Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Review -- Outlander

by Diana Gabaldon
Published by Delacorte Press, 1991
627 pages

Summary: in 1945, Claire is on vacation with her husband in Scotland, when she comes across an ancient stone that transport her back in time. She finds herself 200 years in the past where she uses her training as a nurse to become entrenched with a group of Scottish soldiers. Finding refuge in the castle of the laird, Colem McKenzie, Claire must use her knowledge of the time to survive life in the Scottish highlands.

Review: Outlander is a book about a life diverted (or perhaps one that finds its true path?). In the beginning of the book, we see Claire in her own time, as a wife who is reunited with her husband after war. In 1945, we able to get acquainted with Claire and her quiet life. When she is transported to the 1700s, she gradually becomes a different person through the chaos of life on the Scottish highlands. Her need to survive and get back to her husband makes her show bravery and intelligence in the dangerous situations that cross her path. The development of Claire's character throughout the novel is wonderful. I also enjoyed the relationship between Claire and Jamie (a Scottish soldier she must marry to save her own life) and how through the course of the novel you can see their love deepen. In terms of plot, I was a little disappointed. At 627 pages, there were many situations that could have been cut from the novel. At one point I was concerned when another person was being kidnapped and a character was being tortured for a second time. However, the adventures that didn't repeat themselves as well as the political intrigue were fun and engaging. Thanks to all the bloggers who recommended this read, I am definitely planning on reading the sequel. Rating:*** out of 5

Monday, March 30, 2009

DVD Review -- The Duchess

Summary: Based on Amanda Foreman's novel, The Duchess follows the life of Georgiana, played by Keira Knightly. Married unhappily to the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes), Georgiana becomes a local celebrity known for her fashion sense and political views. She seeks comfort from her adulterous husband by falling in love with politician Charles Grey.

Review: I have to admit -- I am a little bias. I love a good period piece. The Duchess is filled with fantastic costumes, beautiful locations and is a great story. Keira Knightly is wonderful as the Duchess, etching out multiple emotions across her face as the camera stays on her during the quiet moments. I highly recommend this film, especially if the viewer enjoys a fabulous period piece that seamlessly combines the costume and pageantry of the time with a fantastic love story. Rating: **** out of 5

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Finds

This week's Friday Finds comes from Book Club Girl. Her book club has decided to read Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes. The story follows Anna, who one day wakes up in her mother's house to find she has lost all memory of how she got there. She then begins a journey through the use of psychics and mediums to find out what happened. I haven't read anything by Marian Keyes and this book sounds like my cup of tea. I already received an email from the library saying that they are holding a copy for me, so hopefully by next week I will have a review to share!

I also wanted to announce that I have chosen my second selection for the 1% Well Read Challenge. I will be reading I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti. If you missed the review of my first selection (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon), then click here. Next week don't forget to stop by and check out reviews of November 22, 1963 by Adam Braver and The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant (my book club's April selection). There will also be DVD reviews of The Duchess, Henry Poole is Here, and Death Race (I know, I know -- I am a sucker for Jason Statham).

Have a great weekend!

DVD Review -- City of Ember

Summary: Two teenagers living in Ember race to find a way out of the underground city before the generator dies and the city is left in darkness.

Review: Positively, the special effects are good and there are a few fun action sequences. Other than that, I am pretty indifferent to the rest of the movie. There were puzzles for the teenagers to solve but you never felt like you were there helping them. Instead they would just point to the map and run in a direction. The acting was good but the story just didn't translate well on screen. Rating: * out of 5

Thursday, March 26, 2009

REVIEW -- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
by Mark Haddon
Published by Doubleday
226 pages
1% Well - Read Challenge Selection 1

Summary: Christopher Boone is a fifteen year old autistic boy. One night, he comes across the dead body of Wellington, his next door neighbor's dog. Christopher decides to become a detective and solve Wellington's murder. Over the course of his investigation, he not only finds the murder but uncovers a family secret that changes his life.

Review: An intense and engrossing book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, is a fantastic read. Haddon's words let you into Christopher's mind and world as he struggles to navigate through day to day life. Sometimes being in his mind was so overwhelming, I had to put the book down for a few hours or even a day. My heart went out to Christopher's parents, two people just trying to love and take care of a boy they can't even touch, as their adult lives spin out of control. I would highly recommend this book, the characters are interesting, the plot moves quickly, and I was left with a better understand of what it means to be autistic. Rating: **** out of 5

Booking Through Thursday

Suggested by Janet:
The opposite of last week’s question: “What’s the best ‘worst’ book you’ve ever read — the one you like despite some negative reviews or features?”
Hmmm -- I guess the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. I love these books, yet they don't get a lot of respect from some readers and critics. Personally, I love them because they are fun, entertaining, and escapist reads. Plus, Sookie is a heroine who is strong and stands up for what she believes in.

What is your best 'worst' book?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

DVD Review -- In Bruges

Summary: Two hitman, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), are sent to Bruges when Ray botches a hit and accidentally kills a young boy. As they wait there for instructions from their boss (Ralph Fiennes), Ray meets a girl and Ken falls in love with the town.

Review: My favorite part of this film was Brendan Gleeson. In an understated performance, Ken is quiet and contemplative as he takes in the culture that Bruges has to offer. He is protective of Ray and unwavering in his belief that Ray deserves a second chance at life. Colin Farrell was very funny as Ray, a man who struggles with the shooting and his contempt of Bruges. In Bruges is a very dark and violent movie about honor among thieves and redemption in the strangest places. Rating: *** out of 5

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

DVD REVIEW -- Happy-Go-Lucky

Summary: The story centers around Poppy, a 30 year old single preschool teacher living in London, who is amazingly cheerful and nice to everyone. When her bike is stolen, she decides to take driving lessons. The instructor, Scott, is the complete opposite of Poppy -- sullen, difficult, and spiteful. Over the course of the movie, Scott becomes interested in Poppy and becomes distraught when she starts dating a man who is more like her.

Review: This movie is a character piece that is labeled as a comedy, but I rarely laughed throughout the picture. It was interesting and entertaining at times, especially Poppy's relationship with her roommate. Sally Hawkins is great as Poppy. I was surprised to find that I liked the character of Poppy, she wasn't cheerful to the point of being stupid or naive, just really agreeable. The film is light and breezy until the last 15 minutes (don't worry I won't spoil it). Overall, an interesting picture but not one that I would watch again. Rating: ** out of 5

Monday, March 23, 2009

REVIEW -- Fool by Christopher Moore

by Christopher Moore
Published by HarperCollins
304 pages

Disclaimer: I have never read King Lear. The last time I read Shakespeare was in high school. So I was a little concerned when I picked up this book. Would I be confused? Would I not understand it?

Summary: The story centers around Pocket, King Lear's beloved fool, as he works to reunite Lear with his youngest daughter Cordelia. He just happens to have to use trickery, lies, and witchcraft (and well placed jests) to complete his mission. All the while, trying not to get himself killed.

Review: This book is not for everyone. The humor is crude and the characters are completely evil. With that said -- I absolutely loved this book. It was funny and outrageous. I didn't need a degree in Shakespeare to understand it. In the beginning I was a little tripped up by the language. By the second chapter, my brain had time to adjust and I just got swept up in the story. Pocket was a great main character -- rude, crude, brave, smart, and funny. The end was a little soap opera-ish (not that I minded) with characters learning about their birthrights and the ghost's true identity being revealed. Overall, it was a fun read that left me laughing.

I Won An Award!

How cool is that? Thanks to Bev over at Merry Weather for this great honor. As part of the award I need to choose blogs that interest and inspire me. There are so many to choose from! Here are my winners of the Sisterhood Award:

1. Books and Movies

2. Jo-Jo Loves to Read

3. Trish's Reading Nook

Now here are the details for passing on this honor.
1. Put the logo on your blog or on a post.
2. Nominate up to 10 other bloggers which show great attitude and or gratitude.
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

Thanks ladies for such fantastic blogs. Enjoy your award!

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Circle of Books Giveaway

A Circle of Books is giving away a copy of Drood by Dan Simmons on audiobook. To enter click here: http://acircleofbooks.blogspot.com/2009/03/hachette-audio-giveaway-drood-by-dan.html

Barney's Book Blog Unusual Title Winner -- 3/20 Edition

My pick for winner of Barney's Book Blog Unusual Title of the Week goes to -- Beer, Babes, and Balls: Masculinity and Sports Talk Radio. Here's a summary from Barnes and Noble:

Beer, Babes, and Balls explores the increasingly popular genre of sports talk radio and how it relates to contemporary ideas of masculinity. Popular culture plays a significant role in fashioning identities, and sports talk radio both reflects and inspires cultural shifts in masculinity. Through analysis of the content of sports talk radio as well as interviews with radio production staff and audience members, scholar and avid sports talk radio listener David Nylund sheds light on certain aspects of contemporary masculinity and recent shifts in gender and sexual politics. He finds that although sports talk radio reproduces many aspects of traditional masculinity, sexism, racism, and heterosexism, there are exceptions in these discourses. For instance, the most popular national host, Jim Rome, is against homophobia and racism in sport, which indicates that the medium may be a place for male sports fans to discuss gender, race, and sexuality in consequential ways. Nylund concludes that sports talk radio creates a male bonding community that has genuine moments of intimacy and connection, signifying the potential for new forms of masculinity to emerge, while simultaneously reproducing traditional forms of masculinity.

It may be an unusual title but it really catches the readers eye and is perfect for the subject matter.

So what do you think -- unusual or perfect? Is there a book you would like to nominate for 'Unusual Title'? If so, leave me a message in the comments section or email me at jedziedz@hotmail.com.

Fool for Fool?

I chose Christopher Moore's Fool as my Friday Find. This is most likely going into my to be read pile even though reviews have been so - so (check out the link to Entertainment Weekly's review below). Christopher Moore's books are not new to me. I thoroughly enjoyed Fluke and You Suck: A Love Story.

So I am looking forward to reading his newest and hoping to give a glowing review.

What was your Friday Find?

Here is the link to the Entertainment Weekly review, they gave it a solid B: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20259728,00.html

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

How about, “What’s the worst ‘best’ book you’ve ever read — the one everyone says is so great, but you can’t figure out why?”

Recently I read In the Woods by Tana French and was disappointed. I heard so much about how fantastic it was that I finished the entire book and felt that it didn't deserve the hype. The story is two mysteries rolled into one with interesting characters that just seem to deconstruct in front of you. The story is slow moving, the crime is something that you would see on an episode of Criminal Minds, and over the course of the story I went from enjoying the characters to finding them annoying.

A few years ago I tried to read A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I read a hundred pages and then walked away. To this day, I have no idea what this book is about -- but I am told it is great. Here's a summary from the Barnes and Noble website:

One of the 20th century's enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement in a Nobel Prize–winning career.The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the Buendía family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America. Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility -- the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth -- these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel García Márquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master. Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.

So what about you? What is the worst 'best' book you have ever read?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Changing an Ending

Recently, I came across this article about My Sister's Keeper, my all time favorite novel by Jodi Picoult and now a movie being released in theatres on June 26th. The article in USA Today reports that the ending of the movie will not be the same as the book.

But here's another shock: The movie version, due June 26, has a
different ending. And that's making some Picoult fans unhappy.
The movie, starring Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin, tells the story of what happens when a healthy child (Breslin) turns 13 and begins to question the medical procedures she has endured in an effort to stem her older sister's (Sofia Vassilieva) leukemia. Picoult hasn't seen the movie but has read the script: "Having the ending changed would certainly not have been my choice. I wrote the ending very intentionally because I wanted to leave the reader with a certain message. And changing that ending changes that message. However, I am excited to see the movie and to judge it on its strengths."

I think it was a terrible idea to change the ending, but it isn't deterring me from seeing the movie. What do you think? Should they be allowed to change the ending? Are you planning on seeing the movie now that it isn't completely faithful to the book?

Here is the link for the original article: http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2009-03-02-picoult-my-sisters-keeper_n.htm?loc=interstitialskip

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jenn's Bookshelf Giveaway

Jenn is giving away a copy of Willing Spirits by Phyllis Schieber. To read her review and enter the giveaway, go to http://jennsbookshelf.blogspot.com/2009/03/review-and-giveaway-willing-spirits-by.html.

Library Thing

I am now a member of Library Thing. Are you? It is a really fascinating site. You can add books into your library, write reviews, and join chat groups to discuss books. I haven't had a ton of time to explore the entire site but I am loving it so far.

Anybody else a member? Any advice for the newbie?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Finds

What great books did you hear about / discover this week?

1. The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon -- Many bloggers mentioned this series during their Booking Through Thursday posts. See Diana Gabaldon's Fantastic Fiction page here: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/g/diana-gabaldon/.

2. Drood by Dan Simmons -- This book is getting a ton of great reviews and sounds very interesting.

Barney's Book Blog Unusual Title Winner -- 3/13/09 Edition

I probably haven't mentioned the fact that I work in a library (but I am not a librarian). Sometimes the titles I come across make me chuckle or just confuse the heck of of me. So the first winner of Barney's Book Blog Unusual Title goes to:

Phoebe Washburn: Regulated Fool's Milk Meadow

I have no idea what 'regulated fool's milk meadow' could even come close to meaning. I did figure out that it was an art book as I flipped through it. So I went to the Barnes and Noble website and found this:

From the Publisher

The young New York artist Phoebe Washburn creates environmental-scale sculptures made of common or discarded materials. Combining countless numbers of cardboard boxes or thousands of pieces of scrap wood to form undulating installations, Washburn's works tell the story of their own making, incorporating by-products of their creation into the final project. This volume documents Washburn's commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, where she constructed a Rube Goldbergian factory to produce grass for the project's sod roof over the course of the exhibition. This catalogue documents the development of the sculpture in the artist's studio, along with original source material and sketches, and features a career overview by Jan Avgikos, an interview by curator Joan Young and text by Rivethead author, Ben Hamper.

Have you ever come across a title that made you scratch your head? Or a title that didn't seem to fit -- even after you read the entire book?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

I am a huge Charlaine Harris fan and even though I have yet to see True Blood on HBO, I would love one to see her Harper Connelly Series be made into a movie. I would suggest to the producers that they make the first book in the series, Grave Sight, with Kristin Bell as Harper and Jason Dohring as Tolliver (both from the fantastic Veronica Mars).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

To Care or Not to Care?

I am having an internal debate over Jodi Picoult's newest book, Handle with Care. Do I read it or not? I discovered Jodi Picoult books very late in the game and started with the spectacular My Sister's Keeper. After that I devoured anything new written by Picoult and even some of her older novels. Yet, with each book I came back to the same conclusion -- it was no My Sister's Keeper. So now I have a dilemma, do I read it and hope for the best or just skip it and wait until the reviews are in?
Speaking of reviews, here is the link to the Washington Post's review of Handle with Care:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Australia: 2 hours and 45 minutes of goodness

Before I begin, let me reiterate -- Australia is 2 hours and 45 minutes. This is not a movie for the time management challenged. If you enjoyed Baz Luhrmann's other films, then it is truly worth the time. The beginning starts off a little quirky (it reminded me of Strictly Ballroom -- what a great movie) with Nicole Kidman's Lady Ashley, an uptight proper English lady, travelling to Australia to demand that her husband sell their cattle ranch and come home to England with her. He sends The Drover (Hugh Jackman) as her guide to bring her to their ranch, Faraway Downs. Misunderstanding and a few silly scenes later, they dislike each other properly, but you know that won't last for long.

The movie really picks up when Lady Ashley and the Drover arrive to find Lord Ashley murdered. Lady Ashley vows to drive the cattle in honor of her late husband and in turn protect all the people living on the ranch from a rival cattle tycoon and his villainous henchman. She begs the Drover to help her and over the course of the drive, they fall in love.
I am going to stop there, so that I don't spoil the rest of the plot. Australia is great fun, an epic story with heart and many funny moments. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman are fantastic, their story and struggles are the movie's strengths. I was surprised by the scope of the film, the massive crane shots, explosions, and the special effects were immense. So if you have 3 hours to spare, I recommend you see Australia. Don't forget to come back here and let me know your thoughts in the comments section!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

1% Well-Read Challenge Selection #1

As part of the 1% Well-Read Challenge, I have decided to select The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon as my first book. For more information on this book, see the Barnes and Noble site for the book: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Curious-Incident-of-the-Dog-in-the-Night-Time/Mark-Haddon/e/9781400032716/?itm=1.

Friday, March 6, 2009

1% Well - Read Challenge

I have signed up for my first challenge. Here goes nothing...

For more info on the (Another) 1% Well - Read Challenge: http://1morechapter.com/2009/02/27/another-1-well-read-challenge/

What’s the best book that YOU haven’t read yet?

A lot of bloggers have been answering this question over the past two days and I have enjoyed reading their lists and posting comments. I was not surprised to find The Book Thief by Markus Zusak on many of the lists.

I read this book for book club a few months back and really enjoyed it. After I picked up I Am the Messenger, also by Zusak, and realized that I loved this book even more. It's a story of second chances and how one one event can change your life forever. It is a funny and thoughtful adventure ripe with unusual characters.

So if you are going to read The Book Thief (and even if you are not) I recommend that you pick up I Am the Messenger as well. Let me know what you think of it (or both books) in the comments section.

Spend an Evening with Life

I recently watched the first season of Life on DVD and was pleasantly surprised by how good this show is. The show follows two LAPD detectives, Crews and Reese. Detective Crews is returning to the force after spending twelve years in jail for a homicide that he didn't commit. Detective Reese is also just returning to the force after a stint at rehab for a drug habit she picked up during undercover work.
The relationship between the two detectives makes this a must see. Crews is a quirky, fruit loving person who is trying to come to peace with his time in jail. His partner Reese is a sullen by the book person who is trying to not screw up her second chance.
A great part of the plot in season one revolves around Crews trying to find out who committed the crime he was accused and convicted of. Thrown in are some unusual cases to keep the detectives on their toes, which makes for a great show that everyone should check out.

Linda Olsson's Newest Book

Linda Olsson, the author of the fantastic Astrid and Veronika, recently came out with her newest book, Sonata for Miriam. For more info, check out the Barnes and Noble page: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Sonata-for-Miriam/Linda-Olsson/e/9780143114703/?itm=1.

Talking with Juliette Fay

On Monday our book group had the wonderful opportunity to speak to Juliette Fay, author of Shelter Me. Shelter Me is the story of Janie, a recent widow with two small children, and her struggle to move forward with the help of an unlikely group of family and friends. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and so did many of my fellow book clubbers. This is Juliette Fay's first book and she is a native of Massachusetts so we were very interested to talk with her.

There were some very interesting tidbits that came up in conversation. Juliette told us that Shelter Me was not the original title. Instead the original title was En Route, Will Advise and after it was changed she methodically went back throughout the book to add the word shelter to the text to make it more cohesive. The book takes place in Pelham, Massachusetts but it wasn't until after the book was published that she found out there was a real Pelham in Massachusetts.

It was a great conversation and I am very much looking forward to Juliette Fay's next book which she is currently working on. Next month, the book club will read The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant and chat with her as well.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Next Month's Book Club

On Monday, our book club discussed Shelter Me with author Juliette Fay (more on this later). Next month will be an author chat with Anita Diamant, writer of The Last Days of Dogtown. I know absolutely nothing about this book but many of my fellow book clubers enjoyed Diamant's last novel, The Red Tent.