Monday, January 31, 2011

book review: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, Book 2)The backstory: Birds of a Feather is the second Maisie Dobbs mystery novel, and I'm reading the entire series as part of Book Club Girl's Read-Along. My review of Maisie Dobbs, the first novel in the series, is here.

The basics: Maisie Dobbs is back to solve another case. This case is a bit more serious than the last one: Maisie is hired to find Charlote Waite, the only daughter of a wealthy businessman, who has gone missing.

My thoughts: Birds of a Feather was more of a pure mystery than Maisie Dobbs. The reader is already familiar with Maisie and her history, and Maisie gets to solve a much more difficult (and increasingly frightening) crime. The missing person case is shrouded in mystery and Maisie is cognizant of the fact Charlotte's father came to her rather than the police. Despite the mystery being the focus of this novel, Winspear still manages to enhance Maisie's character as well as let the other minor characters shine.
Part of what makes this mystery so intriguing is Maisie's personal connection to the case. Charlotte is an unmarried woman who does not need to work but perhaps yearned to work, and Maisie senses a connection with her:
"Perhaps Charlotte's curiosity about the contemplative life, that the book and pamphlets in her room suggested, stemmed from a desire for a deeper, more intimate connection than that promised by marriage to the men in her circle."
Maisie describes herself as a psychologist and investigator, so it's natural for her to get inside the mind of the person she's trying to find, but I'll be curious if future cases continue to bring characters seemingly similar to Maisie. Maisie's identification with Charlotte mirrors my identification with Maisie herself. I think part of the appeal of Maisie for modern readers is the idea that if I were Maisie's age during World War I, I could easily see myself living a life similar to hers.

Favorite passage: "She had yearned for conversation rather than talk; for heartfelt passion not indulgence; and that she had ached for the intimate connection that came with true friendship rather than from a cadre of society sycophants." (p. 81)

The verdict: The mystery takes center stage in this novel, but Winspear has successfully written a historical novel as compelling in character and setting as it is in mystery.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: June 1, 2004 (it's in paperback and on the Kindle too)
Source: my local public library

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Salon: Screen Actors Guild Awards!

Well here we are dear readers, another Sunday, and another awards show I'm excited to enjoy with a few glasses of sparkling wine tonight! What sets the Screen Actors Guild apart from other shows? It is the true jury of peers. Actors vote on the best performances by actors. It can be a much bigger honor to receive the accolade's of one peers than to receive kudos from critics, and you'll see some of the more honest and emotional acceptance speeches at the SAG Awards. Plus, like the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards honor the best performances in both television and film.

Here are the nominees (with my picks and predictions; winners are in bold):

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (a.k.a Best Film):
Black Swan
The Fighter - my pick and prediction
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech - my pick and prediction
James Franco, 127 Hours

Best Actress
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan - my pick and prediction
Hilary Swank, Conviction

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter -  my pick and prediction
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter 
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit - my pick & prediction (even though I think she should be in the Best Actress category)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire
The Closer

Dexter
The Good Wife - my pick (I'm happy with The Closer too!)
Mad Men - my prediction

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
30 Rock
Glee 
Hot in Cleveland - my prediction
Modern Family - my pick
The Office

Best Actor, Drama
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men - my prediction
Hugh Laurie, House

Best Actress, Drama
Glenn Close, Damages
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU
Julianna Marguiles, The Good Wife- my pick and prediction
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

Best Actor, Comedy
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Ty Burrell, Modern Family - my pick
Steve Carell, The Office
Chris Colfer, Glee
Ed O'Neill, Modern Family - my prediction (Chris Colfer is hot right now, but I think his fellow SAG members will give it to Ed for being the only adult star shut out of Emmy nominations last year)

Best Actress, Comedy
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock - my pick
Jane Lynch, Glee - my prediction (Betty White could be the dark horse here!)
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Betty White, Hot in Cleveland

Best Actor, Television Movie or Miniseries
John Goodman, You Don't Know Jack - my pick
Al Pacino, You Don't Know Jack - my prediction
Dennis Quaid, The Special Relationship
Edgar Ramirez, Carlos
Patrick Stewart, Macbeth

Best Actress, Television Movie or Miniseries
Claire Danes, Temple Grandin -  my pick and prediction
Catherine O'Hara, Temple Grandin
Julia Ormon, Temple Grandin
Winona Ryder, When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story
Susan Sarandon, You Don't Know Jack

Stunt Ensemble, Movie
Green Zone - my pick (because Green Zone doesn't get nearly enough love)
Inception  - my prediction
Robin Hood

Stunt Ensemble, TV
CSI: NY
Dexter
Southland - my pick
True Blood - my prediction

How did I do? I got only nine right, but it was so refreshing to watch an award show with actual surprises, I'm happy to be a poor predictor!


Here's what is coming up on the blog this week:
  • my review of Birds of a Feather, the second Maisie Dobbs novel
  • my review of Blue Valentine, which just earned Michelle Williams an Oscar nomination
  • a Waiting on Wednesday pick I actually squealed with delight when I heard about
  • my review of Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich for a TLC Book Tour
  • my review of the criminally under-appreciated film The Green Zone
  • my review of Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
  • my take on Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert, in honor of my first wedding anniversary
Now tell me, how are you spending your Sunday?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

book review: Hamlet by Shakespeare

Hamlet (Modern Library Classics)The backstory: One of my 2011 reading goals is to read one Shakespeare play each month. I chose Hamlet to start. As Hamlet himself says, "let me not burst in ignorance."

The basics: Hamlet's father, the King of Denmark, dies and his mother immediately remarries his father's brother.

My thoughts: Going in, I thought I was generally familiar with the story of Hamlet and could answer basic trivia questions about its characters. I was amazed at how little of the spirit of the play I knew. I was immediately intrigued by the pace and complexity of the dialogue. It's been quite some time since I've read a play, and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy it. It was easy to lose myself in the dialogue without glancing at the characters name, and despite never having seen a stage production of Hamlet, I found myself picturing one in my head.

The play itself was a relatively quick read, but I was glad to have an annotated edition to dig a little deeper into the text, both before and after reading it. (a note on edition: after perusing the library, I selected the The Modern Library's edition, which is annotated by The Royal Shakespeare Company. Their introduction, background information, annotations and descriptions of characters helped me jump right into the text, and it's an edition I highly recommend.) In this edition, following the text was a scene-by-scene analysis. There were a few scenes I wish I had read the analysis after the scene, and it's a trick I may use with future plays. There was also a history of performance of Hamlet, both at the Royal Shakespeare Company and beyond. I hope to see a film version of Hamlet soon.

Favorite passage: "Give every man thine ear, but few they voice: Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment. This above all: to thine own self be true."

The verdict: I'm so glad I finally took the time to read the classic play. Although quotes and characters were familiar to me, you simply can't know a play without experiencing it in its entirety, either on the page, in person or on a screen.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Length: 238 pages (including other material)
Publication date: August 12, 2008 (this edition); the play is dated to 1599-1601
Source: my local public library

What film version would you recommend? The 2009 BBC version with David Tenant, the 2000 version with Ethan Hawke or the 1996 Kenneth Branagh version? (Please not the Mel Gibson one unless it really is the best!)


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Friday, January 28, 2011

dinner and a movie: Made in Dagenham

Made in DagenhamThe backstory: Made in Dagenham is nominated for three BAFTA Awards: Outstanding British Film of the Year; Best Supporting Actress, Miranda Richardson; and Best Costume Design.

The basics: Made in Dagenham is the story of the striking female machinists at the Ford factory in Dagenham, England in 1968.

My thoughts: I'm a huge fan of films about both women's rights and social justice, and I admit to tearing up during the trailer for this film. Made in Dagenham delivers exactly what it promises: an inspiring story, intelligent laughs, period fashion and accents that are difficult to understand at times. The story of these women is indeed extraordinary, but the film never veered over the top. It was true to its time and honestly portrayed the distinctions between doing what's easy and being an agent of change.

Sally Hawkins is dynamite as the strike's unlikely leader, Rita. I give credit to her and Nigel Cole, the film's director, for honestly portraying her as nervous and not always eloquent. Sure, she was eloquent by the speech's end, but the imperfections of her character made her both more believable and easier to relate to. Her performance is the anti-Aaron Sorkin dialogue. In this case, I'll take substance and authenticity over style.

The verdict: Made in Dagenham may not surprise, but it does inspire and delight.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 113 minutes
Release date: It's playing in these theaters now
Source: I paid to see it at the Spectrum Theatres

Dinner
After the movie I venture two doors down to New World Bistro Bar for dinner. They were having a "July in January" weekend and celebrating summer food and drink during the middle of winter. (The timing was appropriate: the low in Albany was -13 that night!) I decided to treat myself to a summer frisee salad with pomegranate seeds, blood orange segments, toasted coconut, starfruit and a honey, ginger dressing. It was bursting with flavor and absolutely delicious. With the cold weather, I couldn't stick with all summer food, however, and I enjoyed one of my favorites: mushroom risotto. It transported me right back to winter, and I loved every bite.

As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

book review: Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

Fugitive Pieces: A NovelThe backstory: Fugitive Pieces won the Orange Prize in 1997.

The basics:  My library catalog had a better summary than I could write: "It is the story of World War II as remembered and imagined by one of its survivors: a poet named Jakob Beer, traumatically orphaned as a young child and smuggled out of Poland, first to a Greek island (where he will return as an adult), and later to Toronto. It is the story of how, over his lifetime, Jakob learns the power of language--to destroy, to omit, to obliterate, but also to restore and to conjure, witness and tell--as he comes to understand and experience what was lost to him and of what is possible for him to regain."

My thoughts: Fugitive Pieces is the tale of two reading experiences for me. While I was reading it, I was captivated by the language. It's clear Anne Michaels is a poet: "a place so empty it was not even haunted." (p. 61) I wrote down pages and pages of passages. I would mutter "wow," frequently as I read it. Then, I would do something else and would let days pass without picking it up again. I started this book in December and finally finished it last week because it was due back at the library and I couldn't renew it again.

It's not a novel with a lot of action, which isn't normally a problem for me. I like character-driven novels with beautiful language. The problem for me with this novel is that there's not a lot of character development either. It's rather abstract, and the beautiful writing wasn't enough to convince me. There were passages that are almost examples of metafiction: "The present, like a landscape, is only a small part of a mysterious narrative." (p. 48)

Despite my enjoyment of this novel when read in long passages, the very structure of the novel itself hindered this enjoyment. The action broke almost once a page and sometimes more. It's a novel of seemingly infinite vignettes, which is a lovely metaphor for life and stories, but as a reader, it was hard to stay enchanted. Perhaps those drawn to poetry or short fiction would be less bothered by the constant breaking and shifting.

Favorite passage: "Sometimes the body experiences a revelation because it has abandoned every other possibility." (p. 52)

The verdict: Although I loved the language and poetic writing in this novel, there wasn't enough character development or plot to draw me in. Ultimately, Michaels failed at realizing her own passage; she failed to make the beautiful necessary:
Important lessons: look carefully; record you see. Find a way to make beauty necessary; find a way to make necessity beautiful. (p. 44)
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Length: 294 pages
Publication date: February 25, 1997 (it's in paperback now)
Source: my local public library


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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The First Husband by Laura Dave


Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to highlight an upcoming release we can't wait to read.

The First Husband: A Novel
Laura Dave is one of my absolute favorite authors. I was a huge fan of London is the Best City in America (my review), which is one of my all-time favorite book titles, and The Divorce Party (my review). When I discovered her books in 2008, I read them both in the same month and have been eager for her next novel ever since. Finally, The First Husband has both a cover and a release date (May 12, 2011). Here's how the publisher describes The First Husband in their catalog:
Annie Adams is days away from her thirty-second birthday and thinks she has finally found happiness. She visits the world's most interesting places for her syndicated travel column and she's happily cohabitating with her movie director boyfriend Nick in Los Angeles. But when Nick comes home from a meeting with his therapist (aka "futures counselor") and announces that he's taking a break from their relationship so he can pursue a woman from his past, the place Annie had come to call home is shattered. Reeling, Annie stumbles into her neighborhood bar and finds Griffin--a grounded, charming chef who seems to be everything Annie didn't know she was looking for. Within three months, Griffin is Annie's husband and Annie finds herself trying to restart her life in rural Massachusetts.
A wry observor of modern love, Laura Dave "steers clear of easy answers to explore the romantic choices we make" (USA Today). Her third novel is packed with humor, empathy, and psychological insight about the power of love and home.  
How amazing does that sound? I may have to re-read The Divorce Party again before The First Husband comes out on May 12, 2011

Treat yourself! You can pre-order it from Amazon (Kindle edition) or an independent bookstore.

As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

book review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The History of Love: A NovelThe backstory: The History of Love was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2002. Nicole Krauss is also one of The New Yorker's 20 Under 40.

The basics: Told in alternating narratives, The History of Love is the tale of two people: Leo, a Polish refugee living in New York who longs for his lost love, Alma and the lost novel he wrote about her, The History of Love; and another Alma, this one a teenager who was named after the Alma in the novel who is on a quest to find her namesake.

My thoughts: When I read Great House (my review) last fall and was underwhelmed with the story, many trusted friends told me I should read The History of Love because it had the same great writing with a much better story. Granted, my expectations were high because I utterly adored Krauss's writing in Great House, but I didn't love The History of Love either.

There were some beautiful passages:
There were other refugees around him experiencing the same fears and helplessness, but Litvinoff didn't find any comfort in this because there are two types of people in the world: those who prefer to be sad among others, and those who prefer to be sad alone. (p. 155)
For a novel about love, it completely lacked joy. The prose was filled with pain and longing for all the characters, and these emotions made this short novel feel heavy.

Some themes in this novel resonated with me more loudly because I read Great House first. Krauss uses many of the same themes in both novels, and this passage in particular could easily appear in either novel:
"To call him a Jewish writer," he added, "or, worse, an experimental writer, is to miss entirely the point of his humanity, which resisted all categorization." (p. 78)
It could also be what Krauss hopes for herself. She is a Jewish writer, and I would consider her an experimental one, as she uses distant time, places and objects to draw connections. The overarching focus of both novels is one of humanity and its expression through literature.

My reaction to this novel is heavily influence by my reaction to Great House. The two seemed like companion novels to me, and I'm curious if the next Nicole Krauss novel continues these themes or strike out into new territory.

Favorite passage: "There are so many ways to be alive, but only one way to be dead." (p. 232)

The verdict: Nicole Krauss is a writer I wish I liked more than I actually do. The History of Love is a meandering tale of interconnected characters whose paths cross in fascinating ways. Despite her strong writing, I still found myself enjoying the idea of this novel much more than the novel itself.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Length: 252 pages
Publication date: May 2, 2005 (it's in paperback now)
Source: gift as part of the Book Blogger Holiday Swap

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Monday, January 24, 2011

movie review: True Grit

True GritThe backstory: True Grit is nominated for two Screen Actors Guild Awards: Best  Supporting Actress, Hailee Steinfeld, and Best Actor, Jeff Bridges.

The basics: Based on the novel by Charles Portis, True Grit, is not a remake of the John Wayne version of the film. It is a new adaptation and true to the gritty roots of westerns. Young Mattie Ross ventures to the big city to claim her father's body and vows to get vengeance from the man who murdered him.

My thoughts: I used to freely admit I didn't like westerns. I thought they were outdated and sexist. After seeing True Grit, I'm woman enough to admit it: I like westerns. True Grit is a delightful mix of modern and classic. Hailee Steinfeld is a revelation. Yes, she is just as bad-ass as she appears in the ads, but the true beauty of her performance are the times she shows her fear and vulnerability. She is fourteen, and she looks fourteen, she mostly doesn't act fourteen. Her courage is admirable, as well as somewhat reckless, but you cannot help but root for her.

Matt Damon, hilariously costumed as a fringe-loving Texas Ranger, is a delightful match for Hailee Steinfeld. The two engage in rapid fire dialogue worthy of Aaron Sorkin. His character could easily be one-dimensional, but his small, supporting role contains immense nuance. He plays LaBoeuf with an impressive mix of bravado and contrition.

The one weak spot for me: Jeff Bridges. It pains me to say it, but his enunciation was so horrendous almost half of his dialogue was unintelligible. It got better as the film went on, but if I were at home, I would have turned on the closed captioning.

The verdict: Despite my foolish misconception that I didn't like westerns, I loved this film. It was a fascinating journey with fantastic acting and crisp dialogue. There was adventure and intrigue in Mattie Ross's tale. The lawlessness of the country seems almost dystopian to my modern sensibilities, and I was surprised how much I loved this film.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars)
Length: 110 minutes
Release date: It's in these theaters now
Source: I paid to see it at the Spectrum Theatres

As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Salon: New York State Writers Institute

Confession: When I was offered a job to stay in Albany this semester, I was thrilled for many reasons, both personally and professionally. As a book nerd, however, there was one reason I was most excited to stay in Albany was to have another semester of New York State Writers Institute Visiting Writers events to attend. Then, they actually announced the slate of writers coming to Albany this spring: Julie Orringer, Karen Russell, Gary Shteyngart, Susan Choi and Maureen Dowd. Seriously.

The Invisible Bridge (Vintage Contemporaries)Swamplandia!
Thursday, February 10, 2011: Julie Orringer and Karen Russell
I've been intending to read Julie Orringer's debut novel (she had a collection of short stories, How to Breathe Underwater, published in 2004) since it was published last May. I even pre-ordered it on my Kindle. Karen Russell's debut novel, Swamplandia! is one of the most anticipated releases of spring (she also has a short story collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves). She's also one of The New Yorker's 20 Under 40. In what I hope won't be a repeat of The Invisible Bridge, I have pre-ordered Swamplandia! for my Kindle too (it will be published February 1, 2011.) To see either of these women is amazing, but to see both together is even more fantastic.

Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel
Thursday, February 17, 2011: Gary Shteyngart
Gary Shteyngart is also one of The New Yorker's 20 Under 40. Mr. Nomadreader read Absurdistan when it first came out and really enjoyed it. Like The Invisible Bridge, I bought Super Sad True Love Story for my Kindle shortly after it came out (thanks to birthday Amazon giftcards from my brother.) I confess, I may be more interested in Shteyngart as a person than in reading his books. He's an author I think I should read because people I think are cool enjoy his work. He's an intriguing writer, and I'm looking forward to this novel (I really enjoyed its excerpt in The New Yorker), but I'm most looking forward to hearing him speak.

BushworldAre Men Necessary?: When Sexes CollideThursday, March 10, 2011: Maureen Dowd
Although Maureen Dowd is only my third most favorite New York Times columnist (Gail Collins and Paul Krugman, who came to campus last year, edge her out), I absolutely adored her 2005 collection of essays, Are Men Necessary?: When Sexes Collide, and thoroughly adore her column. Her appearance is billed as a reading/discussion, and I'm curious as to what she will read and what we will discuss, but it's sure to be entertaining. Could she have a new book coming out?

American Woman: A NovelA Person of Interest: A NovelThe Foreign Student: A Novel
Thursday, April 14, 2011: Susan Choi
I've never read any of Susan Choi's work, but I believe I owned both American Woman (a Pulitzer Prize finalist) and The Foreign Student for years (yes, these authors share a trend of me owning their novels without reading them.) Choi's appearance will be at RPI in conjunction with their McKinney Writing Contest, but it is still a welcome excuse to finally read at least one of her novels.

Check out the full schedule for the spring 2011 Visiting Writers Series. Their video archive is pretty impressive too.


Also this spring at UAlbany: Post Secret! The exhibit opened January 19th and will be open through February 11. Post Secret creator Frank Warren is doing a presentation and book signing on February  too.

Today I'm reading: The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. I'm hoping to finish this expansive, lovely novel tonight in preparation for her February 10th appearance.

Coming up on the blog this week:

  • a review of True Grit, the Coen Brothers version
  • a review of A History of Love by Nicole Krauss
  • a new novel from one of my favorite authors as my Waiting on Wednesday pick
  • a review of Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, the 1997 Orange Prize winner
  • a review of the new British film, Made in Dagenham, about the 1968 strike for equal rights
  • a review of Hamlet as part of my quest to read 12 Shakespeare plays in 2011
  • my predictions for the Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 30, 2011
Now tell me: which New York State Writers Institute excites you the most?

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

graphic novel review: French Milk by Lucy Knisley

French MilkThe basics: French Milk is the story of the month Lucy and her mother spent in Paris celebrating their 22nd and 50th birthdays, respectively. Lucy is an aspiring cartoonist, and she publishes her diary, which is essentially a graphic memoir.


My thoughts: I knew French Milk was a memoir when I started reading it, but I didn't realize it was in diary form. Perhaps some changes were made between its original writing and its subsequent publication, but there is a beautiful, raw honesty present that makes me think it is authentic. In many ways, Lucy is a typical 22-year-old. She misses her boyfriend. She gets homesick. She gets her period and gets really cranky. It's not an idyllic portrait of a vacation, and I love it even more for that. Knisley doesn't sugarcoat the parts of travel that are unfortunate.

Part of my enjoyment of this book is incredibly personal. I spent a month in 2004 (the year Lucy and her mother went to Paris) in France, Italy and Greece. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and reading tidbits about some of the same experiences was fantastic. Also, Lucy loves fancy food and wine as much as I do. Foie gras and French wine? Yes, please! So much of the book is about food, including its name, which signifies how much she loved the taste of real French milk.

Yes, Lucy and I are very close in age and had European adventures in 2004, but I do think this book's appeal is much deeper than the personal connections I formed with it. It's not a typical travel narrative or a typical graphic memoir. Knisley's cartoon drawing style is lovely, and I think the cover is a wonderful indication of its whimsy. She includes some real photographs too, a touch I particularly enjoyed. I appreciate the braveness it must have taken for Lucy to publish her travel diary. (I kept a public travel blog for my Europe trip, but I kept a very different personal journal.)


The verdict: French Milk is a delightfully honest and emotionally arresting graphic memoir of an intrepid and impressive young woman. Food and travel lovers, particularly those under 40, will delight in Lucy's experiences.


Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 208 pages
Publication date: October 14, 2008
Source: my local public library

As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!

Friday, January 21, 2011

movie review: Please Give

Please GiveThe backstory: Please Give is nominated for Best Screenplay at the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards and is also the Robert Altman Award winner.

The basics: A true Manhattan story, Please Give features married vintage furniture store owners Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) eager to expand their apartment by buying the one next door, currently inhabited by a very old woman whose granddaughters (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall)somewhat reluctantly take care of her.

My thoughts: A quintessential independent comedy that could just as easily be called a drama, Please Give was thoroughly engaging from beginning to end. It's a character-driven story that is a little light on plot, but the characters are so well developed it feels like plot. For me, the film is an insight into these characters' lives. It feels like reality because of its ode to the everyday.

Catherine Keener and Rebecca Hall were the highlights of this film for me. Oliver Platt was fine, but I fear he may have been miscast. Perhaps it was the intention of the director, but I wish someone slightly more subdued were in the role.

The verdict: Please Give is part family drama, part comedy, part ode to New York City, part exploration of rich, liberal guilt, and all lovely. If you're a fan of character-driven films with superb dialogue and acting, you're in for a treat.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 90 minutes
Release date: October 19, 2010 (on dvd)
Source: I got the dvd from Netflix

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