Holly Would Dream by Karen Quinn

I’ve been motoring through a few books lately, and this one is another one of those easy reads that you pick up to read by the beach or pool. A lot of the story is unbelievable, the classic down trodden gal trying to play equal with the rich elite of NY. Into this mix you have a little bit of fashion history and nostalgia in the shape of Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe.

References to the movies of the late 50s and 60s are abundant and this is what keeps (in my mind) the reader going through to the end of the book. Most of it is charming and funny but close to the end it does turn a little too graphic for liking. (Now I can generally tolerate the mills and boons type of scenes but this was a little too much for me even).

There are some tunes out there at the moment which are reminiscent of the style  of some of the music back in the 50s and 60s. Here are a couple that have hit the right chords!

Caro Emerald ‘A Night Like This’

Gotye featuring Kimbra ‘Somebody that I used to Know’

An Inspiring Note

Quote

I was reading an article and came across this little gem. There is a quote from a note Martha Graham wrote to Agnes DeMille on the opening night of Carousel. Here are some inspiring words from this note.

“…No artist is pleased.
There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction,
A blessed unrest that keeps us marching
And makes us more alive than the others.”.

Are we all artists at heart?

Birth of a Monarch

Image

Over the weekend, we (me plus baby) who in fact is no longer a baby but a toddler, watched the birth of a monarch, (monarch butterfly that is!)

For several months now, I’ve been reading ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle to my little prince. For those of you who do not have this in your child’s book collection, it is an absolute must!  The illustrations are bright and the book teaches basic counting, different food names and types as well as introducing you to the lifecycle of a butterfly.

In addtion to the book, mommy also invested in a ‘Swan plant’ otherwise known as ‘Milk weed’. Monarch butterflies are attracted to these plants and lay their eggs, and it is one of these eggs that finally made it to a caterpillar stage, then a very fat caterpillar stage and finally the cocoon stage. Not only were we able to follow the story in the book, but here in our yard, was a real life example for us to ogle at! In terms of learning experience for a little prince, absolutely priceless..

Breakfast with Tiffany: An Uncle’s Memoir Edwin John Wintle

I finally managed to finish this book! Hurrah! Not that it’s a difficult read, but I wanted to take this one slowly and actually enjoy. It starts off with Uncle Eddy taking on the care and responsibility of his young teenage niece. The fact that Uncle Eddy is gay and that it’s based in New York, make for a very entertaining read. I wonder what the world would be like if we all had someone like Uncle Eddy in our lives, pushing us along, mentoring, caring, passionate and most importantly, believing in us when we’re not the most likeable or when we are at our most vulnerable. Through the book, we’re given glimpses of Uncle Eddy’s past and his own trials and tribulations of doing things that he actually loves (writing, arts) as opposed to things he’s just fallen into (law). We’re also able to follow the timeline through events going on around them (for example, September 11 and the war in Iraq). However, it is through living with his niece that Uncle Eddy actually finds a place for himself. Tiffany the ‘dreaded’ teenager is likeable but in typical teenage fashion, does manage to derail her uncle as well as the reader from time to time. Overall a lovely, and sometimes almost whimsical  memoir.

A List of Movies .. to start with

Movies are a good form of escapism to get away from the regular hum of daily life. Foreign movies are even better. They say that things always sound much better in another language. Take French for example. If you were to take scenes from a French movie and transpose them into a Hollywood remake, I’m sure the results would be completely different. Firstly, you would not be able to get away with all the expressions and pauses that French movies often have (the arty ones anyway). Secondly, the locations always seem so much more homely. The Hollywood locations, whilst glamorous, still lack depth in how they are portrayed to the audience. Am I making sense? Anyway, here is a list of recommended movies to start with. I remember watching my first ever foreign movie – Cinema Paradiso. My mother had let me stay up late to watch the first showing on Channel 4 in the UK. The list below contains some English movies too, so I guess you could call it more of an ‘arty’ movie list.

I’ve listed a * next to the movies for which you will need an ample supply of tissues!

  1. The Twilight Samurai (2002)*
  2. Sabah (2005)
  3. Caramel (2007)
  4. Cinema Paradiso (1988)*
  5. Whale Rider (2002)*
  6. Anita & Me (2002)
  7. It’s All Gone Pete Tong (2004)*
  8. Walk on Water (2004)
  9. Amelie (2001)
  10. Le château de ma mère (1990)*

The House of Bilqis by Azhar Abidi

Broken Verses by Kamila Shamsie changed my views on what Pakistan as a country is really like. Tender Hooks by Moni Mohsin managed to do the same. Ok, so I was a little biased previously.

Here is another Pakistani author that has again, managed to win my heart over and has made me open my eyes to a country where the landscape and heartbeat is still changing, even as I write this.

This is the story of Bilqis, an elderly widow who has just lost her only son to a foreign wife. She manages to keep her pride intact through her crumbling house and loyal servants. A very touching story about a mother’s love through the changing times of Pakistan, her reluctant acceptance for the things she cannot change and her son’s dilemma over leaving the country and moving overseas.

Favourite quote from the book: 

“Even if things get difficult, what difference does it make? At my age, it’s all the same. I raise the boundary walls each year and put a bigger padlock on the gate. The more lawlessness there is, the higher my wall. Life goes on, Mahbano. For me, this city is no longer a city. It is my body, my blood, my bread and my bones. I no longer see the manholes and the rubbish dumps. I no longer hear the gunshots in the night. I am oblivious to the malaise because its ailments are my own. Loyalty to a place is a strange thing. Call it my conceit, my delusion, my blindness; I suspect myself that it is lassitude, but I don’t mind; there it is. Everyone knows me here. When I go to the market, I feel like I am going to another part of my house. The shopkeepers salaam me. The butcher gives me his prime cut. The baker delivers fresh bread and some nice young man always carries my groceries. I like that certainty. I have my place, and I like that. I don’t wish to go somewhere new and explain to people what and who I am. I have earned my respect once. I don’t wish to earn it all over again.”

My last read of 2011! There were no recipes in this one, but Pakistani cuisine is simply divine. I’ll post up some of my favourite recipes in the New Year.

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

Seems like I’m going through a phase of reading books by writers from the Indian sub-continent again. This one is a likeable story though and reminded me a lot of ‘the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency’ series of books by Alexander McCall Smith. Just like the character of Mme Ramotswe, Mr Ali finds solace in trying to resolve other people’s problems. This is an interesting take on the usual themes that get written about India, politics, culture, religion and the one that seems to lurk about and no-one really likes to talk about, caste. Yes, it still does exist, especially when one is considering marriage partners! The author is able to relay this as a matter of fact and does not make any excuses for or against it. It just is. 

The Muslim and Hindu weddings are nicely described, as are the different castes and sub-castes. The author also spells out the differences between the languages of Urdu and Telugu in an interesting way. An easy to read story with likeable characters and a good introduction to life in the South of India, or to be more precise, the city of Visakhapatnam  (Vizag).  

Mrs Ali’s Halwa recipe is definitely worth a try!

Needles and Pearls by Gil McNeil

I think I need a short ‘how to’ in writing book reviews. I’m just getting over a 10 year writer’s block, probably got it in the first place because I don’t write very well, but anyway, here’s another attempt at a book review (ironically, the book is all about new beginnings too!)

Needles and Pearls is another one of those lazy day books when you just want to sit quietly and read something to take your mind of things that are happening around you. The main character, Jo is managing to keep her head above the water and getting used to being a single parent after the loss of her husband. She also manages to run her own yarn shop and a knitting club called the ‘stitch and bitch’ group.  Overall an easy writing style to follow albeit a few too many “Great” and “Oh God”s thrown in. I enjoyed it! Most loveable quotes from the book:

“It’s weird, but two weddings seem to have made me realise just how happy I am not being married anymore, thank you very much. And while it’s true that some people do seem to think everyone has to go around in pairs like we’re all about to board Noah’s bloody Ark, I’m just relieved I can sort the boys out without worrying what He will want to do”.

“..there’s nothing quite like the nerve-racking, ego-deflating, gibbering-wreck type of loneliness that you feel when you’re married to someone who doesn’t really want to be married to you anymore”.

ah.. feet up with another cup of tea.