Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins

Last week I went with a couple of friends to the local arthouse cinema to see Florence Foster Jenkins.  A sweet film about a wealthy New York socialite who owns a music club and decides that she would like to be an opera singer.  She employees a piano player and takes lesson, and is terrible.  However everyone around her tells her how good she is.  So she decides to perform at Carnegie Hall in front of 3000 friends and marines and sailors.

What seems like a silly story is based on a true person, and the movie does a good job of portraying love and friendship and following your dreams.  Meryl of course shines as usual as the dithering and silly Florence, Hugh Grant plays her loving husband and I kept looking at him as the dashing but aged man he has become.  Best of all is Simon Helberg from Big Bang Theory who plays the piano player employed to accompany Florence for her lessons.

So a sweet little movie, but more suited to a Sunday evening on the couch watching on the box I would think rather than a cinema night out.  Although if you are lucky enough to have a grown up arthouse cinema like ours that has comfy two seater couches with cushions and a wine - treat yourself.  4/5

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Troublemaker - Leah Remini

Leah Remini comes across as a likable woman who writes this memoir which is a combination of talking about growing up, working as an actress and mainly about her experiences as a Scientologist.  Joining as a teenager, she spends several decades in the religion/cult and it is was an interesting read as I knew little about Scientology before picking up this book.  It certainly does not make me want to sign up for 2.5 hours of auditing a day, writing reports on friends and family and camps where you clean toilets with a toothbrush and have to run everywhere.  Crazy, crazy stuff.

After spending two decades in the church, Leah had risen pretty high in the ranks but when she started to question some of the decision making happening, she was shut down quickly and the decision was made to leave the church, making her a Surpressed Person, to be ignored by family and friends.

An interesting read especially if you are curious about Scientology.  4/5

Friday, June 24, 2016

Beyond the High Blue Air - Lu Spinney

Lu Spinney writes this book about her beautiful son Miles, who at age 29 has an accident on holiday in Switzerland and suffers a traumatic brain injury. Such a stressful time for the family who wait by his bedside to see if he recovers. To see their handsome, clever and fit son stuck in bed attached to tubes and non responsive is heart wrenching to read, and the story is pretty blunt and emotionally raw in places. 

Surrounded and supported by a loving and caring family, this is a story about love, about what we do to look after each other, in sickness and in health. 5/5

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Violet Hour - Katie Roiphe

A bit of a clever little book, this one is about six writers as each approaches death, how they feel and spend their last weeks, days and hours sharing with friends and family and often still writing.  Such an interesting topic, as we all wonder how we would spend the days if we are lucky enough to know that the end is in sight, how we would chose to relax or would we keep ourselves busy.  Will we want to surround ourselves with people or retreat with just our nearest and dearest.  Will we eat our favorite foods, listen to our favorite music, race around or rest.

I found this look into the lives of these writers gave us a glimpse of a variety of different responses.  From those who chose to chase all the treatments they could to the end, to those who slipped away quietly with the minimum of fuss. 3/5

Monday, June 13, 2016

In the Country We Love - Diane Guerrero

Diane Guerrero is an American actress who I have seen in Orange is the New Black, but also appears in Jane the Virgin.  She wrote this memoir to tell the story about her family, her young Columbian parents who stayed in the US without green cards to try and do their best for Diane and her older brother.  As illegal immigrants they had no choice but to rely on other people to help them with housing where they could pay cash, low paying jobs and trying to stay a step ahead of the authorities.  This also left them vulnerable to the scammers who charge them money to help get their papers , but instead of helping them just rip them off.

When she was 14 her parents were arrested and then sent back to Colombia, leaving Diane alone in the  US, having to ask for help from her friends parents for somewhere to stay while at high school, and alone to find the money for college.

In a time when immigration is such a hot topic, it is interesting to read about a first hand experience, from a group of people that are seldom represented.  With an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US you can understand why that there are lots of issues being argued about.   4/5

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Son of Saul

This one has only just been on at our cinemas until a few weeks ago, but I had seen it lined up on Apple movies for being released, so I thought it would be more justified to spend $8 to watch it at home rather than spend $17 to go to the movies.  Also I try to avoid going to movies where I may have a tendency to shed a few tears.  When Schindlers List was released I went with a couple of friends to a packed out movie theater in London.  At a couple of scenes there were a few bouts of sobbing from others in the audience which then gave me the wobbly lip and made the tears come.

Son of Saul is a Hungarian film which follows Saul for a day as he works at Auschwitz in the Sonderkommando - a group of prisoners whose job it is to direct the latest arrivals to the gas chambers, then to remove the clothes and take the bodies to the ovens.  When a young boy is found, Saul thinks it may be his son and seeks out a rabbi so that he may bury the child.

You can sense the horrors going on around him, but the camera mainly focuses on Saul himself and his increasing panic to find someone to help him.  At the same time other members of the Sonderkommando realize that their time will soon be up, and that they should attempt a revolt an try to escape.

An intelligent and moving movie that told an original story about a time in history that seems now so distant from our modern life.  4/5

Thursday, June 09, 2016

We'll Always Have Paris - Emma Beddington

After discovering French Elle as a moody teenager, Emma Beddington decides that she will have to become French, and move to Paris to eat baguettes, wear chic neck scarves and stroll the avenues with a petite dog.  Although the reality is not quite the same as her dreams, we follow Emma as she does indeed move across the channel and starts her new life.

Starting as a blogger recounting her experiences as a wife and mother, she has transformed her stories into an enjoyable book and I liked her style of writing and her stories of life in France and Brussels. 4/5

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The Midnight Watch - David Dyer

In this book, the author tells the story of the Californian,  the ship that was the closest to the Titanic when it sunk in 1912.  Where were the crew of the Californian and why did they not respond to the distress flares or SOS signals sent via telegraph.  As the boat flounders and begins to sink, how did so many third class passengers end up dying not making life boats, while some went into the water only half full or with men on board, rather than the requested women and children.

It was interesting to read another perspective on the story that we all know so well. 4/5

Monday, June 06, 2016

A Mother's Story - Rosie Batty

Rosie Batty this is a story of how domestic violence affected a well spoken, intelligent, caring and loving woman.  How her partner, who she felt she had done everything right to seek help and protection, still ended up with the most horrible of outcomes.

Named Australian of the year in 2015, Rosie Batty has now become one of the faces of domestic violence in Australia and uses her exposure to raise public awareness and advocate for the victims of violence.

Such an important story, especially for women to read.  You may think that you know how domestic violence occurs, and that if it happens that you the law and police will protect you.  Certainly an eye opener, and I hope that she is successful in her campaign to change policy in way the victims are treated. 5/5

Friday, June 03, 2016

An Exclusive Love - Johanna Adorjan

What a beautiful little memoir.  I love family stories, ones that recreate the little details, the living rooms and bedrooms, the gardens and kitchens where you get a little picture in your head of how they live.

  In this one Johanna Adorjan  tells us about her family, her Hungarian Jewish grandparents who survived the second world war, and then escaped from Hungary in 1956, to make a new life in Denmark.  She also recreates her grand parents final days, as they chose to end their lives together.  Their attention to detail, of taking care of the bills, making the house tidy, leaving notes and items for their loved ones.  A story that could have seemed grim and depressing seems  like a love letter to her family. 5/5

Haha - Just posting this I realized that I have read and reviewed this book before, but completely forgotten about it.  Middle aged lady brain has truly set in.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Stir - Jessica Fechtor

Stir is a small memoir from Jessica Fechtor, who at 28 while out on a run collapses after suffering a brain aneurysm.  As she tells her story about her recovery and her life as a newly married woman, she also  tells us about her love of cooking and eating with friends and family.  She faces a lot of battles in the weeks after her initial bleed and I liked hearing about her family who helped her , reading her stories, helping her shower and bringing food from family and local restaurants. 3/5