Saturday, December 31, 2011


Melancholia (2011)

So the last night of the year, and it has rained more or less none stop for 48 hours.  All the New Years Eve celebrations in Wellington on the harbour front have been cancelled, including the fireworks.  So me and my bestie escaped to an afternoon movie, and then a overpriced quick dinner in town.

Ahhh Melancholia - it descibes the main mood of Kirsten Dunst and the name of a planet, set for collision with the earth. 

In a nutshell - Kirsten has luminous skin, a very pretty wedding dress, a lovely brother in law - hello Kiefer, a husband who takes his shirt off a lot in True Blood, a mother who needs to be shot, an attitude problem, and a long long wedding party where there are few smiles.  Then she becomes cattatonic, goes to her sisters house, mopes around, mopes on the patio, mopes in the garden, rides a horse, gets naked on the riverbank, mopes some more and then collects some sticks.

2/5 - not sure why it made a lot of the years top ten - it failed to move me, and was a bit boring and too long but was stylish  to look at.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh (2011)

So imbetween the days of working, it has meant to be a read-a-thon for me, and now the weather has packed up, curling up with a book is a good way to spend the afternoon. 

The Language of Flowers is the story of Victoria Jones.  Bought up as a ward of the state she finds herself at 10 years old being placed with Elizabeth, who lives on a vineyard and  teaches the damaged Victoria the beauty of flowers and the Victorian meaning of their use. 

Alternated between the stories of her growing up, we get to meet the older Victoria who at 18, is released into the community to find her own way.  I think this is the story I most struggled with, as I found the character a bit Woe is Me, who wanted to continue playing a victim and her reconnection with people in her past for me felt a bit too convenient.  It did make me want to give up work and find a florist, who could afford to give me hundreds of dollars every week.  I never quite believed in Victoria, and found her a bit cold and distant, and wondered why all these other characters were drawn to her.

Still, it was a nicely told story and the idea was good.  We all like a bit of Jane Eyre, an unloved girl who finds love.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Daughters of Rome - Kate Quinn

Daughters of Rome - Kate Quinn (2011)

I really loved Kate Quinns first novel Mistress of Rome, and I was looking forward to this one.  So much in fact, that I saved it up as my Christmas read, to sit in the sun and relax reading it. Don't laugh - my dad did the same thing at his place, choose a special book to read in the holidays.

For me, the story was a bit hard to get into at the beginning, but once started I enjoyed reading about the two sisters and their cousins in the year of the four emperors.  I like the melding of real and imaginary characters, it makes you feel a bit less guilty about reading about randy centurions if you learn a little history.

So a 3/5 from me, and I am already waiting for her next book.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Say Her Name - Francisco Goldman

Say Her Name - Francisco Goldman (2011)

Secretly I am a book caresser, which is not as creepy as it sounds.  I promise there won't be a CSI show about some crazy sexual fetish.  It is just that when I find a book that I want to read, everytime I go into a bookshop I stop and pick up the book and reread the cover and dream of owning it and reading it.  Then I go to the library website and either reserve it, or recommend it as a book to buy.  I seldom buy books, as frankly  they are luxury items and out of my budget now. 

This was one of those books that I had looked at and touched for a couple of months before the library bought it.  I was entranced by the blurb, a novel/memoir of a husband who has lost his young wife.  Francisco Goldman is an author and lecturer who meets a student Aura at a function, forms a relationship and eventually they marry.  Then tragically, she dies after and accident in Mexico. 

This book, is really a love letter to his wife, exploring his memories and her journals and documenting their meetings, the courtship and their years together.  The sense of grief is almost overwelming and by the middle of the novel, I almost felt like I couldn't continue as the sadness and depression was palpable.  It was also interesting to leave the death until the end, so you enter the book, not quite sure of what has happened.

Like many in this genre of books, I am reluctant to say that I enjoyed the book.  It feels like you are reaching in the glimpsing the authors heart, their raw grief and pain and they're not the most cheery seasonal reading.  Still it is worth a 3/5 - a moving love story.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The End of the Wasp Season - Denise Mina

The End of the Wasp Season - Denise Mina (2011)

This is the first Denise Mina crime novel that I have read, and already I feel I'll be checking out more of her books.  I've already recommended her to my sister in law who is always wanting to hear recommendations of new authors that I have discovered.

There is a murder in Glasgow, starting  an investigation headed by Detective Inspector Alex Morrow and her team.  I liked the story, it clicked along taking several turns which shows class.  I am often disappointed by many crime and thriller novels lately, as they dissolve into predictable CSI type drama - all flash with no substance.  I am beginning to loath a story where the main investigator/detective/doctor is abducted by the serial killer/murderer.  It comes across as lazy writing, unoriginal and totally unnecessary.

So a 4/5 - not perfect, but certainly interesting story and characters.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Annie Leibovitz - At Work

Annie Leibovitz - At Work (2008)

I had been to see an exhibition of Annie Leibovitzs work both here at Te Papa and in London.  Her iconic pictures are so well known, that it was always a surprise to see one of a celebrity that I hadn't seen before.  I guess she has been taking photos since I was born, so there were quite a few that I didn't recognise.

I couldn't get over the feeling, that for much of the work that she was trying to justify that her work was hard - not just simple point and shoot sessions.  You can see the work involved and that for many of the sissions there were days of planning and set up.  Yet, I am sure for most of us, we would think that it would be a fantastic job to take photos all day.  In fact I do take photos, x-ray pictures all day  every day, but my clients are not celebs and most are not willing.  I also don't get huge rolls of cash for doing what I do.

I liked to learn the back story behind the photos, and each section was just the right size, not too long and drawn out.  3/5

Friday, December 16, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children -

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs (2011)

I finished this one this morning, blow drying my hair, which was good as it was due back at the library today.  I am sure I am an old fashioned blogger, borrowing my stash from the local library.  Unfortunately I have neither the space nor funds to be able to buy books, but I enjoy being able to borrow so many new books for minimal cost.

I almost gave up on it earlier in the week when I started it, as it wasn't really my cup of tea.  16 year old Jacob is having trouble with his family and then witnesses the tragic death of his grandfather.  Throughout his life his grandfather had told him the stories of lots of unusual children and shown him lots of odd photographs.

So after the death, Jakob and his father travel to rural Wales  for  a spot of birdwatching and Jakob looks up the children's home where his grandfather was raised.  Here he meets the peculiar children and learns about his grandfathers stories.

For me it was just ok, it seemed to miss having a real magic moment.  3/5

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Linda McCartney A Life in Photographs - Annie Leibovitz

Linda McCartney A Life in Photographs - Annie Leibovitz (2011)

First off, if you do get this book it will cost you a fortune to get it sent, and you may need a big bag if like me you carry it home from the library (with two bags of shopping as well).  It's huge, a giant of a book.

So Linda married Paul, and sung in a band, and had a bundle of cute kids and everybody looks wonderful when they are young. It seems funny to me that after decades of the seventies looking dorky, suddenly in 2011 everything looks cool, even the cheap polyester clothes and bedraggled hair looks all hip and chilled out. Maybe now cos all the millionaires, rockstars and wannabes are all tacky and flashy with diamonds, designer clothes, ten thousand dollar handbags and girls  looking like porn stars.  In the seventies though all the boys and girls look stylie and like they have just jumped out of bed.

So a lovely book to look at, it makes you want to pick up a camera and a couple of Beatles. 4/5

The Survival of the Soul - Lisa Williams

The Survival of the Soul - Lisa Williams (2011)

I have seen Lisa Williams show when it airs on tv here and I enjoy the readings she does for people.   She seems to radiate warmth and enjoy being able to provide comfort for her clients, and looks like she'd be cheeky in her off hours and enjoy a tipple and a big laugh.

I think though I am just about reaching maximum saturation with the medium/psychic books.  I know that all the celebs choose to live on the coast in Hawaii or somewhere sunny.  That when I die Mum, the grandparents and cats will rush out to greet me, then I'll get to see a youtube version of my life before I get to visit lots of rooms and sort my soul out.  Then I'll get to pick my own pad, and chill out til the rest of the gang gets there.  Sounds good to me.

So Lisas book, it was interesting, but nothing too new or surprising after all the similar books I have read this year. I did like her explanation of people who die suddenly, in an accident when the soul just 'pops' out of the body, leaving the person to feel no pain on passing.  I like that idea, it settles my mind.  Worthy of a 3/5.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern (2011)

So this one has been the  darling of the book bloggers lately, and after a week of plowing through it I finally finished.  Erin Morgenstern is a supremely talented author, creating an amazing circus of the late 19th and early 20th century.  Appearing overnight at venues throughout the world, the black and white tents have amazing shows, each described in wonderful spooky detail.  At the centre of the story is the competition between the illusionists Celia and  Marco, who have both been guided since their childhood to perform in the circus.

The story for me looped around and I was tempted to give up in the beginning several times.  I am not a great lover of the fantasy genre, and I felt it was bordering a little on being too much for me.  I like a bit more narrative and plot.  I felt like the author was playing a game of keeping secrets about the story and I wanted to be let in more.  For that I have to give it a 3/5.

Still it was a nice distraction on some cool  crisp spring nights, tucked up under the duvet.  TV still sucks at the moment, and now with constant reruns of crappy Adam Sandler movies, I am more content with my pile of books. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

Water For Elephants

Water For Elephants  (2011)

I really enjoyed this book after reading it earlier in the year, and regretted that I had waited so long to read it, as it was a treasure.  The movie adaption, well I had heard various things about it.  At the time it played in the cinema, I seemed to be working and never found an evening to go and see it, so I was glad to find it out on DVD so soon.

I found the movie beautiful, the scenes of 20s circus life in American small towns was well done and believable.  I was distratcted somewhat by Robert Pattinson, and the makeup they kept insisting on putting on him.  Reece didn't seem quite right for her character, the hair and costumes were good but she seemed a bit wooden, and there was very little chemistry between the love interests, very few lingering looks, secret smiles.

Still, once it comes down in price I am sure I will secure a copy to have and watch again at home.


Afterlives of the Rich and Famous - Sylvia Browne

Afterlives of the Rich and Famous - Sylvia Browne (2011)

I often enjoy the secret pleasure of psychics memoirs or books of the afterlife and have read a few of Sylvia Brownes ones.  They intrige me and on the whole are pretty short and sweet.  Here Sylvia Browne talks about what happened to many of the worlds most famous celebs after they died.  Lady Di,Dean Martin, Gregory Peck, Abraham Lincoln, Elvis, John Belushi, Anna Nicole Smith and of course Michael Jackson.

I liked that they all seemed to get to live in a little house by themselves and have little jobs to do.  Some look after animals, or people, some do research in fields that interest them.  I am not sure how much I believe, but I like the idea of all that Sylvia Browne talks about.  I always like to think that my mum and all the old pets will be there to greet me when I die. 


Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Train in Winter - Caroline Moorehead

A Train in Winter - Caroline Moorehead (2011)

Possibly not the best of books to read over the holidays, it was a truely compelling read that bought me to tears several times.  In January 1943, 230 French woman were sent on a train from Paris to Auschwitz.  All were arrested by the Germans for helping the resistance, from simply writing in support of France in a letter, to writing a slogan on a wall.  We get to hear their stories, the families that they leave behind.

It is hard to comprehend the brutality of living in the camps, and amazing that more than a handful survived to return to France.  Many died agonising and tragic deaths, of startvation, Typhus, thirst, being beaten or sent to the gas chambers.  It is almost too hard to read, to understand what was witnessed, to believe that it happened only seventy years ago.

Of the 230, 42 returned and by the time the author starts writing the book only nine still survive.  She follows their stories and it is moving stuff.  It is a 4/5 for this important story.