Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Mercy Papers - Robin Romm

The Mercy Papers - Robin Romm (2009)
I wanted to say this was a very personal memoir, but aren't all biographers a picture of the person anyway? Robins mom Jackie was a prominent lawyer who had been diagnosed 9 years earlier with stage IV breast cancer. Robin takes us on a journey of her last three weeks with her mother and as she explains at the end of her book, that there were lots of books around about healing after a death in the family, but very few that dealt with the death itself.

Certainly graphic in the grimness of such an awful cancer death, with her mother at only 53 and Robin in her 20s, I was certainly struck by her experience. Each person is left to deal with the situation alone, and to find their own way, but I began to get annoyed with her inability to accept her mom was dying and to let her mother have some peace and comfort.

My own belief is that in the past 50 years, with the great advances in medicine most people don't actually believe that they could die, and we spend so much time and money trying to avoid it, that we don't sit and have conversations about it. We avoid talking about dying, teaching people and ultimately isolating ourselves.

Robin is an excellent writer, and is an assistant professor of creative writing and literature. Her voice is loud and lyrical and leads you in a merry dance between the three weeks at her parents house, and the stories in her past. 4/5

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Devil Bones - Kathy Reichs

Devil Bones - Kathy Reichs (2008)
Kathy Reichs is a smarter than most thriller author. Being a forensic anthropologist herself, she brings a great sense of authenticity to the character of Tempe Brennan, and one that is much smarter and wittier in the books than is able to be depicted in her tv character on Bones.

This book started with a hiss and a roar with the discovery of a body by the shore, and satanic looking bones in a basement renovation. The ending though felt a bit of a struggle to come together and in recent style, Tempe is again attacked by the errant baddie. Far too predictable - the ultimate showdown that always feel a bit forced.

I like Kathy Reichs writing though, she is always a author that I look forward to her next book, but like many I feel her earlier work was stronger. 3/5

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Class

The Class (2008)
Well, as one of my friends told me after watching this movie "even though I slept through it, it was one of the worst movies ever. And, you're not allowed to pick any movies any more". Harsh I thought.

Actually, I thought it was a movie about the remake of the experiment where the class are discussing how Germans allowed Nazis to take power, and not intervene with what was happening.

When I read the movie review, it said it was one of the best films ever, and one all kinds of awards at Cannes. The only redeeming thing, was how hypnotic the French accents were, enough to make me sleep through some of the first half anyway. 1/5

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Reliable Wife - Robert Goolrick

A Reliable Wife - Robert Goolrick (2009)
The gossip around the book blogs I like to look at, was that this one was a good one. Clever and entertaining, all I knew about it was it was set around 1908 and was American.

Ralph Truitt, is a wealthy widower who sets about to advertise to find himself a new wife, a reliable one. Catherine Land sends a picture, and without any meetings travels to a wintery Wisconsin town to start a new life. Each brings their own secrets and history to the wedding, and throughout the story we learn so much more about their past liasons, their wishes and dreams.

I loved this book from the first to the large page, and couldn't wait to get into bed at night and turn each page - highly recommended 5/5.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Orphanage

The Orphanage (2007)
One we couldn't quite manage to co-ordinate at last years film festival. So, I booked it on dvd from the library, and it arrived right before my holiday - bugger. So as it is overdue tomorrow, and tonight was a bit of a cold wintry evening I sat down and watched it.

Basically Laura, once an orphan grows up and moves with her husband and adopted son Simon into the old orphanage. Once there strange things happen and her son, at a party - disapears. Not giving up on finding him, Laura searches high and low.

Certainly spooky, it was another beautiful stylised film - with subtitles, and wonderful Spanish accents which sound so lyrical. I thought it was a step up on the usual horror genre. I am not one for the Saw/Hostel rubbish, I like me a little bit of scary music and shadows. 3/5

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Reader - Bernard Schlink

The Reader - Bernhard Schlink (1995)
I was glad to have read this quick book after the movie, for the images in my head matched what I read on the pages, and each was true in its own way.

A quick read, the novel is short and precise in its descriptions and use of emotions with not too many unnecessary scenes. 3/5

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Reader

The Reader (2008)
It was a toss up between going to The Reader and The Wrestler, and The Reader won, because the book had come in at the library at the same time. I noted also that the cinema tickets had gone up to $16, so it might be time to dig out my dvd rental card for a while (til the film festival at least).

Something about Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet makes them a magnetic watch, and this movie is no exception. I thought a good job was done of the period piece without making them cliche characters, from a Hollywood imagined past, but real and three dimensional. Even something so simple as making the haircuts look authentic made it so much more real, than a movie like Charlotte Grey where the details were I think overdone.

Michael is 15, and one day on his way home from school meets Hanna. They become involved over one summer, but it is not til 10 years later that their paths cross again, and Michael learns about Hannas past.

Certainly an adult story, containing nudity and sex scenes, maybe not one for the kids. I liked the moral questions it raised about who was responsible for the deaths at the camps during the second world war. If eight thousand staff worked at Auschwitz, why weren't they all found and prosecuted? 4/5

Knit Two - Kate Jacobs

Knit Two - Kate Jacobs (2009)
I was a bit hesitant in starting this novel, I enjoyed her first book, The Friday Night Knitting Club and knew that the characters would continue on in their story. However, her second novel about cooking was atrocious and just a sloppy read.

So how did I find Knit Two, I thought the first half of the story was a bit stupid and it felt to me like she had decided the main part of the story and ending and then tried to patch in a beginning. I couldn't see the characters in my mind clearly, and felt a bit like I was reading it underwater with goggles on. So only a sad 1/5 from me.

I can see that some celebrity will be thinking what a great ensemble movie this would make, and the blog goss says Julia Roberts has the movie rights.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mosaic - Amy Grant

Mosaic - Amy Grant (2007)
I had watched Amy Grant talk on Oprah, about her life, her husband and children, her music and her book Mosaic. I don't think I have ever heard her sing, or in fact could name a song she has written or sung, however she seemed a nice girl - sensible.

Her book, a memoir of sorts explains the influence of many of the songs she has written, combined with stories of her life and memorable moments. Lyrics to songs read as poems and it is nice to hear about the people they remind her of. 3/5

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Tallgrass - Sandra Dallas

Tallgrass - Sandra Dallas (2007)
Growning up in a small Colorado town, thirteen year old Rennie Strouds world is changed by the arrival of Japanese internees, who are sent to live in the camp next to their farm. Prejudice is high, after the Pearl Harbour attacks, and the Strouds are cautious, as their oldest son is serving in the army.

When one of Rennies friends is attacked and killed, tensions in the town are raised further and folks are quick to place the blame on the Japanese Americans. How Rennie and her family learn about their new neighbours, and discover about their old ones holds this story together and makes it a thoughtful read.

A 4/5 for this little book, about a little written about period in American history. It manages to hold its own as a story and make you consider your own prejudices, both old and currant.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink - DVD (1986)
I was 18, they were 18 - the music was great, and I don't think I have watched it in 20 years. Of course it looks a bit dated now, but the message is still relevant, the trouble fitting in, the waiting for the guy to call and the hard part about fitting in, being part of a group.

I LOVE that Molly Ringwald is a normal girl, they couldn't do that now. She would have to be a plain girl, who at the prom metamorphosed into a porn star clone by taking off her glasses and shaking out her hair.

The boys were geeks, but what 18 year old boys aren't? Not many that I knew anyway. So a 3/5 from me.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Homecoming - Bernard Schlink

Homecoming - Bernard Schlink (2008)
As a boy, Peter comes across a novel that tells about a soldier returning after the war, only to be rejected on his doorstep. Throughout his life in post war Germany, he searches for the novelist, believing the tale to be a work of non-fiction.

In his adult life, he also looks for clues about his father, believed to be dead in an explosion after a brief rendevous with his mother.

I liked the beginning, I felt it was going somewhere, but it felt to me like one of those books written on one good idea, that can't follow through and accomplish the deed. I just wanted it to end, and was ready to discard it 3/4 of the way through. A paltry 1/5.


Flashdance - DVD (1983)
My first experience of Flashdance, was one of my parents friends bought the video around to our house one evening after seeing the sucky experience of 3rd rate Godspell performed at the local seminary.

I guess I must of been allowed to stay up late to watch the movie, and it seemed all terribly grown up , and dark and kind of dangerous. Watching now, it doesn't seem too dated although it is certainly an 80's movie. Love the clothes, makeup and most of all the ten speed bike.

I wonder what it would be like if they remade it? Some generic pornstar looking actress whose face is full of botox at 24, and some girlyboy as the main love interest. She would still be a welder, but in skintight overalls and living in a million dollar apartment, her best friend would be an singer superstar and the club would be some fancy smancy hangout. Just wrong, wrong, wrong.

So my Saturday night late night treat rates a 2/5. Oh and I can still remember what I was wearing when I watched it, a black top, a overall type dress I had dyed grey, black tights and my black pirate style strapped flat boots - hot!!!!

Saturday, April 04, 2009


Taken - DVD (2008)
Liam Neeson is an ex-agent, who in retirement is concerned with establishing a relationship with his daughter. Just turned 17, she escapes for a holiday in Paris where things go wrong, and she is kidnapped to be sold into prostitution and sex slavery. Liam, realizes he has 80 odd hours to find her, and sets out as a one man band, on a spree of quite graphic violence.

The glimpses into this evil trade of selling women, is quite disturbing. It would make me want to sit down and watch it with my niece before letting her go on holiday. Not sure if I enjoyed this one, but it did hold my attention and I feel it deserves a 3/5.

I must admit to being mesmerized by the colour of Liam Neesons hair. lady clariol did a great job, it might be my new winter shade.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Time of Singing - Elizabeth Chadwick

A Time of Singing - Elizabeth Chadwick (2008)
I discovered Elizabeth Chadwicks books at the library probably about 10 years ago, with her earlier books The Love Knot and The Marsh King's Daughter, both of which I enjoyed.

Now with A Time of Singing, she tells the story of Ida de Tosnay, who becomes a ward of King Henry II. He takes a shine to her, taking her as his mistress and fathering a son to her. When she feels that his attention is waning, she realizes that she needs to find protection, by selecting a husband. Chance meetings with Roger BNigod, a heir to the earldom of Norfolk, result in a marriage, but she is forced to leave her son with the king.

The first chapter was a bit of a struggle, but once the story of Ida started I was immediately drawn in, and really began to believe their characters. How hard it must have been, to be a girl in the 12th century, when you had to rely on the men to make choices about your life.

So it has been enjoyable, lying in a warm bed reading this novel, as the evenings begin to get colder and the skies grow darker here in New Zealand (it is autumn here).

I will give it a 3.5/5.

Out of interest, when searching for a picture of the book cover, I came across Elizabeth Chadwicks website, where she writes about what songs she listens to, and influence her in each chapter of the book : Think A Knights Tale, modern rock as a soundtrack to a 12th century story.