Archive | July, 2010

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hollywood Style

30 Jul

The word is that a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie is scheduled to be made in the United States by Director David Fincher.  Release is tentatively scheduled for December 2011. Daniel Craig has been cast as Mikael Blomvist but they have not found an actress to play Lisbeth yet. 

There is was just a Swedish adaptation of GWtDT movie made by a Swedish director – the movie just came out on DVD in July (I think I read it is the best selling DVD of all time in Sweden).  I plan to see this movie in the next couple of days.   From what I’ve read it’s very raw and dark and very, very good.    Can’t wait!

Anne Rice Leaving Christiantity…but will not be writing about Vampires

30 Jul

ABC News reported yesterday that Anne Rice, author of Interview with a Vampire, Frankenstein and others is leaving Christianity (which she became heavily involved with in 2000, putting an end to the writing of her gothic-themed novels). 

Additionally, an interview with the Christian Science Monitor alludes to the fact that Rice has no interest in going back to writing about vampires.  For those of you who are a fan of Rice, this is certainly disappointing!

Why I Love my Library!

29 Jul

This is my local library. Not much to look at but it's still home to me!

I want to thank Katy from my BC Book Club for posting the article which inspired this post.   Linda Holmes, blogger on NPR, talks about how libraries could “become the thing everyone wants to do happy-fuzzy pop-culture stories about.”  That would be great!      

Saying I love my library is a complete understatement.  The Cuyahoga County Public Library is as critical a resource for my family as the grocery store is.  In fact, I am at the library more often than I grocery shop (Please note:  this does not mean my family goes hungry!).   We go about twice a week as a family and I usually go at least once a week on my own.  This might not seem like much to some people, but I do have to fit these visits in on the weekends and in the evenings!       

For the most part the value of this resource is (obviously) about having virtually limitless access to free books since I love reading so much, but there are other things that the library provides that I consider invaluable as well.            

In addition to the books, here are some other reasons why I love my library:            

  1. Legitimate Online Presence  My library has an online system for reserving, renewing, and searching their full catalog.  I know if the library were a for-profit business this would be expected, but I consider this a nice-to-have in light of the funding struggles my library and most have faced over the past few years.   And they don’t just have a ‘system’, they have a ‘SYSTEM’!  It’s very robust, easy to navigate, and even has mobile apps for reserving and requesting items! 
  2. Kick-A** Reservation Process You can reserve items that haven’t hit store shelves yet, which is great because if you get the process down, you will actually end up getting the item very soon after it comes out to the general public to buy.  I use ‘item’ here because it’s not just books I’m talking about.  Want to see something just released on DVD?   Reserve it at the library when it’s in the theater (or soon after) and you’ll get it about the same time it comes out on DVD.  Additionally, anything you reserve that is available gets to the library of your choice in 2 days.  2 DAYS!  Again, I would expect this from a business but not a non-profit community resource necessarily.  And if it’s not in, you get put in a queue that is tracking how many hold there are for the item which is continually updated in your online record.  Amazing. 
  3. They Don’t just Hire Anybody  Okay, this might sound a little snobby, but if I’m looking for someone to be a guiding light on my reading selections, it can’t be some punky teenager who doesn’t even really like books but was forced to get a job to pay for his or her car insurance.  Librarians are still legit (too legit to quit, in fact) and are still expected to KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT BOOKS!  Again, I see that the quality of librarians might have been affected by some cost-cutting measures, and I’m so grateful that this is not the case! 
  4. Toy Borrowing Did you know you can borrow toys from the library?  Okay, okay, I haven’t used this myself yet, but I keep meaning to!   In fact, as soon as I finish this post I will do just that (which I can do because of course requesting toys can be done online as well!).  Babysitting but have no kids of your own?  Get some from the library!   
  5. High Tolerance for Children  I suppose they know my kids are future taxpayers so the librarians need to ensure my kids continue to love the library, but I am positive that sometimes that can’t even matter.  They allow my kids to ‘whisper’ which is not whispering at all, they let us stay there as long as we want and they don’t kick us out when it’s obvious that someone ‘needs a nap’ (No, not ME! Okay sometimes it’s me). 


And that is why the library is invaluable to me.   Everyone kiss a librarian today!  Okay, only if you know them personally and that’s appropriate please!  Um…maybe just a thank you would do.   Thank you Cuyahoga County Library for being so amazing!

Book Review: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins

28 Jul

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 Stars

Who will like it best: Women and Men 13+

Words to describe it: Satisfying, Exhilarating, Action

Will I add it to my personal library? Yes

Will I read it again someday? Yes!

The Hunger Games has been on my ‘To Be Read’ list for a very long time.  This science-fiction book came out in September 2008 and has been a NY Times bestseller since, for the past 97 weeks.  It is the first book in a three-part trilogy, the second book of which is called Catching Fire and has also been on the best seller list for a whopping 46 weeks.  The third book, Mockingjay, will be released on August 24.  Never heard of these books?  It might be because they are on the Children’s Chapter Book best seller list which is for readers 12 years and up.   I’ll admit that was one reason I was hesitant to read this book – I was afraid it would be totally dumb and boring. I learned my lesson about tween books the hard way with Twilight (grrr…believe me, I wanted to like them!).  That combined with the fact that it’s science fiction made reading this novel pretty unappealing to me all the way around.  But because of the hype, I felt I had to at least try and see what it was all about.  And guess what…it was a really good book!

I’ve read that Lionsgate has purchased the rights to make this trilogy into a movie and the author, Suzanne Collins, will write the screenplay.  The most I can find on that now is at IMDB ( has this movie listed as ‘in development’.  If it does make it to the big screen I’m anxious to see how this is done – I think this book would make a great movie.  What I hope doesn’t happen is that it comes out looking like a made-for-tv-movie on the SciFi network, which will completely undermine the work of art the book is.


This story takes place in a post-war North America called Panem.  The land has been reorganized into 12 districts and a Capitol.  The members of the Capitol rule over the districts and to remind them of this, every year they force each district to send 1 girl and 1 boy to compete to the death against each other in what is called the ‘Hunger Games.’  These games are televised and are required to be watched by everyone across Panem.  Katness Everdeen is the girl sent to represent District 12.  She is 16, but is tough and self-sufficient and has been taking care of her mother and little sister since her father died. The book follows her through her experience competing in the Games.  I won’t tell you how it ends explicitly, but you can probably guess since it is the first of three books.  Don’t worry – knowing that doesn’t ruin the reading experience at all.

Here’s an excerpt – I like how much this short paragraph tells you about the world of Panem.

The train finally begins to slow and suddenly bright light floods the compartment. We can’t help it.  Both Peeta and I run to the window to see what we’ve only see on television, the Capitol, the ruling city of Panem.   The cameras haven’t lied about its grandeur.  If anything, they have not quite captured the magnificence of the glistening buildings in a rainbow of hues that tower into the air, the shiny cars that roll down the wide paved streets, the oddly dressed people with bizarre hair and painted faces who have never missed a meal.  All the colors seem artificial, the pinks too deep, the greens too bright, the yellows painful to the eyes, like the flat round disks of hard candy we can never afford to by at the tiny sweet shop in District 12.

My Review

As I mentioned, I was concerned with the teen-ness of this novel but in the end I actually liked that it was more ‘PG’ than not.  The relationships lacked any adult point of view as I expected, but that was okay because the relationships weren’t the only focus.  And it was definitely a less complex overall but I was fine with that too because it made it easy for me to adjust to the science-fiction aspect.  And honestly, the sci-fi wasn’t overwhelming at all.  You do have to adjust to a society beyond what we know, but it’s pretty simplistic actually and not distracting when following the story. This book has a (much less detailed and headache-causing) George Orwell1984-vibe with the big brother and government control themes.  I also really liked Katness.  I believed in her and her abilities.  This made me excited to watch her compete and see what ultimately happened to her.  Lastly, this book is extremely well paced.  It moves quickly which enables the reader to easily keep up interest through to the end.

The one question that kept coming back to me as I was reading this book was, “How did North America get like this?”  There is no year given, but it says that Panem “rose out of the ashes” and this is the 74th year of the Hunger Games, so I can only imagine how far into the future this book is set.  What was at work and for how long to leave the entire continent reconfigured?  Perhaps some of that will be revealed in the next 2 books.

I had a couple of minor issues with the way this novel ended.  First, I cannot believe this situation is coming up for the first time in seventy-four years of the Hunger Games.  It seems like 2 other contestants could have worked out what Katness did at some point before.  Secondly, I don’t understand why the Capitol is so angry about it.

I would recommend this book for sure and for many categories of readers:  Male and female readers both young and old.  I don’t recommend it to those who are heavily into adult science-fiction – I suspect that they would find it a little too ‘light’ compared to what they are used to.  The story is unique, the characters distinctive and likeable.  It’s well paced, not too heavy on the science-fiction but enough so to transport you to a somewhat unfathomable but believable society.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

25 Jul

Rating 4 out of 5 stars

Who will like it best: Women 20+

Words to describe it: Realistic, Touching, Mysterious

Will I add it to my personal library? No

Will I read it again someday? No

This is a good, solidly written book!  It is a relatively easy read (I finished it in 4 nights) and would make a good airplane selection.  It would also work well after reading something with a very serious or heavy subject matter.

This novel takes place in a small farming town in Kansas where a shocking double-murder rocks the town and leaves a little 3 year old girl, Jodi, parentless.  All during the years as Jodi grows up the questions surrounding her parents death continue to plague her. When the man accused of their murder is released from prison, she undersands why everyone tells her to stay away but is still somehow drawn to seeing him.

The characters in this story are very realistic – I say that because they are all written to show strengths and weaknesses.  My favorite character in this book is the matriarch, Annabelle, because while she is well loved and respected in her family and in the community, she has weaknesses as a mother and wife too.  For example, she has trouble communicating with her daughter, Belle, and when they talk she tries desperately to come up with ways to appease her and bridge the gap so her daughter will let her in.  This is common aspect to many mother/daughter relationships so I appreciated that this aspect was added in the story too.

I also like how the details of the story were revealed to the reader – it leaves the reader guessing about the whole story.  The only aspect of this novel I question is the ending – it seemed a little rushed.  I cannot think of a better way to have written it, but I would have preferred something a little more complex that was unwoven a little more slowly. I should note that although this is filed by B & N as dramatic fiction I am also classifying it as a mystery.

I plan to add another of this author’s books to my reading list.  She is very descriptive but not overly so – I would describe her writing as ‘clean’, which is what makes this novel so perfect for light reading.

Book Review: Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

23 Jul

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

I’m getting this right out of the way: this novel is one of my favorites of all time.  I’ve read it twice of the past 3 years and I plan to read it again soon.  My primary reason for feeling so strongly about this book is because I truly identified with the main character Lee.  I cannot say if everyone will feel that connection but if you 1) are a girl and 2) went to high school and 3) felt mental as a teenager trying to figure out how to act in certain situations (and possibly still do) then there’s a good chance you will!

From the outside looking in, this book might not seem like it would be anything special.   Girl gets scholarship, girl goes to preppy boarding school, girl doesn’t feel like she fits in.   But girl is sort of weird and seems to overthink everything to the point of paralysis.  And then she criticizes herself.  And then she says something awkward, and it’s hilarious.  It’s this perspective that makes this novel so special . 

Lee Fiora is from a middle-class family in Indiana and she goes to a private boarding school on the East Coast on a scholarship.  She feels very out of place and awkward and is working hard in her own way to deal with the pressures of being all alone and not fitting in with her classmates.  She observes her classmates behavior and uses that to try and bridge the gap between her and them – this does not always go well.  Over the course of her 4 years at Ault, Lee does get to a comfortable place within the social ranks, but nearly destroys it at the end of her tenure there.  Along the way she has issues with teachers, she has trouble with girlfriends, she has her heart broken, she has fights with her parents.  Humiliation, happiness, tears, love – all of it wrapped up in this one character’s high school career.  We are given full access to her innermost thoughts and feelings and we follow along as she makes sense of the world, which is a hilarious, heartbreaking journey.   Evidence of Lee evolving as each year passes is written realistically and it is funny, sad, totally normal and downright familiar.  

I recommend this book everyone – girls and women in particular.  This is a perfect read if you are looking to feel  warm, touching and slightly nostalgic way.  There’s a little Lee in all of us.

The Beach House by Jane Green

22 Jul

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

I’ve found that how well you like a novel depends on what you expected from it to begin with.  If you  expect a book to deliver something specific to you (tears, suspense, a thrill, etc.) and it doesn’t, you don’t like the book.  If it meets what you expected you like it, and if it exceeded, you love it.   My expectations used to be way too high which led me to be frequently disappointed.  I had no flexibility with my expecations either – every book must have a plot that blows me away, or a character that is something I’ve never seen before, or make me cry from the 3rd page.  I still set my expectations pretty high, but I’m trying to get better at taking certain books for what they are meant to be – just a nice story that occupies my time.   Not everything has to be some earth-shattering concept that changes how I look at the world!  Setting my expectations more realistically has helped a ton in my enjoyment of reading.  It has taken some practice since I tend to be an extreme realist, but overall this is coming much more easily for me.

The Beach House is a perfect example of one novel I needed to be careful with when setting expectations.  Several years ago I would have passed it up because it wouldn’t be a book to have a profound message.  Now, I simply save it for a time when I want to read something that I expect to hold my attention.  Nothing profound, just tell me a story.  I need to relax.  And sure enough, when I asked the book to deliver that, it did.  Well!   

The main character in this story is Nan, an older, quirky woman who lives alone in a huge old house on the shores of Nantucket.  She live by herself and find she is in need of money so she decides to rent out her house to island visitors.  The house becomes filled with guests and her son joins the mix too.  They bring their own lives and experiences and create a unique dynamic in the house.  The ending has some twists to it, which surprised me. 

This novel was well written with the right amount of description to get you to know and understand the characters.   I liked Nan and all of the other characters just fine.  The Nantucket setting was so great – I could almost smell the salty air when I was reading this.   The plot was developed at a nice pace and all of the story lines were interwined nicely.  The story was heartwarming and touching, but not overly emotional. 

I recommend this book if you want something to hold your attention – it’s light-hearted and fun and  reminds you of a warm sunny beach vacation.

First Family (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell Series #4) by David Baldacci

22 Jul

Rating:  2.5 out of 5 stars

I pulled this audio book off the libary shelves one afternoon when my favorite satellite radio show went on a 2 week vacation.  I chose this book because the author is very consistent.  Once you’ve read one of David Baldacci’s books, you know exactly what you are going to get with any of his others.  Here’s the breakdown of a Baldacci novel…they are all legal thrillers involving political figures and are usually unpredictable, which is what I like best!   There is little character development, which is okay with me because I don’t need that much to enjoy the thrill! 

The Sean King and Michelle Maxwell series is about the adventures Sean and Michelle get themselves into as retired Secret Service agents.  Basically they can’t stay away from the job even though they officially left that world.  Michelle definitely has some daddy issues and Sean seems to be a commitment phobe.  They definitely have sexual tension between each other too.  I’ve only read one other book in this series, Simple Genius, which I enjoyed.  And overall, this book did not disappoint either.  I did not feel like I was missing anything by not having read the other 2 previous books in this series. 

The first lady’s niece is kidnapped.  While the official channels work on finding out who took her, First Lady Jane contacts Sean Maxwell and asks him to conduct his own investigation.  Sean is ex-Secret Service and he brings along his partner, Michelle, and together they look to solve the crime on their own.  In the middle of this story there is a sub-plot involving Michelle and her family which seemed unnecessary because it doesn’t support the major storyline but was actually very intriguing as well.    The last chapter is dedicated to wrapping up some of the loose ends of this series, which was uninteresting to me because I hadn’t really been following it. 

As I mentioned, one of the most predictable things about Baldacci is his unpredictability!  While I was able to get an idea of what was going on and how things were going to end, I really was unable to predict the outcome until it was staring me in the face.  I loved that!  I also really enjoyed the Washington D.C. and the national government backdrop of the story.  Here’s what I didn’t like – the outcome was unfeasible.  I mean really unfeasible.  And unethical in the worst way.  It seems a little extreme for Baldacci’s taste and it surprised me.

I would recommend this book if you looking for a thriller/mystery that will keep you interested to the end without expecting to have it profoundly impact you.

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

21 Jul

Rating:  2.5 out of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a friend who spent time vacationing in Utah last year.  She likes to pick books relevant to her vacation destination to help enhance her travel experience which I think is a really cool idea.  This was also one of my book club’s monthly picks.

I chose to listen to this book rather than read it, which I’ve since realized was a terrible decision.  This book has 2 primary story lines that are unveiled in alternating chapters.  In between that are letters and diary entries of various origins and it is nearly impossible to keep all of that straight when listening to it.  I believe that regardless of the content delivery though, this book would still have been a struggle for me – a ton of description and detail.

One story line takes place in the near present day and is told from the perspective of an ex-Latter Day Saint named Jordan Scott.  He was excommunicated from one of those sect communes when he was a teenager.  His mom is still living there and becomes accused of murdering his dad.  We follow Jordan as he goes back to his old home to help his mom.  The other story line is about Brigham Young’s wife, Ann Eliza, and the scandalous book she wrote about her life as a plural wife in the late 1800s.  

I learned a lot about the history of the Latter Day Saints and how polygamy came to be a part of their doctrine in the early days.  More importantly, I learned that the present day LDS church has long ago split off from the crazy sect that believes in polygamy.  There are still remnants of the crazy sect around – these are the scary polygamy communes you hear about on the news.  I appreciate a book that can give me this sort of historical information while being mildly entertaining at the same time.

If this book were about a topic less taboo and freakish than polygamy, I don’t believe the other elements of the story would hold up.  The diaglogue is fragmented and unrealistic.  The present day plot is a mystery, but less focus is placed on solving it  than on the internal conflicts Jordan is experiencing.  The mystery is resolved in about 3 anti-climactic lines.   The character development was okay, better in the Ann story, but certainly not enough in either strain for me to feel anything for any of these characters.   I would be lying if I didn’t say I was slightly disappointed that there were no juicy descriptions of they ways of polygamy behind closed doors.  Polygamy is actually really boring.  I would be less irritated by that if there wasn’t an f*** word on every page and a pretty colorful description of gay sex – – being conservative was certainly not the goal of the author and these references looked out of place.

I liked this book for the educational aspect but not as entertainment.  I cannot recommend it as a ‘good book.’  I do recommend this book if you want to learn something new in a unique way and are prepared with the patience it takes to get through it.

Leaving The World by Douglas Kennedy

21 Jul

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

I heard about this author in People magazine with the caption “The Most Famous American Writer You’ve Never Heard Of”.  Douglas Kennedy is from England and is extremely popular there.  He is known to be the ‘British John Grisham’, although I didn’t really see any similarities at ALL in their genre or writing style.   Maybe it’s meant to mean only in popularity?  I actually sort of see that as an insult.

In any case, this headline intrigued me and while Kennedy has 6 novels, I chose Leaving the World because its plot seemed the most interesting.    Also, this novel is set in the U.S. and I was curious to understand how well he could write about the details of a culture in which he is not immersed (I read later that he did live in NYC until he was a teen, which I suppose contributed to his ability to do this). And, for the record, it did use some British phrases and lingo at times – I actually like that and am glad it wasn’t removed for the US publication.  I’m glad it was left as the author wrote it.

This book is about a woman who goes to Harvard as an English major, graduates, enters adulthood and deals with several very (and I mean VERY) emotional events which seem to come one right after the other.  I don’t always like when plots consist of seemingly unfathomable events that happen in succession like rapid fire, but Kennedy somehow made it realistic for me.  Additionally, the main character, Jane, is extremely well developed (some of the best I’ve ever read).  Her dimensions unfold slowly and naturally, much like it would be if you were actually able to hear someone’s thoughts.  It would take a while of listening to really understand all of the layers.  And just when you think you get them, they surprise you.

In addition to the character definition, I also see in this novel something I rarely see – character evolution.  Jane, actually evolves as she gets life’s lessons under her belt.  The reader can see evidence of her reacting differently than would be expected if the event had occurred earlier in her life.  She is barely recognizable at the end of this novel and you can see how the differences in her personality are a direct result of her journey.

I identified with Jane on several levels, and found her to be one of the most raw and realistic characters I’ve encountered.  Additionally, while this novel is just general fiction, I found it suspenseful in my own way, waiting to see how Jane dealt with what was thrown at her.  It also surprisingly tugged at my heartstrings as a woman, wife, and mother.

I recommend this book for focused, detailed reading.  It’s raw and serious and requires full attention.  And the payoff is well worth it!