Monday, September 28, 2009

Julie's Review: Fault Line

Summary:In Silicon Valley, the eccentric inventor of a new encryption application is murdered in an apparent drug deal. In Istanbul, a cynical undercover operator receives a frantic call from his estranged brother, a patent lawyer who believes he is the next victim. And on the sun-drenched slopes of Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley's nerve center of money and technology, old family hurts sting anew as two brothers who share nothing but blood and bitterness wage a desperate battle against a faceless enemy. Alex Treven has sacrificed everything to achieve his sole ambition: making partner in his high-tech law firm. But then the inventor of a technology Alex is banking on is murdered... and the patent examiner who reviewed it dies... and Alex himself narrowly escapes an attack in his own home. Off balance, out of ideas, and running out of time, he knows the one person who can help him is the last person he'd ever ask: his brother. Ben Treven is a Military Liaison Element, an elite undercover soldier paid to "find, fix, and finish" high-value targets in America's Global War on Terror. Disenchanted with what he sees as America's culture of denial and decadence, Ben lives his detached life in the shadows because the black ops world is all he really knows—and because other than Alex, who he hasn't spoken to since their mother died, his family is long gone.
But blood is thicker than water, and when he receives Alex's frantic call, Ben hurries to San Francisco to help him. Only then does Alex reveal that there's another player who knows of the technology: Sarah Hosseini, a young Iranian-American lawyer who Alex has long secretly desired... and who Ben immediately distrusts. As these three radically different people struggle to identify the forces attempting to silence them, Ben and Alex are forced to examine the events that drove them apart—even as Sarah's presence, and her own secret wants, deepens the fault line between them. A full-throttle thriller that is both emotionally and politically charged, Fault Line centers on a conspiracy that has spun out of the shadows and into the streets of America, a conspiracy that can be stopped only by three people—three people with different worldviews, different grievances, different motives. To survive the forces arrayed against them, they'll first have to survive each other. ~amazon.com

Review: As Jenn said "it's a grabber" but that's a good thing when talking about a book. Fault Line is most definitely a CIA thriller but it has a little of everything. We meet Alex Treven when he's waiting for the most important client of his career to arrive for a meeting. Little does Alex know but we do, that client isn't showing up. This starts Alex on a whirlwind adventure that he really doesn't want to experience. He realizes he's in too deep and can't handle the situation, he contacts the one person he doesn't want to, his big brother Ben. Next we meet Ben while he's on a mission and one that he executes well but not without its mistakes.

There is some serious family baggage between these two and definite some misunderstandings. It's not the family drama that I enjoyed in this book but the CIA/Covert Ops. With Mr. Eisler's background I have a feeling that this book is pretty real. I'm thinking that Conspiracy theorist would love this book. At times, the technology part was over my head but I did get the general gist.

I enjoyed Mr. Eisler's writing style. I liked how we saw Ben change even if it was just a bit. I like how he pretty much called all of us out on our prejudices based on culture/race. I'm sure we've all had the thoughts that Ben did in the book, even when we know they are wrong.

As an American citizen/patriot, I think there are definitely things that the general public shouldn't know. There are things that keep us safe and we are better off not knowing how they are accomplished.

I will most definitely be reading Barry Eisler again. I hope to see both the Treven brother's back in action and wouldn't mind seeing Sarah Hosseini again.

Final Take: 4.25/5

Jenn's Review: Fault Line

Continue reading the review...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Julie's Review: Dune Road

Summary: Dune Road is another fun and fearless adventure that will take Green's many fans from laughter to tears and back again. The novel is set in the beach community of a tony Connecticut town. Our heroine is a single mom who works for a famous-and famously reclusive-novelist. When she stumbles on a secret that the great man has kept hidden for years, she knows that there are plenty of women in town who would love to get their hands on it-including some who fancy the writer for themselves. Dune Road is the story of life in an exclusive beach town after the tourists have left for the summer and the eccentric (and moneyed) community sticks around. Dune Road will surely be the book to pack in beach bags next summer. ~amazon.com

Review: I have to give Ms. Green a hand because a lot of the subject matters in Dune Road are very timely, like the world financial market crash. I'm sure some last minute editing took place there but it was very skillful. Like all of her books I found the protagonist very likable as were most of the main characters in the book. Kit is a divorce who is trying to find her way in this new world. She's got a great house, a decent relationship with her ex, 2 pretty good kids but she's not sure who she is after 20 years of marriage. She ends up getting a job with the recluse author, Robert McClore. I actually thought this book was going to be more about him than it ended up being. I would have actually like a little more mystery/intrigue into his background than we received. I actually don't think that the summary is quite accurate on amazon.com for what this book is really about. Perhaps it was before some last minute changes.

There are definitely a few twists and turns that I didn't see coming, maybe I should have but with these books I'm not looking for earth-shattering reveals.

What Jane Green does splendidly is describe everything. I could envision Kit's house as well as everything else in Highfield. She always brings all of her locations to life in her books.

I definitely liked it more than The Beach House, which I think has been her weakest novel yet.

If you are looking for a great, curl up and read it in a couple of sittings book, Dune Road fits that criteria. Plus it makes you feel good as well.

Final Take: 3.75/5


Continue reading the review...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Giveaway: The Venona Cable

We have 1 copy of The Venona Cable to giveaway! Please leave a comment here by midnight EST time September 30th, 2009 to be entered.

The winner will be announced on October 1st, 2009.

Good Luck!

Special Thanks to Jason at Henry Holt and Company for providing us with the givaway copy!

Continue reading the review...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jenn's Review: The Venona Cable

Summary: The past erupts into the present when the police arrest Alexei Volkovoy, known as Volk, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and take him to a murder scene. At first, the dead man appears to be just one more victim of Moscow’s out-of-control violence. But Volk soon discovers that he is a famous Hollywood filmmaker whose reputation was destroyed in 1995 when the CIA released decrypted documents from the Venona cables—the top-secret American and British crypto-analysis of Soviet messages that implicated the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Kim Philby, and hundreds of other Soviet spies. Tucked inside the American’s pocket is a marked-up Venona intercept that refers to a Russian used as a spy by the Americans, a man who may have been Volk’s illustrious father.

Aided by his female partner, Valya, Volk’s only hope to clear his family name will be to solve this murder and discover how the Venona papers relate to his father’s disappearance, while powerful forces want to keep him from investigating the past and to remove him from the present.

Review: Okay, I'm back ( kinda). I read this book well over a month ago so I hope I do it justice.

Though this is the middle of a series, it was certainly easy to pick up. The only confusing bit was the alphabet soup that serves as all the branches of intelligence and black ops, pre and post cold war -this made for slow going in the beginning. The book is full of espionage spies, double spies, triple spies... you get the idea. And throughout the book, Ghelfi keeps you guessing at who's allegiance belongs to whom.

I actually had hard time deciding who to route for... while Volk is the protagonist, and I empathized with his character, I had a hard time routing for a Russian spy. I think Ghelfi has an interesting angle writing from a Russian spy's point of view, and I was impressed that he could make Volk so accessible.

My only disappointment was that I wish things were a little more wrapped up in the end. I'm sure Ghelfi left it a little open ended because he plans on continuing the series, but a little more closure would have been nice. All in all a good spy book.

Final take: 3.5/5.0

Continue reading the review...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Random Musings

So I admit it, I bought into the hype and pre-ordered Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. I had it delivered to work and it arrived on Tuesday as promised. The one thing I noticed on the box was the big red tape across it saying "Absolutely do not deliver until Tuesday September 15th." I had never seen that before but I do know how much this book was shrouded in secrecy.

I put the book on the Dining Room table knowing tha I would get to it in October but my husband saw it and picked it up to read it. Now, he doesn't read novels. He'll read the occasional sports autobiography and magazine but he is not a novel reader. The last novel he read was Brown's Angels & Demons. He enjoyed it, I didn't even finish it.

So, while he won't write a review, I'll put his thoughts in my review when I get around to it.

Continue reading the review...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Julie's Review: The Spire

Summary: This thoughtful thriller from bestseller Patterson (Eclipse) charts the impact of the brutal murder of black coed Angela Hall at Caldwell College in Wayne, Ohio, on gifted athlete Mark Darrow, who discovered the body and later became a nationally renowned lawyer. Mark's best friend was convicted of the crime, but many aspects of the trial troubled Mark. Lionel Farr, Caldwell's provost and Mark's former mentor, offers Mark the post of college president 16 years after Angela's murder. Mark agrees to return to Caldwell, now struggling with the suspected embezzlement of $900,000 from its endowment by its current president. With Lionel's support, Mark investigates both the embezzlement and the old murder. Patterson evokes the quiet schism between town and gown in Wayne as well as the fragile relationship between blacks and whites, while Mark's probing hits exposed nerves with fatal results. ~amazon.com

Review: The Spire is the type of book that I used to read from Richard North Patterson. This book definitely hark ens back to Mr. Patterson's earlier legal thrillers that I loved. What I think I liked the most about this book was how he slowing unraveled parts of the story that a lot of authors would have revealed quickly.

There are a bunch of different aspects to this book: race, college life, love and the question...how well do you ever really know someone? We meet Mark Darrow as he's going to discuss taking the Presidency at Caldwell College. The book flashes between the present and the past because really aren't they almost always linked? Mark is haunted by the murder of a fellow classmate after the biggest game of his career. What really sticks with him is that his best friend was tried and convicted of the murder. He's never really gotten over that fact. So coming back to the school that gave him so much is a blessing and a curse.

The supporting characters are excellent and well flushed out. Mr. Patterson also keeps you guessing for 3/4 of the book. The thing is that if you are really good at figuring things out, you'll figure this one out too. I don't really want to say too much because I'm afraid I'll spill the beans!

There were 2 things that annoyed me: 1) Calling the main character by his last name throughout the whole book. I get this might be a male thing but in a book I found it to grate on my nerves. 2) I felt the ending might have been a little to quick. I will say that it was nice that it wasn't a nice neat bow but you do have an idea that thing will turn out just right.

I hope that Mr. Patterson returns to the story of Mark Darrow. I truly enjoyed his character and his journey.

Final Take: 4/5

Continue reading the review...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Julie's Review: Twenties Girl

Summary: Think Topper, that impossibly sophisticated and goofy 1937 ghost tale of blithe spirits bugging the only living soul who can hear them. Kinsella creates an equally vexing and endearing shade, Sadie, a wild-at-heart flapper with unfinished earthly business who badgers 27-year-old great-niece Lara into doing her bidding. Predictable mayhem and the most delicious and delightful romp a ghost and girl-at-loose-ends could ever have in 21st century London ensue. Sadie discovers just how loved she really is, and Lara channels her inner '20s girl to discover the difference between wanting to be in love and finding love. Kinsella, a master of comic pacing and feminine wit (see: the wildly successful Shopaholic series), casts a bigger net with this piece of fun and fluff, weaving family dynamics and an old-fashioned mystery into the familiar chick lit romance. And there's a sweet nod to old folks (All that white hair and wrinkled skin is just cladding.... They were all young, with love affairs and friends and parties and an endless life ahead of them). It's a breath of crackling fresh air that may well keep readers warm right through winter. ~amazon.com

Review: Sophie Kinsella's books always make me laugh but it's been a while since I've truly loved one of her books. Twenties Girl is unlike any book I've read and definitely different from the rest of Ms. Kinsella's books. It's simply in one word...delightful. The title itself has a couple of different meanings as you can come to find out during your read. Lara, the main character, is a bit flighty. She's made a lot of changes in her life recently, not all of them by choice, and seems to be struggling to find her way. Enter, the ghost of her great-aunt Sadie Lancaster. Of course things are going Lara's way and now her family think she's crazy because she can, frankly she's acting a little skittish.

This is wear the fun begins, you see Sadie can't be buried until she finds a specific necklace and until she does she reeks havoc on Lara's life. I can't give too much away because well it's not like the plot is complicated but there are a few twists and turns. Some of it likely, some of it unlikely.

As character's go, both Lara and Sadie are immensely likable and relatable. I loved all the 1920s references and how they had to each learn the other one's "lingo". I really enjoyed how they both taught each other something about themselves and how Lara learned about her family after never having an interest.

In my opinion this is her best book since Can You Keep a Secret? and The Undomestic Goddess. I enjoyed Remember Me? (you can read my review here). Sure I've read every single Shopaholic book but honestly what else can Becky bumble her way through?

I must say something about the cover, it's simply brilliant! I love it. The picture on the post doesn't do it justice at all. Whomever designed it did a bang up job capturing the essence of the novel.

If you are looking for a great weekend read, go and pick up Twenties Girls right away. You won't be disappointed.

Final Take: 5/5

Continue reading the review...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Author News: James Patterson's Deal

Photobucket So I just read that James Patterson inked a pretty lucrative deal, for his fans, himself and his publishing house.

According to reports as seen here, it seems that Mr. Patterson will write 17 books in 3 years. This will be in all of his series, including his Young Adult books. How lucrative it is for Mr. Patterson was said. :)

What do you guys think? Too much? Too little? Really don't care?

Continue reading the review...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Julie's Review: Sacred Hearts

Summary: Sarah Dunant (The Birth of Venus) revisits 16th-century Italy, where the convents are filled with the daughters of noblemen who are unable or unwilling to pay a dowry to marry them off. The Santa Caterina convent's newest novice, Serafina, is miserable, having been shunted off by her father to separate her from a forbidden romance. She also has a singing voice that will be the glory of the convent and—more importantly to some—a substantial bonus for the convent's coffers. The convent's apothecary, Suora Zuana, strikes up a friendship with Serafina, enlisting her as an assistant in the convent dispensary and herb garden, but despite Zuana's attempts to help the girl adjust, Serafina remains focused on escaping. Serafina's constant struggle and her faith (of a type different from that common to convents) challenge Zuana's worldview and the political structure of Santa Caterina. A cast of complex characters breathe new life into the classic star-crossed lovers trope while affording readers a look at a facet of Renaissance life beyond the far more common viscounts and courtesans. Dunant's an accomplished storyteller, and this is a rich and rewarding novel. ~amazon.com

Review: Sacred Hearts is a novel rich is prose, description, characters and history. What it lacked for me was a story that I really cared about or characters that I could identify with and none of this has to do with the fact that it was set in a convent.

What I did enjoy reading about was convent life before the strict rules were passed down by the Council of Trent in the 1500s. Nuns really did have a lot of freedom in how they worshiped Christ and having contact with the outside world. I was surprised to read that they even drank wine. Albeit, not daily but during certain feast times they were allowed to partake of the drink. I also enjoyed the politics in the book. Someone was always vying for power and using innocent young girls to help them on their way to the top. This made me think, "Are we all just political by nature?" It seems that even some nuns have a hunger for power and they do it all in Christ's name.

I really enjoyed Suora Zuana and her role as dispensary mistress. I think what she did in the convent with her knowledge was truly remarkable. I wonder how her role would have changed with the tightening of the rules in the convent? I was truly amazed by the medicine of the day. Obviously, they didn't have the pharmaceuticals that we do now, but they did use more natural products to heal. Even the information she knew about the human body was enthralling and shocking that a lot of this stuff was known then. I'm sure as the Renaissance goes on, a lot of the data will come to light and be more accepted than it was before. I found this aspect of the book really fascinating and even "googled" a few things mentioned to see if they were still used today.

Whom I really liked a lot was Madonna Chiara, the convent abbess, aka Mother Superior. She was smart, worldly, righteous and even a little cunning when she needed to be. It seems that she was born into a family that had a long history of power in Santa Caterina and so it was no surprise when she was voted in as abbess. It is her steadiness that gives the convent a much needed guide during the climax of the story. She might not be the holiest, but she's human.

The other main character, Serafina, I didn't like and I didn't hate. I understood her plight but I also just wanted her to recognize that this was her lot in life and to grow up a bit. She vacillated between extreme anger/rage and piety, there was no in between and I think for most of us we are always in the in between, it's called acceptance.

What I wanted to know and never found out via the book, was how a nun was given her name because it's different than that of the one she arrives to the convent with? After, yet again using Google, I found out that it is usually the name of a saint in which they identify with. I'm not Catholic so I have no clue about this but it seems to make sense based on references in the book.

While this wasn't the fastest read for me, I loved the ending of the book. I think that it was perfect for all characters involved. Deceitful but necessary. I would recommend this one if you are a fan of Sarah Dunant already, but if you haven't read her yet I would start with The Birth of Venus. I have In the Company of the Courtesan on my shelf to read and now perhaps it'll be bummed up on the TBR list a little sooner.

Final Take: 3.75/5

Continue reading the review...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Author Interview: Hyatt Bass

Last week I posted a review of the novel The Embers, you can read my review here. Today, I'm excited to be able to post the Q&A that Ms. Bass was willing to answer.

GJR: I read that this started out as a movie and became a novel for you; do you have any plans on putting it into a screenplay? If so, do you have actresses and actors in mind for the leads?

Hyatt Bass: The novel is out right now to filmmakers, and although it started as a screenplay and wasn’t working in that format—which is why I tried writing it as a novel in the first place—I actually think it would make a great film now. Since I worked on the novel for seven years, and because I’m so excited about my next novel, I’m not really interested in writing the screenplay or directing it. But I’m eager to see what another filmmaker will do with the book. I leave all the casting, etc up to them.

GJR: Is Joe based off of any particular actor or is he just pretty much the epitome of many actors?

Hyatt Bass: I was originally inspired to write the character of Joe as a part for Harris Yulin to play. This is of course when I thought I was writing a film rather than a novel. It was more a matter of his brilliance as an actor that inspired me, though, and my wanting to write a rich character for him to play rather than a case of taking specific things about him and putting them into Joe. I don’t think Joe was based on anyone.

GJR: The title of the book “The Embers” and the last name of the family in the book “Ascher” are interesting in their meaning. Was this intentional? Especially the title of the book because it gives such a glimpse into the novel.

Hyatt Bass: The title, The Embers, came from a Van Gogh quote that I use in the book: “One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet nobody comes to sit by it.” I had that quote in my head as I started writing the novel, and it so perfectly described the state of yearning and isolation that all of these characters are living in. I’d originally thought I would call the book A Blazing Hearth, but then I decided I preferred The Embers. And the quote definitely informed the thematic content of the book—the fiery imagery and so forth. Believe it or not, though, I chose the name “Ascher” for Joe when I thought I was writing a screenplay, long before I even thought about the quote or the title or had any of that imagery in there. It wasn’t until years later, when I sent the book off to agents, that I suddenly stepped back and thought about the name and realized what a strange coincidence that was. I considered changing it because it almost seemed like too much, but by then I was so attached to that being the family’s name, I decided to just stick with it.

GJR: We only ever get to know Thomas through the eyes of his family and not himself. Is there a reason you didn’t write in his voice before his death?

Hyatt Bass: I actually snuck in a few tiny moments where we go into his head briefly because I wanted to give some depth to his character, but I did mostly stay away from that. I like the idea that he has a ghost-like presence, and that we see him for the most part the way he is remembered by each family member (and perhaps glorified by their nostalgia). The book is really about a family coming together again after this loss, but I didn’t want it to be a book about death or loss. I wanted it to be about the love that is particular to families and how that intensity can be so challenging. Often the people we are closest to are the people we have the hardest time connecting to, and I wanted to explore that in the book more than anything else. Thomas’s death is really just an exaggerated form of the types of everyday challenges that any family faces. So I tried to keep the focus on the people who are still alive in the book’s present—even when we are with the full family (Thomas included) in the book’s past.

GJR: Family dramas are always a good read for me but this one especially stood out because of the way you told it, present and past. Did you feel that you could get more of the story relayed to the reader by writing it like that?

Hyatt Bass: Yes, I love books that do that. And it just felt natural for this story. Of course I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to write that way. But in the end I’m really happy with the result. I like the immediacy of feeling as a reader that you are actually there with the character the moment something happens. So instead of playing out the past in flashbacks or memories, I chose to shift back and forth between past and present. And in the same way, I like the immediacy of being in close third person, so that the reader shifts between characters, but is always in someone’s head. My hope was to constantly offer the reader surprises, and change the reader’s mind about who each person is, and what actually happened to this family.

GJR: You handle the different voices in the novel exceedingly well. Which of the characters did you identify the most with?

Hyatt Bass: Thank you—It’s great to hear that. I really love all these characters, and at the risk of sounding totally insane, they really exist for me somewhere. It’s as if for the seven years I was writing the book, I would go and visit them every day, and now they’re still there, but I just don’t’ go anymore. So I really identify with all of them—or I’m not sure identify would be the right term because they’re all really different from mebut I know all of them and understand them and can see things from their point of view. I have to admit, though, I’m a little partial to Joe. As flawed as he is, he’s just so lovable and complicated and fascinating to me.

GJR: Are you working on a new novel? If so, what is the general plot?

Hyatt Bass: I am, and I’m really excited about it, but it’s hard to talk about what I’m writing until I have a first draft. All I can tell you is that it follows one woman,rather than being a group portrait like The Embers, and it’s a love story, I guess, to put it in simple terms.

GJR: Are you going to be directing a film soon? If so, what the title and premise?

Hyatt Bass: No films for now—just novels. Down the line, who knows. But for now, I just really prefer this.

GJR: Who are your favorite authors to read? Why?

Hyatt Bass: I love Marilynn Robinson, Susan Minot, William Styron, Michael Cunningham, Virginia Wolff, Philip Roth, and J.D. Salinger. With all of them, I fall completely into the worlds they create, and although they’re all very different writers, I like the way each of them uses language and makes me think in new and interesting ways about people and human relationships and the world we live in.

GJR: What are you currently reading?

Hyatt Bass: I’m rereading Marilynn Robinson’s book, Housekeeping, which is one of my favorite books ever written. I’ve just finished book tour and am trying to get back to writing my next novel, and it’s really helpful to read books that I already admire and find very inspiring.

I want to thank Ms. Bass and Jason Liebman at Henry Holt for taking the time to answer the questions and make the arrangements.

Continue reading the review...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Movie Review: Nights in Rodanthe

Summary: Sparks (A Bend in the Road, etc.) logs more miles on the winding high road of romance with the story of two middle-aged people who meet by chance in the small North Carolina coastal town of Rodanthe. The impassioned but doomed romance seems to owe much to Robert James Waller's The Bridges of Madison County. Once again, a housewife who has focused on everyone but herself indulges in a brief, intense, secret affair with a stranger who changes her life forever. As the story begins, Adrienne Willis is 60, the divorced mother of three grown children. To help her troubled daughter cope with the untimely recent death of her husband, Adrienne tells her the tale of her love affair, which took place 15 years before. At the time, Adrienne was an uptight matron whose ex-husband had just left her for a younger woman. This rejection colors her entire life, and Sparks realistically portrays a vulnerable and isolated woman who throws herself into raising her children to escape her despair. Paul Flanner, her paramour, is a surgeon and an obsessive workaholic with no genuine connection to his wife or son, whose world completely falls apart when one of his patients inexplicably dies. ~ book summary on amazon.com

Review: I will start by saying that I did not read the book Nights in Rodanthe but I didn't read The Notebook or A Walk to Remember and I loved those movies. I honestly can't say that Nights in Rodanthe will be held in the same esteem. I enjoy both Richard Gere and Diane Lane and thought they were believable in their roles as Paul and Adrienne, but the story was so incredibly forced. I mean you knew what was coming a mile away and yet I somehow had to watch the entire movie. I guess I stayed tuned in to see if I would be shocked by some twist I didn't see coming. There wasn't.

My sister did read the book and loved it. It was her first foray into Nicholas Sparks and she's pretty much read all of his books. I think she might be disappointed in this adaptation, so I told her to skip it. I can tell that even from the book summary that it was changed. I mean unless I really missed something, it wasn't told as an older woman looking back, it was in the here and now. I think it might have come off better if it was told in past tense.

I always enjoy seeing Chris Meloni outside of Law & Order:SVU, but why does he always play the jerk and/or the jerk ex-husband? Just curious. The scenery was beautiful and I wonder if that really is an inn in North Carolina or if that was a set? Probably something I'll never know.

So if you are in the mood for a good romantic film, skip Nights in Rodanthe and watch A Walk to Remember or The Notebook instead.

Final Take: 2/5

Continue reading the review...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Book Alert: New Jodi Picoult Book

Photobucket Ok, I know I always jump the gun with her books but I just can't resist. At this time there is no art work or but the title, House Rules and description definitely means that I will be reading it.

Synopsis: HOUSE RULES is about Jacob Hunt, a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject – in his case, forensic analysis. He’s always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do…and he’s usually right. But then one day his tutor is found dead, and the police come to question him. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger’s – not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, inappropriate affect – can look a heck of a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel -- and suddenly, Jacob finds himself accused of murder. HOUSE RULES looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way – but lousy for those who don’t. ~jodipicoult.com

As always, she takes a very relevant social topic and puts an interesting spin on it. It's already on my wish list. As the book art becomes available, I'll keep you guys updated.

The book is set to be released on March 2, 2010.

Continue reading the review...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Movie Review: Julie and Julia

Summary: Julie & Julia is the story of Julie Powell's attempt to revitalize her marriage, restore her ambition, and save her soul by cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, in a period of 365 days. The result is a masterful medley of Bridget Jones' Diary meets Like Water for Chocolate, mixed with a healthy dose of original wit, warmth, and inspiration that sets this memoir apart from most tales of personal redemption. Inspired and encouraging, Julie and Julia is a unique opportunity to join one woman's attempt to change her life, and have a laugh, or ten, along the way. ~amazon.com

Review: I will admit that I'm no chef or even a cook, I pretty much "throw" dinner together. Now my sister, she went to culinary school and is a fantastic cook, as is my mom, so I must have my dad's genes. I had heard the buzz on Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously long before it's arrivals in theaters and will admit I didn't read the blog or the book, but the movie is so incredibly charming. I have no desire to pick up Julia Child's masterpiece of a cookbook/text book, but I'll probably search down a used copy for my sis.

I don't think I've seen a bad movie with Meryl Streep in it and she hits a home run in this role as Julia Child. She doesn't do an imitation of Julia but fully embodies her personality. I'm smelling a Golden Globe for this role for her. What a fascinating life Ms. Child led. The love story between her and Paul is definitely one for the ages and had me googling their story.

I thought Amy Adams was great as Julie Powell, although I so wasn't digging the haircut. I found Julie pleasant and likable enough that when she acted selfish it didn't seem over the top. I mean aren't we all allowed some times of being self-centered. After all, she was trying to find herself and do something with her life. At one point I thought her husband overreacted, he just didn't like her attention on something else besides him.

The food looked mouth watering and it led me to wonder who they hired to make all that delicious food?! I'm sure it was some chef, because I'm thinking a food service company might not be able to handle that, assuming it was really Julia's recipe's they made.

So if you are looking for a solid film with great acting and a couple of great adventures, then Julie and Julia:The Movie, is for you.


Final Take: 4.5/5

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Julie's Review: The Embers

Summary: Director, producer and screenwriter Bass creates a riveting narrative that digs into the notion that there is nothing that happens to a child that does not implicate the parent in some way. Emily Ascher is planning her wedding at the site of her Berkshires childhood family vacation home, on the very hillside where the ashes of her brother, Thomas, are scattered. Alternating between present day and the past, Emily's story, along with that of her divorced parents, Joe and Laura, unfolds along with the circumstances surrounding Thomas's death. Joe, a once famous actor and playwright, is now consumed by a desire to create and equally consumed by his inability to do so, while Laura, now remarried, still carries the emotional scars of a rocky first marriage and the inability to truly understand or successfully communicate with her daughter. Bass creates a large window into the workings of the Ascher family, exposing how small slights or seemingly minute actions ripple with consequence. Bass's excavation of a complex familial labyrinth is an elegant testament to the beautiful mess that is family. ~amazon.com

Julie's Review: I think most of us can agree that at some point in our lives we've been messed up by our families. The Embers by Hyatt Bass is one families journey on this road. It flashes back between 1993, 1995 and 2007 and told by 3 differing points of view in the family. None of the characters, Emily, Laura and Joe are particularly likable but they aren't so flawed that you hate them. Basically, they are human and flawed. The character I enjoyed the most was Thomas and we only get know him through the other members of the family. He's the most selfless of them all. Joe is an aging actor and playwright who is searching for his last hurrah. He's got writers block throughout most of the novel until the last 50 pages when he has an epiphany. My only problem is, we never see that epiphany come to fruition. He's also very self-centered and narcissistic, which is a bit of a stereotype but probably an accurate one.

Emily, is the daughter of Joe and Laura. In her youth she was reckless and didn't care what other people thought. As an adult, she's reserved and cares what other people think. When she was a kid, she was extremely close to her dad but when her parents started having problems, she shut him out. Emily also thinks that everything her mom says to or does for her is Laura trying to control her life. I think Thomas' death had the most profound affect on Emily. She is essentially living her life how she thinks Thomas would have lived his. Emily does grow a bit by the end of the novel, but will still need to figure out who she truly is.

Laura, is standoffish and an introvert. She's always doubting herself and her capabilities. This doesn't bode well for her marriage to Joe, who definitely knows who he is and what he wants. I feel that Laura blames Joe for some of the decisions she's made, but we all have our own minds. I didn't like her or hate her, she was just the least underdeveloped character in my opinion.

How do families survive a tragedy? Some pull together and some fall apart. This is the Ascher's story. I also like the Joe and Ingrid storyline. It begs some interesting questions.

If you love family dramas, then this book is for you. The way it unfolds is perfect, it keeps you guessing until you say "OH!"

Final Take: 4.5/5

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