Tag Archives: book review

Book Review (Winter Garden) & Movie Review

Lately, it seems like I am just tearing through books. I tend to go through spurts like this every now and then. Typically, I’m not a very fast reader. Apparently finishing The Hunger Games so quickly, made me “hungry” for more reading ASAP. Hence this post will be filled with a book review and movie review.

Alas, no food or running will really be highlighted. I’m in a bit of slump there. I haven’t run at ALL since last Saturday’s 5k race.  I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to do a longish run in Utica this weekend and find my running mojo.

So anyway – here goes my book review:

Winter Garden

By: Kristin Hannah

I approached reading this book in a tentative manner. First of all, I wasn’t too excited that I was going to be reading about winter at the very end of summer. I am ready for some fall weather, but didn’t want to jump right into winter.

Despite my trepidation, almost as soon I started reading Winter Garden, I was hooked. The initial setting is an apple orchard in western Washington state and Meredith is the narrator. I guess I connected immediately when she told the reader she had to start off her day with a run (okay, so morning really isn’t my favorite time to run, but I liked that the narrator was a runner in general).  From there, the story introduces us to her family: husband, Jeff; father, Evan; mother Anya; sister, Nina; and her two daughters. We begin to follow Meredith through life on the orchard and immediately notice a strange relationship with her mother.

Soon a tragedy occurs in the family, that bring Nina back home and forces Nina, Meredith and Anya (mother) to interact. The word “strained” does not do justice to how difficult it is for Nina and Meredith to connect with their mother. From there, we begin to hear a story within a story that helps to explain why Anya is the way she is. We are taken back to Russia during WWII and begin to understand the mystery that lies behind this cold, quiet woman.

At first I wasn’t sure about the story within the story and how it started off. It was difficult to grasp where it was going, who it was about and what the point was the first few times it was interjected. But slowly the “mystery” of the fable begins to unfold and the reader begins to understand the implication and what we need to gather from the story to proceed with the exterior family story.

Mid-way through this book I was completely invested. I really enjoyed it and wanted to learn more about this family, the mother’s secret, and what happened in Russia. The glimpse into Russian life at that time was especially interesting and engaging.

If you are interested in reading this book, please realize it might take some time to get into the story and connect with the characters, but it will happen. I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.

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And now on to a movie review….

Just Go With It

This netflix movie had been sitting next to our t.v. for over a month. Although we’ve been very busy, I also just wasn’t that excited to watch this movie. I’m not even sure why I added it to our list. It stars Jennifer Anniston, Adam Sandler and Brooklyn Decker. I knew this was going to be cheesy and potentially unbearable before we even started it.

The beginning part of the movie shows Adam Sandler with a GIANT fake nose and we see how/why he becomes so disillusioned with women and relationships. Then  it fast forwards to him being a plastic surgeon and Jennifer Anniston being his assistant.

Let me pause to say that I think Jennifer has most definitely had some facial work done and I don’t like it one bit! No lines, no wrinkles – it’s starting to look bad. She’s moving in the direction of her friend, Courtney Cox, and that is NOT a compliment. I hope she stops. I still like her.

Anyway, back to the movie. It was NOT nearly as intolerable as I thought it would be. I admit that I have a soft spot for both Jennifer and Adam, even though they’ve both made some terrible movies in the past. But for some reason, they seemed to have a decent chemistry in this movie. I believed that they probably did really joke around a lot when the cameras turned off.

As for Brooklyn Decker – a superb actress she is not. But I didn’t hate her. And then there was a totally unexpected cameo from Nicole Kidman and Dave Matthews. Totally random and appreciated. I miss Nicole.

Getting back on track. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. I didn’t hate it and actually found myself laughing quite a bit. The ending is predictable, but I got past it and was able to enjoy the movie overall. Not a total hit, but not a complete waste of time either.

Have you seen any good movies lately? Give me your suggestions! Next on my list are Limitless and Bridesmaids (no, I can’t believe I haven’t seen it!!). I also just bought the book One Day, so that I can eventually watch the movie with Anne Hathaway.

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Book Review: Room

I have been delinquent in blogging. We got back from Maine (awesome trip) and I have yet to post any of my gorgeous pictures or share what we did. It’s coming, I promise. Plus, then there was a hurricane, so things have been a little crazy lately.

But in the meantime, I figured I would share with you another book review. I seem to be on quite the roll this summer – just devouring books left and right. Ok – in all fairness, they aren’t long or difficult books, but still, I secretly smiled last night when Hubby called me a big nerd. 🙂 Now for my review of Room

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Room

By: Emma Donoghue

I had heard about “Room” a looong time ago from a few different people. It was always on my list of books to read, but I never got around to buying it. And then thankfully one day my mom lent it to me. As I finished “The Hunger Games”, I decided to try to take a break before diving into the next book in the series “Girl on Fire.” So I picked up “Room” and started to read it.

Now I know I said I had heard about the book before, but I was not at all prepared for the story really. I don’t want to give too much away for people who have not read it, so I will sum it up by saying that a young woman (no name ever given) is trapped an 11×11 room and ends up having a baby while there. The baby (Jack) then grows up knowing nothing but his life in that room. The story develops and grows from there – that’s all I can really say.

Yes, it sounds weird. And it is. When I first started the book, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue reading. But I stuck it out and I’m very glad I did. The story and the characters drew me in and pretty soon I couldn’t put it down. I began hoping the story would move in the direction I wanted – almost willing it to go that way. And although I found several things strange in the book, overall I really enjoyed it.

Again, it’s weird to say I enjoyed this book. And you won’t understand what I mean until you read it. It’s a book that is hard to enjoy in many ways. I guess I will say that I’m glad I read it – that seems more appropriate. And although the fact that it is narrated by a child initially put me off a bit, I quickly adapted to the style and then began to really like it.

Overall, “Room” is an emotionally charged, intense and unique book. I whole-heartedly recommend it, with the caveat that the reader must be prepared to be jolted a bit. But it is certainly a story you will never forget.

Book Review: The Hunger Games

I waited what felt like FOREVER to read this book. One of the girls in our book club mentioned early on that she was choosing it as her book, but I totally forgot she was sooo late in the year. The waiting was horrendous.

But when I finally did pick up the first book in this series by Suzanne Collins, it was all over. As I expected, I could NOT put it down. And although some people may consider this a teen or tween read, I’m not 100% sold. First of all, I’m not entirely sure about young kids reading a book that focuses solely on the annihilation of other human beings. And before you get all up in arms, I completely understand the underlying political and humanitarian theme of the book–I realize that it is not being condoned. Just saying that if I had a kid, I’d think twice before letting him/her read a book all about killing other kids for sport.

But I digress. Back to my point – this book is thrilling. I am a huge John Irving fan. And what, might you ask, does he have to do with this book? After hearing Irving speak in person twice, he extolled the long-lost virtues of PLOT in a book. To many reader’s today, plot is seen as a negative word – one that diminishes the poignancy and message of the novel, making it simply an easy, mindless read.

Not so! I completely agree with Irving’s point of view that plot is essential in a story, maybe even more so today than ever before. A good plot can help get across your message in many ways. And in today’s world where attention spans are miniscule, a gripping plot is a savvy device to use.

The Hunger Games is ALL plot. And that’s probably why it’s such a page-turner, has been so successful, and completely wraps you into the book. The plot is highly developed and strategic. You know what is going on almost from the first few pages and continue to expect the worst. This plot-induced dread and, yes even fear, force you to tear through the pages at light speed to find out what will happen next.

I started this book on a Tuesday and finished it late on Thursday night. I skipped running, turned off the T.V., sped through meals and stayed up all hours of the night to finish this book.

So maybe you think these are kid books, or just easy reading, but I really enjoyed this book and think it deserves appropriate props. It was really good, well-written, and so utterly engaging. And at the end of the day, scrap all my concerns about it being inappropriate because of the violence. If it can tear kids away from their video games and DS’s for a while, then that is a win in my eyes.

All in all – I suggest you run, don’t walk, to buy these books and “devour” them.

Well Hello There 2011

I honestly can’t believe it’s 2011 already. The 2010 year literally flew by. I’ve decided to really think hard about my 2011 resolutions before I put them down in print. So those resolutions will be coming a little bit late.

My New Years Eve wasn’t as exciting as expected. Hubby and I were toying with the idea of going to Times Square since it was a balmy 45 degrees outside. However, the cold and congestion that Hubby had been dealing with for the past few days finally made its way to me and the thought of standing outside for hours with a million people – being trapped inside barriers became more terrifying than appealing. So we ended up lying low and I coughed my way into 2011. Thanks for going with the flow Hubby and welcoming 2011 in a low-key way with your sick wife.

I’ve been promising a book review, so here it is. My book review of Ultramarathon Man – Confessions of An All-Night Runner.

Ultramarathon Man
Confessions of An All-Night Runner

By: Dean Karnazes

At a work happy hour earlier in December, a few of us were talking running and running books, and several people told me to read this book. They were pretty persistent, so I decided to check it out.

I was not disappointed. This book was both interesting and inspiring. It’s a non-fiction book by and about Dean Karnazes. Dean was a runner in high school, but then abruptly stopped running altogether for years. On his 30th birthday, he takes a hard look at his life and tries to figure out what is missing. After a night of drinking and celebration, he puts on a pair of old sneakers and heads out for a run…a really long run.

And from there he just does not stop. The man runs and runs and runs. He starts by running about 5 miles a day and then hears about a 100 mile race. He sets his sights on that goal and trains like a maniac.

The reader tags along on his journey for adventure and excitement. As a runner, you’ll want to be running alongside Dean. His stories will fill you with awe and inspiration. After reading about Dean’s 50-100 mile jaunts, I felt like a pretty big wimp complaining about having to run 30-40 miles a week for marathon training.

Dean is not a complainer – he is a doer. He sets his goal and he doesn’t let anything stand in his way.  And just when the reader thinks that he has tackled his biggest challenge, Dean will find a more intense and insane challenge. It’s what he lives for.

I’m pretty sure I read this book in 2-3 days. I just couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what he would conquer next and I wanted to absorb some of his strength through the pages. I then passed the book along to my running friend and she flew through it in 2 days as well. It’s good and it just may renew some of your vigor and drive to run and train harder than you ever have before. Because if Dean can run 100 miles, surely I can run a measly 26, right?

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Hope you all had a great NYE and start to 2011! What are some of your New Year goals?

The number 11 is my lucky number, so I’m hoping this year is a lucky one for us. 🙂 Last year wasn’t awful, but we did have some major ups and downs – so I’d really love to have a great 2011. How was your 2010?

The Trifecta: Restaurant, Book & Movie Reviews

Good afternoon all! I know I promised you a book and restaurant review today and I wanted to get them up earlier, but then I decided to just lump them together with a movie review and make a GIANT post. My apologies in advance for the length. So let’s begin.

Restaurant Review

Nobu
I was admittedly very excited when I learned that Hubby’s co-workers were planning a dinner at Nobu that would include significant others. Score! Besides being excited to see some of his co-workers and their signficant others I’d met before, as well as meeting some new team members, more importantly, I was thrilled to hear we would be gathering at Nobu!!

And so it was that I left work last Thursday and headed to Nobu on 57th. The restaurant is actually a bit hidden and set inside a little covered area.

Once our party arrived, we were escorted upstairs and Bill’s boss promptly spotted Ace from American Idol. For those who know me, I’m awful at spotting celebs, so I truly appreciate when people spot them and point them out to me. Apparently, I am oblivious.

Once we got down to business with the Nobu menu, I turned from oblivious to clueless and overwhelmed. Thankfully, I was with some people in the Nobu-know who guided our table to make the right selections. The downside of that – I’m at a loss to tell you what some of these pictures are. I will do my best…

Pretty sure this was the sashimi salad.


Some sort of mushroom salad that was soo tasty.


Rock Shrimp – Hubby’s favorite and might be mine as well. This was amazing. A must-order if you ever go.


Holy sushi and sashimi selection! All the ones I tried were amazing.

All of the food was soo delicious. I’m sorry I can’t go into more detail – I wish I had paid more attention during the ordering. There were also some other dishes that I didn’t post because  literally had no clue what they were. There wasn’t  a single thing that we ordered that I did not like. However, it was not a cheap meal by any means. That is my word of warning to everyone. Be prepared to spend some dough. And also be prepared to see some of the most pretentious and well-dressed people you’ve ever seen. There were some people there like our table – low-key, fun and laid back. But you could also spot a ton of uptight business folk or freshly bo-toxed glamazons . And I swear to you that just as we were about to leave the Jonas Brothers came in, but they were seated behind a wall and I knew it would be inappropriate to try to scale it. Not that I’m a fan of the JBs – just desperate to actually recognize some celebs from time to time.

Book Review

The Girl Who Played With Fire

By: Stieg Larsson
[photo source]

I’ll assume that if you want to read this book or already bought this book that you’ve read the first book: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. If not, I’d like to kindly ask you to stop right there and go back to the first book. You can not read the second book in this trilogy without reading the first.

That being said, this book does have a completely new story-line, but you need the history to gain the full understanding. It’s so difficult to explain Larsson’s plot line within these books. I’ll leave it at saying that  Lisbeth Salander is back and is working with journalist Mikael Blomkvist again on unraveling some criminal activities and mysteries. However, the relationship between Salander and Blomkvist has changed drastically since we last heard from them, so that adds a twist to the feel and direction of the plot.

General thoughts on this book – it made me immensely nervous right from the beginning. I was terrified for Lisbeth and worried about what would happen to her next. I felt this way a little bit in the first book, but this book intensified those feelings and did so right from the start.

As per Larsson’s first book, it’s a fast-paced, intriguing page turner. I cancelled plans and skipped the gym to go home and read this book. I did not want to put it down. However, toward the end there were a few details and situations here and there that I found to be a bit unbelievable or far-fetched. This disappointed me momentarily, but did not affect my overall opinion of the book.

The end of this book way okay, but nothing entirely amazing. Overall though, if you liked the first Larsson book, I can pretty much guarantee you will enjoy this one as well. But remember – it’s not for the faint of heart, there are some serious thrills and chills in these books.

Movie Review

Get Him to The Greek

We watched this movie last night and I have to be honest and say that it did not live up to my expectations. Perhaps it was because before we popped in the Netflix DVD, we had been watching “The Hangover” on HBO. It’s hard to think anything is as hysterical as that movie. So maybe not such a good pre-movie choice.

Regardless, this movie has its funny moments. Hubby doesn’t really like Russell Brand, but I found him to be amusing and a pretty decent actor. He’s got potential. His character reminded me of the washed up rock star from “Love Actually.” Now that was a great movie.

Anyway – this is a short movie and it’s probably better off that way. You’ll enjoy it if you go in with some realistic expectations and a willingness to forgive some predictability. I did really like that they tied it to “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” – now that was another great movie! Somehow, I doubt that I’ll ever say that about this movie though.

That’s all folks!!

A Thurdsay Book and Movie Review

Happy Thursday all on this rainy, cold day.  Oddly enough, I went to bed last night without setting an alarm (by accident) and managed to wake up at exactly my normal time today. So strange. Ever had that happen? Talk about internal alarm.

So I FINALLY saw The Social Network on Tuesday night. I also have to share that my friend and I picked up dinner from the Whole Foods salad bar and ate it in the theater – a first for me. On two fronts: 1) first Whole Foods salad bar experience; and 2) first time eating dinner in a movie theater.

On the first front – LOVED the food from Whole Foods! I don’t know why it took me so long to try it. I think because I knew how much I was going to like it and want to go back.

On the second front – eating my dinner in a theater was a lil weird. I managed to finish my food before the movie started. I did not want to be crunching away while the movie was playing. It was interesting.

Now as far as the movie goes: I wasn’t obsessed. I thought it was interesting and it was definitely a different style than I thought it would be, but it didn’t wow me. I think I built it up too much in my head after hearing so many reviews about it. And essentially being one of the last people to see it. Don’t get me wrong – I thought it was interesting and I was sufficiently hooked in many scenes, but I didn’t think it was exceptional.  I’m glad I saw it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to convince someone else that they had to see it.

And now lastly, here is a nice little book review for you!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

By: Jamie Ford

The last time I was visiting my parents I finished the book I was reading. My mom had just finished this book, so I grabbed it for my train ride back to the city. This book is definitely a quick read and very enjoyable. I don’t think the author’s writing is particularly unique or memorable—it is more the topic that will draw your attention.

Basic premise of the story is about a 12-year-old Chinese boy named Henry Lee. He lives in Seattle during World War II and goes to a “white” preparatory school. His parents want him to become more Americanized. He meets a Japanese girl at this school called Keiko. Although they live in the U.S., Henry’s father has strong ties to China and follows the fighting going on between the Chinese and Japanese. He hates the Japanese and will not allow his son to associate with anyone of Japanese descent. Of course, as you can guess, Keiko and Henry become good friends and then develop stronger feelings for each other.

That is the basic overview, but more than the relationship between Henry and Keiko, I was taken in by the descriptions of how Japanese families were treated during this time and then shipped off to internment camps. We’ve all learned about these camps in U.S. History classes, but this gave me a new, personal look into that time, and the anger and hatred that these families faced.

This is a book of fiction, but many of the places and some of the people mentioned in it are real. And the author did his research on the internment camps and relocation of Japanese families. I found the relationship between Keiko and Henry to become almost secondary to the real story of these families. And I wasn’t exactly sold on this teenage love being the right backdrop for this very important subject. I didn’t hate their little love, but I didn’t actually fully believe it either.

Essentially, I enjoyed the book for what I learned about that era and the look into the internment camps. I probably could have done with the pre-pubescent love story though. But who knows—maybe this isn’t a story that is geared toward me. Maybe this is a book that Ford intended for middle schoolers to read. Perhaps the author is simply a device to help engage younger readers in an historical story.

Regardless, it is a quick read and offers a unique insight into that time, place and issue in U.S. history. I say it’s definitely worth a read.

A Friday Book Review: The Hour I First Believed

Happy Friday everyone! We made it through another week. In two weeks from now, I will be packing up my bags and getting ready to travel to the Emerald Isle!! I can’t wait. I’m like a kid counting down to Christmas. 🙂

In the near term, I’m just excited that this weekend is finally here! I don’t have any major plans and I’m really hoping that I can get out tomorrow morning for a nice longish run. It’s been a while. I also started a new running book last night, which I’m hoping will serve to inspire me: Once a Runner. I’ll let you know how it is.

And that means that I finally finished The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb!! YAY! So I will leave you all on this fine Friday with a nice little book review. Have a great weekend!

The Hour I First Believed

By: Wally Lamb

This is the second Wally Lamb book I’ve read. I read “She’s Come Undone” a long time ago – I think when I was in high school and to be honest, I can’t recall very many details about that book. I probably need to read it again. I do remember that it was about some very traumatic and sad things. So I went into this second book kind of expecting some grizzly events and Lamb certainly followed through.

“The Hour I First Believed” spans several years (I want to say 15-20 years) of a man’s life. This man has a connection to the Columbine shooting and that event basically shapes and drives the course of the rest of his life. As you can imagine, it doesn’t exactly shape it in a positive way.

The main character, Caelum Quirk ,is very well-developed by Lamb. He isn’t perfect and his tone and sarcastic nature come across very well in the book. His anger can also be distinctly felt by the reader. I felt like his wife, Maureen, wasn’t as well-developed and I wasn’t able to connect with her as much.

If you ever thought you got a raw deal in life, please read this book and you will probably feel a little bit better. Every time something bad happened in Caelum’s life, I thought that was going to be the end of it. That was the last blow and now he was going to have a chance to start putting the pieces of his life back together. Umm, no. It pretty much stays tough for Caelum right up until the end of this book. I guess you could say that frustrated me. But maybe that was Lamb’s point; that in real life, the bad or difficult times don’t just come to an end forever, we will constantly have ups and downs and it’s unrealistic to think that at any point in your life the tough stuff will be over.

I will say that I thought for the most part, Caelum remained pretty positive in the face of such adversity. He definitely had his raw moments, but I always felt that he was going to pull through and work it out—he always made me believe (I know, how cliché right?).

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. It’s a long one with 700+ pages, but when you’re taking a journey through a decent chunk of a person’s life, you can’t expect it to be quick and easy. I wouldn’t say it’s a feel good book, but it might just make you appreciate some of the things in your life a little more as you work your way through the catastrophes in Caelum’s.