Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: The Russian Concubine

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should be Reading and consist of the following:
  • Grab your current read.  
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
Oh God, she didn't know what to do.  What to say.  Her heart was kicking like a mule in her chest and all she could think of was whether it was raining in England.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Lit Flicks: Confessions of a Shopaholic

For my fifth novel for the Lit Flicks Challenge I read Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.  In truth I probably won't see the film until it's in the dollar theater, but I can compare what I've read and make predictions based on the trailers I've seen!

Becky Broomwood is a finance writer at a finance magazine in or about London.  She's also a compulsive shopper.  Some people eat when they are depressed, Becky shops.  She's also in debt and overdrawn.  But yet, she continues to shop.

What ensues are ridiculous lie after ridiculous lie and ridiculous justifciation after justification on why she needs a $200 pair of jeans or a $300 scarf.  In fact, the first 200 pages I did not really like Becky much, and I thought maybe this book should become required reading for many Americans I know.  It would go something like this ... See how ridiculous you are?  Buying things you can't afford?

In the end of our novel she gets in some scrapes and as is the way with most Chick Lit, all is well in the end.  Which I happen to like in my quick reads.  This is recommended beach reading if you can get past the fact that a woman that can't afford to buy bread or pay rent is paying thousands of dollars for clothes as if it's nothing.

What do I think the movie will leave out?  Well ... if the trailer is to be believed I think they flatten out Luke's character and make him as shallow as Becky starts out (a particular scene in Prada) and they did something stupid with how Becky realized magic existed when she was seven and has a love affair with credit cards.  Not so much in the book.  Becky loves new things and just doesn't think of the expense.  It's not in the equation.  Because it's really an addiction.  She feels bad, she needs something new to make her feel better.  She shops for that high, the elation at finding the right outfit / shoe / purse / etc.  It's really kind of depressing actually.  Like reading about a cocaine addict only it's less messy and there's more product placement.

I worry the movie won't do well in this particular time of our American lives.  The Sex and the City age of $400 shoes and couture seems to be on the way out and simpler, more humble digs seem to be what's in style.  But hey, maybe that reality isn't true for everyone.

The book is a quick, fun, easy beach read.  There are 4 others in this series.  If they are at the used book store, they may make the TBR list!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry

Oooooohhh was my final thought when I wrapped The Lace Reader up.  I loved this book.  In the same way I loved Janet Finch's White Oleander but then again in a completely different way.
Sophya Boynton travels to her childhood home of Salem, Massachusetts, after she gets news that her Great Aunt Eva is mysteriously missing.  Eva raised Sophya (nicknamed Towner) for either one year or several (not clear on this detail) and was a "lace reader" herself and Towner felt a connection to her that she never felt to her own mother.

Eva later turns up dead and this raises a bunch of questions about a group of crazy cultists and Towner's Aunt's ex-husband.  "Lace reader" in the title refers to reading fortunes in Ipswich lace, which is something that the gifted Whitney women have the power to do.  Towner is also very intune to others and has a touch of telepathy.  But seeing the future in lace is really what they talk about mostly.

My number one favorite thing about this novel was the location.  Sometimes I miss New England down to my bones, and books set there are fun.  I can see the wharfs and the town and the roads ... it's fun.  Don't get me wrong I love Dallas and I definitely do not miss New England winters.

The one thing that I did not like or had trouble with, was all the relationships.  G.G. Whitney?  Married to May and Eva?  Are they really related? Eva and May?  Great Aunt?  But Emma is her Aunt?  May is her mother and is not related to Eva who is her aunt?  Say huh?  That was the only part I couldn't keep straight.  Other than that the prose is great the descriptions wonderful I only found myself skimming a handful of times, which is good for me.

Anywho, the novel is great and interesting and intriguing and a sort of mystery but I picked up on the final exposition pretty early on.  Which did not diminish the novel in anyway.  It's still absolutely worth reading.  And after the awfulness that was The Other Queen, this book was a welcome breeze of air.

Sadly, I don't think this helps ANY of my challenges.  Is "Reader" an occupation?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2009 What's In a Name Challenge

Last one and I swear I'm done! The What's in a Name Challenge information is available at the link. Basically, you have to read 6 books in 2009 that fit the following:

1. A book with a "profession" in the title (Midwives, Bohjalian)
2. A book with a "time of day" in the title (Friday Night Knitting Club, Kate Jacobs)
3. A book wth a "relative" in the title (Between Sisters, Kristin Hannah)
4. A book with a "body part" in the title (Fall On Your Knees, Ann-Marie MacDonald)
5. A book with a "building" in the title (Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery)
6. A book with a "medical condition" in the title (Club Dead, Charlaine Harris)

I've seen that many of the book bloggers I follow are participating so I thought, what the heck. That only brings me to 4 challenges for 2009 and 19 books to read for 2009. Which is, like, nothing. I also thought it might broaden my horizons a bit. And I have no idea what books I will read for what. My TBR pile is gi-normous (and not helped by my recent trip to the used book store) so I'm sure I'll find something. Does "shop" (as in Bitsy's Bait and BBQ Shop) count as a building? (Updated - sadly, shop is not in the title!)

Books vs. Movie Challenge 2009

So I realize I'm not finished with the Lit Flicks Challenge, but I wanted an excuse to put Twilight on my blog so ... now I have it!  The challenge is hosted by Royal Reviews and information is available HERE.
The rules are simple:

In 2009 read a minimum of 6 books that have been made into movies and then watch the movie.

Write a review on the Book vs the Movie and be honest about whether or not you think the film-maker was successful in translating the book to film. Please keep in mind that it is impossible to convey everything. You must both read the book and watch the movie within 2009. All genres are acceptable and it doesn't matter when the movie was made.

Feel free to display one of the following challenge buttons on your blog (movies shown are Pride & Prejudice, Marley & Me and Twilight.) [They also have Time Traveler's Wife buttons, but that isn't listed here.]

Please add to the comments of this post and/or the Goodreads group when you've done a review. Periodically throughout the year random prizes will be given out.
Knowing how well I stick to them, I'm not even going to bother with a list, but off the top of my head (and knowing what's coming out this year) I'll read Twilight, New Moon and Harry Potter 6 for sure.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Lace Reader

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should be Reading and consist of the following:
  • Grab your current read.  
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

pg. 19 (I'm not that far in and I didn't want to go to a page I haven't read yet!)
Of course Beezer would have looked.  Of course that's the first thing they would have done.  Eva wouldn't hae been reported missing unless she actually was missing, right?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lit Flicks Challenge Update

Just a quick update on the Lit Flicks challenge that wraps up at the end of February.  To date, I've read 4 of the 5 books and only one of them was on my original list.  :(

For my final book, I think I will read Jumper, by Steven Gould, or Confessions of a Shopaholic.  But that would mean I'd have to pay movie theater prices to see the flick.  Not so much.

I could have sworn I had one more book I thought I'd want to read right now ... alas, it eludes me.

But isn't it funny that I couldn't stick to that list?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Historical Fiction: The Other Queen

As I noted HERE , I'm participating in the Historical Fiction challenge.  My first book was The Other Queen, by Philippa Gregory.

It can be sumed up in this quote:

"But in a way today, despite them all, the Scots queen has won the battle.  She always said that she was not a tragic figure, not a queen from a legend, but she saw in the end that the only way she would defeat Elizabeth - fully and finally defeat her - was to be the heroine that Elizabeth could not be: a tragic heroine, the queen of suffering, cut down in her beauty and her youth.  Elizabeth could name herself the Virgin Queen and claim great beauty, surrounded by admirers, but Mary Queen of Scots will be the one that everyone remembers as the beautiful martyr from this regin, whose lovers willingly died for her.  Her death is Elizabeth's crime.  Her betrayal is Elizabeth's single greatest shame. So she has won that crown.  She lost in their constant rivalry for the throne of England, but she will win when the hisotires are written." (Gregory, 431).

Gregory is crazy.  And to be honest, I read 200+ pages of this, got tired of the lazy writing and the constant point of view changes and skimmed through the rest and read the final chapters.  How do I know that this book was lazily done?  Aside from the POV issue, one of the major pieces of action, the treason that leads to Mary's execution, yeah that's given a paragraph of mention as Bess tells us that Elizabeth has put her to death because Mary signed an order calling for her assasination.  One paragraph on the second to last page of the book.

Really?  Are you kidding me?  So the rest of the novel was about what?

Well in brief, the year is 1568 and Elizabeth has been Queen of England for 10 years.  Mary, Queen of Scots (and briefly Queen of France) has had to fled Scottland because of an uprising against her.  Seeking assylum, she runs to her cousin in England.  Elizabeth, rightly nervous about a rival for her throne, keeps Mary imprisoned with George and Elizabeth Shrewsbury for a long time.  The book spans the first 3 years of her imprisonement, and in the final chapter, skips from June 1572 to February 1587.  To which I say, again, are you kidding me?

The book is boring.  The first 200 pages are George and Bess repeating themselves incessantly.  George loves the Scottish Queen, thinks his wife is a frugal crazy money grubbing peasant, and Bess (Elizabeth) is twice a widow and married to someone she now considers a fool.  Over and over again they say the same things.  In three page increments before Gregory goes back to the other persons POV.

Queen Mary, she's just as repetitive.  "Oh I hope some man will rescue me, I have to be free."  Over and over and over again.  There is hardly any dialogue, it's all internal monologue and there is no action because there was no action for these guys.  They were wardens.  The real action was taking place in the lands in the north were armies were fighting and at court where Elizabeth ruled and made these decisions.

The bigger problem here is Gregory is so biased against Elizabeth that I'm contemplating starting a blog titled "Why Does Gregory Hate Elizabeth?"  She thinks she's a spineless child that has had men / people push her into the position that she's in and that she has no mind to rule.  If that's not what she thinks, that's the way she comes across.  Elizabeth is an idiot, Cecil is the brains.  And not very nice brains, either.

The paragraph I posted above says it all.  It's as if the facts of that time period have completely avoided Gregory.  Elizabeth is widely regarded as one of the greatest rulers of England, and while I know that there were probably a lot of Catholics that were sad when Henry broke with Rome, a lot of people rejoiced in it, because there were so many corruptions.  Elizabeth brought peace and allowed her people to practice what they wanted without fear of religious persecution.  Why Gregory seems bent on tarnishing that with novel after novel that describes her as a wanton and a spoiled brat I have no idea.

My advice is to skip this novel.  And it will be a long time before I buy another one of Gregory's books without closely checking reviews.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chick Lit Challenge

The Twiga Blog is hosting the 2009 Chick Lit Challenge and since that sounds like a fun and easy challenge, and I like the button, I'm all about it.

It's 10 books over the next year.  I can't remember picking up one Chick Lit book last year but I do enjoy quick light reads so I thought, what the hey.  There's a whole bunch out there that I've never read that I thought I might try.

So, for the first stab at this list (and it will definitely, more than likely change):

1. Vision in White - Nora Roberts - REVIEW
2. Queen of Babble - Meg Cabot - REVIEW
3. Queen of Babble in the Big City - Meg Cabot - REVIEW
4. Chasing Harry Winston - Lauren Weisberger
5. Good in Bed - Jennifer Weiner
6. Certain Girls - Jennifer Weiner
7. Something Borrowed - Emily Griffin
8. Something Blue - Emily Griffin
9. Baby Proof - Emily Griffin
10. Dogs and Goddesses - Jennifer Cruise (maybe - it's multiple writers again and I'm not sure how I feel on that.)

But, most of this list are staples in the industry and I've yet to read a one.  I did read In Her Shoes, by Jennifer Weiner several years ago because my sister read it and she said I had to because one of her friends read it and said that Megan and I were "just like" the girls in the book.  If you've read it, that's an insult to Megan.  We aren't really anything like those sisters, except that, we're sisters, and she has blond hair and I have brown.  And we both love dogs.  But that's where the similarities end.

Anywho - I have my beach reading for 2009!  And I think my bank account is going to suffer from all these challenges ... maybe I'll get these from the library instead.

PS - If you're looking for some interesting challenges for 2009, Jessica over at Bluestockings is doing 16 this year and has a complete list.  The What's in a Name may make it over here, but I have to ponder what I would read for that.  The other one I really like is 2009 Pub Challenge, read 9 books published in 2009.  I think that would help me stay current.  Also, if you haven't already, check out 5 Minutes for Books, they are doing a Classics Bookclub.  February they are reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  March is Les Miserables.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Lit Flicks: The Secret Life of Bees

This review is a little premature, or a little late, depending on how you look at it.

The Secret Life of Bees is the first novel by Sue Monk Kidd.  I made the mistake of reading The Mermaid Chair (her second novel), first, and along with the 568 customers who reviewed the book over at Amazon, I disliked it.  So I did not immediately go pick up Bees for fear of a repeat waste of my time.  Every time I saw this book I was tempted, but Mermaid kept me for buying.

Lit Flicks and the combination of Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Hudson in the movie had me change my mind.  And I'm really glad I did.

The book is 300 pages long and I finished it in about 16 hours.  It takes place in the South in the 1960s and LBJ has just signed the Civil Rights Act.  That part of the book is fascinating, and the relationships the women have are interesting too.  Some of it feels underdeveloped or a little surface-y, if that makes sense, but it's 300 pages.  What can you expect?

Overall, highly enjoyable, and parts of the prose are just fantastic.  Kidd has kind of a flare for the dramatic, and every "scene" is ended with some dramatic line like: "And the spider went into the hole, peeking his eyes out to look at me, as if he knew I had done something wrong."  (That's not in there, I made that up).  It's almost like she needs a knew way to transition.

Sadly, the movie is no longer in theaters and doesn't come out on DVD until February 3rd.  Which is why this review is either too late or too early.  But I'll update with the movie review and how off it was.  Here is my prediction, they don't mention May's twin, gloss over Daughters of Mary (if mentioned at all), and ignore most of the back story on the mother.  I bet they keep the voting, the gun, that dad and a little on Zach.  Very little.

My question ... how is little Dakota Fanning going to handle such grown-up material?  I look forward to letting you know.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Historical Fiction Challenge

Royal Reviews is hosting the 2009 Historical Fiction challenge.  Information on the challenge is HERE.  The basics are 3 books in 3 months.  The books I plan to read have been sitting in my TBR pile for EVER so hopefully this motivates me to read them.
The Other Queen, Phillipa Gregory
To Hold the Crown, Jean Plaidy
The Lady Elizabeth, Alison Wier
As always, I probably won't read what I intend to read.  But if this helps me finish that Gregory book I will be very, very pleased.

    Lit Flicks: The Nanny Diaries

    I read this several years ago and found the movie version (with Laura Linney as Mrs. X and Scarlett Johansen as Nan) in the cheap bin at Walmart over the holiday. For the purposes of the challenge, I re-read the book yesterday and finished this morning.

    The book is really funny.  Our heroine is Nan (Nanny), our child is Grayer (Grover), and the antagonists are Mr. and Mrs. X, a snobbish, uber-rich couple for the Upper East side of Manhatten.  Mrs. X is an absentee mother of the worst sort; she spends all day shopping or ... something and no time parenting and still manages to think she's a terrific picture of motherhood.  Meanwhile, Nan is taking the little charge to school, play dates and an assortment of lessons and raising him.

    She gets way to invested, in both the kid and his parents assorted tawdry affairs, and is rewarded by being unceremoniously let go and does not get to say goodbye to Grayer.  If you have a spare 6 hours, the book is quick and easy and entertaining.

    The movie isn't good.  I can't really put my finger on what went wrong with it and I think it has to be the casting.  ScarJo is a terrible Nan.  In the novel, Nan is a child development major at NYU and nannying is part of her field work.  She's nannyed before, she's smart, she knows what's up.  In the movie, ScarJo stares around like a fish out of water and "falls" into nannying.  Which is fine and all, but it doesn't do the character justice.

    In the movie Mr. X hits on Nanny.  This just seems so cliche and stupid and unnecessary.  In the novel Mr. X would never even look at Nanny much less hit on her, she was too far below his social level.

    And while I love the fact that Laura Linney divorces Mr. X and becomes a terrific mom in the end, that's not what the book was about.  The book was written by two women who nannied for the wealthy and elite in New York and the novel was a compilation of their experiences.  It was an expose, of sorts.  And in the end nothing changes.  The X'es get a new nanny, persumably, Grayer grows up warped, and Mrs. X has another child.  No one changes.  Except Nan.  Whom I would guess probably won't ever be a Nanny again.

    So ... finally thoughts?  The book is excellent and the movie is okay as a separate entity.  But they do not tell the same story.