Sunday, July 31, 2011

The White Garden - Stephanie Barron

The White Garden - Stephanie Barron (2009)

Jo has accepted a new commission - to travel to the UK and visit Sissinghurst, and recreate the famous White Garden for her wealthy clients.  Two days after telling her grandparents, her grandfather dies leaving a cryptic note that Jo believes relates to the gardens she will be visiting.

So while scoping out the gardens, she finds a mysterious diary with her grandfathers name on it that relates to the suicide, in 1941 of the author Virginia Woolf.  Enlisting professional help to verify the diaries author, Jo then finds herself in a chase across the UK, to find out what happened in the time between Virginias death and her body being found.

Worthy of a 4/5 I enjoyed the book, the quality writing managing to absorb me and made it easy for me to disappear within the pages.

How to Be a Woman - Caitlin Moran

How to Be a Woman - Caitlin Moran (2011)

Part biography, part social commentary I'm still not sure how to write about this one.  After growing up with a large family and not much money, Caitlins book is a combination Angelas Ashes and Puberty blues as we hear honest stories about growing up, puberty, periods, boys, porn,babies, marriage and sex.  She talks about her boyfriends honestly and finding out how to be a woman growing up in the 80's and 90's.

It must hard for girls now to find their way.  So many images are thrust upon young girls telling them how to look, how to act and dress, it must be hard to find your own way.  At least you don't get that pressure in your 40's, so I just dress and act how I like and try not to look like mutton dressed as lamb. 

I wonder how many woman's mags will collapse soon, as they all seem to be stuck in some sort of time warp.  I think that blogging and online sources are much more current and freeing, although there do seem to be full of skinny 20 year olds wearing vintage clothing.  I did love Caitlins take on why high heels are sold to woman as a sexy image, its made lots of designers rich, but who can walk in them?  Me, I gave up wearing heels about fifteen years ago, and do laugh at girls tottering around town.

Anyways it is worth a 4/5.  Some bits were a bit showy offy, I wasn't too into the chapters on vaginas and porn, but I'm open minded and did snigger a bit.

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Not Really About the Hair - Tabitha Coffey

It's Not Really About the Hair - Tabitha Coffey (2011)

I expected this one to be all about the I'm not such a bitch as I look on tv, which I think filled up a chapter.  I did find myself surprised to hair about her growing up in Oz hanging up in her parents strip club with the transexuals.  Also growing up chubby she had an interesting childhood with a wayward dad and a strong mum.

Once she got into hairdressing you have to admire her awesome work ethic and expecting high standards from all she works with.  This got her into  earning her own show, and now she travels the States helping other salon owners to up their standards and earnings.

So a light and surprisingly entertaining read.  3/5

The 100 Thing Challenge - Dave Bruno

The 100 Thing Challenge - Dave Bruno (2010)

After last year, with moving and trying to pack and unpack ten years worth of stuff, I have been determined to downsize somewhat and to not collect more stuff.  I have been trying not to buy any books, although I have managed to get a couple, and when I saw this one at Borders, I decided to cave in and buy this one and two others in their third off sale.

So Dave decides to downsize and live with only 100 processions for a year.  He then spends a year getting rid of his superfluous stuff, and although he only lives with a 100 things, he does share a house with his wife and children, so things like furniture, kitchen stuff don't count.  However we can all understand his need to simplify, and the peace it can bring.  I somehow think that being a man is somewhat easier, with just living with 10 tshirts and a couple of pairs of jeans would be fine for most blokes I know.  I am sure my brother has only 20 items of clothing and would be fine with his computer, car and phone.

However it was an interesting read.  I think we have come through a cycle of ostentatious wealthy waste and consumerism that has been pushed on us by TV and magazines.  The over the top celebrity lifestyle of huge closets and hundreds of pairs of shoes is now shunned by so many people. Blogland is filled with honest people who live thrifty and shop second hand and grow their own vegetables and the time is right for such a book. 

I did find that more time was spent talking about the set up for the challenge and justifying it, then the year he spent with his 100 things.  Still we could all down and looking at our stuff and challenging ourselves to whittle down and really treasure the things we love.  4/5

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Half A Life - Darin Strauss

Half A Life - Darin Strauss (2011)

It was a cold and blustery day here in Wellington, and after a stomach full of Yum Cha it seemed ideal to be able to wander down to the library and browse the stacks.  I really shouldn't as I already had a pile that threatens to topple off the bedside cabinet and smother me.  When I found this one,  even at a 177 pages it was a small book that only took an hour to read.  So I curled up in a library chair and got it read, before going to get the groceries and head home.

When he was 18, Darin Strauss was driving his friends in  the car, when approaching a group of cyclists, one swerved into his path, and the young student cyclist was killed.  Even though he was told it was an accident he found that it haunted his life, thinking of the what ifs, and trying to escape the pain that followed him.  The book was able to show how such an incident might never be understood, the reasons never explained and how you have to learn to adapt.  Life may never be the same, and we all wonder how we would cope when faced with the same experience.

4/5 - small and memorable.

The Paris Wife - Paula McLain

The Paris Wife - Paula McLain (2011)

While I have read a few books lately that I couldn't wait to finish, this one was the joy of reading one you didn't want to end.  Right from the beginning, I think Paul McLain did a fantastic job of retelling a tale of a girl falling in love with a boy.  In this case Hadley Richardson, who in her late twenties falls in love with a young Ernest Hemingway.  I felt like I could feel the emotions of her waiting for his letters, and it was a great start to the novel.

Once married, the young couple set off for Paris, where they life in a squalid flat but socalise with the literary greats of the time.  As he gains more confindence and his writing becomes more well known, Ernest begins to slip away from his relationship with his wife, flirting with the young things in his circle. Hedley begins to realise that she will be unable to hang onto Ernest, that things have changed, and that she doesn't want to share him.  You can feel her pain, as her love slips and Ernest is lost.

A 5/5 - it is hard to fault and may be one of the more memorable reads I have read this year.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Leopard - Jo Nesbo

The Leopard - Jo Nesbo (2011)

I was a bit hesitant going in,  because I had read the Snowman, and found it a bit over blown and long.  I like the main characters, detective Harry Hole who has disappeared after his last adventure with a killer and Kaja the police woman sent to find him.  More strange murders have happened in Oslo, and they are looking for the killer and the connection between them all.

OMG - when would it end?  It was soooo long, I found myself willing it to end.  The beginning and end were ok, but the middle just seemed to waffle on.  The cover compares the author to Steig Larsson, and it is true, I had the same frustrations with him.  It just seemed to need some editing to make it tight.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Bridging the Gap - Kelvin Cruickshank

Bridging the Gap - Kelvin Cruickshank (2011)

Kelvin is a New Zealand medium, who has been made popular on the Sensing Murder TV series.  I have enjoyed his earlier books where he talks about his early experiences of growing up and discovering his psychic abilities.  In this his latest, he talks about you using your own abilities to open up to spirit.

 It was interesting, but for me, I found the earlier two books better reads, as I found much of the information here repetative and  I had read much of it before.  However, it may b that for many this may help them feel more in touch with their own instincts.  3/5

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dolci Di Love - Sarah-Kate Lynch

Dolci Di Love - Sarah-Kate Lynch (2011)

Sarah-Kate is a Kiwi author who writes international stories. Somehow I find it difficult to read many New Zealand orientated novels.  I do admit to owning a few of her earlier stories, but they are on my bookshelf unread and this is the first one I have dived into.

  Lily is a Manhattan busy working wife who finds out her husband seems to have another life in a small Italian village, and so after a night of drinking finds herself living in a small room above a cookie shop run by two old widows.  As life slows down, she begins to enjoy life more.

A bit of chick lit escapism was just what I needed at the moment.  I was a bit puzzled, as in most of these stories about how easily people seem to be able to walk away from their old lifes.  We all feel like doing it, but with mortgages and bills to pay , it would be hard.  Maybe we don't earn enough in NZ, I think I'd need some dollars in the bank, and then I'll escape to Italy too.  3.5/5

Radiance - Alyson Noel

Radiance - Alyson Noel (2010)

Riley is 12, and finds herself dead after a car accident.  However the hereafter is not to be a life of leisure, as she finds herself given a new job as a soul catcher, and with her dog Buttercup helps some lost souls to go towards the light.

I must admit to this one being a young adult novel.  I had browsed those stacks at the library recently with my neice, and found it full of angels, witches, vampires and of course boyfriends.  But I guess you can't complain if the kids are reading.

So this one was a light but enjoyable little read, with a new age concept of heaven, and one that seems more real to me than floating around on clouds with a harp.  4/5

Monday, July 11, 2011


Bridesmaids (2011)

It starts off with a hiss and a roar, and honestly the first few scenes were great, I was close to releasing some good pig snorts while laughing.   Then like most American comedies, it tried to turn serious, which is a laugh kill, and changes the momentum of the movie and annoys me.  I know it is hard to sustain the laughs all the way through, but there seems to me a formula, of joke, joke, joke, drama, drama, joke that they all follow.

I don't want to give the story away, but basically one friend gets engaged, best friend is bridesmaid, new rich friend is another bridesmaid, rivalry ensues, awesome dress outfit scene, great batchelorette party, overdone wedding shower, Jon Hamm looks cute but is an idiot and the ending is pretty typical. 

We had a laugh, and think it worthy of a 3/5 and bring on more female made fun.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wall Street - Money Never Sleeps

Wall Street - Money Never Sleeps (2010)

Hmmm, I think I had a moment of regret when I made the decision to pick this one up at the library.  The first Wall Street was no great movie, and the decision to make a sequel seemed to be just a reflection of the time in the financial world.  I get that there was an opportunity to teach the masses about the ups and downs of a world ruled by money, and how it is just a house of cards that can fall in an instant.

A 1/5 for this one - it didn't seem to be believable to me, and the characters a bit too forced.

X Men First Class

X-Men First Class (2011)

Well seen I have never watched the earlier movies all the way through, or read the comics there stood a fair chance I wouldn't like this movie.  But actually I enjoyed the first half, and even though I promised my friend that I wouldn't sleep through any of it, once it descended into silliness half way through I did manage a quick snooze.  Alas the combination of a long work week, a warm theatre, some popcorn in my stomach and stupid special effects on screen is a winning combination for a wee snoozathon for me.


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

History of a Suicide - Jill Bialosky

History of a Suicide - Jill Bialosky (2011)

In 1990, the authors twenty one year old sister gassed herself in her mothers garage, while her mother slept upstairs.  Years later, Jill Bialosky looks to put the pieces together and try to find out why.  Now grown up and ater suffering her own tragedies, she realises that it really is a life lost and thinks of all the things her sister missed out.

Thoughtful and sad, many of the beginning pages are terribly moving, I did find myself puzzled by the subtitle of the book, - 'my sisters unfinished life' which I found telling in itself.  That the author could not get over that her sister was missing out which is understandable.  Whereas I can see that this was the ending of her life, and although short and tragic, it was the journey she was meant to travel on.

I think that by the end Jill realized that although she was looking for a trail of crumbs she could piece together to find the cause, it in fact was more a deep prolonged sadness, and that seeing suicide as a way out of her problems, was like a switch that just turned on.

Suicide has touched so many families and friends, and it is hard to find reason with the decisions made, and it is the ones who are left behind who always wonder why and what if they had done or said something different.

4/5 - I think I will remember this memoir for some time.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Africka Reich - Guy Saville

The Afrika Reich - Guy Saville (2011)

I do like the occasional war novel, and I must admit that being a middle aged woman that I am not probably the authors targeted audience for this one.  It seems to me that it is made to be an extended screen play, with our battle worn protaginist sitting in his farm in 1952.  The Germans have won  the war and extended out through Europe and are now the rulers over most of Africa.  A knock on the door and the promise of one last mission, to murder the Nazi who drove away his mother,  entices our hero away from his girlfriend with a worrying past into an Africa where everything is sitting ready to be blown up.

Then we travel through the African continent followed by train, plane, car,hellicopter, jeep, building and tunnel explosions and fireworks chased by teams of Nazis.  I almost gave up after page 100, but somehow stuck with it til page 300, then I skim read til the end.  There is only so many torture scenes you want to read about.

So for me, I had to admit defeat and give it a 1/5.  Back to the chick lit I guess.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Stories I Only Tell My Friends - Rob Lowe

Stories I Only Tell My Friends - Rob Lowe (2011)

I see that Rob Lowe has been dragged out onto every US talk show to promote his new biography.  Us ladies of a certain age need no introduction, as he was in so many movies and mags in the 80s with his dream boy looks. 

I wasn't expecting much of this book, but was pleasantly surprised.  He had a modern childhood with a depressed mother, and a couple of stepdads, moving houses and running around the neighbourhood with other tv/movie celebs.  He tells us about a lot of girls without it being too sleazy, and that is balanced out with the long marriage with his wife and two young boys.  The insights into the West Wing were interesting, and it didn't seem the same after he left.

So it was a quick read, but I did enjoy it more than I expected - 4/5.