Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Review of 'Big Girl' by Danielle Steel (Audio Book)

"Victoria Dawson has always felt out of place in her family, especially in body-conscious L.A.  Her father, Jim, is tall and slender, and her mother, Christina, is a fine-boned, dark-haired beauty.  Both are self-centered, outspoken, and disappointed by their daughter's looks.  While her parents and sister can eat anything they want and not gain an ounce, Victoria must watch everything she eats, as well as endure her father's belittling comments about her body and see her academic achievements go unacknowledged.  Ice cream and over-sized helpings of all the wrong foods give her comfort, but only briefly.  The one thing she knows is that she has to get away from home, and after college in Chicago, she moves to New York City.

Behind Victoria is a lifetime of hurt and neglect she has tried to forget, and even ice cream can no longer dull the pain.  Ahead is a challenge and a risk: to accept herself as she is, celebrate it, and claim the victories she has fought so hard for and deserves.  Big girl or not, she is terrific and discovers that herself."

It has been a while since a book has provoked this kind of reaction from me.  'The Fault in Our Stars' made me cry, but 'Big Girl' made me angry, disgusted, a little hopeful, and sad in a different way.  As I began to really listen to this book, I was shocked by the number of similarities I saw between myself and this book.  Victoria believed that she was too big and ugly.  She's blonde, she went to college in the Midwest, and she became an English teacher.  Her sister is tiny and drop-dead gorgeous.  This much sounds like my life-- past, present, and future.  That's where the similarities ended as we learned of Jim and Christina's cruelty.

I was shocked by how they treated their eldest daughter.  They were subtle at first, naming Victoria after Queen Victoria, whom her parents didn't believe was particularly beautiful.  As Victoria grew older, their verbal abuse became more blatant-- calling her big and telling her that they wouldn't even help pay for her future wedding and, at her sister's wedding, telling her that she shouldn't even bother catching the bouquet because she was never going to get married any way.  I was just so dumbfounded.  Why would any parent think that it was okay to put down their own child like that?  Why would they make their child feel like they can't do anything  right, essentially driving them away from home?

Even more shocking to me was after Victoria graduated college and was about to start her first teaching job.  Her parents told her that she couldn't be a teacher forever because she would eventually have to grow up and get a real job where she could make money.  Pardon my language, but I became pissed off upon hearing that.

Victoria's family's pursuit for perfection was just sickening on a variety of levels.  It was sad to see what this obsession could do to a person.  Victoria didn't feel like she was worth it.  She was a waste of space and no one would ever love her.

Okay, deep breath.  Let's move on to something else...

The characters and their development in this novel was phenomenal.  The characters were all so different and they each had personalities that popped off the page (or they would have, had I had a hard copy of this novel as opposed to an audio book version).

The one negative thing that I found about this book was that it was a little repetitive in the beginning before Victoria got help from her psychiatrist, but that's the only not-so-awesome thing about this book.

Overall, Danielle Steel writes a very provocative and effective novel that will interest teens and adults alike.

I give 'Big Girl':
Thanks for Reading!


Monday, February 27, 2012

A Review of 'Sisterhood Everlasting' by Ann Brashares (Audio Book)

"From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Brashares comes the welcome return of the characters whose friendship became a touchstone for a generation.  Now Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own.  And though the jeans they shares are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting.

Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them.  Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends.  Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn't take.  Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can't seem to shed her old restlessness.

Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await.  And indeed, it will change their lives forever-- but in ways that none of them could ever have expected."

A little fan-girl squeal escaped me when I found this audio book at the library.  This is a continuation of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, though Tibby, Carmen, Bee, and Lena are much older than when we last saw them at age eighteen/nineteen.  Even though they're almost thirty in this book, I, a teenager, got a lot of enjoyment out of this book.  The characters still have their same old personalities as before, which was lovely!

I think I liked this one more than the other Traveling Pants books because it had the added elements of loss, dealing with grief, and moving on (in more ways than one) along with the usual elements of romance and being human.  I appreciated the more grown-up novel as opposed to the novel that's meant to be read on the beach during the summer.  It was beautiful in ways that the original four books couldn't be.

I didn't like that the new minor characters weren't introduced more.  There was a character, Drew, who showed up once or twice, but I couldn't remember who he was-- whether he appeared in a previous book or not-- I feel like a little context could have helped, even though Drew wasn't important.  This would have been more important for Carmen's fiance, Jones, though.  He's a more prominent character any way.  It would have been nice if Jones had put up a little bit of a fight for Carmen.  It would have shown that he wasn't a completely one-sided character-- that he cared at least a little bit about Carmen and wasn't just rushing into marriage because it was the thing to do.

This is definitely not a book you can just pick up and understand.  It really helps to have read the first four books in order to truly appreciate the book.

Overall, this book is a great read (or listen) and those who loved the first four Traveling Pants books will simply devour it!

I give 'Sisterhood Everlasting':
Thanks for reading!


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Movie Time! 'Blood Simple'

"In a jealous rage, Texas tavern owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) hires unscrupulous private detective Loren Visser (M. Emmett Walsh) to not only tail Marty's two-timing spouse, Abby (Frances McDormand, in her big-screen debut), but also murder her and her bar-keeping paramour (John Getz).  Events take a surprising turn, however, when the gumshoe double-crosses his client.  Joel Coen directs this stylish shocker co-written with brother Ethan Coen."

As I mentioned on Thursday, my Literature and Film class has been learning about Film Noir.  'Blood Simple' is a more modern Film Noir.  It was directed by the Coen brothers who are from Minnesota, the state that I live in.

This movie is rated R for persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, and adult activity.  Just keep this in mind if ratings are important in your decision to watch a movie.

The beginning, before the story even begins to unfold, was very neat.  The light patterns were very interesting because of the rain and the bright flashes of the car headlights that flashed by.  It was cinematic excellence!

The movie was generally quiet.  There were a lot of suspenseful pauses as one character would creep around a corner (unknowingly) towards another character.  When the normal sounds joined the quiet and the sound of boots on the floor, it was enough to cause a number of people in my Lit and Film class to jump out of our seats!

The silence also made the film quite eerie and, for me, a little hard to watch because they were a bit long for my attention span.

The murders and double-crossing made the move very interesting (it wouldn't be a true Noir without the murders).  I'm just in love with Noir because of the crime and because of the lack of light.

The beginning of the movie (other than the very beginning when Abby and Ray (John Getz) were in the car together) wasn't terribly interesting, though the information was very important. When the characters started dying, everything became more tense, suspenseful, and interesting.

Obviously, this isn't a family film, but if you're looking for a good suspenseful thriller and you don't mind a bit of sexuality, this movie is for you!

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Movie Time! 'Double Indemnity'

"Smitten insurance man Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) plots the perfect murder with femme fatale client Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck): staging her husband's 'accidental' death to collect double indemnity on his life insurance and absconding with the loot.  But before their scheme can pay off, the lethal duo must first get past a crafty claims investigator (Edward G. Robinson) who senses something isn't kosher."

I'm currently taking a Literature and Film class, so I'll be posting more informed movie reviews (I hope!).  Lately, we've been learning about Film Noir.  This particular Noir film is one that I found more charming, compared with the film that I'm reviewing on Saturday called 'Blood Simple.'  While it is charming (referring to the classic 40's movie with the beautiful women that look similar enough to be twins), it is also a very good example of the typical Film Noir format: a crime, a femme fatale (essentially, a woman who uses her sexuality to get what she wants), rain, and murder.

I found the initial level of flirtation between Phyllis and Walter really uncomfortable.  One look was all it took.  There was so much sexual tension that you could cut it with a knife and still not reach the other side.  I'm not bothered by sexuality of any kind in a movie, but what made it so uncomfortable was the fact that everything moved forward so quickly between them.  Walter and Phyllis haven't known each other a week and they're already plotting to kill Phyllis' husband.

The crime part was excellent.  The way they executed the murder (what a violent sentence) and covered everything up was good-- using the train, etc.

This movie was quite clever.  The title makes sense as they delve into the insurance side of the movie.  This was quite admirable.

I liked how the characters started at the end and basically retold their story from the beginning.  It was an effective way to tell the story.

The ending was very satisfying-- I won't divulge it here, because maybe you'll be able to predict it, but if you can't, it's good.

This movie is good if you're interested in watching a not-so-violent, classic, crime film.

Thanks for reading!


P.S.  Has anyone else noticed that Barbara Stanwyck doesn't really move her teeth or mouth when she talks in this film?  Ugh... that really distracted me...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Review of 'Night' by Elie Wiesel

"Night-- a terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family... the death of his innocence... and the death of his God.  Penetrating and powerful, as personal as 'The Diary of Anne Frank,' 'Night' awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again."

For the longest time (before reading this book), I thought that this was historical fiction.  As I was reading, I kept hoping that this was all made up in the sick mind of the author only to look at that unnerving word on the spine: Autobiography.  It's shocking and all-consuming.  You feel the same desperation and sadness as someone who was actually there might feel-- the anxiety that settles in when there's a selection, the feeling of hopelessness when on a death march between concentration camps, the feeling of yourself splitting in two over the decision of abandoning your only remaining family and taking care of yourself instead... Everything came through in Elie Wiesel's writing.

I don't know what else to say about this book.  I don't want to say that it's good, because everything that happens is not good.  I can say that it's well-written.  Even though this was a black time in history, I'm very glad that Elie Wiesel didn't hold anything back.

This book is shocking, heart-breaking, and depressing, but it is well-worth the read.

I give 'Night':
Thanks for reading!


Monday, February 20, 2012

A Review of 'Your Voice in My Head' by Emma Forrest

"Talented, prolific, and charming, Emma Forrest was just twenty-two and living in the fast lane as a journalist in New York City when she realized that her quirks had gone beyond eccentric.  Lonely, and drawn inexplicably to damaging relationships and destructive behavior, she found herself in the chair of a slim, balding, and optimistic psychiatrist-- a man whose wisdom would save her after she tried to end her life.  Emma was on the brink of drowning.  But circled by supportive family and friends, she was still working, still exploring, and still writing, and she had also fallen deeply in love.

One day, when Emma called to make an appointment with her psychiatrist, she found no one there.  He had died, shockingly, at the age of fifty-three, leaving behind a young family and disbelieving patients.  Reeling from the premature death of a man who had become her anchor, she was adrift.  And when her all-consuming romantic relationship also fell apart, Emma was forced to cling to the page for survival and regain her footing on her own terms.

'Your Voice in My Head' is a dazzling and devastating true story of heartbreak and self-discovery.  With wit, humor, and unflinching honesty, Emma Forrest explores the crashing weight of depression and obsession, but also the beauty of love and healing after loss."

I love the title of this book-- that's what attracted me.  Well, that and I heard a wee rumor that this book might be made into a movie and Emma Watson could be the main actress.  I would melt if that turns out to be true!

I am very attracted to books that deal with depression.  It's a very twisted quality of mine, but I do love the way writers like Emma Forrest describe their approach to life, even if it is a very challenging approach.  This book has similar things to other books written about depression, but it felt like Emma was more focused on the recovery aspect of both depression and grief rather than concerning this book with how crappy her life was or the cause of her depression-- the origins of her cutting.  Everything was wrapped around this one man, Dr. R-- how he affected Emma, how he affected other people that Emma knew, etc.

At times, it would have been nice if Ms. Forrest could have given her characters names instead of abbreviations (for example, one of her characters is GH.  I later re-discovered that GH stood for Gypsy Husband.  Also, I was under the impression that GH was Heath Ledger, but it appears that I'm mistaken).

My favorite passage from this book is this:

"When it happens," he asks me, "what will get you through?"
"Friends who love me."
"And if your friends weren't there?"
"Music through headphones."
"And if the music stopped?"
"A sermon by Rabbi Wolpe."
"If there was no religion?"
"The mountains and the sky."
"If you leave California?"
"Numbered streets to keep me walking."
"If New York falls into the ocean?"
Your voice in my head.
--Page 193-194

This particular passage just strikes me as so hopeful.  It's pure poetry!

I loved that this story was hopeful and even though Emma though about suicide and cutting, she really does want to get better.  This psychiatrist helped her and so many people and even when he was gone, he stuck with her.  He helped her so much that Emma could start helping herself.  That's what I found most amazing.

Overall, this is a beautiful story about love, balance, and healing written in a most honest voice.  I give 'Your Voice in My Head':
Thanks for Reading!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Thoughts On Valentine's Day

I love Valentine's Day!  And I'm not just saying that because of the Boyfriend.  It's a day that celebrates all kinds of love, whether it's directed at your best friend whom you've known for eleven years or a significant other that you have decided to commit to on a different level than just friendship.

It's a day to turn to that person you've taken for granted (it's quite possible) and remind them that you care about them, you appreciate everything they do, and that you're not afraid to show it.

What I dislike about Valentine's Day is the hate that comes with it.  The fact that a handful of people call it "Singles Awareness Day."  It doesn't have to be about not having a boyfriend or a girlfriend.  It can be celebrating your mom, dad, and grandparents all on the same day!  It can be celebrating your best friends for sticking with you through something difficult.  You can celebrate the existence of your pet, who loves you enough to sleep at the end of the bed and keep your toes warm (or right next to you in order to keep you company).

Something else that I dislike about Valentine's Day is how it has turned into another consumer holiday and such a lot of fuss too.  Couples proposing to each other, rushing around trying to get the last minute flowers and cards, dinner reservations that were left unreserved until the last minute... perhaps you are familiar with what I'm talking about.  It's a little sad to me that a homemade card or a home cooked meal just doesn't cut it (in some cases).  The effort doesn't matter, only the monetary symbol at the end of the night.  It's sad...

So tomorrow, despite what Valentine's Day used to be or has become, I'm going to head to school, listen to a lot of Singing Telegrams all day long (now THAT'S effort!), give the Boyfriend a plate of pink vanilla-flavored cookies that I made him tonight, and go home to prepare for babysitting later.  I'll celebrate my Valentine's Day with "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" and "The Shawshank Redemption" over the weekend (I hope!) and it'll be awesome!

Happy Valentine's Day!


Friday, February 10, 2012


Hello Everyone!

So, my understanding is that Google Friend Connect is going away.  I did a little bit of research and I guess it wasn't very popular with other websites like WordPress or TypePad or places like that, so Google is removing it.  Blogger will still have it, so if you are following me and you have a google/blogger account, I do believe that you're A-Ok as far as the following thing goes.  If you have an account in a website like WordPress or something like that, this does affect you.  I would like to direct you to the Follow by Email thingy that is located under the welcome message to the right.  You know, if you still want to follow me.  I won't be mad and my feelings won't be hurt.  If you do sign up for the email notifications, I promise that I will never send mass emails because a) I don't know how and I don't really have the motivation to learn, and b) You'll get enough emails from this site anyway.  By the way, I'll work on cutting down on the number of posts per week so that I don't flood your inboxes.

If I've completely misunderstood what's going on, please let me know so that I can correct myself in the above paragraph.  Otherwise, happy blogging to you all, and I shall see you when I post the next thing (which will probably be later today, because there's Friday memes today).

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Review of 'The Kid Table' by Andrea Seigal

"It's there at every family event.  A little smaller, collapsible, and decked out with paper napkins because you can't be trusted with the good ones.  But you're stuck there.  At the Kid Table.  Because to them-- to the adults-- you're still a kid.

Ingrid Bell and her five teenage cousins are in exactly this situation.  Never mind the fact that high school is almost over; they're still eating mac and cheese with a toddler.  But what happens when the rules change?  When Brianne, the oldest cousin, lands a seat at the adult table, the others are in shock.  What does it take to graduate from the Kid Table?

Over the course of five family events, Ingrid and her cousins attempt to finish childhood and send the infamous table into retirement.  But as Ingrid turns on the charm in order to manipulate her situation, the family starts questioning her motives.  And when her first love comes in the form of first betrayal (he's Brianne's boyfriend), Ingrid is forced to consider how she fits into this family and what it means to grow up."

This was a very interesting concept for a novel.  First of all, there were quite a few characters in this novel, but that being said, they weren't very hard to keep track of and tell apart.  They each had distinguishing characteristics to help you keep them apart.  For example, Ingrid's mom loves to scrapbook, Dom is gay and is just waiting for his family to say something about it, and Brianne tries to diagnose everyone with psychological disorders.  The characters were very interesting.  They were quite developed, each having a story of their own that a variety of readers will be able to identify with in some way.

I thought the story itself could have been developed more.  The ending leads up to what happens between Trevor (Brianne's boyfriend) and Ingrid.  I can see how it would have devastated the situation at the end, but it wasn't strong enough for me to think that it would break up two people.

At times, the plot was repetitive because of the series of parties and planning of new ones over time, but Ms. Seigal did a splendid job of breaking up the monotony by making each occasion for the various parties different and putting them in different locations.

I liked the concise descriptions that were given throughout the novel too.  They made the settings seem a little more alive without sending any readers straight to bed.

Ms. Seigal has a very strong writing style and her characters are equally strong, but the story could have used a bit of a face-lift in certain parts.  However, it is still a read that will keep your attention.

I give 'The Kid Table':
Thanks for Reading!


Monday, February 6, 2012

A Review of 'The Time Traveler's Wife' by Audrey Niffenegger

"A most untraditional love story, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who involuntarily travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course.  Henry and Clare's passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love."

I truly love a good romance novel!  'The Time Traveler's Wife,' while it shares most qualities that any given romance novel has, is just too beautiful to ignore or set aside.  It deals with a man (Henry) that desperately wants to be "there" all the time, but in sad fact, he can't be.  Without having read the book or seeing the movie, I might have thought about how cool it would be to be in love with a time traveler.  The only thing is, I would still be thinking along the lines of control and time machines.

I was really worried about the novel being as difficult to keep up with as the movie was.  I shouldn't have worried though.  Ms. Niffenegger is such an intelligent and talented writer that she made it work, making sure to let the readers know Clare's age, Henry's age, and the date (day, month, and year).

I was really neat to watch Clare and then Alba grow up) and even Henry a bit, whenever older Henry ran into his eight-year-old self while time traveling.  Towards the beginning, Henry seemed to follow Clare's life in a roughly chronological order, jumping forward, then back, then forward again.

Almost anything that could have gone wrong was avoided and anything that wasn't was very minor.  Ms.  Niffenegger did a fabulous job writing a touching yet tragic novel that I will surely reread in my future.

I just had some thoughts that I'm wondering if anyone would be willing to discuss with me: If Alba was part of Henry's fate (which is a huge motif in this novel) why is it that she never appeared in Henry's past until the end of the novel?  She exists somewhere in time, so why didn't Henry acknowledge that there was a little girl that kept appearing in his life?

This novel is romantic and tragic; heartwarming and heart-wrenching.  If you are one of those people that cries while reading a sad book, keep a box of tissues by your bedside/arm chair.

I give 'The Time Traveler's Wife':
Thanks for Reading!


Saturday, February 4, 2012


Hello!  So, this rather jumbled post is where I am putting my pictures of the last South High Sweethearts dance I will ever attend.  It was an awesome night!  I loved seeing my friends get dressed up and look ever more beautiful than they normally do.

Thanks for reading!


I've heard a lot of mixed reviews about school dances lately.  Were school dances very horrible for you or were they a lot of fun when you were in high school?  If you're in high school right now, do you think they're kind of fun?

Giveaway Promotion!

Sorry, false alarm, this isn't a giveaway that I'm running (I have yet to work on that).  I'm here to spread the word about Book Snob's "A Discovery of Witches" contest.  If this looks like an intriguing read to you, by all means, go forth and enter it!

Click HERE to join in the fun!  Who knows, you might win.

Thanks for reading!