end of the novel seemed a bit of a stretch of coincidence. Much like 'The Clan of the Cave Bear' where she manages to domesticate dogs, invent fire and the wheel, I felt the coming together of all the characters in one place a bit too easy. However, this is a novel, and I like to have an ending and know what works out and what doesn't.

3/5 for this one, I think I will have to turn to a thriller next, as I feel all warred out.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dear Fatty - Dawn French

Dear Fatty - Dawn French (2008)
I spied this one sitting on the bookshop shelves on Saturday lunchtime and an hour or two later, after comparing prices around town it was mine (Borders was the cheapest). Dawn French is one half of French and Saunders, and was the vicar of Dibley - a show I never found funny. She usually made me smile in many of the shows she was in, her comedy timing is great and she always looked so good being dressed up in crazy costumes (just look at her as Frodo or Bjork) and her book shows her humour and love of life. Set out as a series of letters to all the important people in her life, it manages to weave her way from childhood to her current age of 50.

I like her writing, it exudes niceness and fun. I love her describing herself as having the figure of a weeble, one of those toddler toys that will get knocked about but not fall over. Her love for her husband Lenny Henry and daughter Billie is sweet and shines deeply and she is not shy about talking about past relationships and boyfriends of all kinds. You have to admire her for picking her boyfriends because they have big hands. I'm going to give it a 3/5 because you know she could be your best friend, could drink you under the table and would love to whisper about boys with her.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Autobiography of the Queen - Emma Tennant

The Autobiography of the Queen - Emma Tennant (2007)
Even though I have a mountain of study to do, and a garden that needs tending to the lure of the library on a rotten wild windy and wet Saturday afternoon was too much. Also the fact that the library has one of the few public toilets left in the centre of town make it a compelling place to visit.

The new fiction shelves is always my first visit, and I liked the premise of this little book. It was nice to be able to pick up a book that would fit into my handbag and be useful when out and waiting for friends. Instead I was able to read it before bed on Saturday night, upon wakening on Sunday morning and finished it while drying my hair a half hour later.

This is a work of fiction, and starts with the Queen packing a bag and leaving her family and nation and escaping to St Lucia in the Caribbean. The idea of her escaping amused me - I wouldn't have lasted a week in that job. I felt it fell flat though and couldn't get over the feeling that surely someone would have recognised her. I have seen the Queen once, when at high school in the 80s she toured our small New Zealand town. We were given the afternoon off as long as we wore our uniforms and stood and waved. She stopped a few feet away and told a schoolmate that she liked our uniforms (they were hideous).

So little book, I am sorry it is a 2/5 from me. It was sweet that you were teeny tiny enough to fit into my handbag, sorry I did not get to take you out anywhere.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Dewey - Vicky Myron

Dewey - Vicky Myron (2008)
One cold morning librarian Vicky Myron heard a noise in the book return slot, and found a little ginger kitten who was thin and so dirty they originally thought he was a grey cat. This little fellow become Dewey, who lived and worked in their library in Iowa for the next nineteen years.

I'm a bit of sucker for a good animal tale. I like Marley and Me, and was drawn to this little book by the super cover. I read the first chapter standing in the bookstore several weeks ago waiting for friends. I don't remember which movie we saw, but I kept thinking about the book. After only waiting for a couple of weeks for it to come to me from the library, I got to enjoy it in a good 24 hour period.

Sweet, it still managed to be a story about the author and her life, and the community of Spencer, Iowa as well as being about a cat. 4/5

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Skeletons at the Feast - Chris Bohjalian

Skeletons at the Feast - Chris Bohjalian (2008)
Inspired by a friends grandmothers diary of her escape ahead of the Red Army at the end of World War Two, Chris Bohjalian takes us on a journey across the roads of Germany.

Anna, lives with her wealthy family on a farm in Prussia where they have had a comfortable life during the war due to their Nazi contacts. As the German army is forced to retreat, the Russians now are coming ever closer. Gathering their family, two wagons and their Scottish POW worker Callum, they leave their farm and join the many refugees heading west.

Two other stories connect with theirs, Manfred who is actually an escaped Jew called Uri who fell from a train two years earlier on the way to a camp, is desperately trying to find his family and younger sister. Posing as a German soldier, he escapes from many a desperate situation with the use of his gun.

Cecile is a young French Jewish woman, who after being in a labour camp, is sent with her friends on a forced march ahead of the Russians.

As with all novels of this genre, it causes me to pause, to wonder what I would have done in similar circumstances. 4/5

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Young at Heart

Young at Heart (2007)
This movie had popped up in our local international film festival, but crazy screening times meant we were unable to see it. Luckily the favorites return, so we didn't have to wait long to see this one.

Basically it is a documentary following a chorus made up of singers aged from 73-92 in the states. The difference is instead of singing show tunes, these chaps and ladies sing songs from James Brown, the Rolling Stones, Talking Heads and Coldplay.

As well as showing the choirs practices and fantastic videos, we get to see a bit about a few of them and learn about their lives, and their love of their singing group.

As well as lots of laughs, I managed to cry my mascara off, so take a tissue. I'm going to step up and give it my first 5/5 for the year (and the whole blog). Take a tissue and go and see it, or rent it at the video store. Perfect.

Sashenka - Simon Montefiore

Sashenka - Simon Montefiore (2008)
I had picked this book up in bookstores a few times in the last few months, before finally surcoming and actually ordering it from the library. It only took a week, and as in all the times when you have a lot of work to do (study), you end up with a good pile of reading material.

Luckily I had an extended long weekend away, so this book was my birthday holiday read. Sashenka is a novel written by a normally non-fiction writer with a great knowledge of Russian history. Divided into three parts, the first begins with Sashenka, a wealthy old daughter of Jewish parents. Rejecting the frivolous lifestyle of her mother and the protection of her father, she is enticed by her uncle to become involved with the communists on the eve of the revolution.

In the second part Sashenka is married to a powerful leader with two young children. Still within the inner circle of power, her life begins to unravel in ways she never expected.

Finally we reach the last part, set in the recent years. A young student is asked to travel to London to research the family history of some rich Russians, who know nothing of their past and family.

Certainly a story premise that I was drawn to, I did enjoy the story although it did drag a little in some places for me. 3/5

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tethered - Amy McKinnon

Tethered - Amy McKinnon (2008)
Don't you love those moments in a bookstore, when you are drawn to a book and when you read the blurb, you know it will be right for you. Certainly I was drawn to this by the beautiful haunting cover, and its description of Clara, who works in a funeral home and is visited by a child Trecie.

A quick read, Tethered had a real dreamy quality, one you could sense would be perfect for a little film, done in the tyle of The Virgin Suicides, with a certain style of calmness and looking at the world.

Clara has a damaged past, and works quietly at preparing the dead. She tucks her own home grown flowers into their coffins, each bloom a reflection of the qualities that they had when living. With her boss, and a policeman she helps to look for the girl who turns up while she is preparing the dead. However, it is not a car chasing, guns blazing type of novel, yet it does talk of child abuse so is not one for the younger crowd.

So a 3/5 for me and I am off to do some serious relaxing and reading.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dead Man's Footsteps - Peter James

Dead Man's Footsteps - Peter James (2008)
I had never encountered this author before reading a short review of this book, on our local libraries new thriller section. Roy Grace is a detective in Brighton, UK who is investigating the discovery of a female body in the local sewer. Leads and connections mean that the investigation takes us to Melbourne, Australia and to New York.

It took me to at least page 300 to be able to figure out who did it, as there were a few concurrent stories that did not interlock until the end of the book. And best of all, a twist that did not play out until the final sentence, which leaves me wanting the next book.

So after the disappointment of the Peter Robinson books which are too slow and bumbling for me, I think I have found a worth replacement. 3/5

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Reading Pile

One of my sweet friends has suggested a book club. I am never very good at clubs, and always forget the rules. So I thought I would let you know what books were piling up in my room, calling out to be read (they are all library books and have to be back soon!!). You would be welcome to pull up a chair, grab a glass of whatever you fancy and a nibble of something tasty. Let me tell you what is on the book pile, waiting to be read.

  • Dead Mans Footsteps - Peter James. A thriller that I am currently reading and enjoying a lot. I have never read this authors books before but will be searching out more when I have finished.
  • Tethered - Amy McKinnon. A woman works in the mortuary and is visited by a strange young girl. I read the first two chapters while on a slow bus journey the other day. I try not to have two books on the go, my brain is slow and I am easily confused.
  • Skeletons at the Feast - Chris Bohjalian. Always a very readable author, this again is a tale of a group of folks who end up together in Europe after WWII. Who can resist a war tale?
  • Sashenka - Simon Montefiore. A novel about a woman in revolutionary Russia. Again another compelling time, and an author who has written non-fiction about the time. I read a recommendation on a web site for this one.

Waiting at the library to be picked up is : Nocturne by Diane Armstrong, whose book Winter Journey I just read and thoroughly enjoyed.

So that is the next months reading pile. Why do I always find great books when there is so much study to do? Luckily television is pitiful at the moment, and so switching off the box and curling up in bed is not a bad alternative. The weather is such, that we have one nice spring evening followed by three cloudy and windy ones, so great reading weather.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Duchess

The Duchess (2008)
It had turned into a rainy and suddenly very cold Saturday afternoon, so me and my 3/4 sleeve top managed to coerce my shopping friend to go and hide out in the local overpriced cinema complex. Normally we avoid it as it smells of burgers, is full of teenagers and the prices on the sweets go up swifter than the price of petrol. After charging us a small mortgage payment to enter we were glad to find not a single person under 18 at this movie, and we were not the oldest either.

The Duchess, is based on a real life relative of Princess Di, who for her time was famous for her beauty and for her marriage to a one of the richest men in England. When she introduces a friend to the Duke, she suddenly finds herself having to share her marriage and spends her time feeling trapped and unloved (sound familiar?).

Well Keira Knightly does a fantastic job. She is mesmerizing to watch, although the costumes, hair and jewels all make her an amazing fashion horse of the time. I have a soft spot for Ralph Fiennes too, as me and a good friend had seen him play Hamlet in London many years ago. Our seats, were the cheapest meaning we were 5 stories up in the air and could just about touch the ceiling. Even though many of our glances at him, were at the top of his head we were mesmerized. In this movie, he plays a dull and frustrated Duke, who makes the rules and expects to be obeyed. Oh what a world to have been born into.

So, a nice little costume drama. I still managed to snooze off, but that could be all the shift work and late nights lately (study not nights out). We did laugh that all the padding, petticoats, corsets etc managed to make miss Keira look wide and in certain scenes gave her a heaving bosom. It is hard to imagine how a more modern miss with a touch more padding would appear in some of the outfits. But bravo to the costume designers, hairdressers and milliners, your work was spectacular. 3/5.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Coraline - Neil Gaiman

Coraline - Neil Gaiman (2008)
This is a graphic novel of the book by Neil Gaiman, but the fantastic illustrations are by P. Craig Russell.

Coraline has moved with her parents, to a secluded and spooky house. Even with lots of exploring done Coralines main problem is she is bored. Seduced by the secret places in the house, she enters into a parallel house with strange inhabitants. Essentially the book is about Coralines journey back.

I can't say that I am a big fan of the fantasy genre, and the books I have tried to read of Neil Gaimans usually get put aside. Still the graphic novel was a quick and more entertaining way of reading for a change. I think this is meant to be a children's book, and my first thought was if I enjoyed it I would get it for Belle. Sorry hon, I thought it only was worth a 2/5 and not worthy of you.

Winter Journey - Diane Armstrong

Winter Journey - Diane Armstrong (2005)
After reading a couple of so so books, I came across this little lovely. I think I found it by looking at our fab libraries website for Sarahs Key, another recent read. I followed the links to Jewish second world war novels. I had heard of the author before. I knew she was Australian (although Polish by birth), and had written a book called The Voyage of their Life, a non-fiction book about the sea voyage of many Jewish refugees made to Australia and New Zealand. The link is here:

Anyways this story is a novel about a forensic dentist Halina Shore, who travels to a rural town in Poland. She is asked to help identify the victims in a mass grave, who were the Jewish families of the town, who were rounded up in a barn and burnt alive. She not only manages to help with the controversy that surrounds the tragedy, as it seems the Nazis may not be to blame, but Polish villagers themselves. She also finds bits about her own past, that she was unawares of as she had been bought to Australia as a girl, with only her mother.

It was a compelling read, I enjoyed it and didn't mind when a loud neighbours party kept me up til one reading. How compelling these stories are, the horrible bitter reality of what people can do to each other. I always wonder if we would let it happen today, but maybe we do in places like Dafur and Iraq.

Anyways, if you need a good read, I am going to give it a 4/5 and I am going back to the library website to reserve her next book Nocturne.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Do Dead People Watch You Shower? - Concetta Bertoldi

Do Dead People Watch You Shower - Concetta Bertoldi (2008)
Concetta Bertoldi is an American medium, who has written an entertaining short book on what she understands about life after death, and she answers questions that have been put to her over the years.

Apparently yes, the dead do watch you shower, go to the loo and all the other delightful things that we do day to day. They don't judge or seem to particularly care. They are just watching out for you and sending their love.

One of the things I think I read in this book was the fact that she described herself as 'not being religious, but being spiritual'. I liked the sound of that.

Anyway this was definitely readable and entertaining. I still am not sure what to believe, but her version of things sounds fine to me.


The Beach House - Jane Green

The Beach House - Jane Green (2008)
Light read about a woman who with mounting debts decides to open her beach house up to paying guests. Of course she is sitting on a property worth millions, so the developers are circling.

The guests are all toubled and recovering from bad relationships. Will they find happiness? What do you think?

Totally predictable but harmless read. 2/5

Saturday, October 04, 2008

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
Set in Romania in the 1980s, roomates Otilia and Gabita spend the day organising a meeting with Mr Bebe who will perform an illegal abortion in a hotel room.

I didn't know much more than this was a particularly graphic depiction of such a grim event, and that as the Palme d'Or winner at Cannes, it seemed to be a fave of the critics. Being a rainy movie and the best our tv had to offer was Joe Dirt and a Hannah Montanna movie, it was off to the movies. A cheap Chinese dinner was pleasant, even if the restaurant smelled as though it had 15 cats sleeping in it, a quick Italian icecream filled the tummy.

So the actesses did an awesome job, the director captured the mood well and the costume designers scoured the op shops for nice 80's European fashion and home decor items. It might have been the warm movie theatre or the sofas they provide, but I kept snoozing off. Sorry I found it a bit serious and dull.

Definately not a movie for the children, but maybe it might make you consider your views on what happens if you make abortion illegal. 1/5

Sarahs Key - Tatiana DeRosnay

Sarah's Key - Tatiana DeRosnay (2007)
Oh you delightful little book, you managed to restore some delight for me in picking up and getting lost in a book. I was just lamenting last week that it had been such a long time, since I had really enjoyed a read, something that you can't wait til bedtime to pick up and would recommend to all of your friends.

Sarah's Key is told concurrently in two parts. The first is Sarah a 10 year old Jewish girl who with her family is taken by the French police, first to the Vel'd'Hiv, a bicycle stadium in Paris in 1942. When the police arrive Sarah convinces her small brother to hide in a cupboard, as she thinks she and her family will return soon. Instead they find themselves in horrid conditions, and then transported to a camp where the adults are separated from the children, and sent on to concentration camps.

The second of the stories is about Fiona, an American journalist who has lived in Paris for 25 years and is sent to cover the 60t anniversary of this often forgotten story.

Told with a fresh voice, I felt that the author was able to provide a unique spin on this war story and it was interesting to hear of the French attitude to this dark place in their past story. Unbelievable that people could be living in what was Drancy the French camp for Jewish prisoners, who were sent on from here to camps in Poland and across Europe.

Oh little book I enjoyed you a lot, but now I have to face the evil study and avoid the bookshelves temptations for a while longer. I wonder how long it will be til I find the next enjoyable read? Weeks, months? Who knows!

4/5 - I am sure I will remember you for the rest of the year.

Friday, October 03, 2008

All the Colours of Darkness - Peter Robinson

All the Colours of Darkness - Peter Robinson (2008)
It is a funny time of year for me. I am in the midst of my studies, so time to reading is limited to a 20 minute rest before sleeping and maybe 10 minutes in the morning as I dry my hair. So I want the book to be good, to make up in quality when I am unable to read any quantity of stories. I want my investment of time to reap rewards, to feel satisfied as I put the book down, and to want to race to pick it up as I climb into bed.

This is the second Peter Robinson novel I have read this year. Chief Inspector Banks is this time investigating the alleged murder suicide of a homosexual couple in Eastvale, Yorkshire. Well standing in the shower the other morning I realised as I applied my second shampoo that I knew who did it and why at page 213. Only another 194 pages til the end of the book, and I felt they dragged on through.

Somehow I think that I should really be a 65 year old bloke, with a knitted cardi, a pipe and sitting beside the fire reading these books. A bit slow and predictable and although peppered with current music and cultural references, it all felt like the author was trying too hard.

I do have another of his books on the shelves to conquer sometime. In the meantime I will try to find something more satisfying to read. Oh I wonder what will be next? (I did pop into the library today as some reserved books were ready).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson

The Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson (2008)
Well I finally completed this monster of a novel. I thought it a new and original take on the love across the ages story, done by so many authors. The main character who I think never has a name, starts the story with his accident where he drives across a cliff and catches fire in his car. Rescued with terrible burns he then tells of his recovery in hospital. Graphic stuff, with the treatment and rehab, he also tells us of his childhood with foster parents who are drug dealers and his career in porn movies. I found this a bit unsavoury and almost superficial and unnecessary to the rest of the story.

So while in rehab, he is visited by Marienne Engel, a sculpter of gargoyles who tells him tales of Iceland, Japan, England, Italy and Germany. Each a love story, that ties her to our burn victim. This was the part of the story that I enjoyed, each enriching the story and filled with historical details.

I am going to give it a 3/5. Well done Mr Davidson, I am glad I turned off the television and read your book instead.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A work in progress

I always dislike posts that spend the whole time apologizing about the lack of posting. My absence is only due to procrastination about doing my latest post-grad assignment, large work commitments, gardening and this book.

The gargoyle is mesmerising and I was instantly drawn into its story, and even now a mere 240 pages in, I haven't been bored or grown tired of this tale. A man sustains horrific burns after a car accident, and the story begins with him being burnt and then in hospital. While undergoing skin grafts and rehab he is visited by Marianne Engel, sculptor of stone who says she has looked after the same man in the 13th centuary as a nun in Germany. Interlaced with stories of Italy, Iceland, England,Germany and Japan this is a love story that reminds me a bit of the Time Travellers Wife. I was originally put off by the almost unnecessary background story of the mans childhood being raised by drug dealers and his subsequent work in pornography films. It seemed a bit of a cliche and I can't figure out yet if it is ploy, to make him unlikeable.

I'll let you know what is about when I have finished. If you are in a bookstore, have a look it might just be a bit of what you fancy. I don't usually care too much for what other reviews say, as just like movies it can often spoil your own experience. Some love it though, and others not so much, but variety is said to be the spice of life.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mosin Hamid

The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid (2007)
Changez is a young man living in Lahore. This book spans just one day and takes the form of a one-sided conversation between Changez and an American customer who he meets at a cafe in Lahore.

Changez explains how he went to university at Princeton and scored a big job with a rich company in New York, working on giving valuations to other companies. He talks about his life and his love with a disturbed rich girl. Enjoying the experience of living in the US, he still reminds us of his Pakistani backround. Then comes 9/11, and things begin to change, he looks at the world differently and begins to react.

A great thriller, short but precise in its movements it kept me up late reading. 3/5

The Counterfeiters

The Counterfeiters (2007)
This was the movie that opened our international film festival this year, so competition to get seats was fierce and unfortunately for me and the team, we were not available for any screenings of this movie. Luckily the more popular and quality films return to circuit the cinemas quite quickly afterwards.

The Counterfeiters tells the true story of how Nazis used prisoners to copy English pounds and American dollars during the second world war to both fund their war effort and to try and destabilise the enemies economies. Certainly it was bleak and confronting in its portrayal of the misery that Jewish and political prisoners suffered in concentration camps. I was almost tempted to leave the movie early on, but you feel you must watch and wonder how on earth anyone could survive.

Not entirely a pleasant watch it is still compelling and a great story. It beats watching the two movie options on tv tonight - Taxi and Scary movie 4. 4/5

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Warrior's Princess - Barbara Erskine

The Warriors Princess - Barbara Erskine (2008)
Barbara Erskine slips into familiar territory of telling us the tale of Jess, who is a London school teacher who suffers a date rape at the end of school disco, and doesn't know who did it. She flees to Wales, where her sister has a studio and home in the secluded countryside, and who just happens to be having a holiday in Rome. So while in Wales, Jess finds herself haunted by a young Welsh princess Eigon, and her family.

What unfolds is the story of Eigon, believed to be the daughter of a famous Welsh king, who when the family is captured by Romans, are taken to Rome to be killed at the Emperors games. Rome is undergoing great changes, and they are there at the time of the rise of Christianity and the persecution and death of many christians, including St Peter himself.

Did I enjoy it, yes I liked the tale, I always get a bit sucked into this sort of novel. However I found the characters a bit lacking. I wondered how so many 30 somethings could have so much spare time and money, and not actually have to work (teachers I know are always busy). The whole premise of lovesick men following Jess everywhere, was a bit tiresome for me. The middle of the book was very repetative and it could have lost 100 pages and been better for it.
Still a good book to curl up and go to bed with. 2/5
National Treasure, Book of Secrets (2007)
National Treasure is a follow on from the earlier adventure tale of tracing Americas historical past. Made by Disney it surely is family fun, with car chases and wholesome fun. At the end the big budget is used to make and Indiana style rollicking treasure hunt come to life.

However I could keep my eyes off Nicholas Cages hair (or maybe not his hair). It sure was the scene stealer for me. 2/5.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Wanted (2008)
I know, I know, not the type of movie you would pick for this middle aged movie goer. I like variety within reason and this was my friends suggestion. Basically James McEvoy plays an office boy who is disastisfied with his life, meets Angelina Jolie, realises he is actually met to be an assasian, learns to kill, gets in car crashes, kills and trys to stop himself being killed.

2/5 - go if you like guns, special effects and car crashes.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Destined to Live - Sabina Wolanski

Destined to Live - Sabina Wolanski (2008)
Written with Diana Bagnall, Sabina Wolanski tells her true life story of being a Jewish teenager in Poland in the second world war. Just 12 years of age when the Nazis invaded Poland she kept diaries throughout her life, and tells of murder of her mother, grandparents, father and beloved brother. Hidden by friends in their houses and holes in the forest, Sabina was able to survive and escape.

After liberation by the Russians, she was able to live in Paris for two years and then emigrated to Australia where she began a new life for herself and her children. In 2005 Sabina was invited to speak at the opening of Germanys Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin.

As always these tales of the Holocaust are extremely compelling to read and daunting at the same way. How could normal folk treat their neighbours and friends in such a way, and turn a blind eye to what was going on. Maybe so much changed now, in Europe and countries such as mine. Do we turn a blind eye though still to countries such as Darfur and other areas where injustice and persecution occur every day?

I guess these stories become all the more important, as the survivors age and their stories get lost with them. 3/5

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

American Gangster

American Gangster (2007)
I was drawn to this dvd after remembering the ads playing for it several months ago, and murmurings about the great performances. Certainly Denzel Washington as Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas and Russel Crowe as a clean cop were enough to entice me to want to watch this.

I did enjoy it, much more than many of the over hyped cop dramas such as The Departed and much of the rubbish that is put on television at the moment. The two leads certainly played convincing characters and I thought they did a good job of capturing a good seventies vibe. Subtle costumes and hairdos and my favourite thing in movies, using supporting characters that look like real people instead of looking like Barbie and Ken dolls. You know what I mean? CSI and rubbish like the Womens Murder club where everyone looks like they fell out of the same model mode.

Anyways I can only feel a 2/5 for this one.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The 100-Mile Diet - Alisa Smith and J.B MacKinnon

The 100-Mile Diet A year of Local Eating - Alisa Smith & J.B. MacKinnon (2007)

Well this is the book, that came from the blog that influenced thousands of people across the world to look at where there food came from and to consider eating from local produce and home grown fruit and veges.

I certainly was surprised at the weekend to see the local paper saying that certain members of our community were saying that it is cheaper to eat unhealthy food than healthier options. What a load of rubbish. I think that people have got lazy and that they don't want to spend the time cooking. I think too that we have forgotten what it was like when we were kids. We only got to eat what mum put on the table, we didn't get any choice as kids. Steak, ham and any fancy foods graced our tables only a few times a year, soft drinks and potato chips were only served at birthday, Christmas and New Year. Otherwise we drunk milk or water or cordial. As snacks we were allowed apples or super wine plain biscuits, chocolate was a once a week treat and it was shared between all four of us. Mum was very budget conscious and whatever she had we made do with, lots of veges and little bits of meat. However, we were never hungry, we ate every meal and we grew up and seemed to forget all of these values.

Now with super supermarkets suddenly we are eating strawberries, lettuce and asparagus out of season. Last week I heard the local radio announcer complain that how was she meant to stay on her diet with the price of cucumbers. Lady it has only turned to spring, they are flown thousands of miles, that's why they cost so much. Certainly I was thinking of this book as I bought my out of season nectarines, grapes and plums all Californian grown this week.

Let me state for the record too, that I only have to feed me and one not so fussy cat. I don't have to feed a family of six on a minimum wage. I can only marvel at how some families stay fed, and admire the hard work it must go into putting food on the table.

Anyways the book was an interesting read, it makes you think that before you embarked on trying such a diet that one should check that flour and oil are produced close by.

Certainly I will give this book a high recommendation for a Christmas present and it would be a perfect accompaniment to Barbara Kingsolvers book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle : A year of Food Life. Anyone with an interest in living simpler and being kinder to the earth should enjoy these two books. 4/5 for me, because I had thought about buying this book for so long and know I will think about it every time I am in the supermarket.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War

Charlie Wison's War - 2007
Charlie Wilson was a congressman from Texas, who loved the ladies and mixed them with whiskey. He also fell into getting involved with the Soviets invasion of Afghanistan with the help of a Houston socialite and a CIA agent.

I enjoyed this little romp and thought it was a good little insight into the US involvement in the region. I enjoyed Tom Hanks performance but was a little thrown by Julia Roberts trying to pretend to be someone else. You know what I mean? Usually she is playing some version of cute, this time cute and older and in a bad bad wig. Besides the wig distraction it was an entertaining view, just maybe suited for the grown ups, as it might make the kids yawn a bit. 3/5 today.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Easy Green Living - Renee Loux

Easy Green Living - Renee Loux, 2008
Now I have to be the first to admit that I didn't read this book cover to cover and usually I wouldn't post unless I had. I was returning library books as they were close to overdue, and reminding myself that study was to come first and not to choose anymore to read. But this one was the first one I spied as I stepped into the doors. Specifically placed to tempt me.

So I have managed to flick through and read a few sections. To be honest I think if you sat down and read it all, you might be convinced to leave all your dangerous things like deoderant, tupperware and teflon pans in your toxic house - head for the woods and live off the land with one wooden bowl and dog hair blanket. Woops you might be allergic to dog hair, better just take the bowl.

However as she says at the beginning, small changes make your life greener. Speaking of which at the museum today we noticed a recycling display. Did you know that polysterene never biodegrades? It will last for ever, so that cup that you take two sips out of and is discarded will be rubbish still when your grandkids are old? I have asked before at work that we change to cardboard cups, maybe I need to photo copy a few pages and get more vocal.

Anyways I was thinking this would probably be a good christmas pesent for someone in your life. Although lots of the items are American, with the good old internet they can be purchased and sent to you, but that will use up lots of carbon miles. Lots of recipes for making your own healthy alternatives.

By the way, I have always said that plastic would turn out to be one of the things that triggers cancer. I just hope that television isn't the cause. 4/5.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Bastard of Istanbul - Elif Shafak

The Bastard of Istanbul - Elif Shafak (2007)
Turkish author Elif Shafak writes a story of one family and its branches and the secret that is held between them over twenty years. American Armenian Armanoush travels to Istanbul, to meet the family of her stepfather and to discover the secrets of her Armenian past. Mainly this is the story of the women of the family and the things that bring them together and tear them apart.

Nominated for the 2008 Orange award, when first published in Turkey it resulted in the author being put on trial for insulting Turkish identity. Charges were dropped eventually. Did I enjoy it - it was ok, nothing too shocking. I found it a good length and the characters were likable enough and having visited Turkey about 15 years ago, I could visualise many of the scenes and the throngs of people. So a 3/5.