Friday, July 31, 2009

Odd Mom Out by Jane Porter

I won the Mother’s Day Giveaway on Jo-Jo Loves to Read blog and received my box of books a couple of weeks ago from Hachette Book Group. It was very exciting! I took the box with me to one of my book clubs and we picked out Odd Mom Out by Jane Porter for our August book club.

Odd Mom Out was a very entertaining read that didn’t take me long to finish. Marta Zinsser is a single mother that has moved from New York City to a wealthy suburb of Seattle for her job and to be closer to her parents. Her young daughter Eva had many friends in New York, but finds it hard to be a part of the crowd in Bellevue. All Eva wants is to fit in, and she would like her “odd” Mom to also fit in. Marta is the owner of her own advertising agency, loves to wear combat boots and drive a Harley, is a free spirit and could care less about fitting in or what other people will say. Life changes when she tries to help her daughter and falls for a “Viking giant” named Luke.

I really enjoyed this book and I think it will be a good book to discuss at my Lakeshore Moms’ Book Club meeting. The many themes of the book include fitting in vs. being yourself, working moms vs. stay at home moms, and working moms vs. working dads. It’s all very interesting and will make good discussion points for myself and my fellow moms.

One of my favorite quotes (pg 288 of the Trade Paperback):

“For the stay-at-home moms, where is the respect? How many men really respect their wives? How many men understand the sacrifices their wives are making to keep the house clean, raise the kids well and make sure dinners always on the table, warm and waiting?”

I wish their would have been more to the ending to finish up the Taylor and Jemma Young storyline, but overall it was good. This is my first Jane Porter book and will not be my last!

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorite authors. She writes funny, complex characters that one can relate to. Whenever I read one of her novels, I am entertained, and sure that I would like to have a drink with her main characters while discussing men, career, or mommy issues.

Best Friends Forever is Weiner’s new #1 bestselling novel. I couldn’t put this book down when I read it last weekend, much to my husband’s annoyance! I love all of Weiner’s novels, but I would rate this as her best novel since Good in Bed with In Her Shoes a close third.

Best Friends Forever is the story of two friends, Addie Downs and Valerie Adler. They meet each other at age 9 when Valerie moves across the street from Addie. They have a close friendship until a traumatic experience ends their friendship in high school. Now after their 15-year reunion, Addie opens her door to find Valerie covered in blood on her doorstep asking for her help.

I loved the way the novel unfolds. The story is set up with Valerie showing up at Addie’s doorstep and then told through flashbacks to see how the two became friends and what exactly ended their friendship. Meanwhile the mystery of the blood soaked Valerie in current days also plays out.

Overall the characters were the best part of the novel. Weiner is a great character writer. Her women are always women I can identify with, know, or at least want to have a drink with. Addie has a weight problem and significant loss in her life. Valerie had a rough childhood with a mother that sometimes forgets to be a mother.

The only negative I had with the book was Jordan (the investigator) and his obsession with the “Nighty-night” lady. I loved Jordan as a character, but really got tired of reading about the Nighty-night lady and his masturbation to her. I just really don’t like reading about masturbation. Maybe it is the secret puritan hiding within me, I’m not sure.

Weiner must have much more exciting reunions then I do. I’ve only had one (my 10-year reunion of the class of 1996), but I don’t think that much excitement was going on. I have been known to miss such things though! After reading Best Friends Forever and In Her Shoes, I kind of wish I could go to one of Weiner’s high school reunions.

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend this or any Weiner novel for those that have not read them. Jennifer Weiner has a fantastic blog that I have been reading for years. She is a funny insightful person. As a fellow mother of two, I love reading how she copes with kids and life. I also love how she goes to bat for female writers. My husband gets sick of me discussing how female writers are ignored . . . (why were only male writers the must reads in my high school and college literature classes?). I plan a future blog posting on classics and female writers soon.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Emma (1996-Paltrow)

I watched Emma from 1996 starring Gwyneth Paltrow this weekend as part of the Everything Austen Challenge (my item #5). I have seen this movie many times before, but it has been about three years since my last viewing. For a summary of Emma, please see my summary of the book that I recently reviewed.

Watching Emma brought me back to the first time I saw the movie in 1996. It was playing at the theatre at the mall in Houghton during my freshman year at Michigan Technological University. Being a fan of all things Austen, I got together a few of my like minded girl friends and we went to see the movie. It was a fun and happy time!

As of today, this is my favorite version of Emma. The movie does a good job of bringing the novel to screen. There are slight deviations, but nothing significant. I also think the casting is almost perfect. I LOVE Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma, Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley, and Ewan McGregor as Frank Churchill amongst others. Alan Cumming and Juliet Stevenson are hilarious as Mr. and Mrs. Elton. The only bits of casting I didn’t like were Toni Collette (who I love in Muriel’s Weddings and other films) as Harriet and Polly Walker as Jane Fairfax. Toni Collette does not meet the description of Harriet in the book at all and seems off the entire movie. Polly Walker also appears too old and worldly to be Jane Fairfax.

I love the music in this movie by Rachel Portman. I actually have the soundtrack and listen to it while I’m working! I also love that Ewan McGregor shows us his fantastic singing voice by singing with both Emma and Jane Fairfax. Although he plays Frank Churchill (not my favorite character), this movie was a great introduction to me of Ewan McGregor and actually made me like Frank more than I do by reading the book.

As with other Jane Austen movies, I loved watching the dancing at the ball. I wish I could dance like this! My only taste of it was during my British Novel class in college. When we read Pride and Prejudice one of my fellow students project was to teach us all how to dance as they do in the 1995 miniseries. As it was Michigan Tech, there were more gentlemen in my class than ladies so I did not have to worry about a lack of partners! It was a good time. It was my second or third time reading the novel, but fun to have people to discuss it with and a teacher that was British and read it with a fine accent!

Back to Emma . . . I love this movie and heartily recommend it. Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect as Emma. She has class, style, and the haughty, yet nice demeanor that Emma would have. Jeremy Northam is good looking, classy, and perfect as Mr. Knightley. I love the flirtation between Mr. Knightley and Emma. It is apparent, but not overly so, and can really make you see why they should be together. My only sadness is that since it is a movie, it has to shorten the great long ending of the book.

I also think it is funny that my old VHS version says on the back, “If you liked Clueless, you’ll love Emma!” Way to use the remake of Emma to try to win viewers for the movie of the actual source!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (audio)

Wow! I just got to the end of Dragonfly in Amber and it ends with a bang. I am glad I have Voyager on CD so I can listen right away!

Dragonfly in Amber is the second in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I am listening to the abridged versions of the audio book as a refresher before the 7th book in the series, An Echo in the Bone, is released in September. The abridged audio books are read by Geraldine James, who does a pretty good job. There is a lot missing (5 CDs versus 30 or so for the non-abridged), which creates odd gaps at times and missing detail, but it is a good refresher.

Nothing beats the original novels. Whenever I read one of the books, I never want it to end because it is so good. The books are very well written engaging stories. I would love to read all six of them again before the new book came out, but with my book club and challenge commitments, I do not have enough time! Maybe an Outlander challenge will be in order one of these days. . .and I also want to get one of my book clubs to read the first one!

Dragonfly in Amber continues of the story of Jamie and Claire Fraser. If you do not want to know the story . . .stop reading now! The story begins with Claire and her daughter, Brianna, on a trip to Scotland in 1968. They visit Roger Mackenzie, a historian and adopted son of Reverend Wakefield, in hopes of getting information about the battle of Culloden and the aftermath for Jamie and his clan. Upon finding Jamie’s grave, a startled Claire reveals the truth of Brianna’s paternity to her and Roger and the story of her travels through time.

The novel reverts back to Jamie and Claire in the 1740’s and their residency in France. They work together to try to stop Bonnie Prince Charlie and prevent Culloden. Through many adventures that result in tragedy, separation, and finally reconciliation – the story is riveting. The couple makes their way back to Scotland and through a mistake of fate; Jamie is signed up as a supporter and the Bonnie Prince and must lead his men to Culloden. Before the battle, he sends Claire (pregnant with Brianna) through the standing stones. He sends her with a passionate message of his love for her.

“I will find you,” he whispered in my ear, “I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory – two hundred years without you – then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes. For I have lied, and killed, and stolen; betrayed and broken trust. But there is one thing that shall lie in the balance. When I stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weight against the rest. Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.”

Sigh. James Fraser is one of the sexiest heroes in literature. The novel reverts back to 1968 and the revelation that Jamie may not have died. And then it ends! Scream! Good thing I could put Voyager in right away!

As I listened to this story again, I realized that I loved the romantic story of Mary Hawkins and Alex Randell within this story. They are a tragic love story of their own. I also loved the set up of the story with Claire in the future twenty years telling the story and the revelation at the end. I have often wondered however, if Gabaldon has ever regretted doing this. The past few books have moved rather slowly through time, while this book skips over twenty years. The book itself is fantastic, but it is a rather large jump in the timing of the series.

The book is not for the faint of heart with rather graphic violence. The audio book suffers from rather bad music. Otherwise, it is great.

Outlander if a fantastic series – I highly recommend it!

Stephanie Plum Reading Challenge

J.Kaye has come up with a great new reading challenge - The Stephanie Plum Reading Challenge. I love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books. They are hilarious and have been known to cause me to frequently burst into laughter. I have read the first eleven (and the Christmas one), but it has now been a year since I last read one. Mostly it was because I was afraid to get to the end and have no other new Stephanie Plum books left to read! I'm going to bite bullet and join this challenge. I especially love that I don't need to finish this challenge until December 31, 2010. Since I'm currently obsessed with Everything Austen, this will give me plenty of time to finish this challenge.

The books I have left to read to catch myself up in the series are as follows:

1. Twelve Sharp (2006)

2. Lean Mean Thirteen (2007)

3. Fearless Fourteen (2008)

4. Finger Lickin' Fifteen (2009)

5. Plum Lovin' (2007)

6. Plum Lucky (2008)

7. Plum Spooky (2009)

Thanks J. Kaye for the great challenge!

Mr. Knightley’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Mr. Knightley’s Diary has been on my “to read” list for quite awhile so I was very happy to finally read it as the fourth item for my Everything Austen Challenge.

Mr. Knightley’s Diary is a retelling of the story of Emma from Mr. Knightley’s point of view. The timeline was roughly the same as of Emma, from Mr. Weston and Miss Taylor’s wedding to the wedding of Mr. Knightley and Emma. As I have recently written a summary of Emma on this blog, I only have one addition. I love how Mr. Knightley agrees to live with his father-in-law in order to marry Emma. If that is not a sacrifice, I don't know what is! There are not too many of us in this day and age that would agree to live with your ailing in-laws in order to marry your spouse.

What did I like about this book? My favorite part was reading about Mr. Knightley’s denial of his love for Emma. I especially liked how he kept telling his friend how he was looking for a spouse, but no woman could measure up to Emma . . . yet he still didn’t see it as love for Emma at first. It was pretty funny. I also liked the added subplot (SPOILER ALERT) of the romance between Miss Bates and Mr. Longridge. It was a very nice addition to the story. (SPOILER END) It was also great that the story was extended to include a brief description of Emma’s wedding.

The only negatives I had were that the word “saucy” was used way too much. It was funny at first that Mr. Knightley was always talking about Emma’s “saucy” looks, but after awhile it got old. It also would have been nice to extend the story more to include more information before and after the events of Emma. I really like how Captain Wentworth’s Diary did this.

Overall it was an enjoyable read, especially for the fans of Emma. I will continue on my all things Emma trek by re-watching Emma (1996) hopefully this weekend. I will also continue on my Amanda Grange kick by reading Edmund Bertram’s Diary sometime in the next month!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Celebrate (or I won a signed copy of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict)!!

I've been having a bad day that involves two small (3 &1) screaming boys, one meeting that the other participant didn't bother to show up too, and a project due for work with a limited timeline. Therefore, I was more than pleased to check my email and discover that against all odds, my streak of luck has continued. I just won a signed copy of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera-Rigler from Laurel Ann at Jane Austen Today's author interview and giveaway. Thanks Laurel Ann and Laurie Viera-Rigler! You have both made my otherwise bad day a good one after all! I can't wait to read this book, I really enjoyed Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lucky Laura!!

My Mom and Stepdad have been visiting so I am behind on making a few exciting annoucements . . .

My lucky streak continues (which is hard to believe as I am usually VERY unlucky). I am the Red Lady's Reading Room contest winner of The Local News! Red Lady's review of this book looks great. I can't wait to read it!

And then the luck continued on . . .

I received this award from Miss Remmer's Reviews.

Very exciting! Thank-you very much Miss Remmer for thinking of me! I would have nominated you for this award if you hadn't have passed it on to me. I've been enjoying reading your blog all summer! Seven of my favorite things . . .
My husband
My two young sons
Taking a nice walk by Lake Michigan (or Lake Superior when I am up that way!)
Visiting with Family and Friends
Listening to music
My animals (two dogs and two cats)

Blogs that I think are Kreativ in their day-to-day postings and layouts include

Danielle from The Book Blogger

Thank-you for the fantastic blogs that I have enjoyed reading lately. You also have much nicer looking blogs than my own! There are many more blogs out there that I enjoy, but I only picked seven for this current award!

Also in news . . .thanks Suko for the shout-out to my blog. Suko is giving out a free copy of one of my new favorite novels, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies so check it out when you get a chance.

I think that is all in the way of news for me at this moment. Thanks again everyone, I feel very greatful and truly blessed!

Clueless (1995)

I am going to date myself here . . . I have a great fondness for Clueless as it came out in the theatres the summer before my senior year of high school. When I watch it now, it brings back pleasant memories of my youth in the ancient days of the 1990’s. It has been years since I have watched the movie in its entirety; therefore I was excited to watch this movie as the third item on my list for the Everything Austen Challenge. It is also my second item on my Emma bonanza spree.

Clueless is a smart, funny, and entertaining version of Emma set in the 1990’s Beverly Hills. Cher (or Emma) is the most popular girl in school. In order to try to negotiate for better grades, she sets two of her lonely teachers up and they start to date. Inspired by her skills as a matchmaker, Cher decides to make-over and help out new girl Tai by setting her up with her friend Elton. Things do not go as planned. Cher also has a “stepbrother for five minutes” named Josh that is helping her father out with a lawsuit. Josh is always dependable and helps to bring about the good in Cher. Cher may not always right, but her heart is in the right place.

I love Alicia Silverstone as Cher and especially love Paul Rudd as Josh. Whenever I see him in a movie the last few years I think “It’s Josh!” The acting and characters I think are fantastic. The teen slang and music date the movie to the 1990’s, but I think it’s great. I also love the clothes.

Overall, it’s a great movie and the best Jane Austen adaptation to current times that I have ever seen. I only wish more smart adaptations such as this would come to theatres soon!

Emma by Jane Austen (Audio)

I have never listened to a Jane Austen audio book before; therefore I thought it was the appropriate time to do it for the Everything Austen Challenge. Listening to this audio book is the second item on my challenge list.

After finishing listening to this novel, I wondered why I had never listened to Jane Austen before. Indeed, it seems that Emma was written to be an audio book. I know Jane and her family loved to read her books out loud, and hearing Emma made me think that this was how it was meant to be read. Most of the novel is conversations between people, and the dialogue sounds wonderful read aloud. The version I listened to was read by Prunella Scales who does an excellent job putting a unique voice to each character.

As for the story itself, it has been about ten years since I have read Emma. Emma is a unique female lead in a Jane Austen novel as she is “handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition.” She has no desire to marry and instead designates herself as a matchmaker to her friends. While she is successful with her governess Miss Taylor and neighbor Mr. Weston, she is less successful with her new friend Harriet Smith. Through many misunderstandings and mishaps, Emma learns to think less of herself and more of other people.

SPOILER ALERT She also learns to love her older dear friend and neighbor, Mr. Knightley. Mr. Knightley has one of the great romantic lines an Austen novel, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. – You hear nothing but truth from me. – I have blamed you, lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it. . . But you understand me. – Yes, you see, you understand my feelings – and will return them if you can.” Sigh. SPOILER END.

Jane Austen is a master at creating great characters. Two hundred years after this novel was written, I recognize many of the characters as family members or people I know in my own small town. I believe this is one of the many reasons that her stories have remained with us and are so timeless. Emma is a great novel with great characters. I greatly enjoyed “reading” it again and found myself excited to hear what was next. I wonder if anyone else has been accused of “blaring” Jane Austen before by their spouse.

I am on an Emma spree as you will see from future book and movie reviews. I also plan on continuing to listen to Jane Austen on audio now that I know what I have been missing!

Tribute by Nora Roberts

I’m a bit behind on reviews as I had family in town visiting for a long weekend. So please forgive me as I try to catch up!

Tribute was the July pick for the Lakeshore Moms’ Book Club. We had yet to read a Nora Roberts book for our club even though a few of us are fans. I have the movie on my DVR ready to watch, but I wanted to read the novel first!

Tribute is the story of Cilla McGowan. She is a former child star (I thought of the girls of Full House) and granddaughter of a famous actress, Janet Hardy, who died young in the 1970’s of a drug overdose (I thought of Marilyn Monroe). Cilla has bad stage fright and after falling off of the D list has discovered a fulfilling career as a home flipper. She buys houses, restores them, and sells them for a profit. After buying Janet’s farm in Virginia from her mother, Cilla goes to Virginia to restore her grandmother’s estate. There she find fulfilling work fixing up the house, getting to know her father and half-sister better, learning more about Janet, and also meeting the hot neighbor next door, Ford Sawyer.

Ford is a hot nerdy graphic artist that lives across the street. I liked Ford and thought he would be someone Ben and I would be friends with. While he was a bit of a stalker in the beginning (watching her with binoculars to better use her as a model for his new graphic novel), he was a very romantic character. He was supportive of Cilla and I also loved his nerdiness. I especially enjoyed when he talked about his love for Lost and Battlestar Galactica. I loved the pop culture references. The only thing that seemed off was Cilla’s making money off of fixing up houses – I don’t think much of that is going on now with the current real estate climate!

The novel was interesting with great secondary characters and seeing Cilla grow as a character from a loner to someone who belongs. The Janet Hardy mystery was also intriguing. I couldn’t put the book down at the end to see how it ended. I was a half surprised by the ending and half not as I had guessed some of it earlier in the book.

I’m not the super Nora Roberts fan that my friends Jenn and Carol are. They’ve read most if not all of her novels. I’ve read quite a few, but not nearly all of her works. Out of the novels I have read, I’d put this in the middle. It was enjoyable, but not one of her best.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Today in Pop Culture - Sea Monsters, Bridget Jones, and Twilight

I'll admit. I am a nerd. The first thing I did this morning was to log onto Facebook and check out Quirk Classics announcement about their new title, the follow-up to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I was vastly entertained to see the new title is Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and enjoyed the book trailer. I also enjoyed reading about it on I can't wait to read it when it comes about in September, although I am sad that the author of P&P&Z (Seth Grahme) will not be back for this novel. I'm also wondering why they didn't pick Persuasion for the sea monster theme. With all of the naval talk and Bath setting, it seems like it would have been perfect!

I also read on that there is talk of a THIRD Bridget Jones movie staring Renee Zellweger. Please no more! While I LOVED the first movie and both books, the second movie was not very good. It really lost the point of the second novel paralleling Persuasion in my opinion. I really hope this movie is not made. Focus on something new and exciting instead!

Two other points of interest were a sneak peak at the Twilight graphic novel. I can't wait to read this and I also can't wait to look at more illustrations that will be in this week's Entertainment Weekly. There is also a post on Entertainment Weekly trying to start a fight between Harry Potter fans and Twilight fans. I am a fan of both series. Why can't we love them both and not compare? One does not have to be better than the other! Stop the violence! My own personal Twilight news is that I have succeeded in getting two of my friends in my new book club obsessed with Twilight. The highlight of my day was one of my friends telling me how she stole her daughter's teen magazine to read about New Moon and look at the pictures. :-)

That's all for now - I hope everyone is having a great day!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Appaloosa (2008)

Appaloosa is a western directed by and starring Ed Harris. Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) are best friends in the old west. They are lawmen that are hired by towns to be the sheriff and deputy, especially during tough times. Virgil and Everett are hired by the leaders of Appaloosa after their previous sheriff and his men were murdered by Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons). They come into town to clean it up. Soon after their arrival they meet Allison (Allie) French (Renee Zellweger), a widow who is down on her luck. Allie and Cole fall in love and soon are ready to set up house together. Meanwhile, Bragg is captured and brought to trial. Things do not run smoothly after the trial . . .to say more would ruin the plot!

Ben and I both enjoyed this movie. It had a great cast and witty dialogue. There were several laugh out loud moments caused by the dialogue between Cole and Hitch. Cole and Hitch’s friendship was also a deep meaningful bond that was interesting to watch.

What we didn’t like . . .the ending! Ben wishes it would have ended during the final shoot-out between the Shelton brothers and the two best friends. I am in agreement. The last 15 or so minutes seemed rushed and actually muddled the movie. During those last fifteen minutes, I lost respect for Cole and gained a lot for Hitch. SPOILER ALERT There were scenes that didn’t really make sense. You saw Hitch watching Allie and kept waiting for Bragg to exit the room after her or something, but that was never shown. You had to infer that Allie was keeping to her cheating ways and sleeping with Bragg and that Hitch was trying to rectify the matter for his friend.

I really did not like the character of Allie. I thought she was a tramp. Why did Cole love her two – timing heart so? I know she took a bath every night and chewed her food well (so he says in the movie), but always having to wonder if your woman is going to stand by you seems like more trouble then it is worth. I wanted Allie to die or to feel repentance if Cole died. Maybe I am just mean . . .does anyone else have any opinions about the ending of this movie?

I enjoyed this movie, but I felt that 3:10 to Yuma was a better movie and western.

The Jungle Book (1967)

I had not watched Disney’s The Jungle Book since I was a child. Family friends passed their beloved Disney VHS tapes on to us and Kile had much fun looking through them and picking this movie out for our weekend family movie night.

The Jungle Book is the story of the “man cub” Mowgli. He is adopted and raised by a pack of wolves as a baby. When he gets older, it is decided that he should be taken to the man village. The movie is the story of his journey. He meets a variety of interesting animal characters that sing a host of unforgettable tunes. Especially memorable was Mowgli’s friendship with Baloo the Bear and his song, “The Bare Necessities.” We kept singing this song on and off all weekend!

Also interesting was a making of the movie extra that was included on the tape. I didn’t know this was Walt Disney’s last movie (he died during the production of it). It was also interesting learning how the characters were developed. One thing helped me to understand what I have always wondered, why is this movie and the 1990’s live action version completely different than the book. Walt Disney himself told the animators to not read the book and to just use the basic story of a boy raised by wolves returning to a human village. I loved the book when I was in high school; it was a very unique story. I can see how it would be difficult to bring to the screen.

Kile really enjoyed this movie, and Ben and I both enjoyed watching it again all of these years later. It is definitely a Disney classic.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the story of the five Bennett sisters who were trained in martial arts in China to fight off the zombie plague that has threatened to overtake Britain over the last fifty plus years. The British carry on though and as the Bennett estate is entailed away to a distance relative, Mrs. Bennett works on trying to find husbands for her five girls. When Mr. Bingley purchases the neighboring estate of Netherfield Park (after zombie incident carried away the previous owners), the girls are excited to meet the new tenants. Mr. Darcy, a zombie hunter friend of Mr. Bingley, is visiting the estate and he and the Bennett’s second daughter, Elizabeth take an instant dislike to each other. Will the Bennett sisters find happiness? Will zombies carry England away? One will find out by the end of the novel!

If I had to describe this novel in one word, it would be hilarious. Therefore my review will be chock full of that term. Grahame-Smith has put together an inspired mash of classic literature with zombies. He kept most of the original text of the novel, only replaced words or added phrases to add in Zombie mayhem. This works out quite excellent and actually makes the book really funny. One can readily imagine the British “carrying on” with balls and whatnot after an invasion of the “strange plague.” It makes it especially hilarious to have Mrs. Bennett and Lydia to be so man obsessed under such circumstances.

This novel is a very witty work. I can imagine Miss Austen’s sharp wit approving of it. I also loved the great illustrations. I am a very great fan of Pride and Prejudice and have read the original novel numerous times and have watched the 1995 mini-series and 2005 movie more times than I can count. I thought this was a great parody of the novel and hilarious. A lot of the jokes though were funny because I am such a fan. What do those that are not fans of Austen’s work think of this novel? Please comment away – I am curious!


My favorite additions/changes were as follows:

1. Mr. Collins. I actually felt more sympathy in this novel for him then I ever have before. It was hilarious when he didn’t realize that Charlotte was becoming a zombie (and a great way to explain why she married him!) . . .yet I teared up when he committed suicide after having to kill Zombie Charlotte. He really loved her!
2. I loved when Mr. Wickham is crippled and being carried around on a stretcher, but Mrs. Bennett and Lydia are just excited that she has a husband. Hilarious! I laughed out loud numerous times during this section.
3. I loved Elizabeth kicking Darcy during his ill-fated proposal. Take that Darcy!
4. I also loved Lady Catherine and Elizabeth’s battle to the death. In the original, they had a battle of words, in this version; they also had a physical battle.
5. I also loved when Elizabeth fantasizes about chopping Lydia’s head off when she prattles on forever on the carriage ride home. I laughed out loud at this too.


One thing I didn’t like about this book was this quote on the back, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something that you'd actually want to read." Excuse me, but I love the original version and know that it has a rabid following. I say change that quote on the next reprint!

I’ve heard this may become a movie. I hope so – I’d be in line at the theatre to see it!

TK from Quirk Classics has commented on this blog and said that on midnight, July 15th, Quirk Classics will unveil their latest classics / monster mash-up. I’ve become a friend on Facebook, and I really hope that the newest one is a couple of ideas I saw on the comments there. Wuthering Heights Bites would be great. It would be so easy and fitting to make Heathcliff a vampire. I mean, he’s not a nice guy and he does dig up Cathy’s grave . . .twice!! Jane Eyre Werewolf Hunter also sounded inspired to me. What would you like to see in this genre?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (audio)

I am very excited that there will be a new Diana Gabaldon book in the Outlander series in just two months. I decided that I needed to have a quick refresher on the series. Therefore I chose to listen to the abridged versions of the books as read by Geraldine James.

Outlander is one of my all time favorite novels, and it is very hard to define. It is a time travel, romance, adventure, and historical fiction story. Gabaldon writes in fantastic detail with great characters and story. My only sadness is that one her books ever have to end.

Outlander is the story of Claire Randell. She is a 1940’s British nurse that is in Scotland on her second honeymoon with her husband Frank. They are together again after a long separation during WWII. When Claire is wandering the countryside, she touches a standing stone that sends her back to 1740’s Scotland. There she meets up with various characters and is taken back to the stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie. She helps out a wounded young Scot named James Frasier. Jamie is a tall, redheaded, handsome man. I will say that I find him one of the “sexiest” men in literature. Much adventure ensues. Claire is forced to marry Jamie to save herself and finds herself torn between her love for her "future husband" Frank and current husband Jamie.

The CDs leave a lot out as they are only six CDs versus the 30 or so for the entire unabridged version. There were odd gaps at times, but it was still a great story. The music was rather cheesy. Ms. Brooks does a great job with the readings and the accents. This set of abriged CDs is in no way better than the original book, but it is good for a refresher on events.

I had never listened to an audio book yet that had descriptive “love scenes.” I was working and listening to the book at the kitchen table one night. My husband walked in and heard “’OHHH,’ she moaned” and was like “WHAT are you listening too?” I tried to explain it was one of my favorite novels of all time, but he remains skeptical!!

If you have never read Outlander, I highly recommend it.

Ratatouille (2007)

Ratatouille is a 2007 Pixar film that was also the Best Animated Feature Oscar winner. My 3-year son Kile chose this film from the library this past weekend to watch. He was intrigued by the “rat that cooks” as Kile likes to cook.

The film follows Remy, a rat who has an enhanced sense of smell that dreams of becoming a chef, much to the dismay of his father Django. When Remy is accidentally separated from his hive, he stumbles upon the restaurant of the deceased Gusteau. Gusteau is Remy’s idol and his sort of Jiminy Cricket guide. Remy befriends the young kitchen garbage boy, Linguini, and helps him to become a great chef. This infuriates Skinner, the current owner. Linguini also starts a friendship and flirtation with Colette, the only female chef.

I was surprised by the movie. I was not sure what to think about it at first (rats in a kitchen?), but I really liked it by the end. My husband Ben gave it his rare stamp of approval. At the end, Kile said, “Let’s watch it again!” He rarely says this except for his favorite movies, such as Cars. It was a cute movie and had some good humor scenes.

Everything Austen Challenge X Two

Austenprose has decided to take Stephanie's Everything Austen Challenge a step further by introducing the Everything Austen Challenge X Two. Now instead of reviewing six Austen inspired items by January, Laurel Ann has challenged everyone to review twice the amount (or twelve items for my mathematically challenged friends!). As I realized I had already left things off of my original list and am obsessed with all things Austen, I am ready for this new challenge.

My original list:

1. Read Pride, Prejudice & Zombies by Sean-Grahm Smith
2. Read Mr. Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange
3. Read The Matters at Mansfield by Carrie Bebris
4. Read Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
5. Watch Sense and Sensibility (1995)
6. Listen to Emma audiobook

My new list:

7. Listen to Mansfield Park audiobook
8. Watch Clueless
9. Read Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange
10. Read Edmund Bertram's Diary by Amanda Grange
11. Read Jane and the Wandering Eye by Stephanie Barron
12. Watch Emma (1996)

I can't wait!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre Competition!

Amanda Grange is hosting a competition for a giveaway of a signed copy of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. I am VERY excited about this. I am currently reading and enjoying Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and I can't wait to see what Mr. Darcy will be like as a vampire. This book sounds like the combination of two of my favorite things - anything Austen and vampires!

Amanda Grange has written previous Austen inspired novels that I have enjoyed in the past including Captain Wentworth's Diary and Mr. Darcy's Diary. I have Mr. Knightley's Diary waiting on my nightstand for when I catch up on my book club books! I am very excited about Ms. Grange's latest work. She has proven herself to be an engaging author on Austen subjects in the past, and I can't wait for this new supernatural twist!

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

Masterpiece Theatre recently ran a movie version of The Old Curiosity Shop. I have it on my DVR and have not watched it yet as I really wanted to read the novel first.

Charles Dickens was one the most popular (if not the most popular) novelist during the Victorian period. He published this novel in his weekly serial publication “Master Humphrey’s Clock” from 1840 to 1841. I have always heard the story that Dickens’ American fans storms the piers of New York City shouting to sailors arriving from England, “Is Little Nell alive” to find out the end of this story. It’s amazing to think about so much excitement for a book. (Actually I guess it sounds like the parties awaiting the arrival of the new Harry Potter novels.) I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about.

The Old Curiosity Shop is the story of a beautiful, sweet, and innocent girl named Nell and her grandfather. They live in the titled Old Curiosity Shop, but not for long. Grandfather has a gambling addiction. He wants to make money to ensure that Nell will not have a life of hardship, but instead he gambles away all of his money as well as extensive amounts of money that he has borrowed from the shady “dwarf,” Daniel Quilp. After losing it all, Little Nell and her Grandfather wander through England. The book is the story of their journey as well as of cast of other characters left in London such as Kip, their servant; Sampson and Sally Brass (Quilp’s lawyer and his sister); Richard Swiveller (Little Nell’s brother’s friend), and others.

I loved Dickens’ detailed characters. They were all so interesting – especially to see that the way people have not really changed over time. Gambling addiction is not a new problem. I do have a problem with his female characters, they seem rather one dimensional. Sally Brass is a smart woman that works at law with her brother; therefore she is a subject of ridicule. Little Nell is a bit “too perfect.” I didn’t love her as much as I think Dickens’ meant the reader too.

The treatment of servants in the book was also interesting. The “Marchioness” doesn’t have a name and lives locked in the Brass’ basement. She is hardly given any food and somehow exists like this. I found this more than a little disturbing!!!’’

I read a book-of-the-month club edition. It has the original illustrations, which I really enjoyed looking at while I read. I also loved the description on the right-hand page on top of the current action, such as “Bank-note gone.” One wonders if you can get a quick summary of the book by only reading the headers!

SPOILER ALERT. I did not like the entire ending chapter of Little Nell’s death. It was (dare I say it?) rather sappy actually. It would have been more striking to not go on and on and on about it and her angel spirit floating away and such. Also her death didn’t really seem to serve the story that well. She hadn’t been mentioned for 100 pages or so, while we were with Kit and the others in London.

Overall, I liked the book, its world, characters, and descriptions a lot. But I don’t think I would have been waiting at the pier to find out what happened to Little Nell. This was a good Dickens novel, but I didn't feel it was as good as my favorites (David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities).

I read this book for the Victorian Challenge. Sadly, I forgot how long it takes me to read a Dickens novel and I only read five out of six books I had aimed for by the end of the challenge. I hope the challenge part two happens as I really enjoyed it!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Isaac Asimov

My husband has a great love for Isaac Asimov. Isaac Asimov was one of the greatest sci-fi authors of all time. He was a very smart and interesting man that wrote over 500 books in his lifetime that have been published in 9 out of the 10 categories of the Dewey Decimal System (according to the great knowledge of Wikipedia). He had a PhD in biochemistry and was on the faculty of the Boston University School of Medicine. Asimov died of AIDS in 1992 – a fact that wasn’t revealed until much later to protect his family. He contracted the virus during a blood transfusion during his open heart surgery in the 1980’s.

I recently asked on this blog what readers thought was the best of Isaac Asimov’s work. Only six people voted on this poll. The winner was I, Robot a collection of Asimov’s robot stories. I have read and enjoyed this work myself.

Number two on the poll was “Nightfall.” “Nightfall” was voted the best short science fiction story of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America. It was later turned into a book written with another. I have not yet read “Nightfall” – I need to add it to my “to read” list.

Coming in third was Foundation. I have heard many good things about Foundation. I have been meaning to read it for years, but I began a reading quest with my husband to read the robot novels and beyond in the correct order before Foundation. I failed at this quest after reading I, Robot, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and The Robots of Dawn. I didn’t care for The Robots of Dawn and didn’t really want to read any more robot books, so I put the quest aside. I really should just skip ahead and read Foundation!

Have my readers read any of Asimov’s work? I’m curious – please comment away! Also we’ll see if we can get my husband Ben to be a guest blogger on the subject. He has many strong opinions when it comes to Asimov!

And the Streak of Luck Continues!

I just won a $10 gift certificate from a contest on Linda Kage's blog to celebrate a release date being set for her first novel, The Stillburrow Crush. Thanks a lot Linda - I look forward to reading your book when it is published!

Hotel for Dogs

As I have discussed previously, my son Kile has a great love for any movie that has anything to do with dogs. Our latest viewing in dog related cinema was Hotel for Dogs. It is a cute kid movie that came out earlier this year. The movie is based on a Lois Duncan novel also called Hotel for Dogs. I have not read the novel, but did love Lois Duncan as a teenager.

The movie is about two orphaned siblings, Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce. They live in “central city” with foster parents Lois (Lisa Kudrow) and Carl (Kevin Dillon) Scutter. Their foster parents are want-to-be rockers who only seem to be foster parents to get on the good side of the kids’ social worker Bernie (Don Cheadle). The Scutters are the latest in a long string of foster parents the kids have had. Bernie tries to help them out, but as they are older children, it is hard to find them a home.

Andi and Bruce have a secret; they have a dog named Friday that they have been hiding for years. Luckily Bruce is a budding inventor who is able to create all sorts of devices that help to hide Friday. They discover an old hotel that they use to help hid Friday and also to save other dogs that are on the streets. They are joined by friends Dave and Heather that are able to get them supplies from the pet store they work at and by Mark, who lives nearby. Will the kids be able to keep up the hotel or will they be discovered?

As a kid, I would have loved this movie with its secret hotel and cool inventions. It is probably a good movie for kids a bit older than Kile at three. Even though he didn’t always understand what was going on, Kile was riveted by the movie and really enjoyed it. SPOILER ALERT: Kile did pick up on some things though – he called Bernie their “Daddy” at the beginning of the movie and wanted to know why he was leaving them. We told him that Bernie was just their friend, but by the end he had adopted the kids and was their dad. I guess Kile understands more than we think! I thought it was a cute kid’s movie, but I think my husband Ben was bored. I loved Emma Roberts in this movie; it will be interesting to see what she does as she gets older. The other actors were also fantastic, especially Don Cheadle.