Monday, February 8, 2016

6. The Janus Stone - Elly Griffiths

#2 Ruth Galloway
2010 Quercus Pub
read on my iPhone
327 pgs.
Adult murder Mystery - archaeological forensic pathologist
Finished Feb. 8, 2016
Goodreads rating: 3.90
My rating: 4
Setting: Contemporary Norwich, England

First line/s:  "A light breeze runs through the long grass at the top of the hill.  Close up the land looks ordinary, just heather and coarse pasture with the occasional white stone standing out like a signpost."  

My comments:  I enjoyed this second-in-the-series book very much.  It did follow a similar plotline to the first, and I will definitely read a third to see if it strays or sticks to the same sort of plot.  I like Ruth Galloway.  I haven't been to many places outside of the US, but I have been to Norwich (nowhere near the salt marshes, though) so I can somewhat picture that part of the setting.  I look forward to seeing what the relationship between Ruth and Nelson will be like once the baby's born.....

A Goodreads review (liked it better than the Goodreads synopsis):  This is the second in the Ruth Galloway series and I liked it very much. Ruth is a forensic archaeologist in Norfolk, England. Ruth is around 40, chubby, and very good at what she does. She is also pregnant from a one night stand. Her parents, staunch Christians, are horrified.
          Ruth lives in an isolated salt marsh and just outside her front door are archaeology sites. I am fascinated by this. The newest find is a Roman village and a new professional digging it out, Max Grey. There is a spark between them.
          A child's skeleton is found at a redevelopment project and Ruth is called in as an expert to determine how old the bones on. Harry Nelson, police detective, is brought into contact with her as is Cathbad, a druid. The spectacle of Cathbad running around in a purple robe brings a smile to my face.
          This is a great series. Ruth is a competent woman who knows her own mind. She's not drop dead gorgeous yet she attracts a few great men. Maybe intelligence is not such a bad thing. I can't wait to read the next one.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

MOVIE - The Lady in the Van

PG-13 (1:44)
Limited release 12/4/15
Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square 14 on Friday 2/5/16 after PLC Conferience - recliners in a "regular" theater - 1st one other than Roadhouse I've been to!
RT Critic:  93 Audience:  76
Critic's Consensus:   Led by a marvelous performance from Maggie Smith, Lady in the Van wrings poignant, often hilarious insight from its fact-based source material.
Cag:  6 Simply marvelous  
Directed by Nicholas Hytner
Sony Pictures
Based on the book by Alan Bennett

Dame Maggie Smith

My comments:  Wow.  A great movie with the most marvelously played lead of all time!  This was a great story and great acting, rich with humor and reality and deep thinking opportunities. Let people be themselves particularly if they're eccentric.  There's usually a reason!  I loved it, and didn't think of my surroundings once in the entire film.  Highly recommended.

RT Summary:  This film tells the true story of the relationship between Alan Bennett and the singular Miss Shepherd, a woman of uncertain origins who 'temporarily' parked her van in Bennett's London driveway and proceeded to live there for 15 years.

5. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty Universe #1
listened to in the car  to work and to Phoenix for PLC Conference
2014 Balzer & Bray
352 pgs.
YA Fantasy
Finished 2/6/16
Goodreads rating: 3.77
My rating: 1/Did not like it
Setting: Arcardia in the past/future/who knows

First line/s:   "I was raised to marry a monster."

My comments:  I so want to give this at least a 2, "it was okay," but I really didn't like it at all, so I must be honest.  I wanted to give up reading constantly, but was curious to see how Hodge would finally end the story.  Part of my problem was, I think, the reader.  She sounded so much older than a 17-year old protagonist.  And for Nix to fall so quickly for both Shade and Ignifex (I didn't read it, I listened, so don't know any of the spellings) --- why?  All the magical "hearts" she'd learned about as a child - nothing was given enough attention except for her endless dreams, sights, and movements around the mansion/castle.  I may have had an entirely different reaction if I'd read this, but I didn't....

Goodreads synopsisGraceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.
          Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
          Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.
          With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
          But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.
          As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

4. 11 Birthdays - Wendy Mass

This was a reread - I read it aloud to my 3rd & 4th grade book club.  They loved it.  During the last reading you could have heard a pin drop - 20 kids who are usually eating their lunch, making all sorts of chomping and crumpling noises -  were totally entranced.
Good choice for this group!

Finished  2-1-16
Goodreads rating: 4.16
2009, 267 pgs.

My original blog for this book.

Goodreads summary:  GROUNDHOG DAY meets FLIPPED in this tale of a girl stuck in her birthday.
          It's Amanda's 11th birthday and she is super excited -- after all, 11 is so different from 10. But from the start, everything goes wrong. The worst part of it all is that she and her best friend, Leo, with whom she's shared every birthday, are on the outs and this will be the first birthday they haven't shared together. When Amanda turns in for the night, glad to have her birthday behind her, she wakes up happy for a new day. Or is it? Her birthday seems to be repeating iself. What is going on?! And how can she fix it? Only time, friendship, and a little luck will tell. . .

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Letterboxing

This has been a great month for letterboxing - I've practiced carving a bit, creating a couple stamps that I feel good enough to share.  They're still pretty crappy, but I love being a part of postals, so I'm working on my carve-man-ship as much as I can.  I went out last weekend and the weekend before, looking for plants.  Hit the 80 mark, most of them being "drive-bys," though a few were "strolls."  Next weekend is the Tucson gathering, which I'm pretty excited (and nervous!) about.

My numbers as of 1/31/16

P1 F80 X20

Postals 4P 26F 4C
LTCs 1P 9F 1C
Event Boxes 4F

Totals for January:
New carves:  
Quisp - Desert Morning (which I rip and distress and turn into the above)

Poet's Tree by Shel Silverstein for IR's Newbie Postal Tracker

Also a sugar skull, which I'm not sure what I'm going to do with yet:

7 - (all drive-bys)

16 - most in the Favorite Books Ring,
the first two in the Scenic Drives Ring
Gnome Place Like Home micro
Hang Ten, Puka

I've Been Cooking - Salsa Chicken Casserole

(Recipe calls for an 8x8 pan - I don't think that would be big enough.  I used my biggish casserole dish.  You want it to be deep enough to immerse the chicken.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Dump into casserole dish:

1 c. uncooked Basmati rice
1 c. froz corn, thawed (I threw in the whole bag)
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 16-oz jar Salsa
1 c. chicken broth
1 t. oregano
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken (I used thighs)
      Make sure the chicken is immersed in the liquid.

Cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 1 hr.
(Rice was not yet cooked all the way and chicken didn't look ready, either.  I added another 45 minutes.  Rice, by then, was a little mushy - but I used regular white rice instead of Basmati.  However, a bit mushy or not, it was delicious.)

The recipe adds: take it out of the oven, cover with 1 c. shredded cheese and put it back in the oven for a couple of minutes for the cheese to melt.  Since, I'm not particularly fond of cheese, I skipped this step.

I found this recipe when someone shared it on Facebook.  It comes from a website called TipHero.

2016 CRAFT Challenges

I've given myself reading challenges for years, why not try a fabric and yarn challenge - especially to get UFOs from unfinished to FINISHED!

Completing a fabric project begun previous to 1-1-16

Completing a new fabric project begun after 1-1-16 (Preferably, using scraps and stash)

Completing a yarn-based project begun previous to 1-1-16

Completing a yarn-based project begun or currently working on as of 1-1-16

Completing and DONATING a project started in school for Passport to Peace or Annatude
1. Finished - Pet Blanket (Knit with chained yarn) co 40 (1/31)

Projects completed that have nothing to do with fabrics or yarn

Craft classes taken:
1.  1/28/15 Copic class at Arizona Scrapbooking (learned to blend and to use little circles to color in to make less striping)
2. 3/7/15 Card-making class at The Occasional Artist in Glendale - using one stamp to make five different cards.  Fun!  AND I got to eat at the Polish Restaurant next door!

UFO Challenge 

Cacophony Quilt
Dede's picnic quilt
Josh & Julie's wedding quilt
Brian's Maine Lap Quilt
My window quilt (Suzi)
Brian & Heather's Burgundy & Green Bed Quilt
B & W & Bright Colored diagonal half-squares

Let's Use Up All Those Scrappy Strips!

Yup, decided to start a scrappy strip quilt.  I've got a huge basket of them.  I'm pulling out little strings and kids' fabrics to save for baskets and a baby strip quilt and chucking anything that is just too teeny tiny.  I've got to stop saving every little scrap!

I've decided on a couple of things:
8/5 inch blocks: I can use my leftover 8.5 x 11 printed-on-one-side scrap paper to make the foundation pies.  Easy peasy.

Center strip of a white (any white) 2-inches wide so that some sort of design will play out when I start putting the quilt together.

Size?  Not too big - must decide who this is being made for!  But it's fun and easy.

I have the iron on a towel to the right of my machine so that I can iron each piece as I add it, with my iPod reading me a book (The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths right now) I can make one or two before getting bored and going on to something else.

Number of squares made yesterday and today:  6

Saturday, January 30, 2016

3. The Fifth Wave - Rick Yancey

#1 The Fifth Wave
read on my iPhone
2013 G. P. Putnam's Sons
457 pgs.
YA Dystopia/SciFi
Finished 1/30/16
Goodreads rating:  4.17
My rating: 4.5
Setting: Contemporary Ohio, after the world's been taken over by aliens

First line/s:  "Aliens are stupid.  I'm not talking about real aliens. The Others aren't stupid.  The Others are so far ahead of us, it's like comparing the smartest human to the dumbest dog.  No contest.  No, I'm talking about the aliens inside our own heads."

My comments:  This was definitely an edge-of-your-seat book, which I read in anticipation of the movie; this is one I wanted to read before I saw.  Entertaining.  Somewhat suspenseful.  Heavy.  And as much as part of me wants to run right out and see the movie - today - another part of me is definitely not ready.  I couldn't put it down, yet I didn't want to pick it up.  That's TRULY mixed feelings, about a book that really gets to you.  This one did. (When I ask myself why I gave it a 4.5 instead of a 5, I realize the violence factor was a little too much for me, which is what edged it down to the 4.5)

Goodreads synopsis:  After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
          Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother--or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

MOVIE - Burnt

R (1:40)
Wide release 10/30/15
Viewed 1/228/16 at Kolb Century Gateway
RT Critic: 29   Audience:  48
Critic's Consensus:  Burnt offers a few spoonfuls of compelling culinary drama, but they're lost in a watery goulash dominated by an unsavory main character and overdone clich├ęs.
Cag:  4/ Liked it a lot
Directed by John Wells
The Weinstein Company

Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

My comments:  Bradley Cooper.  Yup, that's my comment.  Bradley Cooper.  No need to say more!  Set in London, this is the story of a man's regrets, pain, obsessions, dependency, and dealing with outwitting his own self-destructive ways.  Sounds heavy, and it was in places, but if watched with a smirk (Bradley Cooper!) the story is quite palatable and completely entertaining.

RT Summary:  Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) had it all - and lost it. The former enfant terrible of the Paris restaurant scene had earned two Michelin stars and only ever cared about the thrill of creating explosions of taste. To land his own kitchen and that third elusive star though, Jones will need to leave his bad habits behind and get the best of the best on his side, including the beautiful Helene (Sienna Miller). BURNT is a remarkably funny and emotional story about the love of food, the love between two people, and the power of second chances.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I've Been Cooking - COWBOY Stew

Cowboy Stew

1 lb. ground turkey, browned & drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
6 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 can diced tomatoes - undrained
diced garlic,
lots of chopped onions, green peppers, celery, mushrooms
salt & pepper.

Cook in crockpot on low for 7 - 8 hours.

NOTE #1:  I found that at 5 hours it was perfect to eat.  Perhaps my LOW is not exactly low?)
NOTE #2 - This, of course, made a huge amount.  I enjoyed it so much that I ate it almost every night for a week.  The last night I added a (drained) can of green beans.  YUM.

2. Small Wars - Lee Child

Jack Reacher #19.5
(1:30) on Audible
audio read by Dick Hill
2015 Transworld Digital
44 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery "short story"
Goodreads rating: 3.97
My rating:  4
Setting:  Georgia

First line/s:  "In the spring of 1989 Caroline Crawford was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.  She bought a silver Porsche to celebrate.  She had family money, people said, and plenty of it.  A trust fund, maybe.  Some eminent relative.  Maybe an inventor.  Her uniforms were tailored in D. C. by the same shop that made suits for the president.  She was held to be the richest woman in the army.  Not that the bar was high."

My comments:  Short and sweet...a short story, I guess.  Another interesting look at brother Joe.... It's fun to read (listen to) a shortie in between the regular book-length ones.  Decent story, too.

Goodreads synopsis:  A young lieutenant colonel, in a stylish handmade uniform, roars through the damp woods of Georgia in her new silver Porsche - until she meets a very tall soldier with a broken-down car.
       What could connect a cold-blooded off-post shooting with Reacher, his elder brother Joe, and a secretive unit of pointy-heads from the Pentagon?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

1. Crime of Privilege - Walter Walker

audio cd back & forth from school January 2016
audio read by Stephen Hoye
11 cds/14 hours
2013 Random House Audio
432 pgs.
Adult mystery
Finished 1/22/16
Goodreads rating: 3.30
My rating: 3/ definitely kept my attention, got tired of the protagonist
Setting: Cape Cod, Massaachusetts

First line/s: "Almost everyone had heard of the family mansion on Ocean Boulevard, but very few had been there."

My comments:  It did seem like there were some cumbersome/drawn-on-too-long places, but overall, this was a very good read.  I never really liked the protagonist especially (maybe it was the way he was read) and although there were no real surprises, I enjoyed listening to how the story unfolded.  I know the story was a parody of the Kennedy family (I know there were all sorts of scandals and secrets) but I hated to put them in the place of this Gregory family, for some reason.  I guess I really like the Kennedy family....

Goodreads synopsisA murder on Cape Cod. A rape in Palm Beach. 
All they have in common is the presence of one of America's most beloved and influential families. But nobody is asking questions. Not the police. Not the prosecutors. And certainly not George Becket, a young lawyer toiling away in the basement of the Cape & Islands district attorney's office. George has always lived at the edge of power. He wasn't born to privilege, but he understands how it works and has benefitted from it in ways he doesn't like to admit. Now, an investigation brings him deep inside the world of the truly wealthy--and shows him what a perilous place it is. 
Years have passed since a young woman was found brutally slain at an exclusive Cape Cod golf club, and no one has ever been charged. Cornered by the victim's father, George can't explain why certain leads were never explored--leads that point in the direction of a single family--and he agrees to look into it.
What begins as a search through the highly stratified layers of Cape Cod society, soon has George racing from Idaho to Hawaii, Costa Rica to France to New York City. But everywhere he goes he discovers people like himself: people with more secrets than answers, people haunted by a decision years past to trade silence for protection from life's sharp edges. George finds his friends are not necessarily still friends and a spouse can be unfaithful in more ways than one. And despite threats at every turn, he is driven to reconstruct the victim's last hours while searching not only for a killer but for his own redemption. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

MOVIE - Grandma

R (1:22)
Limited release 8/21/15
Viewed Friday 1/22/16 at Kolb cheapie theater
RT Critic:  92  Audience:  71
Critic's Consensus:  Boasting a stellar performance from Lily Tomlin and some powerfully empathetic work from writer-director Paul Weitz, Grandma is a dramedy that shouldn't have to ask you to visit.
Cag:  4 - Liked it a lot
Directed by Paul Weitz
Sony Pictures Classics
will be on DVD 2/9/16

Lily Tomlin, Marcia Gay Harden, Sam Elliot

My comments: Lily Tomlin was great, though I must say some of her "antics" were a little too over-the-top.  Many were right-on of course.  Grief, loss, love, disagreements, family sticky stuff were all examined, with a pretty decent resolution.  I totally enjoyed it, and the thinking that was provoked during and after.

RT Summary:  Lily Tomlin stars as Elle who has just gotten through breaking up with her girlfriend when Elle's granddaughter Sage unexpectedly shows up needing $600 bucks before sundown. Temporarily broke, Grandma Elle and Sage spend the day trying to get their hands on the cash as their unannounced visits to old friends and flames end up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets

2016 Oscars

Best Picture
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Best Director 
Adam McKay for The Big Short
George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro G. Inarriut for The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson for Room
Tom McCarthy for Spotlight

Best Actor
Bryant Cranston - Trumbo
Matt Damon - The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett - Carol
Brie Larson - Room
Jennifer Lawrence - Joy
Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale - The Big Short
Tom Hardy - The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo - Spotlight
Mark Rylance - Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone - Creed

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh - The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara - Carol
Rachel McAdams - Spotlight
Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs

Best Foreign Language Film
Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
Mustang (France)
Hungary (Son of Saul)
Theeb (Jordan)
A War (Denmark)

Best Animated Feature Film
Boy and the World
Inside Out - saw it, but didn't review
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There