Thursday, December 31, 2009

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes

Photobucket Summary: After finally catching serial killer and occult "sorcerer" Lord Blackwood, legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson can close yet another successful case. But when Blackwood mysteriously returns from the grave and resumes his killing spree, Holmes must take up the hunt once again. Contending with his partner's new fiancée and the dimwitted head of Scotland Yard, the dauntless detective must unravel the clues that will lead him into a twisted web of murder, deceit, and black magic - and the deadly embrace of temptress Irene Adler.

Review: I've been wanting to see Sherlock Holmes since I began to see the previews months ago. The biggest hurdle for me was getting my husband to go, he's not a movie guy. A few people said it was really good so I was able to talk him into going. This movie is not a let down in anyway. The action is constant, the mystery is good and Holmes is a brilliant boxer/fighter. Watson is more than a silly sidekick and Jude Law is excellent in this role. I love how Holmes is eccentric and needs Watson to keep him in the real world. There is quite a bit of humor throughout the movie to lighten the mood. I loved the late 1800's London that the film is set in. The movie can be a bit dark at times, both in mood and in lighting, but it works. It seems to the be the thing right now to have a "secret" society in movies/books and Sherlock Holmes has that element to it as well.

The entire cast was excellent, including Rachel McAdams as the mysterious Irene Adler. Although I will admit that every time Rachel is in a movie I can't help but think that Jennifer Garner could have done the part as well. Just my little quirk.

Of course you know that there is going to be a sequel, not that I mind. I think Guy Ritchie did an excellent job with this new, updated Sherlock Holmes. I'm hoping that he sticks around to direct the sequel as well. Warner Bros could have another great movie series on its hands, if they don't screw it up.

I will admit to never reading the books and short stories of Sherlock Holmes but I have put both volumes on my wish list for future purchase. I do remember watching the older movies with my dad though.

If you are looking for an entertaining movie with a bit of everything for everyone, I highly recommend Sherlock Holmes. I'd actually pay full prices to see it again.

Final Take: 4.75/5

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Julie's Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

style Summary: Following her breakout bestseller, The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger returns with Her Fearful Symmetry, a haunting tale about the complications of love, identity, and sibling rivalry. The novel opens with the death of Elspeth Noblin, who bequeaths her London flat and its contents to the twin daughters of her estranged twin sister back in Chicago. These 20-year-old dilettantes, Julie and Valentina, move to London, eager to try on a new experience like one of their obsessively matched outfits. Historic Highgate Cemetery, which borders Elspeth's home, serves as an inspired setting as the twins become entwined in the lives of their neighbors: Elspeth's former lover, Robert; Martin, an agoraphobic crossword-puzzle creator; and the ethereal Elspeth herself, struggling to adjust to the afterlife. Niffenegger brings these quirky, troubled characters to marvelous life, but readers may need their own supernatural suspension of disbelief as the story winds to its twisty conclusion.

Review: I just finished this book an hour or so and pretty much don't know what to think of it. I didn't love it and I didn't hate it. I guess I'm indifferent about it. There were parts of this novel that I loved: the setting, London; the story of sisters; the historical nuances of the cemetery that is essential to the novel. Essentially this is a ghost story that goes awry. We meet Elspeth Noblin as she is dying of Leukemia and leaves her estate to her nieces that she's only met a couple of times. Through her death we meet the people in her building who have their own stories. Probably the most interesting is Martin. A man so debilitated by OCD that he can't leave his own apartment when his wife of 20 years leaves him. With Martin we see someone overcome their demons and truly grow.

I've read some reviews about this book that weren't too kind on Julia and Valentina but honestly I just think they are typical 20 year old girls...self-centered and naive. I'm not a twin but I've read that they have an uncommonly strong bond with each other. Even stating that, the bond with Julia and Valentina is a bit eerie at times. Neither one lives their own life, with their own interests. Instead they are intertwined in a pretty unhealthy way. You can't be that dependent on each other and have it be good for either of you. Valentina's nickname is "mouse" and this is because she's the quiet and skittish one. Julia is the strong one, the leader. Valentina doesn't even want to go London for the year but doesn't resist Julia's insistence in going.

There are a lot of things in the book that I can't even go into because of the way the book unravels. There are two big twists that I didn't see coming, although with one of them I feel like I should have seen it.

The characters are interesting, even if they aren't particularly likable. I found Elspeth to be extremely well-written but extremely unlikeable. She is self-centered and egotistical. In my opinion she never even truly loved Robert but only used him for her own reasons.

I do love the way Audrey Niffenegger writes her books. She has a gift for crafting a story that transports you to that place. I could picture the cemetery and the flat.
As with a great many sophomore novels, this one just doesn't live up to that of The Time Traveler's Wife even if they are completely different novels. In other words, if you are looking for another TTW, don't pick up Her Fearful Symmetry.

If you are looking for a love story that is also a ghost story, I highly recommend
Peony in Love: A Novel by Lisa See.

Even though this book was a bit of a disappointment, I will continue to check out Ms. Niffenegger's future novels.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Julie's Review: Symmetry

Summary: Jessica Cassady must reevaluate her marriage while also dealing with the realization that her hair pulling is more than just a nervous habit. When her husband Lee attends a sportswriters’ convention and Jessica calls his hotel room, another woman answers the phone. He swears things aren’t what they seem, but she insists he move out while she decides whether or not to forgive him. With the increased stress of the separation, Jessica’s hair pulling escalates and she realizes she might have a physical condition called trichotillomania. As if she doesn’t already have enough to deal with, her domineering mother shows up for a surprise visit. Jess tries to avoid her mother’s disapproval by attempting to conceal her marital problems. While Lee works to win Jess back, things grow complicated when she runs into Noah Hamilton, a sweet, unassuming history teacher from her past. Jess’s interest in Noah makes her think that maybe—as her best friend Deb loves to tell her—she needs to forego the beefcake brigade and give the sensitive type a try. Conflict escalates when Lee realizes just how much he’s lost in losing his wife. Sparks fly as these two polar opposites on the testosterone scale compete for Jess’s affection. Will she find her emotional center, decide which man is right for her, and finally achieve the symmetry she craves in every aspect of her life?

Review: I first want to thank Ms. Scarbrough for stopping by the blog and finding it interesting enough to offer me her book Symmetry. I found Jessica Cassady a very smart and sassy young woman except in one area of her life, her love life. She just can't shake the addiction she has to her former football player husband, Lee. You can pretty much gather from the beginning of the book that Jessica is not going to leave/divorce Lee. You know that by the end of the book he'll say the right thing to get her back.
This wasn't the storyline I was interested in.

What I enjoyed most was Jess's journey to figuring out why she liked to pull out her hair, strand by strand. This leads her to a self-diagnosis of trichotillomania or TTM for short. She begins to try to understand the triggers for this and takes actions to stop. I also liked how she developed a relationship with a young girl named Cara who did not have the support of her family in treating this disease. As a psychology major, I found it extremely interesting that this is a phyical disease and not a mental illness. I can see why it would be misdiagnosed a lot of the time.
I liked how this also brought her closer to her younger sister in law, Lexie and she was able to help Lexie with her own issues with OCD.

Normally I would think that author's would have to do a lot of research on a disease like TTM but not Ms. Scarbrough, for her this was a personal novel because she deals with TTM personally. I always like it when author's use a subject matter that they know personally as a source of inspiration for a character. I have a feeling that Jessica is a lot like Joyce in her way of dealing with TTM.

Ms. Scarbrough has quite a fan base around the web and I was happy to read her book to help her promote it.

If you are looking for a quick, fun and informative read, go grab yourself a copy of Symmetry and curl up on the couch.

Final Take: 3.75/5

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Book to Movie: Confessions of a Shopaholic

Summary: Fall in love with the adorable Becky Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) in the hilarious romantic comedy Confessions Of A Shopaholic. Becky s desperate for a job writing for a high-fashion magazine in glamorous New York. She gets her stilettos in the door writing a personal finance column at a sister publication. Much to her surprise, her column, The Girl In The Green Scarf, becomes a hit, and she falls head over high heels for her handsome, overworked boss (Hugh Dancy). But Becky has a secret that leads to some hilarious high jinks that could unravel it all. From the best-selling novel, and featuring the perfect comedic cast, it s the feel-good romantic comedy you'll fall in love with over and over.

Review: Ok so I was a huge fan of the Shopaholic Gift Set (Shopaholic Ties the Knot / Shopaholic Takes Manhattan / Confessions of a Shopaholic) until Shopaholic & Baby. Needless to say I wanted to hate this movie because they had changed so much about it. London = New York and other nuances. But I loved it! Sure, it didn't stick to the book but what book to movie does?? Isla Fisher was perfect as Becky Bloomwood and while Hugh Dancy is not Christian Bale, he is quite dreamy as Luke Brandon.

The one thing that really bugged me about it was that I don't remember Becky being a fashionista. I just remember her having a shopping problem, not necessarily because of Prada. That being said the character of Becky was as I remember her. Not really a complete space case but just unable to handle her finances. She's hilarious and really quite smart if she'd only take her own advice. Krysten Ritter is great as her best friend Suz. And parents are played quite well by John Goodman and Joan Cusack. Now that's some great casting!

The movie had me laughing out loud in several different parts (see the dancing scene) and had me feeling for Becky when she realized just really how bad it had gotten for her. I'm actually hoping for a sequel and that's coming from someone who didn't want to see it.

Book to Movie Final Take: 4/5 (I'd give it higher but it wasn't similar enough to the book, although it captured the spirit.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Book to Movie: Angels and Demons

Summary: If the devil is in the details, there's a lot of wicked fun in Angels & Demons, the sequel (originally a prequel) to The Da Vinci Code. Director Ron Howard delivers edge-of-your-pew thrills all over the Vatican, the City of Rome, and the deepest, dankest catacombs. Tom Hanks is dependably watchable in his reprised role as Professor Robert Langdon, summoned urgently to Rome on a matter of utmost urgency--which happens to coincide with the death of the Pope, meaning the Vatican is teeming with cardinals and Rome is teeming with the faithful. A religious offshoot group, calling themselves the Illuminati, which protested the Catholic Church's prosecution of scientists 400 years ago, has resurfaced and is making extreme, and gruesome, terrorist demands. The film zooms around the city, as Langdon follows clues embedded in art, architecture, and the very bone structure of the Vatican. The cast is terrific, including Ewan McGregor, who is memorable as a young protégé of the late pontiff, and who seems to challenge the common wisdom of the Conclave just by being 40 years younger than his fellows when he lectures for church reform. Stellan Skarsgard is excellent as a gruff commander of the Swiss Guard, who may or may not have thrown in with the Illuminati. But the real star of the film is Rome, and its High Church gorgeousness, with lush cinematography by Salvatore Totino, who renders the real sky above the Vatican, in a cataclysmic event, with the detail and majesty of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Review: I admit it, I never finished the book of Angels & Demons. I was pregnant with my daughter and my mind was just too foggy to read it. I did get about half way through it when I stopped, so I remember glimmers. Having said that this movie adaptation is so much better than The Da Vinci Code which sucked compared to the book. It didn't do the book justice at all. Instantly, Angels and Demons brings you in and you are enthralled.

Angels & Demons is fast-paced and the action never lets up. The story is extremely interesting and follows Brown's typical plot science vs. religion. What I thought was the most interesting was how the Cardinals pick a new Pontiff. The other thing that I felt was an important character was Vatican City itself. I didn't realize that while it's inside Rome, it's a separate city with a separate police force.

I'm not Catholic but their history is definitely interesting and very intriguing. The archives were extremely modern and I was very surprised by this. Then I reminded myself that the Catholic church is one of the richest institutions in the world.

I will say that I pretty much figured out the bad guy in the beginning of the movie but that doesn't matter much because I still loved watching Langdon figure this one out.

I'm a huge Tom Hanks fan and was much more pleased with this Robert Langdon movie than with The Da Vinci Code. To be honest, I never saw Mr. Hanks as Robert Langdon but now I can't picture anyone else.

So, even if you haven't read the book, I would definitely watch the movie. You won't be disappointed.

Movie Final Take: 4.5/5

Monday, December 21, 2009

Julie's Review: Knit the Season

Summary: Knit the Season is a loving, moving, laugh-out-loud celebration of special times with friends and family. The story begins a year after the end of Knit Two, with Dakota Walker's trip to spend the Christmas holidays with her Gran in Scotland-accompanied by her father, her grandparents, and her mother's best friend, Catherine. Together, they share a trove of happy memories about Christmases past with Dakota's mom, Georgia Walker-from Georgia's childhood to her blissful time as a doting new mom. From Thanksgiving through Hanuk?kah and Christmas to New Year's, Knit the Season is a novel about the richness of family bonds and the joys of friendship.

Review: I pre-ordered Knit the Season: A Friday Night Knitting Club Novel when it was released knowing I would want a Christmas/Holiday book to read right around this time of year. I'm glad I picked it up and read it in a weekend. I needed something to boost my spirit since work tends to get extremely hectic this time of year. For those of you who have read the other "Friday Night Knitting Club" books, this one is a great fit into the rest of the series and yes, it makes you want more.

This is like grabbing a cup of coffee and catching up with friends you haven't seen in a while. It's also meant to remind us what the holiday's are really, friends and love. What I liked about this book is that we got to know Georgia a bit more through memories of her friends and family. We also get to know her parents, Tom and Bess, better and this also lends to us understanding Georgia.

Like Knit Two, Knit the Season is told from Dakota's point of view and I felt that it was a real voice of a 20 year old that has a lot on her plate. She's trying to live up to her own expectations of herself and those she feels other's have for her as well.

There is a bunch of change at the end of the book and I'm interested in seeing where Ms. Jacobs takes this series. She certainly has a lot of material to work with if she chooses to continue writing the characters.

I've said in the past that some of the characters annoyed me, but not this time around. They have all seemed to mature a bit.

Final Take: 4.5/5

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Top Books of 2009: Julie's List

I can't believe it's almost the end of 2009 and I've been working like a dog. Since it's that time of year again, it's yet again time for our Top 10 Lists. I'm on my 49th book for the year as I'm doing this list, so I guess it could be edited if the books I read between now and 12/31 deserve being on the list.

Perfect on Paper by Maria Murane: Looking for an American "Bridget Jones"? Well let Waverly Bryson fill that role for you. A laugh out loud, feel good book. I loved it! Perfect on Paper review

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran: Talk about learning something new. You always hear the name Nefertiti but how many of us know anything about her? Ms. Moran does a fantastic job incorporating facts and fiction. Above all this is a book about sisters. Nefertiti review

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly: I have to thank Lisa (again) for turning me on to this brilliant writer. Even though I read them out of order I loved getting to know a young Fiona and Joe. This is a historical romance book at it's finest. You can tell Ms. Donnelly does her homework. The Tea Rose review

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford: I loved this coming of age story set during WWII. I also learned a great deal while reading the book about the US treatment of Japanese citizens that I found appalling. Although for me it was a love story in the end. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet review

The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne: What a haunting story about how we all fight our own demons but how we can fight our way back into the world. This was a deep and dark book but it was superbly written. The Last Bridge review

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran: Well can you tell I'm a big fan of Ms. Moran's? Well there's a very good reason, her writing is phenomenal. This is another historical fiction book set in Egypt and the main character, Nefertari is intriguing, youthful and wise. She's an excellent character and you cheer for her the whole book. The Heretic Queen review

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella: After a lackluster Remember Me in 2008, Ms. Kinsella hit it out of the park with this book. A ghost story that is clever, witty, and a hoot. I highly recommend this book if you are in the mood for something a bit lighter but still with a strong message. Twenties Girl review

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe: What an outstanding first novel. Sure this book was about Salem witches and if they were really witches, but most of all it was about finding and understanding yourself. Sometimes that comes from family history. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane review

Darling Jim by Christian Moerk: I'm not into Goth books at all but I loved this one. The writing was entrancing and I really wanted to know what happened at the end. It was definitely a book I highly recommend to fans of a good mystery. Darling Jim review

The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark: A renaissance, coming of age story. Ms. Newmark really puts you in renaissance Italy and how it was to live in that time. What a fantastic book about food and alchemy. The Book of Unholy Mischief review

I can't wait to see what will make the list for 2010. I highly recommend any of these books if you have not yet read them.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Random Musings

Photobucket I have made a decision...I'm done with Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, which mean I'm done with Ms. Evanovich since I don't read any of her other books. I think the divorce has been coming for a while but I realized today that I haven't read book 15 and I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

Someone will just have to tell me when the last book is written so I can find out if Stephanie ended up with Morelli or Ranger. I'm on Team Morelli.

With so many authors out there who has the time to waste on characters you just don't care about anymore.

Anyone else divorcing an author?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Book to Movie: New Moon

I've really been looking forward to this movie. Although I promised myself I wasn't going to re-read the book prior to seeing it, I couldn't help it. The anticipation was too great.

I have been hoping that the interpretation of this book comes off better on film than Twilight (my review of the first film) where I think they removed too much of the romance from the story and as a result Bella comes off as a manic, love crazed teenager and Edward a slightly scary stalker. I was not disappointed.

I think this is one of the best Book-to-Movie translations I've seen. It's right up there with the Sorcerer's Stone in that it made an effort to include EVERYTHING and created a magical world. The pervasive blues and greys of Twilight were replaced by the lush color that Meyer so vividly describes. I even thought the 'voice' of Edward in Bella's head was done well, with ghost like apparitions of him.

Were there things excluded that I missed? Of course (Alice & Charlie's conversation when Alice returns, Alice & Bella's conversation on the plane, Edward & Bella's final conversation in her room (which is severely truncated), Bella's fight with Charlie). But many things were inserted elsewhere or even rewritten better (like Harry's heart attack). In truth, you'll always miss something but they left out nothing that was essential to the plot. They even went back and picked up the conversation that was skipped in the first film that was necessary plot exposition for this film, Carlisle's history.

Though I'm still not a huge Kristen Stewart fan, I think the rest of the movie brilliantly makes up for her. The only scene that was truly cringe worthy for me was her solo scene after Edward left her in the woods. (Interestingly enough, in one of her recent interviews Stewart claimed that this was her favorite book in the series because of the emotional gamut for the character of Bella; I found this amusing, because it certainly isn't portrayed on film. ~I have serious doubts that she will be able to pull off Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final film). However, she was the only dull spot in an otherwise sparkling film (pun intended) and even that was almost something to overlook.

I thoroughly enjoyed it ~even with a 'Team Jacob' teen sobbing behind me and a teen a few seats over, who had obviously never read the books, remarking loudly at each new development. I'd even go see it again in the theatres before it hits DVD ~which is already on my wish list... ok, well, at least signed up to be notified of when it becomes available to put on my wish list...

Final take: 4.75/5