Tuesday, November 3, 2009

50 Word Review 8

Title: Air Force One
Category: Action adventure
Medium: DVD
Rating: A

I can't believe I didn't watch this sooner. The movie was so exciting and emotional; I couldn't look away. Plus, Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman are just awesome! There were a couple of spots that were a little too intense and bloody for me, but overall I loved this movie. A

50 Word Review 7

Title: Kiss Me Goodbye
Category: Romantic Comedy
Medium: Netflix
Rating: A-

Funny, entertaining, romantic. Jeff Bridges, Sally Field, and James Caan all give great performances, and their supporting cast is wonderful. I never knew James Caan could tap dance, but apparently he can. If I was Sally Field's character and the choice was mine, I know which leading man I'd pick. A-

50 Word Review 6

Title: As You Like It
Category: Shakespearean romantic comedy
Medium: Netflix
Rating: A

Shakespeare would be proud. A very talented ensemble of actors bring this 17th century romantic comedy to life. They do change the setting to Japan, instead of France. But it doesn't affect the brilliant character performances. If you enjoy Shakespearean English, you'll like this movie. If you don't, don't watch. A

50 Word Review 5

Title: Confessions of a Shopaholic
Category: Romantic comedy
Medium: Netflix
Rating: B+

A standard romantic comedy- girl has problem, girl meets boy, girl embarrasses herself constantly in front of boy, girl lies about problem, boy finds out truth about problem, boy dumps girl, girl solves problem, boy gets back together with girl. Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy save this movie from mediocrity. B+

50 Word Review 4

Title: Once Upon A Mattress
Category: Musical
Medium: Netflix
Rating: A-

A great cast, awesome songs, and fun costumes make this twist on an old fairy tale one of my favorite musicals. The romance between Zooey Deschanel and Matthew Morrison is the best part. The only thing I'd change is one of the songs; it's not entirely appropriate for little ears. A-

50 Word Review 3

Title: The Mirror Has Two Faces
Category: Romantic Comedy
Medium: Netflix
Rating: A-

I'm not a fan of Barbara Streisand, but I actually enjoyed this movie. It was entertaining, original, and funny; it had a great cast. Great comedic moments, a satisfying ending, and a lead male character who's more interested in a person's soul than their looks made this an awesome movie. A-

50 Word Review 2

Title: Tron
Category: Science Fiction
Medium: Netflix
Rating: B

I watched this because they're making a 2010 sequel with two of my favorite actors. It was cheesy in a good way. It had a good premise, once you could understand it, and while it's graphics pretty bad for today, consider that these were amazing special effects for the 1980s. B

50 Word Review 1

Title: Pride & Prejudice
Category: Historical romance
Medium: Netflix
Rating: A-

This movie received mixed reviews from the critics, but I actually liked it. It doesn't compare to the Colin Firth version, but nothing ever will. It did feel rushed, and way too modernized. But I liked it anyway. Keira Knightly and Matthew MacFayden were perfect as Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. A-


November is National Novel Writing Month, and this year, I'm participating. I have 30 days to write a novel of 50,000 words. Which means that this blog will be majorly neglected this month. I will try to post some excerpts, and give some updates on the word count, especially since this is Reading, Writing, and Anything but Arithmetic. But it also means that my reading and movie watching are going to be put on hold for the most part too. So all of the Netflix reviews must be done today, and each review will only be 50 words, no more, no less. A mini challenge for the blog.

The book I will be attempting to write is Help! I Married a Movie Star or How I Survived My Celebrity Wedding. It's going to be a humorous look at how the average girl copes with being thrown into the spotlight by dating and marrying a celebrity, and how all of her original plans for her wedding end up changing because her husband-to-be is famous.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Surprisingly wonderful

Title: Austenland
Author: Shannon Hale
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 208
Genre: Chick Lit/Romance
Date Started: October 13, 2009
Date Finished: October 14, 2009

Rating: A+

Description from Barnes & Noble: Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man—perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Predjudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have to admit, I was a little nervous when I ordered this book. Considering my past experience with chick lit, and taking into account that Jane Austen is one of my all-time favorite authors, this book was a risk. Don't you just love it when risks pay off?

Austenland was such a breath of fresh air. Finally, a chick lit/romance with a main character who didn't whine constantly, several secondary characters with depth, and an awesome ending. And no smut! Perfect for me. Jane is a very likable character whose great aunt (hilarious scene-stealer) gives her a vacation to an estate in England where you go to live and breathe Austen. There she runs into several very interesting guests, as well as some pretty awesome "Regency" men. Most of the book deals with her struggle to balance both the world of pretend with the real world, and try to find love before the tension between the two causes her to break down completely.

The book also did justice to Austen and her world. References to all of her books are made, and Jane Hayes and her fellow guests each get to live a part of them. I loved Hale's descriptions of Jane's inner battle to immerse herself into this "Regency" vacation. It might have been easier for her if they actually removed all modern amenities. Hale's character notes how cell-phones, modern clothes, and American slang aren't allowed, but make-up, electricity, and indoor plumbing are.

If this book is a typical example of Hale's work, I can't wait to read more of her books. Especially since it left me yearning not only for more, but it also made me want to pick up the closest Austen novel and reread it. A+

A new medium - Netflix

At the end of last month, I signed up for Netflix, so now I will have lots of movies to review. I'm still trying to decide if I want to review every movie I watch, or just the ones I'm seeing for the first time. So far I've seen (on my own account; my parents have their own):
  • Pride and Prejudice (2005 Kiera Knightley version)
  • Tron
  • Under the Tuscan Sun
  • Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theater (Episodes 1-4)
  • Once Upon a Mattress
  • The Mirror Has Two Faces
The newest group of movies coming in today are:
  • As You Like It
  • Kiss Me Goodbye
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic
I'm thinking I'll just review the ones that are brand new to me. I'm worried I might get mixed up and double-up on movies that I've seen before. Which means that of all the movies I listed above, only Under the Tuscan Sun will NOT get a review. That means I better get back on track with these reviews, or I'm going to fall so far behind.

October Library Run

Ordering books from the library is both fun and annoying. But it must be done, in order to save some money.
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale (picked up on Tuesday, finished on Wednesday)
  • Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter
  • The Sea King's Daughter by Barbara Michaels
  • Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
I also wanted to order some books by Georgette Heyer, but none of the libraries within my county have one of the books (April Lady), and the system won't let me place a hold on the other (Friday's Child). Frustrating!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My first "Incomplete"

Title: Under the Tuscan Sun
Author: Frances Mayes
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
Genre: Memoir/Travelogue
Date Started: August 28, 2009
Date Finished: DIDN'T!

Rating: Incomplete

Description from Barnes & Noble: In the spirit of Peter Mayle's bestselling memoir A Year in Provence, gourmet and poet Frances Mayes chronicles her experience of buying, restoring, and residing in an abandoned villa in the Tuscan countryside. In rich, golden prose, Mayes details the long summer days spent working in the garden, excursions to the nearby towns and markets, and joyful interactions with the local people. Mayes lets armchair travelers share the joy of living in Italy through her wonderful memoir.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I love reading memoirs, especially memoirs involving travel (Ruth Reichl's memoirs are amazing), but I'm sorry; I just couldn't finish this. And I've been reading it since August! I grabbed this book thinking it would be a good read while I was waiting for my plane to Florida. Worst choice ever. The book was so boring, I couldn't keep my eyes open. Just writing about this book and remembering it, is making me tired.

One of the most disappointing aspects of this book is that it's nothing like the movie. I know that sounds awful, but sometimes the stuff Hollywood adds to movie-versions of a book actually improve the story. In this case, Hollywood took the basic idea: woman buys house in Tuscany (although in the book, it was both Frances and her second husband who buy and renovate it together), keeps a few details from the book that were interesting, and made a whole new story around those. Frances bought the house with her second husband Ed; the Polish workers who make up a big part of the comedic element in the movie are only in the book for one chapter; there is no romantic anything in the book. Not with Frances or her neighbors or the Polish workers. Nothing. And since I didn't finish the book, I have no idea if the gay best friend even exists or if she's entirely a Hollywood fabrication.

Most of the book was made up of renovating details, and some side trips to the neighboring cities and towns. One chapter in particular was maddening. I think if I had to read that they found another hidden well one more time, I was going to chuck the book down one. If you're into books about home renovations and endless details about the roads in Italy, then this is the book for you. If you're expecting something close to the movie, don't even bother trying to read this. Incomplete

Good, but not the best

Title: House of Many Ways
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 416
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Series #: 3 of 3
Date Started: September 22, 2009
Date Finished: September 24, 2009

Rating: B+

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Charmain Baker is in over her head. Looking after Great-Uncle William's tiny cottage while he's ill should have been easy. But Great-Uncle William is better known as the Royal Wizard Norland, and his house bends space and time. Its single door leads to any number of places—the bedrooms, the kitchen, the caves under the mountains, the past, and the Royal Mansion, to name just a few.

By opening that door, Charmain has become responsible for not only the house, but for an extremely magical stray dog, a muddled young apprentice wizard, and a box of the king's most treasured documents. She has encountered a terrifying beast called a lubbock, irritated a clan of small blue creatures, and wound up smack in the middle of an urgent search. The king and his daughter are desperate to find the lost, fabled Elfgift—so desperate that they've even called in an intimidating sorceress named Sophie to help. And where Sophie is, can the Wizard Howl and fire demon Calcifer be far behind?

Of course, with that magical family involved, there's bound to be chaos—and unexpected revelations.

No one will be more surprised than Charmain by what Howl and Sophie discover.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lucky for me, the description from Barnes & Noble pretty much says it all. The only problem with the last book in the Howl series is Charmain. I really had a hard time liking her. Spoiled, selfish, and ignorant, Charmain is a royal pain. She does improve as the story continues, learning lessons in humility and selflessness, but it takes a while, which makes it hard to get through the beginning of the book. Once she does start learning not to be so self-centered, the book's pace picks up, and it's a much easier read from then on.

It was a good book overall, but it didn't live up to the other two Howl books. B+

Another win for Wynne Jones

Title: Castle in the Air
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Series #: 2 of 3
Date Started: September 19, 2009
Date Finished: September 20, 2009

Rating: A+

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Abdullah was a young and not very prosperous carpet dealer. His father, who had been disappointed in him, had left him only enough money to open a modest booth in the Bazaar. When he was not selling carpets, Abdullah spent his time daydreaming. In his dreams he was not the son of his father, but the long-lost son of a prince. There was also a princess who had been betrothed to him at birth. He was content with his life and his daydreams until, one day, a stranger sold him a magic carpet.

In this stunning sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones has again created a large-scale, fast-paced fantasy in which people and things are never quite what they seem. There are good and bad djinns, a genie in a bottle, wizards, witches, cats and dogs (but are they cats and dogs?), and a mysterious floating castle filled with kidnapped princesses, as well as two puzzling prophecies. The story speeds along with tantalizing twists and turns until the prophecies are fulfilled, true identities are revealed, and all is resolved in a totally satisfying, breathtaking, surprise-filled ending.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Howl's Moving Castle has found a place amongst my top 10 favorite books, and Diana Wynne Jones is now one of my favorite authors. When I finally got the sequels from the library, I was confident that Jones would make the next two books just as exciting and fun and ridiculous as the first. And this book definitely lived up to my expectations.

Abdullah is a great character that you can't help rooting for, and Sophie is just as headstrong as ever... even when she's not human. I liked that Jones introduced new characters without losing her old ones. Just as good as the first. A

Bees... lots and lots of bees

Title: Chalice
Author: Robin McKinley
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Date Started: September 17, 2009
Date Finished: September 18, 2009

Rating: A-

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Beekeeper Marisol has been chosen as the new Chalice, destined to stand beside the Master and mix the ceremonial brews that hold the Willowlands together. But the relationship between Chalice and Master has always been tumultuous, and the new Master is unlike any before him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Okay, that synopsis really doesn't explain anything. And I don't think I could do a very good job either. This book was like The Dark Lord of Derkholm, where they throw into the middle of a story and you have to learn what's going on as you read. Which made it very confusing when I started reading it, but I stuck with it, and it kind-of-sort-of made sense in the end.

The book was enjoyable, and the characters were refreshing. I noticed that the author never gives any detailed description of Marisol. So she can look however you want her too. Also, the plot's original, which is a huge plus. A- (Sorry for the crappy review).

A Different Perspective

Title: Beastly
Author: Alex Flinn
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Date Started: September 14, 2009
Date Finished: September 16, 2009

Rating: A-

Description (from Barnes & Noble): I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So how excited was I when I heard they were making this book (which was awesome) into a movie?! And then I learned who would be playing the main love interest, and my excitement plummeted to rock bottom. Vanessa-freaking-Hudgens! From High School Musical! She can't act, and she looks nothing like the character. Did the casting directors lose their minds?! I am now assured that the movie is going to suck, and all it took was seeing her name.

Luckily, you can always read the book, which was awesome. It did have some subject matter that I would only allow more mature young adults to read (even though they've probably seen everything on TV). It was a fresh perspective on a classic story. A-

Note: The reviews for the September books are all going to be short, since I waited so long to write them *sheepish grin*.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's getting hot in here

Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Format: Paperback
Pages: 179
Genre: Alternate reality/Sci-Fi
Date Started: September 10, 2009
Date Finished: September 11, 2009

Rating: A

Description (from Barnes & Noble Review): Fahrenheit 451 is set in a grim alternate-future setting ruled by a tyrannical government in which firemen as we understand them no longer exist: Here, firemen don't douse fires, they ignite them. And they do this specifically in homes that house the most evil of evils: books. Books are illegal in Bradbury's world, but books are not what his fictional -- yet extremely plausible -- government fears: They fear the knowledge one pulls from books. Through the government's incessant preaching, the inhabitants of this place have come to loathe books and fear those who keep and attempt to read them. They see such people as eccentric, dangerous, and threatening to the tranquility of their state. But one day a fireman named Montag meets a young girl who demonstrates to him the beauty of books, of knowledge, of conceiving and sharing ideas; she wakes him up, changing his life forever. When Montag's previously held ideology comes crashing down around him, he is forced to reconsider the meaning of his existence and the part he plays. After Montag discovers that "all isn't well with the world," he sets out to make things right.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

While reading through several different websites' lists of the Top 100 Books of All Time, Fahrenheit 451 showed up on all of them. So I decided to give it a go, and I'm so glad I did. This book was inspiring and thought-provoking. And extremely relevant to me. I work for a media company that specializes in newspapers and magazines, and the number of readers continually drops. Plus, people just don't read books anymore. They'd rather watch movies that do all the work of imagining for them, rather than putting their own imaginations to use.

I'd recommend this to everyone. In this age of technology-- computers, blackberry's, and kindles-- Fahrenheit 451 is a necessary read. A

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September Library Run

So I've been reading Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Meyes since August 28th, and I still haven't finished it. I loved the movie and hoped that the book would be good, if not better. It seems that the movie just took the basic idea of the book--buying a house in Tuscany--and everything else is completely fictional. Frances Meyes wasn't renovating alone; she was there with her second husband. The Polish workers have only a short piece in the story, and all of the romantic adventures just aren't there at all. The book was so frustrating, I ordered books from the library.

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn (which I just learned they're making into a movie with Vanessa I-Can't-Act-To-Save-My-Life Hudgens)
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley
  • Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
  • House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
I also bought Dragon Spear by Jessica Day George (as well as the other books in the series) for my sister because none of the libraries within our county have the book.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Title: Ponyo
Format: Movie theater
Date Seen: August 18, 2009
Category: Hayao Miyazaki/Anime
Rating: A

Thankfully for all of his fans, Hayao Miyazaki never means it when he says he's going to retire, or we wouldn't now have one of his sweetest movies ever, Ponyo.

Description (from IMDB): The son of a sailor, 5-year old Sosuke lives a quiet life on an oceanside cliff with his mother Lisa. One fateful day, he finds a beautiful goldfish trapped in a bottle on the beach and upon rescuing her, names her Ponyo. But she is no ordinary goldfish. The daughter of a masterful wizard and a sea goddess, Ponyo uses her father's magic to transform herself into a young girl and quickly falls in love with Sosuke, but the use of such powerful sorcery causes a dangerous imbalance in the world. As the moon steadily draws nearer to the earth and Ponyo's father sends the ocean's mighty waves to find his daughter, the two children embark on an adventure of a lifetime to save the world and fulfill Ponyo's dreams of becoming human.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the best creators of anime out there. Which is probably why Disney pounced at a chance to sign on with him. His movies are creative and often thought-provoking with animation so beautiful, it should be classified as artwork. My favorite of his movies, Howl's Moving Castle, is probably his best work so far. His newest movie, Ponyo, is also a success.

I saw this movie with my friends--the same friends who introduced me to Miyazaki's films in the first place--and we all loved it. While it is not one of his best in terms of animation, Ponyo is probably his most family-friendly movie since Kiki's Delivery Service. The two main characters, Ponyo and Sosuke, are adorable, and the storyline is neither too simple nor too complex, making it perfect for all ages. Miyazaki also interjected some of his own opinions and humor into this film; just watch the scenes with females driving (I don't think Miyazaki appreciates women drivers).

I cannot wait for this movie to come out on DVD, so the rest of my family can see it. A

Sometimes abridged is better

Title: The Sugar Queen
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 288
Genre: Romance/Coming-of-Age
Date Started: August 15, 2009
Date Finished: August 15, 2009

Rating: B

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds it harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother…

Fleeing a life of bad luck and big mistakes, Della Lee has decided Josey’s clandestine closet is the safest place to crash. In return she’s going to change Josey’s life—because, clearly, it is not the closet of a happy woman. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey is soon forgoing pecan rolls and caramels, tapping into her startlingly keen feminine instincts, and finding her narrow existence quickly expanding.

Before long, Josey bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who makes the best sandwiches in town, is hounded by books that inexplicably appear whenever she needs them, and—most amazing of all—has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush.

As little by little Josey dares to step outside herself, she discovers a world where the color red hasastonishing power, passion can make eggs fry in their cartons, and romance can blossom at any time—even for her. It seems that Della Lee’s work is done, and it’s time for her to move on. But the truth about where she’s going, why she showed up in the first place—and what Chloe has to do with it all—is about to add one more unexpected chapter to Josey’s fast-changing life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wow! The description is going to be longer than my review. I first read The Sugar Queen in one of those 4-books-in-1 compilations that Reader's Digest publishes. The summary intrigued me, so I read it and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a good story that covered both light-hearted and serious topics with ease. I loved the little touch of magic that Allen threw in the story too (oh how I wish I had the same "affliction" as Chloe). Because I liked the shortened version so much, I figured the full-length version would be even better.

I was wrong. Because I was expecting so much more, I ended up being disappointed. The only stuff the Reader's Digest editors cut out was the smut and questionable content. Everything else was pretty much the same. It's so frustrating that the author feels the need to include those scenes and descriptions. I really enjoyed the abridged version; if this had been a review of the shortened story, it would have received an A. Unfortunately, it's not. B

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Conveniently Awesome

Title: The Convenient Marriage
Author: Georgette Heyer
Format: Hardcover (not pictured)
Genre: Georgian Romance/Romantic Comedy
Date Started: August 12, 2009
Date Finished: August 13, 2009

Rating: A

Description (from Wikipedia): Horatia Winwood, a stammering girl barely out of the schoolroom, takes the place of her beautiful older sister (who is romantically involved elsewhere) in entering into a marriage of convenience with the wealthy Earl of Rule. The tentative understanding between the new husband and wife is complicated when Rule's old enemy, Lord Lethbridge, takes an interest in his young bride, in order to exact revenge over a scandal of several years earlier.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Georgette Heyer, who set the foundation for the Regency romance novel, did an amazing job with this book. It is the perfect mixture of romance, intrigue, and comedy. I loved this book so much, I read it again before sending it back to the library.

Horatio Winwood is my favorite atypical heroine. She is the opposite of the usual romance novel's leading lady. Instead of being a busty blond with large cerulean eyes (I hate most romance novels for their ridiculous women who all look like Dolly Parton or Pam Anderson), Horry is a short, rather young girl with dark hair, gray eyes, eyebrows that refuse to arch, and a pronounced stutter. She bounces back between feistiness and timidity, depending on the situation she's in, and she seems to be a magnet for trouble.

When she marries the Earl of Rule, Horry does it out of love for her sister. As the book progresses, Horry slowly comes to realize that she is falling in love with her husband, while he has been in love with her almost the entire time. But this book isn't just about the romance between the couple. It's also a story of the folly of revenge, as well as a comedy as you watch the Georgian equivalent of the Three Stooges (Horry's brother, her brother-in-law, and her brother's best friend) attempting to "quietly" fix up all of Horry's problems.

Another reason I enjoyed the book is because it was an amazing romance novel without the smut. When you hear the words "romance" and "novel" put together, most of the time the image conjured in your mind is that of a Harlequin romance whose cover sports a Fabio look-a-like. The entire book is spent describing the sexual escapades of the heroine. The Convenient Marriage was a romance novel that focused on romantic love, not lust. And for that reason, I intend to purchase my own copy soon, and pick up some more of Heyer's books. A

Shocked... Totally and Completely Shocked

Title: Nerilka's Story
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Format: Paperback
Pages: 182
Genre: Fantasy
Date Started: August 11, 2009
Date Finished: August 11, 2009
Borrowed from Library: August 11
Returned to Library: August 12

Rating: F (my first)

Description (from Barnes & Noble): A deadly epidemic was sweeping across Pern. Nerilka's father refused to share Fort Hold's bounty with the other Holds. Ashamed of her family and determined to do her part, Nerilka packed up medicines and supplies and sneaked off to aid her people. She had no idea that her new path would change the course of her life forever!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I really wanted to like this book. It's by Anne McCaffrey, one of my favorite authors; it's a love story, and I'm a sucker for those; and this is my first McCaffrey review. But there's no way I could have written a good review for this. This book was beyond disappointing. It just sucked, plain and simple. There's really no better way to say it. The characters were either wooden and undeveloped, or they were melodramatic. I couldn't connect with any of them, not even the main character. The story itself was useful in filling in gaps from the other Pern books and providing the holder's perspective, rather than the dragonriders', but that's about all this book was good for. As far as entertainment value is concerned, this book was a flop. Especially the ending. It was such a forced happy ending, it made me physically cringe.

What makes this book so disappointing (besides being so badly written) is that Anne McCaffrey is capable of so much more. I love her Dragonriders of Pern series; they're well-written, exciting, full of adventure and believable, likable characters. This book was just so poorly done, it makes me question what McCaffrey was thinking when she wrote it. And what the critics were thinking when they reviewed it. They stated that although the book was "a weak entry in the Pern saga", it should satisfy "McCaffrey's legions of fans" and said legions "should enjoy it." Well, I am a part of those "legions," and this book was not enjoyable and terribly unsatisfying.

I wouldn't recommend this ever, to anyone, especially not to a die-hard McCaffrey fan. It will only make them wonder, as I did, why the very talented author even wrote this book, and why her copy-editor didn't make her rewrite it. Badly done, McCaffrey. Badly done. F

Her name should have been Diana Epic-Wynne Jones

Title: Dark Lord of Derkholm
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Format: Paperback
Pages: 528
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Series #: 1 of 2
Date Started: August 5, 2009
Date Finished: August 8, 2009

Rating: A+

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Mr. Chesney operates Pilgrim Parties, a tour group that takes paying participants into an outer realm where the inhabitants play frightening and foreboding roles. The time has come to end the staged madness . . . but can it really be stopped? Master storyteller Diana Wynne Jones serves up twists and turns, introduces Querida, Derk, Blade, and Shona and a remarkable cast of wizards, soldiers, kings, dragons, and griffins, and mixes in a lively dash of humor. With all the ingredients of high fantasy, this unforgettable novel will delight fans old and new.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First, let me say "THANK YOU!" to Jess S. for lending me this book, as well as "Sorry" for not getting it back to you for so long. Jess lent this book to me months ago after I led the book club she & my sister are in (and my friends and I started years ago), and the book I had chosen was also by Diana Wynne Jones (Howl's Moving Castle; read it). Knowing how much I liked Jones' work, she let me borrow it, and I took it, intending to read it that weekend, but I was in the middle of a bunch of series and ended up putting it to the side. Once August came along, I was finally kind-of finished with all the series (I say kind-of because none of the libraries in Passaic County have the newest book in the Dragon Slippers trilogy... grrrr...).

The point is, once I finally sat down to read Dark Lord of Derkholm, I was hooked. It is such an awesome adventure with wizards and griffins and dragons. But the best part of this book is the cast of characters. These are by far the most reluctant heroes you will ever meet. Wizard Derk just wants to be left alone to create more animals, his two human children just want to go their schools, and his griffin children want life to continue on as it always has. Unfortunately, the antagonist, Mr. Chesney, chooses Derk to play the role of the Dark Lord during that year's Pilgrim Parties (sort of like role-playing, only you can actually die, and sometimes you've even been signed up to die). Now the whole family is forced to get into their new roles, while others in the community are trying to make everything fall apart around their heads.

It's a fun read with humor and action and a really surprising twist. All of the characters are so well-developed that you actually feel like you've known them you're whole life. I especially loved the griffins and the cranky old dragon. And I just found out there's a sequel, so luckily the fun doesn't have to end. A+

August Library Run

I actually went to the library on the 11th; I'm just seriously behind on updating. So expect five reviews today- four books and one movie. From the library I got:
  • Nerilka's Story by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer
  • The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Those are three of the four books I'll be reviewing. One rocked, one was pretty awesome, and one earned the first F I've ever given in this blog.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Climax!

Title: The Dragon Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 512
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Series #: 3 of 3
Date Started: July 19, 2009
Date Finished: July 19, 2009

Rating: A-

Description (from the publisher): The covenant that was meant to keep the wizard wars at bay has been stolen, and Trinity must prepare for attack. Everyone is doing their part -- Seph is monitoring the Weirwalls; Jack and Ellen are training their ghostly army; even Anaweir Will and Fitch are setting booby traps around the town's perimeter. But to Jason Haley, it seems like everyone wants to keep him out of the action. He may not be the most powerful wizard in Trinity, but he's prepared to fight for his friends. When Jason finds a powerful talisman --a huge opal called the Dragonheart--buried in a cave, his role takes on new importance. The stone seems to sing to Jason's very soul -- showing him that he is meant for more than anyone guessed. Trinity's guardians take the stone away after they realize that it may be a weapon powerful enough to save them all. Without any significant power of his own, and now without the stone, what can Jason possibly do to help the people he cares about -- and to prove his mettle?

Madison Moss can feel the beating heart of the opal, too. The desire for it surges through her, drawing her to it. But Maddie has other things besides the Dragonheart on her mind. She has a secret. Ever since absorbing the magical blow that was meant to kill Seph, she's been leaking dark powers. Although Maddie herself is immune to magic, what would her friends think if they knew what kind of evil lay within her? Trinity's enemies are as enthusiastic about her powers as she is frightened. They think they can use her to get to the Dragonheart -- and they'll use anyone Maddie cares about to make her steal the stone for them.

Moral compasses spin out of control as a final battle storms through what was once a sanctuary for the gifted. With so much to lose, what will Jason and Maddie be willing to fight for -- and what will they sacrifice? Every man is for himself in this thrilling conclusion to the Heir trilogy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Another review that I waited way too long to write, but at least, I remember more of what I had to say about this book. This was a 90% satisfying conclusion to the Heir series. I liked most of the book, but the ending felt too forced to me. I think I actually preferred the first two books better to this one.

Jason Haley gets more time to shine, and yet this book focuses on Maddie a lot. And I don't like Maddie. Her role in the book could have been very cool, especially in the final battle. Instead, I was disappointed with the very expected turn-of-events. Sure, there were one or two parts I didn't expect. But for the most part, I wasn't really surprised or sitting at the edge of my seat.

I still loved most of the book. The three main guys from the series-- Jack, Seph, and Jason-- were never disappointing, and of course, Jack's friends Will and Fitch stole every "scene" they were in. Even though I didn't enjoy this book with the same intensity I had with the previous two, Dragon Heir was definitely worth the read, and not just to figure out how the trilogy ends. A-

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Being the Odd Man Out

Title: The Wizard Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 464
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Series #: 2 of 3
Date Started: July 15, 2009
Date Finished: July 15, 2009

Rating: A

Description (from the publisher): Sixteen-year-old Seph McCauley has spent the past three years getting kicked out of one exclusive private school after another. And it's not his attitude that's the problem. It's the trail of magical accidents-lately, disasters-that follow in his wake. Seph is a wizard, orphaned and untrained--and his powers are escalating out of control.

After causing a tragic fire at an after-hours party, Seph is sent to the Havens, a secluded boys' school on the coast of Maine. At first, it seems like the answer to his prayers. Gregory Leicester, the headmaster, promises to train Seph in magic and initiate him into his mysterious order of wizards. But Seph's enthusiasm dampens when he learns that training comes at a steep cost, and that Leicester plans to use his students' powers to serve his own dangerous agenda.

In this companion novel to the exciting fantasy The Warrior Heir, everyone's got a secret to keep: Jason Haley, a fellow student who's been warned to keep away from Seph; the enchanter Linda Downey, who knew his parents; the rogue wizard Leander Hastings, and the warriors Jack Swift and Ellen Stephenson. This wizard war is one that Seph may not have the strength to survive.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So I waited so long between reading this book (July 15), starting the review (July 28), and actually finishing said review (August 13), that I've forgotten a great deal of the things I wanted to say. Therefore this entry will be short and to the point:

This book rocked! The end. A

Monday, July 13, 2009

Epic Win!

Title: The Last Olympian
Author: Rick Riordan
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Series #: 5 of 5
Date Started: July 6, 2009
Date Finished: July 6, 2009

Rating: A+

Description (Synopsis): All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of a victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time. In this momentous final book in the New York Times best-selling series, the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy’s sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What an amazing finish to an amazing series! (Although the author does hint at a possible 6th book, I won't get my hopes up.... no point being disappointed.) Definitely deserving of its A-plus rating!

Not only does this book tie up the loose ends from the previous four books (which means flashbacks, but not too many thankfully), but it also allows for some amazing character development that I wasn't expecting. Usually a series' final book is through with development of the characters, and sometimes most of the story, and entirely focused on the climax and resolution. The Last Olympian included all three.

Riordan gave a greater depth to some of his minor characters, and his new characters weren't just thrown in as a means to an end. Percy's new stepfather is one of the characters I hadn't expected to see again, yet there he was, fighting at Percy's side, showing a side of himself I don't think anyone foresaw.

Riordan also developed his story even further. He didn't just tie up the loose ends and then begin the conclusion. Percy and Nico have their own adventure in the Underworld, before the final battle begins. One that created a whole new aspect to the story, and I was hoping it would be further developed at the end of the book--another reason I think there might be another book or even a new series. (I love Nico, and I think a series about the child of Hades would be so cool and would lead to new adventures.)

The climax and conclusion were also entirely satisfying. **Spoiler Alert** I am so happy that Percy and Rachel Dare didn't end up together. I really didn't like Rachel, and Riordan put Rachel in the perfect role at the end of the book, so that there'd be no one in the way of the Percy & Annabeth relationship. Yay!**** With new monsters and new twists, Riordan kept your attention throughout the book, especially during the battle. And that final battle in Manhattan.... wow! Detailed, gripping, and intense, the battle was by far the best part of the book.

The only bad thing about this book is that it ended, and it's the finish (supposedly) of a great fantasy series. A+

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Title: Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married
Author: Marian Keyes
Format: Paperback
Pages: 640
Genre: Chick lit
Date Started: July 5, 2009
Date Finished: July 6, 2009

Rating: C

Description (book annotation): What happens when a psychic tells Lucy that she'll be getting married within the year? Her roommates panic! What is going to happen to their blissful existence of eating take-out, drinking too much wine, bringing men home, and never vacuuming?

Lucy reassures her friends that she's far too busy arguing with her mother and taking care of her irresponsible father to get married. And then there's the small matter of not even having a boyfriend.

But then Lucy meets gorgeous, unreliable Gus. Could he be the future Mr. Lucy Sullivan? Or could it be handsome Chuck? Or Daniel, the world's biggest flirt? Or even cute Jed, the new guy at work?

Maybe her friends have something to worry about after all...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

One critic said of this book, "Thoroughly enchanting...Keyes crafts virtually every sentence of this very charming novel into an art form of high hilarity."

That critic... lied. I like Marian Keyes' books; Sushi For Beginners is my favorite (although that could simply be due to the fact that one of the main characters has my name, and my name is pretty rare outside of Ireland). But this book wasn't one of her best.

  • Her characters were all cliched. The fat friend was eccentric and weird and obsessed with her weight. The Australian was outdoorsy and adventurous. The blonde roomie was a dumb bimbo. The Scottish roomie was money-hungry and controlling with a nasty temper. The Irishmen were all alcoholics. And her gay friend... well, just take every stereotype you've ever heard concerning homosexual men, throw them all together, and there's her token gay character. The main love interest, Daniel, was also cliched... Bad boy sowing his wild oats finally realizes he doesn't want to party anymore because he's actually in love with the girl he's been friends with but never sexually attracted to all these years (it's funny, but I could have sworn I saw a movie about that recently.... something with Patrick Dempsey...hmmm...). Luckily, Daniel was kept from being too stereotyped, because instead of going to his friend and confessing his passionate love for her, he goes out with her roommate. I also was slightly more forgiving of Keyes' unoriginal male lead because the only good dialogue in the book happened between Lucy and Daniel.
  • I just could not sympathize with Lucy. She whined and complained... a lot. Non-stop. Beginning, middle, and end. Her character was selfish, shallow, and stupid. Very stupid. I felt no pity for her when her boyfriend broke up with her a second time. She was stupid to take him back after he abandoned her (literally) the first time. And perhaps.... perhaps... I could have liked her better if she had resolved her issues sooner. Instead, she wallowed in self-pity and guilt. Why are Marian Keyes female leads always chronically depressed?
  • A huge chunk of the dialogue throughout the book irritated me. Many of the conversations took place when the characters were drunk or high (which was most of the time- also irritating), and I'm guessing that Keyes thought she'd made their dialogue interesting and funny. It was just annoying, and I kept mentally picturing myself throwing a bucket of ice water on top of all of them to make them shut up and sober up. Pages and pages of nonsense and slurring speech gets old... fast.
  • You could have seen the ending coming from a hundred miles away. I pretty much figured out exactly what was going to happen by the first couple of chapters. The rest of the book was just filler between points A and B.
Considering all of this, the book probably deserves a lower grade than a C. But the dialogue between Daniel and Lucy held my interest, to the point that I just wanted to flip to the scenes of them talking to each other and read nothing else. Their interactions were great to read, and I just loved Daniel, despite his stereotypical persona. Thanks to him, the book gets a boost up the grading scale. C

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Another Library Run

After finishing The Warrior Heir, I ran to the library (not my town's, but the next town over's) and borrowed the next two books.
  • The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
  • The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
I can't wait to start reading them, but I have to because my sister has to read them first. She leaves for camp next Monday, so it won't be too long before I get to read them. Excited!

Just For Fun

Monday, June 29, 2009

Right under your nose

Title: The Warrior Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 432
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 1 of 3
Date Started: June 27, 2009
Date Finished: June 28, 2009

Rating: A+

Description (from B&N): Before he knew about the Roses, 16-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high-schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts. Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: He is Weirlind; part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At the head of this magical society sit the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game a magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death. The winning house rules the Weir. As if his bizarre magical heritage isn’t enough, Jack finds out that he’s not just another member of Weirlind he’s one of the last of the warriors at a time when both houses are scouting for a player. Jack’s performance on the soccer field has alerted the entire magical community to the fact that he’s in Trinity. And until one of the houses is declared Jack’s official sponsor, they’ll stop at nothing to get Jack to fight for them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Imagine you've just discovered that you possess magic powers. What would your first reaction be? Fear? Excitement? Disbelief? Acceptance? Cinda Williams Chima does a magnificent job in her debut novel at portraying the emotions of a confused teenager who's just learned he's a magical being and that he's marked for death. Jack is convincing as the average high-schooler literally thrown into a war between two wizarding factions. You feel his disbelief, his wonder, and his pain. His two best friends, Will & Fitch, are also believable and likable. Fitch is probably my favorite character.

I love stories about societies and worlds and powers that are hidden in the everyday life and setting of Earth. It's just fun to imagine the possibilities. Stories like this, and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, instead of creating entirely new worlds that require ample explanation and description, use the backdrop of the world live in so there's less time spent on making the setting real, and more time spent on weaving a complex and exciting story.

This story didn't fail to entertain or surprise. While my sister did say that some of the ending was a bit cliched, there were plenty of twists that neither one of us was expecting. Well-written, gripping, and fun, Warrior Heir was a too-exciting-to-put-it-down book, and I can't wait to read the next two books. A+

Disappointing, to say the least

Title: The Dragon Princess
Author: E.D. Baker
Format: Harcover
Pages: 224
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 6 of 6
Date Started: June 27, 2009
Date Finished: June 27, 2009

Rating: C

Description (from B&N): Meet Millie, the charming but somewhat cursed daughter of Princess Emma and Prince Eadric. Why cursed? You see, every time Millie gets mad (and she gets mad a little too often) she turns into a dragon. And not a cute little pink dragon either. She is a full-on, green-scaled, huge-winged, fire-breathing dragon. Enough to scare the petticoats off her own friends, family…and of course, potential suitors who come to see about her hand in marriage.

It’s embarrassing…even maddening, that this has to happen, but no one seems to have any answers for her…until she hears about a witch in the far reaches of the Frozen North, a witch guarded by a frightening brigade of polar bears, bears who have no interest in helping a princess in distress...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All I can say about this book is that it was a big disappointment. I've loved most of the books in this series, even when Baker's choppy writing style bugged me. But this book annoyed me for completely different reasons.

  1. The story was boring... it got exciting at some points, but for the most part, there wasn't a lot of action. The story just didn't seem to flow and to move. It just kind of jumped from one point to another without any transitions. And the characters weren't as easy to connect with as Emma and Eadric had been, especially since they didn't seem to connect with each other. They just weren't developed at all. The author kept repeating physical traits in order to make the characters more real, but it only annoyed me. I must have read the same description of Millie's friend Zoe over and over again. And her cousin had even less description, if that's even possible. It was also boring because for the most part, it lacked the humor and the fun that made the other books so enjoyable.
  2. It felt like half the book was just recapping everything that happened in the last 5 books. I understand that it's important for your readers to remember what happened in a previous story in order for some things to make sense. That doesn't mean you have to practically retell the other 5 books throughout the 6th book. A big problem that series writers have is that they can't write their books so that one could stand on its own if someone accidentally read the series out of order. I love Chris Paolini and Cornelia Funke because they just throw a quick summary of the earlier books in the beginning of their later books so if you need a reminder or if you've never read the other books, you can still understand most of what's happening without having to endure recap after recap. And the recaps wouldn't have been so bad if Baker hadn't used the same two plot devices over and over again to include them.
  3. The book was a lot shorter than it should have been. When you consider how much of the story was made up of recapping the past, Millie's story should have been longer to make up for it. And to end the story before she makes it back home and has to face her parents and grandparents was even more maddening.
  4. Personal issue: I miss Emma & Eadric. They were such great characters, and I wish I could have read about their adventures with the sea monsters, instead of their daughter's rather uninteresting adventure to control her temper.
Only two redeeming qualities for this book-- Audun, the frost dragon, and the Blue Witch. They pretty much saved this book. Otherwise, I wouldn't read this book again unless I was rereading the series. C

The Second Dragon War

Title: Dragon Flight
Author: Jessica Day George
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 2 of 3
Date Started: June 27, 2009
Date Finished: June 27, 2009

Rating: A

Description (from B&N): With the Dragon Wars over, Creel finds herself bored with life as a seamstress. Then word comes that a bordering country has been breeding dragons in preparation for an invasion. Never one to sit around, Creel throws herself headlong into an adventure that will reunite her with her dragon friend Shardas, pit her against a vicious new enemy and perhaps rekindle a friendship with Prince Luka that seems to have gone cold.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First of all, I disagree with the synopsis. Her relationship with Luka has not "gone cold," so don't be misled by that little tidbit. And now on to the review of the book.

This book was a great follow-up to Dragon Slippers. All of the great main characters in the last book came together again for a whole new adventure, along with a few new characters. I loved that Marta played a much bigger role in this book, and her character was fleshed out more. She was one of my favorite characters in the first book, and it disappointed me that she played such a secondary role. But in Dragon Flight, Marta and Creel were the primary characters, instead of Creel and Luka. There were also some great new dragons, and new romances as well.

The story had a great plot, and the ending (at least the dragons' part of the ending) was completely unexpected. Creel, Luka, and Marta's ending in the book was expected, but very sweet all the same. This was a great read for a Saturday afternoon, and I look forward to the final book in the trilogy. A

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Miniseries rock!!

Title: Tin Man
Format: DVD/Miniseries
Rating: A-

I am officially hooked on miniseries! Pride & Prejudice, The 10th Kingdom, Lost in Austen, and now Tin Man. I can't wait to see what's next!

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Produced for the Sci-Fi Channel, this twisted variation on L. Frank Baum's classic tale follows a young girl named D.G. and her newfound friends as they embark on a wondrous adventure through the Outer Zone (O.Z.) on a mission to locate a powerful wizard known as the Mystic Man, and break the spell of the wicked sorceress Azkadellia. An ordinary girl suddenly thrust into an extraordinary world, D.G. arrives on the Outer Zone prepared to follow the fabled Old Road and fulfill her destiny. When D.G. discovers that the evil Azkadellia has cast an oppressive spell over the Outer Zone, she enlists the aid of half-brained eccentric Glitch, kindly-but-cowardly beast Raw, and heartbroken former lawman Cain in seeking out the wisdom of the fabled Mystic Man who lives at the end of the Old Road. With the future of the Outer Zone hanging in the balance, this adventurous group ventures down a perilous road that will find them doing battle with nightmarish flying monkey bats and Azkadellia's malevolent henchmen as they attempt to break a spell with the power to destroy them all. Perhaps before their journey is over, D.G. and her new friends will discover a few things that they never even knew about themselves as well.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First, I must say Thank You to my coworker Lori for lending this to me! This miniseries was awesome! Complex characters, a great story, plot twists, and a beautiful setting. It was so good, that as soon as I finished it, I watched it again with my sister (who also loved it).

Some fun quotes:

Glitch: Even with half a brain, I can tell we gotta get out of here.

Azkadellia: Well if it isn't the great and terrible blah blah blah himself.

Cain: You know, sometimes it amazes me that you were once an adviser to the queen.
Glitch: I know, me too!

Glitch: I actually don't like heights.
DG: When I first met you, you were hanging from a ceiling.

Zooey Deschanel is perfect as the wide-eyed heroine, thrust into a strange world that seems oddly familiar to her, trying to save this world while also trying to figure out who she is. I loved her reactions to everything going on around her and her interactions with the other characters. I was a little disappointed with the lack of romance, but the series is so exciting, I didn't feel like it was missing anything important.

Her fellow adventurers are also great. Alan Cumming as the "scarecrow" character Glitch is hilarious. He actually reminds me of Dug, from Disney-Pixar's Up. And Neal McDonough as the Tin Man... amazing! By far, he is my favorite character. His storyline within the movie was just as exciting as DG's, and I could have watched this movie if it was all just about him.

The story's main adversary, Azkedellia, was the perfect combination of evil and cunning. Her facial expressions and the way she talked just exuded maliciousness. I loved the series' portrayal of the flying monkeys as well.

I think the best part of the film was seeing how the SciFi channel interpreted the story of the Wizard of Oz. Modern touches, like contemporary clothing and complex machines, and new interpretations, such as the Tin Man being a human cop (which is why he's called a tin man) and the scarecrow being a human too, only he's actually missing half of his brain-- these new additions mixed in with the old magic of the original story made this a thrilling adventure to take part in.

My complaint is the same as most of my others. Please edit out the one or two scenes that make it impossible for me to share this with the whole family. Otherwise, it's perfect. A-

My first C!

Title: Chasing Harry Winston
Author: Lauren Weisberger
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
Genre: Chick Lit
Date Started: June 14, 2009
Date Finished: June 17, 2009

Rating: C-/D+

Description (from Barnes & Noble):
Emmy is newly single, and not by choice. She was this close to the ring and the baby she's wanted her whole life when her boyfriend left her for his twenty-three-year-old personal trainer — whose fees are paid by Emmy. With her plans for the perfect white wedding in the trash, Emmy is now ordering takeout for one. Her friends insist an around-the-world sex-fueled adventure will solve all her problems — could they be right?
Leigh, a young star in the publishing business, is within striking distance of landing her dream job as senior editor and marrying her dream guy. And to top it all off, she has just purchased her dream apartment. Only when Leigh begins to edit the enfant terrible of the literary world, the brilliant and brooding Jesse Chapman, does she start to notice some cracks in her perfect life...
Adriana is the drop-dead-gorgeous daughter of a famous supermodel. She possesses the kind of feminine wiles made only in Brazil, and she never hesitates to use them. But she's about to turn thirty and — as her mother keeps reminding her — she won't have her pick of the men forever. Everyone knows beauty is ephemeral and there's always someone younger and prettier right around the corner. Suddenly she's wondering...does Mother know best?
These three very different girls have been best friends for a decade in the greatest city on earth. As they near thirty, they're looking toward their future...but despite all they've earned —first-class travel, career promotions, invites to all the right parties, and luxuries small and large — they're not quite sure they like what they see...
One Saturday night at the Waverly Inn, Adriana and Emmy make a pact: within a single year, each will drastically change her life. Leigh watches from the sidelines, not making any promises, but she'll soon discover she has the most to lose. Their friendship is forever, but everything else is on the table. Three best friends. Two resolutions. One year to pull it off.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A very long but intriguing description for a very mediocre book. I should have known that this book would not be much better than The Devil Wears Prada. But I read it anyway after a fellow blogger, who also didn't like DWP, wrote that this book was a huge improvement. I respectfully disagree. Weisberger's main characters, in both books, are selfish, immoral, and pathetic. I think this is why I tend to avoid chick lit. (Plus I don't like romace smut, but it's usually toned-down and less frequent in chick lit than in romance novels.)

I really didn't connect with any of the characters. The entire book was them whining. "My boyfriend dumped me." "My fiance is smothering me." "He won't sleep with me." "He doesn't love me." "I don't love him." "I don't want to be monogamous." "I have to edit this jerk's book." "My parents are so annoying." "My fiance is perfect, my life is perfect... and I hate it."


And by the end of the book, have any of them solved any of their problems? No.

In the end, there is a possibility, a hint that Emmy will be happy. Adriana's still a slut, but she's got a job, so that must make everything okay. Leigh's dumped her perfect life to have an affair, and that makes her happy. The moral of the story seems to be "If it makes you happy, do it, even if it is morally or ethically wrong."

The only thing that saved this book was a few of the secondary characters. Emmy's sister and brother-in-law are wonderful people who have discovered happiness in marriage and successful, if stressful, careers. I wish I'd gotten to read more of their storyline, rather than Emmy's. I also loved Leigh's fiance. That girl was so stupid to not be in love with him. And I adored the parrot. The parrot steals all the scenes it's in.

Overall, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone; I won't reread it (it's going on Paperbackswap.com today); but I can't say that I completely hated it, thanks to the secondary characters. So... C-/D+

Library Run

Three new books from the library!!
  • Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George
  • Dragon Princess by E.D. Baker
  • Warrior Heir by Cinda Willams Chima
I wish my town's library was bigger and had more of a selection. All three of these books had to be ordered from other libraries. Our library would fit into the children's section of my cousin's library.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sewing Stained Glass Windows

Title: Dragon Slippers
Author: Jessica Day George
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 1 of 3
Date Started: June 14, 2009
Date Finished: June 14, 2009

Rating: A

Description (from Barnes & Noble): When an orphan girl named Creel befriends a dragon, she unknowingly inherits a pair of slippers that could be used to save her kingdom, or destroy it. Perfect for fans of Shannon Hale and Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider, the light tone and charming characterizations bring this heartwarming fantasy to life. Older middle grade readers and young teens alike will appreciate the adventure, fun, and dragon-drenched action!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Really short review today, because writer's block is a terrible affliction.

I love fantasy (obviously), but I really love dragons, and I love stories about dragons, which means I'm very biased towards any book that includes even a single dragon in it. So this book was absolutely perfect for me! The human characters were fun, if somewhat cliched. But the dragons were awesome! I love that the author decided to take the traditional view of dragons as vicious, fire-breathing treasure stealers amd completely throw it out the window. She even mentions the stereotype in the book, and it was great that she made her dragons her own.

So if you're into fantasy or dragons, read this book. A

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Title: Up
Format: Drive-In Theater
Rating: A+

Pixar has done it again!

Description (from official movie website): From Disney-Pixar comes Up, a comedy adventure about 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. Disney-Pixar's Up invites you on a hilarious journey into a lost world, with the least likely duo on Earth.

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I don't want to give anything away, because this movie is still out in theaters, so I'll avoid discussing the plot. All I will say is that it was a great concept that was fun and exciting and silly. A Disney-Pixar masterpiece.

I saw this on Saturday too, the other half of the double feature at Warwick Drive-In. This was the movie that brought in the crowds that night. And now I understand why.

The characters of Up seem so real, so true to reality that you can't help connecting with them on a personal level. After watching Carl's married-life sequence in the beginning of the movie (which, I'll admit it, I cried during), you feel as if you know everything about him. You can understand why he reacts certain ways. And Russell is your average 8-year-old Boy Scout- curious, silly, completely lacking in tact, but equipped with a heart of gold that just wants to help his friends.

And then there's Dug. Dug is the best part of the whole movie. The best! The idea of giving dogs specialized collars so we can understand what they're really saying when they speak could have been a mistake, if they had made the dogs too intelligent and completely coherent. Anyone who has a dog knows that the voice coming out of that collar needed to be gullible, loving, and suffering from a severe form of A.D.H.D. Dug definitely embodies all of those, and I just couldn't help loving him.

Some totally awesome quotes:

Dug: "My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you."
Carl: "Wha..."
Dug: "My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may speak. Squirrel!!........... My master is good and smart."

Carl: "Do you want to play a game? It's called See Who Can Go the Longest Without Saying Anything."
Russell: "Cool! My mom loves that game!"

Carl: "What a joke."
Dug: "Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, 'I forgot to gather acorns for the winter and now I am dead.' Ha ha! It's funny because the squirrel gets dead."

I would recommend this movie to... everyone! A+