Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

After witnessing the gruesome death of his grandfather, 16 year old Jacob seems to be having a mental breakdown. His father takes him to the remote island his grandfather was from to help him cope, and while there Jacob discovers that his grandfather's seemingly tall tales of monsters and orphans with special gifts might actually be true.

Although the storytelling is a little slow at times, once you get into this book it's fantastic. I loved the X-Men quality to some of the characters, and I'm a sucker for time travel and mysteries, so this was just my cup of tea. And all the creepy photographs  throughout the book (which Ransom Riggs based the whole story around) are fascinating!

I give this one a B.

If you enjoy this book, Riggs just released the sequel called Hollow City. And if you liked the photography, he has another book full of the pictures he's collected called "Talking Pictures".


Thursday, February 27, 2014

For Your Consideration: The 2014 Academy Awards!! (Part 1)

Awards Season is almost to an end, with the biggest awards yet to be given: The Oscars!

This is my most favorite of all the awards shows, and I have to say that I'm very much looking forward to it this year (just like every year!).

There is some really amazing competition this year too.

Here's the list of contenders. And my thoughts on who might be taking that shiny man home (I'll put an asterisk by my choice for who I think should win. And there could be more than one asterisk per category. Because I can.)


Best Picture:

American Hustle* (This could take it, just because of it's popularity.)

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club





12 Years a Slave* (Factoring in acting, directing, writing, cinematography, costumes/makeup, and score,  I think this is all around the best film nominated this year.)

The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Supporting Actor:

Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave *(Fassbender is fantastically horrible as an extremely abusive plantation owner.)

Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club * (Leto give an amazing performance as a transgendered woman and is completely unrecognizable.)

Best Supporting Actress:

Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle *(J-Law is my second choice, but I have a feeling she'll win it. She was great, as usual, but as much as I love her, I think Lupita Nyong'o really should win.)

Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave * (Newbie Lupita Nyong'o was beyond amazing in this. She deserves to win. Hands down.)

Julia Roberts, August: Osage County **(If I had a third choice, it would be Julia Roberts. I've never seen her like she was in this role. If the competition wasn't so strong she'd get it for sure, but sadly for her, she's up against some amazing performances this year.)

June Squibb, Nebraska 

Best Director:

David O. Russell, American Hustle

Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Alexander Payne, Nebraska

Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave *(He just really deserves this one. What a performance!)

Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actor: (This is such a hard category. Really, they all deserve it.)

Christian Bale, American Hustle 

Bruce Dern, Nebraska *(I'm just going with Bruce Dern as a close second though because , well, he's Bruce Dern!)

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave *  (He really was amazing as a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery.)

Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Actress: (Possibly the hardest category. Can't they all win?)

Amy Adams, American Hustle

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine * (I have not seen this, but according to those who have, she was better than Meryl Streep. I didn't know that was possible!)

Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Judi Dench, Philomena

Meryl Streep, August: Osage County * (Holy Moly!! This crazy pill popping lady! Just fantastic!)

Best Original Screenplay:

American Hustle

Blue Jasmine

Dallas Buyers Club

(Just so different than anything I've seen in a long time.)


Best Adapted Screenplay:

Before Midnight

Captain Phillips


12 Years a Slave*

The Wolf Of Wall Street

Best Animated Feature:

The Croods

Despicable Me 2*
(My second choice, because it was also very well done.)

Ernest & Celestine

(Just really well done, Disney.)

The Wind Rises

Best Foreign Feature: (I can't give my opinion here, because I haven't seen any of these films.)

The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium

The Great Beauty, Italy

The Hunt, Denmark

The Missing Picture, Cambodia

Omar, Palestine

Best Visual Effects: (Really, it's between everything but The Lone Ranger. Not that it wasn't entertaining, I just don't think the visual effects were on the same level as the other nominees in this category.)


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug*

Iron Man 3

The Lone Ranger

Star Trek Into Darkness

Best Cinematography:

The Grandmaster


Inside Llewyn Davis * 
(The Coen Brothers. Their films are always gorgeous.)

Nebraska * 
(B&W. Need I say more?)


Best Costume Design: (Total toss up... the costuming was great in all of these films.)

American Hustle*

The Grandmaster

The Great Gatsby*

The Invisible Woman

12 Years a Slave *

SNUB ALERT: Where is The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug in this category?

Best Documentary Feature: (I can't give my opinion here, because I have seen none of these films...)

The Act of Killing

Cutie and the Boxer

Dirty Wars

The Square

20 Feet from Stardom

Best Documentary Short: (I can't give my opinion here, because I have seen none of these films either...)


Facing Fear

Karama Has No Walls

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Prisoner Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Best Film Editing: (It's another toss up... )

American Hustle*

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club


12 Years a Slave*

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

Dallas Buyers Club *

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa * 
(Who would have thought the Jackass guys would ever be nominated for an Oscar?! I kinda just want to see what they'd do if they win.)

The Lone Ranger

SNUB ALERT: Where is The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug in this category as well?

Best Music (Original Score):

The Book Thief




Saving Mr. Banks*
(Because the music behind the music behind Mary Poppins. That's why.)

Best Music (Original Song):

"Alone Yet Not Alone" from Alone Yet Not Alone

"Happy" from  Despicable Me 2

"Let It Go" from Frozen * (Incredible lyrics + Idina Menzel's voice. Done.)

“The Moon Song”  from Her

"Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom* (Um... it's U2. It has a pretty good chance, too, I suppose...)

So... who do you think will take home Oscar this year?


Book Review: Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

In 1962, when Italian hotel owner Pasquale Tursi meets the hopeful American film actress Dee Moray, who is in Italy to film Cleopatra, he falls instantly in love. But soon secrets are revealed, and she is forced back to America by the film's producer, Michael Deane. Fifty years later, Pasquale, Michael Deane, Deane's assistant Claire, and screenwriter/ Italian translator Shane, embark on a journey to reunite Pasquale with Dee, whom he hasn't stopped thinking about over the last half century.

I love anything to do with old Hollywood, so this book, was for the most part, just lovely. The writing was very vivid, which made up for the few "dry" spots, most of which had to do with Claire's and Shane's story lines. I also loved that the author used Richard Burton as a minor character with a big impact on the story.

I give this book a B+.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Diana Bishop is an American history scholar working  on cataloguing and deciphering ancient manuscripts in England. She also comes from a long line of witches, though she tries to lay low, and not to use her powers. Ever. But when she is somehow able to find a long lost, and spellbound, manuscript, every other witch, demon, and vampire in Oxford take notice of her, including 1500 year old vampire-turned-geneticist Matthew Clairmont.

Think Harry Potter meets Twilight, only for grown-ups, and this is your book. As hokey as it sounds with the whole vampire-witch romance thing, I really enjoyed this book. So much that I count it among my favorite series' of books. It's light, with just enough history, romance, and intrigue to keep it interesting.

I give this one a B+
If you like this one,try the sequel, Shadow of Night. The third/final book in this series comes out in July. I can hardly wait!

Movie Review: The LEGO Movie

"Everything is awesome!! Everything is cool when you're part of a team! Everything is awesome... when you're living for the dream!!!"
Yes, that song WILL be stuck in your head after watching this movie.
We went to see The LEGO Movie a couple weeks ago when our friends from Oregon were visiting. It was their daughter's 7th birthday, and she LOVES Legos, so what better way to celebrate than a trip to Legoland (which is only about 10 minutes from our house), and The Lego Movie the next day.
This movie is about an ordinary Lego construction man named Emmet, who is mistaken for a MasterBuilder, trying to save his Lego world from "The Kragle" with the help of his new-found friends Wyldstyle, Unikitty, and, of course, Batman. 
It was pretty cute, with good messages throughout. Plus, it's always nice to have a kids movie adults can enjoy too.
It's rated PG for some mild violence and mild adult humor (which goes right above the kids heads, really) but other than that, I say this is great for kids of all ages, especially if they're into Legos.
If you're interested in seeing how the movie was made, check out this video!


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Movie Review: Swingers

 Many people tell me I'm a film buff, though I don't consider myself one, simply because there are way too many amazing films I have never seen. Films that you must see in order to be labeled a "film buff". Films like Scarface and The African Queen. I'm a failure in that sense...

My all time favorite movie, though, is a little low-budget indie flick from 1996 called Swingers, directed by Doug Liman.
I have no idea why I love this movie so much. But I do. It's not a blockbuster, it's only somewhat original, and not overly artistic. But there's just something so honest and funny about the writing and acting. Plus it has some of the best quotes and one-liners. Ever.
"You're so money and you don't even know it."
"Vegas Baby! VEGAS!!"
"I'll have a scotch on the rocks, please. Any scotch will do, as long as it's not a blend, of course. Single malt, Glen Livet, Glen Galley, perhaps, any Glen."
"Like F-in' House of Pain was gonna do anything?"
"I'm gonna make his head bleed for super fan number 99 over here." 
Just to throw out a few...
I think Jon Favreau's main character, Mikey, is the epitome of what it was like to be a recently-single struggling actor in L.A. in the '90's. Also, this is one of Vince Vaughn's first major movie roles, and the chemistry between him and Jon Favreau, who also wrote (and almost directed) the film, is just fantastic.
And don't even get me started on the soundtrack.
Dean Martin.
George Jones.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
Tony Bennett.
Roger Miller.
Bobby Darin.
I'm pretty sure most of this films tiny budget (which was only something, like $200K... crazy low-budget!) was spent on music. And it was worth every penny that I'm sure those actors and production assistants didn't get paid. Without this selection of music, I just don't think Swingers would have been what it was, and still is, to it's biggest fans.
Rated R for strong language and sexual situations, I suggest Swingers for early high-school and up.
If you're as big a fan as I am, then I highly suggest this article on the making of Swingers.

Book Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

After Clary Fray witnesses  the murder of a demon by a group of teenagers called Shadowhunters , her seemingly normal life is turned upside down. Now  the Shadowhunters, whom she has a strange connection to, especially their sometimes-leader Jace,  will have to help Clary find her kidnapped mother, get back a sacred cup, and figure out why she can all of a sudden see things that she once though only found in stories.

Although it's not a literary classic by any means, this book was actually pretty enjoyable, save for the plot twist at the end that grossed me out a little. I'm looking forward to the next books in this series, though there are definitely other books on my-to-read list I'm going to get to first.

I give this book a B-

If you enjoyed this  book, check out the next in installment in The Mortal Instruments series, City of Ashes.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Book Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by  Lisa See

Living in nineteenth-century China, Lily and Snow Flower are laotongs, or "old sames", meaning they are part of an arranged friendship meant to last throughout their whole lives. They communicate using a secret language for Chinese women, written on a silk fan which they send back and forth to each other.

My love for historical fiction is usually limited to British, and sometimes American, stories, and I am so glad I stepped out of that box for this book. Though there are a few graphic scenes, such as the foot binding ritual, this is an amazing story of the friendship,  love, and forgiveness between these two girls as they grow into women.

I give this one an A.

If you enjoyed this book, try the sequel Peony in Love.

Book Review: Outlander


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

In 1945 Scotland, Claire Randall is a nurse, home from the war, and on a sort of second honeymoon with her husband. But while visiting an old stone circle, she is transported back in time to 1743, where she meets Jamie Fraser, a young Scottish warrior, and soon becomes torn between two very different centuries, and two very different men.

Outlander is one of my all time favorite series of books. It is very much historical fiction, but I love the slight Sci-Fi edge, since I'm such a sucker for time travel. But really, it's so well written, I forget about it being even slightly in the Sci-Fi realm. Just a warning though, there are some pretty graphic scenes, of both violent and sexual natures.

I give this book an A.

The next book in the eight book Outlander series is  Dragonfly in Amber.

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Being an organizer of a large book club, I get all kinds of requests, many being from authors, or people who work for authors, wanting our group to read their latest work, most of which is self-published. And usually it's not just their latest work, but their first work. And in our past experiences, not good.

There's a lot of email screening happening on my part. And rejection.

But a little over a year ago, I got an email from a local mom starting up her own local kids magazine, called North County Kids Magazine. It's a great little gem, full of parenting tips, and events taking place in North County San Diego. She wanted to know if I'd be interested in writing book reviews, mom to mom. (In fact, it's called Mom to Mom...)

Um, heck yes I would.  Gosh!

It's seriously so fun and rewarding and I love it. It's brought in a few new members to the Hip Chicks Book Club even.

So I'll be posting some of my short reviews here on MAPC, and hopefully it'll help you find a new great read.

I'll start with one of my more recent reviews, for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which also happened to be our book club pick this month.


After meeting in a cancer support group for kids at a local church, Hazel and Augustus fall in love, and even find a little adventure, despite their diagnoses.

This is one of the top books I've read recently. I think I fell in love with the characters as much as they fell in love with each other. It's smart, hopeful, funny, and heartbreaking (have a tissue handy for sure! I balled my eyes out!). So many things I love in a book.
I give this book an A.
Bonus: The main character, Hazel Grace, was based on a real person named Esther Earl, who was quite an inspiration. John Green even dedicated TFIOS to her. Here's an article on Esther, and the book This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life & Words of Esther Grace Earl, which I'm very much looking forward to reading.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Hip Chicks. AKA The Best Book Club in the World!

It's hard to believe that six years ago, I had no book club to call home, and was left to share my opinions on books with the very few who would (sort of) listen. Basically, my husband, and occasionally, my cousins and mom.

You could say there was a book club shaped hole in my heart. One that desperately needed filling.

All that changed when, after looking for a right book club fit and not finding it, I started my own group. One that has a ton of fun, drinks wine (and beer.), AND ACTUALLY READS THE BOOKS!

And thus, The Hip Chicks Book Club was born.

We're quite the group of ladies, from all walks of life. I've seriously made some of the greatest friends through this group, friends who, at this point, seem lifelong. A few of them I knew beforehand, and helped me get this group going. Most I've just met over the past six years.

This group keeps me sane, giving me much needed "grown-up" conversation at least once a month (usually more, since we go to pretty much any movie based on a book... and that almost always involves food, and drinks, either before or afterwards).

And although we have around 200+ members (it's huge. I know.) at any given time, I am so thankful for every single one of those gals for making this "little" book club the Best Book Club in the World!

For a list of what we've read in the past, and what we're currently reading, CLICK HERE!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Come to the Geek Side! We Have Cookies!

Growing up, my nickname from my best friends' older sisters was Geek Megan. It was never my favorite, mostly because growing up in the 90's, being a geek was never a good thing.

Now that I'm a grown up, or, you know, trying to be, I have embraced the geek way of life. Being geeky isn't a bad thing. Everyone has something they're a geek about, whether it's shopping, make-up, reality TV, or the "classic" geek things like sci-fi and fantasy and comic books. My geekiness happens to come in the forms of books, TV, and movies... and the occasional celebri-stalking on Twitter.

I love all things Disney.

I love all things Steampunk.

I love British television.

I LOVE movies.

I LOVE to read.

I'm slightly obsessed with the Oscars. I find David Tennant more than slightly attractive. I kind of want to be friends with Joss Whedon.

And don't even get me started on Harry Potter.

I'm proud to be a geek mom. I hope my kidlets can learn to embrace the things they love that they are geeky about. With parents like my husband and I (He's also a fellow geek. Probably more so than me... the guy runs D&D games for cryin' out loud!) it's bound to happen.

And it shall be glorious!