Friday, November 18, 2011

Totally biased movie review: Breaking Dawn Part 1

I’m not really a movie expert.  I only know what I like and what I don’t.  But, I am somewhat of a book expert, so when some of my favorite books are made into movies, I can’t help comparing the two.  

Twilight’s Breaking Dawn Part 1 is the star of this weekend’s box office and it hasn’t even been out 24 hours yet.  But how does it compare to the book?  First, I must say that out of the four Twilight novels, Breaking Dawn was my favorite.  So much happens in that one book, wrapping up all of the loose ends, leaving readers with a satisfied ending.  Like most people, I was so pleased when Summit Entertainment announced that they would be making the book into two movies.  There was no director on earth who could do that huge, action-packed book justice in a two hour time constraint.  Also, whether intentional or not, Stephanie Meyer created a natural stop right in the middle of the book, allowing for the perfect moment to break up the two movies. 

So last night, I braved the mobs of twelve-year-olds and long lines to attend the midnight showing.  Each movie in the series so far has gotten progressively better (someone needs to petition Summit into having either Chris Weitz or Bill Condon remake the original Twilight), so with an Academy Award winning director, I had high hopes for Breaking Dawn

I was not disappointed.

First, the movie held mostly true to the book.  There was a small scene in the beginning which showed a little of Edward’s back story, which he’d told Bella about in the first book but had never made it in to the first movie.  I thought this was a nice addition.  Other than that, all of the important stuff was right where it should be. 

I’m not going to talk too much about the specifics of certain things, because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else.  Let’s just say the wedding scene was perfect.  I’m not sure whether Kristin Stewart was actually acting, or just being her usual twitchy self, but her walk down the aisle was wonderful.  She captured that exact feeling of terror and happiness that I had walking down my own aisle.  Honestly, she made me tear up, just a little thinking about it.  And the audience could feel her complete relaxation once the ceremony part was over. 

Actually, I have been very hard on KStew and her awkward acting for years, so this pains me to admit it, but she really is coming into her own now.  I was impressed by her portrayal of a stripper/prostitute in Welcome to the Riley’s.  Then, in Breaking Dawn, she pulls off the huge emotional rollercoaster that Bella goes through between the joy of the wedding and the horror of the pregnancy which almost kills her.  Brava, KStew!

Now, if only we can get Taylor Lautner to stop acting like his underwear is too tight.

No discussion of the Twilight movies is complete without commenting on the special effects.  For the most part, I liked the effects and the choices that Bill Condon made.  He did away with Edward’s sparkles!  Thank god, because it was starting to make Edward cartoonish.  Besides, Rob Pattinson is so smoking hot, that he radiates naturally.  By now, the audience knows about Edward’s sunlight issues.  We don’t need to be reminded of it again and again.  My favorite special effects were the ones revolving around Bella and her pregnancy.  Unless you are one of the four people on the planet who hasn’t read the book, you know that the pregnancy is killing Bella by bruising her, breaking bones and slowly starving her.  This disintegration of Bella’s body is fascinating to watch and incredibly realistic.  Loved it! 

There is a lot of pack communication telepathically, and this is hard to portray on film.  And then there is the whole imprinting thing to deal with.  I was cool with how the imprinting was handled, but there was a scene or two when Jacob in wolf form was running and we see and hear from his point of view.  That got a little confusing and hard to hear.  Now, this might just be the theatre I was sitting in.  I will be seeing the movie again tomorrow, and I’ll try to determine if it is any better. 

So, fans of the book will be pleased with this movie.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask the twelve-year-old girls who were going apeshit for two hours sitting behind me.  I can’t wait for Part 2!

Overall, I give Breaking Dawn Part 1…

Special Effects – 4 popcorn bags
Cinematography – 5 popcorn bags  (Stunning!)
Acting – 4 popcorn bags (Improvement by KStew diminished by Taylor’s stiffness.  Rob, as always, was great.)
Soundtrack – 4 ½ popcorn bags (So happy to have Carter Burwell back!)

Have you seen the movie?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Author Spotlight: Maggie Wilson & GIVEAWAY!!!

Joining us today in the Author Spotlight is British author, Maggie Wilson!!!  She is the author of the medical thrillers,  the DS Hammond Investigations series.  

I'm so pleased that she was able to work my blog into her blog tour.  For info on her other blog stops, please check out her tour page  

Maggie has generously offered to give away one e-book copy of Fallen Angel to one lucky commenter.  All you have to do is answer this question:

If you had a dinner party and could invite anyone alive or dead, who would be sitting around your table?

Don't forget to leave your email address in the comment.  Open internationally.  Winner will be drawn randomly on Sunday evening, November 20th.  You will be notified via email. 

Now, let's meet Maggie!

Fallen Angel

JLR:  So much about our real life influences out writing. Are there any specific things in your past which influenced Fallen Angel?

Maggie:  My background is as a trained nurse and midwife. My writing so far is based around medical themes and hospital settings. There are many issues and crimes that have occurred within nursing and medicine that I want to explore in my writing. Highlighting areas of clinical practice that can be changed and enhance the patient experience in our hospitals as well as ensuring patient safety.

JLR:  I can see how having that medical background would give you a lot of inspiration for writing.  I get my inspiration from reading.  Have you had the opportunity to meet any famous writers? Were there any who made you star-struck?

Maggie:  Meeting writers at their book signing events started as a hobby and has grown over the years! Waterstones host a variety of events where authors give a talk and book signing as well as signing events. I keep a regular check on their website so I don’t miss out meeting my favourite authors!

I attended Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, this year and was privileged to meet many of the big name writers that I regularly read, have my picture taken with them, and have their books signed.

A few of the writers that I have met include, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Val McDermid, Joseph Finder, Linwood Barclay, Peter Robinson, Mark Billingham, Stuart McBride, Sheila Quigley, Stephen Leather, Matt Hilton, John Harvey, Michael Connelly, Mo Hayder, S J Watson, Tess Gerritsen, Jeffrey Deaver, Sophie Hannah, Stephen Booth, Martina Cole, Chris Ryan, David Belbin, Barbara Taylor-Bradford.
Who had me star struck? It has to be Harlan Coben and Lee Child – respect!

JLR:  I'm jealous! Where can readers go to learn more about your work?

Maggie:  I have a website that my publisher runs – keep up to date with my books and signing events
JLR:  What are you writing now that Fallen Angel has been released?

Maggie:  My second medical crime thriller, ‘Inside Out’ is due to be published 30/03/2012 – I am working on my third novel at present.

JLR:  Are you involved in any other projects aside from your novel writing? 

Maggie:  There are further projects that I am involved in connected with my writing/novels – further details will be available soon on my website

JLR:  If you were to host a dinner party and allowed to invite five writers, living or dead, who would you, want around your table?

Maggie:  Around my dinner table I would have to have, Dean Koontz, Erica Spindler, Jeffrey Archer, John Grisham and Enid Blyton. All excellent authors inspiring a great gathering round the table! I hope to have the opportunity to meet with them one day ( with the exception of Enid Blyton that is ! )

JLR:  Now there is an eclectic bunch!  Would make for some good conversation though.  So, Maggie, where can readers go to purchase Fallen Angel?

Maggie:  Fallen Angel is available via, Waterstones and all good booksellers both in the high street and online.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: 'The Dovekeepers' by Alice Hoffmann

TheDovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.

In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman’s novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and an expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power.

The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s masterpiece.
(Amazon description)

I love reading books where I feel like I’ve learned something.  I knew next to nothing about the Masada prior to reading this book, but I love history, especially ancient history.  Alice Hoffman wraps her fictional story of dovekeepers with threads of true-life facts and mystical spiritualism.  The result was beautiful and fascinating novel. 

The plot revolves around four women.  All are very different, coming from unique backgrounds, all damaged in their own ways, but somehow, they each found themselves shoveling dove droppings to be used as fertilizer in the compound’s fields and orchards.  At first, King Herod’s former palace feels like a sanctuary, filled with abundant food, water and resources, the thick walls and rugged natural terrain providing formidable protections against the Romans.  But with a thousand people living inside the walls and a year of drought, the crops begin to die, the cisterns start to run dry and the people begin to starve.  These women are survivors though.  They band together in support for each other.   

This book is heavy on character development, allowing the reader to follow the women as they are shaped by their trials.  They are so real, and the writing style is so intimate, it was easy for get lost in their story forget it was fiction.  Adding to the realism are the vivid descriptions of the land and the medicinal properties of plants. 

In typical Hoffmann fashion, there is a healthy dose of the mystical laced throughout the story.  Dreams and symbols and magic adds an element of beauty to the story that elevates it beyond a purely historical novel.  

Overall, I give The Dovekeepers...
Plot - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Character Development - 5 bookmarks
Historical Elements - 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Molly Quinn (Yael), Embeth Davidtz (Shirah), Hili Yalon (Aziza), Bonnie Bedelia (Revka)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blog Tour de Troops! Review: ‘Office Politics’ by Sharon Gerlach

I’m so excited to be a review stop on the Blog Tour de Troops!  If you haven’t stopped by their webpage to see what it is all about, make sure you do so.  Not only can you earn tons of free e-books just by leaving blog comments, but you will be entered into a drawing for a Kindle.  But that’s not even the best part!  For every e-book you earn, one is donated to the American troops serving our country abroad. What a great cause!

Now for the review!

“Malaria is nothing a good dose of quinine can’t handle. Or so thinks Frannie Freeman when her vile office manager Malia—aka Malaria—marries their boss Sam, whom Frannie has loved for years. When Sam suddenly confides that he believes he was roofied the night of his surprise Las Vegas wedding, it seems too good to be true. And it isn’t long before she realizes that’s exactly what it is.

Now, faced with letting Sam go forever or fighting for her heart’s desire, Frannie prepares for battle with a woman’s three best weapons — a loyal heart, a willingness to fight dirty, and the strongest margarita money can buy.”  (Amazon description)


I’m so excited to be a review stop on the Blog Tour de Troops!  If you haven’t stopped by their webpage to see what it is all about, make sure you do so.  Not only can you earn tons of free e-books just by leaving blog comments, but you will be entered into a drawing for a Kindle.  But that’s not even the best part!  For every e-book you earn, one is donated to the American troops serving our country abroad. 

Now for the review!

Office Politics by Sharon Gerlach is the first in her Harper & Lyttle series, fun and romantic tales set in a software company in Los Angeles.  Anyone who has ever worked in an office setting will be able to relate to these characters and the crazy characters they have to work with.  Think of the TV show The Office, only from a female perspective and with a strong romantic plot.  

Adding to the humor, Frannie Freeman is one of those people who accidents are always happening too...usually involving some form of humiliation witnessed by The Suits from the executive offices.  Okay, so maybe in real life all of this would never happen to just one person, but the humor lies in that you can totally see this happening! 

The love story is nice, but predictable.  That’s okay though, because both Frannie and Sam are great characters.  Frannie is a fun combination of competent business woman and a total mess.  Sam is the boss who wears suits everyday and expertly navigates the treacherous waters of management, but he is also a truly decent guy.  It would have been easy for his affair with Frannie, his subordinate, to come across as sleazy, but somehow it doesn’t feel that way at all.  I loved the scene where he goes to Frannie after his mother dies.  It’s a short scene with little action, but the subtlety of the emotion is wonderful. 

The ending wraps up a little too neatly, but overall, I reading this book was entertaining and satisfying.  I definitely plan to check out the next in the series The Secret Dreams of Sarah-Jane Quinn

Overall I give Office Politics...

Plot - 4 bookmarks
Character Development - 5 bookmarks
Love Story - 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Anne Hathaway (Frannie), Henry Cavil (Sam), Lizzy Caplan (Malaria), Marley Shelton (Gretchen), Emma Stone (Morgan), Kerry Washington (Stella), Cam Gigandi (Eric), Rupert Grint (Stewart)

Office Politics can be purchased at Smashwords or Amazon.  To learn more about the author, Sharon Gerlach, I encourage you to visit her blog at  


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: ‘The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer’ by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer doesn't believe life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.                                                                                                                                                 

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is.                                                                                                       

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. She's wrong.
(Amazon description)


Oh. My. God.  I loved this book!!!! 

Mara Dyer is a wonderful character who is damaged and broken.  She had vivid hallucinations that she must hide from her psychologist mother for fear of getting committed to a mental institution.  The doctors have diagnosed her with post traumatic stress disorder, resulting from being the only survivor in a terrible accident which killed three of her friends.  But the whole time I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think there was more to her visions.  There was. 

After the accident, Mara’s family relocates to Florida to help her start her life over.  The students in the snooty private school aren’t exactly welcoming.  Her only friend is Jamie, a really friendly and cool boy from her algebra class.  Oh, and then there is Noah.  He’s a hot guy with a bad reputation who seems intent on getting close to her.  Of course, she think he is an ass and doesn’t hesitate to tell him so.  But Noah isn’t discouraged by her resistance and continues his quest of winning her over. 

The relationship of Mara and Noah develops slowly, but the wait is totally worth it!  I think I might be in love with Noah at this point, and that hasn’t happened in a long time.  But even though there is a beautiful love story in the book, it is definitely a sub-plot.  The real plot revolves around Mara’s mental state and her difficulty in distinguishing reality from hallucination.  It doesn’t help that people around her seem to drop dead around her. 

The book is suspenseful and romantic and disturbing and beautifully written.  My only complaint is that I have to wait until the fall of 2012 for the next book. 

Overall, I give The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer...

Plot - 5 bookmarks (I had the hardest time putting this book down. When I was at work, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.)
Character Development - 5 bookmarks (Watching these characters unfold was wonderful!)
World Building - 5 bookmarks (Mara’s world is terrifying.)
Love Story - 5 bookmarks (One of my favorites that I’ve real in a long time. It blossoms slowly.  No “insta-love” that is so common in YA novels.)
Dream Cast (Otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Lily Collins (Mara), a slightly younger Robert Pattinson (Noah), Chris Colfer (Jamie), Lucas Till (Daniel)

Book Trailer

Halloween Contest winner!!!!

The winner of my Halloween costume contest is...

Jenn Reck as Elphaba from Wicked!!

Unfortunately, you will have to take my word for how wonderful she looked, because I'm having technical difficulties in posting her picture up here.  Here is a photo of Idina Menzel as Elphaba.  

Okay.  Now, picture Jenn Reck wearing something similar.  You got it now.  

I had three reasons for picking Jenn as my winner.  1. She looked great.  2. She dressed as a literary character.  How cool is that?!?  3. I absolutely loved the Wicked, both the book and the musical.  

So, Jenn will be getting a package in the mail from me containing a fabulous prize (which i haven't decided on yet.)  

Thank you all for playing!!!!!!!