Saturday, April 4, 2015

And a few more.....

Watch Me by Anjelica Huston
The second round of Anjelica Huston's life story was a fabulous read, chokka full of Hollywood stories that only a real insider could tell, much of the book is devoted to Jack Nicholson, her great love and the source of much heartbreak. It is an open and revealing book, Huston's honesty shining throughout, she has been fair and balanced, a little anger, a lot of humour and a lot of stories....some good, some bad and some a bit ghastly but that's her life and she owns it!5/5

My Sunshine Away by M.O.Walsh.
A thriller with a narrator looking back in time, this book is beautifully and skilfully written, with a great plot, characters that grow before your eyes and twists and turns that will hold your attention until the last page. This is not my usual type of book but the wonderful writing and engaging characters kept me reading at a reasonably rapid pace. It must be said that this book gets you thinking and what I found especially interesting was memory and what we take and perceive from it.

A Spool of Blue Tread by Anne Tyler.
I am a huge Anne Tyler fan, I love everything she has written and I certainly loved this book. Set in Baltimore and centred on the Whitshank family, it pulled you in as Tyler tends too and I didn't want to get out. The ageing of the senior Whitshanks and the complications that arise for their family as a consequence provide the books platform, with interesting but seemingly ordinary characters the story rolls along and as circumstances change so to do people. I love Tyler's characters, they nearly always start out seeming so average and unremarkable but are a lot less so by the story's end. It is the ordinariness of Tyler's characters and settings that seem to work so brilliantly, her hand is deft, she tells you what you need to know and then starts the journey. Tyler also throws in a lot of humour and she isn't adverse to twists and turns. Loved it!5/5

The Husbands Secret by Liane Moriarty.
A book that has been getting a lot of good buzz and frankly after reading it I can see why. Great plot, great characters, easy to read and very engaging, it wasn't a book that could be put down. It was thought provoking, a book that got you thinking about  choices, those we make that may impact on our whole lives. Set in Sydney, Australia and based in a middle class community, the characters and their lives are easily recognisable excepting for the fact that each has had an occurance that has heavily impacted on their lives. To tell you much more would spoil the book for you, except to say   are twists and turns and yes there is a Secret...
This was a great read, it hooked me from the beginning, Moriaty may be decried by those that say she writes chick lit, she doesn't.     

More great reads.....

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
An engrossing tale full to the brim with the most engaging and entertaining characters the Wild West ever produced, this book was excellent!5/5 stars.

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton.
An Australian Classic that held me spellbound, it was a delight to pick it up and read. The characters and their setting reflect without doubt the time the book is set in, the descriptions of places and things are expansive and the characters as they are unravelled before your eyes are classics of an Australia now vanished, won't quickly leave you.5/5 stars.

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, JR.
One of two books based on the life of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark who despite owning magnificent properties all over the US chose to live out her life in a hospital room if you were unwell but perfectly healthy? An unusual character to say the least, Huguette came across as some what cold and remote, not one for happy marriages and family gatherings, well travelled and educated she was certainly privacy obsessed and while she gave generously too both friends(a small circle)and her nurses and helpers, her somewhat remote family went all out after her death to get their hands on her wealth.
I didn't find Huguette enthralling or engaging in the least and I felt this book was a bit to cobbled together, it didn't flow, the bottom line is that for all her gifts and wealth she was dull and boring and so was her life. I have the 2nd book on Huguette here and at some stage I intend to read it just in the hope that nobody that rich could be so colourless.3/5 stars.

Elvis and Ginger by Ginger Alden.
Ginger was Elvis's last girlfriend and had the dubious honour of finding the King dead. She has also had the honour of being one of very few people too not cash in on her connection. It has not been until now that Ginger has felt the time was right to put pen to paper and a very fine job she has done. There is nothing crass or hokey, she comes across as completely sincere, honest and hardworking without any sense of entitlement, the book is easy to read and once picked up, not easy to put down. It is an interesting read fair and balanced, an insiders look at the private life of the greatest entertainer most of us will never see. Elvis sure was an interesting person, not easy.5/5+

The Hiltons by J. Randy Tarraborelli.
A huge doorstop of a book that takes us from the hard earned beginnings of the Hilton dynasty/fortune right up until today's very hardworking Nicky and Paris Hilton. Tarraborelli is the master of this type of book...simply brilliant, There isn't a weird or wacky story or character missing, every base is covered, the research done and the tale told is well worth the sore arms from trying to hold the book. Like his previous books this one is excellent.5/5.

Dick and Pat by Will Swift.
I have an absolute fascination with American Presidents, their wives, families and hangerons, there is likely not a book on any of them I haven't read or don't own, I've been to the Nixon Library and loved it to death! This was a well researched and empathetic portrait of a couple who didn't always come across well. Easy to read,fair and balanced it painted a portrait of a marriage that didn't always resonate with Americans. Both were interesting characters with strengths and weakness, communication being a biggie. They gave their all to their calling and suffered greatly for it but nevertheless they ended their lives in secure domesticity and with the much shamed Nixon returned as elder statement.5/5 I already have my next presidential read, a new biography called Hissing Cousins, the relationship between Alice Roosevelt Longworth and her cousin Eleanor Roosevelt .

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Some great reads.....

I am still not really back into blogging yet but little steps feel right.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A truly wonderful meditation on war and it's consequences seen through the eyes of two very different children, beautifully written with wonderful characters this book takes you on an unforgettable journey that twists and turns, and very powerfully shows just what it feels like to be a powerless child when the world as you know it crashes in on you. This was my best read for 2014. 5/5.

There was a little Girl by Brooke Shields
Shields who has been a model/actress since childhood tells the story of her mother in this book, she also tells her own story because they were  woven together so tightly that it was very hard for Brooke to break away. Terri was disliked by many who saw her as the ultimate stage mother, a pushy, unpleasant woman whose only commodity was her beautiful daughter. Brooke tells her alcoholic mothers story with compassion and a wisdom born of much pain, she is not short on humour either. This was a fast moving, easy read which gives the reader a great insight into growing up as a child actress with all it's pitfalls, it's benefits and perks and how you can survive  with grace and dignity, Shields does a good job for her mother, herself and her two daughters.5/5.

Play On by Mick Fleetwood.
Written to cash in one suspects on Fleetwood Mac's tour of the U.S. Fleetwood's story is really rather engaging but from a simple start things rapidly become complex. All the great characters of the 60s/70s and 80s are here and the life and times of Fleetwood and his cohorts are hardly dull yet there seems to be quite a confluence of  people/places and times and Fleetwood repeats himself a fair bit especially in regard to relationships and why they failed...once would have been enough, his treatment of his first wife and children frankly was appalling, a good editor would have dealt with the repeat re telling swiftly. A good read for the fans and probably a very accurately told recount of Fleetwood's life, a good book but not a great read.3/5

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
First class telling of the consequences of wanting to project your life ambition onto your child. FYI Beautifully rendered, heartbreaking, honest and searing. The story of the Asian/American Lee family especially the parents Marilyn and James in 1970's Ohio is one that will live with you well after you turn the last page. Marilyn and James's obsession with the social/academic life of their middle child Lydia is both sad and foolhardy and has horrific consequences for the whole family. The story is written with such style and class, pulls no punches and hooks you from the get go. The back lighting is superb as is the character develop, past and present seamlessly woven together, cultural issues which haunt this novel are written with honesty and compassion and the day to day recounting of this family's life is stunning yet ordinary at the same time. The book is real and as an example of dysfunction it would have few peers in the honesty stakes. It was my No 2 read for 2014.5/5.

Margaret and Gough by Susan Mitchell
Gough and Margaret Whitlam were the Rock Stars of modern Australian politics, loved by the ordinary Joe Bloggs while being dispised by the middle and upper class who most certainly didn't approve of the Labor Party leanings exemplified by both.
Married young, they worked tirelessly at every level of their community, held responsible jobs and raised a family. At the heart of their devotion to each other was their desire to see Labor back in government after years of Liberal led governments.
In 1972 their wish was granted and Gough Whitlam led his party to victory but it was to be a victory that ed many in power and there were many who vowed to bring the Whitlam Government down, cut to the chase and that is what the power obsessed Governor General did, he sacked Gough Whitlam over the supply/confidence bill that was before parliament.
A true political marriage they were a team until death did part them. They are a part almost of Australian Folklore, from the moment of Gough's sacking they were idolised by Australians whom they continued to serve tirelessly, a standing ovation guaranteed should they appear, even the most unlikely of ruptured friendships were healed and in the case of the man the GG replaced Gough with genuine heartbreak at his passing.
A great read, honest, engaging and well paced, the author knew both her subjects well and it shows, particularly of note is Mitchell's honesty, like an Aussie, she calls a spade a spade or occasionally a shovel.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Books I have read lately and enjoyed........

No time for full reviews at the moment but I have read and enjoyed each of these:

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

Where is Daniel? By Bruce and Denise Morcombe with Lindsay Simpson

Fathers Day by Megan Norris

This House of Grief by Helen Garner

We are called to Rise by Laura McBride

The Arsonist by Sue Miller

JFK Jr, George and Me by Michael Berman

Wild Westie by Hazel Phillips

The Super Power Baby Project by Rachel Callender

Currently reading Lucinda Franks Timeless...Love, Morganthau and Me, just wonderful. It will be followed by East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Friendswood by Rene Steinke.

Book Club book is We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, it could only be described as amazing!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dirty Rocker Boys by Bobbie Brown

No, this book is not written by the makeup guru, this is a different Bobbie Brown all together.
Growing up as a very pretty young thing and becoming a model, our Bobbie finds herself in Rock n Roll hell, via a marriage to Warrants Jani Lane and an off-on relationship with Motley Crues Tommy Lee.
Her story is not new but it is entertainly told and without a lick of self pity...plenty of regrets to be sure but no pity party and plenty of responsibility own up which does make a change.
The promise of a bright future blighted by drugs, drink, sex and hair metal, this lady knew everyone...the good, the bad and the ugly and it was mainly the latter two which ruled her life until she finally got a grip.
Some very good stories, some which will probably embarrass the badass she's telling on...hello Pamela Anderson, a lot of humour and self depreciation and a lot of wisdom earned the hard way.
A well written read which wasn't too taxing, it was enjoyable and it didn't have that pall of gloom over it that some of these memoirs have, it reflected back the time it was set in and paints quite the cautionary tale when it comes to alcohol.
Available in Hardcover and via the Library System.

Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant

The Borgias for all the blood shed, the brutality and overwhelming  corruption that characterised them continue to fascinate and so it is with Sarah Dunants wonderful novelisation of their reign of terror that culminated in Rodrigo Borgia becoming Pope in 1492 and continued on unabated until murder and disease had carried them away.
The Borgias could be described as our 1st power family and boy did they use it, nothing and no one got in their way and nothing was forbidden to them, morality existed only to keep others in line and as a judgement call against those who had crossed them or not.....
Life was cheap, marriage meant nothing and the fact that Rodrigos  daughter loved you was enough to see your life ended in a heartbeat; Sister loving Brother, Brother hating Brother, Father loving Daughter, all unhealthily but all perfectly OK if you were a Borgia.
Brilliantly written, this tale with twists and turns aplenty is fast paced, engaging and full of detail, not all of it historically accurate but with enough little nuggets to keep it real and believable, these were not every day times and the usual rules didn't apply. Dunants characters are wonderfully drawn, it isn't hard to visualise them at all, they develop and change as the story moves along and while most are not loveable, a drip of sympathy for their evolving plights can with a little effort be allowed.
One of the things that stood out for me was Dunants descriptions of the places that are the settings for her story, they are just magnificent and left me with a very clear visual to focus on, not only could you see but you could smell, you could almost touch.
An excellent rendering of what might have been, layered with fact and delivered as a novel, I don't think the reality would have been much different.
This is the modern way of delivering history and this is a 1st class example of how to reach way back in time and make it real for the techno savvy modern reader.
Available in paperback and via the Library System.

Four Sisters by Helen Rappaport

I have had an abiding interest in the family of the last Tsar of Russia, his wife, children and extended family since I read Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K Massie when I was 15 years old which is now quite along while ago, to me they are almost family.
I had always hoped that a book would be written about Nicholas' four daughters: Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia and now it has.
Helen Rappaport has written a number of books on the Romanovs, each a very good read but this book stands out for the sensitive and caring manner in which Rappaport has unravelled the lives of these four young women who have largely been overshadowed by their haemophiliac brother Alexis and the shadow cast over their lives by Rasputin, on whom their Mother, Alexandra developed a most unhealthy reliance.
Each of the four is given her own distinctive voice, we follow them from birth to death and watch as each develops and flowers, until history chops them down in what really was a callous and brutal destruction of lives tainted only by the happenence of their births.
Although over protected and cocooned by their mother, by the time the girls died in 1918 at 22, 20, 19 and 17 respectively they had in their own way lived full lives, much of the latter part devoted to serving others and although a coat of immaturity and a lack of social awareness surrounded them, they had grown into kind, caring and loving young women.
This book is wonderfully researched, offering even to myself who has read everything written about them new information and tidbits.
Very well written, the book moves at an even pace, it is fair and balanced and offers a well rounded portrait that sheds new light on the often over looked Romantic Aspect of the girls lives, letters and diary entries complement the text and the book is very well illustrated, it was especially nice to see photographs that were new to my practised eye.
All in all, a fabulous read especially for those who have a special interest in Russian History and the lives of the Romanovs.
As an aside, it also got me thinking that with the line of hemophilia coming down through the maternal line, had these girls lived and married into Royalty, would we today see this now well controlled disease in our own Royals......
Available in trade paperback and through the Library System.