Wednesday, March 31, 2010

21. The Housekeeper and the Professor

By: Yko Ogawa
Rated 5 Stars
From: Library

The was a lovely little book. Very sweet, very sad.

Ogawa (The Diving Pool) weaves a poignant tale of beauty, heart and sorrow in her exquisite new novel. Narrated by the Housekeeper, the characters are known only as the Professor and Root, the Housekeepers 10-year-old son, nicknamed by the Professor because the shape of his hair and head remind the Professor of the square root symbol. A brilliant mathematician, the Professor was seriously injured in a car accident and his short-term memory only lasts for 80 minutes. He can remember his theorems and favorite baseball players, but the Housekeeper must reintroduce herself every morning, sometimes several times a day. The Professor, who adores Root, is able to connect with the child through baseball, and the Housekeeper learns how to work with him through the memory lapses until they can come together on common ground, at least for 80 minutes. In this gorgeous tale, Ogawa lifts the window shade to allow readers to observe the characters for a short while, then closes the shade.

22. But Wait . . There's More

By:  Tony Robbins
Rated 4 starsFrom:  Library

Whether it was a Ginsu knife, George Foreman Grill, Tony Robbins' motivational book, kitchen device by Ron Popeil, or any of the countless other famous products that have been marketed on infomercials over the years, admit it: you or someone you know has bought one—and you're not alone. Last year, one out of every three Americans picked up the phone and ordered a product from a television infomercial or home shopping network, and in But Wait . . . There's More! journalist (and infomercial addict) Remy Stern offers a lively, behind-the-scenes exploration of this enormous business—one that markets the world's most outrageous products using the most outrageous tactics.

Don't let the kitschy exterior fool you: behind the laughable demonstrations, goofy grins, and cheesy dialogue lies an industry larger than the film and music industries combined. The first book of its kind, But Wait . . . There's More! exposes the never-before-told story of the infomercial and home shopping phenomenon in all its excessive glory and its meteoric rise to become one of the most profitable businesses in America.

Along the way, Stern details the history behind the classic products and introduces readers to some of the most famous (and infamous) pitchmen and personalities in the business, including Tony Robbins, Billy Mays, Ron Popeil, Tony Little, Suzanne Somers, Kevin Trudeau, and Joe Francis. He also presents an in-depth look at the business behind the camera—the canny sales strategies, clever psychological tools, and occasionally questionable tactics marketers have used to get us to open up our wallets and spend, spend, spend.

Stern's eye-opening account also offers a penetrating look at how late-night television conquered the American consumer and provides insight into modern American culture: our rampant consumerism, our desire for instant riches, and our collective dream of perfect abs, unblemished skin, and gleaming white teeth. Both a compelling business story and a thoroughly entertaining piece of investigative journalism (with a touch of muckraking and social satire), But Wait . . . There's More! will ensure that you never look at those too-good-to-be-true deals the same way again.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

20. The Crimson Rooms

By: Katharine McMahon
Rated 4.5 Stars

I am hoping the author writes a sequel to this. In fact I e-mailed and asked her if one was in the works. She replied and said that while she didn't write it with a sequel in mind she had gotten a lot of positive feed back and was thinking about it. I will keep an eye out. I really liked the characters and felt that there was a lot still left to tell about.

Still haunted by the death of her only brother, James, in the Great War, Evelyn Gifford is completely unprepared when a young nurse and her six-year-old son appear on the Giffords' doorstep one night. The child, the nurse claims, is James's, conceived in a battlefield hospital. The grief-stricken Giffords take them both in; but Evelyn, a struggling attorney, must now support her entire family-at a time when work for women lawyers is almost nonexistent.

Suddenly a new case falls in Evelyn's lap: Seemingly hopeless, it's been abandoned by her male coworkers. The accused-a veteran charged with murdering his young wife- is almost certain to die on the gallows. . . . And yet, Evelyn believes he is truly innocent, just as she suspects there may be more to the story of her "nephew" than meets the eye. . .

19. The Crime at Black Dudley

by Margaret Allingham
Rated 4 Stars
From Library

A house-party with a glittering guest list. An imposing country estate with endless shadowy staircases and unused rooms. The breathless period between the two world wars. It’s the ideal setting for the classic English murder mystery, and bringing it to perfection is the introduction—in a supporting role for the first and last time—of Albert Campion, the consummate (if compulsively quipping) Gentleman Sleuth. The guests take some time to be grateful for Campion’s presence; he is a bit peculiar, and they have more than enough distractions, what with various complicated love affairs, a curious ritual involving a jeweled dagger, and a deadly game of hide-and-seek. But the savvy reader will be singing hosannas from Campion’s first appearance, knowing that it marks the beginning of one of the most intelligent and delightful series in the history of crime fiction.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

18. Alfred the Great: the man who made England

By: Justin Pollard
Rated 5 Stars
From: Library

I was as looking for a biography of Alfred The Great that would come as close as possible to give some feel for what the real man must have been like. The man behind the legend so to speak. This book is an intriguing interpretation of what documents have survived and is probably as near as anyone is likely to come to capturing the essence of who he was as a person.

Between Cornwell's sour take and Joan Wolf's highly romantized one I wanted to know if any one had taken a scholarly approach. The really funny thing is that each one used the same sources and all three had the documented events spot on. It was when they started interpreting them that they all took off in different directions. A lesson to us all in how history can be spun without telling even a single lie.

The author is very straightforward in pointing out that the only real evidence that has survived consists of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, some charters (which Pollard reminds us more often that not have a good likelihood of having been forged), some of Alfred's own writings and translations and Asser's biography of Alfred on which he has relied heavily. Nevertheless Pollard has produced a very well written book that is not only credible (at least to me) but one that is so readable it's hard to put down. This is an author I will follow

Alfred was England's first king, and his rule spanned troubled times. As his shores sat under constant threat from Viking marauders, his life was similarly imperiled by conspiracies in his own court. He was an extraordinary character—a soldier, scholar, and statesman like no other in English history—and out of adversity he forged a new kind of nation. Justin Pollard's enthralling account strips back centuries of myth to reveal the individual behind the legend. He offers a radical new interpretation of what inspired Alfred to create England and how it has colored the nation's history to the present day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Campion, The Complete First Series - VIDEO

Based on books by Margery Allingham
Rated 3.5
From: Library

Episode 1: Look to the Lady  Rated 3.5 stars

I had insomnia last night so in the wee hours of this morning I popped the first DVD in my lap top and started watching Campion: the complete first season. I've only watched the first episode so far "Look to the Lady" and for me there is something about it that has really put me off.  All the regular spectacular things the BBC does so well are there.  Beautifully filmed, marvelous settings and costumes but still for me, no cigar.

Episode 2,  Police at the Funeral"   Rated 4 stars
This was a well plotted mystery with a surprise twist at the end.  Campion didn't act quite as silly in this on as he did the last but the episode was still very badly cast.  They could have saved the episode by going over the top far enough to qualify as satire but they couldn't even pull that off.  Only Uncle William came off as a character I could believe in.  I hope whoever directed this has given up directing  and is doing something in another field that they are better suited for.


At first it hit me as a down market version of Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter but when I looked at publishing dates Sayer's first LPW book Whose Body was published in 1923 and Campion makes his first appearance in Allingham's books in 1929.  Too small a gap.  I think it must be the casting. 

The only thing I like about his side kick Lugg is his London East End accent.  That particular accent always cracks me up.  Other than that he is straight out of The Three Stooges.  The actor who plays Campion strikes me as someone who is trying way to hard to be clever.

I'll finish watching but so far will have to give it about a 3.5 rating, the filming, sets and costumes keeping it from being a DNF.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sharpe's Company - VIDEO

Rated 5 stars
From Netflix

This is the most exciting so far.  I had to watch it twice because the first time I got distracted trying to remember what I had seen Maj. Windham (Clive Francis) in before and then after some major stewing I finally remembered that I had seen him in Strong Poison, another BBC production.

Then there was Sgt. Hakeswill (Pete Postlewaite) who reminded me so much of the very villainous indian Magua (Wes Studi) in The Last of the Mohicans.  I had to put the video on pause and go check and make sure they were not the same person.  Then I had lost the thread of the story and had to start the video over.  *g*

Sharpe discovers that he is a father and desperately attempts to rescue his spanish lover teresa and their daughter from the enemy.

Sharpe and his men are fighting not only the French in this tale but an evil and devious sergeant as well who has some history with Sharpe.The battle and action scenes are top notch again and the characters are grand and heroic. The settings and costumes make it all very colorful and real.

The actors again do a great job with Sean Bean, Asumpta Serna and Daragh O'Malley giving us wonderful heroic performances. Special mention has to go to Pete Postlethwaite who delivers a scenery chewing performance as the evil Sergeant Hakeswill. Marvelous!