Sunday, December 06, 2009

November Reads

I managed 6 books in November, while also writing my latest NaNoWriMo novel. I tend to avoid fiction while writing fiction, except for inspiring fiction that I'd like to imitate, such as Gabaldon's work. So, other than the two children's books, the only fiction I read was a Kathy Reichs novel, during a writing slump. Well, and Gabaldon, but that's a given, right?

Edward, Hoppy and Joe
by Robert Lawson - 11/10/09
Excellent - Childrens
One of my favorites from childhood – Edward the rabbit, Hoppy the toad, and Joe the possum have many adventures.
My kids ADORED this read-aloud. I had hesitated reading it to them because of its age. It was rather old when *I* read it years ago. But it was very amusing and well-written. I think I shall have to read them more Robert Lawson. Perhaps Ben and Me and Rabbit Hill?

Until It Hurts by Mark Hyman - 11/16/09
Excellent - Non-fiction
America's obsession with youth sports and how it harms our kids
A review of this new book somewhere piqued my interest and I interloaned it. Quite eye-opening as to the dangers of specialized youth sports - both physical and otherwise. If you have a child who might ever play an organized sport, I do recommend this book.

The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson - 11/18/09
Fair - Non-fiction
The plot to kill the child king – a non fiction thriller
How could I not read this? I adore ancient Egypt, one of my obsessions since middle-school. And King Tut? So much mystery surrounds him. I found Patterson's take somewhat unbelievable. Patterson takes the somewhat unpopular view that Tut was murdered. He integrates the scenes from ancient Egypt with the life story of Howard Carter, discoverer of Tut's tomb, as well as some scenes from the present day. I find his writing somewhat brash, and don't really appreciate his style, so I didn't enjoy the book as much as I had hoped. It is short through, a quick read.

206 Bones by Kathy Reichs - 11/21/09
Fair - Thriller
Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist, is being sabotaged.
No more Tempe for me. I've struggled through the last one I'm going to attempt. I thought I used to like Reich's work, but maybe I never really did. I don't like Tempe or her story.

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell - 11/24/2009
Good - Childrens
A bet forces a boy to eat a worm a day for fifteen days
My kids had seen the recent movie and found it enjoyable, but say the book is nothing like it. I loved reading this aloud. Rockwell's style is irreverent in a boy-ish way and the story is very intriguing for kids. And not at all politically correct!

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon - 11/27/2009
Excellent Historical Fiction
RE-READ Jamie chooses to join the Revolutionaries
Audiobooks read by Davina Porter are woooooonderfulllllll and this one was no exception. The time just before the American Revolution is the setting for the 6th installment of the Outlander series. I didn't especially enjoy this book the first time I read it, back in 2005, so I had approached it somewhat dutifully. The seventh book (An Echo in the Bone) had been released, but I needed a refresher of ABOSAA before tackling it. Surprise, surprise! I thoroughly enjoyed it this time around!

SO WHAT ARE YOU READING?!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

October Reads

Finally - my October reading list! Only 6 books, but one of them is the longest book I've ever read. And I've been working my way through another of Diana Gabaldon's books on audio, though I didn't finish that yet. Read on....

No Need for Speed: A beginner's guide to the joy of running
by John Bingham - 10/12/09

Excellent - Non-fiction [999 Category - Serendipity 1 (revised category)]
This couch potato turned back-of-the-pack athlete has uncovered the path to joy, contentment, self-discovery, and life-changing success, all by putting one foot in front of the other.
As you may know, I have started jogging this year and I'm certainly not fast. This book was very helpful in setting goals and realizing a healthy approach to one of my new activities.

Edmund Bertram's Diary by Amanda Grange - 10/17/09
Good - Romance [999 Category - Becoming Jane]
Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, told through the eyes of Edmund Bertram
I adore Amanda Grange's diaries of the Austen heroes. Mansfield Park is my least favorite of Austen's six novels, but reading this made me like both Edmund and Fanny more.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas - 10/24/09
Excellent - Classic [999 Category - Vintage Volumes]
Edmond Dantes is wrongfully imprisoned, but escapes and spends the next 10 years plotting and executing his revenge.
Wow, this was the longest book I've ever read - about 1400 pages. It probably deserves a whole blog post of its own, but as I've been neglecting poor Mirkwood for a while now, that likely isn't going to happen. If, like me, you'd only ever seen movie adaptations of the Count of Monte Cristo, this will be an eye-opener for you, and no mistake. The abridged version of the novel (usually around 4o0 pages) is no comparison, according to our book club discussion. The movie with Jim Caviezel is NOTHING like the book - at least not the second half of the movie. What a richly layered book - a masterpiece truly. But a test of my reading endurance!

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange - 10/25/09
Good - Romance [999 Category - Becoming Jane]
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are on their wedding journey, but Lizzy soon comes to realize that Darcy guards a terrible secret.
When I first heard of this, I was rather shocked actually. But the more I thought of smouldering reticent Darcy, the more I realized this was an intriguing prospect for a Jane Austen adaptation. And it was quite amusing! If you know Pride and Prejudice (book or movie) and like vampire books, give this a try!

The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald - 10/25/09
Fair - Childrens [999 Category - Nostalgia]
JD's brother Tom always is out to make a buck in their small Utah town of 100 years ago.
I liked this a lot better having it read to me back in the day. It has lost some of its relevance in the intervening years, I think. My kids liked it better than I thought they would, but it isn't going to make any of my top reading lists.

Mr. Darcy's Daughters by Elizabeth Aston - 10/31/09
Good - Romance [999 Category - Becoming Jane]
The five spirited daughters of Lizzy and Darcy come to London for the Season under the care of a cousin.
This one was amusing, but not as good as Mr. Darcy, Vampyre or any of the Amanda Grange diaries. If you need an Austen fan fiction fix, though, it will do. Quite creative in its premise, though Lizzy and Darcy are not in the story at all.

What are you reading?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

September Reads

Only two books in September!? What in the world?

Well, I've been trying to complete The Fiery Cross for a long time (see below), as well as The Count of Monte Cristo, which is 1400+ pages long. I worked on a couple other books too, but didn't finish them.

Twenties Girl
by Sophie Kinsella - 09/04/09

Good - Chick Lit [999 Category - Nine and Counting]
Lara Lington's great-aunt Sadie has passed on, and even though Lara hadn't known her at all, the funeral disturbs her, and when Great-Aunt Sadie's spirit visits her, Lara's life is turned upside down.
I needed something light that I could FINISH, so I picked up Kinsella's new book. It was pretty good.

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon - 09/13/09
Excellent - Historical Fiction [999 Category - Kindred Spirits]
Jamie and Claire, along with Brianna and Roger, continue building their lives in pre-Revolution North Carolina.
I've been stalled in the middle of The Fiery Cross for months now, but I began listening to the audiobook again with renewed zeal, in hopes of finishing both FC and A Breath of Snow and Ashes before the new Gabaldon book (An Echo in the Bone) was released on September 22. I didn't make it. But, oh, how I love listening to Gabaldon read by Davina Porter!

Right now I am almost halfway through A Breath of Snow and Ashes (on audio) and about 1/3 through The Count of Monte Cristo. I have read one other short book in October. Stay tuned!

What are YOU reading?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

August Reads

The Penny Pinchers Club by Sarah Strohmeyer - 08/05/09
Good - Chick Lit (999 Category - Serendipity)
Kat thinks her husband is planning to leave her so she curtails her wild spending and learns to save with the help of a motley group of penny pinchers.
I love Strohmeyer's books! She always has a different take on the chick lit formula. Thoroughly entertaining.

The Fate of Katherine Carr by Thomas H. Cook - 08/07/09
Good - Mystery (999 Category - Serendipity)
When George Gates' young son was murdered, he lost his once-avid taste for mysteries, but he meets a retired police detective whose story of a missing woman piques George's interest.
Saw this one at the library on the new book shelf and picked it up based on the cover and title alone. Glad I did. It was compelling and interesting.

Everybody's Normal Until You Get to Know Them by John Ortberg - 08/10/09
Excellent - Non-fiction (999 Category - Faith)
How do flawed abnormal people such as ourselves master forces that drive us apart and come together in the life-changing relationships God designed us for?
This was AWESOME! I would love to do a small group study on this book. Anyone up for that?

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler - 08/15/09
Good - Fiction (999 Category - Becoming Jane)
Jane Mansfield, a Regency miss, wakes up in 2009 in the body of Courtney Stone and must learn to live and love in the modern world.
Saw this and its companion novel (below) mentioned someplace online and immediately requested them both. I read them backwards, however, so you may want to start with the FIRST one instead of this one. Very funny and an intriguing concept. Not your typical romance novel, but a must-read for any Jane Austen fans.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler - 08/19/09
Good - Fiction (999 Category - Becoming Jane)
Courtney Stone, an LA career girl, wakes up in 1813 in the body of Jane Mansfield, a well-to-do, but on-the-shelf Regency woman.
This one should have been first. Oops! I thought Rude Awakenings was better, but I liked this one a lot too!

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy - 08/26/09
Good - Classic (999 Category - Vintage Volumes)
Marguerite St. Just, now Lady Blakeney, must save her brother by discovering the identity of the English hero The Scarlet Pimpernel, who leads a band of men that rescue aristocrats in the French Revolution.
This was our book club read for the month. I'd read it before a number of years ago and wasn't all that impressed then. I liked it better this time around and I think I'll look for the other one (Eldorado) that the wonderful Scarlet Pimpernel movie (1982) is based on.

l8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle - 08/27/09
Good - Young Adult (999 Category - 9 and Counting)
Third in the series, this novel told entirely in instant messages follows Maddie, Angela and Zoe through their senior year, as they deal with boyfriends, prom and their archenemy Jana.
I read the first two books and was fascinated by the way the story was told through only instant messages. Amazing, really! The story, however, was a little more mature than I'd recommend to the high school girls I know. If you want to get inside a teen's head (or at least this author's view of a teen's thoughts), this is a good way.

home safe by Elizabeth Berg - 08/28/09
Excellent Fiction (999 Category - Serendipity)
Helen is a writer whose personal tragedy has brought on writer's block has to deal with family situations and an unnerving surprise.
WONDERFUL! I was actually brought to tears several times. I've enjoyed Berg's books a lot and this was the best yet, I believe. I need to read it again someday so I can do more than gush praise for it! LOL

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell - 08/31/09
Good - Non-fiction (999 Category - Faith)
For those who need a fresh take on Jesus and what it means to live the kind of life he teaches us to live.
This book was recommended by several as life-changing, but I didn't find it so. Perhaps it's due to my unconventional "religious" (or NON-religious?) upbringing, but most of these concepts were not new to me. Bell's style of writing grates on me. All those one sentence paragraphs hurt my head! But I can see that the concepts Bell presents may be new ways of thinking for many raised in denominational churches. Give it a read - it's rather short and maybe you'll come away with some food for thought.

What are YOU reading?
I'd love to know! Leave me a comment.....

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

July Reads

Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich 07/06/09
Good - Fiction
Rangeman is being sabotaged and Lula witnessed a murder and is being chased by inept hit men.
This eagerly awaited installment in the very funny Stephanie Plum series took me all of one day to zip through. Hilarious as usual, I could have done with a little more RANGER, but all-in-all, a very satisfying Evanovich. When does Sixteen come out? Oh yeah, JUNE. 2010. Sigh.

Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange 07/07/09
Good - Romance
Pride and Prejudice retold from Darcy's perspective, in diary format.
I love love love Amanda Grange's Austen hero diaries and this one is no exception. She thinks of much to add to enhance the story but doesn't compromise Austen's characters or plot. Absolutely CANNOT WAIT for Tilney's diary!

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 07/15/09
Good - Classic
Victor Frankenstein creates a monster and deals with the consequences.
I didn't especially want to read this, but Rollicking Readers was looking for something a little different to read, something not as romantic as our Austen and Bronte books. This fit the bill, but it wasn't at all what I imagined it to be. A very cerebral and philosophical chilling tale.

Complete Book of Running (Runner's World) edited by Amby Burfoot 07/16/09
Good - Non-fiction
Everything you need to know to run for fun, fitness, and competition
Whenever I start some new "thing", I always have to get some books about it. Jogging is no exception. This is a thorough overview of running as sport with quite a bit about competition and training that I mostly skimmed. A nice section on women's running rounds it out.

Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon 07/19/09
Good - Fiction
Rhonda witnesses a huge white rabbit abducting a little girl and joins the investigation to solve the crime.
Saw this at the library and couldn't resist the title and premise. An intriguing read, but rather serious by the end.

Bird by Bird: Some instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott 07/21/09
Excellent - Non-fiction
Author Anne Lamott shares her thoughts and advice on writing
I think Lamott is more famous for this book than for any of her novels (none of which I have read), however, this is a little gem of a book on writing. If you write fiction at all, give it a look. It won't take long to read, but its impact will be powerful.

Yes Man by Danny Wallace 07/22/09
Good - Non-fiction
Danny makes a rash promise to say yes to everything for a year!
Yes, this is the book the movie is based on. Yes, I think it's a true story. Yes, it was interesting and funny. Yes, the book was better than the movie.

The 5 Minute Face: The Quick and Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman by Carmindy 07/26/09
Good - Non-fiction
Carmindy of What Not to Wear shares her tips and tricks for creating great makeup in 5 minutes.
I love What Not to Wear, even though I don't often get a chance to watch it. I had the opportunity to view a DVD of four episodes lately and was reminded how much I love Carmindy on the show. She seems very down to earth and does great makeup, which never looks fake or too glam. I found out she had written a book and just had to check it out! Useful tips and nice photos. I think, however, that the face may take ME more than 5 minutes, at least the prep part.

What are YOU reading?

Is anyone out there? Hallllooooooo.........

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rollicking Readers - Frankenstein

Rollicking Readers Book Club had another great meeting last night! Only a few of our normal crowd was able to be there - seven of us, to be exact. We had a lovely dinner together on the patio. The husband of our hostess grilled chicken and burgers for us.

Our book/film of the month was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, a little departure from our ordinary reading material, considering our book club was formed to read through all six of Jane Austen's novels. But we completed that task and are pressing on to other classics.

Our discussion was held after dinner and was lively and intelligent - lots of great points were brought up. (And I think EVERYONE there had read the book! WTG, ladies!) For the record, I believe that just about everyone agreed that the book wasn't at all what we had imagined it to be. Rather than being gory and filled with gratuitous violence, it was philosophical and thoughtful. I'm glad I read it, especially because I wasn't really looking forward to it.

The version we chose was a 3 hour film from Hallmark (Frankenstein, 2004) touted to be a faithful representation according to the reviews we read. All the major events of the book were included, mostly in the right order, and the ending was pretty much the same. HOWEVER, the characters' motivations were changed quite a bit and some of the dialogue given to other characters. Events were added that changed the impact of other events and that was a little disappointing. The movie was also moderately graphic in the way that the book was NOT - during the creation of the monster and, later, his bride, as well as during the murders. I closed my eyes for a lot of it, though. lol

Another great meeting to add to our repertoire!

If you are local, please contact me if you are interested in our book club. I'll warn you right now - we are a crazy bunch, but we love to read and watch movies and chatter!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

June Reads

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - 06/04/09
Excellent - Fiction (999 Category: 9 and Counting)
Mariam and Laila are two very different women, brought together by war and cruelty, but they forge an enduring bond.
Finally finished this. Had to actually get the novel instead of finishing the audiobook, as audiobooks don't fit well into my life right now. That aside, this was WONDERFUL! Poignant, eye-opening, terrifying, hopeful, and more. I recommend it whole-heartedly, and actually several of my friends have also read it and concur with my assessment.


The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde - 06/12/09
Excellent - Play (999 Category: Vintage Volumes)
Jack and Algernon both pretend to be Ernest Worthing, a fictional wastrel of a younger brother, and both fall in love with women who only will marry someone named Ernest.
I've read this before, but read it again for book club. It's a quick, easy, humorous read. LOVE the movie; it's one of my favorites. Wilde was wrote it as a satire; the subtitle is "A Trivial Comedy for Serious People."


Mr. Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange - 06/14/09
Good - Romance (999 Category: Serendipity)
First-person account of Mr. Knightley's love for Emma Woodhouse (Austen's Emma, retold in diary format)
Emma was my least favorite Austen novel, and I wasn't sure I'd like Mr. Knightley any better in this diary told from his perspective. However, I found him quite endearing and even liked Emma better by the end!



Roadside Crosses by Jeffery Deaver - 06/17/09
Good - Suspense (999 Category: Kindred Spirits)
Kathryn Dance, a CBI agent and kinesics expert, tracks down a serial killer who leaves roadside crosses before killing his victims.
Kathryn Dance is an interesting protagonist; she isn't your garden-variety 'perfect' cop. I find the addition of the kinesics (the interpretation of body language) an intriguing addition to the suspenseful novels Deaver is known for.


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - 06/24/09
Excellent - Fiction (999 Category: Screen Time)
Amir grows up motherless in Kabul, Afghanistan, and his father seems to favor Hassan, the son of his longtime servant.
No, I haven't seen the movie yet. Hope to soon, now that I've read the book. I preferred A Thousand Splendid Suns, but this book was equally as gripping. The protagonist was less likable, but very well-sketched and the clash between the American and Afghani cultures was compelling.


The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - 06/29/09
Good - Fiction (999 Category: Screen Time)
Re-Read: The relationship between Henry and Clare is complicated by his genetic abnormality that causes him to time travel involuntarily.
I read this book five years ago, but the news of the film's release next month motivated me to read it again. It's a good thing I did, because I remembered barely any of it. (I'm really bad that way! Poor memory!) Intense, confusing, and utterly captivating! Don't read it if you are easily offended, as there is a bit of language and the characters are sometimes amoral. However, the plot's intricacies make up for it.

On to Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Evanovich) and Frankenstein (Shelley) and more for July....

What are YOU reading???

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre?

OK, if you're not a vampire fan, skip this post. Yeah, just click the X now. :-)

But if you're like me - a Jane Austen fan and intrigued by the Twilight series, you're probably still reading. Therefore, you may be interested in the new book by Amanda Grange, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre.

Amanda Grange says, "The idea for the plot of Mr Darcy, Vampyre came to me when I was rereading some of the classic Gothic novels of Jane Austen's era. I was starting to write Henry Tilney's Diary, Henry being the hero of Jane Austen's Gothic novel Northanger Abbey, and I wanted to put myself in the right mood." (Lisa says: I cannot WAIT for Tilney's Diary!!!)

"As I read The Mysteries of Udolpho, and as I followed the heroine over the Alps and into Italy, I found myself thinking, What if Lizzy and Darcy went to the continent for their wedding tour? What if they visited a remote castle and then went across the Alps to Italy? And what if, in those far flung locations, Lizzy discovered that Mr Darcy had a secret?"

Interested? I am! I've read a couple of Amanda Grange's Austen men diaries and they're good!

It comes out in August. Here's Mr. Darcy's Vampyre-blog to whet your appetite.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A to Z Website Meme


Found this meme on my friend Penny's blog. Each letter is to stand for websites, urls, etc, that you frequent. This should be interesting...

B - Blogger
C - Cake Wrecks
D - Dressup Me (Suzy goes here)
F - Facebook
G - Gmail
I - Image search @ Google
L - Lego (that'd be my sons)
N - Netflix
O - Oakland Comm. College Job Postings
P - Picasa
R - Retail Me Not (coupon code site)
T - Tracfone
V - Voyages of the Artemis (Diana Gabaldon's blog)
W - Weather
Y - Youtube
Z - Zazzle (to find fan-made tee's and other items)

Now, I better go get some REAL work done! lol

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Sticky

btt button

I saw this over at Shelley’s, and thought it sounded like a great question for all of you:

“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

1. Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
2. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
3. How to Talk so Children will Listen and Listen so Children Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish
4. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
5. Blessed Child by Ted Dekker
6. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
7. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
8. Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
9. Joseph by Joyce Landorf
10. The Family Bed by Tine Thevenin
11. The Hurried Child by David Elkind
12. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
13. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
14. Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
15. Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella

I never include The Bible on these sorts of lists, because I figure that's sort of a no-brainer, but clearly it would top the list.

That took me a bit more than 15 minutes because I kept getting interrupted. The list is in order of what I remembered, and it's heavy on non-fiction and childhood fiction. Some were hard because when I thought of the book, I realized I was REALLY thinking of the movie (P&P, for example) and it wasn't the book that was sticking with me, per se.

Monday, June 01, 2009

May Reads

Because I neglected what I SHOULD have been doing this month (but that's another story), I got a LOT of reading done this month - 9 books. That's the most in any month so far this year. This included my first book in my C.S. Lewis category, which I'd been procrastinating.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult - 05/02/09
Good - Fiction (999 Category: 9 and Counting)
Sterling High School is torn apart by a mass shooting.
I'm never quite sure if I like Picoult or not, but this was definitely a compelling read. If you like heavy fiction, this may fit you well.

Deep in the Heart of Trouble by Deeanne Gist - 05/04/09
Good - Inspirational (999 Category: Kindred Spirits)
Essie has accepted her spinsterhood, but then Tony Bryant comes to town. But is he too good to be true?
This historical Christian novel is a sequel in the edgy Christian fiction category. Realistic people with realistic problems and who don't always make good choices despite being Christians.

The Martian Child by David Gerrold - 05/06/09
Good - Fiction (999 Category: Screen Time)
Based on a true story, the author adopts a “hard to place” eight-year-old who believes he is a Martian.
Read this because I'd seen the movie and loved it. The book was sooo different from the movie; what a surprise, right? But it was still quite good, and I am in awe of the author's commitment to adopting this emotionally impaired child.

Twelve Times Blessed by Jacquelyn Mitchard - 05/10/09
Good - Fiction (999 Category: 9 and Counting)
43yo business owner True Dickinson meets a younger man and falls head over heels, but at what cost to her well-ordered life with her son?
Interesting story, but there were a few things that bothered me, one being the caricature hypocritical Christian homeschool mom.

Sex God by Rob Bell - 05/13/09
Good - Non-fiction (999 Category: Faith)
Exploring the endless connections between sexuality and spirituality.
Not as ground-breaking as I'd hoped. I didn't learn anything new until the last chapter. And no, it wasn't about technique! LOL

The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott - 05/14/09
Good - Classic (999 Category: Vintage Volumes)
Orphaned Edith grows up kind and good, but poor. When she is faced with a difficult choice, how will it affect her future?
Not Little Women, that's for sure!

Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange - 05/22/09
Excellent - Romance (999 Category: Screen Time)
First-person account of Captain Wentworth's love for Anne Elliott (Austen's Persusasion, retold from Wentworth's perspective, in diary form)
Ooooh, loved this! Captain Wentworth is my 3rd favorite Austen hero and this made me love him even more.

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis - 05/27/09
Excellent - Sci-Fi (999 Category: Mere Jack)
Ransom is kidnapped, drugged, and taken into space.
Re-read. I remembered reading this a few years ago and remembered loving it and wishing I'd read it earlier in life. Didn't remember too much else about it though. Wow, it's awesome! Even if you don't particularly enjoy sci-fi (as I don't), I think this is worthwhile.

The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within by Erwin Raphael McManus - 05/31/09
Good - Inspirational (999 Category: Faith)
How to be a “barbarian” instead of a traditional Christian, understanding how to give your heart to Christ instead of living the “safe” Christian life.
My pastor recommended this book a while back and I finally got around to reading it. The author offers a challenging perspective on the traditional Christian way of operating and suggests that a more fulfilling way to live would be to deviate from the "safe" road and into the more dangerous path. Quite a bit to chew on here.

After 5 months of participating in the 999 Challenge, here are the statistics:
5/9 Nostalgia - Books I Read As a Child and want to Read Aloud to My Children
7/9 Kindred Spirits - Books By Favorite Authors
3/9 Vintage Volumes - Book Club Books (RR & BB)
4/9 9 and Counting - Titles with Numbers
4/9 Screen Time - TV/Movie Tie-ins
5/9 Serendipity – Unplanned books I want to read
1/9 Literacy - Non-fiction about Books, Writing, or Reading
4/9 Faith - Spiritual Life
1/9 Mere Jack – Books by (or about) C.S. Lewis
34/81 (yikes, not halfway yet! I've got a month to get to the halfway point! That means 6-7 books in June. Very do-able! Whew!)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Oklahoma! (1999)

Since watching Oklahoma! (1999) this past weekend, I have recommended it to several people and the response is usually something like, "There's a new Oklahoma!?" Well, 'new' is a relative term, but since the film version most people are familiar with is more than fifty years old, it seems appropriate here.

Yep, FIFTY. The Shirley Jones movie came out in 1955, folks. That's been a few years. More than time for a remake, I think.

I was already aware of this production since I'd seen a little bit of it on PBS's Great Performances a few years back. At the time, I was put off by the fact that it was NOT a movie adaptation, but rather a filmed stage production. The audience is sometimes visible, even purposefully visible. The sets are typical, although nicely conceived, theater sets - painted backdrops, simple props, etc... At the time, this turned me off and I didn't watch much of the show. (I've read recently that this production was actually filmed on a soundstage and the audience shots are intercut to make it seem like a live production. Whichever it is doesn't really matter - it's more like a stage play than it's not.)

So, be prepared for that and then you won't miss, as I did, the wonderful performance given by Hugh Jackman as Curly.

Yes.

I said Hugh Jackman.

The man can sing. The man can dance. The man can act. And he's easy on the eyes, too. (OK, perhaps that last one is a bit of an understatement.) And he did Oklahoma! on film in 1999. So for 10 years, most of us have been unaware of this musical gem, but no longer.

If you are unfamiliar with Oklahoma!, Curly is the male lead character, a cowboy on the Oklahoma frontier. As Curly, Jackman sings number after number. He dances. He carries the entire production with effortless panache.

Laurie, the female lead, is adequately, but unmemorably, played by Josefina Gabrielle, a relatively unknown actress/dancer who seems rather old to be playing the naive Laurie. Her singing is lovely, but she just doesn't have any chemistry with Jackman or with Hensley. The performance that seemed to match Hugh's performance in depth and skill was given by the actress playing Aunt Eller, Maureen Lipman, an award-winning veteran actress. I also enjoyed performances by Vicki Simon (a wide-eyed Ado Annie) and Shuler Hensley (properly repulsive as Jud Fry, but played with a poignant frightening depth). (Aside - I found it interesting that Hensley played Frankenstein's Monster in Van Helsing - another film in which Jackman had the main role.)

You'll need three hours to enjoy this simply staged, but beautifully rendered production. My children watched with me and it kept their attention most of the time. There were a few scenes that may require some parental guidance - the subject matter may be a little risque. Obsessive love, pinup photos, a girl "who cain't say no", Jud's murder plot.

But the songs! Oh, the songs! I've known most of them by heart since I was a young teen. If you don't know them, you simply must!

So if you only ever watch one version of Oklahoma!, make it this one! I will be adding this DVD to my collection very soon.

Now, if I could just finagle things somehow to make Mr. Jackman consider playing Joseph.....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Top 100 Musicals?

I've been on a kind of musical kick lately, sorta jump-started by watching the High School Musical trilogy. I moved on to Oklahoma (1999) and Hairspray (2007) and probably will keep on going. If you know me, you know I'm nothing if not obsessive. lol So, I went searching for a good list of the best musicals. It was harder to find than one might imagine, but here's a list of the top 100 as chosen by the UK's channel 4. (None of the ones I've mentioned so far are on the list.)

That list was not easily copy/pastable, so I found another source for that and here's their introduction to the list:
"From the start of the new millenium, UK television channel, channel 4, ran a series of programs which ran through the top 100 of various genres, including films, film stars, war movies and musicals. the program was aired in 2003 and was made up of viewer votes both on their website and by phone. Channel 4 has a fairly youth based program strategy and perhaps this is why some of the entries are surprising, it is also clear to see which programs and films were in the media at the time. Below is their top 100 list of greatest musicals, some you may have never heard of and some stretch the term musical to and beyond its limits, but it is a great list all the same, and I wonder if you can guess which musical is voted the greatest musical of all time? Simply scroll down to the number one spot to find out!"

I've bolded the ones I've seen and noted if they were on-stage, movie version, or both. Feel free to copy the list and make your own choices. Also, I'd love your recommendations of any must-see musicals, either on this list or not.

100: Lets Make Love
99: Miss Saigon
98: Bright Eyes
97: The Cotton Club (I may have seen this movie, long ago)
96: Lullaby of Broadway
95: Breaking Glass
94: Sholay
93: How to succeed in business without really trying
92: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
91: Everyone Says I Love You
90: Cry Baby
89: A Little Night Music
88: For Me and My Gal
87: Million Dollar Mermaid
86: There's No Business Like Show Business
85: Funny Face
84: Ziegfeld Follies
83: A Star Is Born (Barbra Streisand) (movie)
82: Anything Goes
81: Yankee Doodle Dandy
80: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
79: All That Jazz
78: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
77: Porgy and Bess
76: Dancer in the Dark
75: Dil Se
74: Shall We Dance
73: Half a Sixpence
72: Godspell
71: Show Boat
70: Gigi
69: The Producers
68: Kiss Me Kate
67: Doctor Dolittle (movie)
66: Gypsy
65: The Jazz Singer (movie)
64: Easter Parade
63: Jailhouse Rock
62: Sweet Charity
61: Scrooge
60: Top Hat
59: Funny Girl (movie)
58: An American in Paris
57: Paint Your Wagon
56: Meet Me In St Louis (movie)
55: Hair
54: On the Town
53: Cinderella (movie)
52: Carmen Jones
51: Thoroughly Modern Millie (movie)
50: Hello Dolly (movie)
49: Muppets Take Manhattan (movie)
48: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (movie)
47: Summer Holiday
46: A Chorus Line
45: A Star is Born (Judy Garland)
44: Tommy
43: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (movie)
42: Starlight Express
41: Carousel
40: 8 Mile
39: South Pacific (can you believe I've never seen it?)
38: The Nightmare Before Christmas
37: White Christmas (movie)
36: Guys and Dolls
35: Oklahoma (movie, stage)
34: High Society
33: Fiddler on the Roof (movie, stage)
32:Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (movie)
31: Blood Brothers
30: Cats
29: Fame (movie - I think they're remaking this too)
28: Jesus Christ Superstar (movie)
27: Jungle Book (movie)
26: Annie (movie - 2 versions)
25: Calamity Jane
24: The Blues Brothers (movie)
23: The King and I (movie)
22: Evita
21: Little Shop of Horrors (movie)
20: Phantom of the Opera (movie)
19: Bugsy Malone
18: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (movie, stage - several times)
17: Cabaret
16: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (movie)
15: Les Miserables (movie)
14: The Lion King (I've seen the Disney movie, but isn't the Broadway show different?)
13: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling (huh???)
12: My Fair Lady (movie)
11: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (movie)
10: Moulin Rouge (movie)
9: Oliver!
8: Chicago (movie)
7: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (movie with audience participation, several times)
6: Singing In The Rain
5: Mary Poppins (movie)
4: West Side Story (movie)
3: The Wizard of Oz (movie)
2: The Sound of Music (movie, stage)
1: Grease (movie)

Mamma Mia is not on this list (too new?), but I've seen that movie. What else is missing from the list?

What are your favorites? Some of the ones I need to make time to view are: Singing in the Rain, Oliver!, Evita, Cats, South Pacific, Carousel (may be remade with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway), A Chorus Line, Gypsy, Kiss Me Kate, and Miss Saigon. What else should I see?

What musicals are you motivated to go see after viewing this list?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Gluttony

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Mariel suggested this week’s question

Book Gluttony! Are your eyes bigger than your book belly? Do you have a habit of buying up books far quicker than you could possibly read them? Have you had to curb your book buying habits until you can catch up with yourself? Or are you a controlled buyer, only purchasing books when you have run out of things to read?

Well, yes, I definitely buy more books than I can read. In the past, I have occasionally tried a moratorium on book-buying, but it doesn't work too well for me. Books are too tempting! I also buy books for my children - probably more than they can (or want to) read. Since I usually buy my books used, at least it isn't a terribly expensive habit.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

April Reads

I finished six books in April, including one really long one. I also listened to most of an audiobook.

Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues #3 by Donald Soboll 04/02/09
Good - Childrens (999 Category: Nostalgia)
The amazing boy detective solves 10 mysteries.
I read all the Encyclopedia Brown books when I was a kid. I read this one aloud to my kids.

The 100 Best Worldwide Vacations to Enrich Your Life by Pam Grout 04/13/09
Good - Non-fiction (999 Category: 9 and Counting)
100 Unforgettable possibilities for travel, divided into artsy getaways, volunteer vacations, learning retreats, and wellness escapes
I expected more from this book than I got. Seemed very politically correct. But my favorite ideas were: Assington Mill book binding & restoration class, sketchbook class with lewisblehrman.com, a variety of writers workshops, Plein air painting with paintinggypsies.com, research bottle nose dolphins blue-world.org, Italian art arthistoryabroad.com, safari surf school in Costa Rica safarisurfschool.com, ride horses to Machu Picchu's neighbor site manuexpeditions.com, cycle through the Austrian Alps austria.info, water sports in Fiji oars.com, bike across Cuba wowcuba.com


The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting a Reading Group
by Patrick Sauer 04/22/09
Good - Non-fiction (999 Category: Literacy)
Conveniently organized guide to starting and running a book club covers topics like who to invite, what to read, and where to meet. Lots of book lists on many topics.
I thought this would be useful since we are doing a book club kind of by the seat of our pants. But the bulk of this book is reading selections in a variety of genres and I can find that information anywhere.


Daniel Deronda
by George Eliot 04/24/09
Good - Classic (999 Category: Vintage Volumes)
Gwendolen Harleth is young, beautiful, and spoiled and finds herself inexplicably drawn to Daniel Deronda, the ward of a rich British aristocrat.
This was our book club selection for the month and it was HARD to get through, but worthwhile. The sheer length of the novel is daunting, as well as the intricate sentence structure and heavy vocabulary, but the story shines. The last 100 pages were filled with twists and turns suited for any modern novel despite it being written in the 1870's. The movie (starring Hugh Dancy and Romola Garai) was good too, but changed quite a bit of the book's storyline.


A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond 04/28/09
Good - Childrens (999 Category: Nostalgia)
A bear from Darkest Peru comes to live with a proper British family in London.
Another book I remember fondly from my childhood. Paddington's irrepressible personality is just as charming as I remember. The three younger kids were enthralled with this one. I highly recommend it as a read-aloud! There are a bunch more Paddington books that I'll look for at the library.

The Grand Finale by Janet Evanovich 04/29/09
Good - Romance (999 Category: Kindred Spirits)
Berry runs a pizza place and meets Jake while delivering pizza. A very funny romance.
I needed something light and really fluffy after reading Daniel Deronda. Saw this Evanovich at the library and snatched it up. Janet Evanovich wrote a few romance novels before authoring the Stephanie Plum series. I'd read a couple others and they were nice, but this was sweetly romantic and hilariously written. I could see shades of Grandma Mazur in one of the characters and cars kept getting stolen. LOL Nice to read when in need of something frothy or when Finger Lickin' Fifteen is still two months away from release!

A Thousand Splendid Suns (audiobook) by Khaled Hosseini 5-1-09
Good - Fiction (999 Category: 9 and Counting)
Two very different women's lives intersect in 20th century Afghanistan.
OK, I haven't exactly finished this one, but I need to finish it tout suite so I am putting it down. I am listening to the audiobook and it's very compelling. The characters are sharply drawn and the story is horrifying. How can stuff like this happen in the modern world? Well, it can if the Taliban governs your city. The narrator seems to be an Afgani woman and her performance makes the story even more poignant. (No, I haven't read The Kite Runner, but I plan to.)

WHAT ARE YOU READING?!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

17 Again (2009)


Picture three very stressed-out ladies at the end of a very long day. What they need is something light-hearted, something humorous, something distracting.....

I've tried 3 times to write this review of 17 Again, but I just couldn't seem to move beyond "It's funny! We laughed and laughed. And, by the way, don't take your preteen to see this even if she does have a crush on Zac Efron."

But tonight I went again with two other friends and I think one more attempt at this review should bear fruit. There aren't too many movies that I pay full price to see more than once. (Lord of the Rings comes to mind! lol)

Maybe you've heard that the movie is just a rehash of a familiar plot - What would happen if you could go back to your youth and try it again? Movies along these lines are common - Freaky Friday, Big, Peggy Sue Got Married, even Back to the Future and It's a Wonderful Life.

Let's see. Mike O'Donnell had a promising high school basketball career, but tossed away his chance at a scholarship to marry his pregnant girlfriend. Twenty years later, he's alienated both his wife and his two kids. The last straw comes when he gets fired from his job instead of receiving an expected promotion. Is it any wonder he would prefer to return to 1989? Then, through some unexplained magic, he does return, not to 1989, but to his 17-year-old body.

Yep, seems pretty familiar stuff. So what does 17 Again have to add to this genre which contains some clearly superior films?

Well?

It's not a surprising story. One of my movie-going friends guessed every plot point before it happened. Did that make her enjoy the film any less? From her laughs and comments afterward, I would venture to say her pleasure in the film remained intact. Are we only amused by stories that have never been told? Aren't many (if not all) stories a reprise of some previously-described tale? So, even if a familiar plot is predictable, our satisfaction in the story is not necessarily lessened.

Some of the biggest laughs came from the subplot involving Ned, an endearingly geeky bachelor played with wide-eyed charm by Thomas Lennon. I won't spoil these giggles, except to say that if you have any familiarity with Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons or any other Sci-fi or fantasy world, you will very likely adore Ned. As a Lord of the Rings fan and the mother of two Star Wars fans, I could certainly relate.

However, I found the greatest surprise of the movie to be the star, Zac Efron, who plays the young incarnation of the age-shifting Mike O'Donnell. Yes, he of High School Musical fame. I have never been counted a fan of the HSM franchise (although that may change!). Shall we say that my expectations were low? However, Efron seems to hit just the right balance between earnestness and satire. Charisma he has in abundance and it shines through, making this familiar plot something sparkling. The courtroom scene is a case in point.

Other items of note:
Michelle Trachtenburg and Sterling Knight both are enjoyable in the roles of Mike's two teenage children. I particularly liked Knight's awkwardness. Matthew Perry, as the adult Mike O'Donnell, gets almost no screen time. His name probably anchors the movie for most people my age, though, so I can understand the choice. Leslie Mann capably plays Scarlett, Mike's wife, although I didn't see much chemistry between her and either Efron or Perry.

This is not a movie for the preteen High School Musical fans. Some uncomfortable situations result from young Mike trying to repair his relationship with his daughter and wife who don't realize his identity. Use your imagination. A sex-ed class presents several topics that my own preteens would not understand, although the scene ends up favorably disposed toward abstinence. Some language and teen partying also contribute to the PG-13 rating.

And nope, the hairstyles are NOT from 1989. Sorry, no. Not even close. (Not referring to the coifs in these pictures, though.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, laughing and giggling through it twice, even after paying through the nose for full price tickets. I intend to buy it when it is released on DVD. And even more telling, I've started watching the High School Musical films! If you are in need of some stress relief, this may be your prescription.

IMDB Page

Screenit Review
Plugged In Review

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Three Quick Reviews of Forgettable Movies - Yes Man, Bedtime Stories, Duplex


Three quick reviews of forgettable movies...

Yes Man had some charming moments and some that had my teenager literally rolling on the floor laughing. But Zooey Deschanel, usually drily exuberant, didn't shine like she did in other films. Carrey was Carrey, so if you usually like him, you'll find this amusing. A couple objectionable scenes prevent me from giving a wholehearted recommendation.

Yes Man review at screenit.com

Duplex - I'd never heard of this film, despite it being fairly recent. Turns out there was good reason. A promising beginning quickly degenerated into not-so-humorous pratfalls and silly jokes. Eventually the storyline went right where I thought it would. Despite a twist at the end, it left a sour taste in my mouth. Don't waste your time.

Duplex review at screenit.com

Bedtime Stories - I expected more than the flimsy storyline and flat jokes. Sandler was himself, and that's ok. We expect it. Keri Russell seemed to be trying too hard. The bedtime stories themselves were amusing, as well as how they played into Skeeter's life. The English dude playing Sandler's best friend was a shining spot in the otherwise mostly dull film. My kids liked it. And we're all walking around quoting, "It's freeeeeeee....." Whatever.

Bedtime Stories review at screenit.com

The Widow's Might

I'd like to go see this movie, but it's not playing in very many cities. I'd have to drive about 90 minutes. Hmmm....


60 Second Trailer Spot, Widow's Might from John Moore on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

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Some people have a number of them on the go at any given time, perhaps a reading in bed book, a breakfast table book, a bathroom book, and so on, which leads me to…
  1. Are you currently reading more than one book? Right you are!
  2. If so, how many books are you currently reading? Oh, wow. Um. Six, I guess. Seven if you count what I'm reading to the kids. Some of them more actively than others.
  3. Is this normal for you? Definitely. I usually have at least one fiction and one non-fiction read going.
  4. Where do you keep your current reads? All over the place? One on the end table, one in the bathroom, the rest stacked either in the library basket or here and there around.
What about you? I'd love to hear your answers - blog them, facebook them, or just leave them in the comments!