Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In My Shoes - Tamara Mellon

In My Shoes is written by the co-founder of Jimmy Choo, Tamara Mellon.  It is an interesting read,  with a little bout of insomnia it kept me reading for a couple of hours.  Growing up with an entrepreneurial father, Tamara grows up in Los Angeles, with two younger brothers and an alcoholic mother.  As a teenager she is sent off to boarding school in the UK and finishing school in Switzerland.  Her parents move back to the UK and even though she has a job editing accessories at Vogue magazine, she lives in their Belgravia basement while out partying every night, with lots of drugs and alcohol.

 When that job ends and after a stint in rehab, she convinces her father to invest in a venture of producing shoes with a cobbler Jimmy Choo.  Setting up the business and the convoluted world of business deals takes up a lots of the story, there are lots of tales of  lawyers and meetings throughout her business dealings.  One can't help but feel that she expected a life of privilege and was slightly spoilt, and that had their been less exotic holidays, private jets and cocaine their might have been a bit more sensible decision making and money in the bank.  Once  her father dies, her mother goes a bit cra cra as she is already the major benefactor of the earlier deals, but still takes her daughter to court in a disagreement over some disputed shares.

Entertaining insight into what  you might  think is a glamorous  world.  4/5

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

So I am almost officially movied out.  The weather has been super poor here for mid summer time, with teaming pouring rain over lots of day, not Noah like floods but enough to put a damper on all the plans I had for my time off - no sitting in the garden, going to the beach, gardening, going to the zoo or the botanical gardens.  Instead besties have called with invites to go to the cinema, and so I have gone.

I'm not a huge fan of Ben Stiller as he seems to be one of those actors that doesn't disappear into a role for me, but always seems to be himself, just in a different setting, a bit like Adam Sandler and many others of the manboy genre.  I did enjoy his character here, the everyman invisible worker, going about his life in a beige world, never having any adventures.  Of course that is all about to change, in a novel and fun way.

Not a must rush to the movies to go and see it, but it was good enough to say it is worth a look if you are all rained out, or sick of wizards and car chases.  4/5

Morning Glory - Sarah Jio

You kind of know what you are getting with a Sarah Jio novel.  Like her earlier books there is a contemporary storyline about Ada and in this case, an earlier story of Penny told at the same time.   Ada moves to Seattle to live in a houseboat (like Sleepless in Seattle style) after a recent tragedy.  While there she begins to unravel the mystery about Penny, a newly married wife of a temperamental artist just after the second world war.

It was a good little romantic easy novel, and even though I had them figured out quite soon in the novel they were interesting characters to read about.  Perfect easy reading for wet Christmas weather when you are stuck inside (it's mid summer here - not the time for rain).  3/5

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Finding Colin Firth - Mia March

I read The Meryl Streep Book Club by this author when it came out, you don't need to have read it to get this book, it just provides a bit of the location setting for most of the book and the characters who were central to its story are just bit players in this one.  We get to meet Bea who has arrived in Boothbay Harbour to search for her birth mother,  Gemma who has lost her job and is searching for what to do with her life and Veronica who has come to see if she can heal from her past.

Colin Firth is also meant to be in town filming his latest blockbuster, which did feel like a name dropping exercise as he didn't feature as prominently as a girl might like in the story.  I did end up feeling a bit meh about the story as you knew it would all work out for the ladies and somehow none of them seemed to have a real spark.  3/5

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

Now  I did say I wouldn't go and see this one, but I amended my idea to only going if one of my friends wanted to go and see it.  I did enjoy the Lord of the Rings, but the first Hobbit movie didn't really move me.  The way it was filmed just reminded me of 1970's budget dramas on the television and it felt a bit over done.  I never got into reading The Hobbit either, I tried to read it about five times over the years and it was not for me.

This movie The Hobbit :  The Desolation of Smaug was a bit more of the same.  I bit overindulged CGI  action scenes that lasted for 20 minutes.   I was a bit over the Spider fights and Orc chasing and wish more attention had been paid to the characters and their story, the story just seemed to be their to hold fight scene after fight scene together.  Nothing seemed to have been done to make any of the characters likeable or vulnerable, they all seemed a bit wooden and all the CGI green screen action just seemed false to me.

I get that as a non lover of the stories I am not the target audience, but I did want to like it.  I'd give it a 2/5,  it was better than being bored at home on a rainy afternoon.  The noodles I had afterwards were tasty.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Source - unknown

Merry Christmas everybody.  It is cool and wet here, and the forecast does not look set to improve in the next ten days (it is mid summer here).  Luckily I have a pile of books to read and lots of movies to watch on the DVR.  Hope you all have a lovely break with friends and family.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Letters From Skye - Jessica Brockmole

It's always nice to get a good little surprise when you pick up a book and start reading. I was hooked from the beginning of this story.  We meet Elspeth Dunn, a young poet living in remote Skye in 1912.  She receives a letter from a young American student Davey, who has recently read a book of her poetry.  Their correspondence continues and a friendship develops.  Told in letter form, this story is not only about Elspeth and Davey, but also about Margaret and her mother, a mother who has never shared her past with her daughter.  Determined to find out about her father, we learn about her discoveries through her own letters written in the 1940s.

For me it was a 4/5 - as I like a little bit of wartime romance and I didn't really mind the letter format, as the story flowed.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Catching Fire

I felt good avoiding going into town the last Saturday before Christmas, as you can feel the desperation of the last minute shoppers far away in the suburbs.  Instead it was good to spend the day pottering round around at home and head out in the early evening for a movie and some Vietnamese for dinner.  I enjoyed the first Hunger Games movie, and book which I read just before heading to the cinema.  I never got round to reading the next two books though, so it was all a surprise to me seeing Catching Fire.

So it was really more of the same story, which should have made it boring, but actually I must say it was ok.  Jennifer Lawrence is pretty kickass, and  a great role model for girls, even if this girl is a middle aged.  I would have thought she was awesome when I was sixteen.  She has great skin too - so luminous through the movie.  Lovely Liam is quite the looker with his blue eyes, and I spent most of the time wondering if they made the other male lead stand in a ditch the whole movie?

The evening was almost spoiled as our favorite Thai restaurant has closed for a month of holidays.  We ventured over the road to the local Vietnamese restaurant and had super tasty noodles, made fresh with lots of meat and veg, and a great price.

So a 4/5 for the movie and a good night out.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Paris Architect - Charles Belfoure

Lucien Bernard is trying to survive during the war, in German occupied Paris.  Approached to by a wealthy industrialist to make a hiding room for a hidden Jew, he is asked to do this in order to get a commission to design a large factory.  Not sure if he should help at the beginning, we watch him change and enjoy the challenge of outwitting the Germans.

I did  enjoy this book, although I must say the torture scenes were a bit gruesome for my sensitive stomach, the story kept me going for some time..  I am sure that somebody will be picking this one up to make a movie.  4/5

Monday, December 09, 2013

Spelling It Like It Is - Tori Spelling

So I don't have any cable tv, and haven't seen any of Tori Spellings reality tv shows, but still managed to enjoy her book.  As well as behind the scenes info about how many of the reality  show they make it planned out, it is more the story about the past year of her life.  We join her pregnant with her third child Hattie, and her surprise at falling pregnant within a month of giving birth and having a difficult pregnancy.  With continued bleeding Tori had to go on bed rest for the last few months of her pregnancy, while still trying to keep her show, and  manage motherhood.

I do admire her honesty, and she seems to really love her husband and kids.  She doesn't seem to have a clue about money, but after her upbringing you can see why she is buying pricey clothes and shoes and struggling to pay rent or a mortgage.  A quick fun read 3/5.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

My Story - Elizabeth Smart

Wow - it is quite the story, and I bow down to the bravery of this remarkable young woman who has sat down and told us the whole story about what happened to her when she was fourteen.  How as a young, niave Mormon girl, she went off to bed with her sister.  Woken in the middle of the night by a strange man with a knife at her throat, she was forced out of her house and to climb hills behind her home.  There she found herself at a campsite where she found out that she was snatched to join him and his wife as the new younger wife.

Tied up, starved and raped, and threatened daily with being killed and the threat of her family being killed, you wonder how this poor wee girl got through.  But, survive she did, nine months of abduction before being recognised and returned to her family.  She writes well, and I did enjoyed hearing her voice, even though the subject matter is disturbing.  I hope she has a long and wonderful life.  4/5

Sane New World - Ruby Wax

I've always had a soft spot for Ruby Wax, she seems in her television career to have put herself right out there in the public eye playing herself, with her witty charm.  As her last show crumbled around her, she found herself with a mental breakdown, was diagnosed as bipolar  and  with a big old bout of depression.  Coming out of the other end of her down period, she decided that she would have to find a way to help herself, and went to Oxford to study neuroscience and counselling.

So this latest book is part memoir and part neuroscience reader, explaining what happens in the brain and how we can tame it with mindfulness, silencing the negative voices.  You have to admire her bravery at putting herself out there and sharing her story.  3/5

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

My Life - David Jason

I like a biography, I seem to read enough of them lately, so this one seemed like it would provide a little amusement.  I did enjoy reading about his normal growing up, and training as an electrician.  While at school him and a mate joined a dramatic club as a way to meet girls, and without any formal training he was able to start making his living as an actor in his twenties.

For me the middle part of the book was a bit dry and I guess not knowing all the old actors and actresses of the 60's and 70's it was not my favorite book.  All started to improve when he wrote more about Porridge, Open All Hours , Fools and Horses, The Darling Buds of May and all his other television roles.  Even though there were lots of amusing stories about what him and his fellow actors got up too, it is the stories about friends and family that touch you the most, and allow you to see the man.  He certainly would seem to be a good man to share a meal and a chat with.  3/5

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Never Go Back - Lee Child

Ohhhh boyfriend, I am glad you took my previous advice and finally got off that country road.  It has seemed to take you years to get from there to here, and at least get to a city with more than a thousand people.  I am so glad that you went to a city, maybe grabbed a grande latte and got to have a shower or two.  I'm at least glad that the ladies you pick seem to have brains and understand your sarcastic wisecracks even if they seem pretty quick at dropping their pants, we understand your irresistible charms and are picturing a more Channing Tatum physique, rather than little Mr Risky Business.

Alas, my attention wasn't really grabbed by this latest adventure - I didn't find the clever in it and was a little bored.  There was a bit much driving around for me, even though I was glad you found a car or two it just seemed a little too convenient to find a hillbilly ATM burning at the time you needed cash.

So honey, take care, stay away from those country roads, quit the hitchiking, maybe use your pension money to buy a few more shirts, take a vacation, and head off somewhere new.  3/5

Friday, November 22, 2013

Margot - Jillian Cantor

Margie Franklin has a secret.  It is 1959 and she is working as a secretary for a Jewish Law Firm in Philadelphia, living her life quietly.  There is a new movie at the cinema "The Diary of Anne Frank", and Margie is finding it harder to hide who she really is.  She is really Margot Frank, the older sister of Anne, who escaped while being moved between camps.

I felt very emotional reading this novel, as I think she captured Margot, a character we all think we know well.  In Annes shadow while in the Annexe Margot feels slighted by her father, who has chosen to publish Annes diary, and make a new life for himself in Switzerland.

A 4/5 for me.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Knocking on Heaven's Door - Katy Butler

The front cover of this book makes it seem like it will be grim reading, and after reading it I guess you can say it is not an easy read - especially if you have ageing parents.  Katy Butler lives a fair distance away from her parents, and her expectation is that they will have a gentle retirement and then some vague illness and die.  When her father suffers a stroke though, she finds that she is needed to help her mother with him as he returns home.  When his heart fails, a pacemaker is inserted to stabilise his heartbeats prior to a surgery.  As the years go by, her father also begins to suffer from dementia, sliding into becoming more frail and dependant on his wife and caregivers for daily help.

Less than a year after her fathers death, her mother then becomes ill and after the experience with her husband and his medical issues, Katys mother makes some different medical choices, with the end of her life not extended by surgical intervention.

In this memoir, Katy talks not only about her own family experience, but about the moral issues surrounding doing everything possible vs gentle waiting and a slow medicine approach to caring for our elderly relatives.  Working in a hospital I find myself asking the same questions, when I see elderly people who are subjected to vigorous surgery and treatments, ones which seem to only be prolonging the suffering and their dying.  For myself, I think I would much prefer a quality of my life rather than the quantity.

5/5 - As I will be thinking about this book for some time to come and think that it will certainly be worth a reread in a few decades, when I am sure not much would have changed in the care of elderly patients.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Unbreakable - Sharon Osbourne

I smiled all through reading Sharon Osbournes new autobiography - Unbreakable.  You think you know the stories, as so much about her family appears in todays popular press.  I try to avoid the tabloids and trashy magazines, only picking them up to read in waiting rooms and the work tearoom,  but maybe the websites are just as bad or worse at reporting on any bit of gossip from celebrity land, making us all familiar with tales of Sharon, Ozzy, Jack and Kelly.  Those stories though come to you in bits and pieces, so it was nice to hear from Sharon herself about many of the stories reported in the press in the past year or so, Jacks diagnosis with MS, the birth of grand daughter Pearl, Sharons recent surgeries and of course the almost breakup of Sharon and Ozzys marriage.

For all the drama in her life, I can't help but admire the strong love that she has for her family and that even with all the issues of years ago, her kids seem to be quite normal now and settled now their wild years are behind them.  Living with Ozzy sounds like a daily challenge, and not something I could handle, so good on her for sticking it out all these years.  4/5

Friday, November 08, 2013

Longbourn - Jo Baker

This is one of those books that has me mesmerized at the bookstore, as I picked it up several times and thought about taking it home with me, but alas my budget can't stretch to books at the moment.  So I had to return it to the stacks and reserve it from the local library.  We are all familiar with Pride + Prejudice, but this is the Downton Abbey version, told from the servants who bustled about the house taking care of the Bennetts, doing their washing, cooking the food, doing their hair and cleaning up after them.

I did find it a bit dry at the beginning, I struggled with the story and was a bit bored, but once it got into telling the story of Sarah the housemaid who begins to notice James, well a touch of romance was what the story needed for me, and I loved the second half.  I wasn't surprised to see on the back page that the story has already been sold to be made into a movie, as I can see it in my head already.  4/5

Saturday, November 02, 2013

About Time

Saturday night is often movie night round here, although I should say it is more like Saturday evening.  We went to burgers and fries at a local bar, that offers a Wagu beef burger that is huge and a drink for $20 which is quite the deal.  You do have to eat before 6pm though, which suits this old lady.  We then went and saw about time, which I knew a little about and did enjoy a lot more than I expected.

It's nice to see a love story about real love, the love you have not only for a significant other, but for your friends, your family, parents, siblings, family home, children, aunties and uncles.  There was a real mix in the audience for this movie, and I think everyone left smiling.  Made by Richard Curtis who did Notting Hill and Love Actually, he is onto another winner I think, a quieter more grown up winner.  5/5

Friday, November 01, 2013

The River of No Return - Bee Ridgway

Oh  I did enjoy this one, after a few dull time travel books I wanted one with a bit of magic, that captured how crazy it must be to slip through time.  We get to meet Nick, who is an English officer fighting the Napoleonic wars in Spain, where he is about to be die on the battlefield, but suddenly finds himself two hundred years in the future.  Taken in by the Guild a secret society who are said to control time, they tell him that there is no way back.  With memories of his family, and a dark eyed girl he starts a new life as a cheese maker.

Life for Nick is quiet, until the Guild come back into his life, needing his help to find out what is causing rifts in time travel - are the Ofan to blame?  For the Guild are not the only ones who can manipulate time to their advantage, and Nick has to figure out who the good guys are.

A 5/5 from me - I am sure the story has been left open for a second novel or two (but hopefully not seven more).  It has been a while since I actually didn't mind such a longish novel, and it was all down to the interesting time periods, good writing and likeable main characters.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Perfect - Rachel Joyce

In 1972, two seconds were added to keep the time correct.  We get to meet Byron Hemming, who is growing up with his sister and mother and mostly absent father, who thinks that these two seconds will change everything in his life.

We also meet Jim - living in a van and working at a cafe.  With a history of mental health problems most of his life he wonders if things will ever be normal, can he find love, will his obsessive compulsive disorders take over?

I really wanted to like this one, as I had liked her first novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, just I couldn't find myself gelling with the characters. A 3/5

Sunday, October 20, 2013


It had been a rubbish old week with the weather, windy and wet and cold, so of course the night I pick to go out to the movies early is sunny and warm.  Never mind, I still got to see a bit of it and got dinner out before the 6.15pm showing ( old lady I know eating at 5.15pm).  So we went to see Gravity.  What a movie!!!

For a movie with only two characters, set in space I didn't think it would be quite my thing.  However I did enjoy it, and at some point I wasn't sure if my little heart could take the tension, I just wanted to read out and old George Clooney and Sandra Bullock and pull them in.

So it is definitely worth the price of a 3D ticket and make sure you see it at the movies, as it is worth seeing it on the biggest screen you can.  A worthy 4.5/5.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Ocean at The End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman (2013)

We meet the middle aged narrator at the beginning of the story, who after a funeral, has returned to the site of his boyhood home.  Here her remembers what happened to him when he was seven, the summer he met Lettie, who lived down the lane, and her interesting mother and grandmother.  It was a time of monsters, and spooky nights when the new nanny isn't all she seems.

It might be just me, as I am not a big fan of the fantasy genre in general, but possibly the best thing I liked about the book was the cover, just awesome, I kept looking at it every time I read it, hypnotised by the blue.  I can see the magic in the story, but for me it just didn't resonate.  3/5

Friday, October 18, 2013

When It Rains - Maggie Mackellar

When it Rains - Maggie Mackellar (2010)

This little memoir didn't take me long to read, and once I started I wanted to carry on till it was finished, so I have dark circles this morning after sitting up in bed reading till almost 1 am.  Maggie tells us the story of  her life, how as a young mother of a five year old daughter and an unborn son, her husband spiralled out of control, with his mental health becoming more and more unstable.  Faced with bringing up her young children by herself, she is shocked with her mothers cancer diagnosis and death not long after.

Finding herself  grieving and trying to work and bring up her children by herself, Maggie packs the family up and heads out to the country to stay on the family farm.  It is here that you can feel a healing happening, a bit of normality even though her dreams are haunted by her husband.

I like a memoir, it reminds us of our own frailty and vulnerability, how precious our lives are and how much we touch others in our life.  It can help us also to remember that we are strong, that we can get through and that even though our stories and journeys are different we all just want love and happiness.  3/5

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Panther - Nelson DeMille

The Panther - Nelson DeMille  (2012)

I do have a tendency to try and keep away from brick books, as I find myself drifting off halfway through, and just urging the author to end the torture.  The saving grace of this 500+ page book is that the author has made the main character John Corey so good.  He is witty, engaging , super smart and I can only imagine ruggedly handsome - and also, in love with his wife which I adore.

So Anti Terrorist Task force agent John and  FBI agent Kate find themselves being posted to Yemen, where they are to search for one of the leaders of the 2000 USS Cole terrorist attack.  Al Queda are still causing trouble in the region, and you spend the whole novel wondering who our couple can trust.

I have to say that I enjoyed the first half, but found for me that the second half dragged.  I still walked away though feeling like I had just been on adventure with an older Jack Reacher, one who takes us on an adventure and even travels on an air plane!!  Awesome!  3/5

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home - Sue Halpern

A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home - Sue Halpern (2013)

Sue  and her labrodoodle Pransky decide to take on a new role of therapy dog at a local nursing home, to ease the boredom and feel useful.  After a touch and go training schedule of trying to train Pransky to master walking on the lead, Pransky allows Sue to  meet a variety of patients and learn about their lives.  It is these stories about the people that  make this memoir so moving - the quiet moments when Pransky allows a gentle pat, or climbs on a bed of someone who is now to sick to make contact by themselves.  An honest look at the way people live the last years of the lives in a  nursing home, and how things can change so quickly.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Curiosity - Stephen P. Kiernan

The Curiosity - Stephen P. Kiernan (2013)

Dr Kate Philio and her team make a discovery buried deep in the Arctic Ice, a man dead and frozen who they attempt to reanimate and bring into the twenty first century.  We get to meet Judge Jeremiah Rice, swept overboard in a storm in 1906 and his introduction to the new world of computers and air travel.

I loved the premise of the story and the two main characters.  I was less impressed by the other narrators, the boss who is interested only in profits and the sleazy journalist, they just seemed unnecessary and  superfluous to the flow of the story, like they were only included to pad out the story.

I did wonder why as soon as they found out the chaps name, they weren't googling him and finding information out about his life, his family and any descendants.  It's what we would all do straight away.  Somehow I wasn't touched by the story, I didn't put the book down and think about Jeremiah and Kate, which is a bit disappointing.  3/5

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

Burial Rites - Hannah Kent (2013)

In a harsh isolated farm in Northern Iceland in 1830, we meet Agnes Magnusdottir, a poor farm worker.  After a life of poverty, she finds herself convicted of the murder of two farmers and now is sent to an isolated farm, to await her execution.  Talking with the family ,and the young priest sent to hear her confessions, we get to hear about her life, how abandoned as a child she was left to rely on the parish to support her until she can begin earning for herself.

I found the beginning of the book a bit hard to get into, but about half way through I began to feel for Agnes, for the type of life she was forced to live in a time when women relied on men to decide their lives for them. How that in our modern life we think we are poor, but cannot imagine a life where you could own nothing, have no resources, no family to help out or support us.  How it must be to be truly alone in our life. 4/5

I know it has been almost a year since I posted on this blog, but I thought it was time I continued to write here, as I do love my books and in the past year I have read so many good ones.  I did get sick of posting here and Goodreads, but lately have been so disappointed in the Goodreads website.  Now bought out by Amazon, the standards have dropped and most of their recommendations are crappy Amazon cheap reads that they seem to peddle by the dozen.  Does that make me a book snob?  Each to our own I guess, we all have our own tastes.  So back to writing about the books I enjoy.