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Posts Tagged ‘los angeles’

Everyone has a way of dealing with problems or escaping from reality for a while – for some people it’s soap operas, for some it’s alcohol, for some it’s exercise….for Dora, it’s books.  When she feels disappointed with life, or with herself, she holes up in her apartment for days on end, and reads book after book after book.  And lately, Dora has been feeling very disappointed; she is separated from her second husband, she hasn’t worked for five years, she eats too much pizza and drinks too much wine.  When she meets sexy, funny, clever Fred, who works at – where else? – the local bookstore, they start a relationship.  But when he shows his true colours, she wonders whether he is really the man for her.

I’m not sure what I expected from this book – I looked forward to reading about someone who adored books, as I thought I would be able to relate to her.  This is actually more a chick-lit type read than I was expecting (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

The story is told from Dora’s point of view, and I did feel that she was a very believable character.  She wasn’t always easy to like – she could be prickly, and looked down on people a lot.  I got actually quite annoyed with her when she described different types of readers and how they irritated her; people read for many different reasons, but most of those reasons weren’t good enough for Dora.  However, she did redeem herself in the second half of the story, and I ended up liking her a lot.

Fred’s mother Bea, and his niece Harper, as well as Dora’s sister Virginia, were all very likeable, but unfortunately Fred was one of the most annoying and self-satisfied characters I’ve read about for a while!

The writing flowed well, and was always easy to read, even if some of the events seemed to serve no purpose in the story at all – such as when Dora and her friend Darlene rescue an injured deer.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the book, but I’m not sure that I would be interested in reading anything further by these authors.

(Note: This book was also released under the title ‘Literacy and Longing in L.A.’)

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This movie is based on the real life story of Erin Gruwell, a teacher at a tough school in Los Angeles.   Her English class is filled with students who have slipped through the cracks, who have become caught up in gang culture and who are often lucky to make it through the day alive.  When she discovers that only one member of the class has heard of the holocaust, she sets out to teach them about other people who have suffered from intolerance.  She also encourages the class to keep a journal and write about their lives, and in doing so the students learn acceptance of each other.

In this telling of Erin Gruell’s story, Hilary Swank plays the idealistic young teacher, fighting against a system which has already given up on the students (Imelda Staunton is  fantastic in an unsympathetic role as Erin’s Head of Department.)

I actually enjoyed the film a lot, and at times even had tears in my eyes at some of the horrors that the students had to face on a daily basis.  Hilary Swank was perfect as Erin; Scott Glenn was also great as her father, who was torn between his pride at his daughter’s dedication and his fears for her safety.  Patrick Dempsey played Erin’s husband Scott, who found increasingly sidelined by Erin’s job.  In real life Erin Gruell has not been married, and this character was invented for the film.  Perhaps that’s why Dempsey unfortunately seems unnecessary here – he comes across as little more than an unsupportive spouse.

There are definitely some cliches here – lots of them in fact.  There’s also – from the point of a Hollywood movie – nothing new here.  It’s been done before, most famously in Dangerous Minds (1995).  Blackboard Jungle (1955) was one of the first films to cover this subject.  However, the events of Freedom Writers are based on one specific instance, which does add an extra power to the movie.

All in all, more enjoyable than I expected, with some great support from the young actors who played the students.

Year of release: 2007

Director: Richard LaGravenese

Writers: Richard LaGravenese, Erin Gruell (book), Freedom Writers (book)

Main cast: Hilary Swank, Imelda Staunton, Scott Glenn, April L. Hernandez

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Harry Bosch has recently retired from the LAPD, but he is still haunted by a case of a young woman’s murder, which went unsolved, and which may or may not be connected to the robbery of $2 million dollars from the movie set where the young woman worked. 

As Harry delves back into the case, he finds himself warned off investigating it, both by his former colleagues, and the FBI.  But this only serves to heighten his interest, and make him more determined to find out the truth.  However, Harry no longer has the protection and back-up of a Police badge, and this investigation is going to lead him to some dangerous places…

This is the first Harry Bosch book I have read, although it is the ninth in the Bosch series.  The previous books feature him in his role as an LAPD detective, with this one apparently being the first one where the character is retired.  Although I normally like to read a series in order, I did not feel that not having read the earlier books was any kind of disadvantage. 

I liked the character of Bosch a lot – a problem I find with a lot of crime fiction is that there are often so many cliches applied to the main character (he’s usually a loner, who gets on the wrong side of his bosses, often with a drink problem and an attitude problem to match).  However, Bosch is altogether more believable.  He is stubborn and tenacious, but he’s basically a decent man, with morals.  His has an ex-wife, with whom he is on good terms (and who clearly, he is still in love with), he likes a drink but isn’t a drunk.  He does irk his ex bosses though!

The story itself was full of twists and turns, and I was never able to predict what the outcome would be until it happened.  However, it didn’t rely on deliberately leading the reader up the wrong path; rather it just showed the investigation through Harry’s eyes, and we progressed through it with him.  It was suitably complicated, but still easy to understand and read, and was exciting enough for me not to want to put it down.

The story is told in the first person, which (I believe) is not the case in the other Bosch novels.  Why Connelly deviated from his usual third person narrative is not known, but it worked for me. 

Los Angeles is shown as a glamorous and exciting place, but which has a sometimes murky truth lurking just beneath the surface – the perfect setting for the murder and robbery on a Hollywood movie set! 

Definitely one to recommend for fans of crime fiction – I would like to go back to the beginning of the series and read the other Bosch books.  This was an exciting, pacy and unpredictable read.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is the book that introduced readers to Private Detective Philip Marlowe, who lives and operates in 1940s Los Angeles.

Marlowe is hired by the elderly and ill General Sternwood, who is being blackmailed, and wants Marlowe to make the problem go away.  Marlowe accepts the job but soon finds that nothing is what it seems.  Also complicating matters are Sternwood’s two wild daughters, and the missing husband of one of them.

Marlowe delves into a seedy underworld, where he discovers corruption and cover ups, and lots of double crossings.  He also finds himself in some dangerous situations in his quest to uncover the truth.

In truth, he is not an altogether likable character, but he does have his own moral code which he abides by.  He cares little for other people, or for what they think of him and his occupation, and is something of a loner, unreadable to many of the other characters (and sometimes to the reader).

I enjoyed the novel, although the story – which galloped along at a fair old pace – almost took second place to Chandler’s wonderful turn of phrase.  His descriptions sometimes bordered on poetic, despite the subjects he was describing.

The only slight complaint I would make is that the female characters in the book are almost caricature-like, but that did not really detract from my enjoyment.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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