Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Dream House - Rachel Hore


The Dream House - Rachel Hore (2006)

This is the first of Rachel Hores novels. It's a pretty simplistic plot, busy career mother of two, Kate lives in London with her husband and large mortgage. Decides to move to the country and find her 'dream house'. Meets by chance an elderly lady who lives in the house that she pines for, etc..etc..

You get the drift, stantdard sort of chick lit dreaming of a better life, husband doesn't understand me, cute younger guy who gets where she is coming from, we can see where this is going stuff. I am afraid I can only dredge up a 2/5 for this one, and enjoyed her last two novels much more than this.

So, that's pretty much it for 2009. It has been a busy year of reading and watching. I've spent more time at the library than the bookstores - when did new books become $50 all of a sudden? I enjoyed my holiday time off during the film festival, and might do it again next year, and am enjoying the movies that are out, and there are more to look forward to.

I even managed to get 3 comments on a couple of posts this year - woo hoo!!! I learnt to love Rescue Me on dvd, loved 500 Days of Summer at the Movies, am playing Paloma Faith on the stereo and ipod cause I love her so much, and am telling my friends to read The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Happy New Year to you and yours, and hope you all have some relaxing time for yourself over the holidays.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Lovely Bones


The Lovely Bones (2009)

The sun was shining today, and although I felt guilty for watching a movie while the weather was nice, I thought I would nip in and see this one. Living in Wellington, I didn't go and see the stars at the premiere or rush out to see it in the first week, but waited til it was quiet.

I read the book ages ago, and although I remember the idea of the book being novel I was never particularly struck with it. I did enjoy Peter Jacksons adaptation of the story of Susie Salmon, who at 14 is raped and murdered by a neighbour. I have seen some interviews with Peter Jackson on tv, and agree with his position of not showing anything graphic, but still he is able to portray the fear and the horror of that girl without making it unpalatable.

Susies main story is of her family and friends, and of first and lost love. Her version of heaven looks like fun, although I thought it was a tad heavy on the computed generated side, I am glad you get to dress up funky and dance around.

All the actors were fabulous, although I was a bit distracted by Mark Walburg and Susan Sarandons hair, I am glad to see all of our old family furniture is being used by set designers around the world. They did forget the blue mountain pottery though, what a zing that blue stuff added to our brown and orange living room.

4/5 Mr Jackson, not only for being a kiwi bloke but for showing a little bit of restraint.

Angels and Demons - dvd


Angels and Demons - dvd (2009)

This one I thought was always going to be a hard sell. Wrapped up in the Vatican, popes and Catholics, is hardly what you would use to make a sexy thriller movie, although Ewan McGregor is rather tasty, even with his hair dye. I think I'm a bit obsessed, but why does every actor over 40 look like their hair colour was done with a bottle of Clairol over the kitchen sink?

Another thing that put me off, was Tom Hanks, who although likable always in this movie seems to have a bit of a smirk, like he looks a bit peeved to be there. I'd be a bit miffed too, what with all that running and getting shot at and stuff.

I guess the attraction of Dan Browns novels are that, in the process of an often simplistic thriller plot, he manages to intersperse the action with quite a bit of informative stuff about religion, history and symbolism, that makes the book interesting. So, it was always going to be hard to translate this to a 2 hour movie, so alas it only makes it a 2.5/5 from me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Day After Night - Anita Diamant


Day After Night - Anita Diamant (2009)

I have never read The Red Tent, Anita Diamants earlier bestseller, but had read a quick review of this book a couple of weeks before Christmas. Receiving it from the library reserve pile, there is something precious about being the first customer to read it. Almost, I think better than reading a book you have bought, I think because it never feels a waste of money when it is free.

So after the liberation of Europe in 1945, displaced Jewish survivors find themselves in a British internment camp in Alit in Israel. Four women of differing backgrounds find themselves friends and each tells their story of the war and how they try to escape from the barbed wire.

I liked the premise of finding out about the women's past and their futures, and even though the author tried to make each story individual, this I felt then made them into more of a cliche. I also found myself getting a bit muddled between all the characters, as it was a shortish book, there was little time for getting to know each of the girls.

It was however an interesting period in history, that I know little about and I enjoyed this introduction to this period of modern Israeli development. 3/5

Ned and Katina - Patricia Grace


Ned and Katina - Patricia Grace (2009)
Television in New Zealand, has graced us with such wonderful modern Christmas classics as Deuce Bigilow - Male Gigolo, and Big Daddy. I am sure they have 12 year old boys running the stations, how pathetic.
So I have turned to dvds and books to pass the evenings. Ned and Katina got a good write up in the local paper some weeks back, so I was pleased to see it had turned up in my reserve pile at the library. Patricia Grace is a well known Kiwi writer who was approached by the Nathan family to tell the story of their parents.
Ned was a young Maori man who in the second world war, went to fight in the Maori Battalion. Sent to Crete, after the British and Kiwis withdraw he is left with others to fend for themselves in the hills surrounding remote villages. Provided with supplies and food, they put the locals at risk, but are welcomed and protected for as long as they can. Katina is a young schoolteacher, whose family become friendly with the young kiwi, and a friendship is formed.
After betrayal to the Germans, Ned and a mate are sent on to Prisoner of War Camps, where he keeps sending letters to Katina. Unsure of her feelings, as he receives no replies, after the war he fights for the right to get married and returns to Crete.
Katina then comes with him to New Zealand, first living in Northland before coming south to Wellington and then back North for retirement. They travels several times back to Crete, to meet up with family and to represent New Zealand at commemorations and services to honour the dead.
Many of the stories within this books are ones that we would find unbelievable in a novel. And as so many of these old folk die, I wonder what stories die with them. One is where Ned and other dignitaries attend a meeting where they meet a woman who with her husband in the warm, rescued many hundreds of kiwi and Australian soldiers, and sailed them to safety in their boat from the Crete coast. Discovered by the Germans, they were then put into a concentrations camp and then came home to live in poverty, until the RSA intervened to provide them with a reward and a pension to live on.
So a 3/5 for this story that the family must be proud to have on their shelves.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

More Classic Kiwis - The L&P Commercials

Aaaahhhhh we're a simple folk. I think these are my fave ads ever. And yes, our mum was on the PTA, and yes, we did have a key to the school pool. And no, there was no adult supervision, no cellphones. Just 8 hours of kids left at the pool by themselves, all under 12 years of age. Summer was awesome as a kid!!

Summer this year though, has been a bit grey and cooler than usual, no global warming for us!! Still I'm going to enjoy every day off work as though it was stinking hot!!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wuthering Heights Dvd


Wuthering Heights (2008)

You know, I do love a good classical novel adaption, and this one was done well. I thought it captured the Cathy/Heathcliff love/betrayal relationship well, with Heathcliff (Tom Hardy), being handsome and conflicted, while manipulating all around him. The directors and screen writers were able to find a good balance between portraying the passion of Heathcliff and Cathy, and the gothic drama of the way that their love eventually destroyed both their lives.

So I am going to have to give it a Christmas 4/5 for watchability. Television is only playing repeats of horrible comdramadies at the moment, and is not fit for watching. So hopefully when my call ends tomorrow morning and the cellphone is switched over to my boss, I can sneak out and watch some movies.

What the Dog Saw - Malcolm Gladwell


What the Dog Saw - Malcolm Gladwell (2009)

Malcolm Gladwell is one of those authors, of whom I have picked up or ordered his books from the library, and then failed to read any one of them. I often pick them up at the bookstore and browse, but always put them back down.

This time, I thought I would bite the bullet, and actually read one, and was surprised that I got this new book, only a week after reserving it. What the Dog Saw, is a collection of articles that have appeared in the New Yorker. Obviously a talented writer, with great research skills , he writes about a variety of topics, attempting to get within the subject and understand it, questioning and probing the subject.

So the most interesting chapter I found was on Mammography, and also talked about the paradox of Intelligence reform and long range bombing missions.

In the end though, I found myself skipping pages and just wanted the book to end, feeling a little like I was getting lectured by the know it all nerdy boy, like Sheldon on the big bang theory. Maybe he would be perfect to read this on a talking book series. I think my dad would enjoy this book more than me, which is a shame, as my inner nerd wanted to like it. 2/5

The Memory Garden - Rachel Hore


The Memory Garden - Rachel Hore (2007)
It's a Christmas miracle, I finally finished not one but two books. My error may have been in trying to read two at a time in a busy pre holiday week, but grey skies meant I didn't feel the need to rush outside or go for a walk, but to lie horizontal on my bed and read and snooze.
The Memory Garden is the second Rachel Hore book I have read, and her first book is sitting on my to be read pile. Although I was tempted to buy it, I always try and check with the library first, as I hate reading a bought book, disliking it and feeling guilty about spending or wasting the money.
In this book Mel, a university tutor takes a sabbatical to write a book about NewLyn Painters in Cornwall. She hires a garden cottage, taking a break to consider a broken relationship and the recent death of her family. While there she discovers paintings of a mysterious PT, and tries to discover who the talented artist may be.
I like Rache Hores style of writing, her believable characters and although you know where the plot is heading the journey is enjoyable. One part of the story is happening in the present, but the other plot line occurs around 1912 - 1920, and this helps to fill in the gaps. A pleasant Christmas read. 3/5

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas - A Kiwi Christmas

I found this one on youtube and it pretty much sums up a kiwi christmas. It is summer time here, and although we usually all get together for a big cooked meal, it also means running around outside with the new toys, or garden cricket or going to the beach.

I am busily reading, and have some movies and dvds to watch. So there will be more stuff coming up soon. Big thanks to my number one fan Miss Pia, without you I would have given up months ago.

So, I hope you all get to feast with your friends, families and furries.

Smooches

Julie Q

Monday, December 21, 2009

Music Monday - Paloma Faith

My newest song to play over and over - Paloma Faith and New York. I did actually buy her singles on itunes and then went to the CD store, and bought a CD. A real one, with real money!! I haven't done that in ages, but thought I would like some old fashioned CDs playing over the weekend.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Music Monday - Texas and Alan Rickman

Knotted - Michelle Holman


Knotted - Michelle Holman (2009)

I sooooo wanted to like this one. A, because I liked the idea of the main character being a nurse, and it was written by a kiwi writer. The premise sounded good, struggling nurse sister becomes the guardian of her sisters children after her sister dies of cancer.

I just couldn't do it, after 40 pages I could feel my brain switiching off, and I wanted more. I could tell where the plot was heading, the old I hate the new handsome stranger scenario.

So sorry Kiwi writer, but your book has to head back to the library, I hope someone else enjoys you.

Rifling Through My Drawers - Clarissa Dickson Wright


Rifling Through My Drawers - Clarissa Dickson Wright (2009)

Clarissa Dickson Wright is one half of the two fat ladies, who cooked their way around England on their tv series. I never sat down and watched a full episode, but have seemed to have watched snippets of it, every so often.

She has written an earlier biography, which I haven't read, but I spied this one at Borders and thought it might be ok. Going from January through the months, she writes about touring around with her book, going to literary festivals, hunting, British produce and game, and is very anti the political correctness of the New Labour Britain that she inhabits.

She is also anti the anti hunting protesters and I did find a bit grating after a while, and although for country folk, it may be a bit of an interesting read, as a dedicated townie, I found myself a bit bored with all the rants against a modern life. 2/5

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Jane Austen Book Club - Dvd


The Jane Austen Book Club - DVD (2007)

I started watching this one on Friday night, but the hospital cellphone called me into work half way through, so I only got to finish it this evening. I remember being underwhelmed by the book, a promising plot and original idea, that somehow fell a bit flat. Therefore, I didn't rush to the cinema, but chose to wait til the dvd came out.

Basically a group of friends, decide to form a book club, and each month get together to talk about one of Jane Austens books. Like the stories, their lives are complicated, and through the meetings we get to hear about their relationships and they get to thinking about their own lives and how they relate to 200 year old stories.

I don't know quite what was missing in the movie, maybe the same thing the book was lacking. I think I missed any true emotion, sure there was crying and the end was sweet, but I didn't feel any true joy, any moment that I will remember from the movie next week, thus a 2/5.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife


The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

I think it was last year I finally read the book, and enjoyed it but wasn't wowed by it. My hairdresser had said it was a great movie, and I would love it, and to take a couple of kleenex. The selling point was of course Eric Bana, as Henry the time traveling librarian.

He did an awesome job, of traveling back and forth through his life, although I was a bit put off by his accent, and the very bad wigs at the beginning of the movie. I guess the book, gives you much more time to adjust to the idea to take in the thought of Claires life moving in a straight line, and Henry jumping to and fro into the future, and back into the past.

Still in the time given them, I thought they did a good job. The only things were that the house, and the paddock looked completely different in my mind, but that's ok, I can forgive the director for having a different vision.

I think the girls will love it, and for them I give it a 3/5, the boys will see it as a chick flick.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver


The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver (2009)

I had a sneaky suspicion when I got this book from the library, that I might not get around to reading it, a hunch, a feeling. I read a couple of quick reviews that talked about the book, how it would get to introduce Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Lev Trotsky.

I so wanted it to succeed, but I couldn't do it. I only made it to page 38, and I had to stop, it was making my brain hurt. Every paragraph felt like it was trying to cram too many words and images into it, I couldn't step into the pages and feel the story or hear the characters because of the frothy words.

So alas, back to the library it goes. Unloved, with barely a crease on it. So sorry big book, I so wanted to enjoy the story you held, but time is short, and I have another 6 books on my nightstand to read. You had your chance, and I am afraid you blew it. 0/5

Monday, December 07, 2009

Twenties Girl - Sophie Kinsella


Twenties Girl - Sophie Kinsella (2009)

I started this one with some trepidation, as I had trod the Chick lit book pile a few times this year, and for the most part was either disappointed, or unable to finish. Which is a shame, as sometimes the brain needs a rest, a rest from the constant wordiness of some literary prose.

Twenties Girl is certainly light fiction. Lara and her family attend the funeral of their great aunt Sophie, who has passed away at the local nursing home at 105 years of age. Lara, who has just finished a relationship, and struggling in her job, is looking for some help and inspirations and never expects her dead aunt to come to her aid.

A 3/5, for an extra light holiday read.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Knowing - DVD


Knowing - DVD (2009)

My fascination with Nicholas Cage is the same one I have with Liam Neeson, I like to look at the bad hair dye job/hair piece. As these guys age, they try to keep them at the everyman 35-40 year old age look, but it would look more real, done with a couple of grey streaks rather than a solid cap of black.

The movie, well I thought it was ok. I didn't bother to read the back cover or any reviews first, so that helps to keep the story fresh and free of others opinions. Nicholas Cage is the caring single father, who must keep his son safe. That's all I'm saying. Not going to give it away. Except it was ok, it was a typical disaster scenario, and there were no big surprises. So I can only give it a 3/5 too.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Road to Lost Innocence - Somaly Mam


The Road to Lost Innocence - Somaly Mam (2008)

I'll have to start with giving this book a grand 5/5. Why? Well it is one that will stay with me for a long time. Somaly is a Cambodian girl, who at 16 years old is sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather. In this non-fiction book, she describes her plight during 10 years in various brothels in South East Asia, until she is rescued by a French Humanitarian Aid Worker.

After escaping the brothels, she then seeks to rescue other girls who have also been sold into brothels, many as young as 5 and 6 years old. The statistics are staggering in this novel, with one third of the prostitutes in Phnom Peng being a young child (pg 185) and that 1 in 40 girls born in Cambodia will be sold into sex slavery (forward).

The story is blunt, and its descriptions of the treatment of the girls is brutal and disturbing, but how can you turn away from what is happening to these girls? I think as well, that my stomach turns at the thought of people going to these countries on holiday to abuse small children. Shame on you, it makes me cringe that people could do such horrid revolting things to children, with such disregard for them and treating them like a piece of rubbish.

Even though I wanted to stop reading at several stages, it is such a powerful story, and you have to admire her courage for trying to force change. What an awesome job Somaly Mam is doing.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Born Into Brothels- dvd


Born Into Brothels - DVD (2005)

This documentry was the 2005 winner of the Academy Award for Documentry Feature. Zana Briski, is a New York Photographer, who goes to Calcutta to take pictures of the women working in the sex industry there. She finds however that she is mainly drawn to the children who live within the brothels, and helps to give them a voice by giving them simple cameras. The children often take stunning pictures of the world around them, and this movie ends up becoming the childrens stories.

Brutal and honest, I think a few preteens here could do with realising how hard life can be, and that they are lucky to have such a relaxed life her in New Zealand, with so many opportunities. 3/5

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Jamie's Ministry of Food - dvd


Jamie's Minsitry of Food - DVD (2008)

I like Jamie Oliver, at least he is out trying to motivate people to cook, simple food, not crazy things with 50 ingredients and trying to outposh everyone with your tiny plates of lobster a la Top Chef.

In this DVD, he goes to one Northern English town to try and teach the town to cook. I couldn't believe how many people couldn't cook. Mothers who have kids who have never eaten a homemade meal and who let their families live on takeaways. It seems to be so common, and it shocks me how many blogging woman seem proud of the fact that they never cook.

I guess, I get takeaways maybe once a fortnight, but most nights I make some food from scratch, and most days get 5-7 servings of fruit and veg. I don't think cooking is hard, or it is as hard as you make it, and although my repertoire maybe small, it suits me fine. Most kiwi women would be the same with everyone cooking for themselves or their families.

You could sense Jamies frustration, at the lack of success of his programme, and I thought although his intentions were good, he had little support or backing. He should have gone to the schools first, and invited the parents there to participate. It did demonstrate though, how managing the basic skills gave so many people confidence to change their lives, just by showing them one or two recipes.

I'm going to give it a 3/5, and would much rather watch this than Gordon Ramseys Kitchen hell rubbish. I don't know why they keep making that stupid programme.

The Brightest Star in the Sky - Marian Keyes


The Brightest Star in the Sky - Marian Keyes (2009)

I felt like reading something light, and even though this was a doorstopper of a book, I had high hopes. I only managed to get 197 pages in, before I had to give up, and relegated it to the return to library pile. How disapointing, sad, depressing and wasteful it felt. I just couldn't feel for any of the many characters that she was writing about, I had trouble telling them apart and I didn't care what happened to them. It just felt sloppy and lazy to me, like she didn't invest any time in creating emotions for the, just time on the colour of their hair, or their style of clothes.

So, Marian Keyes, you score a sorry 0/5 from me. Which makes me sad.

The Glass Painter's Daughter - Rachel Hore


The Glass Painter's Daughter - Rachel Hore (2008)

Hello first book of December, first day of summer. Alas our day is once again drenched with relenting rain, and a mediocre temperature. Our Aussie pals are sweltering, and yet we have only managed a few days of sun. However, I shouldn't complain, as it was a long night of call, finishing just before 6am, so at midday I don't feel guilty about lying in and finishing my book, and starting a second one.

The Glass Painter's Daughter is one of those books that follows a pattern, of telling the modern story of Fran Morrison, a classical musician, who returns home to Westminster, London after her father has a stroke. His business, Minster Glass needs some help, and while there Fran becomes involved in piecing together an old angel her father has been working on.

While searching for information on the angel, she finds a Victorian diary belonging to Laura, who grieving for the loss of her sister, is searching for love.

Done well, these stories flow and feed each other, and I enjoyed that each main female character was not all soppy and lovesick, but thoughtful, independent and smart. So for that alone, I will have to give this one a 4/5, and I will be looking out for her earlier two works, The Dream House, and The Memory Garden.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Yippee for Stan

Miss Pia, Stan won Australian Idol. This is his first single, which is already number one on Itunes here. Just thought we should let you know. We hope he has an awesome time!!


Best of November


Wouldn't this be a fabulous bed to snuggle up in with a good book?

November was a bit of a funny month. The end of spring, that still felt like winter. Although it has warmed up, and sometimes I can get washing dry on the line, it has been mostly cloudy and wet. I am longing for blue skies, and spring evenings.

The best of this month has definitely been , a book that I still think about now. I wonder if Oprah would make it a book club book in her final year of shows? Maybe she would make it a movie?

I only made it to the movies once, to see , but got to see a few dvds to pass the grey evenings. The vampires did OK, and I will be interested to read the book and see how it compares.

So I am looking forward to seeing what December holds.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Moon


New Moon (2009)

I admit it, at heart I am still a 16 year old geeky girl, who likes indie music and vampire movies. 25 years later, I was still itching to see New Moon, and as most of my friends had been earlier and the weather was disgusting, I traipsed into town to see the movie. Me and lots of 14 year old girls. I did avoid the mulitplex cinema and headed to a more adult one, where at least it wasn't too full.

Did I enjoy it. I think I did, I like a bit of teenage serious vampire love stuff. Edward, Bella and Jacob love triangle keeps it interesting, and we can see that the vampires and werewolves are heading for a showdown.

Maybe the things I liked most are that the two leads aren't Hollywierd perfect. Bella has brunette hair, and doesn't have 38 double ds, and dresses like she buys things that we all can afford. She doesn't drive a porsche and have a parent who owns a mansion, and doesn't appear to work and manages to look only two years older than her. I won't watch any shows where you can't tell the difference between the kids and the adults. I like that her dad has a job, a beat up truck and a normal house. Jacob, well he is a bit too Hollywierd eat only protein shakes, buffed up between a shoot, and oh my goodness those super white glow in the dark teeth are hideous, reminding me of Ross on Friends when he got his teeth bleached.

Edward, he is a bit sappy, a bit new romantic and blousy and somehow I think the director has been unable to portray any real chemistry between him and Bella. His love is meant to be intense, and yet I didn't really get that from him.

So, I guess I better read the book at some stage and catch up on all the backstory.

3/5

Fugitive Pieces - Dvd


Fugitive Pieces - Dvd (2007)
This dvd drama, was based on an earlier book, one I had attempted to read several times but could never get into. So all of my opinions have to be based on the dvd alone.
Jakob Beer is just a child in 1942, when the Germans invade his home in Poland. His father is shot in front of his hiding spot, and he hears his mother and beloved sister Bella being taken away. Eventually he leaves his hiding spot, runs into the forest and buries himself, knowing that he will die outside. Found by a Greek archaeologist, Jakob is taken to Greece, but still haunted by the memories of his families, and stressed by the Germans who are also in Greece, he hides in the house never venturing outside.
Athos and Jakob then emigrate to Canada, to start a new life where we get to meet their neighbours and the new people entering their lives. Jakob becomes a writer, and meeting a new crowd he marries Alex, a vibrant young woman who tries to get him to forget his past and live in the present. Still haunted by his memories, he retreats to Greece to write and finds himself with a new future.
I wasn't sure when I watched this one if I enjoyed it, but thinking about it and writing it I realise it was a complex and beautiful story, one that maybe is a bit restricted by the limits of time. I have to give it a 3/5, for its beauty and the sensitivity of the main character Jakob.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Austenland - Shannon Hale


Austenland - Shannon Hale (2007)

Jane Hayes is a 30 something New Yorker, who has had 13 previous in her life, none of which matches up to either Colin Firth or to Mr Darcy. After a rich old aunty dies, Jane is left no money in the will, but instead has an all expenses paid trip to Pembrook Park, where she is immersed in Regency era manners, dresses, food and men.

It is a charming book, which to its merit is short and sweet, and I think I enjoyed the chapter headings the most, as each was devoted to one of her many boyfriends.

I am feeling an urge to immerse myself in all things Austen for a while, and with a cloudy weekend coming up may have to start Pride and Prejudice on the dvd, after I have finished my pile of rented ones from the library.

3/5

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday Is a Good Day for Music too!!

OpShop - One Day

Kiwi band, beautiful song. Always makes me sad because they have moving ads on tv using this tune.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - dvd


Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Dvd (2008)

As usual, I intended to go and see this one, but it came out in the middle of summer here when it was hot and the evenings begged to be spent sitting by the beach, out for a walk or with a lazy dinner in the backyard. I often feel guilty, if I waste a warm evening by hiding in the cinema. Movies are for cloudy or rainy days, especially this spring when sunshine has been so hard to find.

So, essentially two girlfriends arrive to spend 8 weeks in Barcelona, staying with friends. Vicky is engaged and spending time on her studies and her bestie, Cristina is searching for love. Early on in their stay they meet the charismatic, handsome and sexy artist Juan Antonio, both becoming obsessed with him.

Directed by Woody Allen, the movie is filled with witty conversation, and I enjoyed the summer holiday feel of the movie, with the beautiful scenery and gorgeous co-stars. As with most Woody Allen movies, I somehow felt the ending was a bit blunt, I wanted a resolution, a conclusion. I felt jilted and a bit shortchanged, so it has to be a 3/5, when it could have been pushing a four.

Quantum of Solace - Dvd


Quantum of Solace - Dvd (2009)

Not sure if I understood the story in this one, or was there a story? There were a lot of explosions, car chases and shooting. And, ohhhh Daniel Craig scowling in a suit, that was distracting. Glad I didn't pay movie prices for this one, it was nice to sit on the couch with my bag of chips and watch him rescue anorexic foreign models from danger. 2/5

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Time of My Life - Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi


Time of My Life - Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi (2009)

Since seeing Dirty Dancing in 1987 with a good friend, and crying at the end, I can't help but have a soft spot for Patrick Swayze. He could play a tough guy, but he could dance too!!! What teenage girl could resist? Well you all know his life story, the cancer and how it ends, so there aren't too many surprises in this book, except maybe the depth of his love for his wife and his dedication to his job.

A 3/5 for this swift read. I am sure it will be in many a girls christmas stocking this year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Flashforward - Robert J Sawyer


Flashforward - Robert J. Sawyer (1999)

I know, an old book, and Sci-fi too. Flashforward is the story about a group of scientists in Switzerland who are testing their new proton atom collider thing, when everyone in the world suffers from a 2 minute blackout. During this blackout, everyone catches a glimpse of their life, 21 years in the future. Once the 2 minutes are over, millions around the world are dead, due to cars and planes crashing, collapsing and injuring themselves or others, so there are large repercussions. Many never experience what the future holds for them, as they are asleep and are unable to remember their dreams. Futures in business will be won or lost due to visions of hovercars, new presidents and companies all seen in the two minute glimpse.

We also get to see how this vision affects the scientists who caused in, and how their lives are changed. So this book, has been made into a new tv series, although I think everyone experiences a flashforward of not so far in the future. I don't know if it is any good, and I'm not going to hunt down opinions on the web. Maybe this time I will wait, and see for myself.

I liked that the book was not a sci-fi brick, and was a quick couple of days read. It also made me think about a few things and I think I learnt another couple of nerd facts. 3/5

Monday, November 16, 2009

Makes Me Smile - Music Monday

Michael Buble - this always makes me smile. I need it this Monday.

The Book of Fires - Jane Borodale


The Book of Fires - Jane Borodale (2009)

Historical fiction is one of those genres that I cling to and even though it has its ups and downs you know that you will always come away appreciating the luxuries of modern life that we take for granted.

Seventeen year old Agnes Trussel, finds herself pregnant and knows that she cannot stay on the farm or face a life with the man who she slept with. A chance find allows her the opportunity to escape to London, where she arrives not knowing where to go.

Finding a job by chance, she becomes the assistant to Mr Blacklock who makes fireworks. In his workshop she helps him, gradually learning most of his secrets and dreaming of making fireworks in vivid colours. As her knowledge increases, she realises that hiding her pregnancy is becoming more and more difficult.

I actually was surprised at the ending, it was not what I expected, and that for me made it a more memorable book. 3/5

Walking in Light - Kelvin Cruikshank


Walking in Light - Kelvin Cruikshank (2009)

Kelvin appears with other psychics on NZ tvs Sensing Murder show, which with family permission looks into what happened to many famous unsolved cases. I am sure it has helped many families and raised the profice of psychics in NZ.

An interesting book about his childhood and growing up realizing from an early age that he could see things others couldn't, Kelvin struggled with his growing abilities. In his mid twenties it caused a meltdown and he really seemed to lose himself, before finding himself on a different journey of helping people.

Midway through the book, I could feel the turmoil of his life and could sense that there was a lot more that couldn't be written down.

3/5

Confessions of a Shopaholic


Confessions of a Shopaholic - Dvd (2009)

Oh my, if I wasn't laid low after a severe attack of the food poisoning kind, I would have reached over and stopped this awful, hideous, bad dvd and tossed it away.

Honestly, I have read the books, which have a certain kind of charm about them, but the movie well it made it all so terribly wrong. Firstly you just want to slap her, even with her bouncy sweet hair. Pay your rent first, crazy to be renting from your friend and not be able to pay her when you have buy a $800 pair of shoes. Most of her outfits were fugly too. There wasn't one worth ooohing and ahhhing over.

Possibly the producers missed their moment with this one. They should have bought it out in 2005, not in the middle of a recession, where most people want the Good Life, not Gucci.

It could have been saved, however if it had a witty script. It it had some sort of charm, but alas it was pure Hollywood rubbish, written by 12 year olds who think that Legally Blonde and Clueless are high drama.

1/5

Defiance


Defiance - Dvd (2008)

Another movie that I really wanted to like, I tried and tried, but I couldn't do it. I wasn't in the mood.

It is hard to be harsh to a movie that tells such an important story. Based on a true story, the Bielski brothers hide in the forest during the second world war. Jewish, they end up forming a large community with others sheltering there. Personally I would not have withstood one of their chilly winters, and it truly is miraculous that anybody survived.

I guess the director didn't do cheesy cliches in this movie, but for some reason it felt souless to me. 2/5

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Go Stan Go

We hope Stan wins Australian Idol, at least it is making me want to watch it, as it has been soooo boring the past couple of years. American Idol too, is far too insipid and like listening to easy listening radio. I do like Simon Cowell and the audition shows are always good for a wee giggle.

I never understand the folks who can't hold a tune and are devestated when they don't get through. Honestly, video yourself before and watch it, with lots of other people, and alcohol.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I am Ozzy


I Am Ozzy - Ozzy Osbourne (2009)

Well you have to think that although these are defiantly Ozzys stories about his life, his dyslexia may have prevented him from actually writing this book, but after reading it I am surprised this guy is still standing and still alive. It certainly made me laugh, as he has led a life full of alcohol, sex, drugs and some rock and roll.

The love for his wife Sharon and children is expressed in surprisingly depth in this book, but beware the animal lover reading it, as at various times he apologizes to doves, rats, bats, cats and pigs.

You might also want to be aware that there is plenty of sex and swearing in the book, so it might not be a good idea to put it in grandmas Christmas stocking, but I bet your brother would love it. I bought it for mine, and then had to get one for myself too, as I couldn't wait for him to read it.

Our family loved the Osbournes, and you have to admire them for putting it all on show. I am sure much of the television show was manipulated for good business, but it succeeded in making them a household name and growing their brand.

So I have to say, I am going to aim for a big 4/5, just because I don't know when an autobiography made me laugh out loud so much.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Laughing With - Regina Spektor

It is Monday, so it is time for some music.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Winter Ghosts - Kate Mosse


The Winter Ghosts - Kate Mosse (2009)

It didn't take me long to read this story, as it appeared to have been adapted from a short story, and was just the thing I needed to be able to pick up and put down on my breaks at work this weekend.

Freddie is travelling through France in 1928, meeting up with friends, when he has a car accident and finds himself in a small French village. Invited to dine with the locals, he finds himself drawn to a beautiful local girl, who tells him about what has happened locally. After losing his own precious brother in the great war, Freddie is looking for answers to his tragic death.

Returning 5 years later, he begins to investigate what happened to his mysterious friend, and the secrets that the village still holds onto. Ohhhh spooky.

Actually not so spooky, and I appreciated that the author did not spin this tale out to 800 pages, and kept it short and sweet. 3/5

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger


Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger (2009)

I guess this book has come out with a lot of fanfare. The Time Travelers Wife, is one everybody has read and this year it comes to the movies. So like lots of others I had high hopes for this one. I hear the rumours, the slight disappointments.

For me, it seemed like it was a book of good ideas. Julia and Valentina are identical 'mirror' twins, who find out that an aunt they didn't know, has died and left them her flat in London that overlooks the Highgate Cemetery. So they move and begin to discover the world by themselves.

I could feel that this book was one that was plotted with a couple of good ideas, but much of the beginning and middle felt like it was filled with filler, just trying to lead you to the end. There is the obsessive compulsive/hoarder neighbour, the aunts boyfriend, and the aunt who as a ghost remains around the house who are all playing their parts as interesting background characters. It was the twins who annoyed me the most, they seemed passionless and insipid. I would LOVE to have a flat given to me in London, I would live in the cemetery if I had to.

I liked the ending, I didn't see it coming, but I am not going to tell you what it is. Read the book. 3/5

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - Dvd


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - dvd (2008)

Well I feel a bit conflicted about this one. I read the book ages ago, but the story is one that is hard to forget. Bruno is a naive 8 year old, who with his family has to move from Berlin to the country, due to his fathers new job. leaving friends and family behind. As the second world war rages, Bruno continues to do things that young boys do, play, explore and read adventure books.

Sighting what he thinks is a farm through his bedroom window, he sneaks out of the house to explore and there he meets Shmeul, a boy his own age. The boys manage to meet up several times and manage to form a friendship, trying to find time to play and laugh.

I don't like to give away what happens, but find myself thinking of the book which surprises you with it's ending more than the movie. The movie felt a bit forced, I think it captured the youthful naivete of Bruno, but because the form is much more visual than the book, you could see where it was headed very early on. It was a bit disconcerting to have all the actors perform in their proper British accents, they all put in a solid performance. My other criticism would be that I am not sure whether this movie was made for an adult, or youth audience, maybe a family audience without it really being a family film.

3/5

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The International


The International - dvd (2009)

Clive wears a trenchcoat, runs, squints a lot, looks like an ad for pre botox (big worry lines), doesn't shave, has lovely big manhands, shoots guns and goes to Turkey.

Naomi, has lovely skin, never seems to age, is very blond, wears a great grey scarf, has a cute movie husband, seems to be like a teenager in an adult job and gets to Italy pretty quickly.

The movie has a big gunfight, seems a bit too cool for school, lots of men die, does try and explain about how some bigshots manipulate many conflicts around the world, lots of folks make money exploiting nations and wars, has beautiful scenes of Turkey and the Italian coast, is very pretty to look at and I am not sure I understood it, but I was a bit distracted watching it.

So I can only drag a 1/5 for this, which makes me feel sad, as it looked interesting.

Travelling with Pomegranates - Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor


Travelling with Pomegranates - Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor (2009)

Seeing this one on blogland somewhere, I reserved it and had it in my hot little palms within a week. I am pleased to say that November is turning into a fine reading month, if only the weather would get better too. Still grey cool evenings are perfect for curling up on the bed with a book, and as television is only fit for 15 year olds at the moment, it seems only to be on for background noise. I would rather spend a couple of hours browsing blogs than watching tv, and very little holds my attention any more.

Sue Monk Kidd is the author of The Secret Life of Bees, a great book if you haven't read it. In this book she travels to Greece first, with her daughter Ann, and each takes a chapter to describe their experiences. More than just a travel book, it explores many different experiences, aging, depression, family life, relationships and love. Ann describes her journey from college student to choosing to become a writer, while Sue is able to pinpoint many of the experiences that shape her wonderful novel. The many experiences with bees, the virgin Mary and Black Madonnas.

So it is a 4/5 for this small book, that made me want to pack my bags and head to Greece for my own adventure.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Music Monday - Lior and Sia

Lior and Sia - I'll Forget You. Beautiful.

Playing on my ipod on this sunny and warm spring afternoon, on Sunday.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Help


The Help - Kathryn Stockett (2009)

Well onto November, and we have welcomed in the new month with a sunny warmish day - finally!! After a dreary and cold October, it is nice to feel a touch of spring.

So I got to sit in the sun in a couple of locations and eat my lunch and read, at the marina, in Civic Sq and in the backyard. The help has a few narrators, Abeline and Minny who are domestic help in Jackson Mississippi. Through their eyes we see what is going on in the households, as they clean, cook and raise the children.

Then Miss Skeeter, a college educated white girl decides to use her skills to get published. First working for the local paper, she is given the job of advice columnist for a cleaning column. Never having had to clean before, she asks for assistance from a friends help - Miss Abeline. Once they begin to trust each other, Skeeter is challenged by a New York editor to write more compelling prose in order to be published. So Skeeter approaches several of the domestic help to find out what they think about working for the white southern families they work for.

I looked forward to heading to bed and reading this book, which hasn't happened in a while. Each and every character was interesting in it's own way, and I love a story that is held up by the women folk, who aren't soppy over men. I'm going to have give it a big 5/5, how's that for brave. Just because I'm going to recommend this one to all my work colleagues and friends.

So November, you've started strong, I wonder if you can maintain this high standard for the whole month.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

October Best


My best recommendation from October - 500 Days of Summer. I saw the movie, bought the soundtrack and will definately get the dvd when it comes out.

October came and went, and it was busy especially having a few days off here and there allows a recharge of batteries and leisurely time to attend movies and read a few books. Birthday month is always good. If only it was warmer, last year it was short pants and sandals and this year it is still merino jumpers and scarves. Roll on summer, if only ours was 500 days long.

2 Days in Paris


2 Days in Paris - Dvd (2007)

Julie Delphy and Adam Goldberg play partners who have been together for two years and are having a European holiday. On their way home they get to spend a couple of days in Paris, staying upstairs from her parents. Old friends and lovers are encountered and if you substituted
Ethan Hawke for Adam Goldberg, you could be back in the Before Sunset and Before Sunrise movies (both of which I love).

Julie Delphy is delightful and I smiled through most of the movie, with its easy banter and relaxed feel. I think though that this will be one the menfolk will HATE. So watch out, borrow it when the girlfriends pop over, or best yet with a glass of wine by yourself on a quiet evening at home. 3/5

Friday, October 30, 2009

Film Friday - Waiting is Hard

Everytime we go to the movies lately, they tease us with the Lovely Bones. Maybe because of Peter Jackson, I do really want to see it, but hate having to watch the trailers 6 months in advance.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Coroner - M. R. Hall


The Coroner - M. R. Hall (2009)

I'd spied this one in Borders ages ago, and waited a good six months for the book to turn up on their shelves. Did I miss anything waiting for it? Not really.

Standard fish out of water, Jenny is in the middle of a breakdown after her divorce, and so popping pills she takes on a new job as the local coroner. One of her first jobs is finding out how the death of a youth at the local care facility, and a girl who appears to have had a heroin overdose may be linked.

Really, I shouldn't have struggled on with so many pages I found myself skipping huge parts in order to finish. Such a shame, when the premise seemed so good and I had waited so long. 1/5

Rendition


Renditon (2007)

Somewhere in the far reaches of my memory, I vaguely recollect seeing the ads for this one, but I guess in the midst of study panic, it got shelved and not thought about. The temptations of the Tuesday 1/2 price video night though pulled quietly to it, what is not to like? Peter Sarsgaard, Meryl Streep, Reese and Jake - ohhh aaah.

However it a serious subject for a drama, a CIA agent in a North African city is invited to the torture of an American citizen, who is being held on questionable charges. Meanwhile his heavily pregnant wife, Reese , (who looks about 19, even though she has 2 adorable children of her own) is trying to get answers from the government. Everyone is keeping secrets from each other, and I found it compelling to watch, and thought it well done. I don't really need any big build ups and let downs, I just want a drama to unfold, to tell me a story, and one that makes you go away and think about it for a little bit. So I'm going to say 4/5.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Duplicity


Duplicity (2009)

Well I can picture the producers rubbing their hands together, yes we have Clive Owen, and yes we have Julia Roberts, and a couple of character actors as back up, the 30+ girls will be flocking. Now if we just write a story, a little like Mr and Mrs Smith, but without the violence, add in some witty banter, let Clive take his shirt off a couple of times and we will have a winner.

Did I like it? - it all felt a bit fake and forced, and the two leads seemed to lack any chemistry, no sizzle. Also can I say, that both of them looked like they had been carb free for 4 months prior to shooting, which might slim you up, but is going to make you look a bit pinched and like you might faint at any minute. I'm gonna be tough and only give it a 2/5 for this dvd. Which is disapointing, I have got 5 to watch, and this was the first. Bring it on!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Music Monday - Winter Song + Angels Heap

There is a beautiful video for this wonderful, light, lovely gorgeous song sitting on youtube, but you are not allowed to embed it. At the moment it is on high rotation on my ipod, edging it way to the top 25.



I ended up watching this one over the weekend too, and it still sends shivers rolling down my spine. Neil and Tim Finn, we love you boys.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Julie and Julia


Julie and Julia (2009)

It feels mean that we had to wait sooo long to get this movie, which only opened this week in good old New Zealand. We had been teased with the trailer for months, and bloggers blogged about the joys of it, making me want to see it all the more.

Of course I had read the blog, and read the book, but the movie is the delight bringing it all to life. Julie Powell is a cubicle government office worker who in her spare time, fights stress by cooking. Deciding that she too can blog about a project, she chooses to tackle Julia Childs book Mastering French Cooking.

At the same time we follow Julia Childs story, of discovering how to cook in Paris and writing the cookbook. We also learn about her beautiful love story of the her and her husband Paul. Meryl Streep, plays Julia Child so well. The annoying voice which is shrill and loud, I thought was so well done, even if some of the audience couldn't get past it. They also did a fab job of portraying her as a solid 6foot 2, and I loved the hair.

Amusing too, to see a good story where the women are the main characters and the men play the love interests. Wonderful.

So break out the cookbooks and head off to see it. 4/5

The Rebel Princess - Judith Koll Healey


The Rebel Princess - Judith Koll Healey (2009)

It is a long time since I read Judith Koll Healeys debut novel, The Canterbury Papers but I remember enjoying it immensely. Princess Alais it he younger sister of the King of France, but is pledged to be the bride of Richard the Lionheart of England, however plans change when King Henry takes a fancy to his ward. Seven years after the action of the first book, we encounter the Princess again. This time she is living at the court of her brother, and awaiting the arrival of her fiance, William and his ward Francis.

There is trouble brewing however in Southern France, with the rise of the Cathars who the Pope wants crushed. After an abduction and disruption at court, the Princess and some trusted men travel south to try and discover what is going on.

As with many sequels, the first book is always the better of the two, and as it has been soo long maybe I am a bit jaded. Although a lovely writer, I did find myself a bit bored in the middle and wanted to skip pages to forge ahead. The history of the Cathars was nicely explained and I learnt some facts that made it more understandable to me. The book also manages to leave the story open to a third novel about the same characters, which I would still be interested in reading, just hoping that it doesn't take too long to write. 3/5

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Film Friday

Sigh, I am still reading my novel, and as it has been a busy week, I can't seeing it being finished til the weekend. The good news is that I have 9 days off work, and a tottering mountain of books threatening to spill off the bedside table and onto the floor.

Have a lovely weekend. Oh and go and see Bright Star when it comes out.

I am planning to see Julie and Julia at the weekend, I am soooo looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Spare Room - Helen Garner


The Spare Room - Helen Garner (2008)

Helen, prepares her spare room for her friend Nicola to come and stay. Nicola has terminal cancer, and is coming to Melbourne for some alternative treatment. Knowing that her friend will need looking after Helen is gracious, compassionate and patient, and begins to realize that she is also scared and confused. Looking after Nicola is something she can't do alone, without support, and trying to get Nicola to accept help becomes increasingly difficult.

A bold and very straight novel, it is something that anyone who has cared for a relative or friend can relate to. It also made me think about how I would face such a fate. Working in the health field I hope that I would be gracious, and thoughtful to those around helping me, and that also I would seek to make my time as quietly and calmly as possible.

3/5

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Independence of miss Mary Bennet - Colleen McCullough


The Independence of miss Mary Bennet - Colleen McCullough (2008)
Stumbling across this book in a local Borders, I restrained myself from buying it and went to the library website instead. Such restraint!!! To be honest though, I have only bought one book in the last 6 months, as there is such a glut of great books to be borrowed. Also they have got so expensive, that really I don't want to waste the money.
So miss Mary Bennet, is the lovely younger sister of Lizzie and Jane Bennet, who were the main characters of Pride and Prejudice. Set twenty years after the first book, Mary is finally relieved of her duties of looking after her mother, and has found some freedom as a free and single woman. Determined not to be trapped looking after more family members, she chooses instead to travel the North of England, researching the countries poor and looking at their living and working conditions.
I think Colleen McCullough is a fine author, but I thought she struggled a bit in the first few chapters. They didn't really flow for me, and I thought she must have struggled trying to introduce so much back story in a few pages. Once I got into it I very much enjoyed getting reacquainted with Elizabeth, Jane and Lydia Bennet, and finding out what happened with Mr Darcy (apparently even more pompous). Then I found the middle bits, where Mary falls into some troubles became a bit muddled and I skipped large portions in order to get back into the main story. For that I can only say that it I feel the book floats between a 2/5 and 3/5.
I see that there a few such follow up stories floating around at the moment, and it is interesting to read everyones spin on this 200 year old story. I wonder which version Miss Jane Austen would prefer?

Year of the Dog


Year of the Dog - dvd (2007)

Peggy is 40, and lives a quiet life with her dog Pencil. However, Pencil dies leaving a large hole in her life. Reaching out to try new things, Peggy readjusts her values, becomes a vegan, and involved with animal rights issues.

I picked this little dvd up from the library, and it was a nice surprise. With Molly Shannon, John C Reilly, and Peter Saarsgard I enjoyed it's little look at a little life. I am going to venture out and give it a 4/5. I liked that I didn't know where the movie was going, and how it was going to end. I much prefer this story of ordinary life, over any movie with car chases or guns.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Are you There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea


Are you There, Vodka? It's Me Chelsea - Chelsea Handler (2008)

I read somewhere that this was funny, so I picked it up and it was the right size to cart around in my handbag at the weekend while waiting for my friends. Some of it was funny, some bits made me chuckle out loud. I enjoyed the younger stories of living with her family and the chapter at the end about going on holidays with friends and her father. But, I always find it a bit sad when a girl is trying to act like a guy, retelling conquests and sexaul encounters and comes off as needy and slightly offensive. I guess she is a comedian, and she is really just retelling a series of long extended jokes.

Don't waste your money, get it from the library. 2/5