Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all.
When I was a child, 10-12, I lived in North Africa. We celebrated 3 Christmases in Tripoli, Libya. At first it didn't seem like Christmas, but then I realized that I was celebrating in an area of the world that would have had this type of climate at the first Christmas. The nights were clear, cold and full of stars. Our base chapel presented, each year, a living Nativity complete with a baby Jesus, always a child up to 18 months old, sheep, goats, donkeys and three Wise Men arriving on camels. It became a true Christmas for me, and to this day I do remember those celebrations.
Peace to all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Backyard Tribe" a novel by Neil Shulman

"Backyard Tribe" a novel by Neil Shulman

I read this delightful novel back in 2002, so I don't know if it will still be available on your library's shelf.

Mobile, Alabama will never be the same, and neither will Dr. Bud Payne, his wife, Gail, their family or the neighborhood. What starts out as a "Good Samaritan" deed, quickly becomes a comedy of errors that grows beyond Bud's wildest dreams. Having traveled to Kenya to donate his medical services, and have a few day away with his wife, Bud stumbles upons a Maasai girl who needs life-saving heart surgery. Bud believes that he has simply made arrangements for the girl and her mother to travel to Mobile for the surgery. Imagine his surprise when her entire tribes disembarks from the 747!

Hope, if you can locate this book, that you will consider this one. I might not have read it, had it been set someplace other than Mobile - James graduated from Mobile High.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Max Headroom

Max is back!!!!!!!! Max Headroom is now on DVD!

We started watching the series back in the late '80's. I really was sorry when it disappeared. The other day when I was returning material at the circ desk, I came across the boxed set of Max........ So, over the week-end we started watching the series.

James and I do not recall having seen the first 2-3 episodes, so it was fun to watch from the beginning. We have now watched 7 episodes, and still have 3 DVDs to go...... Whooppee!

Now, in addition to the tires I want for the car, I want the series of Max. Are you listening, James?

Have fun.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 17, 2010

"The Last Station" a film

"The Last Station" a film that was up for several Oscars for 2009.

We just finished watching this film last night. James was NOT impressed with this one - he thought it was a soap opera - even with Helen Mirren playing the "Countess", nothing could save this film for him.

On the other hand, I thought it was interesting, and Helen did an admirable portrayal of the "Countess".

Set in Russia in 1910 - revolves around Leo Tolstoy, and his last days.

Just a warning, there is one very explicit "sex" scene.

"Paperboy : confessions of a future engineer" a memoir by Henry Petroski

"Paperboy : Confessions of a Future Engineer" by Henry Petroski

A loving, interesting look at the growing up years of Henry in Cambria Heights (Queens borough) of NYC, during the early 1950's. Henry's family moves from Brooklyn to Cambria Heights and the life of the eldest son evolves from a child supported by his parents to a young man who learns the intricacies of becoming an independent business person.

Many interesting vignettes regarding the days when the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers vied for the World Series penants.

Hope you will try this one. I really did enjoy the stories he shared.

"Almira" a wine from Spain

One day while shopping at the Co-op in Mt Vernon, WA. I stopped dead in my tracks as I saw a bottle of wine with my name on it.

Well, I had to purchase it, James really enjoyed it, so now I order it by the case, rather then just buying one bottle at a time.

It is a pretty good wine for a blend, and it certainly makes for conversation at the check out stand as they all know my name.

If you ever see it, and like Spanish reds, try it and see what you think.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Housewrights" a novel by Art Corriveau

"Housewrights" a novel by Art Corriveau.

I read this several years ago, and have always enjoyed doing reader's advisory on it for library patrons. Several of the staff here at the library have also enjoyed this one very much.

At the beginning of the 1900's in a small town in Vermont, Lily Willard meets twins Oren and Ian Pritchard when her father hires their carpenter father to build the Willard family a new home. Ten years later, Oren returns to claim Lily as his bride. As the town Librarian, Lily has certain moral standards imposed upon her by the powers that be, so that when Ian returns from World War I shell-shocked and injured, he moves in with the the young married couple, only to set tongues awagging at that! But when the three of them dance together at the local Grange dance, with all the town watching, the scandal that it causes, causes them to make changes to their lives - a PROBLEM not easily overcome, especially with twins.

I really enjoyed this story, the writing was very well done. Hope that you will consider this one,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"The Open Door" a novel by Elizabeth Maguire

"The Open Door", a novel by Elizabeth Maguire

After reading Colm Toibin's "The Master" about Henry James, I decided that I wanted to learn more about Constance Fenimore Woolson, so I looked her up in our library catalog system, this title appeared under her name. This book was published 2 years after the death of Elizabeth Maguire, the author.

This is a much shorter book then Colm's, however, Constance's life ended abruptly. I was curious to learn if the events in "The Master" were accurate regarding Constance's and Henry's relationship. I was amazed how much like a jigsaw puzzle these two books were, all the pieces fit together perfectly.

All Constance ever wanted was to meet the "great" Henry James, and to become a friend of his. As did Henry, Constance left America to live in Europe, finally settling in Italy. Having a letter of introduction to Henry, she eventually does meet with him, little does she realize how much this will change her short life forever, as they begin a very unusual relationship.

Much more friendly, and open to people than Henry, Constance goes on to live in Europe's society quite comfortably, although she always longs for Henry's presence, which he greedily shares on his terms.

Both books do verify her tragic death, and Henry's bizarre behavior regarding the disposal of Constance's clothing.

If you want to read these books together, I would suggest that you read Constance's book first, then Henry's, only to give Constance her place in the world.

Both books are well worth the time reading. I enjoyed both, although I have more sympathetic feelings for Constance.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"The Master" a novel by Colm Toibin

"The Master" a novel by Colm Toibin.

After reading Colm's novel, "Brooklyn", I was very interested in reading something else of his, so I chose this novel. It is possibly the only novel that I have ever read that has been so thoroughly researched by an author, he listed EVERY book he read on the entire James family.

I am not sure that I would have found Henry a very nice person, one of America's best writers of his time, although he chose to live abroad in England, Paris, Rome and Venice.

Henry was born into a very wealthy family 20 years before the American Civil War, rubbing shoulders with many of America's most intellectual names in our country's history, maintaining relationships with most throughout his life, but not necessarily being friends with them.

One person in particular became a very "dear" friend of his, Constance Fenimore Woolson (niece of James Fenimore Cooper). More about Constance in another blog.

Colm's portrayal of Henry James is extremely well-done, showing a self-absorbed, lonely, sometimes intolerant figure. It was a great tragedy when his friend, Constance, died, yet Henry refused (much to the consternation of his friends) to attend her funeral. Henry chose a most bizarre way to dispose of Constance's clothes, and this event sheds an unusually disturbing personality trait.

With all of Henry's faults, he still stands out as an excellent writer. I did enjoy this book very much, and have already handed it off to a library patron, will be interesting to hear her thoughts on the book.

Hope you will consider it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"The Owl and Moon Cafe" by Jo-Ann Mapson

"The Owl and Moon Cafe" by Jo-Ann Mapson
Four generations of women, from the same family, end up living, working, and sharing family secrets together - during which time, they must learn the secret of living together in harmony. An unexpected job loss to Mariah Moon forces her to move in with her mother, Allegra, and Gammy, so that her daughter, Lindsay, can continue to attend her fancy private school. Gammy waits tables at the Owl & Moon, Allegra does all the baking and cooking, when Mariah arrives and pitches in to make ends meet - until, her mother is diagnosed with leukemia, at that time Mariah take over running the Owl and Moon. Lindsay moves ahead with a scret and dangerous science project with her "sometimes" rich friend Sally.
The biggest surprise to all is when Allegra meets her former lover, who just happens to be her cancer specialist - things start to unravel, and yet start to fit together again.
Read this one back in 2006, still brings back memories when I check it out to a library patron, or return it.

Captain Saturday, a novel by Robert Inman

"Captain Saturday" a novel by Robert Inman
He was Raleigh's favorite TV weatherman, he had it all, a beautiful wife, a son in medical school --- Life was good UNTIL a heartless conglomerate purchases the TV station, and releases him from his job. Will goes on a rampage, is arrested, is locked out of his home by his wife, and to top it off, he finds out that his son isn't too crazy about him either. Enter long-lost cousin Wingfoot Bagget, who comes to Will's rescue, although Will isn't too sure he wants to be rescued by this "river cousin", however, as Will has no place or anyone else to turn to, he blindly follows his cousin. Things get a bit out of wack for Will, but things start to fall into place, he figures things out, becomes "Captain Saturday", winning back his son, and his good name.
This was a fun read, with some really good humor, and a couple hilarious scenes with his cousin. Hope you will consider it and enjoy.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Books, book, books

Just a rambling here.
To me, a house without books is like a body without a soul LIFELESS.
I don't understand people who have no books around their homes............

Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder

"Among Schoolchildren" by Tracy Kidder
One of the first books I ever read by Tracy Kidder. This was a very enjoyable read, well-paced, well-written, a very good insight into terrible conditions (at the time it was written) that teachers face on a daily basis.
Tracy received permission to "sit" in Mrs. Zajac's 5th grade class, for a whole year, at Kelly School in Holyoke, Connecticut,( where she had grown up and eventually became a teacher.)
Tracy takes the time to introduce the reader to all of Mrs. Zajac's students, their backgrounds, their personalities, pleasures, pains and problems. One child in particular becomes not only Mrs Zajac's "cross to bear", but the one student she absolutely refuses to give up on. All the children become family, and dear to the reader. It is a very sad day for the reader, writer and teacher when Clarence is sent to another school. One wonders whatever happened to him.
Tracy is such a great author, approaching subjects that will be of interest to various folks.
Hope you can locate this one, and give it a shot.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Last night at the Lobster" a novel by Stewart O'Nan

"Last Night at the Lobster" a novel by Stewart O'Nan
Only 4 shopping days to Christmas, stressful time for shoppers, but it should be a regular time for business at the "Lobster", if not busy. Christmas should be a time to look forward to with pleasure, however, that is far from Manny DeLeon's mind these days. Manny, manager of the Red Lobster, is faced with the fact that corporate headquarters is closing this Lobster down. Manny's staff is ready to mutiny, but they still are expected to man their shifts on this the last day being open....
But will Manny and his staff be able to get through this last day?
Snow, unscheduled tourists, a party, and all the normal regulars show up and add to the stress of this last day.......
Read this book just as the economy was starting to tank back in early 2009 - therefore this was a timely story to read.......

"The Island" a novel by Victoria Hislop

"The Island" a novel by Victoria Hislop
Consider finding out that one's great grandmother was the victim of leprosy, BUT not learning from one's own parent, but from an "old" family friend, and that one has to travel to another country to gain this knowledge.
Alexis, well-off from England, travels to a small Greek village, over the course of several days Alexis discovers all of her mother's family secrets........ Well, that could be a shock to the system.
The writing is well done, the unfolding events are thoughtful, and sympathetic to the subject of leprosy, a subject that most people, currently, have little or no knowledge of.
Hope you will consider this title.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Box of Delights" by John Masefield

Recently, on NPR, John Masefield's book "Box of Delights" was being discussed by an author. Naturally, I needed to see why this book, written in 1937, was being discussed, so........
I am nearing the end of this "delightfully" told story. Kay Harkin has been "given" a box to protect from the evil doers, a box that can make him small or take him on very speedy trips of his choice. Magic is involved in many aspects of this book - which precedes Harry Potter by so many decades, and the writing is so much better than J.K.'s (s0rry if you are a big fan).
This is one that should become a holiday classic, but will probably fall by the wayside in our current scheme of things.......
Hope you will give it a look-over.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!
Be careful as you travel, enjoy yourself in moderation, and remember someone less fortunate.
Have already watched my favorite Thanksgiving film "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", oh how I miss John Candy!
Gobble gobble!

Friday, November 19, 2010

"The Burmese Harp" a film

"The Burmese Harp" a film by Kon Ichikawa, produced in 1956. Recently re-released. Glorious Black and White photography, and beautiful music.
A Japanese platoon, in Burma at the end of WWII, find themselves in the Mudon prison camp awaiting their return to their homeland. Self taught lute player, Mizushima, is sent by the British Army to convince a group of Japanese soldiers, "holed up" in a cave, to surrender. They believe that he is a traitor, a coward, and refuse to heed his warnings. The British follow through with force, the only survivor, as luck would have it, is Mizushima. As he attempts to return to Mudon, he comes upon so many of his fallen Japanese comrades that have perished and are left lying where they died. He is so moved by this, that he decides to become a Buddhist priest, even as his platoon hopes for his return.
This is a Long movie, and just having seen several Akira Kurosawa films, I was concerned that it was going to be another "downer" of a story, but this was a movie so thoroughly enjoyed by James and me. You will need about 2 solid hours of your time to view it, but please consider this film........
If I were going to give it a star rating, it would be a 5 star rating......

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mistress of Spices a film

"Mistress of Spices" a film.

This film is visually one of extreme beauty, colors of the spices are incredible. Since James and I thoroughly enjoy Indian dishes, this film did appeal to our visual senses. I am sure that if there were aroma movies, that I would have felt like I had died and gone to Heaven. Oh, how I wish we had a spice bazaar in Stanwood, or on Camano Island. I would spend many hours in a store such as this, when I am not at the library.

Story-wise it is a bit weak.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Well Done Abba" a movie

"Well Done Abba"
Naturally, if you see "ABBA", you might think the singing group...... Just forget that.
This came through the circ desk, saw the cover and just had to check it out.
James and I watched this the other evening, and I decided that I need to purchase this one.
Armaan Ali, a driver works for a young Senior Executive in Mumbai, is trying to save his job. His boss has just fired him, because Armaan took more time off then he was allowed - 3 months!
Armaan gets in the car and proceeds to explain to his boss exactly what had happened. Armaan has gone back to his village to find a match for his unmarried daughter, who is in the care of his twin brother and wife. His village suffers from a lack of water, and Armaan decides to obtain a government permit to dig a well. What happens can only leave one laughing, and wondering if this is how things really work in his country.
James and I really enjoyed this one. It is in Arabic with subtitles, but well worth it.
Give it a shot.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman" a novel by Elizabeth Buchan

"Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman" a novel by Elizabeth Buchan
Oh, She had it ALL! A good marriage, a great job, grown children and a home filled with......... But Nathan can't compete with the long ago memories of why Rose had married him, so when Nathan tells Rose he wants out of their marriage with, of all people, her younger assistant, Minty, Rose is sure she really can't be hearing him correctly, and when her boss, Timon, informs her that the paper no longer requires her services, she is doubly sure she is hearing Timon incorrectly, but that is indeed the case.
Rose's life, as she has known it, is over or so she thinks. Her grown children, however, force her to put one foot in front of the other, and so Rose starts reinventing her life. Her former beau reappears in her life, but is he and that what she wants? Muddling along, Nathan and Minty start having their own problems, and Rose finds that she doesn't care, and she really doesn't want Nathan back. And then Rose has that "light bulb" moment and realizes that she has become a better person without him.
A Revenge is SWEET!
Elizabeth captured all the emotions one would face in this type of situation. There are two books that follow these folks.
Hope you enjoy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Bliss" a movie

"Bliss" a middle eastern movie, can't seem to get away from them.
Young Meryem is found unconscious by a local shepherd, from her appearance, it would seem that she has been sexually violated. In her small village, she is expected to take her own life, as she is no longer considered "pure". Meryem is unable to name her assaulter to prove her innocence, however, she refuses to submit to the village's pressure to end her life. Her distant cousin, Cemal, has just returned from military service, and is given the task of executing her. Taking her to Istanbul, he visits his brother and an old childhood friend, neither of them believe in the "old ways". The friend has place that he suggests Cemal and Meryem go to, a fish farm on a huge lake. The current caretaker leaves and they take over his chores. A professor, on a fantastic sailboat, arrives and convinces the two to come on board and become his crew, he is unaware of the situation, believing them to be husband and wife.
This is a rather unusual film - it begins in sepia, and then turns to fantastic color, due in part to the locale and the water, then has a few moments in black and white. Story was interesting, the actors were believable. Some of the images keep coming back to me at odd moments.
Based on the novel by Zulfu Livaneli. Hope you will give it a try

Friday, September 24, 2010

"The Circle" a movie

"The Circle" an Iranian movie by Jafar Panahi
James and I watched this film last night. Many thoughts are roaming around in my head regarding this film.
One- this is NOT Light and Fuzzy. It is pretty grim at times, not because of any physical violence or bad language.
Two - it would appear that the only crime any of these women committed was being born a female.
Three - dialogue is sparse, with subtitles, so it is quite easy to follow.
Four - it will make any Western woman be very aware of how very lucky she is to not have been born in some areas of the world.
This is almost done as a docu-drama, takes place in less then 24 hours. At the onset the screen is black - there is nothing wrong with the DVD or your player - you will hear moans, groans and cries, as a baby is brought into the world. The maternal grandmother learns that her daughter has just given birth to a baby girl, and so the journey begins....... Doom and gloom
Having lived in North Africa, I have never taken for granted the freedoms with which I am blessed, by an accident of birth. From now on, I believe that when I hear news of women being imprisoned in Middle Eastern countries, I will consider their plight in an entirely new way.
Maybe this is a film some of you will want to forego, but I hope that this film will make, those of you who do consider watching it, aware of how very hard women in other parts of the world really do have it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pirate Radio a movie

Well, it looks like I picked the English version of "Pirate Radio".

We watched this the other evening - now if you know me well, you know that I do not use/nor care for the "F" word, this film has its share of it. On the other hand, the music in Pirate Radio is from my junior and senior high school years, and it brought back so many memories. The setting is just off the English coast, during the 60's, when it was "forbidden" to play "rock and roll" music on English broadcast radio, based on actual events. A "wild and woolly" group of pirate dj's get together and broadcast "rock and roll" 24 hours a day. It would appear that half of England listened to their broadcasts on a daily basis.
Some of the cast are quite notable for other types of movies, Philip Seymour Hoffman was really great as the ex-patriot American "the Count", Emma Thompson as the inebriated mother "Charlotte", Bill Nighy as the skipper "Quentin", Rhys Ifans as "Gavin", and the real kicker Kenneth Branagh as "Sir Alistair Dormandy" who looked like a British version of Hitler......
They must have a had a really great time making this one.
So, if you are of the '60's generation, this movie has great music - sort of an English version of "American Graffiti".

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Just a ramble on .............

This is just a rambling on, or maybe a venting or some other such thing......

I pretty much stick to writing about books and movies, so this may come as a surprise to some of you who follow my blog.

Just this past week in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, a young girl was given a date rape drug, while at a Rave, she was then gang-raped by close to 7 boys and young men. As this dreadful thing was occuring, a 16 year old boy decided to video it, and then decided to post it on "FACEBOOK"!!!!!!!!!! Can you imagine? The RMCP have taken the 16 year old boy into custody and charged him with posting CHILD PORN, Facebook officials have tried everything in their power to take these awful postings off the site, but every time they do, some sleaze re-posts them. Facebook and the RMCP are working together to charge those who keep reposting these images.....

My vent just doesn't stop there, since I keep viewing other blogs, I find it disturbing that folks post so many photos of their young children, grandchildren and post so much information about their personal, and what should be PRIVATE, information - I mean "come on folks" you need to consider that there are really BAD people out there who can figure out where you live.......... And if you don't believe me, maybe you should consider reading "Cyber War" by Richard A Clarke, if "They" can break into the Pentagon's systems, what makes "anyone" think "their" computer system is REALLY REALLY SAFE? After all, how many fire walls do you think the Pentagon has? ONE? Time to Wake Up.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Blue Moon Circus" a novel by Michael Raleigh

"Blue Moon Circus", a novel by Michael Raleigh
I read this book several years ago, and each time I check it out to a patron or return it, I remember how surprised, and how much I enjoyed this book. There are not many copies left in our system, but if you place a hold on it, you should be able to get one copy quickly.
Set in 1926, Lewis Tully is a confirmed bachelor, and a determined circus man at heart. Times are hard in America, Oklahoma is no better off than other places, but when Lewis' older sister in Chicago sends nine year old Charlie to Lewis, well things just got a bit harder for Lewis. Being the confirmed bachelor that he is, Lewis is not smart in the ways of taking care of young children, but he is not without a "heart". Charlie is about to go on an adventure of a lifetime. Life in a small time "big top circus", is just as hard and dangerous as that on the other side of life. Lewis' circus has many competitors, some very nasty. Lewis and his local group of friends make the decision to take the Blue Moon Circus on the road, facing many disasters, as well as one really NASTY camel, with a very long memory........... Lewis and company survive and overcome most of the disasters, but not all. The ending is a REAL KICK!

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Skylark Farm" a novel by Antonia Arslan

"Skylark Farm" a novel by Antonia Arslan, based on actual events.
Set in 1915, the Turks were beginning their genocide of the Armenian people, although to this day the Turkish government still will not acknowledge this.
Two brothers, Yerwant, 53, who 40 years earlier was sent to Venice by his family for educational purposes, and his brother, Sempad, are making plans for a reunion on their family's idyllic estate, Skylark Farm, in Turkey - the brothers have never seen each other so this will be a very historic event for both. But World War I begins, Yermant is unable to reach Turkey. Sempad and his family have reached the estate, all the male members of the family and their male servants are brutally murdered by military forces. The female members become part of a forced march, enprisoned in concentration camps, suffer torture and starvation.
The author recounts the horrors told to her by her Aunt Henriette, a survivor of the event. Antonia, once a professor of Italian literature at the University of Padua, depicts these events with vivid and horrific descriptions of cruelty and immeasurable loss to so many families, not just her own.
Although very brutal in detail, this book was one I had a hard time putting down. It is certainly not for the faint of heart - if you are unable to watch or read about Hitler's annihilation of the Jewish people in Germany during WWII, then you probably won't be able to read this. I eventually purchased "Armenian Golgotha" by Grigoris Palak'ean regarding the genocide of the Armenians for James, which he read, can't say he "enjoyed" what he read, but I know that he came away with a new knowledge of the events so many people have tried to cover up for many years.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Too Many books, so don't waste time reading what you don't like

So many books, so don't waste your time reading what you don't like.
When we were students, assigned books in literature classes needed to be read to complete the assignment in order to pass the course, consequently we had to read many books that we didn't like. But we are no longer students, we have various interests, and too little time to waste on books we just don't like.
My rule of thumb for a book is, If the first 5 - 10 pages don't grab me, well I just put the book down and start something else.
The proverbial saying about "Don't judge a book by its cover", can be wrong at least 50% of the time. Authors don't always get their choice of cover illustrators, but sometimes they do, they should have more say as they know what their book is about, consequently publishers pick real "dogs" for covers. One of my very favorite cover illustrators is Wendell Minor, pick up the original "Cold Sassy Tree" or "Fried Green Tomatoes..." you will, probably, notice that the art really does convey the essence of these books, he nailed it.......
So, enjoy yourself.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Saving Cinnamon" a book by Christine Sullivan

"Saving Cinnamon" by Christine Sullivan
Navy Reservist Mark Feffer, deployed to Afghanistan, does what most do, but are advised against by the U.S. military powers, he befriends a starving puppy, who quickly worms her way into the hearts of everyone in his squad. Nearing the end of his deployment, Mark makes arrangements to have Cinnamon shipped home. Only thing is that the person, he has entrusted Cinnamon to for the trip to Chicago, is a real scum bag of a person. This jerk leaves Cinnamon at the airport, and boards his plane. When Cinnamon does not arrive as scheduled at O'Hare airport, people begin a long involved search for Cinnamon. Mark's sister, the author of this book, takes on the task of finding Cinnamon. Christine moves mountains, people, organizations and governments in her quest to re-unite Mark with his beloved Cinnamon.
Although there are moments of utter frustration, sadness and hatred for that scum bag, this story ultimately has a happy ending. You will probably need a tissue or two, but this is a book that is worth reading.
Paraphrasing the song "What's love got to do with it?" EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!
What a story.......
Hope you will consider it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Amreeka" a National Geographic film

"Amreeka" a film by National Geographic, think Nat'l Geo films and you think documentary, but National Geographic seems to be expanding their film-making, as this is an entertainment film, based on recent historic events.
Cast members include, Nisreen Faour (plays Muna, the lead part), Hiam Abbass (Muna's sister Raghda, she has been in The Lemon Tree and The Syrian Bride) and Yssef Abu Warda (Muna's brother-in-law, a doctor).
Muna's life in the West Bank is filled with anxiety and grief - it takes 2 hours to travel one way to her job, due to the constant security checks crossing out of and into Bethlehem. Her son,Fadi dreams of going to school in America. Her husband has divorced her for a younger, skinnier woman, so when she bumps into her and then her ex, she makes the decision that should it be possible for her to travel to America she will take the chance. Her wildest dream comes true with a letter, inviting her and Fadi to come and stay with her sister Raghda in Indiana. Being naive, and not a world traveler, she innocently packs all her money in a tin, which is confiscated by the U.S. customs agents when she and Fadi land in Chicago. Not wanting her sister and brother-in-law to know this, she immediately embarks upon finding a job. Unfortunatley, their arrival in America coincides with the U.S. Forces storming Iraq (remember the television scenes of the statue of Saddam being brought down?), sentiment is highly against anyone of Middle Eastern background. Nabeel, Muna's brother-in-law, is losing many of his patients due to this, consequently Muna's family now faces economic problems of their own. On the school front, Fadi becomes a target of the anti- Middle Eastern prejudice, Fadi's school counselor befriends Muna, after he discovers her working at the local White Castle fast food place. The last scene in the film revolves around eating in a Middle Eastern restaurant, I could taste the hummus, and smell all the wonderful aromas - and the music left me dancing.
Writer-director, Cherien Dabis, uses family memories depicting what it was like to be in America those first days after the invasion of Iraq.
James and I seem to be watching many films that have a middle eastern tie to them, and the third with Hiam Abbass as part of the cast, and this was yet another enjoyable film.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Syrian Bride" a film by Eran Riklis

"Syrian Bride" a film by Eran Riklis.
James and I watched this film the other evening, by the same director as "The Lemon Tree". Eran, like Atom Egoyan, uses many of the same actors in his films, so many of the faces in this film were still fresh in our minds from "The Lemon Tree".
The bride to be, Mona, will never again be permitted to visit her family in the Golan Heights, nor will she ever be able to leave Syria once married. Mona has yet to meet her groom to be, this being an arranged marriage, as is such the case still in many cultures around the world. Mona has many other circumstances facing her, her father is a recently released political prisoner, by the Israelis, her father does not accept her brother, who has returned with his Russian wife, and their son. The village elders have created all types of situations that will make everyone's life miserable. On what should be the happiest day of her life, poor Mona is not the Happy Bride.
The entire family makes the brief voyage to the border crossing, where due to unforseen events Mona is left standing in "No Man's Land" for the longest time - the Syrians won't accept the stamp on her ID card, the Israelis won't let her leave without it, and the UN agent is sent back and forth trying to work things out, only to be met by a new Syrian who starts the process all over again. With her family on the Israeli side and her husband to be's family on the Syrian side, Mona finally makes a bold decision.
This was another interesting film by Eran, but I prefer "The Lemon Tree" over this one. Perhaps you will find try it, and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Wildflowers of Terezin", a novel by Robert Elmer

Wildflowers of Terezin, written by Robert Elmer.
Robert Elmer's parents, Danish born, used to tell stories of what they remembered of their homeland, Denmark. Using historic accounts of what transpired in Denmark during the Nazi occupation, the author creates a vivid tale of love and horror during that time.
Nurse Hanne Abrahamsen helps shield Lutheran pastor Steffen Petersen from the Gestapo, believing that he is part of the Danish underground, in reality it is his younger brother Henning, who is active in the underground. As the Nazis step up their anti Jewish campaign, the Danish citizens band together to protect their Jewish brethen and foil the Nazi plans.
Would a Lutheran pastor really fall in love with a Jewish nurse? Why not? So goes this story. Hanne and Steffen are about to escape to Sweden on a fishing boat , but their plans have been discovered by the Nazis and they are captured, and separated. Steffen sent to a prison in Copenhagen, while Hanne is sent to the prison camp in Terezin, Czechoslovakia. Steffen is questioned and released, but not forgotten by the Nazis. Steffen finally steps ups and becomes even more active with the underground, and begins volunteering with the Danish Red Cross, in hopes of being able to visit the prison camp to see Hanne.
The author's afterword in this book states that most of the incidents he used in the book did, in fact, occur. Bispeberg Hospital does exist to this day, the incident involving the Jewish Directory did occur. Georg Duckwitz was an actual shipping agent and did warn his Danish friends what was going to happen. The Danish Bishop's speech is word for word accurate. The Danish Red Cross inspection of Terezin did occur. Countless Danish Jews were saved and smuggled out of Denmark by the Danish underground movement, and did use an ambulance, as described in the book, in their smuggling operations.
Hope that you will consider this book. Let me know what your thoughts might be.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Lemon Tree" a film by Eran Riklis

Well, as usual, I was working at the circulation desk returning DVDs, when this little jewel passed through my fingers. Lead actress Hiam Abbass, from the great film "The Visitor", once again performs brilliantly, she won the Israeli Academy Award for Best Actress for this film.
James and I were totally enthralled with this film - to the point that neither one of us moved the entire length of the film.
Based on a true story, Hiam portrays a lonely Palestinian widow, whose son has left to find a better life in America, has only one true companion, her late father's best friend who has, loyally, remained by her side to help her maintain the lemon grove that she inherited from her father. Upheaval to her "quiet" lifestyle occurs when the Israeli Defense Minister and wife move in the house on the other side of the fence barrier - lights, guard tower, secret service men flood the area and take away any semblance of peacefulness in the area. Secret service believe that the lemon grove would be a hiding place for any Palestinian terrorists who might want to kill the Defense Minister, so they order the destruction of the lemon grove. Believing that the widow will just stand by and do nothing, the Israeli judicial system and, eventually the whole world comes to know that she will fight for her lemons and land. Justice is something that Americans really take for granted, this movie brings home the plight of the rest of the world's true experiences with justice.
This film was beautifully photographed, and thoughtfully brought to the screen. Hope you will consider this one, and share it with others.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"The Bolter" a book by Frances Osborne

The Bolter by Frances Osborne, "The story of Idina Sackville, who ran away to become the chief seductress of Kenya's scandalous "Happy Valley set".

As usual, I heard of this book when the author, great-granddaughter of Idina Sackville, was being interviewed by Bob Edwards, one Saturday morning on NPR. Her recounting of Idina's life was absolutely fascinating, so much so, that after her interview was completed, I immediately picked up the phone and called my local bookstore to order a copy.

"Bolters", in 1920's through the 1930's in England's upper society, were married women who "bolted" from, and broke their marriage vows, not caring how conventional society viewed their lack of morals. Idina Sackville was considered to be the most "celebrated of them all."

Idina was married five times, and had countless lovers, more than one can possibly imagine - Hollywood personalities and their affairs are bland in comparison to Idina's!
Most writers of "hot romance" novels would have a hard time coming up with some of the scenarios of her wild sex parties, particularly those at her various homes in Kenya.
As with most of England's upper crust society, Idina "fell" in love with Kenya, she would return to England many times throughout her life, but Kenya always called to her. Her last home was "Clouds" overlooking the great Rift Valley.
This book read like a novel, just couldn't put it down. In addition, I learned quite a bit of history that had been left out of all the history courses I had taken throughout my schooling.
Hope you will consider this book.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Brooklyn" novel by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn, a novel by Colm Toibin.

I had never read anything written by this author before, so I had no idea if I would enjoy his writing or the story, I was pleasantly surprised by the writing and the story.
Starts out in Ireland, in a small town after WWII, Eilis Lacey is a skilled bookkeeper, but jobs in this town are few and far between for her skills. A Brooklyn based Irish priest, Father Flood, convinces Eilis' mother and sister that Eilis' skills would be well used, if she were to travel to Brooklyn, NY. So, with not much say in the matter, Eilis is shipped (literally) off to the New World..... Father Flood is there to meet her when the ship arrives, and proceeds to take her to the boarding house owned and operated by Mrs. Kehoe, from Wexford, Ireland. Mrs. Kehoe has very strict ground rules for her female boarders. Eilis is able to obtain a position at Bartocci's Dept Store, working hard, and proving to her superiors that she is capable, she eventually moves up in the chain. She is encouraged to take further bookkeeping courses at the local college, where she mets Italian (good looking) Tony. After a whirlwind romance the two marry, but this is not going to be happily ever after, as Eilis receives heartbreaking news from her family, so she must return to Ireland, promising Tony to return as soon as she can get things taken care of, however, her family has other plans for her. Trying to keep the peace with her family, Eilis never reveals that she is married, especially to an Italian. Eilis lets her life unravel, to the point that she starts dating a boy she had known before she left for Brooklyn, Jim Farrell, things become very sticky, and Eilis in her heart knows that she must either return to Tony and Brooklyn, or divorce Tony and stay in Ireland. Of course, being Catholic, Eilis has many roadblocks before her.
I enjoyed Colm's writing, his storytelling was very interesting.
Hope you might consider this one. Have placed a hold on one of his other books, hope it will be as enjoyable as this. Other library staff at my branch have read this one, and we have all come away with a positive experience.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Captain Abu Raed" a movie

James and I watched this lovely movie the other evening. What a delightful find going through the delivery boxes at the library. We had never heard of it, so we were totally unprepared for what lay ahead. Also, this is the first Jordanian film we had ever viewed, even after all the years of watching foreign films. We were NOT disappointed, I could watch this many more times.

Basically, Abu Raed an elderly, sad janitor at the airport longs for companionship since his wife has died. Doing his janitorial duties one day, Abu happens upon a discarded airline pilot's hat, and wears it home. On his long walk from his bus stop to his abode, one of the local children notices him with the pilot's hat on, and decides that Abu is an airline pilot. And so a legend is born, if but for a short time. Abu is concerned about the well being of several of the children, two, who along with their mother, are victims of their father's abusive ways. Along the way, Abu develops a wonderful friendship with a young woman, who is from a very wealthy family, and also is a commerical airline pilot. Love comes in many shapes and sizes, and is not always romantic.
Watching this film brought back many memories of my childhood in North Africa. Sights, and the sounds of the language came rushing back as if I had just stepped off a plane.
This is one worthy of consideration. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Pressure Cooker" a documentary

"Pressure Cooker" a documentary. If you are a fan on Hell's Kitchen, or Kitchen Nightmares, or any other cooking program available on television these days, please consider this documentary. James and I watched this last night and really enjoyed it.

Wilma Stephenson is a force to be reckoned with, in the culinary arts department at Frankford High School, in inner city Philadelphia. She is uncompromising and relentless in her pursuit of her students' education in culinary arts - she goes beyond being just another teacher at Frankford High, she becomes mentor, mother, mother confessor, and cheerleader for her students. 40% of the students at Frankford High never make it to their senior year. Wilma has a reputation as being stern, and hard to like as a teacher, but she has her reasons - work hard to get out of Northeast Philadelphia with a realistic goal.

This film follows Wilma and her students through an entire school year, their ups and downs, trimuphs and failures, in their pursuit of careers in culinary arts.

Towards the end of every school year in Philadelphia, there is a competition held strictly for culinary arts student from every school in Philadelphia that offers this course. This particular year, 5 of Wilma's students make it to the finals. Top chefs from the area judge each student's skill and talent, with scholarships from $1,000 to over $80,000 to be awarded to those judged the most motivated and talented.

There are some moments of humor, some moments of sadness, and moments of feeling like shouting "You Can Do It!" I knew how Wilma felt, "sitting on the sidelines" waiting for the results of her students' results, and the moment when her students will either hear their name called for a scholarship, and if so, which one.

Hope you will consider, and equally hope that you will enjoy this film.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" by Beth Hoffman

"Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" by Beth Hoffman.

12 year old CeeCee Honeycutt, has had anything but a normal childhood. Camille, her mother, has suffered for years with mental health issues, and one day is tragically killed in a freak accident. CeeCee's father has been a non-existent presence most of her life, so when CeeCee's previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell appears to whisk CeeCee away to live in Savannah, he gladly turns CeeCee over to Tootie.
CeeCee travels with Tootie from Ohio to Savannah in a vintage Packard convertible, seeing sights new and exciting, but not nearly as exciting as the strong Southern women she is about to meet through Tootie's amazing assortment of the women of Savannah. Through Tootie's love and support CeeCee is well on the way to healing, and becoming a strong person in her own right.
A wonderful coming of age story, with sights, smells and good common sense of what it is like to live in a Southern city where people still care about each other in their own particular way.
Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"As It Is in Heaven" Swedish movie

"As It is in Heaven", a Swedish film

We watched this film the other evening. First, although it has some religious connections, it is not trying to convert anyone. As a young boy, Daniel, is the subject of bullying due to his love of music. His mother takes him away to study in a better environment. Over the course of his life, his mother is tragically killed before his eyes, he becomes a well known symphonic orchestra conductor, but due to a health problem must put his careet on hold. He returns to his childhood village, Norrland, in northern Sweden. As the word of his move to the village spreads, the local preacher asks him to be the conductor of the little local choir. No one in the village is aware of his connection to the village, or to one of the bullies, now grown and even more violent. Daniel has something that attracts those in the choir to really trust and "love" him, after a "sold out" village performance, more of the local villagers join the choir. When they decide to go to Innsbruck for a festival contest, Daniel resists at first.
The music in this film is just lovely, there are some really wonderful humorous scenes, and there are some rather frightening moments. Some nudity, afterall this is a Swedish film.
Hope you consider this film.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summerland by Michael Chabon

Summerland, by Michael Chabon. A good read for all ages.
As usual, I was listening to NPR, and heard Michael Chabon being interviewed. He stated that he started writing this story when he was 8 years of age.
Set in Washington State, in the Puget Sound area, on Clam Island, Ethan Feld lives with his inventor father, and due to his father's interest in baseball, Ethan is "forced" to play on one of the island's little league teams - Ethan plays almost as bad as his hate for the game. Strange things begin to happen, beings from other universes begin to appear to Ethan, and he is told that he will have to play Coyote, to save not only his father, who has been kidnapped by Coyote, but also to save the Universe.
Clam Island seems to be based on the real island in Washington state, Camano Island, where I live.
When this came out on audio, I purchased it, it is really one of the few books I enjoy hearing read, as the author reads it, and well he should, he developed these characters and knew exactly how they all should sound......
This is a great coming of age novel, and I have a dear friend, university professor who really enjoyed this book as well.
Hope you will consider this one, a good summer read.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Support Your Public Library

Support your public library

This is a photo, albeit rather small, of the Stanwood, WA library, where I have worked since August 1978.

Our library was built, entirely, with donated funds, materials and labor. Not one penny of local, state or federal money was involved, something that very few libraries can state in this day and age.

Your library is a fount of information, whether it be printed page or electronic. Your library offers programs for people of all ages, library staff members are there to help you find what you need, all you need to do is ask someone for help.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The All of It

This "little" book packs a powerful punch.

The All of It, by Jeannette Haien, is set in a tiny Irish village, Roonatellin. When Kevin is near death, the local priest wants to know why Kevin and Edna never married, but "lived in sin". When Kevin reveals their secret, Father Declan de Lowry is surprised by what he hears, but realizes that they had reason to keep their secret.
I enjoyed this story, writing was thoughtful, and heartfelt.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians

Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians.
Great children's book, based on, you guessed it, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Children will enjoy the humor in this and it might even encourage the reluctant reader to pick up a book.
Will be reading this at a special event this week in Stanwood, Teddy Bears' Picnic.
Hope you will pick it up and give it a try.

"Rosenstrasse" the movie

Rosenstrasse, the movie.
This was a very interesting find at the library. According to historical fact, not all Germans, during the Nazi's reign, were anti-Semitic, especially those married to men or women of Jewish heritage.
This movie starts out in current day New York city, when a family is sitting Shiva for the death of the husband and father. Mother and daughter are unable to come to terms about the past. The daughter is determined to find out about her family's past, and so travels to modern day Berlin, to visit the woman who saved her mother. In doing so, a poignant story of love for a man and a child is unfolded.
The acting was outstanding.....
In German, with subtitles, but VERY easy to follow, after awhile I found that I was following the story more then the dialogue....
Hope you will consider this one.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman. What can I say about this book, first in the series, that hasn't already been said???
Philip Pullman based this series on Milton's "Paradise Lost", pretty heavy material for a children's series, but.......
Several years ago, when Mr Pullman was going to tour the USA for his final book in the series - The Amber Spyglass - bookstores across the country were given the opportunity to compete for their area to be the first stop on his tour. Well, five independent bookstores in the Stanwood/Mt. Vernon/Bellingham/Whidbey Island went together and wrote a proposal, lo and behold they won. So, Mr Pullman started his tour in Mt.Vernon, Washington, and because of my close association with the bookstore in Stanwood, I won a front row seat - actually right smack in front of Mr. Pullman. That was a very exciting evening to put it mildly. He autographed everyone's books, and since I had all three of the series, plus one I won, all of my first editions are autographed..... In addition, a dear friend of mine, who lives in England, sent me the English version of "The Amber Spyglass" which is very different from the American version.
I have read these books so many times, I am beginning to be able to quote them. This is about the only series of books that I enjoy listening to, as it has a cast with Mr. Pullman reading the narration.
These books are well written, very thought provoking, and very popular with young and old alike.
Some folks LOVE the Harry Potter books, but I can take them or leave them..... Mr. Pullman's books are MUCH better written and I would certainly want to have at least "The Golden Compass" with me, if I were stranded somewhere.
Hope you will consider - maybe you won't share my enthusiasm for them, maybe you will.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Housekeeping" by Marilynne Robinson

"Housekeeping" by Marilynne Robinson
This is one of my favorite books. This should have won a Pulitzer when it was first published, but since it was Marilynne's first book, well, it didn't.
My very best friend, roomed with Marilynne at the U of Washington some time ago. They still keep in touch, so, I was fortunate enough to have my first edition signed by Marilynne. Thank you, Marilynne.
The writing in this book is so utterly wonderful, I would really suggest that everyone give it a try.
Marilynne describes a large piece of driftwood at one point, I was absolutely stunned when one day walking on the beach on Camano Island, I happened upon the piece she had written about. Unfortunately, time as done a number on the driftwood, so one would probably not recognize it anymore.
The movie version was done about as faithfully as any I have ever seen.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Everybody's Fine" the movie

Everybody's Fine

Watched this while the world was shooting off their fireworks. This was a really interesting movie, not light and fuzzy, but I am glad I watched it.
The cast did a marvelous job.
Robert DeNiro was so believable in this part. Sadly, he believes that his children are avoiding him, and in part they are, but they are trying to find out what has happened to the oldest son before he does. In fact, he realizes that something is going on, but what? At last they are able to come together as a family, the only thing he has wanted the whole time.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fourth of July

Fourth of July!
Have a safe and happy Fourth.
If only my neighbors would leave the fireworks show to the professionals, instead of trying to blow up our neighborhood!

"August Rush" the movie

Well, this is one of the most interesting "music" based movies. If the person playing the guitar really plays that way, well, they are truly Unique!
Robin Williams plays an especially wicked person, Freddie Highmore - August Rush - did a really good job as the young boy.
Hope you will give it a try.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"My Lucky Day"

"My Lucky Day" picture book. I really enjoy this author/illustrator of children's books.
Whose Lucky day do you think it is? I just used this at storytime today and the children loved it, scary but not too scary.
Children's books, whether picture books or fiction, are getting to be much better written then alot of adult books these days. I believe that writers for children's literature realize that if they can't capture the audience in the first few sentences, it is all over for them. The humor is generally pure, and delightful.
Next time you visit your local library, ask the children's librarian for a good children's book, and check it out.
Remember to support your local library!!!!!

"Lars and the Real Girl"

Lars and the Real Girl
Another cult film that Stanwood library staff enjoy suggesting to folks that enjoy the "indie" movies, not mainstream.
Poor Lars has terrible luck with women, so when he brings home his new girl-friend, it takes a bit of getting used to for his family, friends, and the entire town, but they finally adjust to his girl-friend, and then..........
Hope you enjoy!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Damned United, movie

Well, with the World Cup going on currently, this was a timely movie to watch!
Especially, since we watched it the day England lost in a controverisal match to Germany!
This movie has an "R" rating simply for language.
If you saw the movie "The Queen", the actor who played Tony Blair, and who also played David Frost in "Frost and Nixon", plays the lead part in this one. He is an incredible actor - there are times when one can feel pure hatred towards him, and then again feel some compassion. He really did an excellent job.
Give it a try!