Friday, April 17, 2015

The Rewrite (Film – Starring Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei)

The Rewrite (Film – Starring Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei)

Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) won a major screenwriting award a couple of decades ago and has had trouble pitching a new script; Hollywood just doesn’t like his new ideas.  He is desperate for a paying job so unwillingly, but necessarily, he takes a job teaching screenwriting at a small college in Binghamton, New York.  He figures he can breeze though this whole teaching thing, but something strange happens.  With help from his one non-traditional student (Marisa Tomei) he begins to realize that screenwriting isn’t just something you are born either being able to do or not do as he supposed.  It can be taught.  And he may be the guy to teach it.

This is Hugh Grant as you remember him in his hit rom-coms: his self-deprecating humor, playing off awkward situations charmingly and being a jerk but still getting you to like him.  The best way to describe the film is a coming-of-age story at age fifty.  Keith is a man who needs to grow into the next phase of his life and his students help him as he helps them. 

Pop some popcorn and enjoy!

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla: A Pink Carnation Novel by Lauren Willig

Sally Fitzhugh is enjoying the Little Season in London in the early nineteenth century, attending balls and visiting parlours and generally being disappointed in the whole thing.  That is until she meets the Duke of Belliston, a reputed vampire, who seems to be disturbingly only human as well as disturbingly handsome.  Someone is trying to set the Duke up for murder and Sally comes to the rescue, poking her nose where it doesn’t belong and generally bossing everyone around.  Good thing she does or the Duke may be in jail.  Misunderstandings, true love, madmen and murderous plots ensue.

I am a huge fan of the Pink Carnation series and I still love them even eleven books into the series which is no small feat.  It seems that the next book may be the last which I find exceedingly upsetting, but it has to end sometime.  There are only so many spies, friends of spies, and friends of friends of spies to wed off after all!

As per usual I listened to this one and thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you are looking for romantic suspense heavy on the witty repartee and the suspense check out this series.  You don’t need to start with the first book, but it’s a fun series so why not?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

It is 1962.  Kitty is a single businesswoman.  She co-owns a faltering bookstore in downtown Denver with her best friend Frieda.  She has a cat and a small apartment within walking distance of work.  She has two wonderful and adoring parents.  She is happy.  She goes to sleep one night and dreams of another life.  In this life she is a happily married woman, going by her given name Katharyn, with an adoring husband and children.  She lives in a large house and no longer works with, or is even talking to, Frieda.  She awakens from the dream back in her life, yet finds herself pulled back to this other reality every night.  She is happy in her real life, but she is happy there too.  Both feel real, but she knows one is fake.  Flip-flopping between versions of her life, versions that each could have been except for one slight, yet major, difference, Kitty/Katharyn must decide what makes her happy and after experiencing another version of her life whether her real life is the one she wants to live.

This is a wonderfully crafted twisty turny book disguising itself as a simple domestic drama.  I found myself unable to put it down.  (And I’ve put down many a book this month as the lack of blog entries can attest!)  Any woman reading this book will firmly fit into the Kitty or Katharyn categories simply because you either have had or haven’t had children.  She makes both lives seem appealing for different reasons since quite simply the lives are just that: different.

For those overwhelmed by their own lives that need a bit of escapism – two experiences for the price of one!  This is a book that is much deeper than it seems asking the reader to evaluate what is important in their life.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Typically if everyone is gushing over a book I don’t like it.  (The Goldfinch, which I don’t mind telling anyone I hated, immediately comes to mind.)  I am also pretty much done with World War II books.  I find the time period fascinating and thrilling (and depending on the book depressing) but it seems some authors set their books in that time period just to sell the book.  This is the exception to both rules.  I truly enjoyed this book, it couldn’t have happened anywhere or anywhen else, and I didn’t want it to end.

Marie-Laure goes blind when she is six.  Her father is in charge of all the locks and keys at the museum of natural history in Paris. His daughter accompanies him to work and she learns to navigate her dark world and appreciate mollusks and other things of nature through lessons from scientists and other museum employees.  Then the German occupation forces them out of Paris and her known world.  Her father is one of four museum employees trusted with a very precious stone (one is real and three are fakes) and their journey away from Paris takes them to her Great Uncle’s house in the walled city of Saint Malo. 

As Marie-Laure is fleeing northward in France, Werner is leaving the house of orphans in a mining town in Germany for an elite school for boys of the Reich.  At his new school he hears all the propaganda coming from the teachers and the radio, but for some reason things don’t seem to be right. 

I’m hesitant to say more.  Of course these stories cross.  I can tell you that it is all because of the radio.  In a way this book is a love song to radio and all the good, and bad, things that it has brought about.  After reading this book I have found myself listening to the radio more than usual and imagining a time where that was your source of late breaking news and also of comfort.

I am sure many readers of this blog have already read this gem and are smiling in remembrance of a book well read.  For those of you who, like me, chose not to read it: think again.  Choose this one.  Enjoy.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Goodnight, Darling (Foreign Film / Norwegian)

Goodnight, Darling (Foreign Film / Norwegian)

I know, I know, another movie?  Where are the books?!  I currently have four books started and lying about my house, all about halfway done.  For some reason I can’t stick with just one!  Hopefully I’ll have a couple finished this weekend to write about next week.  I did do some other reading this week though: the captions of this three hour mini-series.

Terje is a down on his luck piano tuner that spontaneously steals a video camera from the backseat of a car at a gas station after the owner of the car snubs him.  Playing with his new toy while tuning a piano at a client’s home he inadvertently captures a neighbor, Per Raglo, murdering his wife.  The wife is reported missing and then is found dead of an apparent suicide.  Discovering that Raglo is a well off businessman involved in real estate Terje decides to blackmail him and things go wrong from there.

I am not a fan of reading my movies, but I have discovered that I really enjoy Scandinavian television series, especially mysteries.  They twist and turn in ways that are unexpected and manage to infuse humor at odd points as well.  Even though you know Terje should just have brought his evidence to the police (but he feels he can’t do that because he stole the video camera) you want him to succeed in his money making scheme and come out okay in the end.

Art and Craft (Documentary)

Art and Craft (Documentary)

Mark Landis is a talented man.  He can copy any painting from any time period in any style.  At a glance his works all look like the real thing.   Mr. Landis has been forging art for thirty years but he cannot be charged with a crime.  He would describe his occupation as philanthropist.  He copies works of art from museum catalogs he collected as a boy in Europe and donates them to museums and libraries around the country under various aliases.  Yes, he is misrepresenting the artwork with his intricate stories of provenance and forged ownership and auction documents.  But is he doing anything wrong?

This is a fascinating look at art world and how easily curators can be duped by a talented, mentally ill man.  Why don’t these institutions scrutinize the Picasso donated by a random person who makes an appointment?  Some of these works he donated multiple times – didn’t anyone check the online catalogs of other museums?  Personally, I can see this happening in an age before computers, but now it is amazing to me how readily his donations are accepted.

I found it very hard not to like Mr. Landis even though I kept waffling on whether he knew what he was doing was wrong.  And really, did he do anything wrong?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss

Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss

Alec Charlesworth is having difficulty coping after his wife’s sudden death.  He leaves his job at the library where they both worked and flees with his little dog Watson to the English countryside.   Before he leaves he is given a box of papers by a former library patron and told that his wife was interested in this story and he might be as well.  While away he welcomes the opportunity for escapism.  Escape he does but not into a world he ever knew, or wanted to know, existed. 

Inside the box are drafts Wiggy has written of a screenplay as well as audio recordings and musings.  Wiggy went to his sister’s house to care for Roger, the cat, only to discover that his sister and her dog disappeared.  It is so unexpected and sudden Wiggy searches for clues regarding alien abduction.  This Alec laughs off.  He cannot laugh off starting to believe that Wiggy was speaking to Roger, and that Roger was speaking back.  Yes, the cat seems to be speaking and what he is saying is horrifying.  Cats truly are evil and those cats that pass the trials are the direct servants of Beelzebub and the cats are on the prowl.

We all know that cats are evil, sneaky little critters and in this book Truss explains the things cats do (like purr and kneed) that were originally traits that were bestowed upon them to do evil by Beelzebub.  It’s a humorous book that will make you look twice at that happy cat lazing next to you.