Showing posts from January, 2010

Sunday Salon: Book Conferences

It's time to get excited about book conferences. I'm thrilled to be attending the 2010 Book Blogger Convention in New York City on Friday, May 28, 2010. I'm looking forward to meeting other book bloggers, networking and getting even more fabulous tips. Book Blogger Con is now officially affiliated with Book Expo America, which I will also be attending for the first time. Book Expo America is a huge deal in the publishing industry, so it's fantastic they're officially recognizing book bloggers too.
Book Blogger Con was planned to be the day after BEA (May 25-27), but now it can be held in the same spot. Plus, all bloggers registered for Book Blogger Con are automatically registered for BEA. It's awesome. Do you want to go? BEA is free for press, and Book Blogger Con is $115, but if you register before February 14, you get $25 off. Register now to guarantee the $90 fee.

I found a delightful studio apartment through Airbnb, a Web site that allows homeowners and a…

book review: Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman

Scottsboro was shortlisted for the Orange Prize last year, and it's the first of the six on the shortlist I've read. The Orange Prize is an award for full-length novels written in English by a woman of any nationality. Because it's a British prize, it's UK publication date is the one that counts. The Orange Prize is perhaps my favorite award because I enjoy the books chosen as both great literature and being immensely readable. Other prizes sometimes give awards to books that are good but not necessarily enjoyable to read. I want to be challenged, but I also want to enjoy reading.

Scottsborois a historical novel based on the true story of the Scottsboro boys, nine African-American boys who were accused of raping two white women on a train in Scottsboro, Alabama in 1931. It's a story I'm sad I wasn't familiar with before starting this novel. Nevertheless, the opening scene of the novel is told through the eyes of Ruby Bates, one of the white women accusers. N…

dvd review: The Hangover

You might have noticed I'm rather enamored with the Golden Globes, even though I don't usually agree with their winners. After hearing people rave about The Hangover being THE FUNNIEST MOVIE EVER since last summer, I tried to go in with low expectations. It was the last film I saw in the Best Picture, Comedy or Musical category, and I already had my favorites (It's Complicated and Nine) and my least favorite, why in the world was this film nominated (500) Days of Summer, but I still didn't think The Hangover was a real contender for Best Picture. Obviously, I was wrong. It won.

The Hangover, of course, is a film about a bachelor party gone horribly, horribly wrong. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis wake up in Vegas with a tiger in the bathroom, a baby, a missing tooth, and a missing groom. The three set off to figure out what the hell happened last night.

Overall, it's an okay movie. For me, the humor was more abstract than actually laugh-out-loud funny…

waiting on wednesday: The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to highlight an upcoming release you're excited for.

My pick this week is Allison Winn Scotch's new novel The One That I Want. 

I couldn't find an actual summary of this novel, but that's okay. Allison Winn Scotch's books are universally adored. Yes, I still haven't actually read one, but as I was seeing which of her novels are available on the Kindle last week, I came across this new one, and I still got excited. I do, however, follow Allison Winn Scotch on Twitter, where she makes me laugh and smile daily.

The One That I Want will be published June 1, 2010 by Shaye Areheart Books.

movie review: Nine

Nine is not a film for everyone. It's a film based on the stage play, which was based on Fellini's classic film 8 1/2. Musical films are rather hit or miss in general, and this one seems to be especially polarizing despite its all-star cast.

Here's a breakdown of its stars:
Daniel Day-Lewis plays an Italian movie director about to start shooting his latest film that has only a title, a crew and no script. He finds inspiration from the women in his life from imagined musical numbers of them singing.Fergie plays a prostitute from his youth.Nicole Kidman is the star of his film.Marion Cotillard is his wife, whom he met on a film.Sophia Loren is his mother.Dudi Dench is the costume designer.Kate Hudson is a writer for Vogue.Penelope Cruz is his mistress. Each woman gets her own musical solo, and Marion Cotillard gets two. For more than half of this film, I was ambivalent. I enjoyed it, but it didn't capture my attention; it lacked a little magic. I was surprised how underw…

movie review: It's Complicated

Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of Nancy Meyers. I usually want to like her films or really enjoy the premise (The Holiday), but I usually leave the theater disappointed. I left the theater wanting to see It's Complicated again, preferably immediately. What makes this film so much better than anything else Nancy Meyers has done? Fantastic actors and a script that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Meryl Streep has been divorced from Alex Baldwin for fourteen years. They have three grown children, who are all wonderful. On a side note, all three are believably Meryl Streep's children, which is wonderful look-a-like casting. Jon Krasinski is about to marry their oldest daughter, and he almost steals the entire movie. He's fantastic. Also fantastic, of course, are Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin (Streep's architect who is designing her dream addition).

In the midst of the humor (and almost every scene is laugh out loud funny), are wonderful character…

young adult book review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls is the story of Lia, an 18-year-old with an eating disorder dealing with her life and the death of her former best friend, Cassie. At times, it's hard to read because it's not terribly pleasant to be inside the mind of a character obsessed with calories, exercise, and losing weight. I commend Laurie Halse Anderson for writing this honest book. While it was difficult for me to read, I can only imagine how beneficial it would be in the hands of a girl (or boy) struggling with an eating disorder. The book feels like a mystery too, as Lia looks into Cassie's final moments. It's not an easy book, but it's an important one.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Pages: 288 pages
Publication date: March 19, 2009
Source: my local public library

As an Amazon Associate, I will receive a small commission if you purchase this book through the above link. Thanks!

dinner and a movie: Broken Embraces

Welcome to my Monday morning recap of my Friday night. First, I see a movie at the Spectrum 8 Theater. Then, I meander two doors down and enjoy dinner at New World Bistro Bar, my favorite restaurant in Albany
Broken Embraces is the latest film by one of my favorite directors, Pedro Almodovar. If you haven't seen his films (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, All About My Mother, Volver, Talk to Her and Bad Education), you really should.

Broken Embraces is classic Almodovar. It's a haunting story that slowly unfolds. It stars Penelope Cruz. It's visually haunting.

In the interest of maximum enjoyment, I'll tell you a little bit about the plot. It's the story of Harry Caine, a now blind writer living in Madrid in 2008. It's also the story of a film he made in 1994 before he was blind. The story flashes back and forth from the past to the present and then settles comfortably in the past to enlighten the audience. It's harrowing at times because the v…

young adult book review: Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

As many of you know, nomadreaerboy got me a Kindle for Christmas, and I love it. To resist the temptation to spend all of the Amazon giftcards my parents and brother bought me in the first five minutes, I started browsing the Kindle bestseller list for free books. I was delighted to see Maureen Johnson's Suite Scarlett available for free. I've read great reviews of it, but I hadn't gotten around to reading it yet. Having a free Kindle copy made it shoot to the top of my pile.

I started reading it on the train home from our Christmas vacation, and I instantly liked it. It's the story of Scarlett, a delightful teenager who lives in a New York City hotel. Her parents own the hotel, which has declined in prestige over the years. There's some teen angst: her friends are all off doing exciting things all summer, and she has to work at the hotel. There's some romance too. I adore New York City, and this story is a partial ode to the city. Most importantly though, it&…

Waiting on Wednesday: Till You Hear From Me by Pearl Cleage

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to highlight an upcoming you can't wait to read.

My pick this week is the latest novel by my absolute favorite author, Pearl Cleage. I couldn't locate a description for Till You Hear From Me, and I'm not sure I want to. I first fell in love with Pearl Cleage when I saw Blues for an Alabama Sky at the Alliance Theater in the mid-1990's. I was absolutely blown away. When her first novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, came out, she became not only my favorite playwright but my favorite novelist. When Oprah chose it for her book club, I was thrilled. I will read anything--plays, prose, nonfiction--Ms. Cleage writes. When she would come dine at the restaurant I worked at in Atlanta, I could never find the words to tell her how much her work means to me.

Random House will release Till You Hear From Me on April 20, 2010. You can pre-order it from Amazon now.

tv review: Project Runway

After an uneven first season on Lifetime, Project Runway is back in New York City and actually airing shortly after it filmed, which should help the fashion seem more relevant. Last week's premiere was quite entertaining, as Nicole Richie was the guest judge, and she brought her quirky fashion taste and humor.

My favorite dress actually won:

This dress lost:

I dubbed it "a very Cosby Easter dress."

Project Runway airs on Lifetime Thursday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern. I'm sure you can catch repeats of last week's episode, but you can also watch it online. Thanks, Lifetime!

movie revew: Avatar

I still can't believe Avatar won Best Picture at the Golden Globes.

The good: Visually, this film is lovely. It's the first movie I've seen in 3D, so perhaps it was especially stunning for me. Pandora, the planet where much of the film takes place, is pretty cool looking, and 3D helps. There were lots of little touches enhanced by 3D. For seventy minutes, I was completely absorbed in the film and uttered the word "wow" more than once.

The bad: The story, the script and the length. James Cameron should never have full control of a script; he's not a writer. He's barely even a storyteller with this film. There's a good idea in there somewhere, but movies should not be a purely visual medium. I'm absolutely baffled the studio gave him (allegedly) $300 million and didn't insist on someone else writing the script. The film had zero depth, which is ironic given the visual depth. It went from lame to ridiculous. I rolled my eyes. I considered leaving.…

Golden Globes wrap-up

I'll focus on the positive about the 2009 Golden Globes: it was a really enjoyable telecast to watch. Ricky Gervais was funny but mostly absent from the stage. Mostly, he introduced a few key presenters of his choice with hilarious and surprising bits. As a telecast, the flow was good. Most recipients knew if they had time to talk (actors) or if they didn't (producers of miniseries and foreign films). The order of awards kept things fresh too; there weren't lulls.

The Movies
I am mostly baffled by the movie awards. Not only were many of those I didn't think should even be nominated winners, but the Hollywood Foreign Press seem to be pandering to mainstream, mall-shopping, corporate movieplex-going America. They have enough power with what movies are made; let us keep our quality films, please. There is nothing wrong with mainstream hits. Avatar is an important movie for it's technical advances for the genre, but it is not a good movie (my review will post tomorrow).…

sunday salon: My Golden Globes Wishlist

Happy Golden Globes Day! I did not meet my overly ambitious goal of seeing all the films nominated for Golden Globe Awards before the ceremony. While I could have seen a few more in the theater, I would have had to travel to see some because they haven't opened in Albany. 

I did manage, however, to see all ten films nominated for Best Picture--5 Drama and 5 Musical or Comedy. Although a few have not yet been reviewed, the reviews should all post this week. I've had so much fun watching movies, and while it means I've read less, I've thoroughly enjoyed my deliberate movie watching the past few weeks. Although the Golden Globes are tonight, the Oscar nominees are announced February 2, and the ceremony is not until March 7. I hope to see all ten Best Picture nominees, as well as all of the films for the acting and directing nominees. 

Here are my predictions and my hopes for tonight's Golden Globes. As a forecaster, I tend to pick my hopes for the Golden Globes and my f…

children's book review: Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is an illuminating piece of nonfiction. Phillip Hoose tells the story without condescending, but he also doesn't assume the reader knows anything about his story. As an adult reader, I appreciated the deep background provided in sidebars.

From the first pages, which are largely pictures illuminating life in the South in the era of Jim Crow laws, I was wowed. The book reads almost like a documentary; Hoose uses photos, text boxes, background, newspaper text and interviews to paint a vivid picture not only of Colvin's life, but these years in Montgomery, Alabama.

Who is Claudette Colvin? She was a high school girl who refused to give up her seat for a white passenger. She did it nine months before Rosa Parks, and she was arrested. Part of what I love about this book is the honesty, which is at times brutal. Rosa Parks is an American hero, and so many of us growing up being wowed by her bravery. This book takes us back to the way it really h…

dvd review: The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is the story of a U.S. bomb squad in Baghdad in 2004. It's a raw, honest war movie. It's hard to watch at times because it's intense. 

It's very, very good, but it is not quite great. Is it worth seeing? Yes, I think it illuminates the war in a way still photos, news footage and articles cannot. It's important to have a richer understanding of war and this war. Each scene opens with a graphic of the number of days the unit has left on their tour. What keeps this movie from being great as a movie is the lack of transcendence. Much of the film feels like a documentary, which is fine. When a story makes an appearance, it feels out of line with the rest of the movie. Perhaps there's too much side story or perhaps there's not enough. Either way, it was a nice break from the constant stress and tension, but it didn't quite work for me.

See this movie. It's not easy to watch, and at times it reminded me of a mode…