Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Victorian Home: The Grandeur and Comforts of the Victorian Era in Households Past & Present by Ellen M. Plante

The Victorian Home is a fantastic guide to the history of the uses and decorations of each room in a home during the Victorian period from 1837 to 1901. This book gives a brief overall history of interior design and furniture styles during the “early” and “late” Victorian periods and then breaks into chapters about each room. Chapters included:

1. The Proper Parlor
2. The Dining Room
3. The Library and Sitting Room
4. The Victorian Kitchen
5. The Victorian Bathroom
6. The Victorian Bedroom
7. The Victorian Porch

The end of the book also includes a glossary of terms and lists where to buy authentic and reproductions of Victorian furniture and decorations.

Each chapter gave an intriguing history of that room in a Victorian house and further detail on walls, floors, window treatments, furniture, lighting, etc. during different periods in the Victorian era. It also gave detail on how to bring this Victorian interior design to your modern home.

The book included wonderful pictures throughout to illustrate design examples. On a negative, the pictures were all from very large houses that were probably mansions. There were not very many pictures of smaller rooms or more middle class Victorian homes.

Overall this book gave a great overall impression of what it would be like to live in a Victorian home during the Victorian time period. Now when the library or dining rooms are mentioned in a Victorian novel, I will know how to envision them.

I think it would also be a useful guide on how to decorate your Victorian home or your newer home in a Victorian style. I know I got many ideas from it for our old Victorian home. I told Ben I need my own copy of this book for Christmas!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Star Trek

Ben and I finally went to a theatre and watched a movie! Those of you with small children know how hard it is to actually get to go out on a date without said small children. This is especially difficult when you have any relatives that live nearby.

It was especially exciting for us to be going to a movie because it was a Star Trek movie. Ben and I are both serious Star Trek fans. I have loved Star Trek since I was a small girl watching the original series and then The Next Generation with my Dad. I remember having an earache and getting to go with my Dad and Mom to go and see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home at the movie theatre. Since then, I have seen every Star Trek movie in the theatre. The last few were actually family events where myself, my Dad, and Grandma Arlt were sure to be in attendence. Those who say that Star Trek (and sci-fi) in general have no female fans need to look no further than my family and to my Grandma and myself! I couldn't miss seeing this Star Trek movie in the theatre!!

Fortunately, the new Star Trek movie lives up the hype. Unfortunately, I had obsessively read every article I saw about the movie and it ruined much of the plot for me. I do not want to do that to someone else so suffice it to say that this movie is the story of how Kirk and Spock grew up, joined Star Fleet, and learned to work together. They also meet up with the rest of the historic crew for their first mission out of Starfleet to help save the planet Vulcan. There is time travel involved and an inspired plot twist that will help the creators have a free license in storytelling as they hopefully continue this reinvention of Star Trek.

I love the original actors, but the new actors playing my beloved old characters were great. The action was also fantastic. My Dad has not seen it yet, but I told him he will be pleased as he has complained my entire life about the Enterprise's crappy firing ability and in this movie, the Enterprise FINALLY is able to defend itself properly. I also loved the score. There were some great fan throw-backs in the movie and I also loved the comedic bits.

This was a great retake of the Star Trek world and I really want to see it again. Dad and Grandma haven't went without me so perhaps I will get to see it again when I am in Michigan next week. Since we were the only three people who went and saw Nemesis in the theatre - I can't believe how well this movie is doing without us!

How does this rank with previous Star Trek movies? My favorites are 2, 4, and 6. I would put this movie in the same category as the best of the movies. I still think Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the best Star Trek movie as Nemo in the current film was a MUCH weaker villian than Khan. Will we see Khan in the future in this new Star Trek universe? Only time will tell!

Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed - Book Club Meeting

Something very cool happened last week. The author of Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed, Marc Blatte, found my blog and commented on my review of his book. I emailed him and he agreed to talk with my Kewaunee library book club at our meeting last week.

We had a fantastic time talking with him. He gave us very interesting insights into his book and also asked us questions about how we felt about certain sections of the book. We all agreed that Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed was one of the best book titles we have heard in a long time. Overall it was very entertaining and a great way to experience the book. It also helped our book club to stay on topic and not delve into politics as we are apt to do.

Marc Blatte was a great sport and we really enjoyed talking to him. I think everyone in the Kewaunee library learned about Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed that day as we all had a great time and let everyone know! It was a great book and we all enjoyed it (except for Janice who is still finishing it - but she liked what she had read so far!) We can't wait for his next novel!

We are going to read Marc's pick for us, The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith, for our next meeting in July.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lost Finale

It's hard to believe it has been a week already since the excellent Lost Season 5 finale. Ben and I have spent much of this past week discussing how it ended, the season as a whole, and theories on what will happen in the next final (sniff) season.

I think that Season 5 was a great season. After things got off track in Season 3, the past two seasons have really picked it back up again and have made me realize why I love Lost. I am a big fan of time travel so I really liked this season. While others are turned off by the "weirdness" of the show, I embrace it and want more.

Ben and I recorded the finale on the DVR and started it an hour late after the kids went to bed. Dispite our best intentions (we'll only watch it until the next commerical), we watched the entire thing only to be devestated when a storm made our Dish go out leaving us without the last two minutes. NOOOO!!! Luckily I found the end on youtube the next day and we were able to see what happened.

What an ending!!! JULIET!!! I must admit, I was not a Juliet fan in previous seasons. I thought she was rather cold. But this season watching her and Sawyer's wonderful romance, I forgot all about how I ever wanted Kate and Sawyer to end up together. Juliet completed Sawyer and allowed him to become the man he was always meant to be. I loved their relationship and was devestated when Juliet fell down the hole. The only positive was that Juliet finally understood Sawyer's love for her . . . too late!!!

What do you think will happen after the bomb explosion? Ben and I have been comtemplating this a lot. I just read Doc Jenson's excellent theories on I love his theory that the bomb explosion did reset the timeline and that the castaways that he touched will retain memories of the past three years. Juliet was not touched and therefore will not remember Sawyer, but he will remember her. Tragic! This is much better than any theory that Ben and I came up with. The only hole is - what happened to Miles? I would hate for him to forget that he finally met his Dad and had a bit of bonding before "The Incident."

I was excited that we were finally able to meet Jacob on this episode and his advisary, who shall remain nameless. Their epic battle seemed biblical. While Jacob seems like the good guy, I am still wary. And why did his advisary go to such lengths to find a loophole to kill Jacob. I am intrigued. I can't wait to learn more about Jacob and his advisary next season. I also hope that we will see the landing of the Black Rock and learn if Richard Alpert was on that ship. Speaking of Richard it was amazing to learn what a tool he and Ben have been in Jacob and his advisaries plans. Very interesting.

The only weakness I saw with the finale was characters motivations. It seemed as though the writers wanted characters to be in certain places at certain times, but wasn't always sure how to get them there. Juliet's excuse for changing her mind to help Jack reset the timeline . . . that Sawyer LOOKED at Kate. Come on. After living with Sawyer for three years, one would think that Juliet would be a little more self assured than that and would fight for her man. Also Jack's motivation to have a second chance with Kate and therefore he is going to nuke the island was also very weak. I agreed with Sawyer that Kate is on the other side of the d(*^ bushes - just go and talk to her!

Doc Jenson has asked fans for the top three mysteries they would like solved next season. This is a hard question as there are A LOT of myteries that I want solved. Here are my three:

1. Smokey

2. Jacob and his advisory

3. Those darn numbers

What are your top three and what are your thoughts on the finale? I could go on, but I have work to do. I will respond to posts though!

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My Sister's Keeper was my personal pick for the Lakeshore Mom's book club this month. I read the book two years ago and knew it was a page turning, fantastic story that is especially relevant to mothers. To read a summary of the plot of this novel, please see my previous blog about this novel. I think it was a good book club pick, everyone told me before book club how much they enjoyed it and couldn't put it down. I had the same experience, it was my second time reading the novel, but I couldn't put it down. After a nail bitting Lost finale last week, I stayed up late to finish My Sister's Keeper. And I wonder why I never get enough sleep!

We had a great discussion of this novel yesterday at book club at my house from a mother's prospective. On one hand, we had one member who though the mother, Sara, was way overboard on protecting her sick daughter Kate. On the other hand, another member could see how one could get this protective and would give anything to cure their sick daughter. It was a good talk.

If you are looking for a good page turning summer read that you can't put down, I highly recommend this book. It would be a timely read as a movie based on the novel is coming out at the end of June. See the trailer here. I am a little disturbed by the casting (Cameron Diaz is not old enough by a good decade and Alec Baldwin is too old by two decades) and very disturbed about the rumored change in the excellent novel ending. But I still want to see the movie besides my misgiving!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Leigh by Lyn Cote

I listened to this novel on audiobook again (Anna Fields does a great job with the reading of the Women of Ivy Manor series), but a tragedy occurred. I was at the very end of the book and the CD was banged up and stopped working. How does it end!? I ran to the library to look for the real book, but it was checked out. Luckily I finally received one through inter-library loan and found out how it ended!! Moral of the story, although I have recently loved listening to audiobooks, they have their downfall.

I have really enjoyed the Women of Ivy Manor series thus far. Each individual novel is fantastic, but I really enjoy how the entire story arc is actually played out over the course of all of the novels. Case in point - Kitty from the first novel, Chloe. I have been wondering what happened to her and felt her story line was not solved in that novel. I was very excited to see her return in this third novel and have her mystery solved. That made my day!

Leigh is the story of Bette's daughter (and Chloe's granddaughter), Linda Leigh Sinclair. Leigh is born right after WWII and comes of age during the turbulant 1960's. From witnessing Dr. King's historic march on Washington, to the turbelant Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, to a look at hippy San Francisco, this novel gives a great look into the 1960's and 70's. I loved Leigh's forbidden love story with Frank Dawes and then her second chance at love with a FBI agent. I like how this book also took a bold look at a scandelous event in Leigh's personal life (I don't want to say what it is and ruin the book for someone). And of course - also loved the return of Kitty and the resolution of her storyline.

The only complaint I had about the novel was Bette. I loved the novel devoted to her and it is my favorite in the series thus far. I did not like how she became an overbearing, controlling mother who seemed to have nothing in common with her daughter. It made me sad. I know it is realistic that she may have had parenting issues, but I was hoping for some sense or spark of the old Bette and never found it.

I love this series and am currently listening to the last of four books, Carly. I'll be sad to see the series end!

Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed by Marc Blatte

Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed was my May library book club pick. I must admit, I had a hard time getting started on the book as I the entire hip-hop scene was something that did not interest me. But as I got into the book, I found I couldn't put it down. It kept me riveted - wanting to know how it would end. I guess this is the power of book clubs - it put a book in my path that I could normally not read that ended up being quite excellent.

Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed is a murder/mystery tale set in New York at a murder scene where the world of hip-hop, overpivileged youth, and immigrants with a dream collide. Pasko, an eastern European immigrant and body guard at an exclusive club has been murdered, and his cousin Vooko was run down. Detective "Black Sallie Blue Eyes" is on the case and also on the case of Scholar and Proof Positive, a hip-hop manager and group that may have attacked a white R&B producer at the club on the same night. Why was Pasko murdered?

And what is up with the name for this book. It's from this quote by Pasko, “Take care with this little cuz. This place America ain’t like home. No way. Here nobody takes responsibility for anything. They got ‘no fault insurance’, bumper stickers and tee-shirts that say ‘shit happens.’ Come on, man, let’s be real, shit don’t just happen, yo, that’s what I’m talking about – Humpty Dumpty was pushed!” Too true!

I also thought the author's biography on the back flap was great. It sounds like Blatte has led a very interesting life and definitely has the street cred to write this novel. A great first novel and I look forward to reading his next book.

Brideshead Revisted (2008)

Brideshead Revisted seemed like a great Laura movie. An English period movie with Emma Thompson, what could be better? Well, it turns out, a lot could be better. I found the movie to be weak and highly disappointing.

Charles Ryder is an artist who is taking history classes at Oxford. While there he meets Lord Sebastian Flyte, a flamboyant homesexual and drunk. Ryder and Flyte become friends Ryder is enamored of Flyte's gigantic home estate, Brideshead, and his family. His family includes his mother, Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson), sisters Julia and Cordelia, and brother Bridey. The family is Catholic. Charles falls in love with Julia (thus breaking Sebastion's heart), but is unable to marry her because he is not Catholic.

This movie felt like it had a lot of weighty issues that it wanted to discuss, but never quite got there. It sort of skirted around the Catholic and homosexual issues. I think we were meant to see that Sabastian felt a terrible guilt for his lifestyle from his very Catholic family, but this wasn't very well played out. He was a fun and great guy away from his family, but someone weighted down and sad while at Brideshead with his family. I also think we were supposed to see how hard it was to be an upper class Catholic family among Protestants. These themes would have been strong and interesting, but were not well played out in the movie at all. To me, Charles came across as a jerk. I was not sure what he was doing with Sebastian. He realized he was gay, seemed to flirt with him, but then gilted him for his sister. . . what??!! After Sebastian and Charles being the main focus of the first half of the film, it abruptly changed to a Julia/Charles unrequited love story. It was jarring and annoying.

Am I being too mean?? Did anyone love this movie?
I think this movie could have been good, but fell short. The themes seemed intriguing and do make me want to watch the 1980's mini-series and read the novel.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Wonders of Elizabeth Bennet

From a recent poll on my blog (78% Elizabeth Bennet, 15% Anne Elliot, 7% Elinor Dashwood) is by far the most popular Austen heroine. What is it about Elizabeth that appeals to the modern woman?

I love all of Austen's heroines, but I think every woman/girl secretly or not so secretly wants to be Elizabeth Bennet.

In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is an intelligent young woman, with "a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous". She may not always be right, but she is willing to own up to her mistakes. She is a loyal friend and sister who will do anything for the one she loves. She is fun, witty, and not perfect - I think she is very relatable as a woman. And of course, she ends up with Mr. Darcy - what woman does not want that?
It is also interesting how independent she is during a time period when women are not supposed to be independent. She is willing to put herself and her future on the line in order to find true happiness. I find that very admirable.

What are your views, why is Elizabeth Bennet such a popular character, and the favorite of all of Austen's wonderful characters? Please comment!

Knit 2 by Kate Jacobs

Knit 2 is the follow-up to Jacob's best seller, The Friday Night Knitting Club.

Knit 2 follows the members of the club five years after The events of The Friday Night Knitting Club. Several members have life changes, and several travel to Italy. Anita searches for her long lost sister. Dakota finds love and as a young college student, tries to determine what to do with her life.

This novel was okay, but The Friday Night Knitting Club was far superior. This novel was several random stories about the club members that were not tied together with a main character or problem as the first novel was. The novel spent far too much time talking about a dead character from the first book. Several storylines seemed to peter out before the end without resolution. I did enjoy reading this book, but it was a slow moving, and slow reading book.

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

Life Sentences was recommended on one of my favorite writer's (Jennifer Weiner's blog). It sounded like a great novel so I decided to check it out.

Cassandra Fallows is a well-known author that has published two best selling memoirs about her life. Her latest attempt was a fiction novel that has fallen flat. Cassandra happens to see a news story where she recognizes a fellow childhood schoolmate, Callie Jenkins. Callie served seven years in jail after she refused to explain the disappearance of her 1-year old son. Cassandra returns home to Baltimore to investigate this mystery in the hopes of writing a new memoir that centers on her childhood with Callie and Callie's subsequent fall from grace. Cassandra discovers that her old childhood friends are not so pleased that they have been immortalized in her previous memoirs. She also discovers new truths about herself and her family.

This novel was a good mystery, but it was mostly a character study. I thought this was a very good, but not excellent, novel. My only negative was that the "mystery" was a bit of a let down at the end.