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The Diana Chronicles
The Diana Chronicles
by Tina Brown
Edition: Hardcover
372 used & new from $0.01

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thoughtful, Balanced Account of Diana's Life, June 18, 2007
This review is from: The Diana Chronicles (Hardcover)
Tina Brown has accomplished something amazing in The Diana Chronicles: she has managed to make a well-trodden subject seem fresh and intriguing. The Diana Chronicles is a well-written (something most Diana books are not), well-researched and well-thought out narrative of the life of the late Princess of Wales.
With the passage now of a decade since Diana's death, Brown is able to put Diana's life into more of a historical perspective. She links the parallel rise of Diana in the 80's with the greater good times brought on by the Thatcher era. She shows how Diana spawned in many ways the current "Paris Hilton" celebrity culture. She balances her account with fair portrayals of all the principles. There are no heroes nor are there villians: simply confused individuals trying to navigate their lives. And they are often not very good at it.
I would recommend this book to both Diana-philes and to those who enjoy biographies and recent history. There is something in here for most readers.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2012 12:39 AM PST

Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
by Ron Chernow
Edition: Hardcover
358 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Biography, An Enjoyable Read, February 27, 2005
This review is from: Alexander Hamilton (Hardcover)
"Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow is a fascinating, gripping biography of one of the most interesting and overlooked Founding Fathers.

Hollywood could have scripted Hamilton's life. His life began with his out of wedlock birth in the West Indies to a French mother and Scottish father; it ended forty-nine years later in a duel with Aaron Burr, then the Vice President of the United States. In between, he rose to prominence in the annals of American politics. He founded America's first bank, served as the country's first secretary of the treasury, and authored some of the most profound political treatises of his time or any other. Oh, and he became involved in this country's first really steamy sex scandal.

At times, Chernow is a bit too much of an apologist for Hamilton. He creates near-cartoonish figure of Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Aaron Burr, when they challenge Hamilton. All of these founding fathers were brilliant and brilliantly flawed men. I wish Chernow could have showed better how somehow these individuals manage to rise above their weaknesses and merge their strengths to design the architecture of the US government.

Still, this is a great read. I highly recommend it to lovers of US history everywhere.

Prep: A Novel
Prep: A Novel
by Curtis Sittenfeld
Edition: Hardcover
291 used & new from $0.01

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Debut, Interesting Read (4.3 on a scale of 1-5), February 20, 2005
This review is from: Prep: A Novel (Hardcover)
Prep rivets the reader from the first page until the last.
The narrator, Lee, is a 14-year old girl from a family in South Bend, Indiana, who enters the rarified world of a New England prep school. She goes from being a star in the classroom to a student of middling quality, from the middle of America to the middle of the Northeastern elite, and from middle class to the fringes of her new society. For middle class in this rarified milieu equals lower class.

Lee spends four years on the periphery of all of her class's cliques: neither popular nor unpopular, she simply exists. Yet her gift--her ability to observe the nuances of her own and her classmates behavior-is both extraordinary and unrecognized by nearly everyone (save for a perceptive individual or two) around her.

Sittenfeld tackles a subject that is almost anthema in our society: the one of class. She notices all the subtleties amongst the rich (there's dignified rich, and old rich, and simply over-the-top, laugh out loud rich). Small things--like who has flowers on their bedspreads--tell of great differences.

Not much happens in this book. Then again, that is the point. When one is in one of these small, precious, insulated and isolated environments, one thinks that this is life. Lee, at the end, realizes an entire world had gone on for the four years that she was at prep school without her realizing it. And that comforts her.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of contemporary fiction everywhere.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
by Azar Nafisi
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.12
1602 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smart Women Saved By Literature, December 9, 2004
"Reading Lolita in Tehran" mixes genres: it is part memoir, part literary criticism, and part recent political history. It is also a wonderful read.

In the 1990's, Nafisi, a professor in Tehran, cherrypicked her most gifted female students and formed a book club in her home. These women read and shared their insights on some of the most provocative works of American and British literature (e.g., The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, and of course Lolita.)

Of course, they took tremendous risks by participating in this book club: most works were banned and women were second class citizens, criticized at times for even eating an apple too seductively. Yet when they arrived at Nafisi's, most shed their scarves and their outer skins. The literature liberated them--and in many cases saved their souls.

I do have a few criticisms. At times, Nafisi almost seems to forget herself and her narrative by digressing with pages long analyses of these works. (Hence my four star review.) The women in the group are sketches, slightly drawn, but for a reason: Nafisi did not want them to suffer persecution for her writing so she disguised them. Yet by disguising them so well, she sapped her narrative of powerful characters.

Still I would highly recommend this book to those who enjoy contemporary political history and/or critiques of contemporary literature.

No Title Available

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beginnings and Endings, December 7, 2004
"Closer" is about the end..and the beginning of relationships. Not necessarily the positive relationships that most people dream about..but of the relationships that many people endure.

Alice and Dan meet "cute" at the start of the movie. They flirt on the street, they continue flirting via eye contact, and then she betrays her nationality by looking the wrong way on the street and practically gets killed. Dan rescues her and proceeds to fall in love with her, yet not deeply enoug to save her.

The movie progresses to Dan being shot for the cover of his brilliant fictional novel (based on Alice's life) by the beautiful Anna. Anna flirts,she desists,she kisses Dan..and well the rest is history. Dan helps Anna become involved with the dashing doctor whom she ultimately marries (Clive Owen), but, it it is in the end hopeless: Dan is in love with Anna and vice versa. Lives are destroyed in the process...but are they?

And thus the brilliance of Marber's play and screenplay reveals itself. The lives of Alice and Larry (Anna's husband) should have been destroyed...but in the end, they may be the winners. Why? How? Only the viewer of the movie or the reader of the play will understand.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
by Helen Fielding
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.80
531 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fabulous Sequel, November 13, 2004
If possible, "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" is even funnier than the original book.

The book opens with Bridget settled into happy domesticity with Mark Darcy....not! Her insecurities have not left her and they wreak havoc on her life. She's panicked Mark will leave her for the lovely Rebecca, she's uncomfortable that he folds his underwear at night, she's struggling on the job...and this all leads to the inevitable break-up with Mark.

I don't want to ruin the many twists and turns of the plots. Suffice to say, her adventures (and those of her friends Shazzer and Jude and of her parents) are even more laugh out loud funny the ones in the original. And all throughout the book, Bridget never loses her sense of vulnerability and her decency. She is a true heroine (or anti-heroine perhaps).

This book differs from the new movie. So even if you've seen that, you're still in for some surprises.

I highly recommend this book to Bridget lovers everywhere.

The Devil in the White City:  Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
by Erik Larson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.99
1475 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Men, Two Obsessions, One World's Fair, November 12, 2004
"The Devil in the White City" is an outstanding piece of historical narration. It reads like a great historical novel--and you have to keep reminding yourself throughout it that it is actually true.

The book centers on two men with two very different obsessions. Daniel Burnham, a Chicago architect, was the man responsible for the design and execution of the 1893 Chicago's World Fair. It was a tremendous undertaking and basically required an entire small city to be built in a very short period. He called upon the services of some of the finest designers, painters and architects of the time.

Meanwhile, another man in the city was also nursing a huge ambition. H.H. Holmes, a former doctor turned pharmacist, was building a hotel to service visitors at the World's Fair. Only his structure-filled with gas chambers and death traps--was built to ensure that some of his guests never left the city after their visit.

Many other characters fill the pages bringing this vibrant city in the 1890's to life in 2004. The reader learns not only about the history of the time but also of art, architecture, politics and culture.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of both non-fiction and fiction with a historical twist.

Feast: Food to Celebrate Life
Feast: Food to Celebrate Life
by Nigella Lawson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.84
138 used & new from $1.07

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magnificent Feast!, November 12, 2004
Nigella Lawson's "Feast" is a fabulous cookbook for most people, not just those about to prepare a Thanksgiving Dinner (though it is great for them too).

"Feast" celebrates Lawson's unique take on cooking and on life. She is a strong proponent of being comfortable in your own kitchen and at your own party. She eschews "perfectionism" (e.g., perfect flowers as centerpieces, exquisite appetizers) for good, home cooked food and comfort.

Lawson's definition of a feast has breadth and depth. This book includes sections on the traditional Holidays both secular and non-secular (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Eid-Muslim, Halloween). However, she also has suggestions for a "One Person Feast" or a "Venetian Feast" (which would make for a great dinner party)and other such events. MOST notably, she includes a section on a feast for a funeral with thoughtful suggestions on food to bring to the home of the bereaved.

Lawson's cookbooks can be read as books. In fact, I recommend that's how you begin with "Feast": read it from cover to cover. Her prose is witty, sly and friendly. You feel as if she's standing there in the kitchen with you.

Finally, the recipes are terrific. You'll find great soups that you can use anywhere (you may want to rename the Halloween "slime soup" but you can serve it in the summer), wonderful suggestions for roasts (e.g., roiled loin of pork cinghiale, Georgian chicken), side dishes (brussel sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta), and desserts ( a flourless chocolate orange cake) that can be used any day and any time of year, feast or no feast.

I cannot recommend this book enough to lovers of food and cooking everywhere.

No Title Available

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Subtle and Complex as a Great Pinot Noir!, November 12, 2004
"Sideways" is not only a great movie: it is a wonderful theatrical experience. The themes and performances will stay with you long after you walk out of the cinema.

The plot concerns two 40something friends, Miles and Jack, who are taking a one week tour through California wine country prior to Jack's wedding. They appear to be opposites in most ways: Miles is short, balding, and timid while Jack is tall, handsome and outgoing.

Yet both are failing in their lives. Miles is a frustrated junior high school teacher with yet another novel about to be turned down for publication. He pines for the wife who left him. Jack is a second rate TV actor whose looks and career are fading. He is getting married to a younger, wealthier woman for salvation.

The movie chronicles their week as the wine loving Miles tries to induce Jack to share his passion for the grape, particularly the pinot noir. Meanwhile Jack tries to induce Miles to share his passion for picking up women with abandon. Neither succeeds...Jack will down any old drink and Miles simply can't pick up the lovely waitress Jack has selected for him in a meaningless way.

The dialogue is outstanding. Certain conversations between characters are so real, so vivid, that you can't believe that they were scripted. Likewise, the performances are all outstanding (particularly Virginia Madsen as the waitress) and Oscar worthy.

I highly recommend this movie for all fans of thoughtful, meaningful films.

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What's it all about? Jude Law!!!, November 6, 2004
"What's it all about?" is a line from the song "Alfie" and the running theme throught the movie. Well this movie is all about Jude Law, who turns in a terrific performance and brightens this weak remake of the late 1960's film of the same name.

Alfie (Law) is a cockney Englishman transplanted in New York. By day, he picks up passenger as a limo driver. By night, well, he picks up one beautiful woman after another as a man about town. His conquests are diverse: a wild party girl, a lonely single mother, a high flying cosmetics executive. He dreams of starting a limo company with his best friend, but he truly only has energy and drive for his all consuming obsession with sleeping with women.

Alfie's hobby eventually runs him into trouble. While he doesn't mean to hurt anyone, he ends up hurting everyone, most notably himself. This remake deleted some of the gutsier, grittier moments from the original. Still, the seamier side of his life is examined.

Law's performance makes the movie (though there are some good supporting performances from Susan Sarandon and Sienna Miller). If you don't like Jude Law, you should probably skip "Alfie." If you do, well then, this is your movie!

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