Monthly Archives

September 2009


Congrats to le0pard13, Nancye Davis and Ybnormal, who were randomly selected as winners of Phillip Done’s Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind. Please e-mail me your address by clicking on “contact” in the upper right corner of this page and I’ll forward it to Hachette Book Group, who will send you the books.

Thanks to all for telling me about your most memorable teachers. Your stories were incredibly inspiring. If you didn’t win, keep your eyes peeled for another exciting giveaway very soon!


Monday Nerd Bits

Photo © Pop Culture Nerd

Just got back from a gorgeous week in San Francisco visiting family. Didn’t get a chance to write or read much but did get to hang out with the lovely Sophie Littlefield (click here to see us misbehaving), author of the kick-ass A Bad Day for Sorry.

I promise a full week of articles ahead but for now, because the plane was delayed and I got in late, I just have a few nerd bits for you:

  • The NY Times posted the first review of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. Am I the only person in the world who hasn’t read The Da Vinci Code and doesn’t really care about Symbol? I’m WAY more interested in Jon Krakauer’s new book, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, which also comes out Tuesday. Krakauer can make nonfiction read like the most heartstopping thrillers around.
  • Tonight at 9 p.m. PST, I’ll randomly select the three winners of Phillip Done’s charming book, Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind, so get your entry in here if you haven’t already. I really enjoyed Done’s tales of the kids he’s taught and think you will, too.
  • Within the next week, I’ll have another fantastic giveaway. This time, it’ll be the latest installment in a series by a huge, bestselling author. Check back to see who it is and enter because I’ll also be giving away three copies of that.
  • Oscar season, as well as the new TV season, is ramping up in Hollywood, which means lots of screenings for the next few months. This week, I’ll be seeing Jane Campion’s Bright Star and some of ABC’s new shows like Cougar Town and FlashForward. I’ll report back on these events (the stars are scheduled for Q & A).

Have a mind-blowing Monday and I’ll see you on the nerd bus.


I’m out of town. This review is by contributing writer Eric Edwards. —PCN


If you’re looking for insight on who Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was before she became the fashion icon synonymous with class and style, you’re not going to find it in the French film Coco Before Chanel (limited U.S. release, September 25). Watching this is more like attending a fashion show, where we get to see the glamorous clothes paraded down the runway but none of the drama we know is going on backstage.

It’s not Audrey Tautou’s fault. As Chanel, the actress is mesmerizing. Even devoid of makeup and in dowdy clothes, she remains the most enigmatic person on the screen. Perhaps this is why director/writer Anne Fontaine chose her for the lead—it was the only way to make the movie compelling.

The movie opens with two young girls in the back of a horse-drawn wagon being dropped off at an orphanage. Young Gabrielle (Lisa Cohen) and her sister, Adrienne (Marie Gillain), are ushered by nuns into their new place of residence, with Gabrielle lingering in the doorway trying in vain to look into the eyes of their driver. We later learn this must have been her father, but we never know for sure since the older version of Gabrielle often lies about her past.

On visiting day, young Gabrielle follows perfect-looking little girls to the courtyard, hoping to be visited by her father. This never happens, setting the tone for the rest of the film: Gabrielle will always be let down by the men in her life.

tautou & nivolaThe men who later disappoint her are Etienne Balsan (the wonderfully aloof Benoit Poelvoorde), the older and extremely rich man who gives Gabrielle the nickname “Coco,” and the dashingly handsome Arthur “Boy” Capel (the wildly sexy Alessandro Nivola), who represents himself as the man of her dreams until we find out he is betrothed to another.

The two men fight over Coco but the confrontation resembles nothing more than polite conversation during a game of billiards. Arthur provides the funds for Gabrielle to start her outrageously successful hat and dress-making business in Paris, but she finds that no bank will take her seriously without Arthur. That’s glossed over, too. These are only two of many potentially dramatic moments that went unrealized, which makes this as frustrating as a beautiful gown left unfinished.

Much credit is due, however, to cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, who makes the scenery and Tautou look as striking as Chanel’s famous dresses.


Book Marketing Survey

Last week, some friends and I were discussing over dinner what makes us pick up a book by an author we’ve never read before. We all had different and interesting answers and it made me want to hear more.

So, I ask you: What persuades you to try a book by someone new to you? When you walk into a bookstore, what makes one stand out amongst all the competition? Conversely, what qualities would absolutely deter you from reading or even sampling a book?

Some of my own reasons are pretty mundane so there are no ridiculous answers. The more impassioned and subjective you are, the better!



I wasn’t planning on doing another giveaway so soon after doing one for Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire, but I just finished reading this charming book and wanted to share it with you. Besides, with kids returning to school, this is the perfect time for this.

Phillip Done has been an elementary-school teacher for over 20 years. In Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood, he tells true tales of the kids he’s taught, everyday children who make you laugh one minute and crush your heart the next. Done (rhymes with “phone”) writes in an uncluttered, self-deprecating way which makes this a fast, easy read but one which stays with you. There’s one kid in particular—Michael, nicknamed Angel—whose story kicked me in the gut and made me cry like, well, a third-grader.

I’m giving away three copies of this book, courtesy of Hachette Book Group. If you’d like to enter my random drawing, you just have to:

  • Be a subscriber and/or follower on Twitter (both isn’t necessary)
  • Leave a comment telling me about your favorite teacher and why that person is memorable
  • Be a U.S. or Canada resident, no P.O. Boxes

I’ll take entrants until 9 p.m. PST, September 14. Hachette will mail books directly to winners. Good luck!


My Life as a Book

I based the following on something I saw at Reactions to Reading. The idea is to finish the following sentences using only titles of books I read this year. Considering I read mostly crime fiction with “death” in the title, this was difficult to do without sounding like I’m a creepy person or badly in need of Prozac.

I reworded some sentences, skipped a couple I had absolutely no relevant answer for, and added one of my own. It turned out kinda interesting.

Note: Authors’ names are in parentheses and if a title is underlined, click on it to see my review or author interview.

I am: The Girl Who Played with Fire (Stieg Larsson)

I feel like: Twenties Girl (Sophie Kinsella)

I live in: This Wicked World (Richard Lange)

If I could go anywhere, I would go to: The Four Corners of the Sky (Michael Malone)

My friends and I are: The Renegades (T. Jefferson Parker)

What life is to me: Hothouse Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire (Margot Berwin)

I fear: The Face of Betrayal (Lis Wiehl and April Henry)

I know: The Way Home (George Pelecanos)

Best advice I can give: Trust No One (Gregg Hurwitz)

Thought for the Day: Beat the Reaper (Josh Bazell)

How I would like to die: Nothing But a Smile (Steve Amick)

My soul’s present condition: Awakening (S.J. Bolton)

Are you up to the challenge? How many sentences can you complete with only book titles you read this year?