Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
I loved the inside tragic story of Elizabeth the fonding member of the society. The power of the book to me is that it tells a well rounded story of what it was like during WWII. The autrocities that were committed were hard to stomach, and hard for me to imagine. Although some of them seem to be paralled in the middle east during my lifetime. Although there were many atrocities, there were also Germans who were good people and just like you or me.
This book is a quick read and quite enjoyable. I highly recommend it. I hear a crying baby so I'll work more on catching up with my Christmas romance novel reads later . . .
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
I was frankly surprised by how much I liked American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. I was intrigued by the premise of a book roughly based on the life of Laura Bush, but I was also turned off by the thought of an "unauthorized biography" take on her life. I was therefore surprised that the novel had well rounded and intriguing characters. I thought Alice Lindgren was a wonderful character. A small town girl that is involved in a tragic accident, Alice spends years trying to atone for one night's mistake. She becomes a "spinster" librarian and meets Charlie Blackwell at a backyard BBQ. Charlie is the quirky son of a well known Republican family. Charlie and Alice have a great connection and quickly get married. The book skips ahead ten years to a troubled time in their marriage and then skips ahead twenty more years to Charlie becoming president.
It's no secret that I have no love for George Bush and have actually greatly disliked him from day 1. It surprised me then that I really liked Charlie Blackwell. He was a fun loving man who has a deep and passionate love for his wife. He is able to realize his life is heading in a direction that is not good for himself and his family and he is able to turn it around. The only thing I didn't like was the skip of twenty years at the end to Charlie being President. I wanted more story on the improbable path Charlie took to being president. Charlie is a complex individual, but the last portion of the book tried to simplify him.
The secondary characters such as Alice's Grandma were also fantastically written. I also loved the Wisconsin setting. Their vacation spot in Door County would literaly be about half an hour north of me - which was cool to think about. This brings about a good point - why are so many books, movies, and shows based in Wisconsin. When an author picks a midwest state, why is it usually Wisconsin? I love my adopted state, but am originally from Michigan and wonder why my home state does not get the love that Wisconsin seems to!
Overall, I thought this was a fantastic book and one of my best reads of the year. I thought the first 3/4 of the book were great, but the last 1/4 when Charlie was president was disappointing. Mostly because of the great time jump and how it seemed to skim the surface of Charlie and Alice rather than really go in depth. I highly recommend this book.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Stargate - The Ark of Truth
Ben and I both liked the movie. It basically played like a very special episode of Stargate SG-1. This was fine with us as we miss one of our favorite shows. Stargate- The Ark of Truth finally brings about the conclusion of the Ori storyline as well as bringing back MOST of our favorite characters. I recommend it if you are a Stargate fan. If you are not a Stargate fan, you will not really know what is going on. I recommend you watch the series first.
We'll be watching Stargate Continium this weekend so I'll have a review of that soon - all I know is Jack is back!
Monday, December 15, 2008
The Christmas Promise by Donna VanLiere
I loved the characters in this book. They all had such interesting personalities. It was a relatable story, I felt like this could have happened in my own home town. The only flaw was that from the beginning I realized the major plot point that was going to happen (don't want to give it away). Otherwise this was a good heartwarming Christmas tale that I would highly recommend for your holiday reading!
Lady of the Rose: A Novel of the War of the Roses by Sandra Worth
Lady of the Roses was a love story set during the English War of the Roses. Lancastrian Isobel meets Yorkist John Neville at a castle as she travels toward the court of King Henry VI and Queen Marguerite. Isobel and John share a dance and fall in love. Although the Queen exacts a high bride price for her, Isobel and John marry and live a life filled with ups and downs at War rages around them.
I thought this book was great. The characters were all very interesting and it was set during a fascinating period of English history. I had never heard of these historical personalities before, it was enjoyable to learn about the War of the Roses version of "Romeo and Juliet."
One of my all-time favorite books is Katherine by Anya Seton. Lady of the Roses continues the story of Katherine and John's descendents. If you ever read Katherine and wondered, what happens next, this is an excellent novel to read.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
A Yuletide Treasure by Cynthia Pratt
In this novel, Camilla is going to visit Nanny Mallow as her mother assists with her sister's delivery. She arrives to discover that Nanny Mallow has taken a nasty spill and needs assistance. Camilla goes out in a snowstorm for help and is rescued by Sir Philip, her companion on the coach ride to the village. Sir Philip takes Camilla and Nanny back to his home to stay during the storm. Sir Philip has a dream to become and author and Camilla helps him while love blooms.
The characters were great in this novel, but the ending seem very rushed. Different subplots were not finished, most glaringly, Tinarose's love for the Doctor. I think this novel would have been better if it would have contined on for another 50 pages or so.
A Rogue for Christmas by Kate Huntington
I read this book over Thanksgiving weekend. It was a delightful quick read. Mary Ann Whitaker is rescued at the age of 14 by an unknown hero when is assaulted on the way to a pawn shop. She wanted to sell her ring to have a good Christmas with her family. Her unknown savior sends her ring back as well as a Christmas goose and other surprises that make their Christmas complete. Seven years later, fortunes have changed for the Whitaker family. Mary Ann again meets her hero, Lionel St. James, and discovers that he is a "rogue" gambler that has been kicked out of his family for an ill fated elopement ten years previous. Mary Ann decides to help out Lionel as he helped her in the past.
This romance had great characters and a good story line. It was nice how the story showed that people aren't always what they seem. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a nice Christmas romance.
The Black Tower by Louis Bayard
The Black Tower is set during the restoration in France in 1818. Hector Carpentier, is a doctor, scientist, and long term graduate student that lives with his mother. Dr.Carpentier is going routinely through life when he suddenly meets Vidocq, France's premier dectective and is pulled into a murder mystery. Solving the mystery will delve into one of France's top mysteries, what happened to the Dauphin? Did he die of neglect in 1795 as reported, or did he escape and live on? The plot is intriguing and the characters certainly come alive. Vidocq is a larger than life, eccentric man. It was a delight to read about him. I had never heard of him before, but I'm glad that I now know about him. The mystery was great, but left open at the end. Was the Dauphin saved? I think myself and most people like to think so as trying to imagine how a small child could have been treated with such cruelty and neglect is incomprehensible. It's better to think that he had a happier life elsewhere.
Overall, if you love historical fiction and mystery, I highly recommend this novel. The characters are great and the story is riveting. It was a quick read while on the road to Minnesota for Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Testimony by Anita Shreve
Testimony is a story of a sexual escapade in a private high school in Vermont that is caught on tape and through a domino effect, ruins the life of many people. The story is told in an interesting twist as a sort of testimony in past and present tense from a variety of different views of different people who were present at Avery school at the time of the event as told to a researcher who is interviewing people for an adolescent boys and alcohol study. There were three males and one female involved in the incident, but the story really becomes a love story between one of the boys, Silas and his girlfriend Noelle, as well as the story of Mike the headmaster and Silas' parents. The story was tragic in nature and hard to put down. The story had surprises and did not end with everyone wrapped up and solved.
I liked that the book had an ambigous ending as in real life. I liked the stories of Noelle, Silas, Mike, Anna, and Owen a lot. The overall tale was very well rounded from all points of views, not putting blame on the girl or the boys, but trying to see it from all angles. I thought it was a good story for showing on one thoughtless act can really affect many people in tragic ways. I thought it also showed a good story for they way our laws are now that if a freshman girl/boy is involved in a "relationship" with a senior male/female, it is against the law - especially when caught on tape. It's interesting to think about. Such things went on when I was in school, and I'm sure they did before me and after me. Usually it was only one senior boy and girl and no videotape/ internet leak, but still - it would be against the law technically. The book made a case for how the media can twist a story and make it larger than life. Secrets are harder to keep in our internet world.
I liked the concepts of the book and the main story, but I felt that to have SO MANY different view points took away from the story. It seemed that often the story went in random directions that had nothing to do with the main story. If it would have focused more on the main characters it would have been better. What happened to Noelle after the event? I still want to know!! Also I didn't like the porn graphic detail of the first chapter. It turned me off from the story, but since I like Shreve as an author, I trusted her enough to keep on reading.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
I liked several aspects of the movie including:
1. Male nudity. Well, I didn't like it that much - but was happy that they were showing a man and not just a naked lady like most movies.
2. Relationships from a caring, sensitive male point of view. It was nice to have the story of a nice guy on screen.
3. Three dimensional characters. I really liked all of the leads characters - they were really well developed and realistic.
4. Complicated relationships. Sarah may seem like a witch at first, but flashbacks and conversations show that Sarah and Peter's relationship had been fraught with difficulties that had come to a head.
I'm sure there were more things I liked, but for some reason I just couldn't get into this movie. Maybe I am over the whole gross-out comedies of late. Or maybe there was too much sensitive guy with Peter and his weepiness. I'm not sure what it was about it . . .did anyone else feel the same as me and find themselves wanting to love the movie, but falling short?
Monday, November 24, 2008
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
For Whom the Bell Tolls is the story of Robert Jordan, a U.S. professor of Spanish from Montana, who has been fighting in the Spanish Civil War against the Facists for a year. He has been sent to a work with a guerrilla group to capture and blow up a bridge to help in an attack on the City of Seragovia. He falls in love with a young revolutionary, Maria, and has his will tested to complete his mission.
I liked the novel overall and had many points of interest throughout my reading of it. First of all, as usual in my reading of Hemingway, I think that he is not a good writer of female characters. I was pleased in this book that he did have the character of Pilar. A strong, multi-dimensional female character. Maria drove me crazy though. She came off as rather shallow and silly. It seems like the women in Hemingway's novels are either very simplistic and annoyingly clingy (like Catherine in A Farewell to Arms) or sluts (Brett in The Sun also Rises). I am confused on why all talk of Hemingway is always praise and no one ever addresses this glaring problem with his novels.
I also found it interesting that he used the term "obscenity" frequently when the characters swore and had rather tame love scenes. It's interesting how much novels have changed in the last 70 years. I wonder what a Hemingway novel of 2008 would be like. I find it more intriguing to have to use my imagination than to have things spelled out to me.
This novel did an excellent job of describing the horrors of war. Pilar's description of the killing of the Facists by Pablo in his home town was brutal. The images of the mob as they beat down and threw the facists over the cliff was terrible, but yet brillant writing. The crowd was able to get into the mob mentality and kill their neighbors and men that were not so bad - and also men that were bad, but did not deserve such a death. By describing the scene as it happened with the bad and the good, it was a very powerful and scary scene. It made you realize the power of the mob and why things such as McCarthyism, the Salem witch trials, etc. can happen.
Another powerful scene was when Robert Jordan killed a calvary man that stumbled upon the guerilla group's hidden cave. Jordan looked through and read the man's letters. The letters were from the man's mother and sister. They humanized the calvaryman and made Jordan realize that the man was just a normal guy that had a family that loved him. He was fighting against the communists, also for his country. War is cruel, but civil war is even crueler.
The third powerful scene for me in the novel was when Robert Jordan thinks about his beloved grandfather and how he was a great Civil War hero. He wishes his grandfather was there to advise him in the situation, but he also thinks about his father and how he committed suicide. He thinks it was a cowardly act and that he and his grandfather would be ashamed to be with his father. It was chilling to read knowing that 20 years later, Hemingway committed suicide. Hemingway had a father that committed suicide in the same way as Jordan's - with the grandfather's civil war pistol. This section gives one much to think and discuss about Hemingway's feelings about suicide.
The fourth scene that I marked as being especially great was when one member of the group, Andres, is carrying a message to the general from Robert Jordan and is thinking about his life. He thinks about how he will do his task, but that he wishes he could just be home on his farm. He says, "I think we ware born into a time of great difficulty." I found this section of the book to be powerful.
Overall, I thought this novel was excellent, except for the poor writing of the character of Maria. The novel was an excellent treatise about the brutality of war and the way that a man (or woman in Pilar's case) must face it. You can either be a man and do your duty to your fullest, or take the coward's way out. I think this is why both candidates like the novel. Robert Jordan was willing to sacrafice himself for his cause and for the good of his guerilla and revolutionary group.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Help the Automakers: Michigan's Future Depends on It
BTW - I sent this article as an email to some of my friends and it has produced quite a spirited discussion. Where do I stand on this? I'm not a fan of bailouts, but I think a "loan" to help the big three move on to oil independence would be quite timely, environmentally and national security friendly, and would also help to avoid a great depression. I'm not sure how people want an industry to fail that supports 1 in 10 jobs in America and not think it will sink our country into chaos. What do you think? I'm interested, please post a comment.
Help the Automakers: Michigan's Future Depends on It
Michigan Tech President Glenn D. Mroz
Most of us in Michigan know that the auto industry does a lot more than make cars and trucks. The "Big Three" in Detroit support millions of employees and retirees—not just their own, but those of their suppliers and dealers—and millions more in the health care, retail and service industries that those employees and their families use.
But the degree to which they also support education—the the ticket to our childrens future—may come as a surprise. For example, over the years General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have contributed substantially to Michigan Technological University, enabling the University to conduct cutting-edge research and provide priceless hands-on training for tomorrow's engineers and business leaders. The alternative fuels and the clean vehicles to use them that we so desperately need are being developed at Michigan universities and elsewhere with the support of the auto industry.
Consider the following from our own experience at Michigan Tech: GM, Ford and Chrysler sponsor Senior Design projects and Enterprise programs, the centerpieces of our discovery-based learning experience. Much more than classroom exercises, these projects give tomorrow's automotive engineers, technologists and business leaders an opportunity to solve real-world problems, to the benefit of industry and the economy. A 2006 Senior Design project sponsored by GM at Michigan Tech recently generated three patents.
Last year Ford established its first remote Information Technology (IT) Development Center in Houghton, home of Michigan Tech. There, computer science, technology, engineering and business students earn money for college while putting the skills they learned in class to work incorporating the latest in computer technology into Ford products.
Chrysler partners with the Keweenaw Research Center at Michigan Tech to test vehicles under winter driving conditions. They have also donated vehicles for students to study.
It's no wonder that more than 2,000 Michigan Tech alumni have been employed at the big three, and many more from other Michigan universities. The Big Three and Michigan universities are working partners, educating skilled workers and creating Michigan's and the nation's future. But there is even more at stake than that.
US carmakers have 105 plants in 20 states. They support 14,000 dealers across the country, who in turn employ 740,000 people. The automakers buy $156 billion in parts and services from suppliers in every state. The collapse of the Detroit automakers would lead to widespread failure of these suppliers, who also supply the non-US auto manufacturers. It would quickly put an estimated 3 million people out of jobs and cost this country $150 billion in spendable income and $45 billion in taxes those unemployed people won't be paying.
With all this at stake, Governor Jennifer Granholm has warned that allowing the Big Three to go into bankruptcy would push the automakers over a cliff and threaten their very survival. In our view, if such a catastrophe gives the country the economic equivalent of a severe case of the flu, it would give Michigan pneumonia.
Please join me in urging Congress to provide the support our auto industry needs.
New Star Trek Movie Trailer
On another note, I also saw this website with a trailer for Watchmen. Wow - this looks like a good movie. I know nothing about it though. I am still a graphic novel virgin. Is this something that should be a must read for me?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird is the coming of age story of tomboy Scout Finch and her brother Jem . They live in Maycomb Alabama with their widowed lawyer father Atticus and housekeeper Calpernia. The novel spans several years with Scout aging from six to nine. Scout and Jem befriend a new boy named Dill that comes to visit his aunt during the summer. Together they fantasize about neighbor "Boo" Radley that hasn't been seen outside his house in years. The novel beautifully portrays small town Southern life in the 1930's. Scout has almost an idyllic childhood until she is forced to grow up when her father defends African American Tim Robinson against the false allegations of rape by a white woman, Mayella Ewell. I will say no more for those who have not read the novel.
I think this is a superb piece of American Literature for several reasons. First of all, it is one of the best coming of age stories that I have ever read. Secondly, it is a great tale about the inequality of race in the American South. I am glad that the nation I live in today has gone from this novel with such racial inequalities to a nation where we have the first African American President. Thirdly, Atticus Finch is one of the best literary heros ever. He is a good man who sticks to his principals and stands for honesty and integrety of individuals. I wish I lived in a world where there were more men and women like Atticus Finch. Lastly, the storytelling and description in this book are beautiful. It is truly a masterpiece.
The only thing I didn't like about the book is the racial epithats used throughout. It was a sign of the times and historically accurate, but it's a bit jarring for modern sensibilities.
I had this book with me at the orthodontist on Monday and heard from several people that they liked the book and hadn't read it since high school. I first read it in high school myself, but I was never made to read it for a class. Truthfully, when I look back on what books we did read in high school (and college), I find that 99% of the books I read for classes were written by men. Why is that? Why are important women writers left off the syllabuses? I still dream of someday throwing down my engineering degree and becoming an English professor of literature that forces everyone to read women authors:-)
If you have never read this classic, I HIGHLY recommend it.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
Cotillion is one of my favorite Heyer novels so far. The novel surprised me by taking the story line in a different direction than I supposed. By the end, I realized that Heyer had subtly changed my mind about the characters and had brought about the conclusion that I may not have expected, but by that point really wanted. This novel also had wonderfully developed characters and great secondary characters and romances.
Eccentric great-uncle Matthew summons his great-nephews to his estate to tell them he will live his adopted great-niece Kitty all of his money as long as she marries one of the great-nephews. Unfortunately, the nephew that Kitty has a crush on, Jack, refuses to show up. Kitty enlists the help of another great-nephew Freddy Standon to pretend to be engaged so that she can visit his family in London and hopefully make Jack jealous.
I really enjoyed this novel highly recommend it for those fond of regency novels or light, intellegent romantic novels.
The Other Queen by Phillippa Gregory
George and Bess are older newlyweds and amongst the most priviloged Protestants in the realm when Queen Elizabeth picks them to be Queen Mary of Scotland's captors. At first the couple is overjoyed to be selected, but as the years go, the role of keeping Queen Mary destroys their marriage, happiness, and wealth (Queen Elizabeth never pays them for keeping Mary and all of her entourage). Also troubling is the fact that Mary is always trying to escape, which put's the Talbot's lives on the line. The novel covers the first few years of Mary's capativity and then flash forwards at the very end to her excecution. We see Mary grow from a vivacious, beautiful young woman, to an older than she should be middle aged and broken woman.
I found several points of the novel very interesting. One point was the description of how Bess acquired her wealth and status through the marriage of four husbands. Her second husband helped in the desolution of the Catholic church and kept much of the church's wealth for himself. It had interesting commentary of how the Catholic church was the social system in that time that helped those in need such as the poor and eldery. When the church was torn down, it often was to take the wealth of the church and no one stepped in to take over the care of those in need. It was interesting to think about . . . this vacuum in society made it ripe for Queen Mary to step in as a Catholic and overthrow Elizabeth. If she would have had a bit more luck and competant assistants on her side, history would have turned out a lot differently.
Overall, I thought this was an excellent novel. The only negative to the book for me was the rather abrupt ending. I didn't like how it ended and then fast forwarded to Mary's execution. At least it gave it closer, but it felt like there should either have been another novel, or this novel should have been longer to encompase those years.
Made of Honor
Patrick Dempsey stars as Tom, a rich playboy. He meets Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) in 1998 at college. Hannah is a girl that tells him the way it is and doesn't want to sleep with him - so they become friends. Ten years later, Hannah travels to Scotland to restore artwork. While she is gone, Tom discovers that he misses her more than he realizes and loves her. When Hannah returns, Tom discovers that Hannah has met and become engaged to Colin. Coin is the "perfect" man. Not only is he Scottish, but he is very wealthy, a Duke, great at everything he does, and greatly "endowed" we found out in a gym scene. Tom feels overwhelmed, but agrees to be Hannah's "maid" of honor in order to stay close to her and steal her back for himself. Much hilarity ensues at the wedding in Scotland.
I enjoyed this cute movie. I didn't love it, but did think it was good.
Friday, October 31, 2008
1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D.
1-2-3 Magic has three concepts; stop bad behavior, start good behavior, and strengthening the parent child relationship. The stop bad behavior is where the 1-2-3 comes in. You count to your child when they start to do something bad and they have to sit in a chair/go to their room at 3. The hardest part is that the parent is not suppose to talk or show emotion. I have trobule with this. Kile was a child that had to test the concept, but it has been two weeks since we started doing it - and it has been working great.
The second part - starting good behavior - doesn't work as well for a two year old. Most concepts in the book would work better on an older child. Ben has been using the timer concept (You have five minutes, but when the timer goes off, you must go to bed) and it has been working. Kile is a boy that likes things on his schedule and that works for him. I wish the book had more concepts on how to start good behavior in small children as I could use some help!
Overall though - this is an excellent book. I highly recommend it to parents who are looking for ways to effectively discipline their children.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
I felt this way mostly because after the tension has built up between Bella and Edward for three books, it was a let down for them to be suddenly married and for Bella to be in the midst of a horrific pregnancy. It was strange for Jacob to be the narrator for much of the first half of the book. The pregnancy details were terrible and could have been toned down. I liked the second half of the book one this first part of over. I didn't feel at the end though that the saga was finished - I want to know more about what will happen to Nessie.
So what was the overall plot of this book? Bella and Edward finally marry, but Bella becomes pregnant on her honeymoon. The pregnancy does not go well with a half vampire baby. Nessie is born and is perfect, but the vampire world is thrown into upheavel at her birth. Bella and Edward and all of the Cullens must find a way to protect her and keep their family together.
Fancy Pants by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Francesca is a spoiled English heiress down on her luck. She has led a life of leasure, but after her mother's death, she finds out there is no money left. She tries to make money, but ends up stranded in America. Dallas, or Dally, a second rate handsome golf player finds her and helps her out . . . sort of. Sparks fly between the two, but they can't seem to keep it together.
I liked Francesca's story. I didn't like her at first as she seemed a lot like a Paris Hilton. After she loses it all though and has to work her way back up to the top, I really liked and admired her. Dallas on the other hand, I never liked. He used violance against women when it suited him and seemed to think he should be able to coast through life on his good looks. He does a variety of bad things in the book (like not telling Francesca that his is married), but we are supposed to feel sorry for him. I never did. If he would have been a more likeable hero, this would have been a much better book.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
In this adventure, Indiana Jones finds himself older and wiser in the 1950's. I loved that they acknowledged the passage of time and didn't try to pretend that Harrison Ford hasn't grown older. I also liked how the 1950's was used as part of the story - from having Russians as the villians to having Roswell, atomic testing, bikers, etc. it made the story fun. I also loved that Marian, Indy's love interest from Raiders of the Lost Ark, returned. She was always my favorite heroine.
The overall plot was that Indiana had to help out an old friend by helping to find a mysterious Crystal Skull in South America. The Russians are after it too.
I didn't find this movie to be the best Indiana Jones ever for several reasons. For starters, I thought the Crystal Skull story was interesting, but not riveting. The villians were not as evil and scary as villians in past movies. Cate Blancett did a good job, but she just wasn't menancing. Indiana's side kick that turned into a Russian spy, that turned back, that turned back again just wasn't that interesting. I had no interest in him as I did sidekicks of the past. It just all seemed mediocre.
Overall, I did like the movie and recommend watching it if you are a fan of the series. Just don't expect to be blown away.
The movie was the story of Tony Stark and his transformation from a playboy inventor and head of a weapons manufacturer to the Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. did an excellent and believable job as Tony. The capture by terrorists was horrible. I liked how he used his intellegence to make his escape. I also liked how he used his inventiveness to become his own superhero. I loved the growth of his character throughout the movie and I loved his love interest - Pepper Potts. Pepper is always there for him, but he doesn't realize her true excellence at first.
I guess the few reasons I had for not thinking of the movie as excellent were that I figured out who the "surprise" bad guy was going to be at the very beginning of the movie when it was telling Tony's back story. It was too easy to figure out. Also I felt disconnected to the character whenever he was in the suit.
Otherwise this movie was great and I would recommend it.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a tale of Hamlet set in the Wisconsin northwoods, somewhere near Ashland. Edgar is a mute boy who lives on a farm with his father Gar, and mother, Trudy. Together, the family continues on Edgar's grandfather's tradition of raising and training a unique breed of dog known as the Sawtelle dogs. Life is idyllic until Edgar's until Claude arrives back in town. Claude and Gar fight constantly and one day Gar mysteriously dies. Claude begins to insuinate himself into Trudy's affections and Edgar becomes crazed. Eventually after a desperate act, Edgar and three of his yearling dogs departs for a voyage through the Wisconsin northwoods toward Canada and freedom.
I found myself loving all of similarities to Hamlet until I neared the end and remembered how Hamlet ended. Also the book talks about The Jungle Book, which is one of my favorite books. I thought there were some similarities there. I thought this was a good book and I really would like to discuss it with someone. I hope one of my friends reads it soon. Why did I love it? I think the overall human nature story with themes of greed and jealousy was engaging, but being a dog lover I also loved the dogs and their almost human characteristics. I especially loved Almondine. The supernatural elements of the story and the on the run adventure were my favorite parts. I loved how Edgar had to fight for survival in the woods.
What didn't I like? The reason that Edgar had to go on the run was guessed by me early on. Also the ending. SPOILER ALERT. I know it's a tale of Hamlet set in the northwoods, but did the stage really have to be littered with corpses? Couldn't Edgar had survived? What do you think? I'm usually all about sad endings, but to have a 14-year old mute boy whom I'd grown to love over 600 pags bit it at the end, upset me. I did like the ambigious ending to the dogs. What will happen to them? It's fun to ponder.
Sex and the City - The Movie
I've anxiously been waiting for the movie to come out on DVD at the library and was very excited to receive it the week it came out. I watched it that weekend and thought it was great. The movie started with a brief recap of what had happened in the lives of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha during the series. It is now three years later and Big and Carrie are dating, Miranda and Steve are still in the Bronx, Charlotte and Harry have adopted a little girl, and Samantha has moved to LA with Smith.
Now for some plot spoilers. Carrie and Big get engaged, but Big experiences cold feet at the altar. I liked this storyline - it seemed like something that would happen to the characters. Steve cheats on Miranda after an extended period of no sex. I thought this was not something that Steve would do and was diappointed in him. I liked watching him and Miranda work it out. Charlotte finds out she is expecting a baby and laments about having a perfect life. I thought her storyline was too sparce. Samantha fights the urge to want other men, but eventually breaks up with Smith. I was disappointed. While it made sense for the character -- I love Smith!!! He is good looking and loves Samantha so much.
I must admit I am an old prude. I always saw the TBS versions of the show so I was quite shocked by all of the sex in the movie. Not that it was bad - it just was different as I wasn't actually used to seeing it when I watch the show!!
I really liked this movie and hope that they make another quality movie about these ladies! It's about time to see a major motion picture with women in their 40's in the leads.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Dead Until Dark is the story of Sookie Stackhouse, a young waitress in a bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana that has a strange ability to read minds. Vampires have "come out of the coffin" now that there is an artificial blood for them to drink. Bill Compton is the first vampire that Sookie encounters. After saving his life, she finds herself falling in love with him - especially because he is the first man who's thoughts she can't read. When women start showing up dead in town Sookie finds herself in the middle of a mystery that she and Bill must solve to be able to stay together.
I found this novel to be very entertaining with a few laugh out loud moments. The mystery was good too and made it so I could hardly put the book down at the end. I really want to find out more about Bill's past . . . what happened to his wife and kids and how did he become a vampire after the Civil War? I highly recommend this book!
Lake in the Clouds by Sara Donati
Lake in the Clouds furthers the story of the Bonner family, but is mostly about Nathaniel and Elizabeth's half Mohican daughter, Hannah. Hannah is 18, beautiful, and a healer. She starts the novel by helping a runaway slave that she discovers in the forest who is pregnant and sick. Her story continues in New York City where she learns how to vaccinate people for small pox, and her story ends back in Paradise where she discovers true love and helps to deal with an epidemic. Elizabeth and her young 8-year old daughter Lily are on focus too, but the novel primarily focuses on Hannah.
Lake in the Clouds was an interesting and good book, but I felt disappointed. It could have been a great novel I feel with some further editing and rewrites, but it just didn't get there. First of all, I didn't like how the middle of the novel was split into three separate sections, Elizabeth story's, then Hannah's, then Lily's. It would have worked out better I think if these three story lines would have been written as one part with changes in scene between each character to build suspense. It was annoying to go back in time with each section to see what the other characters were up to. It's hard to feel suspense when Hannah gets a letter from Elizabeth when you already know the end of Elizabeth's story. Also what was going on with Liam? His story was so incomplete. Different threads were set up and then not finished. What happened to his wife? Why did he have a change of heart? How did they figure out the secret of the Tory gold? The novel seemed to end without answering a lot of important questions. Liam and Hannah had a spark between them that should have been used and not abandoned. Will my questions be answered in the next novel? It's hard to say. I also felt like Elizabeth and Nathaniel have been somewhat abandoned. Their story is the story I love, but it has lost focus on them.
I did really like Hannah's Kine-Pox institute story in the novel and her struggle with being half Mohican and half white. Overall an interesting book, but not as good as the first. I really hope the series picks up in the next novel . . .
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Miss Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is a governess who has just lost her job. In desperate straights, she steals the business card of a woman from the employment office that needs a governess. Much to her surprise, Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) does not need a governess, but a social secretary to juggle her many men. Miss Pettigrew puts away her misgivings and goes with the whirlwind for the day.
I loved both women in these roles. I liked Miss Pettigrew's makeover and the fact that she also had a romance with the excellent Ciaran Hinds as Joe Blomfeld. I loved the 1930's music and the foreshadowing of WWII. Overall, I enjoyed the movie. It's a light and sweet movie.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
The Host is a very interesting science fiction novel. In a not so distant future, an alien race has taken over the earth. They are parasitic type creatures that bind to a host human's brain and take over the human's thought functions and personality. So the human is no longer themselves although there body is still walking around. Scary! In this novel, Wanderer has been installed in an adult human body that has just been captured. Melanie fights back however and Wanderer has to share the mind with Melanie. Wanderer keeps getting memories from Melanie's old life and finds herself falling in love with the memory of a man named Jared. Where is Jared and Melanie's brother Jamie? Are there more rogue humans left on earth? To tell more of the plot would give too much away.
The concept of the novel isn't new if you are a Star Trek or Stargate fan. What is new is the depth that the novel portrays the thoughts, conflictions, and emotional journeys of Wanderer. This is something that is generally avoided in sci-fi. There is a nice love quadrangle and I found myself riveted by the novel. It is not as fantastic as the Twilight series - but it is still an excellent novel. It had me asking Ben such questions as, would you still love me if I had been taken over by an alien being? I was riveted throughout and couldn't put it down towards the end. I highly recommend this novel!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
Sarah Carrier has an unhappy home life. At the beginning of the novel, Sarah and her sister Hannah are uprooted and sent to live with her estranged Aunt and Uncle to avoid contracting small pox from her brother. She grows to love her Uncle's family, especially her cousin Margaret. She is sent home to her distant mother and father and feels very displaced. She has troubles bonding with her fractious mother, Martha. The family has troubles with their neighbors and Martha and most of the children are eventually imprisoned in Salem as accused witches. Martha is hanged for her crime as she refuses to bow down to pressure and declare herself a witch although she told her children to do so to save themselves.
The novel is a great tale of the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters as well as a great social commentary on the evils of the Salem witch trials. It was a unique perspective seeing it all through the eyes of an accused child. It was very interesting as the characters in the novel are all based on real historical people. The author is a descendant of Martha Carrier.
This was a very good historical fiction novel and I highly recommend it.
The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer
Captain Jack Staple is on his way to visit a friend, when he discovers a Toll-Gate untended except for a small boy. He quickly discovers a mystery in the disappearance of the boys father and settles in as a mysterious cousin to uncover the case. Along the way he finds love with Nell, the local squire's granddaughter.
This book was entertaining and a good mystery, but not as much a romance as I was expecting. Also the book seemed to get caught up in jokes doing with the vernacular of the lower classes. I could understand what they were talking about mostly, but felt left out of the joke. Plus I must admit to a great dislike of books and the overuse of authors feeling the need to spell out the vernacular of the times.
Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger
Chasing Harry Winston focuses on three friends, Emmy (a chef whose long term boyfriend has just dumped her for a younger woman), Leigh (a perfectionist who finds that she is not in love with her perfect boyfriend), and Adriana, a beautiful, rich, latina bombshell. Emmy and Adriana make a pack to change their lives over the next year and find themselves during the process. Meanwhile Leigh has made a secret pack and also finds herself.
I thought the girls were all relatable, except for Adriana as she was so rich and beautiful. I especially enjoyed how they are exactly my age - even having graduated from college in 2000. It made it especially enjoyable and relatable to me because of this.
If you are looking for a quick chick lit read, this is your book. It's an okay read, not the best, but also not the worst.
New Moon and Eclipse both by Stephenie Meyer
New Moon is the second novel in the saga. Edward and the Cullen family leave town after Edward decides that they will always bring nothing but danger to Bella. Bella is devestated and sinks into a deep depression. The only thing that is able to bring her out of her depression is her friendship with Jacob, a young native American teen that she has known her entire life (dads are friends). Jacob has a supernatural secret of his own . . . this book was fantastic. I liked the discussion of Romeo and Juliet throughout and the parallels with this novel.
Eclipse is the third novel in the saga. Bella is torn between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob as the two are mortal enemies. An evil vampire is on the hunt for Bella with a vampire army. Edward and Jacob and their families unit to protect Bella from this evil force. The battle is quite thrilling as is the theme of Bella being torn between the two men. I LOVED the discussion of Wuthering Heights in this book and the parallels. I also loved the use of one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost at the beginning of this novel. Meyer seems to have the same literary passions as I do - no wonder I love her works.
Okay - plot spoilers ahead for those who haven't read the books . . . I know I am in the minority here, I love Edward and think he is one of he sexiest literary heros I've ever read before, but I actually love Jacob and kind of wish Bella would have chosen him. I love the close friendship they have and the fact that she would be able to live a mostly normal life with him. He's also a tall, warm, and hairy man . . . sounds kind of like my husband - no wonder I think Jacob should win.
If you haven't read the Twilight Saga yet - I highly recommend these books. They are fantastic reads - some of the best books I've read in awhile. I'm really looking forward to the "Twilight" movie!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman
I love Alice Hoffman's novels - I need to read more of them. Her books often deal with the fantastical in our life, they are very hard to explain. They deal with honest troubles in life, but add a mystical dimension.
This novel was a three part novel that dealt with tragic love and involved a ghost and the mystery of who, what, and where the ghost came from originally. The first part of the novel dealt with Maddy, a young lawyer who has traveled to England for her sister's wedding, and f'sds herself falling in love with her sister's fiance. I was annoyed by this story at first because I didn't care for Maddy and had no empathy for her. When this section switched to Allie and Paul's story - it got A LOT better. The second party of the novel was about Paul's mother Frieda in the . She worked as a maid at the same hotel Maddy was staying at in section 1. She had a doomed love affair with a young musician that was heavily into drugs and in love with someone else. Section 3 told the story of Maddy and Allie's mother, Lucy. She stayed at the same hotel as a young girl and witnessed the tragedy that created the ghost that haunts section 1 and 2. By the end I actually flipped back through the book and read parts of the other sections with a much better understanding. It was great. It dealt with the complexities of love, but also had a very engaging mystery. I loved how the different characters and pieces of the story were interrelated.
I would love to discuss this book with someone. It would make a good book club book . . . except that it takes a bit to get into it. Anyone else love this book?
Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham
I was annoyed by the adultery as I often am in novels when it seems to happen for no good reason. I got over it though as it was a good complex tale on what is involved in a good marriage. Each character was given a good three dimensional analysis and no one was who they seemed to be. One of my favorite characters was Jenna the nanny. Her jokes and take on everything was fantastic.
Overall it was an okay read, not one of my favorites, but not bad.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Twilight is a passionate and thrilling story about a young teenage girl, Bella, who moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father. She has normal teenage angst about fitting in at a new school, but also finds herself enraptured with a beautiful teenage boy named Edward. Eventually she discovers that Edward is a vampire. The book takes a thrilling turn when Edward and his family must protect Bella from an evil force - and I will say no more.
I can see why teenage girls are enraptured with this book - Edward is one of the sexiest heros I've ever read in literature, even though there is no sex in the novel. He rates up there with Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, Heathcliff, Rhett Butler . . . I need to start a list of top ten sexiest heros of literature! :-) He is not only gorgeous, but has a tortured soul that yearns to love Bella.
I highly recommend Twilight - it was a fantastic, thrilling, vampire love story. I can't wait to read New Moon!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
This non-fiction book tells the story of how Greg Mortenson traveled to Pakiston to climb K2. Disoriented after his failed bid to climb the mountain, he ends up in the small village of Korphe. The inhabitants care for Mortenson and he becomes friends with them. He promises to build them a school. He returns to America to raise money. Through hardships and years of work, he finally builds his school. Learning lessons from this first experience, he begins to build schools across Pakistan and after 9/11, Afghanistan.
Mortenson's story is inspiring. It's amazing how one man can do so much good. Parts of the book made me angry such as when he tries to give his talks in D.C. to politicians on how money spent on schools and clean water could do so much more good than more bombings. I still have hope that enough people will read this book to cause a change to happen in our government and in our dealings with Afghanistan. This book is a must read!
I enjoyed the movie, but especially liked how it was set in the 1990's. It was interesting to see how the city changed through time. I also laughed when he was originally from Wisconsin. It seems like Wisconsin is always the state of chose for a midwestern location in movies.
The movie seemed to stretch it for me though that the dad would tell his young daugher such raunchy details including the fact that Emily and Summer had an affair, Emily slept with his roommate, etc. Why would you want your daughter to know such personal details about her mother? Also Maya was a bit too good to be true. The ending surprised me, but no offense, but a daughter that is living through a divorce isn't going to want to help set her dad up with someone else. Unrealistic.
Otherwise it was a pretty good movie - I'd say mediocre chick flick. It provided a few laughs even to Ben who was passing by as I watched it.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
You're Breaking my Heart . . . Robin Hood
Spoiler alert . . .
So how could the writers do this to me? How could they end Season 2 so badly?? The whole ending was ludicrous. Why the heck would Marian decide to tell Guy at the moment he is rushing towards the King with a weapon that she loves only Robin Hood. She knows this will destroy Guy and make him very angry. If anything, she would have done as she had always done in the past and appealed to Guy for his better self, for his love of her. I know Guy would have been angry, but to stab Marian and then run off like a coward? This seemed so out of character that I just wanted to laugh, if albeit hysterically. To have Robin and Marian get married while she lay dying was just so wrong. . . .wrong . . . .wrong. Getting rid of Marian has gotten rid of the best part of the show for me. Marian added the dimensionality to the characters, especially Guy. I don't even know if I want to watch Season 3.
What did you think of the finale?
Monday, August 18, 2008
Vote for TV's Most Memorable Moments
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Maternity Leave Book Review
Slave by Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis. I borrowed this book from my friend Elina. It was an eye-opening true live tale of a young girl torn from her family in Africa and forced into a life of servitude in Africa and also in Great Britian. I was and still am VERY disturbed that slavery still exists in our world today. We need to do something about this as a resident of the world! I recommend this book for everyone to broaden your world view.
Hard Eight, To the Nines, Ten Big Ones, and Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich. I read these four light and fluffy reads over the past couple of months. Stephanie Plum's adventures continue to keep me entertained and laughing. I thought Hard Eight was a bit weak, but loved the other three. I'm getting distressed that I only have three books left in the series to read!
The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. The Lady Elizabeth is a fantastic historical novel about Queen Elizabeth I. I liked the perspective of the book as it was about her very early years, which are mostly ignored in novels for her later queenly years. A must read if you are a historical fiction fan that loves the Tudor era.
My Lady Ludlow and Other Stories by Elizabeth Gaskell. If you read Cranford, you will notice that there are many characters and tales missing that were in the PBS miniseries. This book contains the missing links. "My Lady Ludlow" and "Doctor Harrison's confessions" contain the missing characters. I enjoyed this book of stories. Gaskell is a great Victorian author who really gets the detail of living in a small country village.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I read this book for my Kewaunee Library June book club pick. It's a great book for fans of The DaVinci Code and books in general. It is the story of a sacred Jewish text that was rescued in Sarajevo during the war in the 1990's. The book restorer finds several "clues" in the book of the journey it has taken over the past 500 years. There are several stories then for each clue and the books journey. It was VERY interesting. I only wish the stories could have been longer. This is one of the best books I have read this year.
The Notebook and The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks. I reread The Notebook for my Mom's Club June book club pick. It's a good book, but I actually think I like the movie better. I feel that it was Sparks' first novel and not as well written as some of his later books. The Wedding is a follow-up to The Notebook and is one of the most romantic books I've ever read. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a romantic tale.
Real People, Real Prescense by Cardinal William Keeler. This book is full of short stories about the Eucharist and how different people in a Catholic community feel about it. I enjoyed it. It gave me a lot to think about and helped me on my faith journey.
Push Not the River and Against a Crimson Sky by James Conroyd Martin. My mother-in-law loaned me these books and I highly enjoyed them. They are a must for those who love historical fiction as I do. The fantastic thing about these books is that they are set in Poland during the late eighteenth century. I know nothing about Poland and it was great to read a book not set in England or France. Push Not the River is based on Lady Anna Maria's diary, which is amazing considering all that she goes through. It is a great book. Against a Crimson Sky is a bit weaker as it is not based on a diary, but on Martin's imaginings of what could have been. He delves too much into the history to the detriment of the story.
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale. After reading a couple of great reviews of this books, we chose it for our July Kewaunee library book club pick. This doesn't happen often, but the reviews of the book were actually better than the book itself. While the muder mystery was horrifying and interesting to read about, the book too often delved into tedious details that I didn't care about. Maybe I was spoiled by great non-fiction reads such as The Devil in the White City, but this book was not a good read.
Sam's Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson. This novel was my Lakeshore Mom's Club book club pick for July. It is one of Ellen's favorite novels so she chose it. Half of the moms loved it, while the other half hated it. I liked it, but had some details in it that annoyed me. Sam is actually the grandma writing letters to her granddaugher Jennifer about her illicit affair with the man of her dreams. Jennifer reads the letters while Sam is in the hospital and falls in love with her dying friend Brenden. The lovers and haters of this book disagreed about happy vs sad endings. Should an ending be happy if it is unrealistic? Interesting discussion. My bones were the details. The Badger Ferry didn't play movies and have many of it amenties until the 1990's, but riders find these things on the ferry in the 1970's. I loved the Wisconsin setting and the romantic get aways to Copper Harbor Michigan.
Dear John by Nicholas Sparks. Another good love story from Sparks. I enjoyed that the novel was about people my age and dealt with change after 9/11. The ending was sad, but good. The overall plot is about a young man that is in the military. Back on leave he falls in love with a young college girl. He makes plans with her for when he gets out of the military, but it all changes after he reenlists after 9/11. It's a good story, but have a box of kleenex hand.
I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle. This comic novel is about a dorky valedictorian's confession of love for popular Beth Cooper and the night of hilarity that follows. It was entertaining, but not the best book I've read. I thougtht the language and sex was a bit much for a young adult novel (I had to read adult novels for that as a teen), so I must be getting old
The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman. This novel is two stories, one is a modern day story of a woman searching for herself and the clues to the mystery of what happened to an English merchant's daughter, Celia, hundreds of years before. Celia was thought to be shipwrecked, but was really kidnapped and taken as part of the Sultan's harem. The second story is about Celia and her love Paul as he searches for her. I loved Celia and Paul's story, but was bored by the modern day scholar. Her love story was not engaging. The ending of Paul and Celia's story was bittersweet and a bit of a let down. Overall an interesting novel, but not the best I've read.
The Dirty Girls Social Club and Dirty Girls on Top by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez. I read a good review of Dirty Girls on Top in Entertainment Weekly and figured I would check out the first book it was based on before I read it. The premise is chick lit from a Latina perspective. While I did enjoy the Latina perspective, as chick lit it was mediocre. While I did enjoy The Dirty Girls Social Club, I found Dirty Girls on Top to be a disappointing sequel. Mostly it was because I liked the ending of book 1, but Valdes-Rodriguez felt the need to undo all of the happy endings to start off book two. I found it unbelievable that a wife would go back to a murdering husband, and I couldn't feel sympathy for Usnavys and her cheating on a perfect husband. I'd read book 1, but skip book 2.
Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot. This is the third book in the Queen of Babble series. It is a light hearted chick lit novel about Lizzie Nicols and her trials in NYC. I like her spunk and independence. I really like how she is always able to work for her dreams. On the romantic side though, I must say I was disappointed. What the heck happened with Luke? I don't know - anyone else out there that has read the series and would like to discuss.
In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner. I have read this book previously, but reread it as it is my Mom's Club book club pick for August. Weiner is one of my favorite authors. Her chick lit has a great depth to it. I love the secondary characters and the relationships between sisters. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it.
In the Company of Secrets and Whispers Along the Rails by Judith Miller. I received these two books from my MIL for my birthday. They are Christian romance novels set in the late 1800's in Pullman, Illinois. I loved the historical aspect of them. The story was very good and kept me interested. I just wish I had the third book so I could see how it ends. Perhaps I'll have to hint around to my MIL that it would make a good Christmas present.
Love the One You're With by Emily Griffin. This novel was about a woman with a perfect husband who suddenly meets up with her long lost love. They had broken up for good reasons, but suddenly she finds herself wondering if she made a mistake. I thought this book was rather slow and it annoyed me as SHE HAD THE PERFECT HUSBAND. It was okay over all - I'd rather read any of Weiner's novels than this book.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. This book was recommended to me by my friend Corinna. Kathy and I decided to pick it for our August Kewaunee Library book club pick. The book had an interesting premise. The author, Barbara Ehrenreich, lived in three different locations across the country and tried to live on a minimum wage job. She had a lot of difficulty, especially in securing a place to live. It was interesting as I had never thought about people living in hotels and whatnot. I thought that Barbara was a bit condecending to people who do work lower wage jobs. She tried to show the hardships they had to face, but she also seemed to think she was better than they were. It should make for a good discussion at our meeting!
Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger. My MIL loaned me this book. It was a great mystery/love story set in Northern Minnesota and in Thunder Bay, Canada. A retired police officer is asked by a family friend (Henry) to find the son he feels exists that would now be a 70 something year old man. The story of Henry and his lost love Maria Lima takes up the middle of the book and was also wonderful. I really enjoyed this book.
Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson. I have loved the movie Somewhere in Time my entire life, but have never read the book until now. The book is back out in print as Matheson is also the author of I Am Legend. This book is the ultimate in describing a passionate love that can make a man will himself through time to be with his love. I really liked how the book made you question though whether Richard truly traveled through time or whether it was caused by his brain tumor. I like how the movie was set in Mackinac Island rather than the California of the novel. It was a good fantasy novel.
Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange. Grange tackled one of my favorite Jane Austen heros, Captain Wentworth. I loved how this book described Anne and Captain Wentworth's first romance prior to the start of Austen's novel. Wentworth was a bit more of a "player" than I would have imagined him to be, but it all changes when he falls in love with Anne. This is a great book for any Jane Austen fan.
Well, I've been working on this "quick" summary for a week and a half now so it's time to post! I kept reading more books which added to me not being able to finish it! :-)
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Maternity Leave Movie Review
I didn't watch too many movies over the past two months. I haven't been to the theatre at all - with an infant and a 2-year old - it's hard to get away. I have watched a few movies on DVD though, and here is some quick reviews of what I thought.
August Rush. This movie was a romance married to Oliver Twist. It was the story of a young orphan boy music prodigy and his parents. It was okay. I didn't like it as well as I thought I would - mostly because of some silly plot twists.
There Will Be Blood. When I think of Daniel Day Lewis, I think of him as sexy Nathaniel running through the forest in The Last of the Mohicans. He was NOT sexy in this movie. While There Will Be Blood had beautiful and brillant cinematography, I found the story to be overly violent and confusing. When I got to the end, I thought, "what was the point?" and "best picture nominee - I think not!" Was anyone really truly moved by this tale? I would be interested in hearing your point of view.
P.S. I Love You. The story of a young widow and the husband who sends her letters throughout the year to help her move on with life. It was a good movie, but would have been more enjoyable if it wouldn't have started with a fight between the couple. In the next scene the husband was already dead. I would have like their love story more if I would have felt more drawn to the couple. Besides the first scene though, I loved the movie.
No Country for Old Men. I agree with the overall reviews for this movie, it was a good movie except for the ending. Was it all just a dream? It was a scary, action packed movie. I really wanted to see what had happened. If it were up to me, I would not have awarded this movie best picture because of the ending. I think Atonment and Juno were both much better pictures. I also think Eastern Promises and 3:10 to Yuma were better pictures and they weren't even nominated for best picture!
National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Another fluffy adventure movie in the same vein as the first movie. Don't go into it expecting a masterpiece and also don't think about it too much and you'll enjoy it.
27 Dresses. I thought this movie was an enjoyable chick flick. I really love James Marsden and was happy to see him in a movie where he actually does win the girl! This story of a woman who has been a bridesmaid 27 times seemed a bit far fetched at times, but it was a cute movie.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Quick Book Review Update
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. I loved the Masterpiece Theatre mini-series and also read the book over the past few days. The book does not include any stories about Doctor Harrison or Lady Ludlow - they are separate novellas, which I didn't realize at first! The book is a charming picture of life in a small village during the Victorian era. I enjoyed it.
The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier. This book was recommended and borrowed from my good friend Elina (she has been recommending books to me since 4th grade!). This book was about a woman who has relocated to modern day France and becomes obsessed with tracing the story of her ancestors. Her ancestors were Hugenots that had to flee France to Switzerland to avoid prosecution in the 16th century. Half of the story is about her ancestor Isabelle and the dark secret hidden in the family. It was a good book and very interesting to learn about the era.
Princess by Jean P. Sasson. Princess was also loaned and recommended to me by Elina. The book was a first person account of a Saudi Arabian Princess named Sultana for the book's purposes. It was a vivid account of life under the veil and rule of men. It gave good brief background to the history of the region and of Islam. It was a good book to read to understand women's issues in the Middle east althought it was written directly after Desert Storm so it is a bit dated. It's hard to believe that women live such restricted lives in our modern age.
The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. This is another book borrowed from Elina. I enjoyed this novel a lot! It tells the tale of a beautiful unicorn tapistry and how it was designed and woven. The lives it intersects are fascinating. I highly recommend this novel to fellow lovers of historical fiction.
Time and Again by Nora Roberts. This novel is actually a combination of two older novels by Nora Roberts. They both involve handsome men traveling back in time from the 24th century and meeting the love of their lives. They were entertaining novels, but not among Roberts best.
The Perfect Summer by Luanne Rice. This book was a Mom's Club book club pick. The story is a romance/mystery involving a woman, Bay McCabe, who's unfaithful husband has disappeared, and who's teenage crush has reappeared. I enjoyed this light read, except for the excessive mention of the "boardwalk" that Bay and Danny worked on in their youth.
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult. I thought this novel was riveting and thought provoking (although I figured out the "surprise" ending right away. It involved a murderer who was on death row and wanted to donate his heart to his victim's family. The murderer may also be performing miracles in jail.
Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner. I enjoyed this book although it's surprise ending was a tear jerker, especially after you've just given birth. I think Ben thought someone had died when he saw my tears! This novel is a follow up to Good in Bed. I thought it was a good sequel and enjoyed getting back into Cannie's story.
The Strongbow Saga Book Three: The Road to Vengeance by Judson Roberts. This novel was another first look review from Harper Collins so the novel actually comes out in June. I enjoyed the novel. Although I hadn't read the first two in the series, I was able to grasp the story quickly and go with it. If you enjoy Viking adventure tales, this book is for you.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Quick Movie Update
Michael Clayton. If I had to describe this movie in one word, it would be confusion. I watched this is with Mom and Kristi the day after I came home from the hospital. We were very confused at the beginning and thought it was just us so we watched it again and decided it was the movie! It was an okay movie and I liked George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson's performance, but I'm still unsure why Tilda Swynton won an Oscar. This movie didn't move or inspire me
Eastern Promises. Viggo Mortensen. Naked Fight Scene. I'll admit, I had less then pure motives for wanting to watch this movie. The movie was disturbing, yet very good. I found myself thinking about it a lot over the days after I had seen it, but I also don't think I ever need to watch it again as the violence was just too disturbing. So disturbing that I couldn't enjoy the naked Viggo Mortensen fight scene and actually closed my eyes to block out the violence. It was a very good movie though and had excellent performances. I recommend watching it, but be aware that it gets very violent and graphic.
Atonement. Atonement was an excellent movie and I highly recommend it. I loved the novel and the movie does an excellent job bringing the novel to life. It followed the novel very well and I especially like how it would show scenes twice at times with how Briony interpretted it and what really happened. I cried at the end. It not only is a great movie about two star crossed lovers, but also about perception and the horrors of war.
Rush Hour 3. This movie does not belong in the same category as the previous three, that's for sure. I found it rather tame and formuliac. It was definitely not as good as the first version. As I told Ben, if you don't watch it, you didn't miss much.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Juno is an off-beat indie film about a 16-year old Minnesotan girl named Juno MacGuff that finds herself accidently pregnant after basically a one-night experiment in sex with her best friend Paulie. At first Juno thinks she should get an abortion, but after going to the clinic, she decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption. It is a difficult decision, especially with everyone at school making fun of her, but a very admirable one. I like the fact that she knows she is not ready as a teenager to raise the baby on her own. She finds a rich couple in the local "Penny Saver" ads and meets with them with her father. She really connects with Mark, the prospective dad, who has a lot in common with her. Vanessa is more of a cold woman, but Juno appreciates how she wants a baby and is good with kids. Unfortunately, she finds out that Mark and Vanessa are not the perfect couple that they seem and she has some hard decisions to make. Along the way Juno also finds true love.
It was an entertaining movie, but sometimes I found the dialogue to be a bit jaring and weird at times. I liked the films realistic settings and teen angst though. It took on a difficult subject and showed the trials of Juno as she grows up. It was a good movie overall.
House of Testosterone: One Mom's Survival in a Household of Males by Sharon O'Donnell
The book is set up basically as a series of articles/stories about the every day life in a household of males. From not being able to keep up with the laundry, to trying to understand the sport speak of the men, it was a humerous book to read. It gives me insight to what I have to look forward to as Kile and my ready-to-be-born-any-minute son grow older. The stories were almost bittersweet at times - there were exasperating moments, yet moments of sadness as your little boys grow into men.
I'd recommend this book to other moms of boys. It was pretty funny. Sharon O'Donnell has a website at http://www.momsofboys.org/ that is pretty interesting to look at. Enjoy!
Thursday, April 17, 2008
The Loser's Guide to Life and Love by A.E. Cannon
The Loser's Guide to Life and Love is a young adult novel set in Salt Lake City. The story revolves around a young man named Ed who works at a local movie rental place. He has the old name tag on his coat identifying him as Sergio and meets a beautiful girl who has moved to town named Ellie. He knows Ed would never have a chance with Ellie, but as Sergio, he can be sauve and cool. The story is told in first person by Ed, Ellie, Scout (Ed's best girl friend), and Quark (Ed's best guy friend). Matters get complicated when Ed starts to think that Scout could be more than a pal and Quark starts to have similar thoughts.
I really liked reading everyone's take on the situation. I also thought the four main characters were all very interesting. I actually wanted to read more about them and was sad when the book ended. I hope there is a sequel. I definitely identified with the teen angst in the novel from my own teenage years. One of my favorite parts was Scout's illicit addiction to regency romance novels and how she didn't want her guy friends to find out! I also liked how they were normal teens and not the drunken, drugged out variety that seem to populate the TV airways.
It was a really good book for anyone that is looking for a light read and likes to read young adult once in awhile like me. This book comes out in this summer in July - so be on the look out for it!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Gone Baby Gone
Gone Baby Gone is not a cheerful movie and it is definitely not a movie with a cut and dry ending. The overall story involves two detectives, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and his girlfriend Angie that are hired to track down a missing girl by the girl's aunt and uncle. They discover that the girl's mother, Helene (Amy Ryan), is a crack-ho that had left the girl home alone while she went out to a bar to do drugs with her boyfriend. It also turns out that Helene and her boyfriend had double-crossed a drug dealer and had stolen some money. There is much, much more to this story, but you will have to watch to find out. Will they find the little girl?
I really liked this movie and thought it was the best movie I have seen in a long time. Why wasn't this movie nominated for the best picture oscar? Although I was skeptical going into watching this, I thought Ben Affleck did an excellent job at directing this movie and all of the actors were also excellent in their parts. I highly recommend this movie. There is a lot of swearing and violence though - so don't watch it with kids around!
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Compared to the movie, I liked the novel better. If you liked the movie, I definitely recommend this novel!
Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival by Velma Wallis
Velma Wallis wrote down this legend that had been passed down to her through oral traditions by her mother, a Athabascan Native American in the Alaskan Yukon. During hard times and starvation, two old women are left behind in the middle of winter to die as the tribe moves on. The women are inspired to remember how to survive according to the skills they had possessed as youth and decide to fight on instead of accepting death. It was a very interesting and inspiring tale. I highly recommend it!
The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte by Laura Joh Rowland
Charlotte and Anne Bronte make a trip to London to visit their publisher and reveal their identies after it is thought that they are the same author. They meet the mysterious Isabel White on the train who is later murdered outside their lodgings. Charlotte seeks to discover who murdered Isabel and stumbles across a plot that could destroy the British nation.
While it was a good mystery, I didn't like how Charlotte seemed to think every man was in love with her. At the first part of the novel, it made her seem rather silly. I also thought many of the events were highly improbable for Charlotte, but I did like her spunky spirit and the thought that she had a chance at love, but chose her art instead. If you like mysteries and the Bronte sisters, it is definitely worth a read.
Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors
Mistress of the Revolution is the story of Gabrielle de Montserrat a young aristocratic woman in eighteenth century France. Her family is aristocratic, but impoversed. She falls in love with a non-aristocrat who proposes marriage, but her brother forbids it and marries her off to an old, abusive cousin. Gabrielle ends up in Paris right before the revolution and becomes a part of Marie Antonette's court. She experiences the harsh realities of the French Revolution first hand and finds that her first true love is now a judge in the tribunal. Real life characters abound and it was a gripping novel that also brought to life the horrifying events of the French Revolution.
Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
It is my goal to read both of Obama's books as well as John McCain's book so I am fully informed by the time of the fall election. I tried to read Hilary's book when it came out a few years ago and found it unreadable. Fortunately a review on NPR told me that Obama and McCain had much better books.
Obama's book told the story of his youth and growing up, his college career in California and New York City, his work as a community organizer in Chicago, and about his trip back to Kenya to visit his family. Obama was born to a white American woman and a black Kenyan father. His parents got divorced when he was two and his father left. He only saw him one other time (when he was 10 or 11) before he died in a tragic car accident. The overarching theme of the book is who was Obama Sr.? What does it mean to be a half Kenyan, half white American man? I thought the book was very interesting to read as a book about a man facing identity struggles and not really a book about a politician at all. I really liked reading about his trip to Kenya and the discoveries he made there about his father as well as his work as a community organizer in Chicago. It was hard to read about his disillusioned youth, but it was a good point to see how he changed over time.
I thought the writing was fantastic and it was a very interesting book overall. I would like to read more about how he went to law school, became a lawer, state senator, etc. Is this book better than McCain's? I'll let you know after I read McCain's!
Monday, March 31, 2008
The Game Plan
While the plot is not original by any means, I was still entertained. The Rock portrays Joe Kingman, a superstar quarterback on a fictional Boston Team. Joe is an egomaniac and working toward winning his first "national championship." Out of the blue, a young girl, Peyton, shows up on his doorstep claiming to be his daughter. Peyton has a birth certificate and a letter from her mother as proof. She needs Joe to watch her for a month while her mother is in Africa. Joe is thrown for a loop and has many moments of bad parenting before discovering that there is more to life than himself.
The movie actually surprised me with a loop toward the end that I was not expecting - which I found very satisfying. Otherwise the movie was pretty typical with Joe learning to be a good father and how not to be so self-centered. It is not a cinematic masterpiece by any means, but was an enjoyable family film.