Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book #48

I finished reading Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis earlier this month, and I'm just getting around to writing about it.  I like music.  I read memoirs.  I am intrigued by rock stars (sometimes).  So, this book has been on my "to read" list for years.  I finally got around to it.

The good:  Anthony Kiedis is brutally honest.  I don't think he went into this project worried about what others would think about him.  He told his story from his perspective with complete openness and honesty (so it seems; those close to him may feel differently).  I give him credit for that because often I wonder if a publicist is standing over the shoulder of some other memoirs' writers making sure the subject still is painted in a picture they choose.  Kiedis had an interesting upbringing, became the lead singer of an influential band, shared many relationships with others, and succumbed to the readily available drugs.  He shares these stories in detail. He is unapologetic.  He seems to come from the mindset "I am who I am.  Take it, or leave it."  I applaud his honesty.

The bad:  Kiedis openly shares in detail about the romantic relationships that played an important role in his life.  That's fine.  Integral to his story.  What I found to be "bad" was the AGE of some of his female partners.  For instance, in the 1980s, he was in a long-term relationship with the actress Ione Skye (best know for her role in "Say Anything").  He met Skye when she was 15, turning 16.  He was mid-twenties.  Nowadays, that's criminal activity.  He published a picture of her topless when she was 18 (okay, that's legal).  She's not the only one.  He dated and/or had sex with groupies that were younger, some at an age that made me extremely uncomfortable.  Laws have changed.  Some parts of society have changed.  I know it happens.  But, I'm just not cool with his unapologetic story about him hooking up with a 14 year old groupie. His current girlfriend is 20, and he's 52.  Hey, at least she's legal.  Again, I know it happens.  I'm not a prude.  I've read other memoirs with rock stars doing the same thing (Ted Nugent, Steve Tyler, etc.), but they seem to acknowledge that the young age of the female partner was not the greatest thing, but it was something done at the time. 
Anthony Kiedis with Ione Skye
The ugly:  Although Kiedes is honest, yes.  He tells some nasty, dirty tales especially when he discusses his drug use, binges, rehab visits, relapses, overdoses, and the unsavory characters and circumstances surrounding this world.  He admits to his selfish behaviors.  But, what I found to be "ugly" is the fact that he seems to lack any introspection.  He tells the stories and experiences but tells us little about the effects he had on others and shows little to no remorse for this pattern of selfish behavior.  He comes off completely as a  self-absorbed, narcissistic, ego-maniac.  Actually, I think he is an ugly person.  Even after he got sober.  I still liked the book.  I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I just don't have to like Anthony Kiedis.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Summer Book Challenge"

I like books!  I like lists!  I like challenges (sometimes)!  I like summer (but, it is winter here in Australia)!  So, I'm going to join this Semi-Charmed Summer 2014 Book Challenge.  I'm late to the party because it started May 1st, but I was reading May 1st, so I can do this!

Drum roll please................because here's my list:

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 200 pages long.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
10 points: Read a book that was written before you were born.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
10 points: Finish reading a book you couldn't finish the first time around.
A History of Prostitution by George Ryley Scott
10 points: Read a book from the children’s section of the library or bookstore.
I want to revisit one I remember to be a childhood favorite - either The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett or Where the Red fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
15 points: Read a book that is on The New York Times' Best Sellers List when you begin reading it.
Field of Prey by John Sandford
15 points: Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe.
  The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker [set in the Burma]
15 points: Read a book another blogger has already read for the challenge.
20 points: Read a book with “son(s),” “daughter(s)” or “child(ren)” in the title.
The Son by Jo Nesbo
20 points: Read a book that was/will be adapted to film in 2014.
Trash by Andy Mulligan
25 points: Read a book written by a blogger.
25 points: Read a biography, autobiography or memoir.
Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis
30 points: Read a pair of books with antonyms in the titles.
Talking to Girls about Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield and Dirty Rocker Boys by Bobbie Brown, Caroline Ryder

Book #47

I haven't written about my readings lately.  Oh, I've been reading.  I think the act of writing about each and every book got tedious and started to feel like a book report.  There are a couple that I've read, and I have thoughts to share.  I'll get around to that.  Today, I finished a book that inspired me to share it with other readers:  Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

Not the kind of book I'd normally pick up to read. I almost always read books set in more modern times (1940s to present day). The cover and synopsis looked like some serious literature to me.  From
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.

Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes' spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul. As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes' ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn't she?

Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom: who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland's formidable landscape, where every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

I'm certainly glad I didn't discard this one just because it is set in Iceland in the 1800s, and I was slightly intimidated by it.  What a beauty of a book; heavy with dark imagery, but beautiful nonetheless.  As I was reading, I wanted to know more and more of Agnes's story.  I became emotionally invested in her and other characters.  Some of the reviews on goodreads are wonderfully written as well.  This one summarizes the book so eloquently that I feel I need to share it as well.  Chrissie from goodreads says:
 I cannot write a review that can do this book justice. This is what goes through my head:

* I am so happy I give few books five stars, because then when I run into a book this good my five star rating means something!

* You need a strong stomach for this book. I have warned you.

* Once you start you will not be able to read or do anything else.

* There is NO humor in this book. I always need humor, except NOT here. Don't ask me why! I just didn't need it. I was riveted from start to finish. I needed to understand the relationships that lie at the core of what happened. I was so focused on understanding the why, I didn't have any need for humor. Humor simply doesn't belong in this book. This is Nordic historical fiction of times long past - there is hunger and cold and darkness. That is the way it was. And people living in such difficult times did such twisted things.

* The book is NOT spooky, it is atmospheric.

* The writing! Similes, metaphors - they are all just perfect. Stunning writing.

* You will be moved. Jeez, at the end...... No, not just at the end, all the way through.

* And this is very important. Do not read this book. Please, if you possibly can, listen to it. The narration by Morven Christie is totally fantastic. The Icelandic is perfect. The tempo is slow and it must be slow, so you can think about what is being said, so you feel the doom and darkness of the events. This is an excellently written book AND excellently narrated. BOTH!

Phew, after this I don't want another Nordic drama for a long time. My emotions cannot take it. I have been through a wringer with this one.

I assume you have read the book description, so you know that this story is based on true events. There is a chapter at the end that explains all the research involved. The author closely follows what is known. There are different views of Agnes' behavior, but the author has totally convinced my of what her study of the facts have lead her to believe.

This is one of the best books I have read/listened to this year.
I agree with everything Chrissie says except the need to listen to the book.  I read it, and it was still fantastic.  It moved me so much, that I may take Chrissie's suggestion and give it a listen too.  If you are a reader and lover of a good story, read Burial Rites.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

List #12 - 1990s Movies

My list of my favorite 1980s movies is here.

Now, it's the 1990s turn....

I stole the idea from Jenn here.

She stole the idea from Rolling Stone here.

The two listed above are fine lists with some true gems from the '90s. We all have our favorites (and not-so-favorites, for instance...I've never even seen The Big Lebowski - so, shoot me).  Both of the previous lists are in order of greatness.  Mine isn't.  I'm not that good.  I followed the school of thought again with how did the movie make me FEEL and can I watch the movie again and again?  Here's my faves (in no particular order):

  1. Tombstone
  2. Legends of the Fall
  3. Shawshank Redemption
  4. Forrest Gump
  5. Good Will Hunting 
  6. A Time to Kill
  7. Saving Private Ryan
  8. Life Is Beautiful
  9. Schindler's List
  10. Braveheart
  11. Pulp Fiction
  12. Se7en
  13. Primal Fear
  14. Fight Club
  15. Sleepers
  16. Silence of the Lambs
  17. A Few Good Men
  18. Independence Day (I understand this is not a "great" movie, but I can watch it over and over and over and over again)
  19. Armageddon (same as above, and I cry every time)
  20. Ghost
  21. She's the One
  22. Rudy
  23. Dazed and Confused
  24. Clueless
  25. Pretty Woman

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

List #11 - 1980s Movies

Rolling Stone magazine makes lists too.  Most often, I don't agree with their lists.  Then again, I don't expect anyone to agree with my lists either.  Mine are personal and totally biased.  RS is supposed to be a reputable magazine with knowledgeable writers and researchers on staff.  That being said, this list of theirs "The 25 Greatest Movies of the 1980s" is the result of a readers' poll.  So, if they got it wrong, blame the ones that took the poll.  I happen to think it's a decent list representing '80s movies.

A friend of mine (who is a fantastic blogger and movie aficionado as well) created her own list.  (see it here)  She posed the question "what's your list look like?".  My list was LONG.  So, I asked her how to cull it.  She told me to think about how the movie made me "feel" after watching it.  Good point.  Also, she talked about the fact if she is willing to watch the movie again and again.  Second good point.  With those two points in mind, here's MY list of The 25 Greatest Movies of the 1980s (in no particular order; that was just asking too much of me):
  •  The Outsiders
  • Urban Cowboy
  • Grease 2 - Yep, don't argue with me about this one.  It is probably the single movie that I've seen the most times in my life.  Give me Stephanie Zinone & Michael Carrington over Sandy & Danny any day! 
  •  Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • Pretty in Pink
  • Sixteen Candles
  • The Breakfast Club
  • St Elmo's Fire
  • Less Than Zero
  • The Lost Boys
  • Dead Poet's Society
  • Footloose
  • Purple Rain
  • Dirty Dancing
  • E.T.
  • The Fox & the Hound - my all-time favorite Disney movie; it still makes me cry.
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Color Purple
  • Steel Magnolias
  • Terms of Endearment
  • Mask - (don't confuse it with the '90s Jim Carrey crapola; this is the 1985 gem with Cher, Eric Stoltz, and Sam Elliott)
  • The Natural
  • Field of Dreams
  • Rocky IV
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark

I look at my list with fond memories.  Even the tearjerkers have a way of making me smile.  As Truvy in Steel Magnolias says: "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion".

Disagree with my list? - Tell me your faves!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

List #10 - Reminders

May 11th is Mother's Day.  Days like this are difficult since I live so far away.  They are difficult for me; they are difficult for my loved ones.  My blog today will look at the little reminders that I carry with me about my mother.  Most of us have random things that we see or hear during our day to day lives that remind us of a loved one.  Here are a few of mine that are all about Georganne :)

  1. Fried shrimp:  This is my mom's favorite, but neither of her children like it.  She'd try and try to get us to like it.  But, we didn't.  One time, my brother even tried to shove the fried shrimp under the door to the room the dog was in.  The dog didn't eat it either.  We were busted for wasting perfectly good food.  My mother gave up and stopped cooking fried shrimp.  She sacrificed her favorite meal for her kids' happiness.  That's my mom!
  2. M.A.S.H.:  Georganne loved this show.  I was too young to really remember watching many episodes, but I remember her watching them.  I especially remember her sitting in the middle of the living room floor folding clothes and watching the final episode.  She sobbed into a towel.  
  3. Homecoming Queens:  My mother was the Homecoming Queen at R.E. Lee High School in Baytown, Texas.  I used to look at pictures of her in her old yearbooks and think she was so pretty :)
  4. Geraniums:  I don't remember my mother being much of a "green thumb", but it always seemed like no matter where we lived, she had a red geranium plant that bloomed pretty well.
  5. Parades:  My mom taught baton twirling, and her Baytown School of Baton were in every local parade.  I thought we were something special.  My mom can still pick up a baton and twirl some impressive tricks.
  6. Cartwheels:  My mother is a retired elementary school teacher.  I have so much respect for her as a teacher; she truly was born to teach little kids.  She's crazy, and the kids love her.  She had a soft spot for the struggling students.  She was great.  One memorable promise she made her kids was this - if they all scored 100% on their spelling test, she would do a cartwheel.  She did this even after turning 60.  Can you imagine how excited those kids were to see their teacher flopping over on the playground?!
  7. Luv Ya Blue and Clutch City:  Georganne loves her sports.  She watches them all: football, baseball, basketball, tennis, The Olympics, even the occasional soccer or boxing match.  College and professional (as seen by the picture she sent me yesterday about NFL draft day).  We had "Luv Ya Blue" posters on our mantle in the living room, and she had "Clutch City" signs in the her car window for a couple of years.
  8. Astros Opening Day:  We had a tradition running for several years - Mom and I would go to Opening Day for the Astros.  We were even on the big screen the last year in the Astrodome!
  9. Baskin Robbins:  When I was a kid, my birthday cake was a chocolate roll with mint chocolate chip ice cream from Baskin Robbins.  A few times as an adult, Mom bought the same cake for my birthday.
  10. Wheat Thins and Orange Slices:  My mom snacks all day long.  Throughout the years, Wheat Thins have been the favorite.  A close second is those orange rubbery jelly like slices that are covered in sugar.  These were her favorite road trippin' snack.  On the way to my grandparents' house, she'd stop, get gas, go to the bathroom, and buy orange slices.
  11. Billy Ocean:  Georganne loves to dance, and Billy Ocean was a favorite during the '80's.  She'd turn up Billy Ocean on my brother's stereo and dance with the vacuum cleaner while cleaning.  I can't hear a Billy Ocean song without envisioning this in detail.  "Hey, hey, you, you, get into my car."
  12. George Strait:  Georganne has loved George even longer than I've loved Jon Bon Jovi.  I'd have Bon Jovi posters up in my room; she had a George Strait poster in her closet.
  13. Motion Sickness:  My brother has a weak stomach, mine is much worse, and my mom's is much, much worse.  Well, I don't know...I think we're both equally bad when it comes to motion sickness.  There are many family stories that involve our motion sickness.  I'll spare you the details.
  14. Snakes:  My mom hates snakes!  Hates them!  Has peed her pants at the zoo because she was so scared at the reptile exhibit.  My nephew and I may be guilty of placing rubber snakes on her pillow or in her bed a time or two.
  15. Christmas Shopping:  I think that many mother/daughter duos do their Christmas shopping together.  My mom and I were a great team.  She's a speed walker; I could barely keep up with her.  We'd almost always have Chick Fil A for lunch and a Great American Cookie Company snack break.  We'd make lists and knock out a lot of gifts in one day.  I miss our Christmas shopping excursions.  
  16. Craziness, silliness, and loads of fun:  Those words sum up my mother.  There isn't a person that she can't talk to.  She is a bundle full of energy even to this day.  She's been called "the crazy grandmother" and "silly ol' Anne" as terms of endearment.  I've been known to lose my patience with her because of these traits.  Now, I cherish them.  I love who she is - craziness, silliness, and all.
  17. Bon Jovi - Georganne took three 8th grade girls and one 7th grader to the Bon Jovi "Slippery When Wet" tour stop in Houston at The Summit.  It.Was.Awesome!  Since that time, we've seen Bon Jovi together two or three other times.  I've been to many other shows without her, but whenever I see an obvious mother/daughter duo at a Bon Jovi concert (and there are many of these), I can't help but smile and think of my mama.  
Happy Mother's Day to my mother - I wouldn't trade her for anyone in the world.  Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, because I love her and appreciate her more today than ever before.  Living on the other side of the world, I value our talks, messages, and visits, and her care packages are the best.
I love you, Georganne!!!