Thursday, December 27, 2007

Knocked Up

Ben and I watched Knocked Up last weekend and we both thought it was highly overrated. I guess that's what happens when you spend half a year hearing about how funny and great a movie is, you finally get around to watch it, and it just doesn't live up to the hype.

The movie concerns two main characters Ben Stone (Seth Rogan) and Alison (Katherine Heigl). Alison has just gotten a new reporter job at E! entertainment news and goes out to the club with her sister Debbie. There she is hit on by Ben Stone, a loser that lives with his four crass roommates, has no job, and seems to smoke pot all day. She doesn't know this at the time and he seems like a nice guy. They both get drunk, things happen, and Alison finds herself pregnant. Ben is the total opposite of her and they try to make things work out to be good parents. It seemed like a typical plot. Boy is stoner loser, learns that he must grow up and become man and get his own job. Girl must learn to accept man as he is. It grew old I thought. I also didn't think there was any chemistry between the actors portraying Ben and Alison.

I don't need to see this movie again.

A Matchmaker's Christmas by Donna Simpson

I've already expressed my fondness for Christmas romances - this is my last one for the 2007 season! Luckily it was also most enjoyable of the Christmas books I read this year. A Matchmaker's Christmas is a regency romance that had great character build-up, a slight mystery, and kept you wondering if the perfect couples would ever come together or not. It was a delight to read and great when you are overwhelmed with work and stressed out like I've been lately! I also liked that it stressed the ROMANCE and not the . . . let's say intimate relations that other romance novels are all about.

Lady Elizabeth Bournard is eighty years old and realizes that it will be her last Christmas on earth. She wants to celebrate by being among the young and living and by doing a bit of matchmaking. Her godson, David has not moved on since the death of his young wife twenty years before. Wouldn't be make the perfect match for Lady Bournard's companion Beatrice who hides a secret of her own? Lady Bournard's friend's nephew Rowland, is a young parson in want of a wife and Lady B. has a young fiesty relation from the "colonies" that is in need of a husband. With the addition of two other houseguests, Lady Bournard's matchmaking does not go as planned. Who will end up together? Will true love prevail? What is Beatrice's secret?

I enjoyed the novel greatly and liked how one couple (David and Beatrice) was an older couple. It was nice to read about second chances with love mixed in with the young and in love. If you are looking for a light Christmas romance that is actually romantic and not smutty, I highly recommend!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lets Talk About Lost . . .

I haven't been that inspired by any TV shows this fall and find myself longing for my favorite quality shows, Lost and Battlestar Gallactica. I just watched this Lost preview on and find myself extremely excited for January 31st to roll around. Now I just hope that the writers' strike comes to an end soon so that the last eight episodes of the season get written and filmed!

Who do you think is going to come to the island to "rescue" the survivors? I'm still trying to come up with a good theory of my own!

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich

Visions of Sugar Plums is a blatent attempt to make some extra cash by writting a sub-par holiday novel. That may seem a bit harsh, but I found this novel very boring. It was not what I expected after reading the first six novels of Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I didn't laugh even once through the reading of this book.

The story was strange and uneven. Stephanie Plum is looking for "Sandy Claws," a man who has jumped his bail, but may also have supernatural abilities. Diesel, another supernatural being, has showed up in her apartment to help find Sandy . . . and maybe an evil doer.

I don't recommend this novel. It wasn't a good Christmas story or good at all compared to the rest of the series. Maybe I should stick to the actual series in the future!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Argh. I wrote the review for this once, but it accidently got deleted. I'm sure it won't be quite as good the second time around, but here I go! I started writing this last week, so the dates are a bit off!

I just finished the nearly 1000 page opus The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett today after working at it for nearly two weeks. It was well worth the time and effort. I thought the book was excellent and another good selection by Oprah. It was rather a surprising selection though - this book is a true historical fiction novel, which is something I really like, but I haven't noticed Oprah picking very much historical fiction through the years. I had never heard of this book before and am glad Oprah picked it and put it in the spotlight so that I could learn about it and read it!

The Pillars of the Earth is a sweeping historical epic that is set in medival England and surrounds the building of a new cathedral in the fictional village of Kingsbridge. The novel also centers on the lives of the main people who have an influence on the cathedral such as Tom Builder, a master builder and architect, and his family as well as Prior Philip, the prior in charge of the monastery that commisions the building of the new cathedral after the old one burns. There are several very interesting colorful main characters that show up throughout the novel.

The novel is set during the era after King Henry I's death and the civil war that broke out between those that supported Henry's daughter Matilda and his nephew Stephen to be the next ruler of England. This civil war lasted for around two decades and is a fascinating era of history I've enjoyed reading about previously.

I was very interested in the politics in the novel that Prior Philip had to struggle with in order to get his cathedral built. With the changing tides of the civil war, the fortunes also changed at the building site. I know politics are involved with engineering and construction projects these days, but it was interesting to note that they were even more so 800 years ago!

I enjoyed the novel as it wove the stories of several peoples' lives through the uniting project of the cathedral construction. The stories were very intriguing and I especially liked how there were strong female characters. Even though this was a long novel, I found myself unable to put it down and wondering how the characters would be able to find their way through each trial!

I thought the "evil" characters were kind of cardboard characters. After awhile, I found myself wondering how evil these people could get!! There were slight additions to each evil character as you made your way through the novel that helped round them out. William Hamleigh's fear of hell for instance helped to round him out and explain some of his actions.

I also thought the last 1/3 or so of the book lost steam. It may be because I really liked the characters of Tom Builder and Prior Philip and they weren't central to the story at this point in the novel. Did anyone else feel this way?

If you are looking for a very interesting, well written book about the 12th century - I highly recommend this novel!

Monday, December 17, 2007

I am Legend

Ben and I actually went on a DATE sans Kile on Friday night. For all of you with small kids - you know how exciting it is to get away once in awhile! We went and saw I am Legend, on opening night no less. It made me feel young again, except for the fact that the entire movie theatre was over run with teenagers. I think we were the oldest people in line to get our tickets! Our actual showing of I am Legend was packed - I'm not too surprised to see it was the number one movie of the weekend.

I am Legend is a post-apocalyptic story of Robert Neville (Will Smith), the seemingly lone survivor of a virus that killed most of the population. Neville is a military scientist that has been searching for a cure for the man-made disease that killed 90% of the population, but turned 9% into light sensitive monsters that feed on human flesh for the past three years when the disease mutated and became airborne. Roughly 1% of the population was immune to the disease, but the mutant humans quickly killed them, leaving Neville to believe he may be the last non-affected human left on the planet.

The first part of the movie centers on showing Robert Neville in an empty New York City trying to survive by going through his daily routine with his faithful dog Sam. He has a daily routine, which involves checking out DVDs at a local store and talking to the mannequins, harvesting food and hunting, and trying to find a cure. Although Will Smith was by himself (except for his faithful dog) I found myself revited in watching him, especially because of the spectacular imagery of the empty New York City. The hunter/gatherer alone in an urban setting gone wrong. It was quite affecting. I think the cinematography on this film was fantastic as was Will Smith's performance.

After Neville captures an infected woman to run his latest vaccine on, he becomes stalked by the infected ones lead by one that appears to be smarter than the rest and obssessed with finding Neville. After a particularly tragic sequence (one that had me crying - hey I'm pregnant and emotional), Neville becomes a man on the edge. He is losing his grasp of sanity after being alone for three years. At this point, a woman and boy show up that heard his daily radio message looking for survivors. There is a showdown between the infected ones and Neville's group . . . and the end is something you'll need to watch to find out!

I thought the end seemed to come too soon - I think the movie could have been longer. It was a good ending though although I kind of wish parts of it could have been different (you need to watch it to discuss it with me!). This is a movie that has kept Ben and I thinking and discussing it for the past three days. You don't want to think too hard about some things (just how could the woman and boy drive to Manhatten with all of the bridges gone?), but other things pose interesting questions for debate. What would you do in an empty world with infected people out to eat you? Would living in New York City be a good plan for the infected (how do they find food) or Neville (so many infected people that could hunt him but also unlimited resources)? Why does Neville think hunting deer from a Mustang would be a good plan? Which one of our dogs would make a good 'Sam' that would be a bonding dog, but could protect us (we vote Jack)?

I didn't like the computer graphic animals in the movie - I thought they looked very fake. The scenary was very good though.

If you like sci-fi movies I recommend this movie. If you don't like post-apocalyptic thrillers, this movie probably isn't for you, although Will Smith had a fantastic performance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On the First Day of Christmas by Cindy Holbrook

I have a weakness for Christmas romance novels at this time of year. I read On the First Day of Christmas last week. It was a mediocre romance, but was an entertaining light read for a busy week.

This is why I should review books right away - I can't remember the lead man's name! Anyway, the lead man is a scrooge-like aristocrat of the ripe old age of 28. He is roped into boarding what he thinks is a young girl by a colleage that saved his life during the war. Rather expectantly, when Carin shows up, she is a beautiful 17-year old rather than a young child. Carin and her companion Meg also show up with Baby Partridge, a baby that they found abandoned at a posting house along the way. Through a series of mishaps, Carin continues to take in strays, which sorely tries the lead man's patience. He eventually finds his heart warmed by Carin's goodness and her good looks and the inevitable happy ending is found.

Hot Six by Janet Evanovich

I had to read Hot Six the week after Thanksgiving to find out who Stephanie ended up spending the night with at the end of High Five. Think I will tell you? I don't think so - you need to read it for yourself! Hot Six was another great Evanovich novel continuing on the tale of Stephanie's adventures. I want to just read all of the rest of the series in one shot, but I'm trying to limit myself so I can savor them.

In Hot Six, Ranger has been accused of killing a crime lords son. He jumps bail and Cousin Vinnie assigns Stephanie to the task of tracking him down. Stephanie know this will be impossible and instead finds herself helping Ranger to find the real criminal. In the meanwhile, Grandma Mazur moves in with Stephanie and Stephanie is stuck house sitting an ill-behaved dog. Joe Morelli is still in the picture - and has much frustration with Grandma Mazur living with Stephanie!

This book is another fun romp in the world of Stephanie Plum. I find these books highly entertaining - they always make me laugh out loud. If you need a light book that will make you laugh, I highly recommend this series.

High Five by Janet Evanovich

I read High Five during our trip back from Michigan over Thanksgiving and maybe perhaps that Monday. As you can probably guess from the title, this is the fifth book of the highly popular Stephanie Plum series. I found it just as entertaining and enjoyable as the rest of the series.

In this particular novel, our heroine is requested by her family to search for her old Uncle Fred who has disappeared. He was a cheapskate that had problems with the garbage company right before his mysterious disappearance. The closer Stephanie gets to solving the case, the more danger she is in and the more she realizes that Uncle Fred knew more than he should have. Stephanie is having problems making enough money so she accepts a job with her mentor Ranger that includes "housekeeping," "driving a limo," etc. None of the tasks turn out to be as easy as expected. Stephanie feels a growing attraction to Ranger, but also can not forget Joe Morelli. Who will she end up with, you have to read book 6 to find out!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

1776 by David McCullough

I finished 1776 by David McCullough over Thanksgiving weekend. It was my Kewaunee library book club pick for November. Our November meeting isn't until tomorrow though. We are a bit off due to not being able to get last month's book until late.

I like reading history books. This wasn't one of the top ones that I've read, but it was pretty good. It told the story of America's fight for Independence against the British focusing on the year 1776. It gave gripping portrayels of both George Washington and King George as leaders in a two-dimensional light. The parts I liked best though were the stories of the common men that fought the war and the women they left behind.

I had forgotten how much of the Revolutionary War was sitting around waiting for things to happen - and how much our victories were because of good luck. Interesting things I learned included the fact that there were a large number of African and Native Americans who fought the war on the American side. You don't see or hear about that at all really. Why didn't we think about granting them the equality and freedom that they were helping to fight for? I also had never thought about the problem of Loyalists. When the British fled Boston, they had to take a vast number of Loyalists with them, some of whom were third or more generation Americans. I think they later settled in Canada or moved back to England. New York City was something like 2/3 Loyalist, which made for great difficulty holding the city in rebel hands. I also didn't realize that American soldiers only signed up for one year and then would leave at the end or when they felt like it. Poor George Washington really had his hands full trying to keep things together!

As an environmental engineer, I was interested in how the British Army largely avoided sickness by following protocols for sewage disposal and clean drinking water versus the American Army that basically went to the bathroom everywhere and was largely sick most of the time. Very interesting. The British army had great engineers that helped with such problems, but these men were large unable to advance because they were not aristocrats. On the American side however, capable men were able to advance when they were young based on abilities. Therefore the Americans were able to get some of the best leaders of the war.

Another interesting tidbit was that the German and English soldiers were confused when they got to American on why the Americans were rebelling as they had it so good. I didn't realize that even in the 1700s, the American standard of living was much higher than the rest of the worlds.

This book was very interesting and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about American History or the Revolutionary War.


Jenn and I had a girl's night out movie night the day after Thanksgiving and went and watched Enchanted.

Enchanted is the story of Giselle (Amy Adams), a cartoon perfect singing heroine that captures the love of a prince with her voice. Prince Edward (James Marsden) rescues her from an ogre and they decide to marry the next day. The prince's evil stepmother will lose control of the kingdom if the prince marries and therefore sends Giselle to the "real" world of New York City. Giselle is still able to sing and bring animals to her aid and make herself clothing out of curtains. These traits find her sadly out of place. She meets up with Robert Phillip (Patrick Demsey) and his daughter Morgan who let her stay at their place for the night despite misgivings. Robert has a long time girlfriend of five years named Nancy, but he finds himself starting to believe in true love again with Giselle. Prince Edward and the evil stepmother make their way to New York and Giselle is forced to make a decision, while Prince Edward learns the true nature of his stepmother.

I thought the movie was good. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't excellent. I guess I was expecting more out of it. I did have several laugh out loud moments during it, but it didn't play as a complete farce of Disney princess movies so it wasn't as comedic as it could have been. I think my main problem with the movie was the Giselle was one-dimensional with no depth. I find it strange that Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Belle from Beauty and the Beast have more depth and seem more realistic and they are just cartoons! A lot of that might be because Giselle seemed to have the most in common with Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, which is the weakest Disney princess.

I loved James Marsden as Prince Edward. He was quite funny. But I like him in about everything he is in. I wish for once he would be the main star and not the second fiddle! I know Patrick Demsey is "McDreamy" and all, but I really wasn't rooting for him that much . . . mostly because of Nancy. I did like how all strings were tied up at the end though.

Has anyone else seen this movie yet? What are your thoughts? I love Disney cartoons and chick flicks. This was an okay combination of the two, but I think it could have been better.

I'm Back!!

I'm sorry I disappeared for so long. Hopefully there are people left that will check my blog and realize that I'm back on it again. For those of you that don't know, Ben and I are expecting our second baby on May 1st. I was really sick once again with morning sickness and super busy with work - and there just didn't seem to be enough time to work on my blog. Then I was concerned about how many books /movies I needed to catch up with and delayed signing back on. I've decided just to maybe review the things I've watched and read in the last week or two and move on from there. :-)