Monday, April 21, 2008

Guitar Girl, by Sarra Manning

Fun, pretty good YA.

Molly is being sued for 5,000,000 pounds.

The story of how she got there is funny, poignant, and rings true. Molly, Tara, and Jane decide to start a band- and despite only knowing three chords and one base line, the get to play a friend's party. They totally blow up from there.

The manipulation of image in rock and pop is pretty keenly covered here- the manipulation of the band members by unethical managers and uncaring roadies too.

Molly's voice rang very true here- enjoyable read.

Leaving Simplicity, by Claire Carmichael

Pretty great YA book!
Set in a near future where corporations work with the Ads-4-Life Council to ensure that every citzen is a productive consumer, Barrett is a freak- he was raised on an isolated compound by a 'cult' who rejected consumer society for a life of almost Amish spareness.
When his uncle there dies, he must leave Simplicity for the Chattering World, where his condition as an advertising virgin makes him incredibly valuable to the marketers who study the psychology of persuasion- including his aunt, who heads the Ads-4-Life Council and is hoping for a major presidential appointment.
Taylor, Barrett's cousin has always had everything- but is she who she thinks she is?
An exciting story that leaves the reader with a heightened sense of awareness of how close we really are to this dystopia, and how far away simplicity truly is.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Wonderful movie. Great documentary that covers the experiences of 8 kids trying to win the National Scripps Howard Spelling Bee. Fantastic, must-see, gripping and entertaining movie. I got so worked up seeing this that I was spelling along with the contestants (and got some wrong!) and cried like a little girl in parts (not saying if happy or sad tears!)
Wonderful. Highly recommend.

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room

Interesting if not thrilling flick about the fall of Enron.

Worth seeing just for the scenes of the Bush family interacting with the Enron people- fucking A, these people are sick sick sick.

It was really in depth and at the same time glossed over a lot of the actual hows of what exactly made anyone ever think Enron had a product worth selling - in many ways, the movie is a revelation in that no one anywhere actually seemed to think it was selling anything or had any assets other than it's hypothetical value.

Good but not great movie. I am surprised it was nominated for Best Documentary, because it really wasn't as good as others I have seen. I trust those people! I totally don't have time to watch a lot of movies so I'm kind of relying on that for advice as to what to watch.

Anyone know a better system for finding decent movies to watch?

The Man In The Brown Suit

Fantastic mystery. I've definitely read it before, but it ws such a treat to reread this one, because I had totally forgotten all the who-done-its.

Astonishing book, really- the heroine (in 1922!) (book published in 1924) makes her way to South Africa on her own, using all that is left of a small inheritace from her anthropoligist father, and upon getting to South Africa, promptly involves herself in all sorts of fun and frisky intrigue, up to and well beyond the point of social acceptability. She even surfs!

This is the kind of thing that makes me wish that English majors didn't focus so much on the "good" writers- like that bloody Virginia Woolf or that godawful Gertrude Stein. I mean, you want feminist literature from the 1920's? Look at Agatha Christie. Seriously- her female characters kick 40 kinds of ass, and there's no wan pining for "A Room with A View" from them- they go off to find a view, and if there isn't one, I bet they'd knock a hole in the wall to make one. And no "A rose is a rose is a rose" idiocy either. I do loathe that kind of pretentious crap. I do indeed.

Toast to Agatha Christie! (Who, may I point out, spent ages mucking about in what is now Iraq on archaeological digs at all the Tells. Nice going, girl!)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Six Degrees, by Mark Lynas

Good book, although I liked Lynas's High Tide better. He writes about the impact of each degree of global warming, and the changes across the world that would happen at every stage (6 degrees being the outer limit of what the IPCC is predicting).

The thing is, I think, that I've read so many of these books that even the most horrific consequences become kind of boring after a bit- like, ok, at 1 degree we lose Tuvalu and mountain frogs, and 2, that's it for polar bears and a lot of other mammals, at 3, the Amazon rainforests are dead and desert conditions reach up through Europe, and so on, until at 6 degrees, most of life is dead, and as well written as this book is, I don't think anyone gives a damn.

Howling into the void.

Exodus, by Julie Bertagna

Excellent YA futuristic sci-fi set in a drowning world. Climate change has left the highlands of Scotland isolated islands in a vast sea, and the sea is rising rapidly. Mara Bel must leave Wing, the only home she has ever known, and lead her village to safety.

This was pretty kick-a**. Good love story, too.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry

Oh, how I love this book. I loved this book when I was a child, and my parents, incredibly, actually took me to Chincoteague so we could see the ponies swim, and oh, I still can't believe how lucky I was! It was magic.

I've been almost scared to re-read this one, afraid that it would lose some of it's goodness, but I can say that it didn't- I still cried at the end, probably a good 20+ years after I read it the first time.

Best horse book ever, for me- knocked Black Beauty and Black Stallion out of the water entirely. Black Beauty was too Victorian-miserable and Black Stallion was just too... eh.

Misty was the horse for me, and still is.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

"British agent Alec Leamas refuses to come in from the cold war during the 1960s, choosing to face another mission, which may prove to be his final one." (Summary from IMDB)

Fantastic Cold War spy movie with a dazzling amount of twists and double crossings. Heartbreaking. I've loved the book for ages, and always think of the end of the story every time I hear David Bowie's "Heroes". The kind of twisty, flip-floppy movie that makes you realize that by the time you are doing things as bad as your enemy, you are as bad as them yourself- much like Paradise Now, in fact.

It was a great Unicorn Chaser to that ridiculous zombie thing.

I Am Legend

After seeing 3 incredible, wonderful movies, I just had to round out the weekend by watching something absolutely rotten, didn't I?
This was dreadful, manipulative, sentimental, unadulterated crap.
A kind of zombie virus has wiped out ost of the population, and one dude, played earnestly and with good effort by Will Smith, is living in NYC trying to find a cure, while fighting the zombies by night.
And so on.
Not worth my time, I can tell you that much.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Paradise Now

"Two childhood friends are recruited for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv." (summary from IMDB)

One of the most intense movies I've ever seen, I think. I am still kind of reeling after watching it. Powerful look at the Palestine/Israel conflict. While I was watching it, a few times I couldn't even really process what was going on. I must look into why water filters were such a big deal. Really thought provoking, emotionally intense movie.


"A documentary comparing the highly profitable American health care industry to other nations, and HMO horror stories." (summary from IMDB)

Wow- Michael Moore takes on health insurance. Some very powerful scenes, but mostly it made me wish I lived in France. And that the damned government would take care of the 9/11 rescue workers. And that America wasn't so screwed.

Winged Migration

"Documentary on the migratory patterns of birds, shot over the course of three years on all seven continents." (summary from IMDB)

Unbelievably beautiful documentary about migrating birds. Absolutely incredible footage, haunting soundtrack, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright

Lovely, warm story of 4 children who pool their allowances so that every fouth Saturday, one of them can go do something splendid.

Randi goes to see an art exhibit, Mona gets her hair bobbed, Rush goes to see the opera, and Tim goes to the circus, in an episodical book- great for reading to a child, I imagine.

A lonely old neighbor turns out to be full of exciting stories and to serve tea with petit fours, and all in all it's kind of a lovely and dreamy book. Before I make it sound too dementedly sappy, let me say too that while reading it I was all lulled along, and thinking how much easier this world seemed, peaceful and trustworthy and safe, and then boom

"What was it like when the world was peaceful, Cuffy?"

"Ah," said Cuffy, coming up again. "It seemed like a lovely world; anyway on top where it showed. But it didn't last long. First there was a long, bad, war, and then peace like the ham in a sandwich, and now a long, bad bad war again."

Confessions of a Backup Dancer, by Tucker Shaw

This was (predictably) pretty bad, but it was interesting for one major reason- the protagonist was definitely kind of dumb, which is so refreshing after reading YA book after YA book where the protagonists have all these hidden depths and motivations, and in their diaries/letters/blogs/whatever use startlingly good vocabulary words and even their friends often end up being bright and articulate behind their shells. This girl, Kelly, the dancer, really just wanted to dance and help her brother, who, although he ended up being surprisingly bright and articulate under his troubled shell, still didn't turn around and be all strivey and complicated, he wanted to go be a forest ranger and fight fires. It was just different.

I imagine that writers, being writers, have a hard time creating inarticulate voices, and that's just what this Kelly was- a kinda dumb girl who thought about her hair and looked around and danced and when she didn't like her strippery costumes, it was because the boob tape itched or something, not because of any (even buried or inarticulate) gender politics, and who never questioned why Darcy (Brittney Spears, y'all) was a better selling pop star than her rival, the vocally talented but skanky Pashmina (Christina Aguilera, FTW).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, by Amy Sedaris

Not funny, not amusing, not cool, not kitchy enough to be interesting, etc etc etc. FAIL.

See post below for a really fantastic how-to book with more flair than freakin' Sedaris will ever have.

Inventive Jewelry-Making, Ramona Solberg

Wow there was some strange, dare I say, fugly stuff in this book. It's from 1972, but that doesn't explain everything. I am tempted to do something I have never done before, to try to share the total weirdness of what was in this book. It was truly gratifyingly batsh*t.

Yup- I have to do it. I am going to take a picture of a page. There is no other way that I can startle you as much as Ramona startled me.

Yup. It really is a porno angel out of "inedible baker's clay". Rather, it is an "Angel pendant of inedible baker's clay by Vernon Koenig. In collection of Mrs. Spencer Mosely."


And while that was certainly the highlight of the book for sheer freakiness, other suggested projects were nearly as strange, such as an "Upper Arm Bracelet of Pasta", which was made using a tin can- "Tin can (tuna or small cat-food size), model-airplane glue (which I think Ramona might have used a little too much, if you know what I mean), and spaghetti.

There were others. Oh, there were many. In fact, this might have been one of the most entertaining damn books I've read in ages. I read spots off this book, I am tempted to quote it in everyday conversation, I wish I owned it, for it's pure, heartfelt sincerity. Unfortunately, this gem is out of print. Can't imagine why.

The Willoughbys, Lois Lowry

Very disappointed in this.
It was totally Lemony Snicket-y, and that's been so overdone.
Also, it gave away the ending to Little Women.
Shame on you, Lois Lowry. You're better than this.

Confessions of a Hollywood Star, by Dyan Sheldon

The third in the Lola Cep series. It was ok.

I read Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and My Perfect Life, too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pippi Goes On Board, by Astrid Lindgren

Indie Girl, by Kavita Daswani

A lovely, fun, but thoughtful story.

April 1, 2008
Alexandra Henshel - See all my reviews I very much enjoyed Indie Girl, and found the simple story of a girl who wanted to win a summer apprenticeship to a "West Coast Anna Wintour" had a surprising depth. Indira soon finds that Aarylin, her glamourous magazine editor boss, is only using her, and she must find the strength to deal with the loss of a hero, and the realization that hard work and talent don't always lead to success- that sometimes, life is unfair. Indie was a delightful heroine.