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Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lizzie Nichols has a problem - she can’t help spilling secrets. When she decides to spend the summer in London with her boyfriend, she accidentally gets him trouble with her big mouth and they break up. She ends up spending the summer in the South of France, working with her best friend catering weddings at a chateau.
This was a fun, lighthearted piece of chick-lit. Even though Lizzie doesn’t always make the best decisions, she’s funny and likable and I was rooting for her all the way through the book. Sometimes in these types of books the clueless heroine stresses me out so much that I can’t enjoy the story (e.g. the Shopaholic books) but that was not true in this case.
I listened to the audio version of this book. It’s narrated by Justine Eyre who also narrated Cabot’s Heather Wells mystery series. She does a great job with all the required accents – American, English and French.
Night Road by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
This is the first Kristin Hannah book I’ve read so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found it to be a Lifetime Movie in print form. It had the requisite broadly painted characters – the overprotective mom (Jude), the detached father (Miles), the son who’s the most popular kid in school (Zach) and his misfit twin sister who has grown up in her brother’s shadow (Mia) and Mia’s best friend Lexi – the kid who has grown up in foster care and come out of it with a martyr complex.
Jude has got to be one of the worst mothers ever. She is today’s typical helicopter mom, directing every move of her children’s lives while indulging them in the worst way. After the tragedy that is heavily foreshadowed in the first pages of the book happens, she becomes the most self-involved bitch you can imagine. I had no sympathy for her and couldn’t find any redeeming qualities about her.
I found the things that happened to Lexi, the kid from the wrong side of the tracks that befriends Mia, fairly unrealistic. Being a foster parent myself, I know that a social worker does not just wake a 14 year old child up at the break of dawn and say, “Guess what – we’re flying halfway across the country so you can live with your aunt.” – unless they are a very bad social worker. She would talk to the child about it well before the moving day and at least have the child talk on the phone to the aunt before moving in with her. Anyway, I found just about everything that happened to Lexi or that she did pretty unbelievable but I just had to let that go so I could enjoy the story.
I really wanted to dislike this book. Especially since I’ve recently read Every Last One by Anna Quindlen which has similar themes but a much better developed characters and better written story. The whole time I was reading Night Road, I was thinking to myself how predictable the story line was and how one-dimensional the characters were. But just like I can get sucked into a Lifetime Movie while flipping channels and two hours later wonder why I watched the whole thing, I could not put this book down. It’s definitely a guilty pleasure read.
(I received this book courtesy of the publisher and the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.)
Just a few hours until the 83rd Annual Academy Awards! Who will win the six major award categories?? My predictions are in green (bolded films are ones I've actually seen).
Best Actor In A Leading Role
Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
Colin Firth in “The King's Speech”
James Franco in “127 Hours”
Best Actor In A Supporting Role
Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
John Hawkes in “Winter's Bone”
Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
Geoffrey Rush in “The King's Speech”
Best Actress In A Leading Role
Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone”
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”
Best Actress In A Supporting Role
Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King's Speech”
Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”
“Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
“The Fighter” David O. Russell
“The King's Speech” Tom Hooper
“The Social Network” David Fincher
“True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
“The Kids Are All Right”
“The King's Speech”
“The Social Network”
“Toy Story 3”
I think who will win the acting awards is pretty much a given. The same actors have been winning all the other awards so I'm sure they will win the Oscars too. I'm not so sure on Best Director and Best Picture. If a Best Picture nominee was not also nominated for Best Director then I don't think it has a chance of winning Best Picture. That narrows it down from ten to five. I'm guessing The Social Network just because it won the Golden Globes in the same categories.
Let's look at the other award categories. I'm not making predictions in all of them; only the ones I have a strong feeling about:
Best Animated Feature Film
“How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
“The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
“Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich
Come on, Toy Story 3 made grown men cry.
Best Art Direction
“Alice in Wonderland”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
“The King's Speech”
“Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
“Inception” Wally Pfister
“The King's Speech” Danny Cohen
“The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
“True Grit” Roger Deakins
Best Costume Design
“Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
“I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
“The King's Speech” Jenny Beavan
“The Tempest” Sandy Powell
“True Grit” Mary Zophres
Best Documentary Feature
“Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
“Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
“Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
“Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
“Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley
Exit Throught the Gift Shop was great and has generated quite a bit of controversy. Was it a hoax? What will happen if it wins the award and then is found out to be a hoax for sure? Scandel!
Best Documentary Short
“Killing in the Name” Nominees to be determined
“Poster Girl” Nominees to be determined
“Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
“Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
“The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon
Best Film Editing
“Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
“The Fighter” Pamela Martin
“The King's Speech” Tariq Anwar
“127 Hours” Jon Harris
“The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
Best Foreign Language Film
“In a Better World” Denmark
“Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria
“Barney's Version” Adrien Morot
“The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
“The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey
Best Original Score
“How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
“Inception” Hans Zimmer
“The King's Speech” Alexandre Desplat
“127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
“The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Best Original Song
“Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
“I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
“If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3" Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
Best Animated Short Film
“Day & Night” Teddy Newton
“The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
“Let's Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
“The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
“Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois
You can read my reviews of the Animated Short Films here.
Best Live Action Short Film
“The Confession” Tanel Toom
“The Crush” Michael Creagh
“God of Love” Luke Matheny
“Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
“Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite
You can read my reviews of the Live Action Short Films here.
Best Sound Editing
“Inception” Richard King
“Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
“Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
“True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
“Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger
Best Sound Mixing
“Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
“The King's Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
“Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
“The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
“True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
Best Visual Effects
“Alice in Wonderland”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
“Iron Man 2”
Best Adapted Screenplay
“127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
“The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
“Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
“True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“Winter's Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini
There's no way that Aaron Sorkin's brilliant, rapid fire dialogue could not win.
Best Original Screenplay
“Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
“The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
“Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
“The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
“The King's Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The three Andreas sisters have all come back to the small town they grew up in and moved back in with their parents under the pretense of helping their ailing mother. However, they're really all running away from something: Rose, the caretaking, controlling oldest sister is avoiding her increasing stressful relationship; Bean, the middle sister struggling to form her own identity is running from troubles at her job; and Cordy, the vagabond youngest sister, is unmarried and pregnant.
Shakespeare references are found throughout the book. The sisters are all named after characters in Shakespeare plays and their father, a college professor, prefers to communicate by quoting Shakespeare instead of using his own words. I don't know much about Shakespeare beyond Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of this book. (Although if you are a Shakespeare expert, you will enjoy it that much more I'm sure.) Sometimes the sisters didn't even understand what their father was trying to say!
This book was just wonderful! The author did a fantastic job of making each sister a believable, sympathetic three dimensional character. I could relate to some aspect of each sister. The author tells us their story in a unique way - the book is narrated by all three sisters in first person at the same time, as if they were one person. It sounds strange but it really works to show how close the sisters are and how intertwined their lives are whether they like it or not. Overall, this was a beautifully written engaging story.
We had a great Valentine's Day at our house. The boys made me "the biggest Valentine EVER". They also gave me baked heart shaped sugar cookies that they baked with Travis. Apparently they did this Sunday morning while I was sleeping off a cold. I didn't hear or smell anything!
West saw these nesting owls at Urban Outfitters last month and fell in love with them. I'm not really sure why. He talked about them all the time and was desperately trying to save up his tokens to buy them. We went ahead and gave them to him for his Valentine's Day present. He was thrilled! He played with them the rest of the night and tucked them in to his bed by wrapping them up in a burp cloth.
Cash loved his LilKinz bluejay. He named him Blues.
After gifts, it was time to eat our heart-shaped pizza. Yum!
We wrapped up the night with some very serious Webkinz playing.
Let's look at the films nominated for Best Animated Short:
Day and Night (USA - 6 minutes)
I was surprised that I had already seen this film. It's a Pixar short and I believe played before Toy Story 3. Day and Night meet and are initially wary of each other but soon learn to appreciate their differences.
The Gruffalo (UK - 27 minutes)
This film is based on a children's book. A mouse is walking through the woods looking for a nut and must use his wits to escape the hungry predators he encounters along the way.
Let's Pollute (USA - 6 minutes)
A satire of the 1950s educational films, this films instructs us on how to be better polluters.
The Lost Thing (Austrailia/UK - 15 minutes)
A boy finds a bizarre looking creature on the beach. After he realizes it's lost, he sets out to find out where it belongs.
Madagasgar, Carnet de Voyage (France - 11 minutes)
A travel journey about a vacation in Madagasgar.
Day and Night was a fun short that appeals to both adults and children. The Gruffalo was a fun fable that I can see my boys loving and wanting to watch over and over. Let's Pollute was hilarious - it was my personal favorite. I felt like The Lost Thing had a message about belonging or something that I wasn't quite grasping. Travis (who works with animation) said there was no message, that the filmmakers had probably created the cool looking creature and then crafted a weak story around it just to showcase the creature. Madagasgar was the most visually interesting but even with the subtitles I had trouble understanding what was going on in it.
This is a tough one to predict. I'm kind of thinking that Day and Night will win just because it's a Pixar production and they tend to win in the feature length best animation category. But Hollywood is full of environmentalists who would love the humor in Let's Pollute. I'll go with Let's Pollute as my predicted winner in this category.
Saturday Travis and I went to a screening of all of the live action and animated short films nominated for Academy Awards this year. Let's take a look at the live action short films today:
The Confession (UK - 26 minutes)
Nine year old Sam is making his first confession soon. The problem is he's a good little boy and doesn't have anything to confess. His friend Jacob decides to help him out by planning a prank that Sam can confess to pulling with him. Unfortunately the innocent prank turns horribly tragic.
The Crush (Ireland - 15 minutes)
Eight year old Ardel is in love with his classroom teacher Miss Purdy and is very disappointed when he discovers she has a boyfriend. Ardel is determined to show his teacher that HE is the one for her.
God of Love (USA - 18 minutes)
Dart-throwing lounge singer Raymond Goodfellow has a hopeless crush on Kelly, the drummer in his band. To make things worse, Kelly has a hopeless crush on Raymond's best friend Fozzie. Raymond thinks his prayers are answered when one day he receives a mysterious package of love darts in the mail.
Na Wewe (Belgium/Burundi - 19 minutes)
It's 1994 and a civil war is raging in the African country of Burundi. A gang of Hutu rebels stops a minibus and trys to sort out who is Hutu and will survive and who is a Tutsi and will be killed.
Wish 143 (UK - 24 minutes)
A 16 year old with terminal cancer is granted one wish from the Dreamscape Charity. He surprises them by wishing to lose his virginity.
These were all wonderful films. The Confession was unpredictable, dark and the little boy who played Sam is a terrific actor. The Crush was my personal favorite of the live action shorts. It was the perfect mix of humor and drama with a suspenseful ending that had me on the edge of my seat. God of Love reminded me of a Woody Allen movie (in a good way) with it's neurotic, dorky main character. Na Wewe was disturbing and hard to watch but had a powerful message. Wish 143 started out silly and then took an unexpected sentimental turn towards the end.
Because it was the film with the most powerful message, I predict that Na Wewe will win the Oscar.
My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Daniel is one of the rare people in the world who has "the memory". In other words, he remembers all his past lives and can recognize the souls of people he knew in those lives. He's spent life after life looking for Sophia, a girl he fell in love with in his first life. Some times he finds her, some times he doesn't. Somehow in all his many lives, circumstances have never worked out for Daniel and Sophia to be together without tragedy.
The story alternates between Daniel's past lives and his present day life where he has found Sophia and enrolled in the same high school as her. But how does he convince her that he's not crazy and that they have a long history together? It's a beautiful love story and towards the last half also very suspenseful and action packed. I was so absorbed I finished it in two days. I couldn't stop thinking about Daniel and his unique condition. I think this would make a great book club selection.
HOWEVER, the ending was terrible! It was very abrupt and jarring - like the author just decided to stop writing. I've seen many places on the Internet that indicate there will be a sequel and other places that state this is the first book in a trilogy but I wasn't able to find anywhere where the author or publisher confirmed this. (If you have please let me know!) So my five-star review is contingent on there being a sequel. If there isn't, then I would downgrade to four stars, maybe lower.
*Buy this book at:
I'm keeping good on my plan to do a monthly update post to track where I'm at on my challenges. Here's where I am one month into 2011.
1. Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot
1. A book with a number in the title - Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot
2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title
3. A book with a size in the title
4. A book with travel or movement in the title - The Art of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein
5. A book with evil in the title
6. A book with a life stage in the title
Bart's Bookshelf is hosting the TwentyEleven Challenge. I need to read two books in nine of the categories and one book in two of the categories:
There are ten books in The Vampire Chronicles Reading Challenge hosted by Book Chick City: