Saturday, February 28, 2009

Making the Mummies Dance - Book Review

Making the Mummies Dance
by Thomas Hoving
Simon & Schuster 1993

I have been fascinated by Thomas Hoving ever since I read his book King of the Confessors back in the 1980s. That book was totally responsible for my becoming interested in Art History. I have always loved research as well as books, and Art history is a mixture of Research and Bibliography.

Anyway, for many years I have been looking for Hoving's biography of his time as director of the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. When he was chasing the Bury St Edmunds Cross (the subject of the King of the Confessors) Hoving was an asssistant curator at the Cloisters - the Medieval section of the Met museum, located in a different part of Manhattan from the main museum building.

Finally after more than 20 years of searching, I found a copy of Hoving's biography.

Hoving was Director of the Museum from 1967 to 1977. He left when he started getting bored. Hoving was directly responsible for bringing the large exhibitions to the museums and making them part of museum life.

If you really want to know what life is like in a museum, then this is the book to read. Hoving writes about dealing with the board of trustees, and with other museum directors as well as with his staff. He wrotes about how he seemed to never be able to hire good staff. In one department, he had to hire a new department director every year until after 6 years, he finally found the right person - Philippe de Montebello. Montebello went on to become Director of the Met Museum after Hoving left.

In this book, we learn all in the inside stories of various exhibitions Hoving was responsible for, including his last and biggest one - King Tut. He even wrote a book about Tutankhamen.

As director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a decade, Thomas Hoving brought art to a new level of public awareness by pioneering such blockbuster shows as the King Tut exhibit. Early in his career, Hoving was introduced to the "curator's game." Each week, he and his contemporaries met to examine details of larger museum masterpieces. Whoever correctly identified the detail in context won free coffee: the losers paid. Hoving has sicen transforms this game into a book called Masterpieces. This book I have yet to find.

After Hoving left the Museum, he worked as an art consultant for a few years, and then he was editor of Connoisseur Magazine from 1981 to 1991. I read a few issues that I found in the Library. I found this to be a very interesting magazine. I was disappointed when they disappeared from the library shelves.

Hoving has written a number of books on art related subjects including forgeries, Grant Wood, Andrew Wyeth, Tutankhamen, and he also wrote the text for Art For Dummies book in the "...For Dummies" series.

I read this book for the Art History Challenge.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Just too busy to read

I know, I know, I havent posted for over a week.

BUT my accounting classes are very intense and I get a LOT of homework every day so I am not reading anywhere near as much as I usually do.

I have another week off in Mid march and I hope to be able to read a few books then. At this rate I will not be able to complete all the challenges I want to do - which is somewhat disappointing.

I am still reading but a LOT more slowly. For example, the book I am reading right now is just over 400 pages, and I started it last week. I still have not finished it yet. But when I do, it will get a review as it is an excellent book.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Storyteller - Book Review

The Storyteller
by Anna Porter
Doubleday Canada 2000 (HC)
Anchor Canada 2001 (PB)
Douglas & McIntyre 2006 (PB)

I have been fascinated by Anna Porter ever since I first read about her. She was born in Hungary, fled with her family during the 1956 revolution, went to school in New Zealand, and then later moved to Canada in 1969. She wrote books and poetry as well. I have been fascinated by Hungary for many years as well.

Anna Porter was born Anna Szigethy in Hungary in 1944. Anna knows nothing of her father other than his name - Istvan Szigethy. Anna's mother was Puci Racz and Anna's maternal grandfather was Vili Racz.

The Storyteller is about Anna's early life in Hungary, and includes many of Vili's stories that he passed on to Anna while they went on long walks around Budapest. Some of these stories were old legends of Hungary's history, some were true stories that had happened to Vili during World Wars 1 and 2, and others were made up stories altogether.

In the spring and summner of 1956, Russia decided that Hungary was becoming to decadent (westernized) and the tanks rolled in. They would later do the same to Czechoslovakia in 1968. Anna's family, including her grandfather Vili, escaped from Hungary that year and settled in New Zealand. Anne attended Canterbury university in Christchurch and in 1969 she did what most young people do in New Zealand. She went on her OE - her Overseas Experience - her travel trip.

Because New Zealand is so isolated from the rest of the world, most young people do the travel tour to see the world before they come home and settled down to life, work and marriage. Whether or not the economy allows for them to still do this - I dont know. I only know that I never did mine. I could not afford it.

Anna worked in London and then travelled to Canada where she fell in love with the country and a lawyer, and chose to stay in Canada. In 1970 Anna married a lawyer named Julian Porter. He is now Queens Counsel. They have 2 daughters and live in Toronto. Anna eventually started her own publishing company called Key Porter Books She ran it for many years but no longer does so.

I read this for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge - ABM genre

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Holly Would Dream - Book Review

Holly Would Dream
By Karen Quinn
Simon & Schuster 2008
Author Website

I found another Karen Quinn Book. And this book was so good, I stayed up to 2 AM to finish it. I could not put it down. This is the story of Holly Ross who lives in NYC, and who dreams of living happily ever after, just like her favourite actress, Audrey Hepburn. And yes, Holly was named after Holly Golightly.

Holly has a masters degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology and works as an assistant to the Director of the National Museum of Fashion. The Director (name of Tanya) is the Boss from Hell.

The story opens with Holly, about to be offered a promotion at the museum, and also about to be married. But by the next day, her world has collapsed. Holly did not get the promotion and she dumped the fiance after he was busted by the police for soliciting a minor.

Holly has just one thing to keep her going. Her favourite actress Audrey Hepburn. She gets her inspiration from Audrey's movies.

Tanya has hired a "dumb blonde" socialite (named Sammy) who has family "connections" to the rich and famous. Holly was told that she does not bring anything to the table, which is why she was not promoted.

A few days later Holly and Sammmy get into a fight and make a wager - to bring a one hundred million dollar donation to the museum. Tanya agrees. She makes the rules. Whoever shows me this donation dollar amount first, gets the job of senior curator.

Holly wangles a trip out of Tanya, to be a speaker on a luxury cruise ship called the Tiffany Star. She also "borrows" some clothes from the Museum for an exhibition that is due to open in Rome at the end of her trip. Holly promises to keep the trunk of clothes safe during the cruise.

Things go drastically wrong as Holly loses the trunk of valuable clothes, spends most of her cruise either worrying about it or looking for it, and she falls in love with a man who is planning his wedding to someone else.

Like I said, I stayed up until 2 AM to finish this book. I had to know what happened next. Audrey Hepburn is also one of my favourite actresses as well. My most favourite Audrey Hepburn movie of all time is Paris, When It Sizzles.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Machiavelli Covenant - Book Review

Machiavelli Covenant
by Allan Folsom
Forge Books 2006

The Ultimate Conspiracy Novel.

Nicholas Marten's former girlfriend, Caroline, dies of an unknown illness. At the same time her husband and son are killed in a light plane crash. Caroline's husband was a congressman.

While trying to discover why Caroline was killed, Marten digs up one small fact. Her husband had discovered an illegal and secret bioweapons program. When the feds fail to investigate these deaths, Marten pursues the killers himself.

At a NATO summit in Warsaw, President John Henry Harris meets with Europe's heads of state. When Harris learns that a White House cabal has ordered the German chancellor's assassination, he angrily objects. The cabal not only threatens to kill Harris, they pull the secret service off his detail.

Escaping incognito, Harris joins two strangers, Nicholas Marten and the beautiful but enigmatic French photo-journalist, Demi Picard. Moving from Warsaw to Malta to Barcelona, and the hills of Catalonia, the three of them flee a ruthless clique of military leaders and international corporate CEO's, as well as top Washington officials. All three are wanted dead, not alive. They know too much.

The assassination of world leaders, the massacre of millions, assaults on the US with weapons of mass destruction, nothing is beyond the cabal's cunning. They call themselves the Covernant. Their origins go back 500 years.

In the 16th century, the dying Machiavelli fashioned a sinister work entitled, The Covenant. This was an ominous plan for gaining true power and keeping it. For centuries this wealthy, despotic order has hidden the plan away, inspired and emboldened by its bloody insights and near-preternatural power. Bonded by vicious rites and ritual slaughter, dedicated to their vision of global rule, they have over the centuries prospered beyond dreams of greed and domination. Three people now stand between the Brotherhood and its final apocalyptic conquest.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Serpent - Book Review

by Clive Cussler & Paul Kemprecos
Pocket Books 1999

This is an earlier Kurt Austin book I had not yet read, so I decide it was time to read it. This book is about a Hispanic group trying to prevent pre-Columbian artifacts from being discovered so that Christopher Columbus is still the official discoverer of the new world.

It is well known that the Vikings reached North America. There were some other early travellers to the new world as well, namely...
- the Venetians with their Zeno map
- St Brendan from Ireland
- and maybe the chinese

In archaeology and anthropology, diffusion is the spread of ideas, objects, or cultural traits from one culture or society to another, rather than their independent invention. For example, a diffusionist school of thought once held that Egypt was the source of metallurgy and megalithic building, whereas it is now accepted that these technologies arose independently in different areas. Farlex Encyclopedia

So now if any historian or archaeologst does believe the diffusion theory, they are villified as heretics and untrustworthy to be published. This is very similar to how creationists and scientists who agree with intelligence design are called crazy and heretical.

Have you ever heard of or seen images of Olmec stones? Archaeologists have always been mystified as to why these faces show distinctly African features. There is still no official answer.

One theory advocated, was that there was contact or trade between Africa and the Americas. But archaeologists no longer subscribe to this theory.

Just looking at this photo is evidence. It has distinctly African features, and yet this was found in Central America. So it supports the theory that there was contact between the Olmecs and the Africans. Archaeologists are very resistant to this idea.

Anyway, back to the book. When Nina Kirov, an American archaeologist finds an Olmec face statue in Western Sahara, this is big news. It definitely proves that there was contact between Mexico and Africa. Within hours of her discovery, Nina's archaeological team are murdered and she is on the run.

Her only escape is the NUMA ship anchored off shore. Even as she swims, the assassins are on a hovercraft still attempting to kill her. Kurt and Joe jump in to fight off the attackers and save Nina. These assassins are very determined. Later that night they climb abord the NUMA ship and once again attempt to kill Nina. These men are successfully driven off but not without some damage to the ship.

Together Kurt, Joe and Nina try to discover why archaeological teams are disappearing and what they have in common. It turns out that all the missing teams had discovered a pre-columbian artifact in a place where it should NOT have been.

Eventually Nina and Kurt end up in Guatemala, where they stumble over an artifact smuggling ring. They also find the last temple of the Mayans and the lost tomb of Christopher Columbus.

An excellent novel for those who are like the Mayans and pre Columbian civilizations.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Ivy Chronicles - Book Review

The Ivy Chronicles
by Karen Quinn
Viking Books 2005

Still on the subject of Chick-lit, I found another book that turned out to be very enjoyable. This is the story of Ivy Ames, a Park Avenue (Manhattan) socialite with a failing marriage who works for the Japanese Myoki Bank as a Vice president of some stature.

Ivy's husband had lost his job a year earlier, and at the beginning of this book, he still has not found another job. This is why Amy has to work.

In Chapter One, Amy is downsized from her job and when she gets home, she finds her unemployed spouse busy being employed by the wife of the man who used to be Amy's bank boss. So they both get kicked out.

Then in Chapter 2 Amy has to downsize her finances, her spending and her luxury life. To make things worse, Amy has to now think about downsizing her Park avenue apartment, and taking her two daughters out of their exclusive private school, and putting them into "gasp" public school.

On to Chapter 3 where, one of Amy's rich friends needs some help. She wants Amy's help to get her daughter into an exclusive private kindergarten. After Amy is succesful in getting the girl accepted at a private kindergarten, the idea is mooted that maybe Amy can make a living at this.

Amd so the real fun starts in chapter 4. Amy tells the reader everything about how to be a private kindergarten consultant. What to do and what NOT to do. So Amy starts advertising for clients. She charges the uber-rich clients $20,000 and the ordinary rich clients just $10,000.

The rest of the books covers Amy's transition from uber rich to middle class and how she dealt with her clients. The clients range from a young single mother with a charning son who is well behaved, to a widowed mafia mobster, to spoiled parents with spoiled and not-so-spoiled children.

While it is not as funny as the Shopaholic books, this book is certainly an eye-opener into how the rich and famous like to live and behave, especially when it comes to their children and education.

I actually enjoyed this book. I read it more or less straight through in 8 hours. The author, Ms Quinn, did use to be a private kindergarten consultant herself, so she knows what she is talking about.

And guess what. This book is already in movie production, tentatively starring Sarah Jessica Parker, with a tentative release date of 2010.

Confessions of a Shopaholic - Book review

Confessions of a Shopaholic
by Sophie Kinsella
Random House 2001

Now most of you know that I dont normally read chick-lit. We really shouldn't call it by that name because it is rather demeaning towards women. Usually books in this genre are about women written by women, and for women.

But after having seen some previews of the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic that is due to open this week, I thought I would give the book a try. Having borrowed the book from the library, it turned out to be hilarious and actually rather good. The movie is based on both this book and one of the sequels - Shopaholic in Manhattan. This was done so that the movie location could easily be moved from London (UK) to New York (USA).

Rebecca Bloomwood is a shopaholic - like I am a bookaholic. She cannot walk past a fashion shop without going in, just like I cannot pass a book shop without at least checking out the new arrivals and the sales tables.

Rebecca works for a Financial company writing articles for the monthly financial newsletter. She hates this job, but at least she gets paid. Becky also has a lot of debt. She has too many credit cards and all of them are over their limits. Her checks regularly bounce and she is getting threatening letters from credit card companies as well as her bank manager.

Becky knows she should do something about this, so she tries cut back on her spending. This does not work. So she tries to make more money with a framing business (one of those mail scams that send you a kit and then pay you for the work). That doesnt work either. So Becky gives up and keeps on shopping.

On a visit home to her parents one weekend, the neighbours ask Becky about the letter they recived from their investment bank suggesting that they switch their investments to a new type of investment, and that they will get a free gift if they do so. Becky thinks she has vaguely heard something about this company so she tells them it might be a good idea.

Several weeks later Becky hears that this same investment company has been taken over by a bank. The company name rings a bell but she cannot remember.

When Becky goes back home to her parents for another visit, she discovers that her neighbours were swindled out of twenty thousand pounds because they switched their investments.

One of the advantages of writing for a financial magazine is that you get to go to various financial news conferences whenever a release is being put out. Thus Becky has met a number of reporters for a number of newspapers and magazines.

When Becky discovers that her neighbours have been swindled, she contacts a news reporter for a tabloid newspaper and asks if they would like her story. Sure they would. Becky writes an article detailing how every person who took the suggestion of the letter (that was sent out) to switch their investments, were all swindled out of 20,000 pounds.

The day her story is printed, all H-E-double-L breaks loose in London. Becky is quickly called and asked to appear on TV. A financial expert will appear opposite her to tell the company's side of the story. But he turns out to be the PR guy Becky has a crush on. Not even the investment business thought it necessary to appear on TV to repaid their broken image. Thats why businesses have PR companies.

At the end of the book Becky is in a whole different position from where she was at the beginning. She has a new job, lots of money to pay off her debts and she has finally found love.

A very interesting and funny book. Set in London, UK. NOT read for any challenge, but just because I wanted something light to read.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Been too busy to post reviews.

I apologise for the lack of reviews on this blog lately.

I have been very busy at college - doing a number of subjects in the last few week. Since this is a private career college, we have to practise what we learn, so that we know how to use the application in the real world.

Therefore I have been getting and doing a LOT of homework. So while I was still able to read, usually at nights and on the bus, I have not been able to find time to post.

Next week, I have a whole week away from college, and I promise I will post some book reviews then.

After that, I start Bookkeeping and all the Accounting modules on February 17th. Going until the end of May.