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Showing posts from February, 2011

book review: Someone Else's Garden by Dipika Rai

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The basics: "The eldest of seven children, born low-caste and female in rural India, Mamta is abused and rejected by a father who can see no reason to 'water someone else's garden' until a husband can be found for her. Seeking escape in matrimony, Mamta begins her wedded life with hope--but is soon forced to flee her village and the horrors of her arranged marriage to the bustle of a small city." -- from the back of the book

My thoughts:Someone Else's Garden, Dipikia Rai's debut novel, is quite beautifully written. As I read the book's first sentences, I knew I had to pay attention. The reader jumps right into the story and several character names. Soon, however, the novel began to drag before me. I still enjoyed Rai's writing and gift for description, but it wasn't enough to keep the magic alive. I never found myself scrambling to write down certain passages, but I did find myself re-reading passages to myself.

The book was a lovely insight in…

Sunday Salon: Oscar Night!

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Happy Sunday, everyone! It's Oscar night, a night I've been looking forward to for months. This year's crop of nominated films is pretty fantastic. I rated four of the ten Best Picture nominees five stars, and my favorite film of 2010, Blue Valentine, was sadly left out of the Best Picture race. The red carpet coverage starts at 2, but I plan to start watching a few hours later on DVR. I added an Oscars tab to track all my reviews for nominated films, and I've included my picks and predictions there. I'll update it with the winners and tabulate my score tonight or tomorrow. Mostly, I hope my predictions are wrong. I'm looking forward to not being in a pool and thus not having bragging rights at stake. I simply want the performances and films I enjoyed most to win. No one but Michelle Williams herself will be happier than I will be if she wins Best Actress tonight. I'll be sipping sparkling wine and cheering her on.

I'll also have my nose deep in Dipika…

book review: Messenger of Truth

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The backstory: Messenger of Truth is the fourth historical mystery in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series. I'm reading the entire series as part of Book Club Girl's Maisie Dobbs read-along. (Links to my reviews of Maisie Dobbs, Birds of  Feather, andPardonable Lies.)

The basics: Georgina Bassington-Hope, who attended Girton at a different time than Maisie, hires Maisie to look into the death of her artist brother, Nick, which was deemed accidental.

My thoughts: After the third Maisie Dobbs mystery being my least favorite, I hoped the series would rebound a bit for me. In the opening pages I discovered a delicious trifecta  of a suspicious death, art and a client with a hyphenated last name (I have a fondness for hyphenated names that has only increased since Mr. Nomadreader and I hyphenated our names.) Yes, these point of intrigue may be rather nomadreader-specific, but you must admit, art and murder are steeped with intrigue.

This novel (and case) felt more structured…

movie review: Barney's Version

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The backstory: Paul Giamatti won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy for his role in Barney's Version, a film based on the novel by Mordecai Richler.

The basics: The film begins in Montreal in modern time with Barney (Paul Giamatti) appearing as a rather miserable alcoholic. It then jumps back to 1974 in Rome, Italy, where Barney is getting ready to get married because he's gotten Clara (Rachelle Lefevre) pregnant. When she delivers the still-born child, it's clear the baby isn't his. Quickly, wife #2 (Minnie Driver) enters. At their wedding reception, Barney meets Miriam (the divine Rosumind Pike) and falls in love.

My thoughts: The film jumps around in time over thirty-five years (it's also nominated for the Oscar for Best Makeup; it won't win because it's so subtly done, but it was genius). For the most part, it works, but there were times the narrative force wasn't strong enough to handle the audience already knowing the ending. There were a few…

book review: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

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The basics: The Lover's Dictionary is a love story told through alphabetical dictionary entires.

My thoughts: There is something about David Levithan's writing that is both earnest and cool. As I was reading this short, little novel, I was reminded of Stephen Chbosky's brilliant novel,Perks of Being a Wallflower. Levithan and Chbosky both get it. They can be smart, funny, self-deprecating, and honest. Levithan inspired this female reader to see myself both in the male protagonist and in the woman he loves.

Levithan's humor provides a beautiful balance to the sweeter entries:
avant-garde, adj. This was after Alisa's show, the reverse-blackface rendition of Gone with the Wind, including songs from the Empire Records soundtrack and an interval of nineteenth-century German poetry, recited with a lisp.  "What does avant-garde mean, anyway?" I asked. "I believe it translates as favor to your friends," you replied.  One of the most impressing aspects of …

Waiting on Wednesday: State of Wonder

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to highlight an upcoming release you can't wait to read. 
My pick this week is State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

Here's the publisher's description:
"Marina Singh, who's given up her medical practice for the relative quiet of pharmaceutical research, finds her world upturned when she's suddenly sent to the Amazon. A field team there, working on a new drug, has been unresponsive for two years, and Marina's colleague Anders, who has gone to investigate, is reported dead. State of Wonder is an adventurous story of science and responsibility."Booklist says, "Patchett captures not only the sights and sounds of the chaotic jungle environment but also the struggle and sacrifice of dedicated scientists."

State of Wonder will be released June 7, 2011, but you can pre-order it from Amazon in hardcover or for the Kindle.

As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make…

book review: The Night Season by Chelsea Cain

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The backstory: The Night Season is the fourth book in Chelsea Cain's Gretchen Lowell and Archie Sheridan series. (My reviews of Heartsick, Sweetheart, and Evil at Heart.)

My thoughts: After enjoying Evil at Heart the most of the three books, I was eager to see how Chelsea Cain continued the series. This book begins differently than the other three by opening with a the story of a crippling flood in Portland in the 1940's. When the story shifts to the present day, flooding is rampant in Portland again. We don't get to see a glimpse of a returning character until the second chapter, and the action picks up from Susan's point of view as a reporter. This novel really is about Susan and Archie, and I enjoyed Susan propelling the story personally and professionally.

This novel is a real departure for the series. It doesn't focus on Gretchen, but past events are indeed referred to. Archie is finding a sense of peace in his life. I have thoroughly enjoyed Susan's charac…

Oscar shorts: Animation

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Day & Night (6 minutes)
Pixar's shorts are always delightful, and this one is no exception. Day meets Night and they are frightened by each other. Then they engage in an amusing game of one-upping each other with their wonders. It was a fast-pasted, funny, creative and touching short. It's a story I can't imagine being told without animation. Although the idea is solid, a book form of the tale wouldn't have the same emotional impact.
Rating: 4.5 stars
The Gruffalo (27 minutes)
Even if you haven't read the children's book this short is based on, the story will be familiar. It's not really treading new ground, and while the animation was beautiful, it's really a short geared to small children. It does feature some famous voices, such as Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson and John Hurt. Children will likely love it, but adults may find it goes on too long.
Rating: 4 stars
Let's Pollute (6 minutes)
Done in the style of a science movie from the 1970'…

Sunday Salon: Reading Habits

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When I finished graduate school in December and started a full-time librarian job, I knew my reading habits would change. It was important to me to find a rhythm for my reading, but even I am surprised at how my reading habits have changed. The biggest change: I wake up early to read for an hour before getting ready. I've always been a sleeper, and I still am. I've never been a morning person, but I'm becoming one. Waking up to read is such a wonderful way to start my day. I look forward to the quiet time in the morning when I'm the only one awake. I sip my coffee and enter the world of the book I'm reading.

Amidst the busyness of working two jobs (my librarian job is only for this semester, so I kept my part-time serving job and wait tables Friday and Saturday night), some days the only time I read is during my morning hour. Most days, however, I can squeeze in about half an hour of reading on the bus and while riding the bus. On nights Mr. Nomadreader works, I u…

Oscar shorts: Live Action

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The Confession (26 minutes)
Basics: Two British boys prepare for their first confession. Sam frets because he doesn't think he has anything to confess, so he and his best friend Jacob set out to steal this scarecrow.
My thoughts: It started funny with brochures featuring suggestions of things 9-year-olds might need to confess, but it quickly turned dark. The film didn't shy away from extremes, but none of the events were particularly shocking. The performance of Lewis Howlett at Sam kept this film from veering into the ridiculous. It's not the most unique film or script, but it was quite visually interesting and well acted.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Wish 143 (24 minutes)
Basics: The film centers on the story of David, a teenager dying of cancer. When presented with the option of a wish (a la Make-a-Wish), he wishes to have sex.
My thoughts: Wish 143 does a wonderful job dealing with serious subjects (cancer and death) and infusing them with humor. There's a surprising dep…

book review: Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli

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The basics: The sub-title of Radio Shangri-La could easily be 'What I Learned About Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth.' Lisa Napoli's fascinating memoir takes her from a chance encounter at a Manhattan dinner party to Bhutan, where she uses her career in radio to assist Bhutan's new (and only) radio station.

My thoughts: I confess, before I read Radio Shangri-La, I could find Bhutan on a map, but I knew next to nothing about its people, history, and customs. Ultimately, I would call it a travel memoir, and I learned as much about Bhutan as I did about Lisa. Lisa is quite candid about her own happiness, both personally and professionally. Originally from New York, she's in her early 40's and working for public radio in Los Angeles. Lisa's fascination with Bhutan is partly universal but partly intensely personal. Internet and television are recent additions to Bhutan, and Lisa appreciated a certain simplicity of life.

The changes in Bhutan are a topic of m…