Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Third Girl (Film)

The Third Girl, 2008
Based on Agatha Christie's novel
Starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot and Zoë Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver
4/5 stars

I've never read this book although I will at some point. It's not one of the best known and that makes sense. Surprisingly I actually puzzled out some of the mystery, probably because there were only about six suspects which makes the odds in my favor.

I was particularly struck by Poirot's anger when he gets to the denouement. I loved Wanamaker who provided a bit of comic relief as the mystery writer based on Christie herself. She provided several useful pieces of information that helped Poirot reach his conclusions.

Overall: It's not a bad way to pass some time but it's not a must-see.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fairy Tale Connection

Friday is for Fairytales is a meme hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read. Every Friday, you can choose a fairytale you love, or simply find interesting or haunting, and review it or simply say why you like it so much, or why it has captured your attention. Instead of a fairytale, you can choose a favourite fairytale character and describe him/her and tell us why you like them, or you can simply share an experience connected to a fairytale. Fairytales can be old and modern, written by a known author or anonymous, written down or passed on orally, short or in novel form (like re-writings of fairytales), international or typical for your country alone. In this case, present your country’s fairytale and we can all become acquainted with a new fairytale. So, make a post every Friday that is connected to the world of fairytales, be it a review, a character description or your own fairytale experience. Let’s celebrate fairytales and share our love for them.

On my first Fairy Tale Connection Post, I mentioned that while Cinderella was my favorite fairy tale, she was not my favorite Disney princess. That is because Aurora is my favorite Disney princess. When I was little, I was obsessed with Sleeping Beauty and I desperately wanted long, thick blonde hair in opposition to my shoulder-length, light brown, thin hair. I still crave hair like that sometimes but I'm mostly over it.

A reason for loving this movie though has deeper cultural roots. The score is Tchaikovsky's score for his ballet Sleeping Beauty. And it is one of the most beautiful films, IMHO. It's also super beautiful-just look at the parts of the castle we see as well as the intro. They're gorgeous! Another highlight is that this is the first prince (following Snow White and Cinderella) to have a name and a bit of a personality. I've read that Disney's animators weren't good at drawing men and that is why there are so few in the earlier films.

What Fairy Tale are you thinking of this Friday?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, 2009
391 pages
Dystopian; YA
Second in series
5/5 stars

My review of The Hunger Games can be found here.

Source: Bought by my parents so I didn't have to violate my book ban.

Warning: Spoilers!

Summary: Katniss has managed to survive the Hunger Games but while outwardly things look much the same, around the country, the districts are in turmoil. Her relationships are also fractured: her feelings toward Gale and Peeta are confusing and she's confused about her place between the Capitol and rebellion. When Katniss is called back to the arena, the stage is set for an uprising.

Thoughts: It was really easy to jump back in to Katniss's world, probably because I just finished The Hunger Games. It was pretty slow at the beginning as Katniss tries to sort things out: how she feels about Gale and Peeta; how she feels about rebellion; what she's going to do. Then she gets word that she's going back to the arena to serve as another tribute. It really picked up after going in to the arena-I sped through it! Trying to figure out what the Gamekeepers might have dreamed up to torture the tributes and then clutching at my chest as she scrambled to get out-it was very intense!

Team: I still like Peeta even if she wants to stupidly remain in love with like the first guy she ever met. Peeta bakes! And he sounds adorable! Whereas Gale hunts and he sounds kind of ugly.

Overall: Even more gripping than the first book, Catching Fire ends with a bang to send us right in to Mockingjay!

Cover: I like the black of the first book more but this fits with the series.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, Inc, 2008
374 pages
YA; Science-fiction
1st in trilogy
5/5 stars

Source: I bought this because a. it has been highly acclaimed around the blogosphere and b. it was in paperback.

Summary: In the future the country is divided in to 12 districts plus the Capitol. Every year a boy and a girl from each district is chosen to participate in the Hunger Games, where they fight and kill down to the last person standing. This year Katniss is going as a tribute from District 12 and she's rather determined to win.


Thoughts: I was a little leery of this because I'm not the biggest dystopian fan and it sounded super violent. Plus it was super popular-what if it was another Twilight (Note: I am largely anti-Twilight because it is crap, crap, crap).

Now Katniss doesn't really have any female friends but she's close to her sister and fiercely protective of her family, which I love. As an older sister, I like to think that I would be able to protect my sister even if I can't shoot arrows as well as Katniss. I also loved the secondary characters, especially Cinna and Haymitch, two of the people helping Katniss during the Games. They're funny and she interacted in interesting ways with them.

There was some predictability. It was pretty obvious who would be the last to die, when Rue would die, and a bit of the love story but it didn't detract from my enjoyment.

Team: This is the big question so...Peeta! He's been in love with her for eleven years; person secretly in love with another for ages is one of my favorite romantic tropes. While Gale may be in a similar position, he didn't take the opportunity to express it. It also helps that in Forever Young Adult's handy dissections of the series, Peeta is represented by William Moseley and Gale by Ethan Peck; Um King Peter FTW! (Actually I really love their review so check that out too)

Overall: Outstanding dystopian with generous dollops of romance-highly recommended!

Predictions: Keeping in mind that I've mostly avoided spoilers for the next two books, these are some of the things I'm thinking: Katniss will lead a rebellion against the Capitol, culminating in Mockingjay; the relationship between her and Peeta and her and Gale will end in a permanent relationship of her with one of them; I am also hoping that Katniss doesn't die.

Unfortunately, I am in a book banning period right now, but books bought as a surprise from my parents don't count so I have Catching Fire and that's coming up. Sadly it's in hardback so now they don't match :-(

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to Be a Movie Star

How to Be a Movie Star by William J. Mann
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009
406 pages
3/5 stars

Source: Birthday present (yes my birthday's in December; it's taken me a while, okay?)

Summary: Not a traditional biography, How to Be a Movie Star examines Elizabeth's life in the star system taking particular interest in how she became a movie star while also touching on her infamous love affairs.

Thoughts: I just reviewed Furious Love about Elizabeth and Richard but I wanted to read this too because I've always been fascinated by her. In fact my favorite Barbie as a child was named Elizabeth Taylor (because I thought it was the most beautiful name in the world) and I desperately wanted violet eyes like her (or rather like she allegedly had; also Meg in Hercules fueled that desire).

I appreciate Mann's mission but I didn't think he did a very good job. The biographic parts were good but he didn't tie it back to how she was a movie star very well. She had "it" and that's not easily quantifiable. I also think it may have suffered in not being as interesting as "Furious Love" since I read them so close together.

There was also an awful lot about Hedda Hopper who declined as Liz rose. I understand that she was influential for a time and Mann had access to her archives but she was probably the second most mentioned person in the book and I don't see that she's important enough.

Overall: Interesting for those who didn't live through Liz's life.

Cover: Um, gorgeous? Liz is SOOOOOO beautiful.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Furious Love

Furious Love by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger
Harper, 2010
438 pages
Non-fiction; Celebrity
5/5 stars

Source: A bribe from my mom to take my sister to see Eclipse

Summary: The legendary love affair of Liz and Dick although they preferred Elizabeth and Richard, with new insights based on their private letters.

Thoughts: LizandDick is a topic I didn't know much about (I'm actually more of a fan of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, a couple with quite a few similarities) so I was excited to dig in to this. I read the excerpt in Vanity Fair and I was sold! I picked up a copy and sat down. It took me a bit longer to read than I expected because of my busy weekend (and my mom "borrowing" it to read) but I loved it!

I loved most everything-it had background on both of them; psychoanalysis on their addictions; gushing over Elizabeth's general fabulousness; extolling of Richard's talent. It's really a shame that he never got an Oscar-I know I enjoyed his performance in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

I quibble with the needless repetition at times but it didn't stop me from loving this book. It also has one of my least favorite ways of citing sources but this is a celebrity gossip book so I can forgive it.

Overall: Compulsively readable and highly recommended!

Cover: This isn't the cover I have but I like it; I couldn't find my cover which has the same picture of them four times and has them looking at each other.

Random: Their relationship also makes me think of the song "Fall For You" by Secondhand Serenade. In the movie trailer of their relationship that I've created in my head, this is heavily featured. Although of course no one could ever play Elizabeth or Richard.

I hope you like Elizabeth Taylor because I'm reviewing another book about her tomorrow!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last week I totally forgot to link to Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books because I wrote thus up super quick; I'm so sorry and I really appreciate how it helps bring the blogging community together every week. Many of the blogs I follow participate and it definitely helps fill out my already sizable wish list.

Last Week:
God in the Flesh by Don Everts
Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James
Revolutionaries by Jack B Rakove

This Week is super fun; I have two books about Elizabeth Taylor and then the first two Hunger Games books. I'll finish with a Fairy Tale Friday.
Furious Love by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger
How to Be a Movie Star by William J. Mann
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Currently Reading:
Thud by Terry Pratchett (for a challenge-see sidebar)
One Day by David Nicholls


Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
442 pages
History, US
4.5/5 stars

Source: Received for review through Netgalley

Summary: Covering approximately 1773 to 1792, this book aims to reveal the Founding Fathers as never before seen. They were private citizens who appeared on the public scene as leaders and thinkers as they shaped what would become the United States of America.

Thoughts: I had trouble getting in to this book, partly because it is an ebook and my preference is still for hard copies. Regardless, this week I started buckling down and reading a goodly number of pages a day. I also recently watched "1776" and I loved some of Franklin's lines including one where he says that future people will recognize that the Founding Fathers weren't demigods, but were merely human. Rakove follows that approach, situating them in their time and explaining their very real worries and their different backgrounds and how that lead to what happened.

I clearly have not read enough about the Revolutionary War because I was largely unfamiliar with the leaders who fought (except of course for Washington) and I was embarrassed that I didn't recognize most of the names involved. There were the familiar conflicts but new faces for me to meet and learn about.

Henry Laurens and his eldest son Jack were in chapter 5 and they were completely new to me. Henry earned his money through the slave trade and then invested in land and more slaves making himself very wealthy but Jack was supportive of the antislavery movement. Henry evolved in to also supporting it but Jack was even further. Note that is not the abolition movement nor did it encourage enfranchisement's of slaves necessarily but it was a big step ahead of most people, especially of those who benefited from slavery so much.

I really enjoyed the mix of public and private life showed here although I was disappointed in several aspects. Martha Jefferson is probably the most-mentioned female and she dies during it! Abigail Adams is rather neglected in my view and Martha Washington isn't much mentioned either. The Articles of Confederation also could have had more explanation-even now I'm not sure how they were written and agreed upon although the process of developing the Constitution is well-covered.

My text didn't have any footnotes, using a format whereby certain quotes appear in the back under the Notes section and that links to the source. It is not my preferred method and while I can accept it in non-fiction in general, I don't think it is the best method for history books.

Overall: Great writing and I think it's a fascinating period.

Cover: I love this cover-it has fighting and writing, showing the different sides of the revolutionaries.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Devotion, 1946
Starring Olivia de Havilland, Ida Lupino, and Paul Henreid

This is a film about the Brontë sisters with Olivia as Charlotte and Lupino as Emily. It is rather melodramatic and it offers up sisterly rivalry over a man as a central conflict for the sisters, which goes against the two books I've read about them. Paul Henreid (Casablanca!) plays that man Arthur Nicholls who marries Charlotte. I quite like him here.

Then there is poor Anne, who is marginalized and cut out of the story a lot. I feel very sympathetic to her, always been overshadowed by her older sisters especially when I don't think much of Emily's "talents."

Overall I would not recommend this film unless you were a hard-core Brontë fan (I am not) or an Olivia de Havilland film completist (I am).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fairy Tale Friday

Friday is for Fairytales is a meme hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read. Every Friday, you can choose a fairytale you love, or simply find interesting or haunting, and review it or simply say why you like it so much, or why it has captured your attention. Instead of a fairytale, you can choose a favourite fairytale character and describe him/her and tell us why you like them, or you can simply share an experience connected to a fairytale. Fairytales can be old and modern, written by a known author or anonymous, written down or passed on orally, short or in novel form (like re-writings of fairytales), international or typical for your country alone. In this case, present your country’s fairytale and we can all become acquainted with a new fairytale. So, make a post every Friday that is connected to the world of fairytales, be it a review, a character description or your own fairytale experience. Let’s celebrate fairytales and share our love for them.

This is a picture based on one of my favorite Brothers Grimm stories. It's called The Three Spinners. It's about a bratty girl who hates spinning so her mother beats her. The queen hears the girl's screams but the mother lies and says it is because the girl LOVES spinning so much that she can no longer afford it. The queen says she will take the girl who must spin a huge quantity and then she can marry the prince. The girl ends up crying but the three spinners appear. One has a huge chin, one has a huge thumb, and one has a huge foot. They offer to do it in exchange for an invitation to their wedding where the girl must introduce them as her family and not be ashamed of them despite their appearance. The girl agrees. At the wedding, the girl introduces them to her husband who is appalled by their appearance. When they share that it is because of spinning, he declares that his beautiful wife (did I mention that she is beautiful? Because of course she is) will never spin again.

I have a soft spot for this as my mom read it a lot to me from her Grimm collection. I like that the girl and the spinners uphold their ends of the bargain. I love the prince's reactions first to the spinners and then to their explanation. It's an important part of my childhood.

I would love to read a reworking of this with a. a female protagonist who has a name and b. expands on the spinners. Anyone inspired to give it a shot?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Man with Two Left Feet and Other Stories

The Man With Two Left Feet and Other Stories by PG Wodehouse
First Published in 1917
Short Stories; Humor
4/5 stars

Source: Through Daily Lit

Summary: A collection of stories, including the first appearance in print of the characters Jeeves and Bertie Wooster.

Thoughts: I decided to give this a read because I've never read any Wodehouse and I wanted to try Daily Lit through my google reader. Unfortunately for me, it is not a method that seems to work well. Some days I wouldn't have time to read it so that the next day, I'd have two installments. Other days it seemed like I had forgotten what I had read before. I think I really do better when I have the whole text before me, whether it's an ebook or a real book. That was also part of my problem with audiobooks.

Overall: The stories were pretty easy reads and there were some delightfully funny bits sprinkled throughout. I can't choose a favorite but I can recommend that you give it a try.

Cover: I didn't have a cover since I read this through Daily Lit but I believe this picture fits at least one of the stories and I think it's quite attractive.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Murder on the Orient Express-Film

Murder on the Orient Express, 2010
Starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
3/5 stars

I read "Murder on the Orient Express" not too long ago and loved it so I was excited to see this adaptation of it on PBS Masterpiece Mystery. The more famous version is in 1974 and starred two of my favorite actresses, Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman. I have not had the opportunity to see it yet but I hope I will some day. Until then this was an okay experience. I did not think it was fantastic. I liked the Poirot actor fine (he really did have an egg-shaped head) and the actress playing Mary Debenham was pleasing to me. But I preferred it as a book.

The big change is the denouement, which occurs not at the very end but probably about twenty minutes before leaving a big scene for Poirot and the audience to wrestle with the meaning of it. Like "And Then There Were None," this is a case of vigilante justice and that raises big moral questions. Oddly, I supported it here but not in "And Then There Were None." I am very interested in seeing the 1974 version though.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Love on a Dime

Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James
Thomas Nelson, 2010
310 pages
Inspirational; Historical; Romance
3.5/5 stars

Source: Received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Lilly and Jack were in love or so she thought until he left her with no indication of returning. Now it's 1899 and six years later and she is secretly a successful author of dime novels at the publishing company the newly wealthy Jack hopes to acquire. She's also on the verge of being engaged and moving on with her life until he brings back old feelings. Can he win her love again?

I'm going to break my thoughts in to three sections based on the main genres I saw here:

Historical-I was somewhat disappointed in the historical aspects of this book. I was really interested to know more about the Gilded Age and the lifestyle of the very rich but I didn't feel that atmosphere here. There were references to the new telephone and the strict code of the Newport ladies was maintained (ie well-brought up young ladies do not earn their own money; instead they rely on their father or husband). But this area definitely lacked.

Romance-Jack left and then he comes back with the intention of winning Lilly but without telling her so, expecting her either to realize what he's thinking or to never have gotten over him and thus jump at the chance to reunite. This is not one of my favorite romantic tropes, because both characters (or at least the guy) end up acting really stupid and annoying. While I knew that Jack had good intentions and I believed that he did not want to hurt Lilly, he still did hurt her and frustrated me to no end. Additionally his communication skills were so poor and he often jumped to conclusions.

Religion-I would say this was the aspect that was most pleasing to me. Both main characters have a relationship with God, even if it might be a bit strained and they pray to Him quite frequently. Lilly is even able to tie her God-given talent of writing to her charitable works, which I quite liked.

Random-There was Lilly's work with a charity that was important in the first part but less so in the second; there was a thread around her brother George; there was her parents' relationship and especially her mother's relationship with her which left me with a lot of plot but not a lot of engagement with it. Consequently the end was a bit rushed.

Overall: I'm not a fan of the romantic trope used here and I thought the author tried to stuff too much in. I am still interested in the planned sequel, Love on Assignment, due out January 2011.

Cover: Pretty girl wearing historically accurate clothing I believe and holding one of her books in front of the Newport area. I'm a big fan of this cover!

Monday, July 19, 2010

God in the Flesh

God in the Flesh by Don Everts
InterVarsity Press, 2005
160 pages
Inspirational; non-fiction
4/5 stars

Source: Present from a friend

Summary: We've heard many of the stories and words said by Jesus (sometimes represented in Bibles with red font) but Everts asserts that by looking at the responses to what Jesus said (the black words), we can learn anew about Him.

Thoughts: I really love the intro where Everts says that he tried not to write this book because did we really need more books and obviously we don't want to waste trees. And yet, Jesus is just so beautiful that it's difficult not to talk and write about Him. That made me laugh!

Each chapter is in the same format. It opens with similar passages of scripture, such as those were Jesus reached out and literally touched people. Then Everts expands on what these show us, shares personal anecdotes, and challenges us to go deeper with God. It really helped condition me to think about Him in a different way.

Overall: Good; short but worth savoring.

Cover: A good reminder of Jesus as human and someone who welcomes us to Him.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I had a pretty good reading week with some cool titles coming up. I also signed up for a few book tours so look for those in August and September. This weekend though I spent a lot of time outside (at the beach and an amusement park) so I didn't get a lot of reading done and I am rather sunburned although in a weird pattern. One of my legs has a line of burn and my arms are very uneven-it's pretty funny looking.

Reviewed this weekend:
The Boys Next Door and Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols

Coming up this week:
God in the Flesh by Don Everts
Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James
The Man with Two Left Feet by PG Wodehouse

Currently reading:
Furious Love by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger (Lovin' it!)
Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove

Next up:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Finally!)
How to Be a Movie Star by William J. Mann
Thud by Terry Pratchett (For a challenge)

What are you reading?

Endless Summer

Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols
Simon Pulse, 2010
298 pages
YA; contemporary; romance
2 books in 1
4/5 stars

Source: Bought

Summary: Lori and Adam are together! Except on their first official date, they stay out all night incurring the wrath of her father and causing him to demand that the two stay apart. Lori hatches a plan whereby she will date guys with worse behavior than Adam so that her dad will relent. Adam can't believe that Lori is actually interested in him and wants to make sure she doesn't fall for some other guy.

Thoughts: I loved The Boys Next Door (my favorite Simon Romantic Comedy with sawoony boys) and I've been enjoying some other Echols books. I was excited to read what happened for Lori and Adam next.

First this picks up right after the first one ends. And it uses alternating perspective between Lori and Adam to tell the story which is useful in order to see Adam and more of his interactions with his family especially his mother and brother Sean. Second Lori's plan is stupid, Stupid, STUPID! And it results in tangled webs of actions and feelings that confused and annoyed me. Adam, while thinking that Lori is totally awesome, still believes that she harbors feelings for Sean; understandable given that she spent most of the first book thinking he's great. Lori meanwhile is somewhat insecure given that he had just dated some other girl and in fact dated a lot of girls prior to her; understandable as she is just now seeing herself as a valid romantic partner.

Families: I understand that Lori's dad worried about his daughter but I found him most even-tempered in TBND and thus somewhat unbelievable in his extreme treatment of Lori and especially Adam. I was hoping to see more development in the relationship between Sean and Adam, who has always been picked on by Sean and I am pleased to announce that there is some more maturity there.

Some funny bits especially how Lori and Adam imply the use of a certain swear word without actually using it.

Overall: It was really choppy (possibly because of the split narration) and I did not love it as much as The Boys Next Door and it ALMOST makes me love TBND less.

Cover: I'm not pleased that they've stopped using the cartoon covers because I adore them as I've outlined before but this cover is fine. Lori is blonde and I think Adam has dark hair (I have a tendency to ignore the descriptions of the male love interest in books and just think of them however I want.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Boys Next Door-Reread

The Boys Next Door by Jennifer Echols
Simon Pulse, 2007
281 pages
YA; Contemporary; Romance

Summary: Lori has always been one of the boys but this summer, she's determined to win Sean, the hottie next door. In order to do so she hatches a complicated plot involving pretending to flirt with his brother Adam. But what will happen if Sean remains immune and Adam seems to have more of a hold on her heart?

Initial Thoughts: This book is pure sa-woon! (see Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever).

Reread Thoughts: Lori is an idiot! The luckiest idiot around though as she gets the chance to flirt with two of the hottest guys I've ever had the pleasure to read about. Her plan is sooooo stupid. And the relationship between brothers Sean and Adam is complicated; I quite frankly didn't really understand it but I imagine that is because I only have a sister and most of my friends have sisters or are only children so brothers have never been a part of my life.

Female Friendship (Minor Spoiler): Lori lacks in this, being as her good friends are the boys next door but her first attempt fails as the girl is using her in order to get closer to Lori's brother Bill. Luckily it seems like she will build some female friendships for the next book.

Overall: 5/5 My favorite Simon Romantic Comedy

Review of sequel Endless Summer tomorrow!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fairy Tale Connection

Friday is for Fairytales is a meme hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read. Every Friday, you can choose a fairytale you love, or simply find interesting or haunting, and review it or simply say why you like it so much, or why it has captured your attention. Instead of a fairytale, you can choose a favourite fairytale character and describe him/her and tell us why you like them, or you can simply share an experience connected to a fairytale. Fairytales can be old and modern, written by a known author or anonymous, written down or passed on orally, short or in novel form (like re-writings of fairytales), international or typical for your country alone. In this case, present your country’s fairytale and we can all become acquainted with a new fairytale. So, make a post every Friday that is connected to the world of fairytales, be it a review, a character description or your own fairytale experience. Let’s celebrate fairytales and share our love for them.

Today I am writing about my favorite Cinderella re-telling. I've read a lot and I think this one is awesome for several reasons.
-The magic is super cool and interesting. Basically there most people have an equal amount of the elements (fire, wind, water, and earth) but some people have more of one and thus power of differing degrees over it. The Cinderella character here has fire while her love interest has wind, complementary powers. The explanations about the magic are fascinating and I love reading more about how they work.
-The villain is of course her stepmother and she is quite awful. The stepsisters, while mean, are also victims of their mother's ambition.
-The history of WWI is somewhat incorporated. Love Interest is part of the RAF-the fledgling British Air Force and suffers from PTSD and the stepmother conjures up evil spirits that inflict the influenza outbreak of 1918.
-The love story isn't the largest part (it's more about Cinderella coming in to her powers and fighting for her freedom) but it's really cute.

To sum up, this is my favorite version of the Cinderella tale and my favorite Mercedes Lackey book. I highly recommend it!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
Simon Pulse, 2010
309 pages
YA; Paranormal
First in series

Source: Won from Books Make Great Lovers

Summary: Aura is ready to celebrate her boyfriend's Logan 17th birthday-and it is going to rock! Except that he dies that very night. And because of some phenomenon, she and everyone her age and younger can see him and other ghosts. She was the First She had set out to explore why this is as well as keep Logan with her. There is also the mysterious Zachary, the last person not born with that ability, who is determined to help Aura remember to live.

Thoughts: I was psyched for a couple of things in this book. First off, both guys were pretty hot and neither were major tools like in a lot of paranormal fiction. I can see the appeal of both although, for me, the living guy always wins. I know that's not a popular choice in YA (um, Team Edward?) but it's just how I feel. I also got teary-eyed toward the end of this as she looked to say goodbye to Logan so he could pass on. Then it ends with a cliffhanger that will lead us in to the second book to explore what special powers Zachary and Aura have as well as why. There is a good mystery here and I'm formulating some theories, which will probably inevitably be wrong, but hey no harm in guessing.

I am a big proponent of strong female friendships in books (because I think that's super important to have in real-life whether it's with school friends or family or whatever) and this book lacked in that. Aura does have one pretty good friend but they don't interact as much as she does with Logan and Zachary.

I was a bit confused about how exactly shading and the ghosts work although I assume part of that is because the author is teasing us so that we continue reading (good job!) And sometimes the book was a bit slow but I didn't mind.

Content: Language (especially one scene at the end); sexual content; drugs and underage drinking. The drinking seemed accepted, making me wonder if I missed something or if in this alternate world, they have different laws.

Overall: Very curious to find out more about this world and what is going to happen next.

Cover: Very atmospheric; I love the dark purples and the red is a cool focus point. It is also relevant to the world of the story.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wherever Nina Lies

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten
Point, 2009
311 pages
YA; Contemporary
Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Won from Book-Lover Carol

Summary: Nina and Ellie were sisters but one day Nina disappeared. Ellie, of course, misses her sister and while others have given up, she still believes her sister is alive, out there somewhere. Then she meets Sean who is uber-supportive and they set off to find where Nina might be.

Thoughts: I was interested in this book because of the sister relationship. I like to think that my sister and I have a pretty good relationship and that she would be devastated were I to disappear as Nina does in this book.

Now I'm not really sure how to write this review without spoilers so SPOILER WARNING ahead. Ellie has tried to move on with her life since Nina disappeared but she knows that her life is still empty. Then she finds a drawing done in Nina's distinctive style and decides to follow this clue to a party where she meets Sean. They hit it off and end up going off, following different clues on the path to Nina.

About three-quarters of the way through, there is a "twist." While Sean has seemed like a pretty nice guy up to that point, this is when it is revealed that he is actually crazy and is using Ellie in order to get to Nina. This happened really quickly although there were a few clues that something was wrong. And while I didn't figure out all of the details of the twist, once I read that there was one, I knew it would revolve around Sean.

I also was disappointed in the friendship that Ellie has with Amanda. I always want strong friendships in my books but Ellie and Amanda have a big falling-out over Sean and I'm not sure how they can move on from there although in the end, it seems like they have.

I did love the sisterly relationship. Ellie just knows that Nina is still alive and they manage to end up with an even stronger relationship at the end of the book despite their years of estrangement. I feel like it helped me understand my (younger) sister better as I'm sure I hurt her with my teenage callousness at times although I hope that we are building a stronger relationship now.

Note: There is quite a bit of language and sexual content in this book although I found it pretty easy to glide over.

Overall: I was enjoying it until the *twist* which seemed really sudden and the ending wrapped up too quickly, 3.5/5.

Cover: I like it-I like the cut-out letters and the pink that comes out. I'm not the biggest fan of covers with real people on them but since her face is mostly covered, I like it more.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Inside Out

Inside Out by Maria V Snyder
Harlequin Teen, 2010
315 pages
YA; Dystopian
1st in series; Second book Outside In due next year.

Source: Bought

Summary: Trella is a scrub, a worker, a loner, a nobody. She has one friend and he happens to believe in a better future. When a prophet shows up, Trella is roped in to assisting him, mostly because she wants to prove him wrong. But her search leads her deeper in to her world and sparks a revolution.

Thoughts: I've loved Snyder's work since I read Poison Study so I'm excited to finally get my hands on this book especially because I've seen ecstatic reviews of it around the blogosphere.

I think one of the things I enjoy most about dystopian fiction is the mystery aspect. I love mysteries, as you can see in my reviews, even if I'm not good at solving them. There are lots of questions here. How did people end up in this box and what exactly are the divisions separating scrubs and uppers? What is the power structure? How will they figure everything out? What will happen in the second book???

Trella was a prickly character. She knows the pipes that help run the Inside but beyond her one friend Cog, she avoids people as much as she can. But she still believes in something more and she grows in her interactions with people tremendously. At the start of the book she would say she has one friend; by the end, I think she'd have difficulty counting all of the people she cares about. Her family issues are another of the questions explored; she has a different background than most of the other scrubs.

I also really liked the other characters:Riley, an upper who befriends her; Cog, her best friend; Logan and Anne-Jade, tech savvy people who assist; even the villains, Commander Karla and knife-happy Vinco.

Overall: I think if you like Snyder's previous work you will like this too. I think this would also work as an introduction to her writing so 4.5/5. Unfortunately I now have to wait probably at least a year for the second one.

Cover: I think the girl looks kind of like Miley Cyrus. I've seen some Miley hate but I don't share in it so I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Her blue eyes are important for the story.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Eclipse (Movie)

So I finally saw Eclipse with my sister (she was abroad when it came out otherwise we would have seen it already. I am not a fan but I've taken her to see all of the films and this one has received more positive reviews than the previous ones although that's not saying much. I guess there are some spoilers if you are one of the few people interested in this film who have not seen it yet.
-First we walk in to the theater and there are two people sitting in the back row; we sit about four rows in front of them and then two more people come in and sit right in front of us which I think is an egregious breach of movie theater etiquette. I mean, that was an empty theater! They should have sat to the side.
-Then I didn't recognize that the film had started. It just flashed the Summit logo and then started with Riley who my sister kept calling by his real name Xavier and thus confusing me. It was a sucky transition from trailers to film, I'm just saying.
-I also kept laughing for no real reason just because what they said was so stupid or their hair/facial expression was so stupid.
-I loved the flashbacks for Rosalie (what year was that supposed to be-20s/30s?) and Jasper
-Barely any Anna Kendrick :-( I loved Anna in Up in the Air and she helps make these films tolerable but of course the regular humans hardly appear.
-I am now firmly Team Werewolf (not even sure that's a real team) because Jacob made some good points about liking someone who a. has a heartbeat; b. is like a personal space heater; and c. doesn't want to kill you when smelling your blood.
-I also learned the disturbing fact that my sister thinks she's been in love with Edward for 2 years-I am not pleased.
-And Jacob owns at least four shirts although I am sure he has several plain black shirts because that's such a classic look.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Belief-Francis S. Collins
HarperOne, 2010
312 pages
Essays; Inspirational

Source: Library

Summary: An anthology exploring faith and visiting the works of many brillaint thinkers including those expected as CS Lewis and St. Augustine as well as the unexpected like Dorothy Sayers.

Thoughts: The book is divided in to different sections with essays relating to a particular theme are grouped together. Originally I was just going to share my favorites but since I loved almost all of them, I decided to go through each and highlight particular thoughts. The first is a selection from NT Wright introducing thoughts on justice and spirituality. I enjoyed it a lot.

The second section is classic essays about faith from such philosophers as Plato, Augustine, and Pascal. I had a lot of trouble reading these because the style is so different from what I'm used to. The nice thing about this book though is that you can skip around and just read however much you want. I struggled through these difficult sections though and I think I learned a lot.

The third section is called "The Meaning of Truth" and this was a very good section, probably my second favorite. OS Guinness has a beautiful selection from his book Time for Truth which has jumped on to my to-read list. Madeleine L'Engle takes a personal approach to truth, sharing many examples from her own life. And Dorothy L Sayers (probably best known for her Lord Peter mysteries) wrote an entertaining essay including a "review" of the book of John and ending with a poem on truth.

Then there is "Loving God With All Your Mind" goes back to the Scripture: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" -Matthew 22:37 and stresses the last which has a tendency to be overlooked.

Next "Faith and the Problem of Evil and Suffering," which was probably my favorite section and the one that hit me the most. Art Lindsley, Desmond Tutu, and Elie Wiesel wrote so clearly and made so much sense to me. I don't want to blather about it but it was good.

"Faith and the Cry of Justice" was also a good section as it shows the ways in which the church has failed to respond to injustice but also how it has fought for it.

"The Harmony of Science and Faith" was an important section for me. It features two selections from two physicians who have wrestled with the intersection of science and faith. My college Christian community has struggled with spreading the Word because of the presumed gap between science and faith expressed by many college students.

"Miracles, Longing, and Mysticism" features CS Lewis among others, making this a fabulous section. Lewis's essay is about miracles and our perceptions around such. Alister McGrath incorporated excerpts from stories about two of my favorite detectives and Thomas Merton shared briefly about mysticism.

Then we have "Love and Forgiveness as Pointers to God" with selections from Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was killed by the Nazis and Viktor Frankl who survived four Nazi concentration camps inspiring me with their deep insights. Mother Teresa also has several writings that convict me of selfishness to finish out the chapter.

"Voices from the East" has selections from Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, offering different perspectives on faith informed by their experiences in the East rather than the Western mindset of most of the other contributors.

The last section is titled "The Irrationality of Atheism" and was one I was particularly intrigued by. But I interpreted the title differently. I was hoping for more of an apologetic approach while they showed logical inconsistencies and flaws in the atheistic approaches.

Overall: I'm feeling pretty good about this so I'm going to say 5/5.

Cover: I was attracted by the simple orange spine peeking out at me on the shelves. I'm not entirely sure why orange but it is an unconventional choice.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Read My Own Books Personal Challenge

In order to try and keep myself on track, I wanted to share my list of books I'm hoping to read for this challenge (in no particular order):

-Cat Among the Pigeons
-At Bertram's Hotel
-A Caribbean Mystery
-Half of the Sky
-The Hunger Games
-Inside Out
-Endless Summer
-Ten Things I Love About You
-Wherever Nina Lies
-Love on a Dime
-Invisible Girl
-No Will But His
-The Scarlet Letter
-Shanghai Girls

This is the preliminary list from one shelf but no worries, I have a lot more once I've finished these!

I have one more library book (hopefully done and posted on Sunday) and then I will jump right on in!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fairy Tale Connection

Friday is for Fairytales is a meme hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read. Every Friday, you can choose a fairytale you love, or simply find interesting or haunting, and review it or simply say why you like it so much, or why it has captured your attention. Instead of a fairytale, you can choose a favourite fairytale character and describe him/her and tell us why you like them, or you can simply share an experience connected to a fairytale. Fairytales can be old and modern, written by a known author or anonymous, written down or passed on orally, short or in novel form (like re-writings of fairytales), international or typical for your country alone. In this case, present your country’s fairytale and we can all become acquainted with a new fairytale. So, make a post every Friday that is connected to the world of fairytales, be it a review, a character description or your own fairytale experience. Let’s celebrate fairytales and share our love for them.

I wanted to start with something simple, for example my favorite fairy tale of all time which is Cinderella. Now my favorite Disney princess is not Cinderella so this picture is slightly deceptive but the Brothers Grimm version is one of my favorite tales. I think that is in large part due to my mom who also loved the story and read it to me many times. As I grew older, I read several translations of it but my mom's original remained my favorite. My favorite part is the birds calling to the prince that he has the wrong bride; this is important in translation because of the four or five I've read, they are all different. To the best of my memory (because I don't have my mom's copy), the version goes:

Prithee, look back
Prithee, look back
There's blood on the track
The slipper's too small
The true bride awaits you, home at her hall!

and then

Prithee, look back
Prithee, look back
No blood on the track
The shoe's not too small
You carry the true bride home to your hall

I know it's a pretty small thing but it's something I always noticed.

In future Fairy Tale Fridays, I'm planning to look at my favorite retellings of Cinderella as well as share my other favorite Grimm stories, some of which I'm sure are not at all well known.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

In the Land of Believers

In the Land of Believers by Gina Welch
Metropolitan Books, 2010
328 pages
Non-fiction; Religion; Memoir

Source: The library

Summary: Gina Welch undertook a journey in to the church founded by controversial preacher Jerry Falwell in order to understand evangelicals in comparison to her own Jewish/atheist liberal background.

Thoughts: I saw several reviews of this in the blogosphere and I enjoyed reading Kevin Roose's The Unlikely Disciple (which I recommend and read pre-blog), which seemed similar. His was only for a semester while hers was more long-term. I was pleased to see it in my library but this book seriously underwhelmed me.

I found Welch's introduction condescending as if evangelicals were lesser than her and those like her and were possibly not even human. But to her surprise, they turn out to be mostly nice people who struggle and mess up just like everyone else! I'm technically an evangelical Christian (although more liberal than those that Welch met) and I'm pretty confident that fundamentalists of all stripes, atheists, agnostics, pagans, etc, are just people who are in many ways similar to me. That's not groundbreaking.

I was also concerned with her deceit; while I've read that she didn't begin this book with a contract, she got it in the middle of writing, I feel like it was written for her profit. I was also uncomfortable with her decision to be baptized without believing. Baptism is important to the Christian faith and I believe very strongly that it is wrong to be baptized without believing. I don't know why she couldn't have attended the church and worked from there without going so far in her deception.

I did identify with her somewhat though in terms of not quite understanding all of the Christian-ese and being uncomfortable praying out loud as I have only been a Christian for two years. Her fear of evangelizing was also convicting for me; I believe in my faith and I should be less hesitant about sharing it with the world. I also identified when she talked about how friendly and warm and nice everyone seems and how it's a little scary. My college Christian community is filled with the nicest, most caring people I've ever met and I've been afraid that they'll look at me and find me wanting but instead I've found myself growing and emulating them (well, really emulating Jesus).

She also had valid concerns about the homophobia which appears. I'm in a more liberal place than she is but even so I've seen disconcerting happenings of homophobia within my particular Christian community.

Overall: 3/5. I found the basic premise somewhat insulting and I didn't think it was particularly well-written.

Cover: I like the plainness and color.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Aurelia by Anne Osterlund
Speak, 2008
246 pages
YA; Fantasy

Source: The library

Summary: Aurelia is crown princess and someone wants her dead! Robert returns to the palace in the place of his father, former royal spy, in order to investigate those attempts. But his investigation stirs complicated emotions in the two young people and uncovers many secrets.

Thoughts: I feel like the title is misleading as I ended up feeling much more connected to Robert while Aurelia was more of a cipher. I think it would have been more accurate to include both of their names or just to focus more on him because he emerged as more interesting and sympathetic. I liked Aurelia but I didn't feel like there was enough focus on her, considering the title implies that it's all about her. I was also disappointed in the supporting characters-horseman Drew sparkled but the rest of them were pretty flat and didn't add to the book. I love fun supporting characters so I was sad about that.

I've read some reviews where people felt the middle was a bit slow-I thought the beginning was slow while the middle meandered in a lovely way. The ending was very fast-paced but without an adequate conclusion. The motive and plotter are uncovered but there's no suitable punishment and while Aurelia should be safe, maybe she won't be. Speaking of the plot, I figured out part of it! But not the main person, unfortunately for me.

Overall: 4/5. Cute story-definitely suitable for younger YA readers.

Cover: I think it's really pretty, the mask is relevant, and the title font is beautiful.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Mystery; Contemporary
1st in Series

Source: eAudiobook borrowed from library

Summary: Sookie Stackhouse can read minds. But then she meets Vampire Bill, whose mind she cannot read-a refreshing change of pace. They become romantically involved. Soon afterward though, a streak of murders is committed on women who have been with vampires. Can Sookie protect herself and find out the murderer?

Thoughts: I started watching True Blood shortly before the third season debuted. I watched the first season in three days and then started the second and I will watch the third as soon as I finish the second. I was intrigued although I am still not a lover of vampires nor did I care for the language of the show although the sex and violence also seem a bit gratuitous. I wanted to give the books a chance and I was excited to find out that they were a bit lighter than the series. Of course they are very popular so I was excited to see that I could listen to an audiobook instead of waiting for months until my library had a copy come in. I don't usually listen to audiobooks but I thought I would give this one a chance.

I don't think that this is a form I like. I get distracted easily and while I want to read the whole series I think I will have to reread this one because while I caught the major plot points, I missed the little details that make a book. I also stubbornly kept trying to read blogs and even sometimes write posts while listening which meant that I missed what was going on. If you are planning on listening to any audiobooks, do not also plan on reading!

Differences from show: There are many. I prefer the show's backstory for the murderer to the books. I also prefer Jason in the show-he is funnier and Ryan Kwanten is very good-looking. I preferred the book's lighter tone and its lack of swearing, violence, and explicit sex scenes (although there is still some of all of those). I definitely prefer Lafayette in the show but I'm glad they added Tara to help expand the show even though she's not my favorite character (For the record, my favorite character is currently Sarah Newlin although I'm pretty sure she's going to die by the end of season 2).

Voice: While I appreciated the different voices used, which helped me distinguish between characters, I'm not a fan of the speaker. I guess I would prefer Anna Paquin to read it because she is forever my Sookie.

Overall: 3.5/5. Largely for the format; I will try to read this as an actual book and I bet it will get a better rating then.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Appointment with Death

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1937
255 pages
Mystery; Hercule Poirot

Source: Library

Summary: "You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?" is the dramatic first line of this book. This appears to Belgian detective Hercule Poirot like an impassioned writer discussing his work. But shortly after, the terrifying matriarch of the Boynton family is found dead amid suspicious circumstances.

Thoughts: It took forever for the woman to be killed. Almost half of the book is setting the scene, showing how each member of the family revolves his or her life around Mrs. Boynton and is terrified of her, excepting her daughter-in-law who is planning to leave her husband due to his cowardice in standing up to the mother. I was particularly interested in the psychology Poirot undertakes in order to understand their frames of minds during the period leading up to her death. I also liked that there are references to some of Poirot's other cases, including two that I have read.

I loved Lady Westholme-she was funny and briskly efficient. I would have liked to see more of her. I did not like the romances in this book. Sarah and Raymond were lame, lame, lame, separately and together.

SPOILER (highlight to read)
While I didn't expect to figure out the murderer, I hated that it was Lady Westholme, who was awesome. I wanted it to be Raymond (total loser), Sarah King (also a loser as evidenced by her interested in Raymond), or Carol (sister to Raymond and similar in appearance).

Overall: 4/5. Gripping but disappointing end.

Cover: I keep saying this but I really do love these covers.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Yankee Doodle Dandy (or Happy 4th of July!)

Happy July 4th to my American readers out there! While my personal favorite holiday is Flag Day, Independence Day is the one that gets all of the attention. In honor of it, I wanted to talk about my favorite patriotic movie, the biopic "Yankee Doodle Dandy" starring Academy Award winner James Cagney as composer George M Cohan.

My family watches this pretty much every year as it opens with Cohan being born on the fourth of July. Now that is patently false as it was the third and truthfully as a biopic, this film FAILS hard but it has wonderful catchy songs, an interesting story and the amazingness of Cagney. Cagney is in fact my second favorite actor and I love him in comedies. If you want a fun, patriotic film to celebrate with this year, definitely check this one out!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Books Bought

So in order to pysch myself up for my personal read my own books challenge, I bought some new books-that's the right way to go about things, right? ;-) Plus I just got my first paycheck and I went a bit crazy...Anyway, I got some cool stuff...(Links are to goodreads)

Half the Sky-examining women's oppression around the world and some options about what can be done about it
The Hunger Games-because I finally saw it in paperback and I feel like one of the few YA bloggers who hasn't read it yet
Drood by Dan Simmons-a massive book which I am hoping will inspire me to read actual Dickens like reading about Austen inspires me to go back to the real stuff

Agatha Christies that were on sale AND featuring my favorite covers:
At Bertram's Hotel-click through to see the actual color of the cover (it's not blue!)
Evil Under the Sun-already read and reviewed but I had checked it 0ut of the library so I wanted my own copy

And that's what I got! I will definitely be reviewing the Christies soon and hopefully I will finish all of them by the end of the month.

The Counterfeiters (Movie)

The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher) won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for Austria in 2007.

Summary: A fictionalized account of a Nazi plan to forge English money in order to destabilize their economy during WWII (Operation Bernhard): the largest counterfeiting operation in history! It takes place mostly in a concentration camp where the Jewish counterfeiters live relatively securely as long as they do this work for/with the Nazis.

I studied German in high school and I have always been interested in German-language films. When my dad decided that I needed to see This Is Spinal Tap (did you know dozens of people spontaneously combust every year?), I also decided that we should rent this.

I mostly enjoyed it and while I haven't seen any of its competition for the Oscar, I think it deserved it. I would recommend this for people who are interested in WWII for a different perspective and/or those who like foreign language films.

Friday, July 2, 2010

When Everything Changed

When Everything Changed by Gail Collins
Little, Brown and Company, 2009
405 pages

Source: Library

Summary: It's basically in the subtitle-the journey of American women from 1960 to the present.

Thoughts: This book is written exactly the way I like my non-fiction-very conversational with many short sections so that I can read a page or two in between stuff. It begins with an anecdote about a woman thrown out of traffic court for wearing slacks in the 1960s and relates many other stories about the women's movement, the backlash, and how far we've come/highlighting how far there still is to go. Particularly scary to me was the lack of assistance given to families who need help with childcare. I was in daycare for the first ten years of my life and my parents must have paid a fortune for it!

Overall: 4.5/5. While women have made tremendous progress, there is still room for improvement in balancing family and work and societal expectations of gender.

Cover: I love seeing Hillary and Michelle on the cover!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

June Stats/Half Year Wrap-Up

A. It's one of my best friend's birthday today and it's an important one so I'm going to wish her a happy birthday although I don't know if she'll see this.

B. I was really disappointed with my total at first but I am still struggling with balancing work/reading so hopefully it will be better next month.
Books Read This Month: 19-all from the library
Favorite Book: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Worst Book: Just Jane by Nancy Moser
Longest Book: When Everything Changed by Gail Collins, 405 pages
Shortest Book: And Then There Were None, 194 pages
Most Read Genre: Mystery with 6, YA with 5

Sum up of first six months of 2010
Favorite book of so far: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
Total Pages Read: 42,706
Total Books Read: 134 (not bad, right?)

Challenges Update: I finished the Bronte challenge with the good book Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan. I am hoping to add another book to my Terry Pratchett challenge this month.

Plans for July: Well, I was going to read my own books but then I went to the library so I have a few more from there to go through. I am also in the process of listening to Dead Until Dark, my first audiobook, which I will finish by Friday because it's due then. I have some thoughts about what else I will read but nothing set in stone.

How was your reading for June?
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