Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 Movie Update

 I love to watch movies. When I first started this blog, I would post about each movie that I watched. Now if you look at my blog, you would think the only movies I watch are to fulfill Jane Austen challenges. Back in my single, dating, and newly married days, there was nothing I loved better than going out friends or Ben to the movie theatre. My movie watching has decreased with time and more kids, but I still watch movies. Ben and I don’t get to the movie theatre too much anymore. When you have three kids and the movie theatre is 30 to 45 minutes away, the babysitter fees are too much to get out that often. Most of the movies I watch are DVDs from the library, on Turner Classic Movies, or are on Starz (we get Starz “free” this year because of an increase in our monthly bill from Dish). I mostly watch movies in pieces during times I’m nursing Penelope . . . my movie time is going away now that she is getting weaned.

The following are movies I’ve watched this summer that I enjoyed. What movies have you watched and enjoyed lately? When do you watch movies?

Oscar Contenders:
The King’s Speech Wow, sometimes I watch best picture contenders and I find myself wondering what the fuss is about and vowing to never watch that movie again (I’m looking at you No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood). The King’s Speech was a positive movie that I loved and would enjoy watching again and again. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are spectacular as King “Bertie” George VI and Lionel Logue. I love how the movie is not only a tale of an unlikely friendship, but how a great tale of working to overcome a disability.

True Grit – I also loved True Grit. It was a great story also with brilliant performances. I have never seen the original or read the book so I can’t compare. Hailee Steinfield steals the show as Mattie Ross, a young teenage girl trying to avenge her father’s murder. She hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help her track down the killer. They are joined by a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who is tracking the same guy. I thought the cinematography, music, script, and acting were all superb. I loved this movie. Ben only saw pieces of it, but he was stopped in his tracks each time and had a few laughs at some of the witty dialogue. I did the The King’s Speech better, but True Grit was a very close second best film of 2010 in my opinion.

Period Movies

Bright Star – I really enjoyed this tragic love story of the poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. I didn’t know anything about this story at all and I enjoyed learning about the love affair. I also thought the cinematography was very beautiful and I loved the costumes. I also loved to hate poet Charles Brown, the arrogant friend of Keats that had a declared hatred for Fanny.

The Last Station – I always love learning something new about writers and historical figures. The Last Station gave me an education about Leo Tolstoy and his very unconventional end of life. The end of the movie had me want to burst through the TV and strangle Paul Giamatti as the sinister Chertkov. Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer gave powerhouse performances as Tolstoy and his wife Sofya. I also enjoyed James McAvoy as the young Bulgakov, but Mirren and Plummer really stole the show.

The Young Victoria – As you can tell from the books I read, I may be slightly obsessed with British royalty. I loved this movie starring Emily Blunt as the young Victoria before and shortly after becoming queen of England. The romance between Print Albert, Rupert Friend, and Victoria was beautiful.

Chick Flicks

Easy A – Another movie I absolutely adored. I love chick flicks, rom-coms, whatever you like to call them – but I’ve felt that recent fair the past few years has been not the greatest. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Easy A. Emma Stone has a fantastic performance in this movie, which is a modern take on The Scarlet Letter. It is an original take on a classic, in the same vein as Clueless was to Emma.

(500) Days of Summer – Another non-traditional rom-com that I really enjoyed. I loved that it was from a man’s point of view of the 500 days he spent falling in love, in relationship with, and trying to get over a perfect girl named Summer.


Letter to Three Wives – This was a rather saucy tale of a letter a “friend” sends on her way out of town to three wives saying she has run off with one of their husbands. All three wives flash back to how they got together with their husbands and current relationship problems that may be the cause of their husband leaving them. A great early performance of Kirk Douglas.

I know I watched other great movies this summer, but these are the ones that I really enjoyed and am still thinking about. I really like sci-fi and action movies, but didn’t really watch any this summer for whatever reason.

What have you been watching lately? Any great movies you would recommend?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick

Just when I think Elizabeth Chadwick cannot top herself, she does it again. Lady of the English is a riveting historical fiction novel with thrilling drama and characters that fairly leap off of the page.

Lady of the English is set during a time period that I love to read about, the epic English Civil War between Stephen and Matilda during the twelfth century. Henry I was the last remaining son of William the Conqueror. Although he had numerous illegitimate offspring, he had only two legitimate children, William and Matilda. After William’s death as part of the fatal White Ship disaster, Henry sends for his recently widowed daughter, Empress Matilda. Matilda is still a young woman, but has not children from her marriage to the Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich. Her father, King Henry, has his lords and barons swear their fealty to Matilda while also trying to have another child with his new queen Adeliza.

King Henry also searches for the perfect second husband for Matilda that will provide him with grandsons to carry on his dynasty as well as being a strategic alliance. He settles on Geoffrey the future Count of Anjou that is all of fourteen, about ten years younger than Matilda. Matilda is understandably less than pleased. Matilda and Geoffrey have a marriage that is filled with contention, but also with great desire.

After King Henry’s death, his nephew Stephen seizes the thrown. Matilda and Geoffrey must put aside their differences to work together to take back England and Normandy for their young son, Henry.

I really enjoyed this novel. Chadwick writes wonderful characters with great historical detail. One feels like you’ve stepped through a time portal and are experiencing the twelfth century. I really loved the friendship between Matilda and her stepmother Adeliza. They were actually about the same age and struck up a great friendship that grew difficult as Adeliza’s second husband was a staunch supporter of Stephen. I didn’t even realize Henry I had a second queen and I was very interested in reading about her. I loved the ending and had tears in my eyes . . .but I can’t say more without spoiling the book!

Matilda was a great heroine. She was a strong female in a time when that was definitely not allowed. She didn’t back down, but sometimes her strength was also her greatest enemy. My favorite scene in Lady of the English is a daring escape made my Matilda. I loved it – and would love to see this made into a movie!

I loved the romance in Lady of the English. Matilda and Geoffrey definitely seem like an odd couple with their age difference, but Chadwick is able to make their relationship work. But even more so, Brian FitzCount is a man in love with Matilda. Brian and Matilda share a chaste love through the years that I enjoyed reading about.

My favorite romance in the novel though was between Adeliza and her second husband Will. It was a beautiful story also with its up and downs. It was a touching and wonderful. I would love to read more about them and their family.

Overall, Elizabeth Chadwick sets the bar for spectacular historical fiction. Lady of the English is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.

This is my twentieth read for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011. I’ve met my goal, but I’m sure that won’t stop me from continuing to read more great historical fiction through the rest of 2011!

Have you read any other novels about the war between Stephen and Matilda? I also enjoyed Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet and The Fatal Crown by Ellen Jones. The Fatal Crown is definitely a lot more fictional than historical, but if you like romance you will love it. I enjoyed Pillars of the Earth the book as well as the mini-series. Pillars of the Earth is more about how the events of Stephen and Matilda’s war affected the “common” people in England, which I enjoyed reading about. I didn’t really the one-dimensional villains though. Lady of the English is definitely the best of any of the books I’ve read about that time period

Book Source: Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons (audiobook)

Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons is an excellent novel and makes it onto my favorite books list. It has been about fifteen or so years since I’ve read it, but it holds a special place in my heart. My favorite high school English teacher gave it to me to read and I whipped through the novel. It was a great family saga, but also had great suspense that brought the novel to a stunning conclusion.

Unfortunately, Burnt Mountain does not achieve the heights of Colony. Thayer Wentworth has a childhood marred by tragedy, but also has a wonderful grandmother that sends her to summer camp where she meets and falls in love with Nick Abrams. Thayer is soon heartbroken by Nick, but meets a romantic Irish Professor named Aengus. Grandma Wentworth adores Aengus, but warns that he needs to make sure that he doesn’t get caught up in his love of myths. The young couple moves to a beautiful house in Atlanta that Grandma gave to them and seem to lead an idyllic life. Then things get strange. Aengus starts to help at a summer camp called Forever Young on the top of Burnt Mountain and very weird things transpire. The book randomly ends.

I enjoyed listening to the family saga at first, although the story seemed disjointed at times, jumping from era to era until I was unsure of the exact time setting until the Atlanta Olympics were mentioned at the end. The story started with adult Thayer with Aengus listening to the bus of campers drive by the house and then started to reminisce about her own life growing up. There was also a sidetrack about her parents and how they met and married. It wasn’t needed in the story, but was interesting. Thayer and her mother do not get along. Thayer’s mother Crystal long had a dream of belonging to the upper crust of Atlanta’s society. This dream seemed like it would come true when she married a Wentworth of Atlanta, but Thayer’s father enjoyed life in their small town as the headmaster of a school. Thayer is consistently considered second best to her sister Lily while growing up, but has a special place in her heart for her father and her Grandma Wentworth. She has her love affair at camp.

Then the book jumped into bad clichés and a very strange ending that came out of nowhere. I got very confused about the timeline as the book seemed to be set a lot earlier than the 1990’s and a lot time appeared to have passed for one character, while it seemed like Thayer had just gotten married and settled down with Aengus. Aengus seemed like a great and romantic husband and then suddenly there were unexplained marital woes. I like supernatural stories, but this novel quickly went from a family saga to supernatural at the very end and it didn’t work.

Kate Reading read the audiobook version of Burnt Mountain. I thought she did a great job reading it and enjoyed listening to the novel. A family saga, it was almost like listening to a soap opera as I worked or did dishes. I enjoyed it until the last part of the book which left me wondering “what just happened?”

I think Burnt Mountain itself summed it up with these lines at the end of the novel “It was all ridiculous. It was like a bad suspense movie.”

Overall, this book held great promise especially with the family dynamic between Thayer, Crystal, and Grandma Wentworth, but the entire book fell apart at the end with a change in genre, inconsistent timelines, and abrupt character changes. If you’d like to check out Anne Rivers Siddons, I highly recommend Colony. Her novels also are good books to listen too as you work or are on a long car ride. They are very engaging.

Burnt Mountain is my tenth audiobook for 2011 Audiobook Challenge.

Book Source: Review Copy from Hachette Audio. Thank-you!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Laura’s Summer of 2011 Top TV Shows

I spend most of my TV watching doing something else at the same time, particularly folding laundry when the kids are in bed or nursing Penelope. Truthfully the shows I watch in the daytime most often happen to be Dinosaur Train, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, or other such children’s fare. I relish when I am actually able to watch a show that is for adults.

I haven’t talked about TV for a while on this blog so I thought I’d do a quick summary of what I was watching this summer and my thoughts.

Falling Skies – Ben and I both loved the new TNT show, Falling Skies. It takes place after an alien invasion has destroyed the earth as we know it. The invaders harness human children for some mysterious, nefarious purpose. A group of survivors has banded together as the second Massachusetts. They are trying to survive, while also to figure out how to save the harnassed children and destroy the enemy. I’m hooked and am eagerly awaiting the next chapter next summer. Noah Wylie as Tom Mason is great, but I am particularly engaged by Colin Cunningham as John Pope the bad/good guy. He is the leader of a gang, but seems to have a heart of gold (perhaps) beneath it all.

Doctor Who – Ben and I love Doctor Who, but I’ll admit that we are very behind. We just watch the 2010 Christmas episode and have yet to watch this year’s episodes. Matt Smith as the new Doctor and Karen Gillian as Amy are interesting, but I don’t like them as much as David Tennant as the Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose. I loved Russell T. Davies scripts, and haven’t been caught up as yet in the new writer Steven Moffat. I still hold out hope for this year’s episodes.

Outcasts – This show was sadly cancelled in Britain after one (short) season. Unfortunately we’ll never know how it ends. Ben and I both enjoyed the show, but felt it faltered near the end, which could be why it was not picked up again. It had an interesting concept where the Earth has been destroyed by some unexplained mishap and a group of survivors is trying to make it on another planet. Great actors and interesting plot lines started the show. It was worth watching.

Camelot – I am a great fan of Arthurian legend and love to watch movies, mini-series, and shows about Arthur and crew. I made it through the pilot and one episode of Camelot and was done with the show. I thought Jamie Campbell Bower as Arthur was insipid and weak, which is a problem when he is the lead actor. I loved Joseph Fiennes as Merlin and thought he held some promise. I was annoyed by the changing of the legend, particularly that Guinevere was married to Leontes, (a new member of the round table not included in the legend as a knight who saved Arthur’s life) and cheating on him with Arthur. There was already a great love triangle in the legend and it included LANCELOT. For a great way to show the heartache of this love triangle, read Persia Woolley’s brilliant Guinevere trilogy and skip this show.

The Tudors – I love period costume dramas. I don’t have Showtime, so I was happy when BBC America aired Seasons 1 and 2 of The Tudors this summer. While this show isn’t the most historically accurate, I loved it. The Tudors are an interesting family and I loved the actors, outfits, and drama. I enjoyed that the version I watched was censored to not include that many love scenes – but just enough. I really hope BBC America airs the next couple of seasons soon.

Pillars of the Earth – I enjoyed the novel more, but The Pillars of the Earth mini-series was pretty good. My only complaint was that the actors never seemed to age through the 20 odd years that the show takes place. I particularly loved Rufus Sewell as Tom the Builder. It was certainly an interesting period of history and I do love historical dramas!

Masterpiece Mystery – I enjoyed watching Hercule Poirot and Ms. Marple this summer. Zen was also a great series. I’ll admit that I didn’t watch Inspector Lewis. I love Masterpiece Theatre, and look forward to Sherlock returning to Masterpiece Mystery next season.

How the States Got Their Shapes – The History Channel has angered me in recent years by never actually showing any history. While Ben and the boys enjoy Ice Road Truckers and the like, I do not. I used to be able to just turn on the History Channel and leave it on enjoying the programs, but those days are long gone. I was more than a little excited by this new show. I like host Brian Unger’s quirky humor as well as interesting history lessons about how the states were formed. I really liked the Green Bay, Wisconsin segment!

Inspector America – Has this show been cancelled? There were about six episodes or so at the beginning of the summer and my sons loved them! As an engineer, I appreciated the call to arms to repair this country’s infrastructure. The boys and I enjoyed watching this show and hope it continues!

Now that summer is over, I’m happy checking out new shows and returning favorites. Hopefully I keep more up to date on my blog and will at least post an update every few months on favorite shows!

What were your favorite shows this summer? What are you excited to watch this fall?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

From Prada to Nada (2011)

Nora and Mary have grown up living the good life in Beverly Hills. After the death of their beloved father, they discover that the financial crisis has hit their family more than they knew and there is nothing left of the family fortune. They also discover a secret half-brother, Gabe Jr., that their father neglected to tell them about. Gabe takes over the family home in order to renovate it up and put it up for sale. His evil wife Olivia does have an attractive brother, Edward. Nora and Mary move to the East side of Los Angeles to live with their Aunt Aurelia and try to figure out a way to make their fortune.

Nora is a law student who has a slight flirtation with Edward, but doesn’t seem to recognize the fact that he is enamored with her. She stops going to school to take a part time job in a law firm to help support the family. Mary continues on in college and falls in love with her suave TA, Rodrigo Fuentes, while not noticing homeboy Bruno has a crush on her. Will the girls find true love?

I thought From Prada to Nada was adequate, but wasn’t that great of a movie or as a Sense and Sensibility adaptation. To me the bar for a straightforward Austen movie was set by the Sense and Sensibility movie of 1995 starring Emma Thompson, and an adaptation bar was set by Clueless (1995) and Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001). From Prada to Nada could not touch these movies even remotely.

First of all, the movie wavered on its theme, was it a Sense and Sensibility remake or a getting in touch with your Latina roots movie? It seemed to go back and forth between the two. Secondly, there was zero chemistry between any of the romantic couples. I loved Edward, but he did not have any chemistry with Nora. The love stories were all cute, but didn’t carry any emotional impact with me. I didn’t feel for Nora or Mary ever in the movie. I think overall, a poor script and poor acting contributed to make this a rather sad Austen modernization.

Am I being too harsh? Did anyone love From Prada to Nada?

From Prada to Nada is my sixth item for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge.

DVD Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

I think we have all heard the headline news of Jaycee Dugard’s tragic abduction and subsequent time as a prisoner of Philip and Nancy Garrido. A Stolen Life is an in depth look beyond the headlines to the everyday life of Jaycee Dugard before, during, and after her captivity.

The story starts with Jaycee’s life at the time of her kidnapping, and includes graphic detail of her kidnapping, life as a prisoner, motherhood, and rescue. A Stolen Life is a book that is at times very hard to read. As a mother of three small children, reading it was like reading my worst nightmare. It’s hard to believe that such evil exists in the world that could happen to your children.

A Stolen Life was also an uplifting tale at times. The fact that Jaycee was able to keep her sanity and provide the best life she could for her children was amazing. I also like how she was basically a self-taught graphic artist that was an integral part of Philip and Nancy’s business.

A Stolen Life also contained different sections of a variety of different diaries that Jaycee kept while a prisoner. The saddest one for me was the one she wrote in 1993 (while 13 or so) about her cat Eclipse that the Garridos eventually took away. It really struck home how she was just a poor young girl trying to find some happiness in her life. I don’t understand how the Garridos thought they could steal her innocence and life away and it was okay. It makes me very sad.

I like how the book was written in a stream of consciousness narrative. It was what Jaycee was thinking at that time and certain early chapters had reflections on what she thought looking back on the events.

I read the novel, Room last year by Emma Donoghue and included it in my top ten reads of 2010. A Stolen Life is like the true life narrative of Room. It is unfortunate that anyone had to live through such events brought forth by one evil man.

I read through A Stolen Life quickly. I was disturbed, yet enthralled with the book. I think having the uplifting rescue, reuniting with her family, and ability to move on a try to return to normalcy made this book a great read. I felt that writing the book was almost a way of therapy for Jaycee Dugard. I hope that it was.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

 Call Me Irresistible is an “irresistible” rollicking new tale by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Meg Koranda has lived a rootless, privileged existence as the daughter of two famous Hollywood personalities. She arrives in Wynette, Texas for her best friend Lucy’s wedding only to discover that Lucy is about to make the biggest mistake of her life.

Lucy’s fiancé, Ted Beaudine is the perfect man or “Mr. Irresistible.” Not only is he rich, handsome, and sexy, but he is also a genius inventor and the mayor of Wynette. He also has the strange habit of having halos appear around his head or choirs singing when he appears. The problem for Lucy is that he is too perfect. Everyone in town seems to think that Ted is settling with her, although she is the daughter of the former president of the United States. With the media, family, and entire town at hand, Lucy is hiding panic under her calm exterior.

Meg is the only person who recognizes the problem and talks with Lucy about it. After Lucy flees her wedding, the town turns their hatred on Meg for ruining Ted’s happiness. Unluckily for Meg, she can’t leave Wynette as her family has cut her off. She discovers her credit cards no longer work and is out of cash, so she digs deep within herself and finds a way to survive. Unfortunately, the mayor of Wynette is still a bit bitter about his wedding being cancelled and his perfect exterior cracks when it comes to Meg.

I really enjoyed Call Me Irresistible. At first, I wasn’t sure as I thought Ted was rather a bland, Ken doll type hero. Slowly, but surely, just as Meg is able to crack his perfect exterior, Phillips reveals more and more about Ted and builds him into a flawed, but compelling character. I thought it was masterfully done.

I enjoyed the town of Wynette and the colorful characters that inhabited it. I would like to read more about them, and I can. As I got to the end of the book, I learned from the great author notes and a handy diagram that I can learn more about all of the characters. Many of the characters that appear in Call Me Irresistible have appeared in previous Susan Elizabeth Phillips novels. I had read Fancy Pants previously, but none of the other books. Call Me Irresistible is a great stand-alone novel, but it is nice that you can learn more about the intriguing characters by reading some of the other novels. I think they are going on my “to read” list. I’m also excited that Lucy will get her own novel as Susan Elizabeth Phillips is currently writing it. I want to know what happened to Lucy!

Besides a great plot and irresistible characters, Call Me Irresistible drew me in with a few different other points. I enjoyed that Ted is an inventor and that a lady who is after him, Sunny, is a mechanical engineer. It is hard to find engineers in books, TV, or film and I’m always excited to see them somewhere. Sadly, Sunny is a villain, but I’ll take a female engineer shout-out when I can!

I also loved that Meg and Ted love environmental science and sustainable developments. They talk about how to be energy efficient, recycling, etc. throughout the novel. My degrees are in environmental engineering so I loved it!

Also being a resident of Wisconsin, I loved the discussion of Herb Kohler. He was mentioned for being a plumbing king that owns some great golf resorts, and one of the characters seems to be modeled after him.
Overall, Call Me Irresistible is an appealing novel with all of the elements I enjoy in a good book; compelling main characters, great plot, character growth, and colorful secondary characters. Throw in environmental issues and a female mechanical engineer and you have me hooked! I can’t wait to read the follow-up book about Lucy.

I read Call Me Irresistible as part of the TLC Book Tour.

Book Source: Review copy from HarperCollins Publishers. Thank-you!

Go the F#$k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach and Illustrated by Ricardo Cortes

I am a sleep deprived parent. Ben and I have three wonderful children. Luckily, our eldest son, Kile sleeps just fine, but unfortunately our 3-year old son Daniel, and 11-month old daughter, Penelope, do not.

Daniel is famous for his excuses on why he can’t go to bed at night. While I’m nursing Penelope, I think Ben marches Danny back to his room approximately 100 times. He also likes to slip into bed with us at some point in the night so we are suddenly awoken by a kicking boy that Ben has to carry back to his bed.

Penelope rarely sleeps through the night and often awakens hungry. Nursing a baby throughout the night is tiring. I just want a full night of sleep someday.

Therefore, when I saw the book Go the F#$k to Sleep on the non-fiction best-sellers list in Entertainment Weekly, I knew I must read it. Maybe someone would understand the kind of life Ben and I are leading right now. I reserved it at the library, and when it came in I think I shocked the Liberians.

Ben and I read the book and thought it was hilarious. The wording and pictures look like a typical, children’s night time story, but it is definitely not. Go the F#$k to Sleep is the story of one dad’s adventure trying to get his child to stay in bed sleeping. He is getting more than slightly frustrated by the constant excuses by his child, and may have rather profane thoughts.

Ben’s favorite passage was, “The owls fly forth from the treetops. Through the air, they soar and they sweep. A hot crimson rage fills my heart, love. For real, shut the f#$k up and sleep.”

Go the F#$k to Sleep is a book that any sleep deprived parent will appreciate and will illicit more than a few chuckles.

Has anyone else read this book? What are your thoughts?

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson are both born on the same day in a small rural hospital to two very different families. The Planks have run the same family farm for two hundred years. Edwin loves his life as a farmer and his stoic wife Connie is the perfect farmer’s wife. Together they have four daughters, with Ruth making the fifth daughter. The Dickerson family consists of Valerie, an artist, and George a writer/dreamer. Together they can’t hold a job down and struggle to make a living. They have one son, Ray, and their new daughter Dana. That doesn’t stop their optimism though as George spends his life striving to make it big.

The “birthday sisters” do not actually have much to do with each other, but they find their lives inexplicably linked together through time. They each find themselves the odd one out in their family with only Edwin able to understand their true selves.

There is a major twist in The Good Daughters that I had figured out very early in the novel. Although I knew the destination, I still greatly enjoyed the journey getting there. I thought the prose was beautiful and almost lyrical at times. I most of all relished seeing the journey of the two girls throughout their life from birth until approximately age sixty. I loved the story time frame with Ruth and Dana being born in 1950. Their experiences growing up were buffeted at times by historical events such as the JFK assassination, Woodstock, etc. and it was interesting seeing the history played out through two very different girls’ lives. I also enjoyed it as I found it relatable. Ruth and Dana would be about five years older than my own parents and their parents are my grandparents’ age. Many circumstances of the novel, especially of life on the Plank farm reminded me of my own family.

Ruth and Dana also had two very different love stories that were both moving in their own ways. I was especially moved by Dana’s story.


There was one plot point that did majorly annoy me. One of the girls is taken by her mother to get an abortion when she is 24 and it is made to seem that her mother made her do it. Come on, at 24 you should be making your own decisions. I can’t believe a woman at that age would let her mother dictate something like this, especially without any explanation on why the abortion was necessary. It was the only point in the book that rang false in an otherwise very realistic novel.


Overall, The Good Daughters is an interesting, yet moving journey through the lives of two very different girls from 1950s to the present day. Read it for the snap shot of America and great personal stories, not for the plot twists.

I read The Good Daughters as part of the TLC Book Tours.  Please visit the rest of the stops on this fantastic tour!

Book Source: HarperCollins Publishers. Thank-you!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

Persuade Me is a novel that I literally could not put down once I started reading it. When it arrived in the mail via the “Royal Post” from England, I was already intrigued. Besides the aura of it journeying from the land I would someday love to visit, it has a very beautiful cover. And it happens to be a modern day spin on my favorite Austen novel besides Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion. No offense to Mr. Darcy, but it is about time that my other favorite Austen hero, Captain Wentworth got some attention.

In Persuade Me, Juliet Archer has created a perfect modern day story based on Austen’s Persuasion. Persuasion is a hard story to bring to a modern setting. Why would a woman allow her father and godmother to persuade her to not marry the man of her dreams in this day and age? Archer is able to convincingly write about this point and stick to the main story, but bring it to a modern day setting. I especially love how she was able to keep the essence of the original characters while also modernizing and bringing something new to all of them.

Anna Elliot is a professor of Russian Literature in Bath. She lives in an apartment of a house belonging to her friend Jenny Smith, and leads a happy professional life. Her love life on the other hand is stagnating. Ten years ago, she fell in love with the handsome Rick Wentworth while working in France. Rick Wentworth tried to persuade her to move with him to Australia, but she was persuaded by her father and godmother “Minty” to give Rick up and to continue her studies at the University as her late mother would have wished.

Anna has never connected with anyone again as she connected with Rick. Now all of these years later, Rick is a successful Marine biologist and celebrity after the publication of his work entitled “Sex in the Sea.” He is returning to England for a promotional tour for his new book, and to visit his sister who is renting the lodge at Anna’s family’s estate. Rick has neither forgotten nor forgiven Anna. He wants to try his best to ignore her and move on. Will Rick and Anna be able to make peace with their past and move on? Or will they find themselves drawn back together?

I loved Rick and Anna, but I also loved all of the secondary characters as well. I loved Anna’s crazy family. I especially loved how the youngest Eliot sister who is a hypochondriac and is always complaining has been changed from Mary to Mona. I laughed every time I read her name and imagined her moaning or complaining about her lot in life. Archer did an amazing job of realizing the important attributes of each character and making the modern equivalent true to those attributes, but in an updated way. I was constantly astounded at how perfect each character was in Persuade Me.

I also adored how Archer was able to keep the same elements of the plot of Persuasion throughout the novel, but also was able to add fresh twists, such as Rick being a famous author and doing book tours. It was a perfect combination, and done far better than most modernizations that I have read. I found myself racing through the book, wondering how it was all going to end. Persuade Me a fresh twist to a classic tale.

Overall Persuade Me is the perfect modern update to Jane Austen’s Persuasion, while also being a great modern love story that can stand on its own two feet. I highly recommend it to all of my fellow lovers of all things Austen as well as anyone looking for a great love story to read  I am really looking forward to Archer's planned modernizations of the rest of Austen's novels.  And I really need to get my hands on The Importance of Being Emma!

Persuade Me will be out on September 15th.

Book Source: Review Copy from Juliet Archer. Thank-you!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (audiobook)

I read and greatly enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins last summer and in fact placed it on my top ten reads list of 2010. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share it with my fellow FLICKS Book and Movie Club members, especially with a movie version coming out next March. I also have been secretly pondering how to introduce science fiction to my book club that favors romantic tales. I think of The Hunger Games as “sci-fi lite” and also thought they would enjoy the love triangle. Our meeting is next week at my house; I can’t wait to find out what the ladies thought of this pick!

I listened to the audiobook version of The Hunger Games in preparation for my book club meeting as read by Carolyn McCormick. I thought she was a great reader of the novel. It was a thrilling book to listen to. It was just as thrilling the second time through, especially as I couldn’t remember some the details or had merged some of the details from the later books into the first book. Listening to the novel constantly kept me on the edge of my seat. I think it will make a fantastic movie if they do it right!

Speaking of the movie, I am concerned how they will get Katniss’s inner thoughts on film. Much of what goes on during the games is her inner dialogue – how will that transfer to the big screen? Also I’m a bit scared to see the “mutts.”

Is anyone else looking forward to the movie? Excited? Concerned? Please comment!

If you are looking for a new way to enjoy The Hunger Games, or want to see what all of the fuss is about, I highly recommend the audio book version. For more about this book, please see my original review.

This is my ninth item for the 2011 Audiobook Challenge.

Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Winner of Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey!

The one lucky winner of Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey is Beth of Beth's Book Reviews.  Beth was chosen using and has been notified via email.  She has one week to send me her mailing address or I will chose a new winner.

I hope Beth enjoys this intriguing look at the early years of Marie Antoinette.  For more about this book, check out my review.

Thank-you to Random House for providing a copy of this book for a giveaway.  Also thank-you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be on this fabulous tour.  And of course thank-you to all who entered and left great comments!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Midnight on Julia Street by Ciji Ware

Midnight on Julia Street is an intriguing novel that is hard to place neatly in a genre category. This novel is one of my favorite types of novels, one that involves time through time, even if it is not physical travel.

Corlis McCullough is a journalist who likes to get to the heart of the story no matter the cost to her career. She is on her sixth city in her profession, New Orleans, taping what should be a routine wedding when events unfold that make the wedding must see TV. Corlis also discovers that her college nemesis, King Duvallon, is the brother of the bride. Airing the wedding footage against the advice of her colleagues, Corlis finds herself out of a job, but also back in the sights of King Duvallon. Together they become unlikely partners in the crusade to prevent a historic building from getting demolished to put up a skyscraper hotel.

Corlis McCullough starts having flashes to the past in which she relives moments in her ancestor’s, Corlis Bell McCullough, life. She soon discovers that many of the players in her present fight to save the Selwyn buildings are the descendants of many of the same players that originally built them. The historic figures had scandalous love affairs and also tales of corruption that helped to make the buildings possible.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I thought both Corlis’s present situation and flashes to the past were equally interesting. I love that she was a hard hitting reporter and that her fight was the fight to save historic buildings. I find such things very intriguing. Her chemistry with King Duvallon was white hot. Duvallon being a professor of architectural history only made him more interesting to me. I also really wanted to learn the mystery of how the historic figures worked together and often against each other to get the buildings constructed.

My favorite secondary character was Corlis’s feisty Aunt Margery McCullough, a hard-hitting retired reporter. She offers Corlis sage advice and interesting tales about her days working as a reporter as part of the Hearst empire.

I love time travel in all forms. I thought Corlis’s time flashes were very unique. Her sense of smell triggered past remembrances and gave her a view point mostly of her ancestor’s past, but also of other intriguing characters.

I loved the New Orleans setting. The descriptions of the City and of the food were very vivid, and made me really want to visit the grand city even more. The history in the novel was very intriguing. I had no idea that 45% of the African Americans pre-civil war in New Orleans were free people of color. It made me want to learn more about this unique history in our nation.

Overall Midnight on Julia Street is an exceptional novel that manages to combine both modern day and historical elements to create one fascinating read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was ready to join the fight to save the historic buildings.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!