Archive for May, 2013

“Les Miserables”–the movie

May 29, 2013

Let me preface my comments by saying I have seen “Les Miz” on Broadway two times.  During the first performance, I distinctly remember being somewhat bored.  Of course, there was plenty of great stage craft and very talented actors, but I  wasn’t carried away.  The second time I saw the musical, I was with 120 7th graders, seated in the highest balcony in the theater.  Perhaps it was the enthusiasm of the kids, the perspective of  being so high up, or maybe the second time around was just better, but I enjoyed it more.

I thought that my third exposure to the movie production would improve my opinion–wrong on so many levels.  This movie version, in my opinion, was overblown, overacted, and overly long.  I know that Anne Hathaway’s performance was praised, but I just couldn’t get passed how gaunt she was.  Her closeups were scary.  I did not think that any of the other leads, Hugh Jackson, Russell Crowe, among others, were well used.  I realize the director Tom Hooper made the choice of having the actors sing live, but perhaps that lent  itself to a less than polished performance.  Ironically, Colm Wilkinson who starred in the origninal Broadway production and has a fantastic voice, was in a very minor role as a bishop. 

Too bad all around.  For some reason “Hollywood” fails more often than not in bringing Broadway musicals to the screen.


A Rolling Stone Gathers Library Fines (NY Times article)

May 29, 2013

Library fines can be added to Keith Richards list of infractions. He confessed in an interview with The Mirror to not returning a number of books to his local library in Dartford, England. Compounded fines are estimated anywhere from $4,500 to $30,000.  In his 2011 biography he once considered being a librarian and recently sought “professional training” in the Dewey Decimal System to better manage his large personal collection. On many library web sites, Mr. Richards is reported to have said: “When you are growing up, there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.”

“The Tooth Tattoo”

May 28, 2013

One of the many reasons I enjoy reading mysteries is coming back to a character I enjoy being with.  I guess it all started with Miss Marple many years ago.  Over the course of the last few years, detectives created by Donna Leon, Elizabeth George, Louise Penny, and Andrea Camillera are probably my favorites.  I was looking forward to adding a new detective to this list when I started to read “The Tooth Tattoo,” Peter Lovesey’s latest.

According to the book jacket, Lovesey has written eleven novels in his Peter Diamond series.  “The Tooth Tattoo” is number twelve.  Peter Diamond is the head of the Criminal Investigation Division in Bath, England.  I do favor detectives that live outside the US.

The body of a young Japanese girl has been found floating in a canal that runs through Bath.  After much investigation the corpse it identified as a student with a deep interest in music.  This is the connection that links the murder with a newly reformed string quartet that is performing and teaching at the local university.  The Staccati Quartet was a well-known string group that had faded from the music scene when its violist disappeared several years before.  The group has reformed with a new member and has come to Bath to perform and teach.

Diamond and his team are charged with finding the killer.  The trail will lead them to an unsolved death of another Japanese student in Vienna, the “lost” member of the Quartet and, of course, the killer of the girl with the tooth tattoo.

I enjoyed my first encounter with Peter Diamond, but I probably should have read one of the early books in the series because I  didn’t get a good sense of who Diamond really is from this story.  Anyone with an interest in music and mysteries would enjoy “The Tooth Tattoo.”  Lovesey has done a good job of weaving the story and the world of music together.

Review “Where Did You Go Bernadette?”

May 28, 2013

Where did you go Bernadette by Maria Semple is a light and fun read but it had many similarities to another book I liked better, The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days by Ian Frazier. I almost put down “Bernadette” because it was so similar.

Where Did You Go Bernadette is assembled by Bernadette’s middle school daughter from emails, documents and other scraps of information. Bernadette is a lonely housewife who doesn’t get along with her neighbors or the parents of her daughter’s classmates. She calls the fellow parents “Galer School Gnats” and has made sure she never receives any of the school emails about what is going on there. After the novel establishes out what makes Bernadette tick and unfolds her secret past, she disappears. At this point the story becomes a little tedious. But I liked the prose and the characters so I finished the book and the ending was satisfactory. This was Semple’s first novel and I look forward to more.

I enjoyed the Cursing Mommy more because despite her cursing she was an unsinkable character who was a dedicated and generous friend. That book made me laugh out loud at nearly every page and I only laughed a few times reading Bernadette.

“Tyler Makes Spaghetti” by Tyler Florence

May 26, 2013

This is the second picture book in the ‘Tyler Makes..” series (book one was “Tyler Makes Pancakes”).  Tyler is a young boy and budding chef. Together with his dog, Tofu (who is NOT a vegetarian as his name might imply), Tyler sets out to make a dinner of his favorite dish: spaghetti and meatballs.  The chef at his favorite Italian restaurant is his guide.  As in “Tyler makes Pancakes,” the author takes the reader out of the supermarket and directly to the place where the ingredients start: the farm and the garden.  Without being preachy, the cute illustrations show how pasta is made from scratch, plucking the tomatoes from the vine, and showing a huge wedge of parmesan cheese before it is grated.  A recipe is included on the last page.  With humor and making it all seem very easy, any young person who likes to cook will feel ready and able to tackle a recipe for spaghetti or pancakes along with a request to start a garden of their own.

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