Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Blue Notebook - James A. Levine

The Blue Notebook - James A. Levine (2009)

A very raw book, I almost put it down a couple of times not wanting or daring to continue, but I did - I got to the end.

Batuk is 9 years old when her father takes her from the family home to crowded and busy Mumbai, where she is sold to a series of brutal men/owners. Sold to the highest bidder for her virginity, she ends up in a cage in the streets where she has sex with up to 10 men a day, every day.

In a notebook, she writes down her memories about home and her past, as well as the disturbing reality of her life. The violence is pretty graphic, and the abuse is vividly described. I think though the most horrific thing for me, is the realisation that this is a very real reality for thousands of girls worldwide.

At 15, she has spent 6 years being a prostitute, with no means of escape and no money to pay her way out. At 15, I was busy watching Prince and Madonna on tv, and worring about if we would get into the R16 movie or not, music lessons, homework and weekends out with friends.


Cleo - Helen Brown Gentry

Cleo - Helen Brown Gentry (2009)

Helen Brown Gentry is one of those amusing columinists whose slice of family life has featured over the years in various New Zealand newspapers and magazines. In this little book, she tells how her sons pick a black kitten out of a friends cats litter and decide to call her Cleo.

Then, just a week before the kitten is due home, tragedy strikes with her eldest boy Sam being hit by a driver on one of Wellingtons windy roads. Not really wanting a cat, Helen sees that the kitten Cleo will help her youngest son to heal and Cleo becomes an important member of the family.

Sweet without being sickly, I enjoyed the story of this grand girl, I think she was 23 years young by the end of the book. Not just for cat lovers, this is essentially a story about modern family life. 3/5

Friday, September 25, 2009

206 Bones - Kathy Reichs

206 Bones - Kathy Reichs (2009)

Kathy Reichs I believe, has gone down the path that many a good thriller writer has followed. They seem to lose the gift of a good story, and their main characters begin to follow predictable patterns. I can't deny that she is an author who knows her stuff, and with a job as forensic anthropologist, she gives Tempe Brennan an honesty, professionalism and perspective on work that many authors are unable to imagine.

I just found that this story was a bit muddled. There was no real intrigue, and the will they won't they get together with agent Ryan, is dragging on and on. Then the getting involved in the drama with the baddy ending is a sour note at the tail of the book.

I am afraid I can only scrape up a 2/5 for this new book.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sophie's Choice

Sophie's Choice - Dvd (1982)

Sophie's Choice was one of those movies that I often managed to catch a bit of, every now and then, but had never managed to sit down and watch the whole thing. I read the book it was based on years ago, but I think was distracted and never quite followed the whole story.

So on a wet and windy Friday night, I sat down and watched it. And then, watched the end on a Saturday morning. Meryl Streep is luminous as Sophie, a Polish woman who after survivng Aushwitz, is living in a bording house in Brooklyn. Stingo, a young writer from the South arrives in New York, and after settling on the floor below meets the beautiful Sophie, and her Beau Nathan. They quickly become the best of friends, and spend all of their time together. But, they all have secrets and as Stingo gets to know them, he learns of the tragedies in their past.

It was moving, and you cannot deny that Meryl Streep is one awesome woman, who performed her ass off. Like all 80's movie, even a period piece it is dated, but a good story still keeps it fresh. 3/5

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict - Laurie Viera Rigler

The Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict - Laurie Viera Rigler (2009)

This book follows up from the earlier 'Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict', where modern day Courtney Stone wakes up in Regency England, to find herself living the life of a Jane Austen type woman. She has to learn to wear the clothes, talk properly, ride a horse, chase unsuitable men and do her hair without hair gel and straighteners.

In the follow up book, it is Jane Mansfield, Regency woman who has woken up in modern day LA, and must discover the joys of cellphones, modern clothes, cars, airplanes, television, videos and modern morals. I did enjoy the fish out of water senario, but I think it would take the magic of a movie or tv series to express all the crazy emotions someone must feel, being transplanted 200 years into the future.

I did race through the middle bit, and I liked the way the book finished up, all nice and tidy and such. 3/5

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stories from Candyland - Candy Spelling

Stories from Candyland - Candy Spelling (2009)

Well I read the Tori books, which were fun and insightful and made me like Tori a bit more than before. This book from her mother Candy Spelling, seems like a way for her to reply to the very public mother daughter spat, and is I feel a bit of a bitter way to air your dirty laundry.

I am sure that Candy did what she thought was the best, in trying to run a home for her husband and children, but she comes across as a bit of an obsessed woman. Comitted to having the perfect home, spotless and clean, she even admits to letting them jump on the beds, but only in hotel and the white house.

It seemed bizarre at the end of the book that she posted lots of comments from friends, who had written about what a nice lady she was, good friend etc. Like she needed some sort of validation.

So 2/5 for this little book, and now back to the book mountain that is building beside my bed. I picked up another 6 books I had reserved from the library today. Luckily the tv is a pure suckfest of rubbish, as I have a couple of dvds to watch as well.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria (2009)

So after a naughty lunch of McDs, disgusting I know. I rushed up to get my second movie ticket of the day (it was grey and windy outside, so I didn't feel too guilty).

I have wanted to see this one for a while, and have been trying to resist reading too many reviews. The ones I have managed not to avoid, have been a bit disappointed with the movie, which was a shame.

Not me though, I loves me a good costume drama, and the costumes in this one were great. Emily Blunt, certainly held her own as the young Princess/Queen Victoria. I thought that she was polished, commanding, sweet and certainly very beautiful - what glorious luminescent skin.

Rupert Friend was a bit of a foppish bloke, and I think the bloke who played his brother was more handsome. However his role was to be a humble pawn, who was coached to appeal to the British princess. Certainly this story goes to show the great love the two royals shared with each other.

I learnt many a thing along the way. I never knew how sheltered an upbringing the princess had, and the Queen had to propose marriage. What a hard job for a young girl of 18 to take on.

Somewhere in the middle of the movie, I felt it lost a little momentum, a little chemistry, a little magic, but on the whole it was good - a very likable 4/5.

Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning (2008)

My friends recommended going to see Sunshine Cleaning while it was on at the movies. Luckily, today I got called into work at 4.30am and didn't finish til just before 8am. So the boss has to give me a 9 hour break, which means I didn't have to work at all!! Yippee. I was a bit tired, but as I didn't have the crazy hair, or smell homeless, I stayed on at work for a couple of hours as there was an education session.

Forty of us crammed into a little lecture room was a bit airless, so I escaped at 10:30 am and went to the movies!!! How luxurious - I felt very naughty.

So Sunshine Cleaning is about two sisters who after mishaps at work, decide to branch out on their own, and start doing bio hazard cleaning, cleaning up after deaths or suicides at homes.

Both Amy Adams and Emily Blunt were great in their roles, as single mom and slacker sister. I really liked their realistic characters, with normal clothes and crappy cars, and we can all understand catching up with all the girls from school and having them look down their nose at us because of what we do. Alan Arkin too did a good job of playing the father, especially at the end. That made me smile.

So I'm going to say 4/5 - its worth a look, and the ticket price. Although I couldn't believe the movie theatre charging $7 for a bag of m&ms, when they are only $4 at the supermarket.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier

Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier (2009)

Tracy Chevalier has been one of my favorite writers for a while - ever since Girl with a Pearl Earring. I was excited to see she had a new novel out, and may have been the first to read this library find, which pleases me a lot.

Based in the early 1800s we get to meet Elizabeth Philpott, who due to a change in circumstances finds herself living with her two spinster sisters in Lyme Regis. Interested in finding fossil fish, this becomes a perfect spot for her, where she can be free to wander and spend the day digging on the beach.

A young local girl, Mary Anning is also digging about on the cliffs, looking for fossils (curies), that she can sell to the tourists to help out the families income. Becoming friends they help each other, and learn more about the bones and shells they dig up.

It was interesting to put the discovery of the first dinosaur fossils in the context of what scientifially was known at the time, and how it would question religious doctrine. It made me want to find out more about fossils, and to take up a spade and go digging and find a dinosaur.

I think the book sparkled not only because of the fine writing and character development, but because it was based in truth and on real women, who lived in a world of men deciding everything for them. It also had echoes of Jane Austen and the Brontes, in that the women are all honest and hard working and looking for love, while the men play with their affections and are in most cases scoundrels.

So a 4/5, cause it made me want to go and be Indiana Jones.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rescue Me - Series 3

Rescue Me - Series 3 (2006)

OMG - I can't tell you how much I love Rescue Me at the moment. Maybe it is because our tv choices are rubbish. We are in the midst of movie repeat season - I think tonight it is 50 first dates on again, and last night the only movie on tv was Roadtrip. I HATE 12 year old boy choice movies being on.

I shouldn't complain, as I have a mountain of books that I should really make an attempt to read and a pile of study I could be contemplating.

I think for me, Rescue Me feels almost as good as Sex and the City. The writing is fresh, fast and funny and every episode is great. I have enjoyed watching the boxed sets of dvds, as I find it much easier to follow the story and get involved and with only a week to watch 13 episodes, it has forced me into a couple of late night viewings.

Oh man, I'm going to stick my neck out and give it a 5/5. Best tv show of the year for me.

Wedding Babylon - Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous

Wedding Babylon - Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous (2009)

Ok, well I got this and Fashion Babylon out from the library at the same time. So really it is the same cheesy routine at her other books. A so called behind the scenes look at certain industries. In this case anonymous is a wedding planner in London, who gets to tell us all the seedy stories of bridezillas and their big days.

To be honest, I felt like I was sitting in a dirty pub with every idiot telling you their worst wedding story. I fail to understand how even the very rich can justify spending half a million pounds on a wedding.

Even though I can't ever imagine I will get to be in a wedding myself, I am in love with the website, where there seem to be sweet modern weddings that always look beautiful and full of fun.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The House of Special Purpose - John Boyne

The House of Special Purpose - John Boyne (2009)

Georgy Jacmenev is 16, when he saves a senior member of the Russian Imperial Family from an assasination attempt. Suddenly swept from his family, and life on the farm he is taken off to St Petersberg to a new life.

Then over 60 years later, in London Georgy recalls his life with his wife Zoya, as she slips further away from him with her cancer. Recalling how they met, and their early life in Paris and then London, we get to travel back and forth through their relationship.

Of course you guess the secret to the story early on, I liked this book, and much more than many of the Romananov stories I have picked up lately. John Boyne is a good writer, it flowed and kept constant throughout, and I wanted to get into bed and read it at night, to find out what happened. Out of interest, John Boyne is the author who wrote 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas", as well as several other books.

Lots of the books I have tried recently seem a bit dry, a bit of hard work to read through, but I felt with this one I could see the story in my head. So for the good effort, and because it was just what I needed, I think it deserves a 4/5.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Mercy - Toni Morrison

A Mercy - Toni Morrison (2008)

I hate to say it, but I had to abandon reading this little book which made me sad. Sad first, because I had reserved it first in March of this year, and waited til August to get my chance at reading. And sad also, because when living in London in 1994, I read most of Toni Morrisons other offerings and enjoyed them and the stories she told.

So after only a measly 10 pages, I betrayed the book and picked up another, never to return again.

I couldn't get into understanding the characters, and struggled with their written accents and in truth, the book didn't speak to me. It didn't drag me in, convince me and change my mind. I am sure many people enjoyed it, and I think she is a great writer. But, it's competitive out there, and I have another 6 books waiting on my nightstand to be read before they have to be back at the library.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sacred Hearts - Sarah Dunant

Sacred Hearts - Sarah Dunant (2009)

I have enjoyed Sarah Dunants previous outings, so when I spied this one on the Borders bookshelves I rushed home and placed a library reserve on it. When the book arrived, less than a week later it still felt crisp and untouched, much like the nuns in the story.

I never really knew that families gave up their daughters with a dowry to the church at such young ages, and that they were sooo very isolated in 1570, at the time of the story. My great aunty Mary was a none, and she joined at 40ish, and was quite independant and liked all the good things in life. Not locked away, she had quite a few trips and adventures.

So basically, the convent is all shook up, when a young 16 year old novice is forced into the convent by her family. A doomed love affair with her music teacher, has left Serefina full of rage and anger.

Finding a friend in Suora Zuana, who runs the dispencery, young Serefina seeks a way to leave her prison.

I did enjoy the beginning of the novel, but felt it dragged a bit in the middle. I am sure that their lives were monotnous and dreary for the most part, but I began to resent the time it was taking me to finish the book and found myself skipping parts. The ending got better and I would have wanted to know some more of what happened. 2/5

Coda - Simon Gray

Coda - Simon Gray (2008)

Writer Simon Gray, chooses in this memoir to follow what happens after being diagnosed with a lung cancer, after having routine scans to follow his aortic aneurysm. Told by one of the doctors that he had a year to live, he goes with his wife to Crete to rest and recover, after a session of radiotherapy.

Not entirely bleak in nature, I was amused at his description of various doctors he encountered on the way. I only chose this book, as it was on a list provided by the library online, I wasn't looking for a sad story at all.

It was only today, while searching for the book cover, that I read a small review, where it said that it was thought that Simon Gray died quickly and his doctor had said it was his aorta that popped, so the lung cancer never got him in the end.