Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Julie's Review: I loved this book. I loved it from the first page. Ms. Newmark has a way with words and they way she puts them together is magic. Which is good, since her book deals with magic aka alchemy. This is probably the 2nd book I've read this year that talks about alchemy and I find it very intriguing, especially in this setting. I also love how she weaves in food and how it can affect some one's mind, body and soul. (Jenn - I think you'd love this book). Luciano is the main character and he's quite the charmer. He's innocent but has had a hard life. He knows the streets well but he has to learn how to operate in a palace environment. I also loved Chef Ferrero. I could picture him in my mind and loved that he thought of Luciano as a "son". It was delightful to read about the mentor/pupil relationship that had much more affection to it than you would normally keep.
Ms. Newmark does an excellent job of making Venice a character in it's own right. One day I will make it there, I swear!! The politics of Venice, Rome and Italy is another interesting aspect of the book and sometimes felt like it could be plucked out of today's society. We also have "The Book" that everyone is after and no one know where to find. It's shrouded in such secrecy you wonder if it even exists or if it made up to keep those who want busy while the intellectuals quietly take over.
The book is about gaining knowledge, learning what to do with the knowledge and growing from that knowledge. It's also about learning who trust, who should have/earn your trust.
I'm definitely not doing The Book of Unholy Mischiefany justice in my review, so instead just go get yourself a copy and read it! Especially if you love: Italy, Historical Fiction, Mysteries and Coming of Age stories.
This is one of my favorite thoughts/quotes in the book. Chef Ferrero speaking to Luciano:
"We all die, but we all leave something behind. We achieve immortality by passing on knowledge." page 276
I also must note that not only is the cover gorgeous but the inside of the hardcover has the most beautiful renderings of fruits and vegetables. They look good enough to eat.
Fans of both Sarah Addison Allen and/or Sarah Dunant will love this book.
A special thanks to Tracee at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for getting me on the Virtual Book tour for this one!!
Julie's Final Take: 4.75/5
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Jenn's Review: I re-read the whole series everytime one of the movies comes out and this is the first Harry Potter movie in a long while that I haven't walked out of the theatre grumbling. Did I miss Kreacher jumping up and down screaming "won't, won't won't"? Sure, but I never thought it would make the cut.
They streamlined the Ginny & Harry relationship in order to keep the details of Ron & Hermione's relationship which is good, because if they hadn't, Ron and Hermione would barely have been involved at all. I would have liked to have seen more of Harry & Ginny together for purely selfish reasons, but I think they padded it enough to make it work.
The other lesson's with Dumbledore regarding Tom Riddle and the horcruxes would have been interesting... but those are details they can get around that in the next two films.
Yes, I would have liked the final battle scene but I knew as soon as Harry drank the entire Felix Felicitus in order to retrieve Slughorn's memory that it had been cut. Perhaps having that time to adjust to it made it easier to accept. They've pretty much cut the eldest of the Weasley boys from all the previous movies, so it wasn't too much of a surprise that there wasn't a Fenrir/Bill encounter... and the rest of that battle would have been really complicated so, with the inserted battle at the The Burrow, it wasn't necessary.
Actually, I didn't cry over Dumbledore's death as much as I thought I would. Then I remembered it's Hagrid' reaction, the discussion in the hospital ward, the phoenix song, and the subsequent funeral that make me cry the most in the book. I really think the funeral scene would have been nice; it would have given a nice sense of closure.
This book was all about growing up and young love and I think they handled that beautifully. So for me, more Ginny and a funeral would have made it perfect. On the whole, though, I'm happier with this as an interpretation than I have been since the Chris Columbus films.Jenn's Final Take: 4/5
Julie's Review: I don't re-read books before the movie comes out because I know inevitably I'll be disappointed. The book is always better than the movie, no matter what. It's obviously been a couple years since I've read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but I did remember most of the story and the essence of it. I thought they did a great job of showing the changes that are going on between the kids (aka growing up, puberty, girls/boys, first kisses) and the wizarding world. Of course there are plot points missing, they left out a lot of the plot on the Half-Blood Prince but how do you put that in a movie and make it exciting? If you hadn't read the books the reveal of Snape being the Half-Blood Prince would have been huge and I thought it was handled well. I'm with Jenn in thinking that I would have liked more Dumbledore and Harry conversations about the Horcruxes which are so key in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I knew that Dumbledore's death was coming but I still cried. Dumbledore was Harry's mentor, father figure and friend and he will be missed by Hogwarts, the wizarding world but most of all Harry who will now need to find his way on his own. I think it was a decent movie but not the best (IMHO that is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). It's a strong segway into the final movies.
Julie's Final Take: 3.75/5
I normally re-read before the movies, however due to lack of time in my schedule I didn't this time and I'm very glad I didn't. I've been aware for ages that the movies will never be able to capture the rich details that J.K. Rowling included in each novel. I had accepted that and have been pleased with the adaptations thus far. Up until now that is. Before I nitpick, I will say that this was a good movie and it holds up to scrutiny well but that's if and only if it wasn't an adaptation.
Besides the blossom of young love, this book was all about two things for me. The reveal of the Half-Blood Prince and Voldermort's story. I'm not quite sure how they could have done the
Half-Blood Prince story well and besides the fact that the name is included in title, this could have easily been left out. To the non-reader, it was confusing and the idea that the HBP could have been Voldermort was never well-developed, thus the Snape reveal just fell flat.
Speaking of Voldermort, the shallow part of me is very disappointed that Ralph Fiennes never appeared on screen. I mean JKR did say that Tom Riddle was handsome and Ralph Fiennes...well it doesn't need to be said. However, the lack of Ralph Fiennes (yes, I love saying his name) also meant that the horcrux story was completely half-assed. I suppose the two memories that we saw were the most relevant to this story, but I think more time should have been spent to explain exactly what horcruxes were, how they were made etc., because they figure so greatly into Deathly Hallows and the conclusion of the series. Frankly that novel is so chock full of stuff going on, that this needed explanation now and not later.
I had major issues with the fact that Harry just stood there while Dumbledore was attacked. Totally out of character for him. He really needed to be stunned, seriously. Finally, I was not affected as deeply by Dumbledore's death and I agree with Jenn, that it would have been nice to have the funeral. There are other little things, like how will Harry know that there's a horcrux in the Room of Requirement, when he didn't have to get past it when he hid the HBP's textbook? I mean he needed to kiss Ginny at some point, but I can just see how annoyed I'll be when they just figure it out while hanging out in the jungle. *sigh* Not. Happy. At. All.
Lisa's Final Take: 2.5/5
Note: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movies are to be released as follow:
Part I: November 19, 2010
Part II: June 15, 2011
as of 7/21/09 per Imdb.com
Friday, July 24, 2009
GJR: Why historical fiction? Why this time period?
David Liss: I’d always wanted to write fiction, but I never really took a serious crack at it until I was in graduate school studying 18th century British literature. It’s hard to say exactly what drew me to the period in the first place, but the first time I took a course on the 18th century novel, I read a social history of 18th century Britain, and something about it fascinated me. Fascinated, not charmed. I have no idealized notion of the period, and would most definitely would not want to live in it. I just find it extremely interesting. In any case, when I settled down to write a novel, I decided to go with the old “write what you know” adage, and what I knew was 18th century Britain.
GJR: How much research goes into each of your books?
DL: It depends on the book. For the ones set in 18th century England, I only have to research fairly specific things because I already know the background, culture, and details. For other books, such as The Whiskey Rebels, The Coffee Trader, and the one I am writing now, there is a lot of more research because I am attempting to get a handle on a culture with which I have only a passing familiarity.
GJR: Do you come up with an idea for a book and then do the research? Or do you like a particular subject/time period do the research and then come up with an idea?
DL: It is always different, but always some sort of combination. Usually I will get an idea for a novel set in a particular time and place about a particular thing, and then begin the research. Once I am into the research, however, the nature of the project almost always changes based on what I learn and what I find exciting.
GJR: The thing I liked most about Benjamin Weaver is that you know he isn’t a good guy but he’s not necessarily a bad guy either. Why did you decide to make your protagonist a bit “gray”?
DL: I’ve always found morally ambiguous characters to be the most interesting. I’ve read novels, particularly genre novels, in which the protagonist is unambiguously good with no dark side and no demons, and I find that to be wholly uninteresting. Most of us are a bit “gray,” more so than we like to believe, and I like to write about a hero who is, in the end, maybe not as different than the villain as he would like to believe.
GJR: What do you think it is about Benjamin Weaver that makes you want to continue to write him?
DL: He may have a dark side, but he also operates with a fair amount of ethical certainty and physical authority, and characters like that are always fun to inhabit. I don’ t think I could be happy only writing about him, and I am committed to returning to him only when I have a story I really want to tell, but each time I have returned to the character, I’ve had a great time doing it, so that’s a pretty strong motivation.
GJR: I found that some of the passages of your books could be plucked out of today’s society regarding corporations and our current obsession with “celebrity”. Was this intentional or did it just come about while writing the book?
DL: I came across these parallels in the research, and I knew I wanted to include them in the book. One of things that attracted me to writing a novel about a major company in the early 18th century was precisely the fact that the debates and difficulties then are so much like the debates and difficulties today.
GJR: Are you working on a new novel? If so, what is the premise?
DL: I am writing a novel set in 1811-12 about the Luddite uprising, Romanticism, and traditional English folk magic.
GJR: Who are your favorite authors to read? Why?
DL: I’ve never been comfortable with the concept of favorites. When my daughter asks me to tell her my favorite color, I always say that I like them all. I don’t like all writers, of course, but I like a lot, and there is no one figure who towers above the others. One of the pleasures of reading, at least for me, is the constant discovery of the new rather than celebrating the old. But, so that I don’t completely evade the question, I will say that I tend to favor voice and character driven fiction over plot-driven fiction.
GJR: What are you currently reading?
DL: Right now I am reading Jonathan Tropper’s terrific new novel, This Is Where I Leave You; the bound versions of Robert Kirkman’s brilliant comic book series, Invincible, and Edna O’Obrien’s new biography of BYRON.
GJR: What books would you recommend for someone who loves the historical fiction genre?
DL: You mean other than mine, right? I am actually not a big reader of historical fiction myself, but some of my favorites from recent years include The Crimson Petal and the Whiteby Michel Faber; Cloud Atlasby David Mitchell; Pride of Carthage by David Anthony Durham; Instance of the Fingerpost by Pears by Iain Pears; and THE DRESS LODGER by Sheri Holman.
A big "Thank You" to David Liss for taking the time to answer my questions!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Review: I received David Liss' The Devil's Company from Pump Up Your Book Promotion and I'm glad I did. I seem to be really enjoying historical fiction lately and this book was in that genre. Granted most of mine have been a romantic historical fiction, so this was a nice change to a mystery/thriller historical fiction. The main character is Benjamin Weaver, and I liked him. What I liked the most about him was that he was neither a good guy or a bad guy wholly; he was both. He's hired by the mysterious Mr. Cobb to retrieve papers from Britain's largest company, East India House. Well, Mr. Weaver is a master thief and does his job well but that's not all that Mr. Cobb wants and he holds Weaver's friends and relatives ransom in order to enlist Weaver. The story really takes off from there with Weaver playing many different parts while trying to cover his back and get the ransom off of his friends and family.
It's an interesting book about the creation of the "modern day" corporation. The Court of Proprietors is equivalent to today's Board of Directors. They are supposed to have the company's best interest at heart but what do the individuals hope to gain as well. There are two passages that stick out for me:
Ellershaw to Weaver regarding the business of East India Company:
"You have been in my employ not ten minutes, and you have already discovered the great secret of the India cloth trade at home: give your goods away to a few fashionable people who have the power to set trends, and the trend is set. The new style is written of in the papers and the monthlies, and soon the provinces hear of them, and they clamor for our cloths. They beg us-beg us, I tell you-to sell our goods for whatever price we care to name." (page 102)
To me this is still true in today's society. Who gets the fashion off the runways, the celebrities. They could easily pay for it but they don't so that the designers can get free publicity.
The next passage speaks to the age old battle - Corporations vs. Government.
"A world controlled by those who care only for the acquisition and profit must be a world of terrors indeed. Companies concern themselves only with how much money they can make. Governments at least look after the well-being of all-the poor, the unfortunate and even the laborers, whose work must be cultivated, not exploited." "The wealth of the nation is the greater good, sir, the only greater good. And when the merchants and industrious men of the nation are wealthy, then those blessings will disseminate to all who live in the land." (page 137)
This is a debate that continues to this day. Who helps the people more..government or corporations?
The book has a lot of great twists at the end of the book. Things really get flipped upside down, which was great. I love it when authors do that, you think you have it figured out and than WHAM, something comes out of the blue. The book did lag in parts and sometimes my interest waned but Mr. Liss would write something else to pull me back in.
Any fan of historical fiction, spy novels and a good mystery will enjoy The Devil's Company: A Novel. I will definitely be checking out his other books. I'm even passing this one on to my dad and will recommend that my step-dad buy it on Kindle.
Final Take: 3.75/5
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
She spoke for over an hour about family anecdotes, stories and spoke a lot about her Nana and how she was always vying for #1 Grandchild. I was surprised to learn that a lot of people didn't realize that her mom was a lesbian. Maybe I've read a lot of interviews with her but I already knew that. She took a lot of questions and then most of us were able to get our book signed and have pictures taken.
She also mentioned how she didn't really love the cover of Best Friends Forever because it looked like the one girl was getting a wedgie out of her butt. LOL She also said it looked like a douche commercial. Then her agent/publisher told her Barnes and Noble loved it. She said ok.
I was excited to learn that she has a development deal with ABC for creating female driven shows that depict women as "rail thin like Ally McBeal". You know, real women.
If you get a chance to see her now or on a future book tour, do it. You won't be disappointed.
I tried to take pictures of her speaking but they didn't turn out that good. But here is what turned out and two pictures of me getting my book signed.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Review: I love Jennifer Weiner. I love her books and her characters. Best Friends Forever is no different. From the first pages you can't help but be smitten with Addie. In one way or another, she's all of us rolled into one character. Addie has never really fit in, she's always been a bit of a misfit or outsider, but as soon as Val Adler moves in across the street, that changes. Addie has the one, true friend she's always wanted and needed. That being said you already know that this friendship is going to go in the toilet by the time high school rolls around. I didn't really ever get attached to Val, but I didn't dislike her either. To me the book was always about Addie. The book is funny and poignant, which is typically Jennifer Weiner and why I love her books. This book reminded me a bit of Goodnight Nobody, which was my least favorite of her books but had other aspects that made it more like In Her Shoes. I like the fact that we knew what happened was all a misunderstanding but that in the end the characters had to figure it out for themselves, with help from one local Police Chief.
As much as the book is about friendship, it's really about finding your way in life, figuring out who you are and who you want to be. I think all of the characters grew in this book, even Dan Swansea, which as readers is what I think we want to "see". Of course, living in the 'burbs of Chicago, I was thrilled to find out it was set in a 'burb of Chicago. I love how she describes Pleasant Ridge because really it could be where I grew up but that's the thing about suburbs they are pretty much all the same. The part that cracks me up is in the product description when they say that Val "has found a measure of fame and fortune working as the weathergirl at the local TV station". Um it's Chicago, which is the 3rd largest media market after NYC and LA and she is employed by FOX.
Ms. Weiner as always did a great job in her descriptions. My favorite were the ones of Addie's house and all the remodeling she did. I could close my eyes and picture the before and after of it.
Best Friends Forever isn't near the top of my list as a favorite of Ms. Weiner's (that's Little Earthquakes) but it isn't Goodnight Nobody either. It rests nicely in the middle.
Final Take: 4.25/5
Friday, July 17, 2009
This really shouldn't come as a surprise for us fans of Harry Potter, but the newest movie in the series has blown away all records for a single day opening. According to MSN.com, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince took in a whopping $58.4M domestically!!
Here is the link to the full article.
Any guesses for it's first weekend total take? Mine is $175M.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I'm am so very excited. I'm hoping to get a picture with her, but I will at least get my book signed.
Below is a link to her website so you can see if she's visiting your city anytime soon!
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Summary: In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy come of age while their father is off to war. ~amazon.com It's about family, love, dedication and following your heart.
I picked the book upon recently viewing the movie and thought "Well, maybe I should read the book. The book is always better." Although Laurie will always be a young Christian Bale to me.
Please join us on reading one of the all time classics about the March women. We plan on being done with the book by late August. If you care to, leave a comment letting us know that you'll be joining us for the discussion.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Review: In my quest for food-lit, and having heard so many good things about Kate Jacobs, I thought I'd give this a try... and, having now read my first Jacobs novel, I confess myself disappointed.
I'm an avid Food Network viewer and I couldn't help but notice that a lot of the character of Gus is ripped straight from Paula Deen's biography, with minor chnages of course. I think this would have been easier for me to accept if she hadn't made it so blatant by making reference to personalities and shows on the Food Network, all the while excluding Ms. Deen. It was extremely off-putting and because of that, I had a hard time getting into this book. When she finally started moving away from that and developing her own characters, it became more engaging. Unfortunately, it took way too long to get there... it wasn't until almost the last third of the book.
Jacobs writing style also doesn't sit well with me. She continually drops bomb-shell like plot exposition and I had to keep back-tracking to make sure that I hadn't skimmed over and missed something earlier in the story. There were sentence fragments and lots of little plot inconsistencies (for example, how does a woman who lost her husband to a car accident not wear a seat belt?!?) that I found nagging.
Also, I even have trouble with qualifying this as food-lit because it really glosses over the food as a whole. There is none of the culinary passion that can be found in an Erica Bauermeister or Sarah Addison Allen novel where the food makes the story. It was more chick-lit formulaic and the denouement was quick and entirely too tidy.
Will I read Jacobs again? I'm not sure, I'm a little nonplussed about it.
Final Take 2.9/5
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Summary: When a woman’s body washes up on the shore of California’s Jericho Point, she’s identified as Evan Delaney. Except that Evan is very much alive—apparently the victim of an identity thief who’d been scamming Hollywood elite. The thief may be dead, but the crimes she was murdered for—committed in Evan’s name—are turning Evan’s life into a nightmare. Now it’s all Evan can do to survive in the shadow of a dead woman’s lies.
Review: Everything seems to happen to Evan. Not only is she a victim of identity theft, but she's also seems to be a victim of self sabatoge. For the first time I felt really frustrated with Evan, and with her wavering convictions. I think though, that I was frustrated with the characters more than I was with Gardiner herself. I know that there was bound to be some psychological whiplash for the character's after reliving Jessie's crippling accident in Mission Canyon, but this on top of the wild (and once again terrifying) plot was almost a little much for me.
While this is a riveting book, it is probably my least favorite of the Evan Delaney series thus far.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
China Lake Discussion
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
1) The Tea Rose
2) Sing Them Home
3) Skylight Confessions
4) Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
5) Faith and Honor
6) Darling Jim
7) Knit Two
8) Meeting Mr. Wrong
9) Triple Cross
10) Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
11) Handle With Care
12) The Late, Lamented Molly Marx
13) Fresh Disasters
14) Shoot Him If He Runs
15) The 8th Confession
16) China Lake
17) Devil Bones
Serena, please send me (Julie) your email address so that we can send you a $50.00 gift certificate to Amazon.com from us. Be on the look out for it in your email!
Review: I really liked this entry into the Temperance Brennan series. It was smart, intelligent and insightful. I like the fact that it dealt with alternative religions and after reading Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, I was happy to see that Ms. Reichs did her research. I liked learning about Santeria and voodoo. It also shows how ignorant people are when they don't understand or don't chose to understand. So of course we get the crazy, religious fanatics who are quick to say it's a satanic worship. We are dealing with 2 separate cases in Devil Bones: A Novel (Temperance Brennan Novels) but they might be linked based on circumstantial evidence.
I also liked the developments in Tempe's personal life. I liked the introduction of Charlie. I do like that Pete is forcing Tempe to move on, even if it's with a 20 something blond. I knew Ryan would show up on her porch and I really wasn't too happy with it. After what he did to Tempe, I can't trust him and I don't think Tempe should either. What's to stop him from deserting her again? I understand wanting and needing to be there for your kids but trying to make it work with someone that you were with many years ago, doesn't make sense. It also seems like he still has something on his mind. If I were Tempe, I'd keep my options open (aka go out with Charlie again).
I liked the conclusion of the case and while I think I'm smart, these books always outsmart me. I'm definitely looking forward to the release of 206 Bones: A Novel (Temperance Brennan) on August 25, 2009.
Final Take: 4.5/5