Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

It is a rainy day in the city today, and we were intending to watch the dragon boat races, but they were cancelled. So it was off to the bagel shop, and then a movie. Apparently though, movies seem only to be scheduled at 10:30 am and then 3pm, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the only one playing at 1.45pm.

My good friend Miss Pia, appear to be the only two people in the world that disliked the book. I couldn't get into it, I found the beginning very dull and so I didn't continue on after about 80 pages. The movie I am pleased to say was quite good. The story flowed and made sense.

I don't like to give the plot away, but basically a disgraced journalist is asked by an elderly businessman to investigate the disappearance of a favorite niece forty years ago. The extended family are not happy with the prying into their business as secrets from the past are rediscovered.

So it is definitely a thriller, and there are very graphic violent and sexual scenes, this one is not one for the kiddies. My friend who doesn't like scary films shrieked a little bit, and a couple of people left half way through, so you have been warned.

So the story has redeemed itself, and I may even consider reattempting the book at some stage. So for that, I have to give it a 4/5. Another plus was for seeing glimpses of the Swedish countryside. Miss Pia, I kept thinking of you while I watched.

Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

Luckily for me, the book and the DVD came into the library at the same time. As I may have mentioned before, I am not a huge graphic novel fan (this being only about the 5th one I have ever read), and although an interesting tale about her young life with her family in Iran, before going to Austria as a teenager and then to France as an adult - it failed to click with me.

I enjoyed the DVD much more, with its dynamic pictures and the voice of Marjane making it easier to follow the story. Complex in explaining some of the historical, political and social background of modern Iran, I enjoyed the young Marjanes story. I felt less compassionate to the older girl, as she seemed reluctant to make an effort, and badly affected by her depression.

Not exactly a cheery weekend watch, it certainly was more interesting than anything any of the television channels had to offer. 3/5

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cleaving - Julie Powell

Cleaving - Julie Powell (2009)

Julie Powell is that famous blogger, who got a book then got a movie. She wrote Julie and Julia, which charmed us with her marriage, and her efforts to emulate the cooking efforts of Julia Child.

In her second book, I was just annoyed at her, for 450 pages. For her next project, she decides to learn how to butcher, which although slightly interesting, one thinks it must not have the cinematic qualities that producers would be clambering for. I never quite understood why she decided to do this, and maybe there doesn't have to be a reason, maybe it is just an escape. She certainly does her best to escape her marriage, and seems to have an unhealthy adolescent obsession with her lover, sending him texts and emails when he has cut off all contact.

To be honest, I just found her a bit whiny and a wimp, and wanted to tell her to move on with her life. I am sure after the success of the earlier book, and the recent movie publishers were clambering to get something more in print. In their haste, there is this jumble of a book, that to me was uninspiring quite often dull. 1/5

Just Say No to Sports

Book Nerd by Auntie Cookie on ETSY, and sorry it's not for sale as it's hanging on my wall.

A couple of years ago, as I neared forty one of the things that bothered me, was why I sat and watched the sports on tv. I guess we grow up in a fmily and watch a variety of shows and with a father and brother in the house, weekend sports were pretty high up on the viewing list.

When my little dvd recorder joined my family,things - well, they changed. I set the recorder to tape the news every night, but seldom watch more than 20 minutes of it. Usually the news items at the beginning, and then the weather at the end. Sports - well now I watch none. None at all, no tennis, no rugby, no football, netball or anything with a ball, running shoes or too much lycra. It's freedom. I'd rather watch a cooking show, entertainment news or talk about reading in that time. In fact I often now use that time to cook a nice meal, then I can watch the abridged news while sitting down, and then get on with my night.

Aaah the joys of living alone.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Iron Man - Dvd

Iron Man - Dvd (2008)

If I were only a 8-38 year old boy, wow!! Weapons, cars, guns, airfights, flying, Middle Eastern baddies, bald nemesis and Gwenyth in dire need of a sandwich.

Ok, I must admit it was fun, so for that and for Robert Downey Jr - a 3/5.

Seriously though, Gwenyth you are a woman now, a mother. Eat some carbs, try looking in your 30s, instead of looking like a 19 year old Russian waif. You married Chris Martin, so we know you are cool, just pop down to the local Marks & sparks, and pick up a good vegan/ vegie/soy/tofu burger (with a bun).

Monday, January 25, 2010


Picture : source unknown
This weekend was the perfect one to curl up on the bed and read my book. I did some of that between chores, and even though I am looking forward to the ER finale that is on TV tonight, my eyelids are telling me to hit the pillows a bit earlier than normal.

My feeling of being conflicted comes from the news on the front of our paper/website today that says first that Avatar has surpassed Titanic, to be the biggest selling international film ever (which must mean highest earning). Good for them, well done and all that. Great that so many New Zealanders helped work on the film.

Then another article mentions how it was subsidised by New Zealand taxpayers money - $45 million of it. I know they want to attract big budget projects into the country, and I don't know all the ins and outs of the situation. But surely that money could have been better spent? If the government are going to assist Weta Workshops, then their accounts should be available to the public, and if they make a profit out of, which surely they must, then that money should be returned, repaid in full. I know that $45 million is probably a small percentage of the money needed, but hey, there are only 4 million of us, and god knows how big a percentage of us actually earn and pay tax. I bet the Weta Workshop team all have nice houses and drive nice cars. And why was more of our money used for Wolverine and other successful Hollywood movies? Why isn't this money used to help budding kiwi movie makers, instead of established successful and I am sure rich companies?

I wonder why the taxpayers didn't get subsidised tickets? Just saying.

If It Makes You Happy - Music Monday

Somehow in the mess of my house, I have managed to lose my old Sheryl Crow CD, but found the best of her hits at the Warehouse for $10 and have been enjoying it tonight. Good singalong tunes.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Up In the Air

Up In the Air (2009)

With rain again swirling in our summer Saturday evening, it was a perfect evening for curly fries with friends, and then a movie. George Clooney, the perfect date for a Saturday night, especially with so many shots of him curled up in bed, smiling sweetly and even more unusual for a date - dancing.

You know the story, you can google it if you don't. We gave it a 3/5, and it even earned an extra point for having a love interest that wasn't a buxom Barbie doll. Hoorah for sensible casting.

The Impostor's Daughter - Laurie Sandell

The Imposter's Daughter - Laurie Sandell (2009)
I am not really a reader of graphic novels, but this one was in the recommended book list at the library, with a small blurb. Laurie Sandell writes a personal book, about her real life father, who tells her lots of stories about his time as a Green Beret, growing up in Argentina, being a hero in Vietnam and meeting many important people.

Along the way she begins to uncover the truth, that he is a con man and trickster and has committed fraud by misusing her mother and sisters credit details. Imbetween researching his past Laurie finds herself a job at Glamour magazine where her investigative skills are put to use interviewing celebrities.

A 3/5 for this insight into a daughters life.

Half Broke Horses - Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses - Jeannette Walls (2009)

In this novel Jeannette Walls recreates the life of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. Brought up poor, who by age six is helping her father out breaking horses. At fifteen, she gets her first job teaching, which takes her a month to get to riding on her horse alone. After meeting and marrying her husband Big Jim, she helps him to run a ranch. She raises two children, learns to drive a car and fly a plane, earns her teaching degree and teaches many different students.

Jeannette Walls has chosen to call this book a novel, as her grandmother died when she was 8, and most of the stories she has heard are from her mother. I think I preferred this book to , which I read last week. Something in it seemed more honest to me, it's sense of time and place, the strong characters who were our grandparents, their resourcefulness, their lack of vanity and their perseverance. Instead I think we are raising a generation full of botox Barbies who measure every ones value by their appearance.

A 4/5 for this one, I enjoyed it's sense of the frontier, at a time of great change.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Clara The Early Years - Margo Kaufman

Clara The Early Years - Margo Kaufman (2009)
I liked this little book about Margo and her life with her two little black pugs. Clara, who seems to engage everyone she meets, is a little character. Last year while shopping at the supermarket, I saw an SPCA collector with a little black pug, sooo cute. I could have bought that little puppy home in a heartbeat, but I knew that it wasn't fair working all the hours I do, and not being home, not having a big back yard, renting and that Poppy would be slightly miffed. After reading this book, I have learnt that although Pugs are lovable, they are slightly demanding and time consuming. Maybe one day.
Half the book, also tells the tale of Margo and her husbands search to adopt a child from China or Russia which was interesting, in its crazy frustrating amounts of red tape and paperwork involved. She has a lovely writing style which is both easy to read and amusing, which sometimes hits the spot. 3/5

Monday, January 18, 2010

Music Monday - Angus and Julia Stone

I always think of this slow gentle music, as Greys Anatomy tunes. You know songs they might play as they are kissing, or crying or operating or something.

Express Cook

Holy Moly I love this cookbook. In fact, I love LOTs of cookbooks, but only to look at the pictures and imagine cooking the fabulous meals inside. Usually though they are full of meals with $100 worth of saffron and octopus eyes, all afordable on my slave salary.

This fabbie Australian cookbook though is for meals after work, using normal stuff like Chicken, pasta, vegetables and even sausages. It tells you how much prep time, cooking time is needed, what to do with leftovers, how to cook average stuff like chops and steak. Best of all, if you are kiwis it is now down from $72 at Whitcoulls to $30, so you can pick one up for you, and one for a friend. I bought a friend one, now we are bffs.

Of course, I haven't cooked anything from here yet, but I will. I'll go all Pioneer woman and let you know if the recipes work. At the moment though I am salivating over Chicken with Noodles and Basil, Pasta with Asparagus and Courgettes, and Apricot and Meringue Roulade.

Much as I love Jamie Oliver, and own 5 of his weighty tomes, I am afraid I have never attempted any fig and prosciutto salads, and Nigella, too much full cream for me.

So tonight, it'll be the chicken pea pasta and salad. I'm going to sit down and study my new book, and pick a recipe for next weekend. How exciting.

5/5 for the big cookbook - I LOVE it!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls (2005)

Jeannette, her brother and two sisters are bought up by parents who are relaxed at the thought of providing for their children. Their father drinks heavily, and mother chooses to give up teaching to pursue her artistic tendancies. Much of their earlier life is spent wandering around small towns, living in hovels or in their car before settling first in Arizona and then in West Virginia.

Much like a more modern Angelas Ashes, this tale of poverty and hunger is moving, and I did want to step into the story and give the parents a good shake and slap (especially the father). I did find it odd though that there was very little in the way of cultural references throughout the book. Little talk of music, movies,television or books of the time, made me wonder if they had been removed to give the book a timeless quality. At some points I wondered if it was a book of the depression era instead of the sixties and seventies.


Saturday, January 16, 2010


This book pile is old, but it is where I stack them, on the bedside table beside my bed. And like this time, my books are piled higher than the lamp, threatening to topple over and smother me in the night. And, I still haven't read the ones at the bottom, the ones I have bought (a long time ago now, with lovely book tokens),
So, I am going to try and not reserve any more books for a while. Because I am picking up three or four a week, I don't get the chance to go and browse the shelves - and I miss it.
So for the next month or two, no more reserving the books. I can make a list, I can look for it, but I want to keep on top of it. Have the joy of going to the library and looking. I'm putting it in writing, commiting to it. So, we'll see how it goes.

The Very Thought of You - Rosie Alison

The Very Thought of You - Rosie Alison (2009)

When I lived in London, many of the older women I worked with had been evacuees during the war. Hard out Londoners, my impression was that they had had a difficult time living in the city, and once back home, had stayed put. Looking back to myself as an eight year old, you can imagine how hard it must have been to have been moved so far away from your family, to live with an unknown group of people, without the luxury of cellphones and Internet.

So in this story Anna Sands, finds herself in Yorkshire at the impressive Ashton Manor where she learns about the country, and the adults in the house. I was a bit put off by the blurb on the back, which mentioned if you loved Atonement, you would fall for this novel. Atonement was OK, but I think it received a bit more praise than it was worth of, and I liked the movie more than the novel.

Did I like this book?. The story in itself was interesting, I wanted to know what happened to Anna, and was satisfied with her story, but most ofthe characters to me felt a bit flat. Thomas Ashton in his wheelchair, Ruth the plain schoolteacher, Elizabeth Ashton the frustrated wife, all a bit of a cliche. There was nothing particularly memorable about them, I didn't really for care for any of them because they seemed to lack any sparkle, it felt like I was seeing them through a layer of gauze, all fuzzy and filled out with predictable storylines, but no endearing personal qualities.

So a 2.5/5

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tell Me Where it Hurts - Nick Trout

Tell Me Where it Hurts - Nick Trout (2008)

Nick Trout, is an English trained vet who now works in the US, mainly with small pets, cat and dogs. Starting at 2.47 with an urgent call out, he tells the stories of both his patients and their human families, giving us an insiders view into the world of treating our beloved pets.

Certainly not over emotional in presenting too many tearful moments, he does consider the ethics and morals involved in the making important health care decisions with our pets. Much as I would love to think I could be a vet, I would find the euthanasia of many animals difficult, and I was surprised at the high suicide rates in the profession.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gin Wigmore sings on Wednesday

Gin Wigmore is a 21 year old kiwi chick, who is rocking a bit like Amy Winehouse, hopefully without the hard drugs and kooky life.

It seems I have gone months without putting a cd in to the stereo and turning it up in the house. Maybe because of my ipod, and maybe because all of my CDs felt old. So before Christmas I stocked up a few new (and some oldie) CDs. The Warehouse is our place to go and at $12 NZ for many CDs ($8US), it is hard to resist.

The ones I got: Abba - Gold / just because every girl needs a touch of Abba

Duffy - Rockferry / A bit of girl soul singing is nice background music

Paloma Faith - Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?/LOVE THIS

U2 -The Singles / I've always loved a bit of U2, such a 80s chick.

The Cure - Greatest Hits / Loved them since I was 18

Pearl Jam - Back Spacer/ Love a couple of the songs, not sure on the rest.

So I'm listening to a bit more music at the moment. Television here seems to be programmed by 12 year old boys over the summer. Who needs to see two Adam Sandler Movies in a row - bluch!!!

So back to bed with a book to fight my horrid cold.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Measuring Cup - Andrew Bird

I was listening to this one tonight - I do like it.

Andrew Bird - Measuring Cup

Not only coz I spent about 1 year learning the violin. I like singers who can sing, you know back when they could hold a tune, and didn't lip sync.

Four Holidays - Dvd

Four Holidays - DVD (2008)

After coming out the Christmas before last, but wasn't released on DVD here til this year, I guess to make the most of the holiday market. On the whole it was a harmless little rom/comedy that tried like too many, to be funny and serious at the same time, a mixture that seldom works and more often than not confuses me.

I enjoyed the beginning meet each other in a bar set up and the going home and meeting Brads dads family first. Just so much of it seemed false and pretentious. Considering they spent quite a bit of time in the car and in the country, they didn't seem to be rushing around to get to four families in a day. She looked too prissy all day and like her hair and makeup had been done (as I am sure it had), every time she turned up and rang the doorbell. Oh my goodness, you should see how crazy I look after going visiting. And where was the food, no one seemed to be eating and it was Christmas, how bizarre.

Anyways, it's harmless and not going to win any awards and expect it to join the realm of many a Bgrade Christmas movie relegated to 11am on the box. 2/5

Sworn to Silence - Linda Castillo

Sworn to Silence - Linda Castillo (2009)

In the rural town of Painters Mill Ohio, the police chief it Kate Burkholder, who grew up there with her Amish family, until tragedy as a teenager made her move out into the world of the English. Returning to the town to bridge the gap between the two cultures, most of her days are made up of returning cows to fields.

Then bodies of girls are found, who have been mutilated and tortured, echoing a series of murders from years ago. Kate is forced to accept additonal police help, and is desperate to keep her own secrets buried.

I liked the strong central character being a woman, and felt in this book the echoes of early Patricia Cornwell (before she went mental), and Tess Gerritsen. Much like the Kay Scarpetta character, the end seemed a bit formulaic, with maybe too much involvement with the plot (sorry, trying not to give too much away). A bit off me, is quite turned off by the graphic descriptions of the crimes, as I consider it must give some sick people even more crazy ideas.

3.5/5 - because the story and police chief is memorable, but a bit of hesistation because of the ending.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Murder of King Tut - James Patterson & Martin Dugard

Murder of King Tut - James Patterson & Martin Dugard (2009)

I've almost sworn off reading any more James Patterson. I loved his Alex Cross at the beginning, but now he doesn't seem so real, so believable. In the introduction of this book James Patterson describes a bit about his writing processes, and having several books on the go at one time and one senses that it is all becoming a bit formulaic. with an idea for a story, a big story board and 300 words widely spaced per chapter.

In this book, he works with a writing partner to imagine what happened to young King Tut in his lifetime and to balance that with the story of Howard Carter, and his discovery of the tomb. I am intrigued by ancient Egypt and I guess as so little is known of the boy king, there really isn't much to write about. It was easy reading, sitting in the sun with a cool drink, and I managed to finish it in a few hours. 3/5

Saturday, January 09, 2010


Avatar (2009)

My niece arrived to stay on Monday morning, and I had cleverly booked movie tickets to see Avatar in 3D for the later afternoon. This was important because there is an eleventy day wait to get a seat, as everyone wants to see it with the plastic specs on. They were to be front row seats, and we were very excited at hyperflexing our necks for 3 hours. About 3 minutes in, miss Belle said she didn't feel well, and I told her we could leave at any time. So exactly 1 hour in, we departed for the bathroom where the poor girl cradled the loo for a good hour. I got her home, but not before she was very sick on the footpath into the shopping bag, luckily it is not an unusual sight in my neighbourhood.

So after a few days recovery, we got to go and see the Lovely Bones yesterday (2nd time for me), and then to see Avatar tonight.

I enjoyed it, the story was very much a combination of Pocahontas, Braveheart, Dances with Wolves, An Ants Tale and A Bugs Life. Except it was written by Geek brigade. The 3D was awesome and much more vibrant than the normal version, which we saw tonight, however I think it was maybe a bit too much stimulation and a bit distracting.

All I could think of, was a 9 year old me going with my parents to see Star Wars, and how amazing all those new worlds were. I think my niece, at 13 has seen so many movies and video games that nothing is amazing to these kids, they're not surprised by anything which I think is a shame. It is always nice to be surprised by someone elses imagination. 4/5

Rescuing Sprite - Mark R. Levin

Rescuing Sprite - Mark R. Levin (2007)

I picked this one up at the library this afternoon about 2pm and had it read by 5pm, so it is short and very sweet. Mark and his family pick a dog, Sprite up from a shelter. Originally told he is only about 3 years old, they find out quickly that he is much older, and has a set of health issues.

However for two years they give him a great life full of life, and friends, especially Pepsi - their other dog. Sprite does however begin to slow down considerably and Mark and his family must struggle to deal with the last stages of his life.

The author does a great job of talking about the guilt and stress caused in this scenario, that many of us feel. Also the bleak isolation that we feel when forced to help a loved one go, and that often it can be different with animals than it is with our own human family members. So I got leaky eyes reading the last few chapters, but I was touched by many of the things I read. 4/5

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress - Rhoda Janzen

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress - Rhoda Janzen (2009)

This one kept popping its head up on a few book blogs recently. I look at a few, but seldom remember what the person said about it when it arrives on the reserve shelf.

Rhoda is in her early forties when after a difficult hysterectomy, she finds her mentally disturbed husband is leaving her for a fellow he finds on a gay website, and then she has a car accident. Her husband sounded so manipulative, I was surprised that she stayed so long in the marriage anyway, but at least she keeps her sense of humour throughout. All of this compounds and she returns to her home to be cared by her family, who are Mennonites living in California.

I found it an interesting glimpse into their culture, with the references to not dancing or listening to the radio or swimming being the more interesting points. All in all, I felt it was just a nice story about returning home to be cared for by your parents, and reminising about your childhood and growing up. 3/5

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Friend Like Henry - Nuala Gardner

A Friend Like Henry - Nuala Gardner (2007)

I'd picked this one up a couple of times at the library and touched it, opened its pages and read a bit before putting it down, until finally deciding it was time to read it, and I am glad I did. So, I am going to start by saying that I give it a 4/5.

Nuala and her husband find themselves the parents of Dale, who after a difficult birth becomes a toddler with learning and communication problems. It takes them years and the gaggle of 'professionals' who finally decide that Dale is autistic and are able to provide some limited help. He definitely struggles, and it is not until the introduction of puppy Henry into the family, that progress is made with Dales understanding, communication and behaviour, all of which improve with the patient help of his golden retriever.

A touching story which managed to give me plenty of smiles, and of course made me tearful it was a great story, and worth reading if you know any autistic children or families who are affected, if only to give you a glimpse into their world.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Long Way Down - Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman

Long Way Down - Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman (2007)

Nothing starts the year off, like a bit of adventure. Grey and wet days seem to be the theme of the summer here in Wellington, this year, so it has been easy to curl up on the couch or bed with my book and ignore what is going on outside the windows.

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, travel on their bikes once again, this time from John O'Groats in Scotland, through to Capetown in South Africa. Although there is a lot of biking talk throughout the book, it is the personal encounters with everybody they meet along the way, and the places that they pass through that make the book interesting. I enjoyed their way of writing the book , with each taking several paragraphs and seeing things from alternate points of view.

It does make me want to get the dvd out, but not to take up adventure motorbike travelling, 3/5.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A Change in Altitude - Anita Shreve

A Change In Altitude - Anita Shreve (2009)

I was thinking that Anita Shreve is a pretty consistent author and one who keeps focused on telling one story at a time. Rather than a complicated plot, hers are often simple, with no back and forth in time and characters, that can make a story muddled or overly long.

Patrick and Margaret have come to Kenya not long after marrying, and I guess the whole story encompasses their experience, the vast culture shock, the isolation and the complexity that is Africa. A bit of a cliche, with him being a doctor and her being a photographer, it was still an interesting read. I found the beginning a bit stiff and hard to get into, but once past the first thirty pages the story held together well and I was interested to see where it went. 3/5

The Hangover

The Hangover - Dvd (2009)

Well it was New years eve last night, and as it was a quiet one, this DVD seemed to fit the bill. I'd heard about it, I knew it would be rude and crude, and the boys at the library were talking about it as I took my stash out. They asked me if I had a sense of humour, and I told them I knew about the movie and my humour was pretty robust. They said they loved the tiger, and Mike Tyson.

Was it funny, sure I sniggered in the right places, but not as much as the 20-39 year old male audience I am sure. In reality it is just 'Dude, Where's my Car?' for a slightly now older, more mature manboy audience. I know, I'm not the target audience, but I like to think I like a varied choice of movie and DVD, I'm just thinking Iam glad I only spent the $4 at the library to borrow this one. 3/5 because actually at the end it does have some redeeming features, true love and family and all that girl stuff.

Oh yeah, happy 2010. I don't have any resolutions, just a pile of books on the bedside table and some days off to head to the movies.