The Nanny Diaries

I just finished watching The Nanny Diaries, the movie based on the book by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Klaus, and starring Scarlett Johansson .

While I thought the book was delightful, and enjoyed the movie as much for the story as for the luxury homes in Manhattan where it all took place, I’m never entirely satisfied with book-to-movie translations, because when I read I’m immersed in a story, but when I’m watching something, I’m merely observing it.

That being said, Laura Linney as Mrs. X was fabulous, seemingly cold, but with vulnerability beneath the icy veneer, and Paul Giamatti as the mostly-absent Mr. X was simply perfect, and Donna Murphy was believable as Annie’s mother, even if her New Jersey accent was horribly inconsistent. Young Nicholas Art, as Greyer, the child in the film, was also very good – very much a natural kid.

Where the film excelled (other than at marketing CitiGroup, whose iconic red umbrella was used throughout the film) was in capturing the spirit of life in New York, where small kids really DO know whether something is on the East or West side, and how much there are distinct sub-cultures within it, changing from block to block.

If you haven’t read the book, see the movie first or you might be disappointed in the condensation of the story, but you will not be disappointed in the way they presented the spirit of the novel, or the city in which it all takes place.

Vacation Plans

We’re off to Baja Sur for Christmas in a week, and while the only resemblance my parents place outside of La Paz has with any piece of Wilmington NC real estate is proximity to the ocean, I’m still in the mood to read a bunch of Anne Rivers Siddons novels before I get there, because her descriptions of the Carolina coastal lifestyle is very much my dream life: small towns, great books, a beach a short walk away, excellent coffee, good friends – these are my version of bliss.

I don’t have TIME to read any beach books just now, though, and once I get there, Christmas will drive all chances of reading away, anyway. But I do have a book sent to me by the author for review that I’m planning to read on the plane, and I’m carting along a bunch of books to leave with my mother and to be given as gifts to the daughters of one of her friends, a woman from India who wants her daughters to read, “English language novels with strong female role models.” I’m bringing them Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden. I think they’ll enjoy all three.

Rises the Night

by Colleen Gleason

Rises the Night isn’t just the second installment of Colleen Gleason’s series about Victoria Gardella, slayer of vampires and wearer of lace and corsets, it’s also the second novel in this period that I’ve read and enjoyed, and it’s all because Gleason manages to make her characters ride the edge between being truly period and truly contemporary.

As with the original book in the series, a continuing theme is protagonist Victoria’s struggle between the demands of the society in which she lives, and the calling she has answered. While the first novel raised that issue, however, this one really explores it, as well as giving Victoria a bit of dark romance on the side.

I’m afraid to even mention character names because I don’t like to spoil things, and I’m terrible at not giving away plot points. Suffice to say that even though Victoria is wearing bodices and full skirts instead of sleek black port authority clothing, she is every bit as much an action hero as a certain blonde vampire slayer we all watched on television, and every bit as star-crossed when it comes to love.

Read this book!

Gold Medal Wines: Wine of the Month Club

One of my favorite relaxation rituals is to light a candle, pour a glass of wine, and recline in a hot bubble bath with a good book. In California, I was lucky enough to have stores like BevMo (Beverages and More) at my disposal, as well as easy access to a number of great small wineries. In fact, when we lived in our condo in the Rose Garden area of San Jose, there was a winery on our street.

Now that we’re in Texas, I’ve looked through the offerings at the grocery store and World Market, and their selections are okay, but for really interesting selections, I’ve become intrigued by the wine of the month club offered by Gold Medal Wine ( They offer monthly deliveries of two bottles of wine from small California vintners, which they’ll send to those states where mailing alcohol is actually legal. Prices range from $32 – $179 / month, depending on the rarity and quality of the wine being shipped. (They’re divided into three levels of club membership with the $32 price being good and interesting, while the $179 level is for wines that are truly original, rare, and special.)

Each package comes with two bottles, generally one each of red and white, but sometimes just red. They’re packaged in a styrofoam bottle-protector, and come with the monthly newsletter that talks about the wines selected, as well as offering news and reviews of other wines. For the money, it’s a great way to experience new and different wines that you may not otherwise be exposed to.

There are no monthly minimums, but members do get a discount on half-case (or more) reorders.

Sex, Murder and a Double Latte

by Kyra Davis

San Francisco mystery novelist Sophie Katz, half Jewish, half African American, drinks chocolate brownie frappucinos as if they were nutritional supplements and talks to her cat as if he’s a person. In this, the first book about her and author Kyra Davis’s first novel to be published, she also finds life imitating art, as she ends up trying, with her friends (one of whom owns a sex toy store, the other of whom is her gay hair stylist), to solve a murder that seems as if it’s ripped out of the pages of her last novel.

Along the way, she also has to deal with her mother, her sister and young nephew, and the fact that her prime suspect for the murder is also the man who stole her newspaper at Starbucks, and whom she’s dating…sort of.

Davis’s writing is fresh and funny, and manages to blend chick-lit with the mystery genre, her characters are interesting, and her plot works. A good mixture of froth, foam, and fear.