Posts Tagged Amy Steele picks

STEELE PICKS: BEST DOCUMENTARY FILMS of 2015

Amy
directed by: Asif Kapadia
starring: Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Mark Ronson

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He Named Me Malala
directed by: David Guggenheim
starring: Malala Yousafzai, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Toor Pekai Yousafzai

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Cobain: Montage of Heck
directed by: Brett Morgen
starring: Aaron Burckhard, Chad Channing, Don Cobain, Courtney Love

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Hot Girls Wanted
directed by: Jill Bauer, Ronna Gradus
written by: Brittany Huckabee
starring: Farrah Abraham, John Anthony, Rachel Bernard

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The Wolfpack
directed by: Crystal Moselle
starring: Bhagavan Angulo, Govinda Angulo, Jagadisa Angulo

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What Happened, Miss Simone?
directed by: Liz Garbus
starring: James Baldwin, Stokely Carmichael, Lisa Simone Kelly

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The True Cost
directed by: Andrew Morgan
written by: Andrew Morgan
starring: Vandana Shiva, Rick Ridgeway, Safia Minney

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The Hunting Ground
directed by: Kirby Dick
written by: Kirby Dick
starring: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Amy Herdy

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STEELE PICKS: BEST NONFICTION OF 2015

Drawing Blood by Molly Crabapple [Harper]
–from my review: Feminist and activist Molly Crabapple details her journey from burlesque dancer to artist who sketches conflicts and society’s woes with fervent energy in this compelling memoir. The memoir maintains a perfect tone. Molly assumes nothing. She’s not arrogant or condescending but genuine and earnest. She describes events just enough to remind us of what happened and provides us with insight from her perspective. Just what a memoirist should do. These pages burst with stunning moments, pure honesty, inspiration, scrappiness, art and politics. Just read it already! It’s truly perfect and riveting. purchase at Amazon: Drawing Blood

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Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso [Graywolf Press]
–started reading this one morning and couldn’t stop until I finished. It’s a thin but potent meditation on journaling and why we keep records of what we do. what’s important then and now. fascinating. purchase at Amazon: Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

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Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein [Riverhead Books]
–One of the best music memoirs ever. Engrossing. Honest. Raw. Strong feminist voice. purchase at Amazon: Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir

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Moody Bitches by Julie Holland, MD [Penguin Press]
–Every woman should read this. Important info about meds, sleep, sex and overall health. appreciate the mind-body connection and alternative treatments discussed. some new, some older information all tied together quite nicely and in an open, honest, conversational manner. purchase at Amazon: Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, The Sleep You’re Missing, The Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy

moody bitches

Project Animal Farm by Sonia Faruqui[Pegasus Books]
–from my review: Even when you know that there’s mistreatment among dairy and animal farms, as I do, this remains a shocking and detailed expose into the disheartening and mostly cruel world of food production. purchase at Amazon: Project Animal Farm: An Accidental Journey into the Secret World of Farming and the Truth About Our Food

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates [Spiegel & Grau]
–outstanding. honest. gorgeous writing. purchase at Amazon: Between the World and Me

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We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [Anchor]
–everyone needs feminism. everyone needs this book. it’s perfect. purchase at Amazon: We Should All Be Feminists

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Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon [Dey Street Books]
–from my review: Gordon writes rather quite a free-form drifting from subject to subject and playing around with chronology. A reader can easily skip around and not be confused. The sections with vivid descriptions of New York in the 1980s and 1980s stand-out for authenticity and color. There’s plenty of awesomeness in this memoir. Insecurity combined with risk taking. Deconstructing one’s experiences.Throughout this memoir, the feminist, artist and musician provides readers coolness, the detachment and strong opinions. Gordon removes herself from personal situations and provides a detached observer’s perspective. At other times she’s a bit warmer. While rambling and occasionally disjointed, it works. purchase at Amazon: Girl in a Band: A Memoir

girl in a band

Missoula by Jon Krakauer [Doubleday]
–rape culture at The University of Montana. It’s enraging, complex and incredible. An important read. purchase at Amazon: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

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Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas [Random House Trade Paperbacks]
–Accomplished and determined pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu seeks to prove a connection between concussions and behavioral changes. The NFL fights him the entire way. An engrossing true life medical mystery. Dr. Omalu has depression and that makes his interest in the brain even more fascinating. It’s also interesting how he balances living with depression with his career. purchase at Amazon: Concussion

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Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker [Scribner]
–clever this memoir in letters. Bits and pieces of a life. Amusing, touching, maddening, endearing moments. Mary-Louise Parker reveals herself in novel, random, intimate and raw ways. purchase at Amazon: Dear Mr. You

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Troublemaker by Leah Remini [Ballantine Books]
–listened to the audio which I highly recommend. Leah has an upbeat, brash and fiery personality that comes through in telling her story. She gives details about the celebrity culture of Scientology as well as its strange requirements. She talks about Tom Cruise, his wedding to Katie Holmes, children Connor and Isabella and their non-relationship with Nicole Kidman [“she’s an SP,” Bella tells Leah in disgust]. I’ve read Going Clear and watched the documentary so am somewhat familiar with the Scientology process. Leah truly opens up about the money she paid, the classes she took and the time she spent on this religion— hours every day and millions of dollars. Leah questions many aspects of Scientology and the higher-ups try to punish her and silence her and she finally decided to leave the church. Leah also speaks about King of Queens and her brief time on The Talk. It’s sometimes shocking and always unapologetic. purchase at Amazon: Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology

troublemaker

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STEELE PICKS: 12 BEST FICTION BOOKS of 2014

boy snow bird

1. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi [Riverhead]

clever, stunningly gorgeous novel about race.

daring ladies of lowell

2. The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott [Doubleday]

If you grew up in Massachusetts like me, you likely went on a Lowell Mill tour at some point during an elementary school or junior high field trip. I went twice because when my Aunt and cousins visited from Texas they wanted to go. While you rode on a boat along the Merrimack River listening to a guide speak about girls and young women leaving their families from all over New England to work at the Lowell mills it was easy enough to disassociate from it yet dreadful to think about the harsh conditions these women faced back in the 19th century.

Like the Salem witch trials the industrial revolution and bitter working conditions for Lowell mill girls happened essentially in my backyard and I feel particularly close to the plight of the mill girls depicted in this novel. It’s only the second five-star rating I’ve given to any book this year. Kate Alcott vibrantly brings the stories of the Lowell mill girls to the page as she creates strong, outspoken female characters enduring adverse situations that dare imagine and dispute better working and living situations.

complete review

everything i never

3. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng [Penguin Press]

Anything I write will never be enough to convey the power and magnificence of this debut novel.

complete review

fallout

4. Fallout by Sadie Jones [Harper]

Fallout revolves around Luke Kanowski, a young man with a mother living in a mental institution and a a former Polish POW father who remained in England after the war. Both parents rely tremendously on Luke. Living in a rustic northern town, Luke escapes the familial strain and dead-end choices through a passion for theatre. He reads everything and remains updated on all theatrical goings on. One night he meets aspiring producer Paul Driscoll and theater student Leigh Radley who will influence his future in myriad ways

complete review

visible city

5. Visible City by Tova Mirvis [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]

Author Tova Mirvis writes with a melancholy gorgeousness about connectivity and disparity. When we imagine others’ lives we never expect what we eventually discover to be true. Perfection masks insecurities. Contentment hides dissatisfaction. What is happiness? Our ideal is never another’s ideal. How something looks from afar rarely looks as virtuous once you start to delve into the grit and imperfections.

complete review

pioneer girl

6. Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen [Viking]

Author Bich Minh Nguyen writes about a Vietnamese-American family and its connection to the beloved American Ingalls-Wilder family as seen through the eyes of a savvy, inquisitive young woman. Almost everyone remembers reading the Little House on the Prairie books about Laura Ingalls and watching the television show.

complete review

love me back

7. Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce [Doubleday]

One of the best novels in a while about finding your way and developing a sense-of-self in your twenties.

review

garden of letters

8. The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman [Berkley Trade]

When I’m thinking about a novel for some time after reading it, I know it’s remarkable. Think you’ve heard all the stories about WWII. Think again. The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman focuses on the Italian Resistance. Elodie, a young student and cello player, becomes involved in the Italian Resistance when artists and teachers at her school become targets for Mussolini’s Fascist regime.

interview with Alyson Richman

dept of speculation

9. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill [Vintage]

impressively creative.

all days are night

10. All Days are Night by Peter Stamm [Other Press]

A popular television news reporter wakes up severely disfigured by a car accident. The novel beautifully traverses past and present. Stamm writes in an effectively laconic and melancholy style. He’s exploring appearances from various angles. It’s a gripping read about art and connection.

review

life drawing

11. Life Drawing by Robin Black [Random House]

stunning writing. brilliantly explores marriage in all its nuances.

boston girl

12. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant [Scribner]

This is the story of the education of Addie Baum. Jewish daughter to immigrant parents Addie grew up during the mid-1900s in a one-room tenement house in Boston. In telling Addie’s story, author Anita Diamant covers a lot of history: prohibition; 1920s flappers and artists; WWI; The Great Depression; illegal abortions, birth control and Margaret Sanger; the Spanish Flu; women’s education; women’s careers; journalism; civil rights. Like The Red Tent, Diamant depicts history through a feminist eye. Intelligent, resourceful and intellectually-curious Addie is a wonderful feminist character. I probably truly fell in love with this novel when Diamant mentioned Simmons College, my women’s college alma mater in Boston. At one point, Addie discusses her goal to attend college but that she fears many won’t accept her because she’s Jewish. [“There’s Simmons College,” I said. “They even accept the Irish if you can imagine.”]

complete review

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Steele’s Picks for Best Films of 2008

1. Slumdog Millionaire

A magical film and so, so, so brilliant. It’s about dreams and love and never giving up hope. The film, directed by Danny Boyle, is absolutely original, special and imaginative from beginning to end. It is thrilling and lovely and romantic, all wrapped up with a spectacular Bollywood ending.

2. Happy-Go-Lucky

This reminds me a lot of Voltaire’s Candide except that Poppy is [Sally Hawkins] less naive–she knows about the world and its darkness, she just chooses to ignore the evils most of the time– and ends up with less scrapes. She is the ultimate optimist and regardless of the situation she finds herself in she sees it positively.

3. Milk

A moving, inspirational film. Sean Penn [The Interpreter, Mystic River] portrays Harvey Milk in a powerful, profound, commanding performance. He is ebullient and convicted to the end result and wins you over from the first frame. He makes you love Milk right off. He also makes you feel like you are watching a documentary at times. He has the mannerisms and affectations down. And when he’s with his lover, played by the talented James Franco [Pineapple Express, Spider-Man 3], the sex appeal oozes. The duo has smoldering and intense chemistry.

4. Rachel Getting Married

The screenplay, by Sidney Lumet’s daughter Jenny, combined with direction by Jonathan Demme makes this a strong, insightful glimpse into a flawed weekend of one family. Anne Hathaway’s layered performance is dark, moving, unapologetic and brilliant.

5. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Loved it! Just fantastic. The neuroses, the craziness, and the cast of Scarlet Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Rebecca Hall is divine.

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>6. Wall-E

The messages of caring, compassion, and environmental awareness do not overwhelm the viewer but are clear throughout this heartfelt, inspirational film about a futuristic recycling robot with a penchant for old song and dance films and collecting odd objects like Rubik’s cubes and light bulbs.

7. Mongol

Very, very well made film with wonderful cinematography, fanastic fight scenes and an intense love story. It’s all about the rise to power of Genghis Khan in Mongolia. He overcomes tremendous adversity including losing his father as a young boy, enduring slavery, torment by those in his father’s trust, being betrayed by someone he considered to be a “blood brother,” and numerous prolonged separations from his wife.

8. The Secret Life of Bees

Lovely film with wonderful cast: Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning, Alicia Keys and Sophie Odeneko. It’s the 60s and a young girl escapes her abusive father to live with a group of independent minded women in South Carolina who support themselves by making honey.

9. Be Kind Rewind

Be Kind Rewind is a love story to film. It’s also a commentary on the state of big business. We all know how hard in can be to find a copy of a particular, somewhat obscure film and wonder why there are 25 copies oLif something really banal on the shelves. Be Kind Rewind is a gem amidst a lot of mediocrity.

10. Doubt

Shades of gray. Did he or didn’t he? Guilt, right and wrong, convictions, circumstances, hunches, and the hierarchy or the Church all come into play in this powerful, brilliant film based on the Broadway play. In 1964, Sister Aloysius Beauvier [Meryl Streep] and young, naive Sister James [Amy Adams] are rather dutiful sisters in the congregation, while Father Flynn [Phillip Seymour Hoffman] is the priest running the show. Things seen and heard can be easily misinterpreted and who knows who to trust or to believe?

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Steele’s Picks for Best Reads of 2008

Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg

A group of sisters write to guys during WWII (either boyfriends or just guys who need letters). I cried at the end of this book and promptly got online and adopted a U.S. soldier in Iraq. I wrote to SGT Michael Spaeth for the bulk of this year [and sent quite a few care packages] and his tour recently ended. I just requested a new soldier.

The Great Man by Kate Christensen

Fabulous read about an artist as told, after his death, from the viewpoint of four women: his wife, his lover, the lover’s best friend and his sister, also an artist. The women are all in their late 60s and early 70s and they have vastly different memories and relationships with this man and with each other. When two biographers come around to interview the women it forces them to speak to each other and for a long-standing secret to be revealed. Masterful writing by Christensen.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Told in a series of letters this is a charmer. Well-researched and planned, the book covers the period of German occupation of the British Island of Guernsey during WWII and the group of residents who created a book club to thrive and remain active.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

A remarkable, fluid, enthralling book about WWII written by a French Jew (who ended up being shipped off and killed in a concentration camp). It was published some 50 years posthumously. She paints a detailed portrait of the villagers when the Germans invade as well as the mass exodus from Paris. It is funny, sad and quite sympathetic at times toward some of the German soldiers. She seemed to be able to see the situation from all angles and get it down in exquisite prose.

The Cure for the Modern World by Lisa Tucker

Clinical trials, medical research, Big Pharma, medical ethics, children’s rights and much more are explored in this easy-to-read book. It’s a real joy to read it. Perfect weekend read.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Heartbreaking and beautiful. So well-written. Striving for that “perfect” life in suburbia in the 50s can destroy you.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Brooks puts you in Sarajevo and London and Venice at all times as she describes the exciting discovery of an ancient Hebrew manuscript with clues as to its travels and its use over time. While based on real events, Brooks creates fantastic characteristics and writes this love story to books and reading and history. I love her style, her research and journalism skills and want to write books just like her when I finally do.

The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus II

Once I got into this book, I just could not stop reading. It is about the fictional final days of one of the 9/11 hijackers as he spent them in Florida at a stripclub. It also involves the stripper and some other clubgoers and how their paths cross that evening.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

A haunting, majestic book of epic proportions. Its about the occupation of Sarajevo in the 90s. A cellist decides to play for 22 days honor those who died from a mortar attack. A man travels to collect water. A woman works as a sniper. Another man walks across town to get bread. All risk their lives. Galloway tells their stories with truth, beauty and honesty. One of the best books I’ve read, ever.

The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller

Fantastic read. Miller is quite the storyteller and wordsmith. She creates this characters that you can imagine knowing, that are so vibrant and complex and real. Her chosen topic fits the times and our nation’s landscape. It’s not what you expect either.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Pretty amazing piece of work. Writing about an unimaginable event.

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

This is a page turner about a family from Concord, Mass. who summer on the Cape like so many other well-to-do Massachusetts people. The author weaves together secrets involving Turners syndrome, apoptosis, homosexuality, MIT, the scientific community and families in general. It is so well done.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Who would think that a fictionalized book about Laura Bush would be this good and this hard to put down? I really sunk into this book and didn’t want it to end. Sittenfeld did her research and fleshed out her character and made it an enjoyable, wonderful book. I then saw the film W a few weeks later and it made it all that much better for me.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Now I know why everyone has been reading this book—from girlfriends to my step-grandmother– and raving about it. Engrossing and imaginative. I read it in one night.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

In this lyrical collection of stories, Lahiri weaves together families and couples and single people and Indian traditions along.

Dewey by Vicky Myron

Delightful and memorable story about a cat and a little library in Middle-America. The cat touches many people in the libary and the community but the book will also enlighten you about Iowa and its people as well as libraries in general.

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Steele’s Picks for Best Music of 2008

Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs
poetic, romantic. my favorite band right now

Juliana Hatfield, How to Walk Away
sweet and moody tunes.

Keane, Perfect Symmetry
smooth and deliciously melodic

Goldfrapp, Seventh Tree
trance. ethereal. The stuff I love and cannot listen to enough.

Alanis Morrissette, Flavors of Entanglement
less angry, still edgy

Dido, Safe Trip Home
great comfort in Dido’s voice and her songwriting for me. as if she gets me or she’s been through similar things.

Conor Oberst, Conor Oberst
brilliant singer/songwriter with something about his voice. I like to listen before I go to bed. it’s so sexy and soothing.

Sia, Some People Have Real Problems
impressive range. intuitive, creative, eclectic arrangements.

Stereolab, Chemical Chords
the mix of the electronica and french vocals always sounds cool for them.

Amy MacDonald, This is the Life
catchy and moving. great voice.

She and Him, Vol. One
Swirly bittersweet.

R.E.M., Accelerate
a cross between Green and Life’s Rich Pageant.

Coldplay, Viva La Vida
the band doesn’t disappoint with exquisite ballads and sweeping guitar crescendos

Paramore, Riot!
catchy, crisp

Alicia Keys, As I Am
so talented. a strong girl with glorious vocals

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Real Emotional Trash
pure poetry. Stephen Malkmus has a beautiful, world-weary yet hopeful voice.

Snow Patrol, A Hundred Million Suns
still one of my top fave bands. a bit haunting, a bit dreamy, somewhat hypnotic at times.

The Submarines, Honeysuckle Weeks
harmonizing peace and love

The Weepies, Hideaway
mellow and a bit casual, “down home” feel

The Raveonettes, Lust Lust Lust
upbeat and gloriously propelling

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