Sunday, April 27, 2008

Resistance - Owen Sheers

Resistance - Owen Sheers (2007)
Set in a remote valley in Wales, the women awake on a morning in 1944 to find that their husbands and all the men have slipped away in the night. English forces have been defeated at Normandy and the Nazis have arrived in England and change is on its way.

The German soldiers who are sent to this remote valley, have managed to slip under the radar and are allowed to participate in rural life with the local women, while trying to stop people entering or leaving. I found that while I loved the idea of this book, I didn't really bond with the characters feeling them to be a bit two dimensional. I could see Cate Blanchett or Kate Winslet as the abandoned Welsh farmers wife and Matt Damon playing the sensitive and caring German officer, who is disillusioned with the war and finds some peace away from the action.

So sorry Owen Sheers, I had high hopes for you, your book was the first read from the library pile. This is an honoured position, usually reserved for the one I most want to read. For disappointing me, I am afraid it is only a 2/5 for you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sick Girl - Amy Silverstein

Sick Girl - Amy Silverstein (2007)
In her early twenties Amy, a New York law student becomes sick with a virus and ends up having to have a heart transplant. Expected to only live for a further 10 years she writes this book at the 17 year post transplant milestone, married and with a son.

I have read other reviews that remark on her honesty and courage. To be honest I found her a bit whiney and annoying. I am sure her journey has been super stressful and difficult, but I felt weighted down by her story and wished she could have stopped to smell the roses more often.

Interesting stuff though 2/5

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Definitely Maybe

Definitely Maybe (2008)

My intention was that I would avoid this movie, as I had seen shorts and thought it was sure to be a by the numbers chick flick. I really wanted to see Lars and the real Girl, but friends outvoted my choice. So there we were, meeting at the cheap $10 movie theatre on a chilly autumn afternoon.

Actually it wasn't quite as I thought it would be, I thought Ryan Reynolds did a good job of holding his own as a leading man without coming across as smarmy. This movie promo picture doesn't really show but Abigail Breslin (the wee beauty queen from Little Miss Sunshine), is actually his leading lady, and shares half the screeen time, and is the source of most of the jokes. The three girlfriends that the story is about, at least come across as interesting and intelligent women, which does go against the grain of most hollywood parts.

A chick flick it is, go meet your girlfriend, have a latte and a big slice of cake and enjoy. 3/5

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer (1996)
In 1992 the body of Chris McCandless was found in a bus, on a remote trail in the Alaskan countryside. Walking away from family and friends, Chris had chosen to live in the wild taking with him only a ten pound bag of rice and was expecting to live off the land.

Jon Krakauer originally wrote an article on this 22 year old, but has expanded it into the events leading up to his death and looking at his own personal quest for adventure and solitude.

This book has recently been made into the movie directed by Sean Penn, I haven't seen it yet but look forward to viewing it at some stage.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On Gold Mountain - Lisa See

On Gold Mountain - Lisa See (1995)
Lisa See is the author of one of this years favourite books Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. This time she steps into non-fiction mode and looks back into her families past, and the immigration of her family patriarch Fong See, with his arrival and life in America (known as Gold Mountain by the Chinese).

Fong See originally came to the US to track down his father and brothers, who had come over to work for the railroad companies as they expanded into the west of the country. Starting his own business as a merchant, he started out by hiring men to sew Chinese silk into crotchless panties for local prostitutes. Expanding into antiques and Chinese imports he managed to diversify his business and marry a Caucasian woman and raise many children.

A fascinating insight into a family that reached across the two cultures and all the changes that the 20th century brought. Slightly too long for my taste, I got a bit frustrated towards the end I enjoyed Lisa Sees look into her family. It was interesting towards the end to find out that much of the story was new to her and most of her family and like any family, there are many versions of the truth. 3/5

La Vie En Rose

La Vie En Rose - Dvd (2007)
I was so tempted to see this at the movies, but couldn't find a friend who hadn't seen it to accompany me. I don't mind going by myself, as long as it is before 5pm. So I waited til it arrived on dvd, and then reserved it at the local library.

Marion Cotillard you certainly enjoyed your oscar and after watching this movie, I think yours is the most deserved in recent years. What an astonishing job you did of portraying Edith Piaf over the decades, especially after seeing you so beautiful at the oscars I am thinking what a emotianal and physical stretch this role must have offered you.

At the beginning of the movie I was also struck by how beautiful the fashions were of the 1920s were, with their long straight sillohuette and wonderful coats and hats.

What points to give this movie - I think a well deserved 4/5 will sit well.

Friday, April 11, 2008

People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks (2008)
I was hooked on the first page and enjoyed it to the last. Hanna Heath is a rare book expert who travels to Sarajevo to work on a famous Haggadah, a Jewish family prayer book that has survived 500 years. As the clues about the origins and path of the book come together, Hanna is able to restore the book and understand the mysteries held within it covers.

I loved the story and felt that it held up all the way through the book, was unpredictable and at least it didn't go all da vinci code and get caught up into too many silly stories, predictable deaths and car chases.

Definitely worth a look, I'm going to give it a 4.5/5. I'm going to go and read March, Geraldine Brooks earlier book, that I have sitting on my bookshelf. Apparently it won the Pulitzer prize for fiction, but I am not usually too convinced by literary awards. I find them a bit phony and pretentious and don't really feel they reflect the books I like.

Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips- Kris Carr

Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips - Kris Carr (2007)
Kris Carr was only 31 when she was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Finding a truckload of information was available, but very little geared towards her age group she began writing and filming her experience.

An interesting book, with lots of great information and some that needs to be taken with a grain of salt, or in Kris case a truckload of green vegetables. Trying to avoid a toxic life, she advocates a vegan, mainly raw food diet, yoga and cleansing enemas. After seeing her on Oprah, you have to admire her determination and zest for living a good life, and I think she gives hope to many.

Certainly a great read for any young person diagnosed with cancer - a readable 2/5.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Contact Wounds, Jonathan Kaplan

Contact Wounds - Jonathan Kaplan (2005)

Jonathan Kaplan was born, and grew up in South Africa. He then became a general surgeon specialising in trauma work which took him to various war hotspots.

The first part of the book was about his growing up and living in South Africa, which I enjoyed and was quite interesting. The second part, which I thought would interest me more, about his work as a surgeon, felt disjointed and I couldn't wait for it to end. It felt a bit like interesting dinner party stories thrown together with no real connection between them, so I lost interest, but had already read 150+ pages. I took some advice a long time ago, and I can't remember where it was from, but it was that if you don't enjoy the first 100, don't carry on.

Apparently he has written a better first book called "The Dressing Station" so maybe this book was just a filler of the stories that were edited out of book one. I should have maybe taken time to look for the earlier work, but was browsing and it was a random pick off the library shelves. Sorry Jonathan I am going to do a Simon Cowell, just a 1/5 for me.