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.


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.