Book Review: Movie Girl by Christina Hamlett

January 29, 2008


I’ve just learned about a new book called Movie Girl by Christina Hamlett that is getting great reviews as a good book for girls who are 9–12 as well as their moms to read. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but the author recently contacted me to say she will offer discounts on copies to members of mother-daughter book clubs. It’s planned as the launch book of a humorous series, and it looks like something that is fun to read.

Here’s a description of the book from the Web site:

“Can Life really imitate Art? When sophomore Laurie Preston is chosen to be lead screenwriter for a movie her high school is producing, she sees the chance of a lifetime to scribble a romantic script that will finally make the boy of her dreams say the words she’s been longing to hear. Unfortunately, the senior hottie who won her star-struck heart from the very first moment she saw him has yet to discover she even exists.”

If you’d like to take the author up on her discount offer, email her at And here’s a link to the Movie Girl Web site if you’d like to read an excerpt and find out more.

Book Recommendations from Powell’s

January 24, 2008

Powell’s is one of my favorite bookstores, and I’m always checking out its staff recommendations when I’m looking for new books to read. I just received Powell’s monthly newsletter with a listing for the favorite books of 2007. Included is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. That one is definitely on my list, but I think there are others that look interesting too.

Here’s the link for the Powell’s Web site if you’d like to check the staff’s favorite books for last year as well as recommended books for middle readers and young adults.

Book Review: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

January 22, 2008


My middle school Mother Daughter Book Club met last night to talk about I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. What an interesting book. As we talked, we all discovered even more layers than we had thought of before.

I Capture the Castle takes place in the 1930s, and it tells the story of a family living in a crumbling castle in England. The dad is a well-known author who hasn’t written since his first book was released to critical acclaim in both England and the U.S. The narrator is Cassandra, the 17-year-old daughter. Rose, 21, Thomas, 15 and stepmother Topaz, complete the family.

With no income coming in, the family has gradually sold off all its furniture and other valuables until they are on the brink of crisis. When two young men from America inherit the castle next door,  it’s no surprise that the family sees the men as their salvation in more ways than one.

The characters are all very complex, and as Cassandra writes in her journal, the reader watches them grow in many different ways. We see Cassandra grow from childhood to adulthood and take on more responsibilities.

Some of the many things that can be discussed after reading this book: the changing role of women in society, love and marriage, the role of religion in our lives, money, children and their parents

I served tea sandwiches and scones for dinner, and everyone seemed to think it was a fun tie-in to the book. We talked about our favorite scenes in the book, and all twelve of us had a different one. I think that’s amazing depth for one book. As we talked about what we liked about the characters, I also felt like I learned a lot more about each one.

The only criticism is that the book was a little wordy, and some people had a hard time getting into it. It also uses fairly sophisticated, complex language. With that in mind, I still highly recommend it for a mother-daughter book club where the girls are in 8th grade or older.

One final note: I Capture the Castle is also a movie, but it’s rated R. It’s hard for me to imagine how this book was made into an R-rated movie, but the mom’s have decided to have a movie night in the next month or so and find out for ourselves. We’re really looking forward to getting together with just the adults.

January—A Good Month to Curl Up with a Good Book

January 10, 2008

I’m looking at raindrops out my window and gray skies in the distance. I’ve got a long day ahead typing on the keyboard of my computer when what I really want to do is curl up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of tea or hot cocoa and read.

I’ve got a stack of books just waiting for me to pick them up and turn the pages, and maybe I can carve out some time after lunch to do just that. Here’s what’s on my list of books to read:

  • The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages – This story of two girls living with their families in Los Alamos, New Mexico during the development of the Atomic bomb has gotten rave reviews. It’s a story about friendship and the struggle of fitting in set in a historical backdrop.
  • The Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick – This is a story of four sixth-grade girls who are coerced (!) into joining a Mother Daughter Book Club where they will read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott as their first pick. Alternating chapters gives each girls point of view. Sound like fun!
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – Dodie Smith also wrote The 101 Dalmations, which of course Disney turned into a movie. This book has been resurrected recently, but is considered a classic. It’s the story of two sisters who live in a ruined castle in Britain, and it takes place between Word War I and World War II. Their lives change when a wealthy American family move to the area. It definitely sounds like a book that’s good for cuddling up with on the couch.
  • What’s Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges – Many people are familiar with this story because of the movie, which featured Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio. The book is for mature high school readers and adults. It’s a story about Gilbert, trapped in a small town in Iowa because he’s loyal to his family. We see that family through Gilbert’s eyes and find people who are far from perfect but trying to do their best. I hear the story stays with you long after the book is finished.

As I’m a writer, I also try to get a bit of professional reading in, and I’m currently inspired by Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Jay conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman and Michael Larsen.

I you had a day just to curl up on the couch and read, what would you pick up?


Best Mother Daughter Book Club Reads of 2007

January 8, 2008

Looking back on the books I read in 2007 with the two Mother Daughter Book Clubs I attend with my daughters, I see it was a banner year for reading books that were listed as favorites by many people in the groups. Here’s a list of the books that created lively discussions, memorable meetings, lasting memories and most of all inspiration to keep reading.

Middle school book club:

  • Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce
  • Remember Me to Harold Square by Paula Danziger
  • Stolen Voices edited by Zlata Filipovic and Melanie Challenger
  • Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
  • A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Maas

High School Book Club

  • Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  • The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

We’re starting the new year out by reading I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith for the middle schoolers and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges for the high school group. What’s on your list of favorites?