Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Books Week

This week is Banned Books Week.  The American Library Association, who founded the event in 1982, states that "The goal of this weeklong event is to keep the concept of literary freedom at the forefront of Americans' minds."  The topic has been discussed and debated on nearly every book blog I've read, and this article on The Bumbles Blog got me started thinking about what it means for a book to be "banned".

"Year after year, a select minority become offended by a book they find on their library shelves or on their child's assigned reading list at school. So they challenge the book's appropriateness or worth and ask that it be banned and removed. What this does is to allow a small handful of people to restrict what the rest of the community is able to access."  This quote from Mrs. Bumble struck two chords with me.  One, I agree completely - no one person or group should be able to restrict what others in the community can read, and since a public library serves all residents, banning books within our walls is especially egregious.  But - here's where my mind started shooting out thoughts like a roman candle - can a small handful of people dictate what materials a library offers against the desires of the majority?  Read on to see why I ask.

Our library is funded by county tax dollars and I am entrusted to spend that money according to the people's wishes.  Fair warning - I'm going to be pretty blunt here.  We live in the southwest corner of Kansas.  This is Conservative Republican, Christian Fundamentalist Central.  If I were to purchase children's books about homosexuality, they would not get checked out.  On the adult side, books containing gay characters are more accepted, but not widely, so buying those books is not the responsible use of our limited funds.  Am I, in essence, "banning" books? 

Mrs. Bumble went on to say "Generally, books that show up on the banned or challenged list each year are books that cover things that are uncomfortable. Books that speak about parts of the past that are not pretty. Books that speak about parts of the present that aren't widely accepted or understood."  Absolutely right again!  Racial issues, slavery and "the N word" usually top the list of objections to banned books.  However this is pretty much a non-issue here.  According to the most recent statistics I could find, our county is less than 1/2 of 1% black.  With a county population of about 2500, that's twelve people.  As you can imagine, with this demographic it would be unlikely that we would get removal requests on those grounds. 

But here's the flip side.  With that demographic, books featuring black characters or focusing on issues that pertain mostly to black or urban populations would largely just sit on the shelves unused.  By not purchasing these books, am I being racist or just practical?  Personally, I would take issue with being called racist, but I also take issue with wasting precious library dollars, not to mention shelf space, on materials that will not be touched until they are weeded ten years down the road.

How about banning for political or religious reasons?  We have a large Christian fiction section and frequently buy works by Christian non-fiction authors such as Max Lucado or Joyce Meyer.  We have only token books on Buddhism or Islam.  These resources are used occasionally, most often for a school paper, but not often enough to justify a large cash outlay for more books.  Political books are similar.  The county is 77% Republican (or so says the statistical website I consulted) so I only buy books written by prominent Democrats if and when they are requested by a patron and can not be borrowed from another area library.  In the interest of full disclosure, we buy very few political books of any slant and get very few requests for them. 

Speaking of requests, that brings me to the saving grace of the small library:  Interlibrary Loan.  We can borrow from thousands of libraries within Kansas and nationwide and we deny no request on any grounds other than it not being available.  I have always felt that offering this service made up for not having a wider cultural/political variety of books on the shelves.  But am I wrong?  Do librarians, even small-town librarians, have a responsibility to expose their readers to a broader world by placing more varied reading material in front of them?  Or is our higher obligation to fiscal accountability?

Many thanks to The Bumbles for getting my brain sparking on this topic.  And I'll leave you with this comical take on banning books from A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette:

As librarians celebrate intellectual freedom during Banned Books Week, it is important that they also celebrate their right to boldly and unapologetically ban terrible books from their library's shelves.  (Yes, I am talking about you, Harlequin Romance's Stories Set in the World of Nascar.) 

What books do you think should be banned from your library?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Movie Review: The Expendables

There is just no reaction to this movie that doesn't start with "What the...?"  First off, notice the movie poster on the right.  What the heck made me think this was my kind of movie?  Skulls, blood and a raven....normally not indicative of a romantic comedy.

Next, what the heck were the Hollywood-types thinking when they advertised this as starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwartzenegger, and Bruce Willis?  Arnold and Bruce were both on screen for about a minute and a half. (However, they did contribute the only genuinely humerous lines of the entire movie.)  Granted, movies starring any of these men are not usually light and fluffy, but somehow the clip I saw made me think that, since these men are getting older, they are now kinder, gentler action heroes.  I'm pretty sure the intention of the ad campaign was to lure women like me into ignoring the skulls, the blood and the raven.

Third, and the most serious of my questions, is "What the heck went wrong in our eighteen years of parenting our beautiful daughter to make her think this bloodbath qualified as "a good movie"?  "Oh yeah, Mom, I saw that a couple weeks ago.  It's really good.  You should go."  This is the same girl who frequently rewatches The Notebook, who owns the entire Love Comes Softly series, who's life is drenched in all things pink. What the.....?

Finally, what the heck made my darling husband feel that exploding, punctured and/or mangled bodies are funny?  Evidently I missed the rib-tickling moments while I was avoiding vomiting by staring at my shoes.  Dave would bust out in uproarious laughter, but when I looked up there was nothing on screen but explosions and flying body parts.  The comedy scenes must have been quick!  Even the reviewers saw the humor that I missed:  "The Expendables" is action–packed, laugh–out–loud funny and altogether watchable. ( - There are multiple quotes that will have you chuckling as men bleed to death on the floor. (  I just didn't see it.

I suppose my attendance at this gore-fest was only fair since Dave has attended many "chick flicks" and animated films at my request, but I still find myself shaking my head and muttering "What the....?"

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's a Very Blustery Day, Pooh.

Hang on, Toto, we're back in Kansas!  This is the unusual cloud that loomed over the K-State/Central Florida game in Manhattan on Saturday.  As we awaited kickoff, marble-sized raindrops began to fall sporadically so I ran to the stadium store to get rain ponchos for all of us.  Darn that weatherman, anway!  Absolutely no mention of rain in the forecast I read so we were unprepared for a thunderstorm.  Two minutes into the game - while I was waiting in line with 27,000 other rain-gear-less fans - the powers-that-be called a 30-minute lightning delay.  "How sweet," I thought "They are protecting the players and staff by taking them into the locker rooms, and leaving 50,000 fans sitting on metal bleachers." 

But I grumbled in haste.  Shortly the announcer's voice requested that fans leave the stadium and seek shelter, and that the basketball collesium next door was available.  The stands emptied quickly as one herd headed for the basketball facility and another stampeded for their vehicles in the parking lot - and the leftover tailgating goodies/beer.  Since our car was parked in a friend's driveway about six blocks away that option wasn't practical for us. Besides, eyeing the rotation in the black sky, we chose to stay close to a building rather than sit in a hunk of potential debris.  Just "close" to a building, mind you, not actually in it unless it became frightfully necessary. (And, no, avoiding spending time crammed like sardines with nervous strangers doesn't mean I have claustrophobia issues.  Why do you ask?)  

 We donned our pretty purple ponchos (trash bags with hoods) and watched the storm approach.  That's Amanda in the center, Mitch hiding his embarrassing rainwear behind Amanda and friend, Madison, and Dave on the right. Soon the rotating cloud dissolved into a solid gray sky - alleving our tornado concerns - but the raindrops moved from sporadic to torrential downpour, so we took cover under the patio awning of the stadium store - wedging between racks of sale items with a couple dozen other holdouts and assorted idiots who failed to take shelter where chairs and bathrooms were available.

For nearly an hour we stood in a rapidly moving river of rainwater, chatting with our fellow idiots, strategically positioning ourselves to let the racks of clothes take the brunt of the rain rather than our legs.   (I suspect there will be some good bargains on water-spotted t-shirts.)  Thank heaven for sandals - my feet may have been cold while standing in the river, but at least they dried quickly, unlike the guys who spent the rest of the day in soggy shoes and socks.

Typical for a Kansas cloudburst, the rain stopped as abruptly as it began and when the all-clear was given the herds moseyed back to their now-drenched seats. One of our ponchos gave it's life to become a seat cover so we could avoid wet tushes.  Kudos to KSU for handling the situation so efficiently and getting everyone under cover - at least those with sense enough to come in out of the rain. By half-time the drizzle had stopped, the sun was shining, the rain gear was off and we cheered K-State on to a 17-13 victory.  Go Cats!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Follow Friday: 40 and Over

Java at Never Growing Old is sponsoring this simple way to find other bloggers in the "40 and Over" category.  Stop by her blog and check out the great list of blogs and add your name.

This list is new each week. The links do not carry over. Please link up  each week for new participants to find your blogs.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


A week or two ago, I came across this article from the Chicago Tribune.  I can't remember who shared the link, but I appreciate them providing proof that I am not alone in my schizophrenic reading habits.  Julia Keller, the author of the article, contends that " enriched year-round when lived amid a multiplicity of books, all of which you're reading concurrently." 

Dave is a "serial reader...plowing through a single book without pausing to read anything else."  He is also a firm proponent of the "You started it, you have to finish it" school of reading theory - another area where we disagree.  If, after about a hundred pages, I don't feel any interest in knowing how a story comes out, I'm on to the next book.  Life is too short to waste time on bad books.  But today we're focusing on "multi-reading" (like multi-tasking only more fun).

I always have multiple books in progress. Number one is my "main book", the one on which I focus the majority of my pleasure-reading time. This is usually a book I own or have properly borrowed from the library.  However, you are all aware of my library job and my possibly-illegal addiction to sneaking out the new arrivals before their pub. date so, occasionally - I'm seriously trying to wean myself - I put aside my main book to race through a new book so it can be catalogued, processed and shelved by release date, then I return to my regularly scheduled book.

I'm not a fan of listening to the radio, so I keep an audio book in my car and listen in spurts.  Since we live four blocks from the library and one block from the grocery store, my daily drive time is minimal, so this story can take weeks to get through.  For that reason, I choose something light, without an intricate plot that requires lots of attention.

I keep a different audio book in progress on my MP3.  I have sleep issues so listening to a story gives me something to focus on rather than my 101 real and/or imaginary problems.  Since the idea is to soothe me to sleep, this is usually a re-read - something I'm familiar enough with that I can pick it up from approximately where I fell asleep and be none the worse for missing a page or two. 

I live by Mythbuster Adam Savage's adage, "I reject your reality and substitute my own", so non-fiction is rarely a part of my reading world, but occasionally it's necessary in order to complete a challenge, or for educational purposes or (heaven forbid!) just because a topic catches my interest.  Since I go into withdrawals without a regular fiction fix,I tend to take my reality in small doses interspersed into my main book.

As if that's not enough, I keep an emergency book in my car for waiting rooms, single lunches or unexpected road-side stops; and one in the bathroom - and we'll just leave that alone. 

This multi-reading scheme may seem scattered to the serial-readers among you, and it may well be a symptom of my disorderly mind, but I prefer to think of it as exercise for the brain.  I'm staving of dimentia by tracking multiple plots.  Are you a multi-reader?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dewey's Read-a-Thon

Circle Saturday, October 9th on your calendar.  It's time for another read-a-thon.  If you've never participated, check out the website on the image to the right and see what it's all about.  Dave and I struggled through our first read-a-thon last October and learned a few lessons - mainly that we're way too old to pull all-nighters.  We'll leave that to the college kids.  This time around I have only two goals:

1.  Read for at least twelve hours.
2.  Better advance planning on snacks/meals.

Dewey's Read-a-Thon is a great way to meet new bloggers, spend a guilt-free day reading and win prizes.  Hope to see you there.

Georgia's Kitchen by Jenny Nelson

At thirty-three, talented chef Georgia Gray has everything a woman could want—the top job at one of Manhattan’s best restaurants; smart and savvy gal pals; and an engagement ring courtesy of Glenn, the handsome lawyer. The table is set for the ambitious bride-to-be until a scathing restaurant review destroys her reputation. To add salt to her wounds, Glenn suddenly calls off the wedding. 

Brokenhearted, Georgia escapes to the Italian countryside, where she sharpens her skills at a trattoria run by a world-class chef.  Georgia quells her longings with Italy’s delectable offerings: fine wine, luscious cheeses, cerulean blue skies, and irresistible Gianni—an expert in the vineyard and the bedroom. But an appetite for something more looms large in Georgia’s heart – the desire to run her own restaurant in the city she loves. Having left New York with her career in flames, she’ll need to stir up more than just courage if she’s to realize her dreams and find her way home. (from publisher's synopsis)

The Food Network has created a nation of would-be chefs and food geeks, and you can count me as one of the geekiest.  Couple that with my love of all things Italian, and I was destined to love this book - and I did.  The details of life in a professional kitchen and the intricacies of opening a new restaurant fascinated me as much as the actual story. 

Georgia's tale runs the gamut of emotions from pain to fear to excitement to trepidation to love and lust and joy.  The writing is simple - in the best sense of that word.  Ms. Nelson conveys all of those feelings without unnecessary, wordy descriptions.  The story flowed smoothly - you know how I hate long pauses in the action - while still involving me in the thought processes and emotions.

The scenes in Italy were my favorite, naturally.  Again Ms. Nelson used simple, well written phrases to draw out images and senses that the reader already has of Italy, it's culture and, of course, it's food. 

Unlike Ms. Nelson's considerable talent, my writing is failing me severly in this review.  I can't find the words to conjur up the images she paints, so you'll just have to trust me that this book is a must read.  It's a culinary lesson, an Italian vacation, and a beautifully written story of chasing a dream.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Panic, Mechanics and Knight School

Friday afternoon, sitting at my desk, minding my own business, I got the phone call I have been dreading since school started..."Amanda's car broke down on the interstate on the way home."  Dave was calling to give me the news that she was still four hours from home and sitting alone along the road.  Instant panic!  We began working on a towing/repair plan and in the mean time Dave gave her some sage words of advice:  "Call your brother."  Mitch lives three hours closer than we do.

Naturally, Brother didn't answer his phone (He never answers his phone on the first call, but that's another discussion.)  So, plan B - she called Kyle, a friend of Mitch's who stayed with us over the summer.  "Hang on, I'm on my way" may possibly have been the sweetest words she had ever heard.  Before he could mount his trusty (Mustang) steed and head towards the damsel in distress, Mitch returned her call, said "Hang on, I'm on my way!" and within minutes he, another friend, a tow rope and a pick-up were headed her way.  Bubba to the rescue! 

As Amanda was heaving a sigh of relief - between sobs - a third knight-in-shining-armor offered his services.  A friend who had been on the phone with her when the car clunked heard "Oh my gosh!  My car died!!  I gotta call my dad!!!" - then click.  I'm pretty sure the actual words of that sentence were unintelligible, seeing as they were screeched at top speed in a range only dogs can hear.  He called back repeatedly, either concerned for her welfare or just curious about that screech-owl-like noise she made before hanging up.  When he finally got through and learned of her predicament, he immediately responded, "Hang on, I'm on my way."  Evidently that sentence is lesson #1 in Knight School.  Assured that Sir Bubba was already in route, he offered words of comfort and signed off.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Dave and I had agreed that since insurance covers 100% of the cost for emergency towing, we should use that service.  Next step was a phone call to Dave's sister who used to live in Abilene (the closest town to Daughter's location) for a recommendation on towing/repair services.  She wasn't up to date on mechanics in a town she hasn't lived in for 15 years (go figure) but she would call Aunt Janet.  Aunt Janet - actually aunt to sister-in-law's ex-husband - gave her advice and even offered to go pick Amanda up or at least sit with her at the shop.  Keep in mind that she's never met this girl (or at least not since Amanda was an infant) and sister-in-law hasn't officially been part of her family for many years.

Armed with Aunt Janet's suggestions, I made two more phone calls.  One got me a grandfatherly tow-truck driver who responded, "I'll head that way right now."  (Evidently he's been to Knight School, too.)  The second found a mechanic who could get started on repairs that afternoon.  Soon, Daughter was pacing in the waiting room at Holm Motors in Abilene (Good place - give them your business if you're ever stranded near there!)  The employees there took pity on the teary, nervous girl and provided a candy bar, can of pop and the tv remote. 

Not long after, Lone Ranger and Tonto (Mitch and friend, Matt) rode in, loaded her up and delivered her safely to their fraternity house back in Hays, where I picked her up and brought her on home.   Even before the trip was complete, the mechanic called to say her car was up and running (her coil housing shorted out, whatever that means), but he had discovered another problem that needed attention, so on Sunday we returned Dear Daughter to Abilene, sent her on back to college in our car and drove hers home for Dad to fix. 

Is there a point to this long and rambling tale - other than "Thank heaven for cell phones?"  Yes - two actually. 

1.  The world is full of good people.  The media tells only the horror stories; the muggings, car-jackings, murders, rapes, and abductions that make us fearful of everyone around us.  We have given our children - especially our daughter - many lectures on safety and self-defense tactics.   Don't walk with your head down - Don't be too busy texting to watch around you - Look in the back seat before you get in the car - Call for an escort if you have to walk on campus after dark--

But no one tells the stories of the good people - the ones who help a stranger, who go out of their way to do a favor, who will drop anything to come to your aid.  And we don't teach our children to get to know those people.  Each of those people has a story.  Talk, and more importantly, listen to the people you meet - even in passing - and lend a hand where you can.

2.  As Amanda was waiting on the tow truck and then for her brother, she had time to fill so - I'm so proud! - she read a book.  When Knight #3 called back to check on her, he asked what she was doing.  She said "I'm reading my Hunger Games book (#2)."  He said "Good idea.  Read about somebody who's life sucks worse than yours." :)  So the moral of the story: always carry a book, just in case.

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

Elizabeth "Lizzy" Tucker was surprised to inherit Great Aunt Ophelia's house in Marblehead, MA, just outside of Salem, but even more surprised to hear that her own superior cupcake baking skills came from being an Unmentionable. Diesel, agent for the Board of Unmentionable Marshalls, or BUM, drops this information bomb in order to use Lizzy's ability to find empowered objects, specifically the Seven Stones of Power. BUM needs to have possession of all seven stones, each representing a deadly sin, before the "other side" collects them and brings about Hell on Earth. (from review by Library Journal)

There is a line from Outlaw Josie Wales, one of Dave's favorite movies, that we use frequently:  "Don't piss down my neck and tell me it's raining."  And in that spirit, don't change a couple names and tell me it's a new series.

Many authors write multiple series and do so successfully - varied characters, locations, and situations.  Wicked Appetite is a poorly disguised Stephanie Plum novel packaged as something new.  Stephanie and Lizzy are basically the same woman - including gestures, expressions and vocabulary.  Since both stories are written first-person, it's like hearing Stephanie's voice come out of Lizzy's mouth.  Even in the between-the-numbers books, Diesel is obviously Ranger with magic powers - man of few words, mysterious, no known address.  He even moves and gestures like Ranger.  Now add a kooky sidekick (Lula/Glo), a co-worker who's more rational but still willing to join in their unlikely schemes (Connie/Clara), a not-all-there guy in funny costumes (Mooner/Hatchet), a bewildered father, and Carl the Monkey (a former Plum character) - and you've got a Plum novel.  Or is it?

And the similarities continue:  Lizzy has a propensity for rolling her eyes - just like Stephanie.  Diesel drives a Porsche Cayenne and/or Turbo - just like Ranger.  Even some situations/diaglog are repeated:  Diesel vows to sleep on the couch when staying at Lizzy's then, when discovered in her bed the next morning, says "I lied." - nearly word-for-word from a scene between Stephanie and Ranger. 

This was Dave's first Evanovich book so he found it hilarious - wacky characters, calamitous magic spells, a minion in renaissance garb, and a monkey with a penchant for giving everyone the finger.  It was fun, easy to read and had enough mystery to keep you guessing.

I agree with him on all points but, for the long-time Evanovich fan, it's also disappointing.  I hope that as the series progresses, Lizzy will become her own woman and readers can love her as much as we do Stephanie.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Postcard Killers by James Patterson

This is a do-it-yourself book review.  Find any positive review of a Patterson thriller, insert Postcard Killers in place of the title, Liza Marklund in place of the co(read "actual")-author, Sweden as the location, and posing bodies to mimic famous works of art as the killer's m.o.  - there, you have a review of Patterson's latest.

Not that it's necessarily a bad thing.  There are many authors who write from a formula - ever read a Harlequin romance?  Even big names reuse plot ideas - Grisham's first three big sellers (The Firm, The Client, and The Pelican Brief) were all the same basic story.  And Patterson's formula is always a hit, so why mess with success?

Once again there is a serial killer on the loose, our hero sets out to capture him, pages fly by, hero meets heroine, more flying pages, a climactic moment and a bit of romance, and we're done.  Sadly, this time the climactic moment could have used a little Viagra - it wasn't all that exciting - and the Swedish words constantly thrown in only to remind us that the author is from Sweden and knows more about it than we do, were annoying.  Other than that, a first-rate thriller that kept us both entertained on a long car trip.

Thanks for your help in writing this quick review.  Now we still have time for a round of golf.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bingo and Classics

It's September - that means it's time to get ready for the reading challenge at the library.  Last year we had our first Take-A-Chance Challenge, based on the original by Jenners at Find Your Next Book Here.  I expected a dozen participants, so when the total topped out at around 65, I considered that an overwhelming success.  Patrons have been anticipating the next challenge, so here it is - and you can play along.

From Oct. 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011, we will be playing Take-a-Chance Bingo.  Each patron receives a standard 5X5 bingo card containing 25 different book categories - romance, mystery, 2010 bestsellers, staff recommendations, Kansas authors, foreign setting, etc.  Reading five books, one from each category in a row, makes a BINGO and earns a prize.  A blackout - reading all 25 categories - earns a larger prize plus immunity from library fines for 1 year.  Sorry, I can't mail out prizes to all of you, but if you want to play along, I would be glad to e-mail you a bingo card.  Or feel free to adapt this idea for use in your own library, family, book club, cell block...

Creating the bingo cards brought up a topic which has long been pondered by librarians, authors and other book-types:  What makes a book a classic?  One of the categories on the cards is "read a classic", but when I tried to compile a suggested reading list, I began to question the "classic" definition of "classic".  Naturally, every list I could find included familiar names like Bronte, Dickins and Alcott, plus some 20th century standards - To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye - but what about newer books?  If an author is still living and publishing, can his work be considered a classic?  What about Stephen King's The Shining? Or Erich Segal's Love Story?  Mystery books rarely make the "Best of..." lists, but I consider the works of Agatha Christie, Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout to all be classics.  The final installment of Robert B. Parker's Spenser series will be released this month, but can his early Spenser adventures be considered classic?  Is an author whose name or book titles are household words necessarily a creator of classic literature?

For the purposes of our library challenge, which are to encourage reading and introduce our patrons to new authors/genres, I am adopting a very wide interpretation of what constitutes a classic.  That book you've "always wanted to read, but never did" will probably qualify.  Help me out - give me your opinions and criteria for ranking a novel as a classic.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Scarlet Nights by Jude Deveraux

Remember "Show and Tell" from your grade school days - bringing your most prized possessions from home to share with your class?  The best part was actually seeing the object, not the story that went with it.  When someone brought a particularly intersting article, everyone pressed forward to get a better look. We learned by being shown. The "tell" portion was mostly for the teacher's benefit - a brief statement of where you got the object or why you liked it to show that you had adequate command of verbal skills.  The same holds true in writing, thus the adage "Show, don't tell."  This book failed Show and Tell.

Engaged to the charming and seductive Greg Anders, Sara Shaw is happily anticipating her wedding in Edilean, Virginia. The date has been set, the flowers ordered, even her heirloom dress is ready. But just three weeks before the wedding, Greg gets a telephone call during the night and leaves without explanation. Two days later, a man climbs up through a trapdoor in the floor of Sara’s apartment, claiming that he is the brother of her best friend and that he’s moving in. He’s an undercover detective, and his assignment is to use Sara to track down a woman who is one of the most notorious criminals in the United States—and also happens to be the mother of the man Sara plans to marry.   As the pair work together to solve two mysteries, their growing love begins to heal each of them in ways they never could have imagined. (from publisher's synopsis)

I haven't read a Jude Deveraux novel for years, but was drawn to this one by the gorgeous cover art - I'm a sucker for a pretty picture.  The plots, both romance and mystery, were detailed and absorbing, but all too often information was revealed through a casual conversation or just thrown in like an afterthought and there was no feeling of participating in the story.  I have complained before about books that leave the reader feeling "out of the loop"; that feeling from junior high when everyone but you knew the secret.  The story would progress and then suddenly a character would say something like "Oh, my great-aunt had these rare rubies that I had embedded in the handle of this letter opener.  Could those be what the bad guys are searching for?"  (No there are no letter openers or missing rubies in this story - just an example.)  Seemingly random information that turned out to be crucial to the story, but with no foreshadowing or connection.

I'm not completely panning this book because there are three factors that may have added to my confusion.  One, I listened to the audio version and I'll admit my mind can be less than focused at times.  Two, this was the abridged version and perhaps the deleted portions were important. And three, I discovered after finishing the book that it is the third title in the Edilean series.  Perhaps it's not meant to stand alone. and it certainly explains why there was such sparse charactor history. 

As a lover of romantic suspense, I would give this book three out of five stars with a possibility of more if I try the print version and read books one and two first.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Casting Catastrophe: One For The Money - The Movie

Filming is finally underway on the movie adaptation of Janet Evanovich's first Stephanie Plum Book, One For the Money.  Various versions of the screenplay have been languishing on a shelf for years while Stephanie Plum fans waited not-so-patiently and spent the free time assembling their fantasy movie cast.  Lamentably, the actual lineup doesn't live up to the fantasy. 

My ideal cast would include Sandra Bullock and Benjamin Bratt - the dynamic duo from Miss Congeniality - as our heroine, Stephanie, and sometimes boyfriend, Morelli.  Alas, time has marched on while the movie-types drug their feet and my dream couple is now ten years past the age of the characters in the book. But hey, if a 34-year-old Stockard Channing can be believable as a high-school senior in Grease, I'm sure Sandra and Benjamin are up to the job. 

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is the perfect Ranger.  Can anyone play handsome, sexy, mysterious, and muscular like The Rock?  Also cast in the movie in my head are Estelle Getty as Grandma Mazur, and Danny Devito as Cousin Vinney.  But - woe is me - my fantasy is not to be.  In all their sparkling wisdom, the powers that be in TinselTown have assembled their own dream team.

Katherine Heigl has signed on as Stephanie.  Ok, I can cope with that one.  She's a great actress and I have liked her in other comedic roles, so I'll let that one slide.  Daniel Sunjata as Ranger is also passable.  He'll never be The Rock, but he's acceptable.  We'll just call him The Pebble. 

Debbie Reynolds will be fabulous as Grandma Mazur, as will Patrick Fishler as Vinnie, so I'm conceding those two points.  Where things go terribly awry is the role of Joe Morelli - tall, dark and boyishly handsome Italian hunk.  Seriously, Hollywood people -Jason O'Mara??  Not even close!  Now if Mr. O'Mara happens to be reading this blog (and pigs are flying), this has nothing to do with your acting ability - I'm sure you are a fine thespian.  Nor does it have to do with you being unsightly in any way.  You are an attractive man and I'm sure you have women swooning at your feet, are NOT Joe Morelli!  I ask every one of you who have read any of the Stephanie Plum novels, is this the face of everyone's favorite cuddly cop?: 

No, I say, it is not!  I'm crushed! I'm brokenhearted! I'm... Ok, I'm overstating the ramifications of a miss-cast "Chick Flick" - but I am certainly miffed!  Yet, in spite of this disappointing choice, I will be first in line when One For the Money hits our local theater.

What do you think of the casting choices?  Who would be your "Dream Team"?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Molly, from My Cozy Book Nook, shared this story on her blog last week.  It gave me a much-needed attitude adjustment and I want to share it with you....not that I think any of you need your attitudes adjusted...just as a window into my brain these days.  Enjoy.

I was at the hospital today visiting with Mom and waiting to talk with the nurse regarding her condition. I arrived around 3:00 pm and put in my request to talk with her before I even went into Mom's room. I was told that the nurse had just admitted another patient, but "would be with me shortly".  That is a nebulous term, "be with you shortly".  I consider "shortly" to mean 15 or 20 minutes, wouldn't you?  Forty minutes later (yes 4-0) the nurse popped her head in the room and said that she was really busy but she would be back in "just a minute"

Shortly after this there was announcement over the intercom that a Dr. Anderson was needed in the ER - stat. This was repeated about 3 times and I thought that perhaps we were dealing with a rush hour accident, or a heart attack patient. I said a quick prayer for those in ER....but went on seething at the incredibly long wait that I had to endure in order to ask one simple question.  After one hour and ten minutes I left the hospital --- never having spoken to the nurse.

Just now I was watching the news and I heard that a 7 year old boy tried to run between two cars walking home from school today. He was rushed to the hospital at 3:45 PM -- the same hospital where my mom is staying. They tried to resuscitate him; they tried to do all they could do. He did not make it.  To think that I was being inconvenienced when a young boy was fighting for his life and a family was struggling downstairs. Their lives are forever changed; and I have come to realize that I am truly blessed.

I pray for the ER staff who valiantly strived to save this young boy; I pray for his family - who is left wondering how on earth this could happen when the morning started off so typical; and I pray for the driver of the car that hit him --- knowing that they had no idea that a young child would run across their path so unexpectedly.

The many stresses of my changing life wear on me from time to time and I can do the "Oh, Woe is me!" bit pretty well.  Molly made me stop whining for a minute, take a look around and realize that my woes are...well...woeful.  On the grand scale, they are nothing.  Take a look around today, see the big picture, and realize how blessed you are.  Thanks, Molly, for sharing your wonderful insight.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Adam's Rib

Based on the Oscar-nominated screenplay of the movie starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, this audio book is actually a radio adaptation of the classic story of battling husband and wife attorneys.

Lawyers Adam and Amanda Bonner end up on opposite sides of a court case involving a woman who shot her husband.  Originally written in the late 1940's, the story is surprisingly current.  Mrs. Bonner attests that a man charged with the same crime under the same circumstances would be treated differently by the predominantly male justice system, and sets out to prove her theory.  Naturally, the conflict in the courtroom carries over into their private life.

I have never seen the Tracy/Hepburn movie, but I loved this adaptation.  Adam Arkin and Anne Heche read the starring roles and do a fabulous job.  They both have instantly recognizable voices which, along with Ms. Heche's added accent, made this an enjoyable listen.