Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Mailbox!

These are the four books that I recieved that fit the foreign criteria for Bridge the Gap: England, Canada, Japan, and Turkey (I believe). I can't wait to read them!! You might remember I posted about Mercury Under My Tongue already, and I got an email offering a review well as some other random novels that are non-American. I OF COURSE accepted and here you go!

Leave your thoughts and I'll talk more in the comments:

The City in Crimson Cloak by Asli Erdogan

Vibrator by Mari Akasaka

Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation by Martin Millar

Mercury Under my Tongue by Sylvain Trudel

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mike Harling Guest Post (UK)

Cultural Exchange
A Guest Post by Mike Harling, author of Postcards from Across the Pond

Mike's interview!

I was born in America; it seemed the natural thing to do. And there were times, I kid you not, when I would reflect on the rest of the world, marveling at how so many people could lack the good fortune or foresight to not have been born in America. Or at least Canada.

There was also a time when it seemed to me that anyone who really mattered came from America, as well. I shared this observation with my mother, capping it off with, "Even Jesus was an American." I was quite young.

My mom set me straight on the Jesus theory, but couldn't deny that the others on my list were true blue, as was I.

Over the years, I discovered the joys of travel, but never strayed too far from home (in a place as big as America, that's not as contradictory as it sounds) and certainly never considered leaving it. But then I did. (Short version: met a woman. Long version: buy the book.) Now I believe that every American should be required to spend a year living abroad. (In the interest of keeping their “Out of Nation” experience from being too much of a culture shock, however, it might be best if they started off visiting countries with indoor plumbing.)

Even the non-Americans I have posed this idea to think it’s a good one, as broadening the world-view of the United States is advantageous for all concerned, provided the Americans in question don’t come to “visit” as part of a large camouflage-clad group toting rifles and driving armored vehicles.

These days I reserve my wonder for the people in America who have never had the opportunity of experiencing a different culture; and I can’t help feeling a little sorry for them. They will never know the strange thrill that comes from seeing the weather map on the news not showing an aerial view of their own home county (like when you visited Baltimore that time on your school trip). They will never experience the simultaneous shock of astonishment, disbelief and disappointment as they ride down the A-303 and ask their travel companion about those strange rocks in the field off to the right and receive the reply: "Oh them; that's Stonehenge."

England, despite my erstwhile supposition of ubiquitous Americanism, figures large in our culture, or at least it did in mine. Remember that place the lady rode her Cock Horse to? Yeah, it's here. I drove through it a few months back. And the Muffin Man, well, he doesn't live in Drury lane any more, but Drury lane is still there. Also, once you get out of America you start realizing that many notable people (Prince Charles, for instance) are not, in fact, American. I mean, Oasis; who knew they were from Manchester? I thought they came from Seattle.

Even if you can’t arrange to live overseas, you should at least pop over for a visit. The UK is a good place to start because they sort of speak the same language and we share a great deal of heritage. And now would be the optimum time, while the dollar hasn’t free-fallen quite as far as the pound and you can actually get a decent rate of exchange. If you’re on a limited budget, visit London; it’s like New York City in that you can't swing a tea cosy without hitting something famous. On a pleasant day you could go for a stroll and take in Trafalgar Square, The Tower of London, Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, Westminster Abby and Buckingham Palace and still have time for a pint and a visit to the gift shoppe. That’s value for money, and not always possible in other countries (try visiting Mt Rushmore and Old Faithful in the same day).

So think about it. Come for a visit or, if you can swing it, a longer stay, because nothing compares to the adventure inherent in the daily navigation of a foreign culture. Even after seven years I still, on occasion, look around myself and think, “Holy shit, I’m in England.” And being amazing by your own life is a great way to live.

Mike Harling Interview (UK)

Interview with: Mike Harling
Questions by: Lauren

Mike's Guest Post

Mike, an American who moved to England, has written a book,Postcards from Across the Pond, all about his experiences there. Truthfully, I have yet to read it myself but I really hope too soon, especially after reading the guest post Mike did as well!

1. What made you decide on the title, Postcards from Across the Pond? Was this a first choice or did it come later? If it wasn't your first idea, what were some discarded ones?

It just seemed natural. It was the first thing that came to mind and I liked it and continued to use it; I have not regretted it.

2. When reading your book, what can people expect to find?

My book is very much like my website and blog; humorous articles on what it is like being an American living in the UK. The essays in the book are not featured on the website, but the style and subject matter is similar. So if you enjoy what you read on the website, you’ll like the book. And vice versa.

3. Do you have plans to write anything else in the near future? Will it be non-fiction or perhaps fiction?

My plan has always been to be a novelist. I fell into humor writing quite by accident and the fact that I have published a humor book still surprises me. I have written several novel manuscripts and my most recent one is still out there looking for a publisher. I am also working on my next novel.

4. For those who don't live in or haven't visited England (especially other Americans), what would you tell them you like the best and the least?

Both are difficult to pin down; there is so much about England that I love and very little I don’t like. And it depends upon the person. History buffs can’t get enough of the castles, Roman ruins and places like Stonehenge, and others might like to tour the countryside and take in the views. And everyone likes the accents. As for me, I like the fact that I can get to so many places without having to drive for three days. What I dislike is the British Yob culture (football hooligans, lager louts, etc.).

5. What other books should everyone be reading these days?

If you like books such as “Postcards From Across the Pond,” there are others out there of a similar ilk. “Rules Britannia,” by Toni Hargis is a good one, as is Chris Rae’s “The Septic’s Companion.” Both are funny and informative.

6. Since Bridge the Gap is about all things non-American, what is something you would like to see featured at some point?

It’s been fun bringing a glimpse of England to your readers, so I would like to see the same done for other countries, such as Spain, Latvia, Holland, Thailand, etc.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Shall We Dansu? (Japan)

Shall We Dansu? Front Pictures, Images and Photos

Shall We Dansu?
Review by: Lauren
Country: Japan

Shall We Dansu? is the original film which produced the American remake, Shall We Dance?, starring Jennifer Lopez. Shall We Dansu? chronicles a man named Sugiyama, who is not at all happy with his everyday life as an accountant. He has a wife, a daughter, and a nice house, but deep inside, he’s hoping for more. On his way home from work one evening, he sees a young girl gazing out the window of a dance studio. From then on, he’s mesmerized, and soon finds himself signing up for dance classes.

At first, his wife is pleased that he’s getting out, having fun, and being a lot less serious, but as he begins spending more and more time away from home-without revealing the dancing-she soon begins to worry. Thus, she goes to a private detective to find out the true meaning behind her husband’s mood change and sudden disappearances.

I’d seen the American version when it first came out and definitely enjoyed it, but I must say that the original is a lot better. Now, if you see the Japanese version, you might realize that it’s a lot similar to the American one and the language is pretty much the main difference. However, this is the original and I feel it’s worth a watch for simply that, especially if you liked Lopez’ version. You’ll find yourself with many emotions throughout this film: happiness, laughter, anger, sadness, understanding, and more.

Naoto Takenaka did a great job as Aoki, a man who loves to dance, yet can’t bring himself to do so without wearing one ridiculous wig! Aoki is definitely a light and fun character that brings a lot of humor to this film, yet he also shows his own pain and sadness, making you feel for him just as much as Sugiyama and the rest.

This is a simple film, yet is filled with a lot of emotion, and is sure to capture the heart of a lot of viewers. Forget about the subtitles, and simply give this one a chance!

If you’ve seen the American one, now is the time to see the original and if you haven’t seen either, then most definitely start with this one.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wish-List Wednesday (Ireland)

The Script Pictures, Images and Photos

The Script Myspace

I really want the debut album from this band The Script. You might have heard them on the radio in the U.S. but they are actually from Dublin, Ireland.

Their album won't be released here until March 17, but if you're from the UK, it should already be available.

Here is the album's tracklist:

1. We Cry
2. Before The Worst
3. Talk You Down
4. The Man Who Can't Be Moved
5. Breakeven
6. Rusty Halo
7. The End Where I Begin
8. Fall For Anything
9. If You See Kay
10. I'm Yours

Now, if you are from the U.S. you might be wondering what song of theirs you could have heard. It's called "The Man Who Can't Be Moved"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Video: The Ryes (UK)

I figured it was time for another video. The Ryes are a band from the UK who I found out about recently. I personally think they are amazing and would love to own any music from them. They have a great sound, and the singer's voice is amazing.

To hear more from them, go to their myspace!

For now, here is the acoustic version of their song "How Come Loretta."

Now that you've watched the video or simply listened to the song itself, what do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts, whether you've heard them before or this is your first time!! Good. Bad. Leave your thoughts and I'll write you back.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Just a Question of Love DVD Review (France)

Just a Question of Love (France)
Review by: Lauren

Just a Question of Love tells the story of the relationship between Laurent and Cédric. Laurent is a college student living with and pretending to be in love with his best friend Carole, to hide the fact that he’s gay. His aunt and uncle’s son, Marc, was also gay but kicked out and abandoned when he revealed the fact. Even when Marc falls ill and eventually passes, Laurent is the only one in his family willing to go and visit him. As such, Laurent keeps his sexuality a secret and uses Carole as a cover for his family, who loves he too much to be honest and risk losing them.

During school, Laurent is given an internship to help him graduate, for he’d been slacking off ever since Marc died. This is where he officially meets Cédric, who is in charge of his internship. As time goes on, the two finally begin a relationship, but Laurent still refuses to be honest and Cédric won’t live a lie. Though the two are in love, they can’t seem to reconcile their differences, leading to a very emotional second half.

Just a Question of Love is a French film (though I watched it with the English subtitles) that is emotional, sweet, funny, passionate, and true. This isn’t a big action film, but rather one that deals on a more simple level to provide you with a story that could ring true for a lot of people. The main actors Cyrille Thouvenin (Laurent) and Stéphan Guérin-Tillié (Cédric) did an amazing job. Their chemistry on screen made me believe that this story could be real.

Just a Question of Love is a great film and I’d definitely recommend it to those who are at all interested. I especially love the overall message, which was simply and beautifully put by Laurent: “It’s not a question of gay or straight. It’s just a question of love.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wish-List Wednesday

Mercury Under My Tongue (Canada)
by Sylvain Trudel (Author), Sheila Fischman (Translator)

We all knew him during high school—that 17-year-old notebook-toting sage, feeling deeply, spouting out tiny poems, acting just a little too wise for his age—but, despite the factors belying it, still being a 17-year-old. Frederick Langlois, the protagonist of Mercury Under the Tongue, is of that ilk, a younger Kerouac with a sweet nihilism, a strong sense of family ties, and a lingering (if sometimes resentful) sense of responsibility to others.

The book traces a short span of the protagonist's life in a hospital ward peopled with acutely ill adolescents, as they sneak out to go see the newborns in the maternity ward and play games of imagination where they cast themselves as already being in Purgatory. The book travels from his distant but fond relationship with his therapist (and his mute delight at catching a glimpse of her cleavage), through comic moments on the hospital ward, his developing camaraderie with other patients of his age, the survival of some, the loss of others, a brief glimpse of romantic love, and a final reckoning with himself and his family, which is both dispassionate and deeply felt.

This week, I only have one thing listed for Wish-List Wednesday, though I don't believe anybody commented on last week's post, which includes a few books from the UK, so feel free to leave your thoughts!!!

Anyway, I've read a review of this one awhile ago and it sounded good, and then I saw someone else say they'd receieved Mercury Under My Tongue to review and I knew I just had to read this once I heard of it again...especially since it would fit under Bridge the Gap's "foreign" standards aka Non-American.

What do you think? Have you read/heard of this?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

In Your Mailbox

I figured it was about time I finally participated in The Story Siren's In Your Mailbox. Now, when it comes to reviewing things, especially books, I can be a bit slow. I'm mentioning this because if you see something in these posts and want to see a review, let me know and I'll try and be quicker, but my main reason for doing this is to slightly promote everything BEFORE the reviews are posted (Chelsea from The Page Flipper said this and I agreed!).

Everything that I got for Bridge the Gap's In My Mailbox were things that I bought myself!

First, I got The Angel Maker by Stefan Brijs
This novel fits Bridge the Gap's theme because the author is from Belgium.

Summary: A literary page-turner about one man’s macabre ambition to create life—and secure immortality

The village of Wolfheim is a quiet little place until the geneticist Dr. Victor Hoppe returns after an absence of nearly twenty years. The doctor brings with him his infant children—three identical boys all sharing a disturbing disfigurement. He keeps them hidden away until Charlotte, the woman who is hired to care for them, begins to suspect that the triplets—and the good doctor— aren’t quite what they seem. As the villagers become increasingly suspicious, the story of Dr. Hoppe’s past begins to unfold, and the shocking secrets that he has been keeping are revealed. A chilling story that explores the ethical limits of science and religion, The Angel Maker is a haunting tale in the tradition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. Brought to life by internationally bestselling author Stefan Brijs, this eerie tale promises to get under readers’ skin.

just a question of love Pictures, Images and Photos

Next, I got the film Just a Question of Love, which fits the theme because it's a French film (English subtitles). I have watched this film a couple times now, so you can hopefully expect a review in the next couple days. I just have to say now, however, that I really love this film and the overall message is just brilliant.

For now, here is the Summary:
Cyrille Thouvenin stars in this bittersweet tale of a twenty-something man reluctant to come out of the closet. Laurent keeps his homosexuality a secret, but things get complicated when he falls in love with Cedric. Openly gay, Cedric has no problem introducing Laurent as his boyfriend, even to his own mother. But Laurent's need for secrecy forces Cedric to give him an ultimatum: Either Laurent comes out of the closet, or Cedric will leave him.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance (UK)

Oscar Wilde and the Death of No Importance Pictures, Images and Photos

Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance
By: Gyles Brandreth
Review by: Lauren

If you've read my zine Shooting Stars Mag for awhile, you might remember this review. However, I wanted to re-post it on this blog since it fits the theme and I think it's a great, unique novel. I have the sequel at my house now and I can't wait to read it!

Oscar Wilde (author/playwright), Robert Sherard (poet/journalist), and Arthur Conan Doyle (author) come together in this fictional story of murder and suspense. Told in Sherard's point of view, Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance, fully begins when Wilde comes across the dead body of a friend, Billy Wood. However, once Wilde tries to go back and prove there has been a murder, the body is missing and the room has been cleaned.

Doyle sends Wilde to his friend Aidan Fraser of the Scotland Yard, but with no body, Fraser feels he can't start an investigaion. Knowing that a friend of his has been killed, Wilde sets out on his own search to bring justice to this crime.

The story is full of mystery, murder, intellect, and Wilde's witticisms. In the fashion of Doyle's creation, Sherlock Holmes, Wilde has a keen eye for detail and becomes a skilled detective himself. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wish-List Wednesday

If you know my zine, Shooting Stars, then you should be aware of my newest addition called Wish-List Wednesday. A lot of book bloggers have Waiting on Wednesday, where they post about a book that has yet to be released, but they really want to read. Since Shooting Stars was never just books, I figured a Wish-List would be more appropriate, so I could post about future books or items and even things that are already out. Here is my addition for Bridge the Gap (meaning everything is foreign…)

hollyoaks Pictures, Images and Photos

Hollyoaks Perfume (the girls’ version of course!)

I know some people think that it’s lame for Hollyoaks to have a perfume, but I think it’s fun and as an American, I’ll take anything Hollyoaks!

For those that aren’t aware, Hollyoaks is a soap opera in the UK. I found it via the John Paul/Craig storyline and became hooked, though I only really know certain people’s stories. Since the U.S. doesn’t get this show, I’m reduced to what I can find via youtube or other websites. I love that it’s a soap opera, so it’s on everyday, yet it doesn’t feel like the soaps we have in America. I honestly refer to Hollyoaks as the UK’s Degrassi, since it kind of has that vibe…various stories about the kids and the adults (though most of the “kids” are older on Hollyoaks), with Hollyoaks having more “out-there” storylines….that I love! The reason I hate Hollyoaks being on every day is because they don’t release the “seasons” or whatever on DVD (and I know they have different DVD players, but I basically have no way of having full episodes in an easier manner)

Anyway, that’s just my “intro” to the world of Hollyoaks. You’ll hear more about the show and its actors/actresses in time because I’ve become invested in quite a few of their future careers…meaning I want more!!
You can get the perfume at the Perfume Shop. There is one for the boys and the girls.

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

Kenny, Sim and Blake are about to embark on a remarkable journey. Stealing the urn that contains the ashes of their best friend Ross, they set out to travel 261 miles from Cleethorpes on the English east coast to the tiny hamlet of Ross in southern Scotland. After a depressing and dispiriting funeral they feel that taking Ross to Ross will be a fitting memorial for a fifteen-year-old boy who changed all their lives through his friendship. Little do they realise just how much Ross can still affect life for them even though he's dead.

This book has already been released, but I still really want to read it. I’m not sure if it’s out in the U.S though….does anybody know? Either way, I think it sounds great and hopefully I’ll get a chance to read it soon.

The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd

It’s January 1st, 2015, and the UK is the first nation to introduce carbon dioxide rationing, in a drastic bid to combat climate change. As her family spirals out of control, Laura Brown chronicles the first year of rationing with scathing abandon. Will her mother become one with her inner wolf? Will her sister give up her weekends in Ibiza? Does her father love the pig more than her? Can her band the dirty angels make it big? And will Ravi Datta ever notice her?

In these dark days, Laura deals with the issues that really matter: love, floods and pigs.

The Carbon Diaries 2015 is one girl’s drastic bid to stay sane in a world unravelling at the seams.

I believe this is out now as well. Doesn’t it sound amazing? I really love the unique premise!

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine

An intriguing, compelling and moving new novel from the award-winning author of Finding Violet Park. When the good-looking boy with the American accent presses the dropped negative into Rowan's hand, she's sure it's all a big mistake. But next moment he's gone, lost in the crowd of bustling shoppers. And she can't afford to lose her place in the checkout queue -- after all, if she doesn't take the groceries home, nobody else will. Rowan has more responsibilities than most girls her age. These days, she pretty much looks after her little sister single-handedly -- which doesn't leave much time for friends or fun. So when she finds out that Bee from school saw the whole thing, it piques her curiosity. Who was the boy? Why was he so insistent that the negative belonged to Rowan?

I haven’t read anything by Jenny Valentine yet, but all of her work sounds great. I hope to be able to read something by her soon…perhaps starting with Broken Soup? Who knows?

If you want to see my Wish-List for Shooting Stars, go here!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Robyn: With Every Heartbeat (Sweden)

I was addicted to this song for awhile last year but ended up not listening too it for some after. However, author Josh Aterovis mentioned this artist and song in his list of 2008 things he loved and I remembered my own love for it.

Here you go: Robyn's song "With Every Heartbeat."
As you can see from the title, Robyn is a pop singer from Sweden.
Her Myspace!

Not the actual video, but the song is the same of course!