Saturday, December 27, 2008

999 Reading Challenge

I enjoyed participating in the 888 Reading Challenge, so I went looking for a challenge for 2009.

The 999 Library Thing Challenge is very similar - Read 9 books in each of 9 categories for 2009.

Here is my list of books. You will see that some categories have more than 9 books. It's easier just to list them all than to try to pick and choose now. My final choices will depend quite a bit on what is available to me from the library.

Nostalgia - Books I Read As a Child and want to Read Aloud to My Children
1.The Borrowers – Mary Norton
2.Edward, Hoppy and Joe – Robert Lawson
3.A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L'Engle
4.Five Little Peppers and How They Grew – Margaret Sidney
5.The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander
6.Dragonsong – Anne McCaffrey
7.The Great Brain – John D. Fitzgerald
8.Soup – Robert Newton Peck
9.Encyclopedia Brown – Donald J. Sobol

Kindred Spirits - Books By Favorite Authors
1.An Echo in the Bone – Diana Gabaldon
2.The bodies left behind - Jeffery Deaver
3.Plum Spooky – Janet Evanovich
4.The Master of All Desires - Judith Merkle Riley
5.The Oracle Glass - Judith Merkle Riley
6.The Water Devil – Judith Merkle Riley
7.Mortal Danger – Ann Rule
8.Fatally Flaky – Diane Mott Davidson
9.Dead Time – Stephen White
10.Very Valentine – Adriana Trigiani

Vintage Volumes - Book Club Books (Rollicking Readers & Bella's Bookshelf)
1.Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
2.Animal Farm by George Orwell
3.Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
4.Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
5.Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
6.Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
7.The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
8.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
9.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
10.Dracula by Bram Stoker

9 and Counting - Titles with Numbers
1.Finger Lickin' Fifteen – Janet Evanovich
2.Nineteen Minutes – Jodi Picoult
3.One Tough Mother – Julie Ann Barnhill
4.A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
5.A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
6.1900 House - Mark McCrum and Matthew Sturgis.
7.30 Days to Taming Your Tongue - Deborah Smith Pegues
8.7 Keys to Comprehension
9.Then There Were Five (The Melendy Quartet) - Elizabeth Enright

Screen Time - TV/Movie Tie-ins
1.North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
2.The Martian Child: A Novel About a Single Father Adopting a Son - David Gerrold
3.P.S. I Love You - Cecelia Ahern
4.The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien (3 titles)
5.The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
6.The Jane Austen Book Club - Karen Joy Fowler
7.The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
8.Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire – Amanda Foreman (The Duchess)
9.Yes Man - Danny Wallace

Serendipity – Unplanned books I want to read
1.To be announced
2.To be announced
3.To be announced
4.To be announced
5.To be announced
6.To be announced
7.To be announced
8.To be announced
9.To be announced

Literacy - Non-fiction about Books, Writing, or Reading
1.Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing – Patricia T. O'Conner
2.Books: A Memoir – Larry McMurtry
3.How to Write Irresistible Query Letters – Lisa Collier Cool
4.Book Smart - Jane Mallison
5.Book Lust – Nancy Pearl
6.1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die – Peter Ackroyd
7.Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Your Romance Published - Julie Beard
8.How to Read a Book - Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren
9.On Writing – Stephen King
10.Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamott
11.A Book Lover's Diary - Shelagh Wallace and Scott McKowen

Faith - Spiritual Life
1.Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller
2.Sex God – Rob Bell
3.I'm Fine with God, It's Christians I Can't Stand – Bruce Bickel
4.The Barbarian Way : Unleash the Untamed Faith Within - Erwin Raphael McManus
5.Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices :: Frank Viola, George Barna
6.The Slumber of Christianity : Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth :: Ted Dekker
7.The Law of Rewards – Randy Alcorn
8.The Way of the Master – Ray Comfort
9.Reaching for the Invisible God – Philip Yancey
10.The Journey of Desire – John Eldredge
11.The Spontaneous Spread of Home-Discipleship Christianity – Henry Reyenger, Jr.

Mere Jack - C.S. Lewis
1.Mere Christianity – CS Lewis
2.Problem of Pain – CS Lewis
3.Til We Have Faces – CS Lewis
4.A Mind Awake – CS Lewis
5.The Four Loves – CS Lewis
6.The Great Divorce – CS Lewis
7.Out of the Silent Planet – CS Lewis
8.Perelandra - CS Lewis
9.That Hideous Strength - CS Lewis

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Husband, the Movie Star!


My husband shares his name with a movie star and sometimes I get silly questions about it! But now I can say,"YES, my husband is a movie star!" Well, it may be stretching the truth a bit, but he is onscreen for two seconds in the new DVD movie from Burns Family Studios - Pendragon: Sword of His Father.

Here's a screencap!

My son was also filmed as an extra in two scenes, but we didn't see him on the DVD. Maybe he ended up on the cutting room floor.

Booking Through Thursday - Winter Books

btt button

No, no … this isn’t the question you’re probably expecting, that asks about your winter reading habits.

What I want to know today is … what are the most “wintery” books you can think of? The ones that almost embody Winter?

Well, my mind first goes to children's books.

The Big Snow by Berta Hader

Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan











Grown up books that speak "Winter" to me? Hmmm.... I'll have to give that some thought!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Finished the 888 Reading Challenge!

The 888 Reading Challenge was to read 8 books each in 8 different categories in 2008. I finished today!

My categories changed a good deal as did many of the titles I chose initially. That was within the rules. I didn't use any overlaps. I also read a few books that didn't fit any of my categories.

Here are my 8 completed categories with the 8 books I read for each one. Following that are the additional 18 books I read. 8x8+18= 82 books so far in 2008. I still have a few days to increase that total. In both 2006 and 2007, I read 86 books.

Anyone up for the 999 Reading Challenge??

Books Published in 2008
1.The Secret Between Us – Barbara Delinsky 1-24-08
2.Firefly Lane – Kristin Hannah 5-18-08
3.The Broken Window – Jeffery Deaver 7-22-08
4.Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer 8-7-08
5.Say Goodbye – Lisa Gardner 8-8-08
6.The Keepsake – Tess Gerritsen 9-20-08
7.Sweet Love – Sarah Strohmeyer 10-15-08
8.More Than It Hurts You – Darin Strauss 11-1-08


Books Recommended to me by others
1.Hide – Lisa Gardner (my mom) 2-2-08
2.Beauty - Robin McKinley (Marta) 2-23-08
3.Courting Trouble – Deeanne Gist (Mom) 7-13-08
4.13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson (blog) 8-12-08
5.Darcy's Story: Pride and Prejudice told from a whole new perspective – Janet Aylmer (Darlene) 8-18-08 (also fits Austen category, but not an overlap)
6.Seducing Mr. Darcy (Marla) 9-23-08
7.A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith (sister Janet) 10-13-08
8.Cook's Treasure – Jennifer Cooper (Jennifer) 12-9-08

Young Adult Fiction
1.ttyl – lauren myracle 1-2-08
2.Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer 1-7-08
3.ttfn – lauren myracle 1-14-08
4.Diary of a Wimpy Kid: a novel in cartoons – Jeff Kinney 2-24-08
5.Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules - Jeff Kinney 5-7-08
6.Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze – Elizabeth Enright 8-29-08
7.Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox - Eoin Colfer 10-29-08
8.From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler 11-22-08

Non-fiction
1.Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe – Todd Wilson 1-24-08
2.Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer 6-21-08
3.Cockatiels for Dummies 7-8-08
4.Eat This, Not That! 7-8-08
5.Threadbared – Kimberly Wrenn & Mary Watkins 4-26-08
6.The Butterfly Garden – Chip St. Clair 8-18-08
7.How Not To Look Old – Charla Krupp 8-29-08
8.Frontier House – Simon Shaw 12-13-08

Romance Novels
1.Let's Meet on Platform 8 – Carole Matthews 2-23-08
2.Love's Haven (Steeple Hill Love Inspired) – Catherine Palmer 2-27-08
3.Finding Hope (Steeple Hill Love Inspired) – Brenda Coulter 3-15-08
4.Finding Hope – Brenda Coulter 03-15-08
5.A Season of Forgiveness – Brenda Coulter 04-08-08
6.Strapless – Leigh Riker 6-1-08
7.The Dewey Decimal System of Love – Josephine Carr 8-10-08
8.Tumbling Through Time - Gwyn Cready 8-31-08

New Books by Favorite Authors
1.T is for Trespass – Sue Grafton 1-11-08
2.Plum Lucky – Janet Evanovich 1-20-08
3.Candy Cane Murder – Joanne Fluke 1-19-08
4.Charley's Web – Joy Fielding 04-12-08
5.Carrot Cake Murder – Joanne Fluke 4/23/08
6.Sleeping Doll – Jeffrey Deaver 4/29/08
7.Fearless Fourteen – Janet Evanovich 6/28/08
8.Buckingham Palace Gardens (Thomas Pitt Mysteries) – Anne Perry 12-22-08

Christian Novels
1.The Martyr's Song – Ted Dekker 1-1-08
2.Brothers – Angela Elwell Hunt 2-4-08
3.Claire Knows Best – Tracey Bateman 04-05-08
4.I Love Claire – Tracey Bateman 04-18-08
5.Scarlet Thread – Francine Rivers 5/5/08
6.Doesn't She Look Natural – Angela Elwell Hunt 5-12-08
7.Journey – Angela Elwell Hunt 7-8-08
8.Northpointe Chalet (The Austen Series) – Debra White Smith 12-21-08

Jane Austen novels (and related books)
1.Austenland – Shannon Hale 2-10-08 (recommended by Christy, but not an overlap)
2.Pride and Prejudice 3-16-08
3.Making of Pride & Prejudice – Sue Birtwhistle & Susie Conklin 4-30-08
4.Emma 6-18-08
5.Persuasion 7-12-08
6.Mansfield Park 9-14-08
7.Northanger Abbey 10-23-08
8.Jane Austen for Dummies - Joan Elizabeth Klingel Ray 11-13-08
9.Sense & Sensibility 12-7-08

END OF CHALLENGE!!!

Books on Writing or Reading (read only 6 books)
1.Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom – Ursula Nordstrom 1-20-08
2.How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author – Janet Evanovich 11-18-08
3.The Well-fed Writer – Peter Bowerman 2-8-08
4.Careers for Bookworms - Marjorie Eberts and Margaret Gisler 3-22-08
5.Back for Seconds – Peter Bowerman 6-22-08
6.No Plot? No Problem! - Chris Baty 11-28-08

No Category
1.Drums of Autumn – Diana Gabaldon 1-31-08
2.Twilight – Stephenie Meyer 7-28-08
3.New Moon – Stephenie Meyer 8-2-08
4.Finding God in Lord of the Rings – Kurt Bruner & Jim Ware 8-30-08
5.The Memory Keeper's Daughter – Kim Edwards 1-29-08
6.Alone – Lisa Gardner 2-12-08
7.The Almost Moon – Alice Sebold 3-2-08
8.Kill The Messenger – Tami Hoag 4-15-08
9.The Survivor's Club – Lisa Gardner 4-20-08
10.Vivaldi's Virgins – Barbara Quick 6-18-08
11.Lean Mean Thirteen – Janet Evanovich 6-19-08
12.The Princess Bride – William Goldman 6-20-08

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Generosity

btt button

Do you give books as gifts?

Yes.

To everyone? Or only to select people?

Always to my children, sometimes to other people too. Even my husband, who isn't a "reader" by any stretch of the imagination.

How do you feel about receiving books as gifts?

In theory, I think it's great! In practice, I've often recieved books I have no interest in reading or have already read. I haven't made a practice of returning books, so they sit on the shelf or eventually get resold.

Booking Through Thursday - Treat

btt button

What is the best book you ever bought for yourself?

I bought The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon for myself - brand new in hardcover.

And, why? What made it the best? What made it so special?

I don't often buy brand new (prefer used) and almost never hardcover fiction. I had read the first four books in the series and had to run out and buy the new one as soon as it came out. Made a special trip, paid full price. Enjoyed the book immensely!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Movie Viewing Update

Wow, haven't posted much here lately. I've seen Bolt (LOVED it!) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (LOVED Keanu) in the theaters and plan to write reviews of both of those, when I can find the time.

Movies I've seen for the first time on DVD include:
John Tucker Must Die - not as awful as I assumed it would be
Journey to the Center of the Earth - Ditto
Sense & Sensibility (1995) - Excellent! Be sure to watch the deleted scenes!
Possession - Pretty good
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer - Not too bad!
Get Smart - LOVED IT! Hilarious!

And I've seen these on DVD, but had already seen them in the theater:
Mamma Mia
The Dark Knight
Wall-E

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Time is of the Essence

btt button

1. Do you get to read as much as you WANT to read? (I’m guessing #1 is an easy question for everyone?)

No, I do not. However, I make time for reading anyway. I almost always read while I eat. (I can hear the gasps of horror now!) And sometimes I read far into the night.

2. If you had (magically) more time to read–what would you read? Something educational? Classic? Comfort Reading? Escapism? Magazines?

If I had more time to read, I'd read everything and anything. Staring at my bedroom bookshelf, I said to my husband the other night, "I don't ever think I'll get to read all those books!" I do make time for reading 60-100 books a year, plus magazines, but I could easily read twice that many and still never read everything I'd like to read. I'm getting more selective, now that I realize my time for reading is inevitably limited.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - 5 for Favorites

btt button

1. Do you have a favorite author?

I have several! Janet Evanovich, Ted Dekker, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jeffery Deaver, to name just a few. But for this meme, I'll choose Diana Gabaldon.

2. Have you read everything he or she has written?

No. After reading the first book in the Lord John series, I chose not to read the rest because I am not comfortable with that character's lifestyle choices. He is a character in the Outlander series and his character plays a major role, but was important to the plot. I didn't like him enough to read a spinoff series based on him.

3. Did you LIKE everything?

Everything that I read I liked except as detailed above. I love Outlander best, though. But all of the books in the Outlander series are compelling and absorbing. There are six now and she is writing the seventh.

4. How about a least favorite author?

Wow, that's hard. I don't tend to read books I don't enjoy. I hesitate to name names. I have avoided reading Harry Potter. How's that?

5. An author you wanted to like, but didn’t?

I really wanted to like the Shop-aholic books by Sophie Kinsella, and it wasn't really the writing that turned me off, per se. I just couldn't identify with Becky, the main character. She is shallow and places a high priority on fashion and that just isn't me. I did really like one other book by Kinsella - Can You Keep a Secret? For some reason, that one really resonated with me. Enough that I own a copy. And I only keep fiction that I really really like.

OK, that didn't really answer the question, did it? Let's try again.

I wanted to like Margaret Atwood. I really did. I read The Handmaiden's Tale. And, well... It wasn't all that. Not my cup of tea, as my mom said about a different book recently. It's been five years, so I really couldn't elaborate on that, but I haven't looked for anything else written by her and that should say it all, since I usually read everything I can find by a good author.

Now, it's your turn! Blog your answers, or email them out! Or just leave them in the comments. If you do the meme, I'd love to know about it and read your answers!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

November Reads

Just four books in November, but that's ok, since I wrote a book in November too! LOL

More Than It Hurts You
by Darin Strauss
11/01/08 - Good - Fiction
A doctor suspects a young mother is hurting her baby.
This was a thoughtful sort of novel and it didn't end the way I expected.

Jane Austen for Dummies by Joan Elizabeth Klingel Ray
11/13/08 - Excellent - Non-fiction
If you've ever tried to read Austen and gotten confused about historical details or customs of the time, this is the book for you!
Conversational in tone and very readable, this guide answered ALL the questions I had – and some I didn't realize I had! The only issue I had is that it revealed some of the plot points in Sense & Sensibility, the only Austen novel I hadn't yet read. So, if spoilers bother you, read the novels first and then get the book. Then you'll want to re-read them all over again!

How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich
11/18/08 - Excellent - Non-fiction
Janet shares tips and tricks on writing – my second read-through of this book. Very practical and easy to read.
I love Janet's writing and this book is so practical.

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty
11/28/08 - Excellent - Non-fiction
How to write a novel in 30 days
I didn't think I would learn anything from reading this since I won NaNoWriMo last year, but my friend read it and recommended it. Very helpful tips, amusing anecdotes, encouraging words, and more! I also highly recommend it for anyone wanting to write a novel in a month or less.

WHAT ARE YOU READING??? Leave me a comment!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

RedBlog Review of Twilight

I have read a few reviews of the Twilight movie and most of them don't even address movie issues at all - focusing instead on the plot. The rest of the reviews are either written by obsessed fans, thus being totally slanted (for OR against), or by people who haven't read the books at all, thus missing the point of the series.

Here is the one of the only balanced reviews I have read - at the RedBlog. I'd love links to any reviews of Twilight that present both its positive and negative points.

My thoughts on the review: This is the one of the only reviews of Twilight: The Movie that actually addressed aspects of the film itself. Most of the reviews I've read focused on how unrealistic/annoying/strange the storyline is. That's a BOOK issue, not a movie issue; sorry, critics! One review compared Pattinson to James Dean - HELLO? That is just silly. Twilight is a sub-par film based on a first novel with a cultish following. I read all 4 books and enjoyed them, but I'm not obsessed with them. I also had low expectations for the movie and was quite disappointed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Twilight (2008)

Notification arrived that a review of Twilight should have appeared in this space before now (Sorry, C!), so here is my hurried-off-the-cuff-5-hours-of-sleep replica of a real review.

The Twilight series of books first came to my attention by way of a good friend. We made a trade-off bargain. I'd read Twilight and she'd read a book I'd been begging HER to read. I liked the vampire novel enough to read the two sequels. When the fourth book was published, I re-read the first three in order to read the fourth. (I couldn't remember them well enough to go on to the sequel without a re-read.)

I purposely didn't re-read Twilight before the movie, so as to avoid the book-movie comparison game that fans often must play. Then again, I'm not a typical Twilight fan, as Bella gets on my last nerve. To make matters worse, I am on Team Jacob. (I know - horrors!) So, my expectations were not perhaps the same as many Twilight fangirls. I hoped to enjoy the movie and perhaps to get a better insight into why people find Bella and Edward so compelling, since I don't apparently get the full extent of it through reading.

Several of my friends are also Twilight fans and we cooked up a plan to go to the midnight movie release. So, souped up on caffeine and hyped up after eating out, seven of us converged on the local theater last night to experience Twilight on the big screen. A midnight show gets out past 2 am, you understand.

So, what did you think of the movie? That question has been posed to me several times last night and throughout the day. Even though my expectations were not high, I felt that they weren't fulfilled. I didn't get any better understanding of the romance between Bella and Edward. I have heard speculation that the low budget of the film created some of the problems with the film, and that could be. But I think there are many issues that could have been solved without throwing more money at them.

I was disappointed in the casting of Robert Pattinson as Edward from the beginning. His looks don't come close to the ethereal angelic beauty described by author Stephenie Meyer. I was hoping that seeing him in action would change my mind, but by the end, I was convinced that the casting director had made a horrible mistake. As much as I hate to say it, the acting was not high caliber by any of the major characters.

Other problems? Special effects were poorly rendered. Key scenes and lines were left out or changed thus leaving the characters without their proper motivations. Pointless scenes were written and added unnecessarily. What's more? Scenes that should have been serious or sentimental instead elicited laughs from the audience. If anyone should grasp the nuances of your movie, it should be the fans that come out at midnight to see it. If they laugh when they should be crying? Not good. Not good at all.

There were things I did like. I liked the kiss. You'll know which one I mean. I enjoyed the baseball-in-a-thunderstorm scene. The school kids seemed realistic and I liked the interplay between the characters at school. I want Bella's hair. (Does that count?) Some of the secondary characters were spot-on with their portrayals - Billy, Charlie, James, and Jessica, for instance. I got a hint (only a hint, though) of the Jacob we may see in New Moon (TEAM JACOB!) and that was promising. I didn't detest the film, and I didn't love it. I suppose that leaves me feeling lackadaisical about it.

My poor sleep-deprived mind is now grasping at straws and I must conclude. Maybe I will be able to be more coherent another day and add to this review. Or maybe it'll just stand this way - a half-baked review for a so-so movie. Worth seeing? Depends on your level of commitment to the Twilight fandom. You decide.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Now I am on TEAM CHARLIE!!!

LINKS:
Plugged In review
IMDB page
Screenit.com Info - Coming soon

Monday, November 10, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

October Reads

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - 10/13/08
Good - Fiction
Francie grows up very poor in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn.
My sister Janet recommended this. I surprisingly had not read it before. It was quite good, although not a light read at all. Wow, those people were POOR.

Sweet Love by Sarah Strohmeyer - 10/15/08
Good - Romance
Betty Mueller put her foot down when she saw her teenage daughter had a crush on an older man; twenty years later, she wishes she hadn't done it, so she hatches a plan to bring them back together.
I had wanted a light read after reading Tree Grows in Brooklyn and the cupcake on the cover of this made me think it would be. It wasn't. But it was good anyway.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen - 10/22/08
Good - Classic
Catherine Moreland is na├»ve and prone to romantic fantasy; in Bath she meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney and is invited to visit his family estate – Northanger Abbey
This was for my Book Club and I really liked it! Henry Tilney is my almost-favorite Austen hero (after Darcy, of course!) Catherine is a lot like I was as a teenager, I think.

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer - 10/29/08
Good - Young Adult
Artemis travels back in time to find a remedy that will cure his mother.
I've read all the Artemis Fowl books and I think this was one of the better ones. Of course, I am always a sucker for time travel. And there was even a touch of romance! After all, Artemis is now 14.

I am in the middle of two books about how to write. I also finished a book today that I had hoped to finish in October. I will be listening to Diana Gabaldon's The Fiery Cross during November (and probably longer!). I won't be reading much else because of NaNoWriMo.

For my 888 Reading Challenge, I am nearly complete. I still need to read one young adult book, re-read 5 books (maybe including Lewis's Space Trilogy or maybe The Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers?), and read one Christian novel. Those will be my December reading goals. I dropped my Tolkien category and replaced it with a Jane Austen category. I do have some overlaps on my 888 list, which is allowable, but I had hoped not to do.

GO READ SOMETHING!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rollicking Readers - Northanger Abbey

A novel about reading? Why yes, that's what Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey really is. Catherine Moreland, a naive seventeen-year-old with a taste for Gothic novels, is invited to Bath (a resort town) with family friends. Befriended by several young people, she is then invited to Northanger Abbey, the sinister-sounding home of Eleanor and Henry Tilney. Her imagination runs wild due to all the novels she reads and her visit ends badly.

My Rollicking Readers book club discussed
Northanger Abbey yesterday evening. Although not everyone there had actually READ the book, those of us that did enjoyed it. I know I did! I think I'm finally getting the hang of reading Austen! Our discussion ranged from the uses of novel reading in the plot to the difference of the hero from the average Austen hero to our enjoyment of the verbal repartee.

We then watched two versions of Northanger Abbey on DVD - one from 2007 and one from 1987. Oh my, what a difference! We found the recent version utterly charming, but the older one? Let's just say if that was the only version available, well then, none of us would be Austen fans.

The 2007 version features a charming Catherine Moreland who portrays a believable mix of naivete' and straightforwardness. The hero is witty and honest (and handsome and charming!) and the villains are pleasurably hateful. The costuming is beautiful and doesn't call attention to itself except where it should. The abbey is not as described in the novel and there were a few scenes that didn't match with the book, but it was a fairly good adaptation. Each of us was rightfully horrified at the treatment Catherine suffered at the hands of the villains and happily satisfied by the romantic ending!

If you want a laugh, and only then, you should borrow (not buy!) the 1987 version. The hero (see right) was not handsome enough and had a very effeminate manner. Plus he was wearing tan lipstick, I think! The actress who played Catherine had apparently attended the Over-acting School of Wide-eyed Looks, as her eyes widening and insipid smiles were about all the depth the viewer is treated to. That, however, is not as bad as the actress portraying Isabella who punctuated every line with a forced-looking saccarine smile. The hairdos! Oh my, the hairdos! The overdone makeup! Those red red lips! (see left) Definitely an 80's production. And the outfits! I particularly recall one broadly striped green suit that made the wearer appear to be a leprechaun. And the overdone Gothic-ness of the dream sequences - just terrible. Yes, I understand Northanger Abbey is a parody of Gothic novels, but I think this adaptation is a parody of itself. Just awful. However, we laughed our way through it!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September Reads

I didn't read too many books in September, but I did write 13,000 words on a short story, so hopefully that counts for something!

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - 09/14/08
Excellent - Romance
Fanny Price is sent to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousins at Mansfield Park, but she is never quite part of the family.
Took me a long time to get through this, but not because I didn't enjoy it. I really did! I think I'm getting the hang of reading Austen, actually. The love story is not the important theme in Mansfield Park, though.

The Keepsake by Tess Gerrittsen - 09/20/08
Good - Suspense
A murderer preserves his victims according to a number of grotesque ancient customs.
I enjoy reading Gerritsen's novels. She's a doctor turned novelist and she writes crisply morbid novels. What does that say about me? lol

Seducing Mr. Darcy by Gwyn Cready - 09/23/08
Good - Romance
Funny but bawdy story of Flip Allison, who travels back in time and inadvertently ruins the love story of Pride and Prejudice.
I needed a light read after the previous two, and this was it. My friend Marla told me about this book and I read the author's other romance novel when I couldn't get this one. Be forewarned - it's raunchy enough that I almost didn't post it on my reading list. But the humor of the story is winning and seeing the Pride and Prejudice universe turned on its ear was worth the smut, in my humble opinion.

I was hoping to have finished at least one other book. I'm about halfway through A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I am reading a book of educational essays called I Saw the Angel in the Marble, but both will have to wait for next month.

GO READ SOMETHING!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rollicking Readers - Mansfield Park

Doesn't every woman long for a group of girlfriends she can laugh and cry and indulge with? These women are the ones you can be silly with, the ones who you can confide in, these are the ones who will even make you a cake on your birthday and sing to you!

Well, I am blessed to be part of just such a fabulous group of ladies - it's our Rollicking Readers book club. For the past four months now, we've been meeting every few weeks to eat and discuss one of Jane Austen's books. This month, our selection was Mansfield Park. Those in attendance vary from session to session, but we usually have eight or nine women on any given date.

I enjoyed Mansfield Park more than any of the other Austen works I have read thus far, save Pride and Prejudice. However, I am beginning to think that it's because I am learning to read Austen and becoming more comfortable with her language and style, rather than the plot and characters of Mansfield Park itself.

Fanny Price, the insipid and morally upright heroine, isn't truly very likable, although she is virtuous and loyal. Edmund, our clergyman hero, is even less likable; although he is high-minded and principled, he is too easily swayed by a beautiful face and a crafty attitude. Not Fanny's, mind you! The story isn't as much a romance as it is Fanny's coming-of-age story. Despite all of this, I did find it entertaining and enjoyable.

Our book discussion is always lively - many forthright opinions are given, not always in agreement, but always put forth for consideration with respect. We usually consider six or seven questions of varying degrees of seriousness regarding character, plot, motivation, style, and comparisons to Austen's other works. (Does it all sound very scholarly? It's not particularly. We are not very academic, but we all love books!)

Once we finish the literary conversation, we move on to viewing a film of the novel under discussion that evening. We sometimes forget to warn our newest members that we are not quiet movie watchers. In fact, we are downright cheeky at times! We talk to the movie, make silly comments, discuss the book further in comparison to the movie, and generally have a rollicking time. (Thus our club name!)

Two versions of Mansfield Park have been released in recent years and neither is especially true to the novel. We viewed the 2007 version and enjoying commenting on the historical inaccuracies, the bushiness of Fanny's eyebrows, and the absence or modification of many integral characters and scenes. I have seen the other (1995? 97?) film as well and it seems to perhaps follow the plot a little more closely, but diverges even more in the portrayal of the main characters.

So, we are soon done for this novel, and it's on to the next - Northanger Abbey. Care to join us?

Twilight trailer spoof

A truly hilarious spoof of the Twilight trailer. (If you haven't seen the trailer, this will really not make any sense to you, so go watch it first! Click on videos and watch all of the trailers.)



Thanks, Jen, for (FINALLY) telling me about it! lol

Friday, September 19, 2008

Speed Racer (2008)

I FINALLY got to watch Speed Racer tonight. If you've been reading here for any length of time, you'll probably remember that for some odd reason, the Speed Racer trailer really caught my eye. I watched it repeatedly and had every intention of viewing the film in the theatres.

Why? Do I remember the Speed Racer cartoon? Only a little. Am I a racing fan? Not in the least. Am I a preteen boy? Um, never have been.

Then why would this movie entice me? I never have been quite sure. Maybe it has something to do with the directors - the Wachowski brothers, who also directed The Matrix, which you may know to be one of my favorite movies of all time. But now I know. It definitely has its faults, but there is plenty positive about Speed Racer and I really wish I had been brave enough to ignore the bad reviews and go see it when it came out - on the big screen, as it was intended.

First, what is there to pick on? Well, if you wanted to, you could pick it all apart. But couldn't you with any film? Sure, the garish colors are, well, garish. But it's meant to be a cartoon. The editing is strange, although some would say edgy and trend-setting, I am certain. It's long -135 minutes, longer than my kids can usually handle. There is some swearing which seems out of place in a film like this, and there is definitely violence, again some of which seems a little over-the-top for a cartoon-based film. (Example - A tank of piranhas is used as a threat and is demonstrated with a large meaty bone - my girls were grossed out.) Those are the detriments.

One can't really gripe about characters - they are, from what I understand, straight from the old cartoon. So if they seem one-dimensional or contrived, well, that would be why. However, I found there to be a good deal of character development. It's a coming-of-age film for the title character (yes! That's really his name.). The father also shows a lot of character development. The mother is nurturing. The girlfriend is a strong female character who loves Speed for who he is, but also stands on her own two feet. Ok, I'll admit the monkey doesn't have much character development.

The editing is very strange - lots of montage type shots and flashbacks intercut with the current story. The technique of using a full-screen profile or other image to move across the screen and introduce another scene would have been more effective with less usage. (Hard to explain, if you haven't seen it. You can see examples of this editing in the trailer.)

What did I like then? I LOVED the strong family emphasis. This family stands together. The dad can admit he is wrong and apologizes. The mother encourages her adult son by telling him that watching him drive is like watching someone create art. Love is portrayed between all members of the family and they make decisions based on how things will affect the other people in their lives instead of being swayed by a selfish desire for fame and fortune.

The racing was pretty cool too, as I am sure my eight- and thirteen-year-old sons will tell you! Lots of CGI gives the races a video-game-like feel. The cars can do all kinds of novel tricks - flips and jumps, etc....

The ninja-stye violence is something that is obviously a favorite of the Wachowski brothers. You see this same type of fighting in the Matrix films, although here it is less serious-seeming. How can it be serious when there is a chimp on the scene?

I should also mention the cast, since it is full of big names. Susan Sarandon didn't have much to do as Mrs. Racer, but she was great anyway. Christina Ricci played a very perky Trixie; I think she's always great and she does tend to pick those indie-type roles. (Go rent Penelope! I should review that!) Emile Hirsch, who I loved in Into the Wild, seems to really "get" his character here. He plays Speed with an earnestness that really makes the role believable. John Goodman could have made his character very cartoonish, but instead he gave Pops Racer a sincerity that saved that role and showed the growth of his character.

Do I recommend it? Yes, I would, with the caveat that it is rated PG for language and some violence. All my kids liked it although I did cover my six-year-old's eyes during the piranha scene. Check screenit.com for the particulars if you would like to know those.

Go Speed Racer, Go Speed Racer, Go Speed Racer, go!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Short Story

I've been writing. I found out about a short story opportunity for publication and I decided to jump on it. I have to have a completed story with 10,000-15,000 words.

My count so far? 7351!

I am really pleased with my story as far as it goes. About half done, is what I'd guess.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

No Reads Finished Yet

Ooh, the month is almost half OVER and I haven't finished a book yet. Yikes, I'd better get reading!!!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Echo in the Bone & Outlander graphic novel

Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series rocks! When I was pregnant with my last baby in 2001, I overheard a librarian recommending Outlander to another patron. I sidled over, feeling like an eavesdropper, and discovered what they were talking about. I devoured the first four books in the series within just a few weeks, and that's all that existed then!

Fiery Cross
came out the following spring, if I recall correctly and I actually went out and bought that big heavy hardcover book brand new - first time I can recall doing that ever! Since then, I've re-read Outlander several times and re-read Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn. I'm saving the re-reads of Fiery Cross and A Breath of Snow and Ashes for this upcoming year, in preparation for An Echo in the Bone, which is set to release in the fall of 2009.

If you like historical novels, especially really long ones, and even more especially romantic ones, this series should please you as much as it does me! I've recently had the pleasure of witnessing my friend Darlene becoming enamoured with the series. We whisper back and forth about Jamie and Claire, whenever we get together, often drawing eyerolls from our unindoctrinated friends.

If you're already a fan, you may already be aware of this tip, but maybe not? There is a new excerpt from An Echo in the Bone (Outlander #7, but NOT the last according to her!) up on Diana's blog! (By the way, Diana blogs like she writes - long and detailed. LOVE IT!)
http://voyagesoftheartemis.blogspot.com/2008/09/excerpt-1-echo-in-bone.html

Also, if you go to her site: http://www.dianagabaldon.com/ and click
on excerpts, there are 4 other excerpts there.

Diana is also writing a graphic novel covering the same Outlander story, but from the perspective of the character Murtaugh. Graphic Novel Info:
http://voyagesoftheartemis.blogspot.com/2008/01/graphic-novel.html
http://voyagesoftheartemis.blogspot.com/2008/02/graphic-novel-update.html

Go and enjoy!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

August Reads

I managed TWELVE books in August! No coincidence that this is also the month in which I was LAID OFF and before school starts. lol

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer - 08/02/08
Good - Young Adult
RE-READ Edward leaves and Bella establishes a relationship with Jacob, but he also has a secret.
Before the last book in the series came out, I chose to re-read the first 3. New Moon is #2.

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer - 08/05/08
Good - Young Adult
RE-READ Bella is in danger and Jacob and Edward must team up to protect her, but who will she choose?
The 3rd Twilight book.

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer - 08/07/08
Good - Horror
After Bella's wedding to Edward, will she choose to remain mortal or become a vampire, and what effect will that have on those around her?
The tone of Breaking Dawn is far different than the first 3 in the Twilight series, leaving me with mixed feelings. Meyer did a great job pulling all the threads of the story together, but more editing would have made the novel tighter and more effective.

Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner - 08/08/08
Good - Suspense
FBI agent Kimberly Quincy is 5 months pregnant and on the trail of a killer who is killing prostitutes and who collects spiders.
Suspenseful and interesting.

The Dewey Decimal System of Love by Josephine Carr - 08/10/08
Good - Chick Lit
Ally is a middle-aged reference librarian who has never been in love; she sets her sights on a (married) symphony conductor.
I read about this book on an agent's booklist when I was searching for agents to query. It's a light-hearted read with an unusual heroine.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson - 08/12/08
Excellent - Young Adult
Ginny's eccentric aunt leaves her 13 blue envelopes with instructions to travel to England and further.
I read about this book on someone's blog - I believe it was an aspiring or newly published author. Glad I did! It was a clever and refreshingly unique coming-of-age tale. Ginny is far more independent than I'd want any daughter of mine to be - traipsing around Europe and gallivanting with boys, but it made an entertaining read as well as a sweet romance.

Darcy's Story: Pride and Prejudice told from a whole new perspective by Janet Aylmer - 08/18/08
Good - Fiction
A retelling of Pride & Prejudice from Mr. Darcy's perspective.
The idea of this intrigued me greatly! What IS Darcy thinking all that time? We get a good sense of it, although I do think that Darcy's thoughts would certainly have been far less chaste at times. He IS a man, after all. But all in all, a good read, and it fit well with Austen's original.

The Butterfly Garden: A Memoir by Chip St. Clair - 08/18/08
Good - Non-fiction
Chip survived his frightening childhood and discovered a terrible truth about his parents.
I read this in one night during our camping trip. What an awful childhood Chip experienced! He is one of those that turns evil into good, however, and he's started a foundation of some kind for abused or neglected children. What's more, the story takes place in Auburn Hills, MI - which isn't far from my home!

How Not To Look Old: Fast and Effortless Ways to Look 10 Years Younger, 10 Pounds Lighter, 10 Times Better by Charla Krupp - 08/29/08
Good - Non-fiction
I'm not sure about fast and effortless, but there are dozens of things you can do to look more Y&H (Young and Hot) instead of O.L. (Old Lady).
With a title like that, how could I not pick it up? Krupp categorizes things women over 40 can do to look younger - foundational garments, wardrobe and makeup choices, hair color, etc.... Most of the methods detailed are not effortless or fast, not to mention cheap - laser hair removal comes to mind, but there are a fair number of tips that ought to work for many! I guess you'll have to watch me and see if I look younger and better! Hah!

Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze by Elizabeth Enright - 08/29/08
Excellent - Children's
A sequel to Four-Story Mistake – Mona and Rush are away from home, leaving Randy and Oliver at loose ends, but then a treasure hunt clue appears in the mail.
I read Four-Story Mistake when I was a child and also have read it to my kids. Ran across this sequel and thought A-ha! Once I started reading it, vague memories of having read it before surfaced, so evidently I did read it as well at some point. I will be reading it to my kids this school year. I'd like to find a copy of The Saturdays too, as it is another Melendy story.

Finding God in Lord of the Rings by Kurt Bruner & Jim Ware - 08/30/08
Good - Non-fiction
Inspirational book of reflections on LOTR discusses the supernatural themes present in the trilogy and how they relate to the Bible and Christianity
FINALLY - I made it through this book. And when I did, I wondered what took me so long! This book of short Christian reflections on sections of Lord of the Rings got better as it went along. The beginning seemed a little obvious, but by the end, the authors were delving into more complex and interesting morals. I do recommend it.

Tumbling Through Time by Gwyn Cready - 08/31/08
Good - Romance
Persephone Pyle finds herself sent back to 1706 via a pair of pink stiletto shoes and lands in a story half-conceived by herself.
My friend Marla told me about another book by this author (Seducing Mr. Darcy) which I looked for at my library. That one is just coming out and therefore wasn't at the library yet, but Tumbling Through Time was, so I thought I'd give it a go. Serious literature it ain't, but Cready writes an entertaining tale. This romance is approximately R-rated; although everything is hinted at rather than spelled out, there is quite a lot of dwelling on bedroom events.

What are you reading?!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thirteen Top Movies

Saw this meme on the Pink Lemonade blog (Thursday Thirteen) and I just can't pass up a movie list challenge. lol


My Top 13 Movies (if you ask me next week, it might change though - lol)

1 – Lord of the Rings (all 3) - Saw these repeatedly in the theatre and again on DVD

2 – The Scarlet Pimpernel - Sink me! I have loved Sir Percy since I was 16!

3 – A Knight's Tale - We will, we will ROCK YOU!

4 – Pride and Prejudice (1995) - Allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love this movie! If you're only going to watch one P&P, make it THIS one!

5 – The Incredibles - this is such a great animated movie - family friendly, full of adventure, humorous, beautifully executed!

6 – The Matrix - "Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself."

7 – Sahara - We're home free now!

8 – The Cutting Edge (1992) - A movie I can watch over and over and over.... Figure skating, an opposites-attract romance - sigh....

9 – Bridget Jones's Diary - Wait a minute... Nice boys don't kiss like that!

10 – Bird on a Wire - Mel Gibson in a dozen different roles - LOVE IT.

11 - The Importance of Being Earnest - Come down, Lady, come down....

12 – It's a Wonderful Life - A yearly tradition - now my kids love it too!

13 – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - Savvy?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Nim's Island (2008)

The kids wanted to see Nim's Island long before it came out and I read the book aloud to them this spring as a prerequisite for watching the movie. But the spring slipped by and the movie left theatres before we were able to carve out time to see it. When the kids' summer matinee schedule was announced for a local theatre, I was very glad to see it included Nim's Island. Today we went with a group of friends to see it and I am SO GLAD we did.

What a wonderful movie! Who wouldn't want to live on this idyllic island, especially with most the comforts of home, including apparently high-speed internet! I'll admit to being very glad that Gerard Butler played both Nim's dad Jack and the fictional adventurer Alex Rover created by the writer of the same name (played by Jodie Foster). Lots of screen time for Gerry! Lots of appreciation from the moms accompanying their kids to this sold-out show!

Nim (Abigail Breslin) is an eleven-year-old girl who lives on an uncharted island with her scientist dad, Jack. He ventures out onto the ocean in search of a new plankton, reluctantly (and unwisely) leaving Nim alone on the island. What was supposed to be a two-day journey is complicated by a storm, and Jack doesn't return on time. Nim is understandably worried.

Nim's companions every day are a sea lion, a lizard, and a frigate bird. Through the help of these creatures, Nim manages to protect her secret island from uncouth tourists and a greedy cruise ship company. When she is injured, she discloses the location of their secret island to Alex Rover, in hopes that "he" will come to rescue her. However, she expects Alex Rover to be the brave male hero described in the books rather than the agoraphobic writer she actually is.

Jodie Foster has done a number of more serious and gritty movie roles, so this broadly-played character is something different for her, but she does it well. Alexandra is a woman who rarely even ventures out of her apartment, so to go halfway around the world to rescue a child she doesn't even know is a stretch for her! Foster hits the perfect balance between over-playing the comedy and making the scenes too serious.

Nim, played by Abigail Breslin, is all long tousled hair and brave smiles. Breslin settles into this role perfectly and is completely believable - scared and alone during the storms, ecstatically happy to see her dad, worried and angry when Alex shows up as a female writer instead of the hero she expected, brave and capable when protecting her island or making repairs to her home.

A dual role allowed Gerard Butler to be on-screen for much of the movie. His Indiana-Jones type swashbuckling character appears when Nim is reading the Rover books or when Alexandra talks to him. He talks back to Alexandra too. Jack is a bespectacled marine biologist who loves both his work and his daughter. In either of these roles, Butler is engaging and, well, just plain delightful. Of course, I admit to a small bias in this situation as Butler is on my List. (Do you have to ask what The List entails? I'm sure not.)

Little kids may be afraid during some of the tense scenes in which Jack fights the storm or when Nim falls down a steep mountainside. I heard one small child behind me ask in a frightened tone, "Is he dead?" (He's not.) My own six-year-old leaned in to my side and gripped my arm during a couple upsetting scenes, but I think she was enjoying 'being scared'.

There were a number of differences from the book, but I didn't find any of them to be too distracting. My kids noticed different ones than I found, but it didn't stop them from enjoying the film. I do recommend reading the book. The first draft of the book was written when the author was only nine years old!

Other than a few instances of taking the Lord's name in vain and the tense scenes, I found this movie to be very family-friendly. We plan to own it - all my kids loved it, from the happily frightened six-year-old to the oh-so-cool thirteen-year-old boy.

If you'd like to own either the book or the movie too, here are handy links!



SCREEN IT REVIEW

NIM'S ISLAND ON IMDB

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fool's Gold (2007)

Watched Fool's Gold (Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson) last night. The reviews were terrible, but I liked the movie more than I thought I would. The spark McConaughey and Hudson shared in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days was missing, definitely, and the dialogue was mostly lackluster, although there were a few moments that made me giggle.

But there was more to this movie than a shirtless lead actor. Perhaps it's just that I love a treasure hunting story? But I didn't find this movie's story any less plausible than National Treasure 2, plus there was gorgeous scenery to look at. (I mean the ocean! The beaches! For shame! lol) The actress playing Gemma was pleasantly ditzy and sweet.

I can think of several movies I enjoyed a lot less than this one, so for me it wasn't quite scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rollicking Reader Report

Rollicking readers - doesn't that sound intriguing?

Rollicking Readers Book Club was started by my friend Darlene and me after we each watched the film Jane Austen Book Club. Despite our mutual dislike of the movie, we felt motivated to start our own club.

One Austen work per month was our goal. Finished thus far? Emma, Persuasion, and Pride and Prejudice. Next up is Mansfield Park. Before this I'd only read Pride and Prejudice (which I adore). To be honest, I am finding most of Austen's other works to be a bit stultifying, but the company is great and the stories are romantic. Our meetings also include a viewing of the film version of each book and a lot of sassy conversation, as well as snacks! How can it go wrong?

Our original intent was to read all of Austen's works; there are only six. But we're having so much fun, that we've already talked about what to do once we've made it through all of those. We intend to continue with other classics.

Nine or ten women have attended each month and we are becoming fast friends. If you live nearby, I invite you to join us! If not, then I challenge you to start your own book club - you don't know how much fun you're missing!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Vote Chewbacca 2008

THIS is funny. Star Wars-themed election products (shirts, bumper stickers, etc.) I like the Wookie one best! And if the Obi-Wan bumper sticker had one of the actors on it, instead of the cartoon Obi-Wan, I probably would buy it! lol

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

July Reads

Six books for July - not an impressive number. Did you do better than me?

Cockatiels for Dummies
by Diane Grindol - 07/06/08
Good - Non-fiction
A guide to selecting and caring for a pet cockatiel
Needed some more information on cockatiels and I adore the " for Dummies" series.

Eat This, Not That! by David Zinczenko - 07/08/08
Good - Non-fiction
Thousands of simple food swaps that can save you 10, 20, 30 pounds – or more
Wow! This book is enthralling. Lovely color photos of foods draw you in and the information is excellent. Comparisons between food choices help the reader understand how to choose better foods that still taste good. Sections on fast food, chain restaurants, eating on holidays, and grocery shopping provide a well-rounded guide. Pick this one up! You won't be sorry!

Journey by Angela Elwell Hunt - 07/08/08
Good - Inspirational
The third volume in this series of the life of Joseph in Ancient Egypt – this one focuses on his sons Manassah and Ephraim.
This one didn't hold my attention as much as the other two but I was glad to read the end of the story.

Courting Trouble by Deeanne Gist - 07/13/08
Good - Inspirational
Essie realizes she is becoming an old maid and decides to find a husband.
My mom recommended Deeanne Gist and I'm glad to find a new author worth reading, especially a Christian writer. This book is unusual because Essie, the main character, doesn't always make good choices. In most Christian fiction, the protagonist has to choose "right" or it can't be a "good example" for the reader. However, I think seeing the consequences of bad choices from a realistic Christian perspective is even more valuable than seeing unrealistic good choices always portrayed.

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver - 07/22/08
Excellent - Suspense
Lincoln's cousin is arrested for murder, but has he been framed by an identity thief? CHILLING!
I think this is one of Deaver's best Lincoln Rhyme books. Perhaps it's because the crime is less personal than others, but far more probable in today's computer-driven world. Anyway, this is a great book!

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer - 07/28/08
Good - Young Adult
Clumsy and ordinary, Bella moves to the rainy Northwest to live with her father; there she meets extraordinary and inhumanly handsome Edward.
Re-reading in preparation for Breaking Dawn's release. I like the writing better this time around, but I like Bella even less than I did before. I still adore Jacob though! :-)

What are you reading? Come on, leave me a comment!!!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Reviews Coming Soon

Saw Wall-E over the weekend - LOVED IT! Also recently viewed P.S. I Love You. Reviews will be coming for those soon.

I also plan a review of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Just as soon as I finish reading Breaking Dawn!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Breakfast Club Remake?

Before Mamma Mia, this commercial played.



Marla, Darlene, and I were appalled. Since we had missed seeing the website at the beginning of the ad, it looked to us like a remake of The Breakfast Club.

"SACRILEGE!"

"They had BETTER not be re-making The Breakfast Club!!?"

At the end of the commercial, we all sighed in relief to note that this was merely a commercial for J.C. Penney.

But it wouldn't be beyond the scope of imagination to predict a remake of the classic John Hughes 80's film. They remade WarGames, after all. And just about every 70's or 80's popular TV show, toy, or movie is either being remade or followed up with a sequel. (Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Lost Boys, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, The Smurfs, to mention only a few off the top of my head...)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Game Plan (2007)

I figured The Game Plan would be just another run-of-the-mill Disney flick, but I was pleasantly surprised. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays a self-absorbed quarterback who is confronted with a young daughter he didn't know he had. The film plays out fairly predictably - big tough guy learning to like ballet, obligatory messy kitchen scene, last minute sports comeback - but it all works together in quite a satisfying way. Very family friendly. All of my kids, from age 6 to 13 were engaged with this movie from the beginning. My sensitive 11 year old was in tears at one point and laughing hysterically at many others. I recommend it for families with kids of all ages.



The Game Plan - imdb.com
The Game Plan - screenit.com

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mamma Mia (2008)

Mamma mia, here I go again
My my, how can I resist you?
Mamma mia, does it show again?
My my, just how much Ive missed you...

What could be more fun than a chick flick?

How about a musical chick flick? How about a chick flick set on a gorgeous Greek island? How about a chick flick with Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth SINGING, along with numerous attractive younger men?

How about that same film along with two of your most fun-loving friends?

Now you've got the picture! This is how I spent my afternoon today - watching the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Mamma Mia!

Sophie is getting married and she doesn't know who her father is, but she wants him to walk her down the aisle. She reads her mom's diary and realizes that there are three possibilities for her paternity. (Yes, this could lead to some interesting discussions with kids.) She invites all three men to her wedding on the remote Greek island where her mother runs a small hotel. Hilarity, misunderstanding, and surprising sweetness ensue.

If your intent is to watch a serious drama, this is not your show! Be prepared for a somewhat silly movie musical filled with music from the 1970's group ABBA. Characters break out in dance routines at the first sound of a song! So, if you can suspend your disbelief and immerse yourself into an ABBA-infused Greek island for a couple of hours, this is your movie!

Meryl Streep plays Sophie's mother Donna, and, yes, in a departure from her usual dramatic roles, she sings and dances and is quite funny and always engaging! The three possible fathers are played with aplomb by Pierce Brosnan (James Bond, Remington Steele), Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy!), and Stellan Skarsgard (Pirates of the Caribbean).

The sound system in the theatre was not effective and I found it difficult to hear the solo singing tracks, although the music came through fine. I have heard much criticism of Brosnan's singing, but it seemed fine to me. I wasn't expecting Michael Buble' or Josh Groban, though, so my expectations were low to start with.

I enjoyed all of the music, although I only recognized about one third of the songs. ABBA was never my favorite group - I was not into popular music during their heydey although I think Take a Chance on Me was the first pop song I ever learned. That was in about 1979. But who can resist Dancing Queen, S.O.S., or The Winner Takes It All?

The island setting was lovely. I want to live there! The night scenes were especially entrancing. The colors of the costumes were designed to stand out. We especially got a kick out of the platform boots and ruffly sparkly 1970's costumes! And we all wanted Sophie's hair!

What about the story? Since many people reading this will be concerned about the morality of the plot, I will reassure you that the paternity issue is handled in the best possible way. Donna is not proud of her actions during the summer of Sophie's conception, but neither does she lie about the issue when confronted. (Apparently up until now, she has been silent on the issue of Sophie's paternity.) This is definitely PG-13 material, but no embarrassing sex scenes are included. Some risque talk and dance moves are present. Several characters drink wine and margaritas. A storyline including a homosexual character is also revealed, but it is not a central plot point, nor is it made much of.

My friends and I are the kind of moviegoers that you probably don't want to sit by! We had so much fun watching this together that when we exited the theatre, several perfect strangers saw our giggles and asked ironically if we had enjoyed the movie. "Yes, we did!" We all want to see it again, and in fact, we are considering buying platform boots and sequined outfits!

Oh, and be sure to stick around for the encore!

IMDB.com information on Mamma Mia
Screenit.com review for Mamma Mia

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Plugged In Online Review - Dark Knight

A GREAT Christian perspective on The Dark Knight is available at pluggedinonline.com. (Lots of spoilers though!)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)

I've never really been a comic book kind of girl. Oh , of course, I watched the Superman movies with Christopher Reeve back in the day - didn't everybody? But I resisted pretty much all other comic books and related media.

Then I had sons.

Suddenly I was part of the Star Wars craze, the Spiderman hoopla, and the Batman buzz. And you know what? I liked it! Yeah, the woman who would prefer a romantic comedy above almost everything else (except Lord of the Rings!) was sucked into the comic book world.

So, I've racked up viewings of Spiderman 1, 2 and 3, of Ironman, of Batman Begins, of Superman Returns, The Rocketeer, even Constantine (although that was a movie I saw on my own - hehe), and several others. And tonight, I added The Dark Knight to my list.

Lots of people LOVED The Dark Knight. The reviews are great! Heath Ledger's untimely death only added to the hype surrounding it. What did I think? Did I like it? Well, I'm still not quite sure.

We attended a sold-out 9:50pm showing. We ended up sitting in the front row, so the enormous screen was literally just feet away. Sometimes I like sitting that close. I especially recall one viewing of The Lake House that was quite memorable, as well as several viewings of one or more of the Lord of the Rings films.

Tonight, however, I found it overwhelming to be so close to the action. This is a movie with a LOT going on. Plot twists, high speed chases, shoot-outs, explosions, and death-defying Batstunts were THIS close. Plus huge closeups of The Joker to add to my disorientation.

So, let's talk about the Joker. Ledger's performance has been touted as genius for months now and I'd have to agree. He achieved a truly masterful performance. I felt sorry for the Joker, hated him, marveled at his insane plotting, and wished him dead. He took center stage, almost leaving Bruce Wayne/Batman as a secondary character.

So many characters were onscreen throughout the two-and-a-half hours that my head began to spin. Much less time was left for Batman than I would have preferred. Christian Bale's talents seemed wasted in this film. His screen time regrettably seemed relegated to mostly shadowy whispering and speeding Batcycles. The Batcycle WAS pretty amazing, though, as were all of Batman's devices and weapons.

Weapons? Oh yeah, lots of weapons in this movie, accompanied by lots of violence. Guns abound, although not wielded by Batman. Bombs, booby traps, poison, and knives also are used to dispatch many victims. The camera work is often accomplished in a way that leaves the results of the violence to one's imagination in many cases. The result is clear, but the graphic method is not shown in some cases. I wouldn't recommend this for young children or sensitive viewers of any age. At least one young child of about age 7 was in the audience tonight. (Did I mention this was a 9:50 PM viewing? That got done at 12:30 AM?)

One theme that seems to run through an awful lot of comic book movies concerns the responsibility of a hero. The Dark Knight followed this pattern. The characters often discussed the need Gotham City has for a hero and just what kind of a hero was necessary. Batman had choices to make - would he follow his moral compass or would he renounce it? How far can he go and still follow his calling? These are questions that deserve discussion from those who have seen the movie - especially teens. A lot can be learned.

So, I am still uncertain as to whether or not I "liked" this film. Maybe "like" is too bland of a word for the reaction I've had. The Dark Knight resonated with me at a deep level and made me think, but was it just entertainment? I guess I need to see it again to know for sure! So, apparently I liked it enough!

Let me know what you think. Leave me a comment. Pretty please?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Clone Wars Trailer

David thinks the upcoming Clone Wars animated movie looks cool!

I'll have to admit it is quite exciting! The movie comes out mid-August, so there's ANOTHER movie we'll want to see in theatres. I can take James to this one too.

In case you're wondering, the Clone Wars take place between Episodes 2 and 3.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Becoming Jane (2007)

After watching The Jane Austen Book Club (which I really don't recommend), my friend Darlene and I decided we wanted our own Austen club and started one - The Rollicking Readers Club. So far we've read Emma and Persuasion. Pride and Prejudice is our next selection.

I am becoming steeped in the world of Jane Austen, so I thought now would be an appropriate time to view Becoming Jane. What a charming movie! The filmmakers, along with some scholars, apparently imagine that Jane Austen had at least one star-crossed love affair. Becoming Jane is the fictionalized account of that love story.

No one alive knows for sure what actually happened because much of Jane's correspondence with her sister was destroyed. Family legend includes some details, but they have been passed down orally and have no substantiation. But, whatever the truth, it is a well-told story.

Jane is a single woman living with her family around the turn of the 19th century. She falls in love with a penniless young lawyer and his family opposes the match.

Jane is charmingly played by Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries) although her English accent is a bit weak at times. James McAvoy (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe; Atonement) portrays Tom LaFroy, the young lawyer. The chemistry between them is magnetic and believable. I enjoyed seeing the possible connections between Jane's life and events in her novels, made evident by memorable quotes from the books used as lines in the movie.

I found Becoming Jane a thoroughly enjoyable movie and would recommend it for all ages.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Too Many Movies for the Weather!

Oh my, lots of movies to see - and gorgeous weather that doesn't mesh with the desire to sit in a theater! I've never understood the summer movie season - weather in Michigan is bad enough the rest of the year that in summer I don't want to sit in a theater too much.

Haven't managed to see Indiana Jones. Ah well.

Planning to see The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia. At least I WANT TO. And The Day the Earth Stood Still, of course. :-) (Especially since I didn't even bother with Street Kings!)

Others I'd not mind viewing: Get Smart, The Accidental Husband.

David's asking for Journey to the Center of the Earth and the other kids want to see Kung Fu Panda. They all want to see Wall-E. The girls want to see Kit Kittredge.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still - trailer

I've been wondering about this film for a while. It looks MUCH better than I thought it would. What do you think? Will you see it?



And yes, that is Will Smith's son that shows up in the trailer.

Oh yeah, and Keanu. :::silly grin:::

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

June Reads

Wow, can you believe it's July already?

Strapless by Leigh Riker - 06/01/08
Fair - Chick Lit
Darcie travels to Australia for work and meets Dylan, a handsome sexy sheep rancher. Explicit sex.
I read this because it was here and I was bored and needed a light read. I don't recommend it.

Vivaldi's Virgins by Barbara Quick - 06/18/08
Good - Fiction
Anna Maria is a 14-year-old student of Antonio Vivaldi at the Pieta' music school & foundling home in 18th century Venice amid intrigue, lies, and amazing music.
We have listened over and over to the Classical Kids audio cassette Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery which takes place at this school. Quick's book is probably a lot more realistic; it certainly is a lot more earthy. Vivaldi is a real man. The orphans sneak out, but for more risque purposes than Katarina in Ring of Mystery. But, the music! Oh, the music. Did you know Vivaldi's music was largely unknown until the 20th century? Anyway, this was a satisfying read.

Emma by Jane Austen - 06/18/08
Fair - Classic
Emma, a rich 21 yo with tendencies toward meddling and matchmaking, finds herself humbled and on the brink of love.
Ok, I'll admit it. Emma bored me. I had the MOST difficult time reading it. Note the dates here? The first book of the month was completed June 1. This one was completed June 18. Vivaldi's Virgins was started only AFTER the Austen Book Club on June 14. No, I didn't finish Emma in time for Book Club. Although it's a classic, I think it's beyond the ken of the average modern reader. Don't bother with it. However, if you want to know the story, watch the BBC film instead of the Gwyneth Paltrow version. It's much closer to the book.

Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich - 06/19/08
Good - Fiction
Stephanie's ex-husband is missing and she is suspected in his disappearance, so she and Ranger must track him down. (listened to the audiobook)
Listened to the audiobook to refresh my memory of the plot before reading Fearless Fourteen. (see below). I hadn't listened to any Evanovich books on audio before and I REALLY enjoyed it!

The Princess Bride by William Goldman - 06/20/08
Good - Fiction
A classic tale of love and high adventure. (audiobook)
The kids and I listened to this on audio in the car. It was exciting and romantic, but had a different 'feel' than the movie. It was read by Rob Reiner, who is evidently a better director than a reader. If you want to listen to it, I'd suggest a different version (although I don't think one exists). I also didn't realize it was abridged, so at some point, I'll probably read the original.

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer - 06/21/08
Excellent - Non-fiction
Chris McCandless was a young college graduate with everything going for him, but he gave it all up to walk into the wild of Alaska.
I watched this movie a few weeks ago and thought I had read the book. Eventually I realized I had just read what I think was a Reader's Digest condensation of a longer article. So, I picked up the book. It was FASCINATING.

Back for Seconds by Peter Bowerman - 06/22/08
Excellent Non-fiction
A second helping of “how-to” for any writer dreaming of great bucks and exceptional quality of life (a companion volume to The Well-fed Writer)
I read The Well-fed Writer a few weeks ago and ordered this volume from the author. In case you've been wondering, this is the business I am going to start - commercial freelance writing. This is an excellent book - while I am reading it, I feel completely confident that I can succeed at this business. Hopefully I can take the principles and apply them effectively.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: PARENTING by Joshua Piven, David Borgenicht, Sarah Jordan - 06/22/08
Fair - Non-fiction
Illustrated step-by-step instructions to tell you what to REALLY expect when your worst-case scenario is all in the family.
This was stupid. Half of the instructions were serious and the other half I THINK were supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but it was hard to tell. Don't bother with this. Luckily it was short.

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich - 06/28/08
Good - Fiction
Stephanie finds herself taking care of a teenager whose mom has been kidnapped and she needs to find the location of 9 million dollars.
The latest eagerly-awaited installment in the Stephanie Plum series. I read it in a day. I plan to re-read it before returning it to the library. Exciting!

GO READ SOMETHING!