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.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Ten Best Days of My Life - Adena Halpern

The Ten Best Days of My Life - Adena Halpern (2008)
Much better than the usual sugar coated chick lit novel, Alexandra is the reckless party girl who squanders her parents money, starts a new life of her own and then BAM. She is hit by a mini cooper, when out walking her dog at night. So at 29, she finds herself in heaven, which is much to her liking with no cellulite, a closet full of designer wear, her grandparents and a cute neighbour living next to her in her dream house.

One catch, in order to keep all of her seventh heaven, she must describe her ten best days on earth.

Sweet and charming, I enoyed this short little read. 4/5

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Lady Elizabeth - Alison Weir

The Lady Elizabeth - Alison Weir (2008)
I thought this was a strong showing from Alison Weir, who has departed from her non-fiction books to produce this, her second novel. Knowledgeable in all things Henry the 8th and Queen Elizabeth I, she is able to produce a book rich in historical fact without being too staid.

Filled with the scandals that surrounded the English court I felt I learnt a couple of things. I never knew how Mary died or how her marriage to Phillip of Spain panned out, and I am sure in all those movies that are out and about, the Elizabeth is portrayed in sumptuous outfits while Mary is portrayed as dull and pious. In the book however, Alison Weir draws our attentions to Elizabeths role in maintaining a Protestant style of dressing with little ornamentation while Mary is drawn to the more Catholic opulence.

A little bit long for my tastes, I however was drawn in to the story and could picture Elizabeth pacing around the tower of London (the first place I visited upon arriving in London).

A good read while tucked up in bed in the winter 3/5.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

If This Is a Man/ The Truce - Primo Levi

If This Is a Man/ The Truce - Primo Levi
I had studied this one in the bookstore, and then as usual did an online library search and had it within two days. Tucked up in my bed with layers of duvets and an electric blanket on, I pondered how such a thing could have occured, and how anyone at all survived such hardships. I am too soft, I would not have lasted.

Primo Levi was a young Italian chemist when he was betrayed to the Germans, during the second world war. Packed into cattle wagons, he was sent to Poland to one of the concentration camps that supported the main camp Auschwitz.

The first book If This Is a Man, is written in 1947 two years after his release where he tells of his experiences during his imprisonment. Only published originally in Italian this book was not released generally until the 1950s. Stunning in its simplicity it is a true tale of survival, of living, of dying.

The Truce follows Levis release and journey across Europe, back to his home town of Turin. Not a great read, it instead offers some completition.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hold Tight - Harlan Coben

Hold Tight - Harlan Coben (2008)
After a late night shift at work, and a late bedtime I decided that I would easily finish this new thriller from Harland Coben. It felt a little bit like hard work, as I think he tried to tie in too many stories at once. Central is Dr Mike and his wife Tia who are looking for their teenage son Adam, who is missing.

Then there is there daughter Jill and her friend Yasmin. Yasmin and her dad and his girlfriend, Yasmins teacher and his wife. There is also the mystery of another teenager who commited suicide at the local high school, the two abducted women and their torturers, and the police investigator and her team chasing them.

Every so often I had to put the book down and try to figure out the involvement of the character. As always Harland Coben has written a book that is easy to get involved in, pushes boundries and raises modern moral and ethical issues - controlling our children, restrictions to the internet, email use, organ transplantation and teenage rebellion.

A 2/5 for this ride.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lessons in Heartbreak - Cathy Kelly

Lessons in Heartbreak - Cathy Kelly (2008)

I had never read one of Cathy Kellys books before, so I can't tell you if it is a good or bad example of her writing. I usually try and avoid too many chick lit books, as so often they fall into the bad stereotype of characters and lazy writing. This one I liked though and it wasn't too hard to follow through to the end.

Three storylines make up this one book. Izzie, the model agency booker in New York whose boyfriend is unhappily married, Annalise whose husband has just left her in Ireland and Lily (Izzies grandmother) whose past holds some secrets that she has never told to anyone.

Certainly a gently read and perfect for lying on a beach somewhere warm, or if you live in our neck of the woods - lying on your electric blanket with three duvets.


Monday, August 04, 2008


Zodiac (2007)
Hmmm I am not sure about this one. I had heard the hype about how it was one of the best movies of 2007. Me, I couldn't see it, maybe because I watched it in three parts due to film festival bottom numbing experiences over the weekend.

Serial killers have been done before and I didn't find this one particularly clever or scary. I mean Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo may have been all trying to pretend to be serious actors, but even the man eyecandy dressed in op shop clothes wasn't so convincing.

Sorry serious Hollywood over-hyped movie you get a huge 1/5. I think your writer/directors/producers need to visit a film festival, kick back and watch how the poor people do it.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Blind Mountain

Blind Mountain (2008)

Ahh the last of the film festival shows. I only managed to get to seven this year, but we heard of a friends friend who managed twenty one. Blind mountain is set in China in the early 90's where Bai who is a young college educated city girl is lured on the promise of work, to a remote mountain village. Drugged she then wakes up to find that she is married to a poor farmer and left with him and his parents, and no chance of escape.

What a bleak life for this young woman who longs to return to her own family. My friends and I decided that life in our comfy houses, with stable jobs maybe wasn't too bad after seeing this movie. Also three changes of clothes would be difficult for us to live with, and oh my goodness the soundtrack sucked. Don't go if you need a movie to cheer you up, this can only bring you down 1.5/5

The Visitor

The Visitor (2007)
I chose to not read the blurb in the film festival guide, as this had been chosen by one of my friends and sometimes it is nice to be surprised. What a great little film. Written and directed by Tom McCarthy who also did "The Station Agent", he again gives us glimpses into the lives of ordinary people.

Walter is a college lecturer who is going through the motions of living. When asked to present a paper at an economics conference he travels to his New York apartment where he is surprised to find a young couple are living, unknown to him.

The rest of the movie follows what happens when they are together. I highly recommend you splurge and buy yourself a ticket to this show - I am sure it will make you smile, and it might make you sad, but it will make you want to take up drumming. 4/5

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Caramel (2007)
Another film festival treat, Caramel is a film set in a Beruit beauty salon and is the story of five women, their lovelives, culture and their friends. Don't be scared though, there were a lot of men in the audience when we went. Nadine Labaki is the stunning actress who plays the lead character and also directs this little comedy drama.

We certainly laughed and enjoyed this little surprise - oh for more films like this!! 4/5

Friday, August 01, 2008

It's a Free World

It's a Free World (2007)
Another film festival entry, one I almost bypassed seeing as it was preceeded by a short movie about people trafficking in Eastern Europe. This short managed to be a bit disturbing not by its treatment of humans but I was put off by a scene where a cat is drowned. I understand that maybe it was mean to be a touch of irony, but really I don't think it was necessary. To me, animal and child cruelty are horrid unnecessary scenes that I don't want to see in a movie I paid $14 to view.

Anyways Ken Loach as always shows a touch of real life in a movie where the characters are realistic, vulnerable and raw. Angie is an East Ender single mother who in trying to make her situation better, begins an agency to provide casual workers for low paid jobs. Often exploiting illegal immigrants and dealing with dodgy bosses, me and my friends remarked at the end that maybe our lives weren't so bad after all and we would stop complaining for the day. Tomorrow we will be back to moaning about our jobs, just not as loudly.

There are touches of humour and the Angie is a likable soul, but really it is a bit of a grim sad story that you know will be happening in a thousand cities around the world, and even in New Zealand we know that this goes on with many immigrants. Maybe for me the appeal of this type of movie, and much of the film festival content is being able to see real faces on the big screen. I am super sick of blockbuster Hollywood hunks and CSI bimbo models who grace so many shows. Good on you Ken Loach, 3/5.