Monday, November 28, 2011

Movie Madness: Guest Review for J. Edgar

I’m super excited. This will be the first guest post on this blog! I let some friends and family know I’d like to get their thoughts on the books they’ve been reading and movies they’ve been watching. And really, you don't want just my opinion, now, do you?

I received the first one from my awesome mom-in-law, Laura. So, sit back, read and enjoy her review of J. Edgar!:

This is my first movie critique but I’m inspired by Sarah to share some thoughts after watching J. Edgar last weekend. My partner Carol and I were looking forward to seeing it. Leonardo DiCaprio. Clint Eastwood directing. We don’t go to the movies often but we didn’t think we could go wrong with this one, and we even sprang for hot dogs, popcorn and soda to do it right, the cost be damned.

Bottom line, we felt like we got our money’s worth.

I can’t exactly explain what we were expecting, but looking back at other Eastwood-directed pictures I should have maybe been more prepared for the overwhelming character analysis that was the main thrust of the picture. The social and cultural changes that occurred during Hoover’s reign as Director of the FBI from 1924 to 1972 were enormous. That was entertaining backdrop for the characters’ choices as they progressed in their careers, and we got a bit of a history lesson along the way. Every so often Carol and I would turn to each other and mouth “I didn’t know that happened then.”

If you’ve read anything about this movie, you probably already know that it “outs” J. Edgar and his male assistant/companion. Their relationship and the relationship of J. Edgar and his loyal secretary, and his relationship with his mother who was very involved in his life were shown in context with his public, professional role as the man who almost single-handedly built the FBI into a powerful organization with the ability to not only catch the bad guys but also sway the political decisions of Presidents.

When I left the theater, I felt like I’d just seen a beautifully performed live play, and I would actually like to see the movie again with that frame of mind going in. This is not a movie with a lot of special effects and some scenes could even be considered a bit naïve in their production … if we judge it against the many movies made today with both casual and calculated special effects to sweep us along the plot of the story, if there even is one.

There were, of course, major makeup effects to age Leonardo and supporting characters, but again I had the feeling that this was the stuff of a live stage performance and for me it enhanced the sense of understanding that this film was not just about a different time, it was about a different way of living. However, it’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun, so it’s still possible to relate to many of the characters’ challenges and quests.

Thank you, Laura!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Storytime With Venessa: Thanksgiving Special

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving. We most certainly did and while I miss our family in California, I’m grateful to enjoy a day with my husband and daughter. And with that I present a Storytime With Venessa video!

Last week I wrote she got a Magic Tree House book, #29 Christmas in Camelot by Mary Pope Osborne, from the school book fair. And she’s already on her second read! Plus, she’s been reading on her own! I’m so proud. In the video Venessa will read a couple of pages and we’ll talk about the story a bit.

FYI: I haven’t read this story so I really don't know what it's about. Like I said she’s been reading on her own. Also, we had some technical difficulties during “filming”. We lost power for two seconds in the house and then the batteries in the Flip video died. Oh well, enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Movie Madness: Immortals and Breaking Dawn Part 1

I got to enjoy a four day weekend and with that I saw two movies. I saw Immortals with my husband on Thursday for my birthday and then on Sunday, I saw Breaking Dawn Part 1 with my friend, Caz. So the verdict (and FYI there will be spoilers):


The Good – Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff (sidekicks are always fun) and some OK fight scenes.

The Bad – Theseus (really, this is the new Superman?) was dull and I totally did not buy him trying to fire up an army to fight. You couldn’t tell the gods apart other than Zeus, but only because he was mentioned by name, as well as Athena, who, again, was mentioned by name. I did recognize Poseidon but only because I’ve read The Lighting Thief and know Poseidon carries a trident. Otherwise, who the hell were the other gods there fighting the Titans? Oh, and there weren’t enough abs and we saw this in 3D and didn’t care for it. It looked blurry and dull. Boo.

Breaking Dawn Part 1

The Good – I LOL through the whole movie.

The Bad – The movie. But of course I was expecting that since I did read the book. And I’m really disturbed by the fact that I remembered that damn styrofoam cup and straw Bella drinks her blood from and that she was eating fried chicken when she got sick and discovered she was pregnant with the demon spawn. Seriously, in a house of blood suckers who hunt wild animals for blood, they have a cup and straw readily available? It was probably mentioned in the book where it came from but who cares. And I mean, really? The first thing that comes to mind after getting sick after eating undercooked chicken is you’re pregnant? And that’s not all but I really don’t want to get into it. And since I did read the book I know I will not be seeing Part 2 only because a whole lot of nothing happens so why bother. At least in part one we got to watch Bella turn into Gollum (Caz's description that was very appropriate) and were totally grossed out with Jacob imprinting with Renesmee (worst. name. ever.).

So not the greatest of movies but I did have a good time so that’s what counts! The last movie I saw in the theatre was Fright Night so it was good to get out and catch up with what’s out there and now it’s got me in the mood to see more movies. The new Sherlock Holmes is coming so I’m totally looking forward to that (LOVE Robert Downey Jr.!) as well as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (haven’t read the book yet but not sure if I will bother before the movie) and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (but only for Jeremy Renner. Tom Cruise, Boo.).

Soooo… anyone else see any good movies this weekend and what new ones are you looking forward to?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What’s Happening, Hot Stuff?

Oh, not much. Just chillin, hangin out with my husband and daughter. You know, the usual on my birthday, no big deal.

But what is a big deal! B-day presents in the form of a DVD and books!

Yes, that’s the John Lithgow book and yes, that’s HP 7.2, the movie that this blog started with and a great illustrated book of the Heroes of the Round Table. These wonderful gifts were from my sister, dad, mom-in-law and Carol (Thanks, guys!).

Other happenings this week:

1. A visit to the Scholastic Book Fair at my daughter’s school produced a purchase of two books. A chapter book for V (Magic Tree House #29 Christmas in Camelot and she’s on chapter 11!) and THE GIRL WHO COULD FLY (for V as well, obviously).

2. And because Simon and Schuster and Book Riot are awesome I got an advanced reader copy of Carry The One.

3. Nanowrimo is still happening and I’m at 27,337 words so far. I’m really enjoying the process and I’ve found I’m more inspired when I wake up early to write during the week. The weekend not so much. But it’s the half way point and so far so good! Let’s GIT-R-DONE!

Now off to enjoy Harry Potter 7.2 and some Birthday cake!

Monday, November 14, 2011


“Beauty is in the smize of the beholder.”

Yes, that’s an actual quote. And yes, Modelland by Tyra Banks, is an actual book. With pages. And no, it’s not written in red lipstick (Though that would have been awesome!).

Modelland is a mystical place where only the truly exception girls go to become one of seven Intoxibellas, the super-est (Hey, if Tyra can make up words, so can I!) of super models. Each year seven new Intoxibellas are chosen and released into the world to work their magic to entice you to buy everything from makeup, clothes, cars, and everything in between. And once it’s out with the old, then it’s in with the new as more girls are chosen to start the whole thing over again.

We begin with poor Tookie De La Crème (yes, that’s her name). A Forgetta-Girl (yes, it’s a word. Tyra said so!) who has been ignored by her family and classmates for as long as she can remember. Her parents dote on her little sister, Myrracle (yes, that’s her name) but when Tookie is chosen for Modelland, despite her parent’s best efforts to send Myrracle, it’s an opportunity for Tookie to finally shine. With four new best friends and a frightening mentor named, Ci~L (yes, that’s her name), Tookie will discover the horrors that await her in Modelland but strangely finds in it a new home where she feels she truly belongs.

Well, if you haven’t guessed already, Modelland is a strange, strange book. It’s silly, ridiculous, silly, non-sensical, silly… Tyra can tell a story but I think there is definitely room for improvement and editing next time. There would be times when I would think, “Wow, Tyra, I think you have something here.” Then she goes and throws in Guru Applaussez, who has a hand head, which she whips back and forth between her left and right hand to applause. Get it? Yeah.

As a long time viewer of America’s Next Top Model you can see where Tyra got her inspiration and I also know not take this book seriously. Have you not seen ANTM? Have you seen the challenges those girls go through? Modeling with tarantulas, walking along floating runways over water, posing as gargoyles or circus freaks or underwater, Cover Girl commercials from hell…

This was like watching a mystical, highly stylized version of America’s Next Top Model. It was all so melodramatic and I could totally hear Tyra’s voice as I read. Including. Her. Famous. Pauses. I’m stuck in between thinking this book is horrible and it’s so bad it’s good! But damn, were there some quotes:

Feed me an entire grilled cow, now!

Oh dahling, I can feel the burn now. But you know what they say… no pain, no removal of funk stain.

What’s up, Hot Queen?

The Pilgrim Plague, however, is terminal, dahling. And I am not referring to an airline departure lounge.


The boobies high and tight on me. My knobbies pert and firm, agree. But forever young they will not be. No bra, they’ll sag with grav-i-tee!

Why is it bitter bitches have the worst halitosis? (We need a scientific experiment to find out if this is true!)

Oh and THIS PART had me DYING:

Bravo put his hand on the side of Tookie’s face. The warmth from it felt like sweet tea pouring into her mouth. He whispered straight into her ear, his lips brushing against her earlobe.

“I really like this, Tookie. It feels… right. I know I have to get out of here before you get in trouble, but… I don’t’ want to leave.”

His words felt like maple syrup coursing through her veins. “And I don’t want you to,” she replied. “You make me feel…” A single tear fell from her brown eye. “… like… like a … Rememba-Girl.”

Are you swooning from all the talk of sweet tea pouring into her mouth and maple syrup coursing through her veins? Yeah, neither was I. And look! Another word Tyra made up: Rememba-Girl!

So yeah, I don’t know what else to say. This is the first of a planned trilogy. Should I be excited or scared? And Tyra even threatened a movie. Uh sure, you do that, Tyra.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Zombies vs. The Trinity Killer vs. The other half of Good Omens

Sooooooooooooo Barnes and Nobles was giving out 50% off coupons over the weekend……

Aaaaannnnnddddd of course I had to take advantage of it. But I wasn't about to use it on a $6.99 paperback. I was going for the big leagues this time: an expensive, recently released hard cover. I scanned my wish list on both Good Reads and Amazon and went in to B&N with a mental list. After some browsing and thumbing through the ones I had in mind, it came down to these three choices:

Zombies vs. The Trinity Killer vs. The other half of Good Omens

Seriously, this was the hardest decision EVER!

I had to give it some serious thought. First I read through three pages of each book.

Well, hell, that didn’t help!

I then had to remind myself that I do have a hold for Zone One at the library and might actually get it within the next two weeks. So that took it out of the running.

That left the Trinity Killer and the other half of Good Omens.

Once again, another tough choice! Especially when I imagine reading John Lithgow’s book and hearing his voice in my head, BUT only read like this (3:35 to be exact). And seriously, I practically grew up with John Lithgow. He was there in Footloose and Harry and the Hendersons when I was a kid. Then, in my late teens/early twenties he was there in 3rd Rock from the Sun. And not too long ago he was the best thing on Dexter since… well, I don’t know he was just THE BEST. So creepy and terrible and such a match for Dexter!

I haven’t read any Terry Pratchett, but for Good Omens, which he wrote with Neil Gaiman. Neil has been getting a lot of attention from me lately, having finished Fragile Things, and I’ve read Anansi Boys and American Gods. So it wasn’t really fair to leave Terry out. I’ve read good reviews for the Discworld series and when I read Neil and Terry's comments on the writing process of Good Omens, well it was really inspiring! Plus the cover was more interesting and colorful. And after a quick text message to my sister for her opinion the winner is……

Now I just need to finish reading Jabberwocky. And Captain Blood (yes, again). And The King's Gold. So many good books! My life. Is. Awesome.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Showing Some Book Cover Love

I took Venessa to Barnes and Nobles one Saturday for storytime. As she sat with the other kids listening to stories and then playing with the train set they have set up, I wandered through the shelves of the Children’s section. It seems the kids get some of the best covers for books! Look at some of these:

This is so lovely! Jack and Hazel are best friends but when they turn eleven, Jack begins to drift away. But his best friend believes that something more sinister is at work. This sounds like a good one to read with Venessa.

This looks like so much fun! It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book and I LOVED those as a kid! It's based on real facts about mountain climbing and Mount Everest. This is another one I think Venessa and I would have a good time reading together.

This cover just jumped out at me. Look at that determined look on her face! It has such a muted color palette but it really stands out. And the story sounds like a Tiny X-Men: The Elementary School Years!

This looks like a movie poster to me and I think it did its job. It really drew me in and sounds like a fun story to read with Venessa too. I want to know where these kids are going and if I can go with them! B&N, put this book at the top of the shelf! It shouldn't be hiding at the bottom. Shame on you!

These were just too pretty to not take a picture of and I’ve read great reviews for all three.

To me it’s not so much the cover but that I’ve been seeing this book around a lot and it's tempting me. I read The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters and really enjoyed them. Do not be surprised if I pick this one up for myself, even though I haven't read Book One. Gah, book series! So many to keep up with!

This one is just too darn cute! Little mice at sea! Awwww!

And I know I’ve been wanting a vintage copy of Captain Blood, but I had to see what B&N had available:

I like the pirates fighting, the title graphic and then there’s an introduction by Bernard Cornwell. I’m just not diggin the pirate pointing the guns at me. Gah, so close yet so far! But I don’t know… that Bernard Cornwell intro just might seal the deal. He’s awesome! Have you ever read any of the Richard Sharpe books? They’re full of action, adventure and excitement. I’m almost willing to put up with the funny looking pirate but ugh, the mustache.

I don't remember him having a mustache and I'm in the middle of my second reading of Captain Blood and so far they have not said anything about him having one. This bothers me. If he does not have a mustache, then why put a character, that is obviously meant to be Captain Blood, on the cover with a mustache? Someone has not read the book and this is annoying. A book cover should reflect the story inside. Not what a graphic artist presumes it's about.

I just really, really hate mustaches.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One Challenge Down, Another Takes It’s Place

So about two months ago I committed to the RIP Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

I committed to two challenges: Peril the Third with House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski and Peril of the Short Story with At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft. I completed both, reviews which can be found here and here. And of course there was the group reading of Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman.

I've mentioned before I don't normally participate in challenges but I'm glad I did. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed reading the reviews of others who participated. And even though House of Leaves and At the Mountains of Madness were both challenging in their own ways, they were worth reading. And I really really enjoyed discussing the short stories from Fragile Things. I hope others who participated in the challenge had as good a time as I did. And I hope you readers enjoyed reading some of my thoughts on the book and short story I reviewed for the challenge.

This is my favorite time of year. The air is cool, I can wrap up in my quilt and really enjoy a cup of hot coffee and now that I'm done with one challenge, I’m ready for the next, which will be....


What is Nanowrimo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month! And I’m going to commit to it this year!

The Goal: Write a novel - 50,000 words - in one month!

For the last 2-3 years I’ve flirted with it but never got anywhere. But I believe this year is different!

I have a story that’s been kicking around in my head and I’ve been prepping it for a few months now. I have character profiles, an outline, a beginning, middle and end. So I have something to get started with. And I’m used to writing daily now. I’ve been working on my blog for about four months. And every morning, I’ve been writing three pages of something, anything, as long as I write three pages worth. So I’m used to having a writing schedule. And there’s a local Nanowrimo group who will be meeting up throughout the challenge. Plus, a coworker has signed up and a friend in Oklahoma is a pro so I’m encouraged by them.

I can do this. I just need to quit being so flaky. It’s only 50,000 words in one month. 1666 words a day. Every day. For thirty days straight… No, I will not be discouraged. I’m doing this!