Annabel's House of Books

Noli domo egredi, nisi librum habes – Never leave home without a book.

Month: October 2008 (page 1 of 6)

Moviewatch: In Bruges- It’s effing hilarious!

This film was absolutely fantastic from start to finish. Wildly original, quirky, very violent yet wickedly funny with some brilliant sick jokes. Oh, by the way, it happens to show off Bruges quite beautifully.

Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes I knew, but couldn’t quite place Brendan Gleeson at first – then it dawned on me – he was Mad-Eye Moody from Harry Potter IV, and then Fleur from the same film turns up as ‘the girl’! The casting was quite brilliant; Gleason and Farrell turn in great performances as the ageing hitman and his apprentice, and Fiennes was obviously relishing playing a mockney bad guy as their boss. The plot was fantastic – full of twists with the most superb ending. I can’t tell you any more – you need to see it.

I would recommend this film to all grown-ups except perhaps my mother, who will find there’s just too much swearing for her sensibilities to cope with.

Talking of cursing, you must watch the last of the extras – they’ve cut every swear-word + each time they say Bruges into one effing hilarious short!

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Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
In Bruges [DVD] [2008]

What did you do in the war Mum?

War Crimes For The Home by Liz Jensen

The things normal people got up to in the war. Good girl Gloria falls for a GI and learns to be bad with disastrous consequences.

Told in flashback, Gloria is now an old lady and installed in an old folks nursing home, as her son Hank thinks she has dementia or even mad cow disease.  Gloria however is not senile at all, just suppressing all the bad stuff and is preparing to die and join her friend Doris.  Her son Hank, who has grown up without a father is desperate to find out where he comes from and she is forced to confront her past.

The author serves this sad story up with large helpings of really black humour, some sick jokes, and loads of sex!  Gloria, once relieved of her virginity, was a bit of a one-woman shagging machine.  It won’t be a surprise to you to find out she gets pregnant and abandoned by her man, but I won’t say any more.

This is an extremely intelligent novel that shows, to use the words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, you get what you need.”  With the young men all away fighting, rationing, bombs and death all around, wartime brought different values to the fore – you might die tomorrow.  Contrasting against that in the contemporary strand of the story is a bit of a dig about how we treat our elderly folk.  You’re taken with Gloria all the way through all the ups and downs of life’s rollercoaster – quirky, funny, sad – a fantastic read.

I’ve previously read one of Liz Jensen’s other novels The ninth life of Louis Drax which was a super psychological thriller, again quirky and black humoured. I’ve since acquired a couple more of her books – hoping for more of the same.

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Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
War Crimes for the Homeby Liz Jensen, Bloomsbury paperback

 

100 Books … and counting

It’s Halloween and I got back this afternoon from a few days in Paris when I realise I’ve done it! I set myself a target to read 100 books this year, having managed to read 99 in total last year and I’ve done it with two months to spare, having read over 27,000 pages. I’ll admit to quite a few short novels, and I did go through a period earlier in the year where I quickly read quite a few children’s books, (I was applying for a job as a prep school librarian).

Of course, sheer volume is no measure of quality – however I gave an amazing quarter of the 100 ten out of ten. I have had a lot of fantastic recommendations and finds this year though which are reflected in that high number – I’ve highlighted them in green in the list (or blue if children’s). There was only one book I didn’t finish … See No 45 highlighted in red down below! I’ve read less memoirs/biography in this lot – only 5 so far this year, but have for the first time read 3 poetry books (if you include at No 80 a novel written in prose poetry). There is a sprinkling of Science Fiction and historical novels, and apart from straight-forward novels, crime novels predominate including 3 Agatha Raisin ones (… I got a set of 3 cheap, and they’re extremely light and quick to read).

Enough of the stats – here’s the list of 100 in full. Thanks for looking.

1. Hurting Distance by Hannah, Sophie 8/10
2. Out stealing horses by Per Petterson 8/10
3. Beowulf by Seamus Heaney 7/10
4. The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland 7/10
5. This is for you by Rob Ryan 8/10
6. Love in the time of cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 7/10
7. Then we came to the end by Joshua Ferris 7/10
8. Not buying it – my year without shopping by Judith Levine
5/10
9. My friend Walter by Michael Morpurgo 8/10 (Children’s)
10. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart 10/10
11. Ottoline and the yellow cat by Chris Riddell 8/10 (Children’s)
12. Tom’s midnight garden by Philippa Pearce 10/10 (Children’s)
13. Clockwork by Philip Pullman 10/10 (Children’s)
14. Ottoline goes to school by Chris Riddell 8/10 (Children’s)
15. Jane Blonde – sensational spylet by Jill Marshall 6/10 (Children’s)
16. Holes by Louis Sachar 10/10 (Children’s)
17. Lucy Willow by Sally Gardner 8/10 (Children’s)
18. Skellig by David Almond 9/10 (Children’s)
19. The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding 10/10 (Children’s)
20. Grendel by John Gardner 8/10
21. The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence 7/10 (Children’s)
22. The Ruby in her Navel by Barry Unsworth 7/10
23. Gold by Dan Rhodes 9/10
24. The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham 8/10
25. The rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon 7/10
26. The Inflatable Volunteer by Steve Aylett 6/10
27. The island of lost souls by Martyn Bedford 8/10
28. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips 9/10
29. The Last Station by Jay Parini 8/10
30. Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M C Beaton 7/10
31. Saving Caravaggio by Neil Griffiths 10/10
32. The Rain Before it Falls by Jonathan Coe 9/10
33. Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon 8/10
34. The British Museum is Falling Down by David Lodge 7/10
35. Arthur and George by Julian Barnes 8/10
36. Cupid’s Dart by David Nobbs 10/10
37. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield 6/10
38. Boy A by Johnathan Trigell 9/10
39. Jasmine’s Tortoise by Corinne Souza 7/10
40. Hazel’s Phantasmagoria by Leander Deeney 9/10 (Children’s)
41. The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski 10/10
42. Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell 7/10
43. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguru 10/10
44. The Rough Guide to Classic Novels by Simon Mason 8/10
45. Special topics in calamity physics by Marisha Pessl 2/10 (Unfinished)
46. Clear by Nicola Barker 10/10
47. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman 10/10
48.The House of Lost Souls by F G Cottam 7/10
49. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff 8/10
50. Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan 5/10
51. The Food Taster by Peter Elbling 9/10
52. The Dig by John Preston 10/10
53. The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas 8/10
54. Mothernight by Sarah Stovell 9/10
55. Breaking the Code by Gyles Brandreth 10/10
56. Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks 8/10
57. The Suicide Shop by Jean Teule 7/10
58. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard 6/10
59. Electricity by Ray Robinson 10/10
60. Thirteen by Sebastian Beaumont 10/10
61. Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M C Beaton 6/10
62. The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato 8/10
63. Ali and Nino by Kurban Said 7/10
64. Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener by M C Beaton 6/10
65. Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay 8/10
66. The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell 6/10
67. The story of a shipwrecked sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 7/10
68. Man in the Dark by Paul Auster 8/10
69. Home Truths by David Lodge 8/10
70. The Ghost by Robert Harris 10/10
71. Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley 10/10
72. A Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews 9/10
73. The Officer’s Prey by Armand Cabasson 6/10
74. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson 10/10
75. The Last Family in England by Matt Haig 8/10
76. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer 8/10
77. High Windows by Philip Larkin 10/10
78. Camberwell Beauty by Jenny Eclair 8/10
79. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson 10/10
80. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid 7/10
81. Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow 9/10
82. The Scheme for Full Employment by Magnus Mills 10/10
83. The Game by Diana Wynne-Jones 7/10 (Children’s)
84. Dead Run by P J Tracy 7/10
85. Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro 7/10
86. Firmin by Sam Savage 8/10
87. From A to X by John Berger 7/10
88. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem 10/10
89. The suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale 8/10
90. Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin 7/10
91. Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd by Nick Mason 8/10
92. 1984 by George Orwell 8/10
93. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery 9/10
94. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole 7/10
95. The Man Without by Ray Robinson 10/10
96. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas< by John Boyne 8/10
97. Lost Light by Michael Connelly 10/10
98. Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews 8/10
99. War Crimes For The Home by Liz Jensen 10/10
100. The Ballad of Peckham Rye byMuriel Spark 9/10
… What’s next? I hear you ask – well I also polished off a Maigret en France, I’m currently reading a really provocative novel by Ron Currie called ‘God is Dead’ and after that I promised to read some Thomas Hardy.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews

This was a lovely showbiz memoir to read – Julie has the ability to see the good in everybody and make friends wherever she goes. This first volume of memoirs stops at the point Walt Disney was poised to make her an Oscar-winning megastar, but is no less interesting for that. I hope there will be volume two before long as I’d love her take on the first two films I saw at the cinema which were a soundtrack to my childhood – Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But enough of that, back to her early years…

Julie had an interesting childhood in Surrey, as her vaudeville entertainer mother split with her father quite early to take up with her Canadian stage partner. Once they realised that Julie had a voice, her path was set and she entered the world of showbiz. Soon she was supporting her mother’s side of the family as her stepdad fell into alcoholism and her mother not being able to cope.

Meanwhile, her loving Dad was a refuge of calmness for her – and remained so even after she found out he wasn’t actually her biological father. This was something her mother threw into conversation one day – Julie was very level-headed about it and after meeting him wrote saying she didn’t want to develop a relationship.

Her squeaky clean image as the virginal teenager with a glorious voice served her well on stage, managing complex arias with ease. Eventually she was spotted for a TV variety show, leading to recruitment for her first starring role on the London stage as the original Eliza Doolittle, opposite Rex Harrison, in My Fair Lady. Despite having no real acting experience she made the role her own, repeating it on Broadway, but famously lost out in the film to Audrey Hepburn as the studios wanted a film star, not a film unknown.

She eventually married her childhood sweetheart Tony Walton, with whom she had corresponded throughout the war and her first stints in the USA. He was a skilled theatre designer and his career fitted nicely with hers. So next she went on to play opposite Richard Burton on Broadway in Camelotand the rest, as they say, is history.

Her image is no accident. From reading these memoirs, I think she grew up that way having seen and rejected some of the downsides early on. As she blossomed it stayed with her – and of course made her fortune. She has barely a bad word to say about anyone really except her stepdad – but even then explains it away as an effect of his alcoholism. She obviously does have a fun-loving side (there is a lovely photo of her posing with Nureyev), but realising that her voice was her career – chose not to abuse it and moderated her activities accordingly. This book was a lovely read with some great photos – and so much better than any misery memoir!

* * * * *
Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews, Phoenix paperback.

I’ve been tagged – sort of …

I have been invited to be ‘tagged if in the mood’ by the blog phenomenon that is http://meandmybigmouth.typepad.com/scottpack/ having left a comment asking him to comment on my blog. He graciously did so – twice – Thank you very muchly indeed Scott.

The rules for this are:
1. Link to your tagger (see above).
2. Share 7 facts about yourself – some weird and some random (see below).
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post.
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by commenting on their blog.

I’m sorry – I’m new to the blog world, and have yet to make enough blog friends that I would be happy tagging – I’m only doing bits 1 and 2, so this one stops here, unless you’d like to comment and take on the challenge …

So here are my 7 facts:
1. About 20 years ago I got Phil Collins to sign his autograph in the address section of my filofax – he declined to fill in the other bits. This was in Edinburgh, he was starting a fun run, we were being touristy walking past.
2. I applied to go on Brain of Britain on Radio 4, but only got half marks in the test.
3. I did manage to get on a short-lived TV quiz show in the 1980s. The host was a young Richard Madeley – a bit up himself I thought then. What was embarrassing was the number of acquaintances and colleagues who actually saw the thing – I lost but only just – it was all on the last question – honest guv!
4. I only passed my car driving test in 2000 at 7 months pregnant.
5. My favourite vegetables are runner beans – when they’re picked fresh from the garden.
6. As a teenager in the 1970s, it was David Cassidy on my walls – much better than the Osmonds or heaven forbid Bay City Rollers!
7. The last time I played the violin properly was in the 2nd violins in a scratch invitation orchestra (The Salomen) in about 1980. The concert was at St John’s, Smith Square and we played Mahler. I wore a bright green floral maxi dress from Laura Ashley – the conductor was a young Simon Rattle.

That’s all for now folks.

I’ve been tagged – sort of …

I have been invited to be ‘tagged if in the mood’ by the blog phenomenon that is http://meandmybigmouth.typepad.com/scottpack/ having left a comment asking him to comment on my blog. He graciously did so – twice – Thank you very muchly indeed Scott.

The rules for this are:
1. Link to your tagger (see above).
2. Share 7 facts about yourself – some weird and some random (see below).
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post.
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by commenting on their blog.

I’m sorry – I’m new to the blog world, and have yet to make enough blog friends that I would be happy tagging – I’m only doing bits 1 and 2, so this one stops here, unless you’d like to comment and take on the challenge …

So here are my 7 facts:
1. About 20 years ago I got Phil Collins to sign his autograph in the address section of my filofax – he declined to fill in the other bits. This was in Edinburgh, he was starting a fun run, we were being touristy walking past.
2. I applied to go on Brain of Britain on Radio 4, but only got half marks in the test.
3. I did manage to get on a short-lived TV quiz show in the 1980s. The host was a young Richard Madeley – a bit up himself I thought then. What was embarrassing was the number of acquaintances and colleagues who actually saw the thing – I lost but only just – it was all on the last question – honest guv!
4. I only passed my car driving test in 2000 at 7 months pregnant.
5. My favourite vegetables are runner beans – when they’re picked fresh from the garden.
6. As a teenager in the 1970s, it was David Cassidy on my walls – much better than the Osmonds or heaven forbid Bay City Rollers!
7. The last time I played the violin properly was in the 2nd violins in a scratch invitation orchestra (The Salomen) in about 1980. The concert was at St John’s, Smith Square and we played Mahler. I wore a bright green floral maxi dress from Laura Ashley – the conductor was a young Simon Rattle.

That’s all for now folks.

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