Monday, November 30, 2009

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Holidays on Ice is a collection of Holiday themed humorous short stories by David Sedaris. I’ve heard Sedaris previously on NPR.

The first story, “SantaLand Diaries,” is hilarious. It is Sedaris’ experience of being an elf at Macy’s in New York City. I laughed out loud several times as I read this story and read the highlights to my husband as we traveled home from Thanksgiving in Michigan. It is amazing the way that people treat their children and the way that they treat the people who work as Santa and the elves.

Unfortunately, after this first story, the book went downhill. The other Sedaris stories of holiday experiences during his life were pretty good, although none lived up to “SantaLand Diaries.” The stories where Sedaris veered off into fiction were quite terrible in my opinion. I understand that Sedaris was trying to be sarcastic about different human tendacies (such as greed at Christmas), but the death of children is never funny. And it kept popping up throughout the fictional stories. I found myself quite disgusted.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first story, but I could have skipped the middle section of the book and been quite happy.

This is the second book for the Christmas Reading Challenge and also the second book club selection for my FLICKS Book and Movie Club.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber

What is a “perfect Christmas?” Cassie Beaumont thinks that her perfect Christmas would be to meet her very own “Mr. Right,” get married, have adorable children and a future of perfect Christmases together. Cassie has tried everything to meet her perfect match, but it all has failed. She finally decides to take drastic measures and use a professional matchmaker to find him.

Simon Dodson is a very opinionated and very expensive matchmaker. Simon and Cassie clash as they get to know one another. Simon makes Cassie fulfill three tasks in order to prove that she is the correct chose for the perfect match he has selected for her. Hilarity ensues and there is a heartwarming ending.

While this book was a cheerful holiday story, it held no mystery. It was very obvious from the beginning of the book what was going to happen. It is a quick, happy story, but overall it was not fulfilling.

The Perfect Christmas is the first book for the Christmas Reading Challenge list and is also a book club selection for my FLICKS Book and Movie Club.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giveaway and Review: Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan (Audiobook)

Say You’re One of Them is a book that lingers with you for some time well after the last page (or last CD) has been turned. Akpan writes very compelling stories about the lives and daily struggles of a variety of different types of families in Africa. The audiobook I listened to had unabridged story selections from the novel. I’m going to split up my review by story.

My Parent’s Bedroom (Read by Robin Miles)
My Parent’s Bedroom is narrated by a young girl in Rwanda. She relates her family’s history while trying to understand the rapidly changing world around them. I can’t say too much more without ruining the plot of this story. I can say that it has me sobbing like a baby by the end. It is an excellently written story of atrocities that have happened during the Rwandan genocide. It was very difficult to listen to, but I have been thinking about it ever since.

An Ex-mas Feast (Read by Dion Graham)
A street family in Nigeria plans an Ex-mas feast during this story. A young boy narrates and describes his love for his sister, who earns their feast as a young teenage prostitute. It is hard to imagine that people have to live in such conditions, but the people depicted in this story had the same hopes and dreams common to most people.

What Language is That? (Read by Robin Miles)
Two young girls in Ethiopia are best friends although one is Christian and the other is Muslim. Although their friendship is unlikely, they manage to make it work through hardship.

Overall the stories were striking tales of life, hardship, and struggles of humanity set in three distinct African nations. While they are at times difficult to listen to, they really made me think about what it means to be human, and to realize that the daily struggle of life is much different in a third world country.

I thought both Miles and Graham did a great job reading the stories. I also really liked the interview with Uwem Akpan at the end of the audiobook. This book was Oprah’s fall book selection, and I always like to check out her selections. I would love to learn more about Akpan, who is a Jesuit Priest. I hope I can find his interview on Oprah!

Audiobook Source: Review Copy from Hachette Book Group. Thanks Anna!

Giveaway Details:
Now for the details you are really looking for . . .Anna of the Hachette Book Group has been kind enough to offer three audiobook copies of Say You're One of Them for this giveaway. If you would like to enter this contest do any of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post. You must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway or post about it on your sidebar. (1 entry)

3. Become a follower or leave a comment that you already are a follower of this blog. (1 entry)

There are three ways to enter, but you can put all three entries as one comment.

I will be using to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!). No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday December 11th. Good luck!

The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview

The Other Mr. Darcy is a perfect follow-up to Pride and Prejudice. Monica Fairview has written a tale that perfectly captures Austen’s original characters, while managing to fill out and change our perceptions of the “villainous” Caroline Bingley.

The Other Mr. Darcy starts on the day of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s wedding. Caroline Bingley collapses in tears in what she thinks is an empty library, heartbroken over the lose of her love, Mr. Darcy. She is soon mortified to discover that she is not alone, but that Mr. Robert Darcy, Mr. Darcy’s American cousin, has witnessed her breakdown. This scene was very reminiscent to me of Gone with the Wind, when Rhett Butler secretly witnesses Scarlett’s declaration of love for Ashley Wilkes. I loved it!

Months later, Mr. Robert Darcy comes to the Bingleys’ residence at Netherfield to ask Jane to visit her ailing sister, Elizabeth Darcy. Jane and Charles quickly depart, while Caroline, Mrs. Hurst, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Mr. Robert Darcy follow and are held up by a series of events. Much more intrigue ensues and I won’t ruin the plot by revealing more!

I loved Caroline and Robert Darcy’s verbal sparring, it was fantastic and very reminiscent of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s war of words in Pride and Prejudice. Although in this case, Caroline is full of pride as Mr. Darcy and Robert assumes Elizabeth’s role. I also loved seeing the Bennet family again and Ms. Fairview captured each of their personalities perfectly. Caroline was also soundly rounded out and had great growth throughout the course of the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and I think it is one of the best follow-ups to Pride and Prejudice that I have ever read. This is my fourteenth item for the Everything Austen Challenge.

Source: I won this book on a very fun month-long contest on Monica Fairview’s blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Moon (2009)

It was a girls’ night out in Kewaunee on Saturday night. I went with a couple of friends to see New Moon in Green Bay. Armed with our pre-purchased tickets, we only had to wait in line for 15 minutes or so before we were let into the theatre. It was a full house consisting of almost all women, but we luckily were able to get good seats. How awesome is it that New Moon was such a success largely due to women? Hopefully Hollywood starts to realize that if they make movies women would like to see, they will go to see them.

New Moon is the second movie and book in the Twilight saga. The story begins with Bella’s 18th birthday. The Cullens throw her a surprise party. Bella accidentally cuts her finger, causing Jasper to almost kill her. Afterwards, Edward decides to leave forever in hopes that Bella can live a normal and safe life. Bella sinks into depression and is only able to finally see her way out of it when she starts spending more time with her best friend Jacob. Jacob has secrets of his own. A series of dramatic events leaves Bella racing to save Edward’s life.

The highlight of the movie going experience for me was when the entire theatre gasped with Jacob ripped his shirt off. I have never experienced anything like that in my life, I laughed out loud for awhile. In Facebook conversations with my friends in different movie theatres, it seems that is was a nationwide phenomenon. Did this happen in your theatre? Sound off below!

I thought the movie did a good job of bringing the novel to the big screen. I especially liked how the movie managed to show the passage of time during Bella’s depression, but did not dwell on it as much as the book did. I also thought Taylor Lautner was hot as Jacob. He played the perfect part of being Bella’s best friend torn by his love for her and his new life. I also love Charlie, Bella’s dad. He always has some great lines, such as when he was telling Bella to move on and then realized he never really followed his own advice.

There was one scene with much cheese in it – Alice’s vision of Edward and Bella as happy vampires in the future. I laughed when it showed them frolicking in slow motion through the woods. The special effects were MUCH better in this movie. I especially liked how Edward now sparkles more as I imagined it would be by the book description. In the first movie, the sparkle was hardly there and I was confused on why Edward couldn’t go out in the sunlight if I was viewing the movie alone without the book. I liked the score and edgy direction of the first film better than this movie, but it was still a good movie.

There were two scenes I had issues with, but it has been a year and a half or so since I read the book so I need readers to comment on what they think. Did Bella ride on the back of some stranger’s motorcycle? I don’t remember this happening. Also, I don’t remember Edward proposing until Eclipse. Did they just put that in as the final moment of the movie to make it a cliffhanger until next summer?

Overall, it was a very enjoyable movie and movie going experience. It’s always fun to go to the theatre on opening weekend and see the crowd full of excitement. I can’t wait until Eclipse comes out next summer as that was my favorite novel of the saga.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Giveaway and Review - The Rose of York: Love and War (Book One) by Sandra Worth

History is always written by the victor. What if Richard III was not the hunch-backed, evil killer as depicted by his enemies the Tudors and the man who could not displease them, Shakespeare? What if he was just a man caught in a power struggle, that most of all wanted to marry his true love Anne and find justice for the common man? If you want to see Richard III from another point of view, I invite you discover the wonderful novel The Rose of York: Love and War.

The Rose of York: Love and War is the first novel of a trilogy written by Sandra Worth. Love and War follows Richard as a young boy escaping England with his brother George and Cousin Warwick (the Kingmaker) through his growth to a wise young man in his 20’s. Richard is a man caught in the terrible turmoil of the War of the Roses, which was literary of war of brother against brother and cousin against cousin.

As a young boy, Richard learns to become a knight while staying at his cousin Warwick’s. There he meets two important people in this life. The first is his beautiful cousin Anne, who will become the love of his life. The second is his cousin John Neville (Warwick’s brother), who is his mentor and like a surrogate father and brother.

I loved the vivid description throughout this book. From the storm at sea at the beginning, to the nail-biting Battle of Barnet, I was riveted and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. I loved the historical detail. I am fascinated by this period of history and the book really brought the history alive. I am always a fan of a good love story and Richard and Anne’s love has elements of Cinderella and Romeo & Juliet. I loved it!

I think my secret favorite part of the novel though was John Neville’s story. I first learned of Sandra Worth through J. Kaye’s book blog. I read Lady of the Roses and The King’s Daughter and loved them both. Lady of the Roses was the love story of John and Isobel Neville through Isobel’s point of view. In Love and War, it was great to read the story from John’s point of view. John was a great romantic character and hero. The King’s Daughter is the story of Elizabeth of York, the Queen of Henry VII (and Richard III's niece). The Rose of York trilogy contains two other novels, The Crown of Destiny and Fall from Grace. I can’t wait to read them and find out the rest of Richard’s story.

The novel contains a great foreword at the beginning of the novel by Roxane C. Murph that gives you the details of the Wars of the Roses. There is also a great family tree that I referred to a lot during the story. Ms. Worth also has an author’s note at the end with more details. I liked all of this additional information and thought it was very helpful.

Overall, if you are a fan of historical fiction, or of a good story full of adventure, love, and heartbreak, you will love this novel! The latest reprint of this novel with the beautiful cover shown above, will be up for sale on in January.

Book Source: Author Sandra Worth sent me a review copy. Thank-you very much. I loved it!

Giveaway Details:

Now for the details you are really looking for . . . Sandra Worth has been kind enough to send me two autographed copies of The Rose of York: Love and War as a giveaway. If you would like to enter this contest do any of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post. You must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway or post about it on your sidebar. (1 entry)

3. Become a follower or leave a comment that you already are a follower of this blog. (1 entry)

There are three ways to enter, but you can put all three entries as one comment.

I will be using to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday December 18th (just in time for Christmas). Good luck!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White (Audio)

The Sword in the Stone is a hilarious look at King Arthur’s youth. He is nicknamed Wart and lives as a foster child to Sir Kay. He meets Merlin in the forest while chasing his hawk. Merlin is aging backwards and has come to be Kay (Wart’s foster brother) and Wart’s tutor. Wart learns wonderful lessons from Merlin, many through being changed into a fish, a merlin (bird), and a badger. Wart also meets up with Robin Hood and his gang.

After the death of the king Uther Pendragon (who seems to be taking the place of William the Conqueror), a mysterious stone is found with a sword in it with an inscription that whoever pulls the sword will be king of England. Kay wants to be a part of the tournament and the group sets out for London. There Wart accidentally takes the sword from the stone while searching for one for Kay, and finds himself the new King of England.

This book is a very unique Arthurian tale. The language is very “modern” British (the book was first published in 1939), and funny. I enjoyed the humor and imagery. This is the book that the Disney cartoon, The Sword in the Stone, is based upon. Kay is not as bad in the book as he is in the cartoon.

This audiobook version was read by Neville Jason. He did a fantastic job with all of the voices and accents. I also loved how the audiobook had classical music selections between chapters. The music was beautiful and really seemed to set the story.

This is my first book selection for the Arthurian Challenge. I was looking through my nightstand and discovered a copy of The Once and Future King by T.H. White. I had read about three-quarters of the book and had really enjoyed it. Then I was struck down with the most horrible case of morning sickness for four months and the book was forgotten. Years later, I thought I had finished it, until I saw the bookmark only three-quarters of the way through. The Once and Future King is made up of four novellas, the first of which is The Sword in the Stone. I listened to this audiobook to remind me of what I had read four and a half years ago.

Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Proposal (2009)

The Proposal was the best romantic comedy that I have seen in quite awhile. I don’t watch too many movies these days. With the two boys and work, it seems that the only movies I see are Bob the Builder or Thomas the Tank Engine. I watched this movie in pieces over a period of several days. It is always fantastic when you take the time to watch a movie and it is vastly entertaining.

Margaret (Sandra Bullock) is an uptight editor similar to many uptight editors we’ve seen in books and movies in recent years. Her assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) dreams of being an editor in his own right or a novelist, but is stuck fetching Margaret’s coffee. Suddenly facing deportation to Canada and the loss of her job, Margaret forces Andrew to marry her to get a green card. Andrew takes Margaret back to his hometown in Alaska to meet his family and much hilarity ensues.

I really loved how the gender roles were reversed in this movie. Margaret was the boss and Andrew was her personal assistant. I think my favorite character was Andrew’s grandmother, Gammy (Betty White). She was hilarious. I also loved how Ramone (played by Oscar Nunez from The Office) worked everywhere in the Alaskan town.

Overall, it was a good romantic comedy and well worth watching. I liked Margaret’s character development throughout the movie and Andrew Paxton was good to look at!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge is a beautifully written novel about the complexities of perception and human existence. It won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was our November Kewaunee Library Book Club pick.

Olive Kitteridge is made up of thirteen short stories about various people who live in the small town of Crosby, Maine. They are all interlinked by the appearance of Olive Kitteridge. Olive is sometimes a main character, sometimes a strong secondary, and other times just a person that is only briefly seen or mentioned. Overall, this makes a very compelling portrait of Olive Kitteridge. Olive is a wife, mother, and teacher. She is viewed differently from all angles.

I thought it was a very interesting study on perception. You are viewed as someone completely different by those who know you throughout your life in different capacities. The most compelling portrait in the book to me was how Olive viewed her son and the way she raised him as compared to how in turn he viewed her and his upbringing. It was tragic to see Olive’s perceptions shattered in a confrontation with her son.

The descriptions, characters, and writing were wonderful. I at times had a hard time with the character of Olive. She is quite the character and not always a woman you can love. A lot of the stories are rather depressing, but overall I enjoyed the book. I’ve thought about it a lot since I finished reading it on Friday. It is a deep book and rather hard to describe in a review!

I had many favorite quotes, but I picked out two to share.

“God, I love young people, “Harmon said. “They get griped about enough. People like to think the younger generation’s job is to steer the world to hell. But it’s never true, is it? They’re hopeful and good – and that’s how it should be.”

I can agree with that. I get tired of people always thinking the generation younger than them is more evil than before!

“People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it.”

That is certainly true. People, myself included, tend to think about the future and not just enjoy the now. This book also seemed to have a theme of enjoying and living life now and not taking it and your loved ones for granted.

Overall, this book is a must read.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Friday, November 13, 2009

My All About the Brontes List

I am having a difficult time narrowing my list down of Bronte related items for the All About the Brontes Challenge. My goal is to read/watch/listen to six Bronte related items from January 1 to June 30th, 2010. My list of items includes the following.

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

I have really enjoyed listening to Jane Austen on audiobook and want to discover how the Bronte novels sound on audiobook. It's time to reread these novels, so I'm going to spice it up by listening to them this time around.

1. The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James (I've been meaning to read this since I first heard about it and can't wait to read it!)
2. The Wide Sargasso Sea by by Jean Rhys (I've been meaning to read this for years and a friend just passed me a copy . . . I think it is meant to be!)
3. Emily's Ghost: A Novel of the Bronte Sisters by Denise Giardina
4. Jillian Dare by Melanie M. Jeschke
5. The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte by Daphne Du Maurier (I've had this book for at least a decade and Du Maurier is one of my favorite authors. Now is a good time to finally read it!)

1. Jane Eyre (BBC - 1970)
2. Wuthering Heights (1970 - starring Timothy Dalton)

I have never seen either of these disco era classics and my library system has them both. It's time to watch a new version!

I know this is more than six items . . . but if this is anything like the Everything Austen Challenge, I tend to go a bit overboard:-) I will add probably add to the list as the challenge goes on!

I look forward to the start of the Challenge in January!

Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich (audio)

Whenever I need a laugh, I turn to Janet Evanovich and her Stephanie Plum series. My best friend first introduced me to the series a couple of years ago. I quickly read the first eleven books and then stopped over a year ago as I didn’t want them to end! J. Kaye’s wonderful Stephanie Plum Reading Challenge is perfectly designed for me to finally get into gear and finish this series!

I listened to an audiobook version of Twelve Sharp read by Lorelei King. Ms. King did an excellent job of putting a unique voice to each character. I loved out loud several times while listening to this book! At the end of the audiobook there is a great interview with Janet Evanovich. I love the bonus!

In Twelve Sharp, Stephanie’s life is complicated when Mrs. Ranger shows up ready to shoot her. When Ranger’s daughter is also kidnapped and Ranger is on the run, Stephanie has to determine what is going on as well as try to bring in some FTAs to pay her rent. Soon she finds herself running for her life.

I love the colorful secondary characters, such as Melvin Pickle. I love the name, especially as he is a “pervert.” This alone made me laugh. Other returning characters such as Lula and Grandma are hilarious.

Of course I have to mention my favorite part, the love triangle between Stephanie, Ranger, and Joe Morelli. Stephanie finds herself in love with both men, and I feel for her. I love in this novel that we get more detail about Ranger. I love a good love triangle, but after twelve books, I just want her to pick one!

Overall, a quick, funny action story with a great mystery that kept me entertained throughout. If you haven’t read any Evanovich, I highly recommend One For the Money.

This is my first item in the Stephanie Plum Reading Challenge.

Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Sense and Sensibility is not only my favorite Austen movie, but it is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is a movie that I really enjoy watching. Whenever I’m sick, this movie is my “comfort” movie that I love to watch to help me feel better. That being said, I haven’t been able to watch this movie this year so I decided to should watch this movie for The Everything Austen Challenge. I thought this was especially relevant as I recently listened to the audiobook recording of Sense and Sensibility.

I love the actors in this movie. I think Kate Winslet as Marianne and Greg Wise as Willoughby are absolutely perfect and just as I would envision them from reading the book. I also love Emma Thompson’s performance, although she is a lot older than Elinor should be from the novel’s description.

I love the comedy that appears throughout the movie. Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer is perfect. I love his biting remarks, they give me a chuckle. I also love his character growth. When you see the nice caring man that he is when he helps out during Marianne’s illness, it brings the character an added depth. Mrs. Jennings the annoying matchmaker and gossip is also hilarious. Don’t we all know a Mrs. Jennings? Harriet Walter as Fanny Dashwood is also funny in her way to manipulate her husband. I love the opening scene when she is able to talk her husband down into giving his poor half-sisters nothing after the death of their father.

As this is a two-hour movie based off of an approximately 350 page novel, there are changes. The major change is that Colonel Brandon tells Elinor that Willoughby did indeed love Marianne, but this didn’t happen in the novel. In the novel Willoughby makes a visit when Marianne is sick and confesses all to Elinor. I’m not sure why this was changed. Also Marianne gets sick in the movie by standing in the rain looking at Mr. Willoughby’s country estate, which did not happen in the novel. I liked this change, it makes it more romantic. That is if catching your death of cold can be considered romantic. I like how the novel has more detail at the end on how everything works out, but there just wasn’t enough time for that in the movie.

My favorite scene in this movie is when Elinor breaks down at the end (also not in the book). She is able to keep control of her emotions for so long, it is nice to finally see her let go and be happy!

Overall, I love this movie. Great actors, music, wonderful cinematography and perfectly directed, it is a very entertaining movie. This was my thirteenth item in the Everything Austen Challenge.

Movie Source: I received this DVD for my birthday from my best friend Jenn replacing my old VHS tape.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All About the Brontes Challenge 2010

Do you enjoy a good gothic novel? Do you wonder what it would have been like to be a part of a trio of three gifted sisters living a lonely existence in the moors? Then you will enjoy the All About the Brontes Challenge!

I have greatly enjoyed being a part of Stephanie's Written Word Everything Austen Challenge. Over the past few months, I have been inspired by her challenge to host my own challenge aimed at the exploring the Bronte sisters; their works, their lives, and the spin-off novels of today.

I have loved the Bronte sisters since I first became obsessed with them in high school. I read all of their novels in short order, have watched every movie version I can get my hands on, read countless biographies, and also enjoy reading any spin-off novels I can find. It's interesting that most Bronte based spin-off novels use the sisters themselves as main characters rather than their fictional creations.

Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte were three very talented sisters who lived in England during the Victorian age.

Charlotte Bronte was my first Bronte obssession. Her first novel, Jane Eyre, was a masterpiece. Bronte was able to take many of her real life experiences as a poor girl in a terrible school and later as a governess and bring them to life in this magnificent novel. The novel transcends just a tale of her personal trials by being a novel about a strong, independent, woman of the Victorian era who will not sacrifice her personal ideals for an easier road through life. Of course the gothic elements such as a Byronic hero in Edward Rochester and a mad woman in the attic make this a riveting tale. Her later novels (Shirley, Villette, and The Professor) are also good reads, although I must confess that Jane Eyre remains to me the best of the bunch.

I then discovered Emily Bronte. Emily only lived a short, brief live, but she was able to produce one fantastic novel of immense passion, Wuthering Heights. Poor Anne Bronte is often forgotten as the youngest sister, but I must admit that I love her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as well as Agnes Grey. I rate The Tenant of Wildfell Hall up there as a masterpiece with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

Challenge Details

1. The All About the Brontes challenge will run from January 1st to June 30, 2010. You can post a review before this date if you wish.

2. You can read a book, watch a movie, listen to an audiobook, anything Bronte related that you would like. Reading, watching, or listening to a favorite Bronte related item again for the second, third, or more time is also allowed.

3. The goal will be to read, watch, listen, to 3 to 6 (or beyond) anything Bronte items.

4. Please sign-up by posting your blog entry on the number of items and what items you would like to do for this challenge below in Mr. Linky (Don't just post your blog's URL). Don't worry, you can do different things than you have listed. I myself am not always good at sticking to lists!
5. Please post your reviews here.
6. Enjoy!

What Bronte items can you read/watch/listen to? There are plenty! Here are a few suggestions.

The Original Works
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte*
Villette by Charlotte Bronte*
Shirley by Charlotte Bronte*
The Professor by Charlotte Bronte*
Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte*
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte*
Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell
Juvenilia by Charlotte Bronte
-The Secret
-Mina Laury
-Orgins of Angria
-Marian vs. Zenobia
-Mina Laury

Biographical Works/Literary Criticism
The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell*
Charlotte Bronte: A Passionate Life by Lyndall Gordon*
The Art of the Brontes by Christine Alexander and Jane Sellars
Selected Letters of Charlotte Bronte edited by Margaret Smith
Charlotte Bronte: A Writer's Life by Rebecca Fraser
Charlotte Bronte: Unquiet Soul by Margot Peters
Bronte by Glyn Hughes
The Three Brontes by May Sinclair
The Brontes by Juliet Barker
The Brontes: A Beginner's Guide by Steve Eddy*
The Oxford Companion to the Brontes by Christine Alexander
The Bronte Myth by Lucasta Miller
In the Footsteps of the Brontes by Ellis Chadwick
Spin-offs/Modern Reworkings/Brontes as Fictional Characters/Etc.
Emma Brown: A Novel from the Unfinished Manuscript by Charlotte Bronte by Clare Boylan*
The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford*
Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman*
Emily's Ghost: A Novel of the Bronte Sisters by Denise Giardina
Jane Eyre's Daughter by Elizabeth Newark
Jane Airhead by Kay Woodward
Jillian Dare by Melanie M. Jeschke
The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan
The Heights by Brian James
Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler
The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte by Daphne Du Maurier
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (an original work inspired by Jane Eyre)*
Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier (an original work inspired by Wuthering Heights)*
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (definitely a gothic tale in the vein of Jane Eyre)*
The Brontes went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson
Coldwater by Mardi Mcconnochie*
Being Emily by Anne Donovan
The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte by James Tully*
Heathcliff: The Return to Wuthering Heights by Lin Haire-Sargeant
Thornfield Hall: Jane Eyre's Hidden Story by Emma Tennant
Return to Wuthering Heights by Anna L'Estrange*
Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn

Wuthering Heights (1939 - starring Laurence Oliver)*
Wuthering Heights (1970 - starring Timothy Dalton)
Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (1992 - starring Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes)*
Wuthering Heights (Masterpiece Theatre 1998)
Wuthering Heights (2003 for MTV)
Wuthering Heights (Masterpiece Theatre 2009)*
Jane Eyre (1934)
Jane Eyre (1944)*
Jane Eyre (BBC - 1970)
Jane Eyre (1983 miniseries starring Timothy Dalton)*
Jane Eyre (1996)*
Jane Eyre (1997 A&E movie)*
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996 - Masterpiece Theatre starring Tara Fitzgerald and Toby Stephens)*
Villette (1970 BBC mini-series also adapted in 1999 as a BBC Radio production)
Rebecca (1940)*
Rebecca (2003 DVD - Masterpiece Theatre)*
Jamaica Inn (1939)*
Jamaica Inn (1983 TV Movie)
Devotion (1946 - highly fictionalized account of the Bronte sisters lives)

*Feel free to ask me questions. I have read or watched these items.

A couple of great blogs to check out for more information about the Brontes and related works are:

Any more suggesions? Please comment below and I'll add to the list! Please don't feel limited by the list, think of it as a starting point.
Thank-you to Gricel for the wonderful new challenge logo!
Please sign-up by posting your blog entry on the number of items and what items you would like to do for this challenge below in Mr. Linky. Please do not just post your blog URL.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer

Last week I found myself unable to put down A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents. I found the story fascinating. It is a family drama, a mystery, a love story, and a bit of a comedy rolled into one fantastic book. If you’ve ever felt like your family can be the best thing and the worst thing that can happen to you, you’ve found a great book!

Grace Hawkes is preparing for a run with her co-workers when she gets a call from her sister Abigail that her father has had a stroke. What makes things more emotionally challenging is that her father abandoned his children twenty-two years before, and Grace abandoned her siblings five years before after her mother’s death. Grace rejoins her family and learns during times of crisis, it is better to face them together with your family, then to cut yourself off. She also meets her old flame John, a man she abandoned with her siblings. He now turns out to be her family’s lawyer during this time of crisis. Will Grace be able to rekindle the romance, or will she remain with her new boyfriend Tim?

The family also meets their father’s second wife (their stepmother) for the first time. When their stepmother turns out to be not quite what she appears to be, they have to pull together as a family. I don’t want to give away too much plot here, so that’s all I can say!

I loved this story. I enjoyed all of the unique characters. As one of four sibilings myself, I could identify with the family dynamics. Also sadly as I’ve gotten old, I’ve had to deal with the deaths of beloved Grandparents. I know that during such times, you have family that keeps you going, and you also have family that drives you crazy. It’s amazing what some people will do when money is involved! I also loved the romance – it fairly sizzled off the page!

I loved that the book was concisely written. I wasn’t left wanting more or feeling that it dragged on. The ending was perfect. I also loved the title – so witty! I want to bring this home with me for Thanksgiving and leave it lying around to see what my parents think about it.

The only negative I had with this novel was that some of the transitions from present to past were confusing. It would have been helped with a break in the text of some sort. As this was an advanced reading copy and not the actual novel, this will most likely be fixed by the time it is published.

Overall, this book was a great read. Although it is on the surface about the illness and death of parents, it is more about dealing with loss, and the importance of spending time with your family while you still have them. It does not become a depressing novel. One of its main strengths is that it remains a light, entertaining read. Also the mystery aspects of it kept me guessing and intrigued throughout. I would say I was riveted as I couldn’t put it down wanting to know how it was going to end! I need to check out Liza Palmer's other novels.

A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents will be released on December 23, 2009. Just in time for a last minute Christmas present!

Book Source: Advanced Reading Copy from Hachette Book Group. Thanks!!

The Velveteen Rabbit (2009)

We watched The Velveteen Rabbit on Friday night as a family. My 3-year old son loved it, and I really enjoyed it as well. My husband was chasing our 18-month old so he reserves judgment until he can watch the entire movie.

The Velveteen Rabbit is the story of a young boy named Toby around the year 1900. His father takes him to spend Christmas with his grumpy old Grandmother as he has to work over the holidays. Toby’s mother died some years previous to the start of the movie. While at his Grandmother’s, Toby discovers an attic with a special Velveteen Rabbit in it in a box addressed to him by his late mother. Toby learns to have fun through imaginative play with the Rabbit as well as a couple other old toys in the attic. His imagination is a cartoon world. Toby learns how to try new things, and also opens up the world for his Grandmother and Father to love again.

Kile loved that the story started with the Toby on a steam engine train. He loves trains. He really liked the cartoon world with Horse, Swan, and Rabbit. The only thing he didn’t like was the Rabbit’s sacrifice for the boy (he hid during that part as he was a bit scared). When the poor stuffed rabbit went into the fire after Toby’s illness, Kile kept asking, “Why?” but was very pleased when he became a real rabbit.

The movie follows the basic storyline of the original story by Margery Williams, with several key differences. I was okay with the differences, but Kile was sad when we read the book afterwards and it wasn’t the same (he really wanted the horse and swan to be in it!).

Overall, The Velveteen Rabbit was a cute movie for your family to enjoy.

Movie Source: Borrowed from my Mom. She loves “Feature Films for Families” which produced this movie.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Winners of The Heretics Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Congrats to Kaylynn from Madwoman-doing-cartwheels and Emily of Emmaline's Practical Kitchen, the two winners of The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent courtesy of Hachette Book Group. I have emailed the winners and will send their information on to Valerie at Hachette Book Group once I hear back from them. Winners were selected using the power of

If you didn't win this book, I highly recommend that you find a copy of it and read it. My book club read it last year and we all loved it!

There was considerable interest in this giveaway. For those of you that love historical fiction, I have a great giveaway coming up in the next couple of weeks for The Rose of York: Love and War (Book One) by Sandra Worth. It will change the way you feel about Richard III . . . stay tuned!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Heretic's Daughter Giveaway Ends Tonight!

Just a friendly reminder that the giveaway for two copies of The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent ends tonight at midnight. Click here for more details. There is still time to sign up!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks

A Bend in the Road is the November pick for my FLICKS Book and Movie Club. While I have not read all of Sparks’ novels, I do enjoy reading them whenever I get a chance.

A Bend in the Road is a tragedy and a love story. Miles is a widower and deputy sheriff. He is also a young widower, whose wife died in a tragic hit and run two years before. He has been going through the motions and trying to move on with his life with his young son Jonah. He meets Jonah’s new teacher Sarah and suddenly starts to love and live life again. A tragic set of circumstances sets Miles back to a dangerous obsession with trying to find his wife’s killer and threatens to destroy his new relationship with Sarah.

I thought this book was okay, but definitely not one of my favorite Sparks novels. I recently really enjoyed The Choice, but this novel left me very indifferent. I really liked it until Miles started going crazy the last half of the novel. I also didn’t like how the sections from the nameless narrator/killer. It seemed to throw off the storyline. I liked the suspense of trying to find out who the killer was, but I thought the story suffered from being distracted from the main love story.

I didn’t like the ending. It came about fast and haphazard. I was happy that Miles decided to move on with Sarah, but he seemed to do it because it would make Jonah happy. The whole thing made me sad how Sarah could never really see her brother again. It seemed like there would always be that problem between Sarah and Miles. What did you readers of the novel think about this? I needed more detail at the end of how it all worked out.

Overall, it was an okay novel by Sparks. It wasn’t a bad book, but it just wasn’t as good as his other novels. If you are picking up Nicholas Sparks for the first time, I’d suggest one of his other novels such as The Choice, The Lucky One, Dear John, The Wedding, or The Notebook. These are the novels I have read so far, and I would have to rate A Bend in the Road after all of these books.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman (audio)

Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors. Her books have a fairy tale quality to them. They are modern fairy tales set in today’s world. In her novels, what would appear to be a common place tale of love turns into something much more. They are beautiful written tales with a mystical quality to them. It is very hard to describe them, I’ve tried to recommend them to my best friend and my sister, but my verbal description always fails!

The Ice Queen is the first audiobook of a Alice Hoffman novel that I have listened to. I enjoyed the experience. Nancy Travis (of Three Men and a Baby fame) read the story and did a fantastic job. Her voice truly was the man character.

The Ice Queen is the story of a nameless librarian. She lives a cold, solitary existence blaming herself for a tragedy that occurred during her childhood. After she is struck by lightening, she feels like she is made of ice. Everything red looks white. She makes a painful recuperation and becomes a part of a lightening strike survivors group. She goes in search of a famed, solitary survivor that was supposedly dead for 40-minutes only to come back to life and walk away. “Lazarus” Jones is the complete opposite of our librarian. His touch is like fire, and his breath can start fires. They begin an all consuming affair. But is Lazarus all that he seems?

The narrator through the novel learns the truth of her past, and how to allow herself to love again. At first I thought she was much too negative, but I then truly enjoyed her growth through the novel. I also loved the talk of fairy tales and loved all of the fairy tale elements of the novel. The librarian and Lazarus seemed liked the tale of Cupid and his true love Psyche, which is one of my favorite myths. The ending of the novel was unexpected and brought a few tears to my eye.

While the book had a fantastic love story at it’s center, it overall ended up being a story about family and the meaning of death. I enjoyed this novel.

Audio Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Monday, November 2, 2009

This and That . . . Romantic Heroes . . . Lost . . .

Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life blog recently posted "Who's the most romantic character in literature." I know we talked about romantic heroes this past spring on this blog (and the sexiest literary hero was Mr. Darcy), but I thought it was a good time to bring it up again with this article. According to a British poll in the Daily Telegraph, these are the top ten romantic characters in literature:

1. Edward Rochester of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre
2. Richard Sharpe of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series.

3. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

4. Heathcliff of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

5. Rhett Butler of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind

6. Mark Darcy, of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary

7. Captain Corelli of Louis de Berniere’s Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

8. Henry DeTamble of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife

9. Gabriel Oak of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd

10. Rupert Campbell Black of Jilly Cooper’s The Rutshire Chronicles

Tina Jordan (the Shelf Life author) than adds insult to injury by stating, "And who in their right mind could truly love the unutterable snob Fitzwilliam Darcy?" WHAT!! I couldn't believe this! What do you think?
My thoughts, while I love Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, Mr. Darcy beats him any day of the week for top romantic hero . . . and so does Captain Wentworth, who did not even make the list. Truthfully the top spot for myself would be a tie between Jamie Fraser of the Outlander series (not even mentioned) and Mr. Darcy. What do you all think? Please comment below. I'm going to add a new poll to my sidebar about this. What other heroes of literature do you find romantic?
Also, I am not sure who Richard Sharpe and Rupert Campbell Black are. Am I missing something? Are they very romantic heroes and are the books they are in a good read?

Word on the street (or at least Entertainment Weekly) is that Juliet did indeed die in the season finale of Lost. I for one hope this is not the case as I grew to love Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) over the last season and I really loved her love story with Sawyer. Since she will be back in some way in a few episodes in the final season, I can only hope that she will still somehow live to have her happy ending. I really wanted her to see her sister again and to have that happy ending with Sawyer.

Who else is excited about V? Ben and I can't wait, although our local station is not playing it until 1:30 AM!! Good thing we have a DVR!

Lastly, thank-you very much to Monica Fairview, author of The Other Mr. Darcy. She hosted a month long discussion and competition on her site about Pride and Prejudice. I really enjoyed talking about P&P every day and was one of the five lucky winners of The Other Mr. Darcy. I can't wait to read this book!