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.