Friday, November 28, 2008

The Haunting on Devil's Den Road, by Karen Chilton

Pretty fantastic children's/YA book! I'd say this is pretty firmly targeted to tweens, but it was really actually very good, and not just because of the Rhody-local stuff!

That said, it was great fun to read such a South County book- from the tow trucks from 'north of the towers' to the realtor called Lila, I loved all that.

Paige Parker is 13 (almost 14) when she and her mother, a professor who teaches about architectural history, move into the Hazard house, in Heather Hollow (Exeter crossed with Hope Valley, I think). They are both reeling from her father's death, and her mother thought that moving from Providence and their memories there, and taking on the project of restoring the Hazard house would bring them a new start.

Paige is reluctant about the move to start with, and her best friend Amanda adds to her unease by telling Paige about Mercy Brown, the local 'vampire'. As soon as Paige and her mother move in, strange things start happening, and well, I won't say more.

It was really good, though, and had a pretty cool intellectual and feminist flavor. I'll definitely be looking forward to book 2.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany , by Mark Greenside

Oh, zut alors. This tapped into my every daydream.

Writer Mark Greenside plans to go to Finistere, Brittany, France for 8 weeks with his then girlfriend, another writer. Over the course of those 8 weeks, he and she break up, but he falls in love with France. He ends up buying an 18th stone cottage, and living there, and it sounds like paradise.

Oh, the food, the langoustines, the baguettes, the moules, the sausages.

The descriptions of how the tides run and the little villages where there's a cafe, a tabac, the weekend markets with the flower sellers and the home grown vegetables still with dirt on the roots.

Oh, man, if I ever can, this is where I would go.

In French, this area of Brittany is known as Finistere- meaning "the end of the world". That was (not really) (but kind of) an added attraction for me in my doomish sense of humor way. But you know what? In Breton, it is called Penn Ar Bed - meaning "the beginning of the world". Now that's a lovely duality. With langoustines, oh my word.
And crepes. He even wrote about going to a creperie in Locranan, I wonder if it was the same one we went to- it was utter bliss. And so beautiful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rivers and Tides: Working With Time

This was wonderful.

Artist Andy Goldsworthy creates ephermeral nature-based sculptures. Amazing cinematography, loved the soundtrack, but Goldsworthy himself and his art are so magical.

Haunting stuff.

Vantage Point

Damn, this was a pretty fantastic thriller.

20 minutes, from 6 points of view.

Really great, if you like movies where things blow up.

Songs for the Missing, by Stewart O'Nan

This was amazing. His writing is so good and so subtle that it's only after you're done and you feel kind of lost and are still thinking about his characters that you realize how real they are.

A friend of mine who is reading Last Night at the Lobster right now said it best - "I know these people."

This book was a hell of a trick to pull off, too. Rotating narration, a series of unique voices, unmistakable. It could have so easily been confusing or sloppy, but it was incredibly precise.

He's so good at the details.

The story is deceptively simple- one day on the last summer before she leaves for college, Kim Larsen goes swimming with her friends, goes home to shower, and leaves for work. She is never seen again. The rest of the book follows her family and friends and how her being missing takes up more of their lives than her being there ever could have.

It was sad, but never felt exploitative. Wonderful.

Before Sunrise

Re-watch. So good.

Romanced to Death, by Susan Rogers Cooper

Pretty bad murder mystery thing. Set at a romance writer's award weekend-convention thing.

There were about 5 subplots, none of them convincing, and it was all just too much in too little.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas in Connecticut

Lovely silly cute movie.

Barbara Stanwyck was fantastic. I love her in Meet John Doe too, another great Christmas movie.

Enchantingly, IMDB just filled me in on something that had been puzzling me- it is the SAME HOUSE that Bringing Up Baby was filmed in!!! Ok, new life goal- I need that house.

Also from the fantastic IMDB, I understand Hollywood might be making a remake, with Jennifer Garner playing Barbara Stanwyck's role. I hope the studio planning that burns down.

That is all.

All of a Kind Family, by Sidney Taylor

Sweet children's book. Jewish immigrant family living in New York's Lower East Side in the 1910's. Episodal. Rather like The Saturdays, but with less yachts and more gefilte fish.

I was annoyed at the end with how happy the dad was with the 6th child ( a son) but hey.

A Mighty Wind

Christopher Guest's troupe doing what they do so well. This might be my favorite of theirs, actually- Best is Show is funnier, Wiating for Guffman is great, but A Mighty Wind has this sweet spot running through it.

I cry every time when Mickey and Mitch kiss. Yeah, I might be a sap. It's a secret.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Paradise Contained, by William Stites

Lovely, and depressing.

I feel like I will never be this organized, and if I were to somehow manage to time the forcing right (which, see below), I don't have the jardinieres, or the tables, or the Dutch-painting light, or whatever, and then I think about the polar bears and realize what a terrible person I am to even be thinking or looking at nonsense like this. Christ.

Forcing, Etc.: the indoor gardener's guide to bringing bulbs, branches & houseplants into bloom, by Katharine Whiteside

So lovely. Made me actually make it to the shop and get some bulbs, which I am promptly horribly mistreating.

In some ways, depressing as hell.

Flowers for All Seasons :Winter, by Jane Packer

Some very pretty arrangements in this, but all mighty pricey to recreate. Also, she says that anemones are cheap to medium in price, and long lasting. In what universe, I wonder?

OK, just checked, and it was published in 1989. Damn- I guess that's 19 years ago? That doesn't seem possible. Well, I guess that maybe in 1989, anemones might have been cheap to medium. I still don't believe the long lasting, though.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson

Re-read. Bath. Lovely, nostalgic, funny, sad, good. Bryson is a favorite of mine- of many people's, obviously, and this is good Bryson.

And, with the book below, makes yesterday probably the only day I will ever read two books that go into pretty serious details about the life-size sculpture of a cow made of butter that is one of the main attractions, apparently, of the Iowa State Fair. 2 books. One day. Butter Cow. Yeah.

Below, the first pic that comes up in a GIS for Butter Cow. Apparently there is also a Butter Farmer, but no one writes about Butter Farmer. Butter Cow, however, is a star.

Way Off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small Town America, by Bill Geist

Sweet, fast and fun book.

One of those 'quirky towns and people' things, that I almost always enjoy. In fact, I also just re-read Bill Bryson's Thunderbolt Kid (will add to list now) and in that he talks about the Butter Cow, and Way Off the Road actually had an interview with the sculptor of Butter Cow AND a photo. So yay for spending too much freaking time reading about people's experiences at the Iowa State Fair.

I love funny narrative travel books. Looking forward to reading The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner.

Martha Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvres, by Martha Stewart

This was somehow heartbreakingly sweet.

After looking past the staggaring yellow dress on the cover, everything was so kind of earnest and the bits she wrote about how she and her then husband Andy would entertain 20 before the theater or whatever made me want to give Martha Stewart a hug and a beer.

And that's not something you say every day.

Food was ok- a bit overdressed and fussed up.

Nigella Express, by Nigella Lawson

Ok. Some things looked good, but I didn't feel like I needed the book or anything. Felt like I'd read it before- maybe I had.

Pear galette deja vu. Or does everyone make a pear galette?

Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6th of a Billionth of the Planet, by James Glave

Fun and interesting read.

He decides to build a green outbuilding- a small guest house/writing studio, on his land on Bowen Island near Vancouver.

Trying to stay green caused immense complications, some of which were just kind of funny in your classic money-pit, Mr. Blandings way, some of which were really interesting and gave a lot to think about, like the MAJOR difference in the price of reclaimed wood vs clear cut, and the ecological damage of concrete.

Quick, fun read. Wish it had had pictures of the damn house though. That was super frustrating. Not even a freaking drawing. Lame.

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell

My first audiobook.

At first I hated it, then I just wished he'd talk faster.

I'm glad I heard (read?) it, because it's something I've wanted to read for a while, but I don't feel like it's the same experience at all. But I'm so busy right now that I don't have time to play catch-up reading, so I guess banging this out in the car was a time-effective way of absorbing something I wanted to read but couldn't.

As for the book (?) itself, he's always interesting, and there were some interesting bits.

The Tipping Point was better though.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Wrong Stuff, by Sharon Fiffer

Ok mystery. Took a little while to finish- not it's fault, but I kept leaving it in the car, so that says something too.

I liked the woodworking bits, obvs, but kind of wanted to smack the junk-picker/amateur investigator every times he went off about Bakelite and old hankies. Bleh.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild

My favorite book. I seriously cannot begin to estimate how many times I've read it- I would honestly think its in the hundreds. I love it each time. It still even makes me cry.
I read it again last night, and am so glad. I don't think I would be the person I am now (a reader, I guess) without Noel Streatfeild's books, and this was my first, the best, and I love it more that there are words to express.

You can imagine my excitement and fear, then, when I found out that the BBC was making a movie of it. I knew there had been a movie version before, but I kind of had the feeling it might not be that great. This one is. It is so well done. A few things were changed for the movie, but it was so well done, and when Posy danced oh man I'm crying again.

Getting the Girl, by Susan Juby

I really enjoy Susan Juby's YA books. Her teens are always interesting, funny, and read so real. This was another good one from her- Sherman is determined to find out who at his high school instigates social ostracisms, and the story is classic Juby- some parts laugh out loud, and the rest just damn good.

Cockatiels at Seven, by Donna Andrews

Another fun and funny mystery from Donna Andrews Meg Lanslow series.
I do like these.

40 Signs of Rain, By Kim Stanley Robinson

Kind of disappointing action-adventure sci-fi kind of thing. I like the idea of the League of Drowning Nations (countries affected by sea-level rise) setting up camp in DC but the whole thing left me a little dry. There are two sequels, but I don't think I'll read them.

Heavy Weather, by Bruce Sterling

Eh, ok sci-fi. 2013 and climate change has passed the tipping point. Heiress Jane Unger rescues her brother from a Mexican drug clinic and brings him with her to the troupe of storm chasers who are using high-tech gismos to track vast tornado outbreaks over the mostly abandoned Great Plains.
I expected to like this more.