Monday, June 29, 2009

Another Award!!!

This blog invests and believes in the Proximity - nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award.
What a fantastic award. This time I have Sassy Brit to thank for her kindness. Thank-you for reading this blog and for passing on this award. And thank-you to all the readers of this blog!
My eight chosen winners of this award are:
Please check out these great blogs. I follow many more fantastic blogs and hopefully will be able to pass awards on to them in the future! With all of this good luck lately, maybe I should buy a lottery ticket! :-)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Actually Won Something!

I won a fabulous giveaway from Jo-Jo's Book Blog and I am very excited! I'm not very lucky so I am very excited to have won something, especially when it is my favorite thing, books!! I am like a kid in the candy store every day now when the boys and I check the mail hoping that the books have arrived. I can't wait for them to get here!! Thanks again Jo-Jo and Hachette Book Group.

Lovely Blog Award

Thanks a lot to Danielle from the Book Blogger for nominating my blog for the One Lovely Blog Award! Make sure to visit her fantastic blog!

This award is given to new blogs and blogging friends. The rules to follow are:

1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I move slow so I don't have 15 blogs that I have newly discovered. Here are a few that I have recently discovered and enjoyed. . .

1. Historically Obsessed
2. Lost in Books
3. Stephanie's Written Word

Check them out! Thanks again Danielle!!

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (audio)

The Woman in White is a very engaging Victorian mystery by Wilkie Collins. I listened to an audio version dramatized by Beverley Cooper and was hooked. I wanted to listen to it constantly to find out what happened. Good thing I was able to make it to my meeting today instead of sitting in the car trying to finish the book.

The novel starts with a bang when Walter Hartright is on his way to his new commission as an art teacher when he runs into a mysterious woman dressed from head to toe in white. He helps her to escape to London only to find out later that she had in fact just escaped from a lunatic asylum. Walter arrives at his new post at Limmeridge Hall and meets his new students, half-sisters Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie. Laura is a beautiful heiress. Walter and Laura soon fall in love. Unfortunately, Laura is betrothed to another, Sir Percival Glyde. She promised her father on his death bed that she would marry Sir Percival. With misgivings, Laura marries Sir Percival and soon finds out the truth about the mysterious woman in white. I will not say more on the plot except that it is a thrilling read!

I liked the format of the book. It gave the story from multiple sources and view points, which I read that Collins used because of his legal training. This novel is also one of the first detective stories as Walter Hartright tries to solve the mystery of the woman in white and of what happened to Laura Fairlie.

I also loved the forthright Marian Halcombe, the “ugly,” but sharp half-sister of Laura. She is a great character and I found her more interesting than Laura who was slightly one-dimensional. I also liked the feminist aspects of the novel – it really points out the flaws in the laws during Victorian times when it came to women inheriting an estate.

Another interesting note is that as a young man, Collins had his own run in with a mysterious woman in white, who later became his mistress. I read this in the forward to my novel and was intrigued.

Everything Austen Challenge

I just read about the Everything Austen Challenge on Stephanie's Written Word Blog. As readers of this blog know, I am obsessed with everything Austen so this challenge is right up my alley! I'm not one for lists, but here is my list for the next year of Austen. I will probably read, watch, or listen to more than is on this list - but I'll just post that along with the challenge too!

1. Read Pride, Prejudice & Zombies by Sean-Grahm Smith

2. Read Mr. Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange

3. Read The Matters at Mansfield by Carrie Bebris

4. Read Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

5. Watch Sense and Sensibility (1995)

6. Listen to Emma audiobook

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (Audio)

Eat, Pray, Love was the June Lakeshore Moms' Book Club pick. I was really looking forward to reading it after hearing good things on Oprah and elsewhere about this book for the past few years. I was running short on time so I chose to listen to the audio version of this book as read by the author herself, Elizabeth Gilbert.

I wish I could say that I loved this book, but I instead found it to be extremely boring. I think the main problem was that I never connected with the author, Elizabeth Gilbert. Ms. Gilbert had the perfect live: nice house in the suburbs, husband, great job. Yet she finds herself sobbing in the bathroom from unhappiness. She leaves her husband, has an affair with a man named David, and then decides she wants to travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia. She gets a publisher to pay for the trip if she promises to write a book about the trip when she returns.

Off she goes on her trip. In Italy she eats a lot of tasty sounding food and learns to speak Italian. She laments often about David and strangely not her husband. She then goes to India where she talks a lot about her problems praying. This was VERY boring. In Indonesia she has a guru and falls in love with a hot brazilian.

I guess to me, Ms. Gilbert seemed like a rich woman with a different set of problems and values than I have . . .and it wasn't that interesting to read about. I didn't really learn much by reading about her mental problems and problems with praying. I didn't feel much sympathy at all . . . except for her poor husband that she left. Especially after she spends the entire book talking about David and how she wants him back and barely says anything about the man she had married.

At the end of the day, I was confused on why this book gets such glowing reviews and was a best seller. Did anyone enjoy this book more than I did? Sadly our book club was postponed until next month, I want to see what everyone else thought about this book.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

My three-year old son Kile loves any movie that has anything to do with a dog. Over the past few months we have watched movies ranging from Lassie to Firehouse Dog. Kile was very excited to get Beverly Hills Chihuahua from the library last week.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua is the story of a very pampered Chihuahua named Chloe. She is like a spoiled young daughter to her owner Vivian. Vivian goes on vacation to Italy and leaves Chloe in the care of her niece Rachel. Rachel and friends take Chloe on a road trip to Mexico where she is dog-napped by some unsavory types. Chloe befriends a German Shepard named Delgado and together the two try to stay one step ahead of a mean doberman named El Diablo as they try to get Chloe home. Rachel and Vivian's gardener, Sam, search Mexico for Chloe with Sam's Chihuahua, Papi who has a not so secret love for Chloe.

Overall it was a cute movie. Kile was riveted by the movie and couldn't wait to find out what happened next. He wasn't scared by the movie, although some deleted scenes that we watched were a bit scary. Ben on the other hand slept through most of the movie and said he now realizes why his dad also used to sleep during kid movies. I enjoyed it. It was a good movie for kids.
One last question though - why is Papi the center of the movie poster with Chloe (who was the star) to the side? I want to know!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

I luckily reserved this book at the library a few months ago and was among the first readers to get a copy. Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is one of my favorite books, so I was very excited read See’s latest novel.

Shanghai Girls is the story of two sisters that have a special bond throughout their lives. Pearl and May are “beautiful girls” in Shanghai in the 1930’s. Much to their parent’s dismay, they pose together for artists for calendars and advertisements. They live a life of leisure in Shanghai’s upper class. When their father loses it all, the girls are forced into arranged marriages with Sam and Vern respectively. When their new husbands leave for America, the girls find a way to trick their new father-in-law and stay behind. Unfortunately for them, shortly thereafter the Japanese attack China at the start of WWII and their lives are further changed forever. They eventually make their way to America and their husbands through a perilous journey. In America they face hardships due to racism, poverty, and family troubles. Through it all they discover the worth of family and of their relationship as sisters. They have struggles between the two of them, but at the end of the day, they are still sisters and understand each other better than anyone.

I loved Pearl and May and also loved reading of their struggles through the changing world. The family dynamics and relationships were also intriguing. I loved this book until the ending . . .or rather the lack thereof. I literally turned the page and was surprised to see the book was finished. I quickly looked it up and discovered See is hard at work on a follow-up novel. I think she should have either found a better way to end this book, or just produced a very thick book that had the entire story as one unit. Did anyone else have this problem at the end of this book?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

We watch a lot of childrens movies . . . but I haven't blogged about them for awhile. I've decided I should try to blog about them more to help fellow moms try to pick out movies for their families to watch. Our movie ritual is that once a week, we walk down to the Kewaunee library and Kile gets to look through the kids movies and pick one out. Family friends just gave us an old box of VHS childrens movies so we've been watching them a lot lately instead of going to the library. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa just arrived at the library for us last weekend (we had a hold on it) and Kile was very excited. He really liked Madagascar and both he and Danny loved to dance to "Move It" from the first movie.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa continues the story of Madagascar. Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, and Gloria the Hippo try to take an airplane back to America piloted by the penguins. King Julian joins the crew right before they leave. The plane soon crash lands in Africa on a wildlife preserve when it runs out of fuel. There Alex reunites with his family, Marty discovers that all zebras are just like him, Melman becomes a witch doctor, and Gloria finds love with a fellow hippo. The crew find their share of identity problems and also help the animals on the wildlife perseve get their water back (it had been dammed up offsite).

Kile really enjoyed this movie and especially liked the music. "Move It" was on the movie again and Kile loved it. There were enough jokes in it to keep us parents happy. The movie was rated PG for crude humor, but nothing jumped out at me as being too bad for my three-year old. Note - I was out of the room a couple of times with my 1-year old, but my husband didn't notice anything bad while I was gone. The ending definitely set it up for a third movie - and I'm sure we'll be watching it!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Magnificent Ambersons (2002)

I recently watched The Magnificent Ambersons last week. This 2002 A&E movie was based on Orson Welles’ original screenplay, which in turned was based on Booth Tarkington’s 1919 Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I read the novel for my Milwaukee Book Club a few years ago and loved it. It is number 99 on the Modern Library’s top 100 books. It is on this list as it is a magnificent novel of the change of society at the turn of the century with the invention of the automobile.

George Miniver is the spoiled grandson of the rich ruling Amberson family of a small Midwestern town. He falls in love with Lucy Morgan, the daughter of an automobile inventor. He soon learns that Lucy’s father, Eugene, once had a relationship with his mother in the past and also has future plans for his widowed mother. George does everything he can to prevent this, including sacrificing his own future happiness. It is a truly tragic story.

The movie didn’t give justice to the themes of the novel. I sometimes felt I would have been lost if I wouldn’t have read the novel previously. This movie had a fantastic cast including James Cromwell as Major Amberson, Madeleine Stowe as Isabelle Miniver, and Bruce Greenwood as Eugene Morgan. I have loved Jonathon Rhys Meyer in most of the films I have seen him in, but his performance in this movie is quite terrible. He throws temper tantrums and way overacts in most scenes without showing us any sort of conflict or reason to like his character. Jennifer Tilly is also miscast as Aunt Fanny Miniver.

Sadly, this could have been an excellent film. I just DVR’d the 1942 Orson Welles’ classic. I can’t wait to watch it and compare. I know it’s not Welles’ final cut (the studio took out an additional 40 minutes), but I’m hoping Joseph Cotton gives a good performance as George.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Final Crossing: Murder on the S.S. Badger by Richard L. Baldwin

I recently took a voyage to Michigan to visit my family aboard the S.S. Badger. For those of you not in the Midwest, the Badger is a large coal powered car ferry that you can ride across Lake Michigan. It’s a 4-hour journey and the boat is a lifesaver when you have two small boys and no desire to sit in Chicago traffic. I could go on about the amenities, but suffice it to say that I picked up this novel at the “boutique” and it entertained me during the trip.

Murder on the S.S. Badger had a great and interesting storyline. Peg is a passionate, but eccentric ecology professor at Michigan State University. Her passion for the environment leads her down a path of eco-terrorism as a part of the “Ring of Fire.” After a woman is found dead in Peg’s stateroom on the Badger, Lou Searing is on the case to solve the mystery.

While it was an interesting story, the novel suffered from poor dialogue and major plot holes. Peg and Len’s true love after a couple of hours, etc.

Overall, it was nice to read about so many Michigan and Wisconsin locations. Algoma also figures into the plot line, which was great. My only problem with it though was that the book said Algoma was in Door County!! Algoma is in Kewaunee County! Otherwise Algoma was a great stop with excellent food. I enjoy stories with local touches.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I read MANY good reviews of this novel from Entertainment Weekly to fellow reader’s blogs and beyond; but the concept of the novel kept me wary. The Help is a story written by a white woman about African American maids in the 1960’s in Mississippi . . .something seemed sacrilegious about this entire concept.

I was therefore surprised when I started to read this book and found that I couldn’t put it down. Aibileen is a black maid for a lower middle class white family. Her employer is a 22-year woman named Elizabeth who has two good friends; Hilly and Skeeter. Hilly wants to keep “coloreds” in their place, while Skeeter has other ideas. Aibileen’s sassy friend Minny has troubles keeping a job, although she is a great cook (I want to taste her Carmel cake!). She finds a job with a woman who has a secret of her own. Skeeter decides to write a book about domestics in the South with Aibileen and Minny’s help. This puts them all at great risk.

I can’t believe such a world existed . . . and that it was only 40 years ago!! How could people ever have been treated this way?

While this book was a disturbing look at racism, it was also a great story of a group of very strong women with very interesting self-stories. I really enjoyed this book and think it would perhaps make a good future book club pick!

Carly by Lyn Cote

Carly is the fourth and final novel of the Women of Ivy Manor Saga. Carly is the 17-year old daughter of Leigh. She immediately has problems with her mother when she enlists in the army directly out of high school against the wishes of her family. There is great detail on boot camp, Carly’s assignment as a mechanic stateside, and then involvement in the first Gulf War. I was riveted.

This is a great novel that also rounds up characters from the first three novels and gives them resolution and finalization on their storylines. In fact, the resolutions of the character storylines are quite powerful. Family secrets can tear a family apart, it was wonderful to see the characters sit down and confront each other on past hurts and sorrows.

I’ll admit I worried about Bowie after the fate of the first loves of the past three books. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens. I loved his Southern gentleman charm. I envisioned him like J.T. on the most recent Survivor.

The changes in these women’s lives through time were very interesting. My family timeline was slightly behind this, but I did have a Great-Grandma who was a model in 1920’s Detroit similar to Chloe as a model in 1917 NYC.

Although this book was a great series finale, I found myself wondering what happened to Carly. She is still so young at the end of the book; I want “the rest of the story!” I also would love to read prequels about Lily and the past 300-years of Ivy Manor women.

Bride Wars

Bride Wars is one of those annoying movies where all of the funny parts are shown in the trailer. The trailer ropes you in, but you find that the movie is only a longer version of the trailer without any additional story line or funny bits.

The movie was a slightly entertaining yarn of two best friends played by Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson who have dreamed of a New York wedding at the plaza hotel. The best friends turn into enemies when they both become engaged and through a glitch discover that their weddings have been booked at the plaza at the same date and time.

I love Anne Hathaway and I liked her character and growth in this movie, but didn’t really enjoy the plot of this movie. It seemed strange to me that you could be best friends and then enemies in a turn of a switch. And the whole mix-up seemed strange. How could there be that many openings at the Plaza with only three months until the wedding . . . and then none for two years??

What did you think? Am I being too picky? Why have chick flicks been letting me down so much lately?