Friday, January 30, 2015

11. Cry Wolf - J. Carson Black

Laura Cardinal #4 (Tucson, AZ)
Read on my iPhone
2013 Breakaway Media
132 pgs. Kindle edition
Adult Murder Mystery/Police Procedural
Finished 1/29/2015
Goodreads rating: 3.55
My rating:   2/ It was okay....
Setting: contemporary Tucson, AZ

1st sentence/s:  "Laura Cardinal was just finishing up breakfast when she got the call."

My comments:  Short, but not sweet.  Loved the setting - in and around Tucson, including Madera Canyon to the south, and the story was good.  So why didn't I like it more? All of a sudden Laura Cardinal has a (very) serious relationship that is close-to-meaningless because I've gotten to know her in the previous three books and this is entirely and completely just thrown in.  There is not enough development of the relationship between Laura and her partner. I think it must be the lack of character development that's thrown me off....

Goodreads book summary:  Laura Cardinal: Packs a SIG Sauer P226 9mm. Investigates homicides in small towns that have limited resources. Brings justice to murder victims--and to their killers. Laura’s job description: Criminal Investigator with the Arizona Department of Public Safety. But maybe it should just say “Troubleshooter”.
          Tell me no lies.
          Laura and her aspiring-film-director partner, Anthony, catch a homicide case where nothing is as it appears. When pathological liar Sean Perrin is found dead in his car at a trailhead in scenic Madera Canyon, he leaves behind a skein of lies and half-truths that are impossible to untangle. From violent death in a sordid motel room to a high-end prostitution ring in Las Vegas, Laura and Anthony follow Sean’s trail across a landscape of broken dreams and convincing lies—until they confront the true evil behind the mask.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

10. Heroes Are My Weakness - Susan Elizabeth Phillips

2014, William Morrow
364 pgs.
Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Finished 1/28/2015
Goodreads rating: 3.68
My rating:   5-Really, really liked it
Setting:  Isolated Maine island, Contemporary winter

1st sentence/s: "She didn't usually talk to her suitcase, but she wasn't exactly herself these days."

My comments:   I really enjoyed this book.  I remember eating up all sorts of English manor/stern male/savvy governess stories when I was a young adult and for some reason this reminded me of them - even though it took place in contemporary Maine!  The island way off the coast of Maine, only visited by a ferry once every six weeks, AND in the middle of winter, are all things that are either very familiar or somewhat familiar. I loved the characters, and I loved the puppets.  Puppets?  In our heroine's head the voices of her five "dummies" occasionally pop up.  At first I thought it would be irritating, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying the way that Annie's thoughts were shown through those puppet's voices.  And the relationship between Annie and Theo?  DELIGHTFUL!  Funny, thoughtful....real.  The two of them had me giggling over and over again.  Yup, I had a blast with this story. (But I really don't like the cover.  It looks like a nonfiction.  It could have been SO much better.)

Goodreads book summary:  The dead of winter.

An isolated island off the coast of Maine.

A man.

A woman.

A sinister house looming over the sea ...

He's a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She's a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids' puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.

But she's not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they're trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.

It's going to be a long, hot winter.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

PICTURE BOOK - A Home for Mr. Emerson - Barbara Kerley

Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
2014 Scholastic Press
HC $18.99
48 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.08
My rating: 4

My comments:  I've always known of Ralph Waldo Emerson - I knew he was a philosophical writer linked to Thoreau and Concord, Massachusetts.  This picture book biography, like somany I've read in the last few years, illuminates the man as a person - husband, father, friend; then thinker and and writer.  The book is filled with his quotes   - they are actually much of the text - and best of all is a list of writing ideas after the excellent Author's Note at the back of the book entitled "Build a World of Your Own."  
     A few suggestions:
          List 5 things you love to do
          List 3 things you'd like to learn more about
          Think about your favorie room - what do you like about it?
          Write down 5 favorite spots in  your city

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

"The only way to have a friend is to be one."

Goodreads:  From the award-winning creators of THOSE REBELS, JOHN & TOM, a joyful portrait of an American icon and an inspiring blueprint for how to live your life.

"All life is an experiment.
The more
experiments you make
the better."

          Before Ralph Waldo Emerson was a great writer, he was a city boy who longed for the broad, open fields and deep, still woods of the country, and then a young man who treasured books, ideas, and people. When he grew up and set out in the world, he wondered, could he build a life around these things he loved?
          This moving biography--presented with Barbara Kerley and Edwin Fotheringham's inimitable grace and style--illustrates the rewards of a life well-lived, one built around personal passions: creativity and community, nature and friendship.
          May it inspire you to experiment and build the life you dream of living.

Charron Vineyards

This is probably the closest vineyard to my home - it can't be more than 30 minutes away, on the way to Sonoita, but actually in Vail.  And what a wonderful way to spend a gorgeous winter afternoon in southern Arizona!

Setting:  A long, wide deck, dotted with low tables and comfy chairs sports a wood-burning chimenia in the corner.  Lovely.  But the view?  GORGEOUS.  Sitting low on a mountain, the view of closely distant (can you picture that or is it a lousy description?) mountains is absolutely wonderful.  It was perfect for this 65-degree sunny day.  And in the summer when it's really hot hot hot in Tucson, it never goes much above 90 here (higher altitude than Tucson proper) and  they have misters completely surrounding the seating area.

The Deal:  Taste up to 6 wines for $7 including souvenir glass.  My friend Sheila had a "Living Social" coupon, which included a 6-oz. glass of wine after the tasting for $2.00.  They sell munchies (we had lentil chips and hummus) which was nice to clear the palate between tastings.  We were told to bring a picnic or any food (cheese & crackers, anyone) the next time we came.

Wines:  There were 14 offered, twelve of which were described on an easy-to-understand handout.  Dry wines on the left, sweet wines on the right.  Very helpful, and you can take notes on the handout and take it with you...and the handout includes pricing (which seemed very reasonable).

Personel & Service:  There were two women serving everyone - and there were probably five or six groups of people being served throughout our visit.  We never had to wait and we never felt rushed.  Both women were extremely nice, helpful, and knowledgeable enough for me!

The Company:  I went with two friends from Maine - all three of us teachers, one of us from Bar Harbor, one from Southwest Harbor, and one (me) from Northeast Harbor.  A lot of history.  Our kids went to MDIHS together.  It was as close to a perfect afternoon as I've had in a long, long while.

This was a GREAT way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  My sister is coming in May, and I can't wait to take her here, with a picnic basket of special snacks and a camera.....

Charron Vineyards website.

My choices:
from the "DRY" side:
Blanc De Noir - lite and dry, faintly sweet, but not enough for me
from the "SWEET" side:
Santa Rita Rose
*Tortolita Blanca (this was my full-glass choice, and the bottle I purchased) yup, sweet.  yup, yummy
Golden White Merlot - had a bit of a different taste (they said it had a "nuance of sweet sherry or cognac)
Tempranillo Rose - a sweet blush
Rincon Red - the only red wine I had, and very sweet

9. Saint's Gate - Carla Neggers

(It DOES look there will be more...)
2011, Mira Books
334 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 1/26/2015
Goodreads rating:  3.64
My rating: 2 - It was okay, but didn't grab me at all
Setting:  Contemporary southern Maine coast (with a tiny bit of Dublin, Ireland thrown in)

1st sentence/s:  "Emma Sharpe steeled herself against the sights and sounds of her pas adn kept up with the nervous woman rushing ahead of her in the dense southern Maine fog."

My comments:  I SOOOO wanted to like this book, but it was a little too like a cozy mystery for me.  The story could have been told quite well in 100-or so less pages.  The introduction and description of the two major paintings in the story were took me more than awhile to realize that two different paintings were being discussed.  There were too many solutions that just fell into their laps (one chapter even began with the protagonist "finding" a key to get into the rectory, a place he's never before been.....).  One of the reasons I picked up this book was the setting - I've been in all those smallish Maine coastal towns hundreds of times and the descriptions in the book didn't take me there at all.  Not even a little.  So I was really disappointed.  However, I bet there are lots of mystery readers that will love this book...a "lighter" mystery than my tastes crave.

Goodreads book summary:  When Emma Sharpe is summoned to a convent on the Maine coast, it's partly for her art crimes work with the FBI, partly because of her past with the religious order. At issue is a mysterious painting depicting scenes of Irish lore and Viking legends, and her family's connection to the work. But when the nun who contacted her is murdered, it seems legend is becoming deadly reality.   
          Colin Donovan is one of the FBI's most valuable assets -- a deep-cover agent who prefers to go it alone. He's back home in Maine after wrapping up his latest mission, but his friend Father Bracken presents him with an intrigue of murder, international art heists and a convent's long-held secrets that is too tempting to resist. As the danger spirals ever closer, Colin is certain of only one thing—the very intriguing Emma Sharp is at the center of it all.    
          A ruthless killer has Emma and Colin in the crosshairs, plunging them into a race against time and drawing them deeper into a twisted legacy of betrayal and deceit.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2015 Edgar Nominees

This Dark Road to Mercy - Wiley Cash
Wolf - Mo Hayder
Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King
The Final Silence - Stuart Neville
Saints of the Shadow Bible - Ian Rankin
Coptown - Karin Slaughter

Dry Bones in the Valley - Tom Bouman
Invisible City - Julia Dahl
The Life We Bury - Allen Eskens
Bad Country - C. B. McKenzie
Shovel Ready - Adam Sternbergh
Murder at the Brightwell - Ashley Weaver

The Secret History of Las Vegas - Chris Abani
Stay With Me - Alison Gaylin
The Barkeep - William Lashner
The Day She Died - Catriona McPherson
The Gone Dead Train - Lisa Turner
World of Trouble - Ben H. Winters

The Doubt Factory - Paolo Bacigalupi
Nearly Gone - Elle Cosimano
Fake ID - Lamar Giles
The Art of Secrets - James Klise
The Prince of Venice Beach - Blake Nelson

MOVIE - The Wedding Ringer

R (1:41)
Wide release 1/16/2015
Road House Cinemas 1/19/15
RT Critic: 33   Audience: 78
Cag: 4/I really liked it a lot
Directed by Jeremy Garelick
Sony Screen Gems

Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting

My comments:  Just plain fun and funny, limited hidden agenda, pleasing and pleasant story.  I laughed a lot!

RT Summary:  Doug Harris (Josh Gad) is a loveable but socially awkward groom-to-be with a problem: he has no best man. With less than two weeks to go until he marries the girl of his dreams (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), Doug is referred to Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), owner and CEO of Best Man, Inc., a company that provides flattering best men for socially challenged guys in need. What ensues is a hilarious wedding charade as they try to pull off the big con, and an unexpected budding bromance between Doug and his fake best man Jimmy. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

PICTURE BOOK - National Wildlife Federation's World of Birds: A Beginner's Guide - Kim Kurki

2014 Black Dog - Leventhal Publishing
HC $15.95
80 pgs.
Nonfiction picture book - dense with information
Goodreads rating: 4.53
My rating: 5 Stars - This is a grand book!
Endpapers:  green with simple, faint bird's footprints

This book is divided into four sections:
     Woodlands & Forests
     Wetlands, Shores, & Bodies of Water
     Fields, Thickets, & Backyards
     Deserts, Scrublands, & Rocky Slopes

My comments:  I can't say enough glowing things about this top-notch book.  As an adult who has only recently enjoyed watching birds, its useful information and fun, interesting facts are MUCH more  accessible than guidebooks or handbooks geared toward adults.  The illustrations are lovely and colorful, the occasional photo just enough, the quatrains written for each major bird are unforced and cleverly rhymed.  Usually I'm a little put off by a large mixture of fonts, but the many used inthis text are melded well and therefore avoid overwhelming jumble.  A really fine book!

Goodreads:  From the National Wildlife Federation, publishers of Ranger Rick, the popular nature magazine for kids, comes this exciting, dynamic, and wonderfully illustrated guide for young naturalists.
          National Wildlife Federation's World of Birds is arranged by habitat and identifies more than 100 birds. Kim Kurki¹s engaging and highly accurate illustrations give kids a true and close-up appreciation of each bird species, such as its size, shape, color, and markings, as well as its habitat, call, and behavior. Kids will learn to recognize the birds by their individual characteristics, such as the male cardinal¹s distinctive crest, the kestrel¹s helicopter hover, and the goldfinch¹s enchanting song. You¹ll also discover what makes each bird amazing, including which is the fastest flier, which lays the biggest egg, and which spends years of its life in the water, never touching land.
          The excellent illustrations, nontechnical language, and fascinating facts throughout make this an ideal guide for beginner bird-watchers—of any age!

8. Fifty Shades Darker - E. L. James

#2 Fifty Shades
2011 First Vintage Books
532 pgs.
X-Rated Adult 
Finished 1/18/15
Goodreads rating: 3.93
My rating:   2
2nd hand book through Amazon
Contemporary Seattle

1st sentence/s:  "I have survived Day Three Post-Christian, and my first day at work."

My comments:  Well, I discovered what Christian's major hangups were.  There was a bit of a plot in this second in the series, and ended with the possibility of more plot to come.  A good half of the book was Ana and Christians repeated sexual escapades, which were...pretty much....very, very similar to each other.  They say the same things to each other over and over and over.  Okay, so now I've read two of them.  I'm fully prepared for the movie next month.  (Oh, yes - this book was misnamed.  It should have been Fifty Shades Lighter.....)

Goodreads book summary:  Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house. 
           But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades.
           While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.
          This book is intended for mature audiences.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

7. The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)

#2 Cormoran Strike 
Listened to on cd in the car AND read 
Audio read by 
14 unabridged audio discs (17.5 hours)
2014 Mulholland Books/Little Brown
456 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 1/17/15
Goodreads rating: 4.01
My rating:   4/ Liked it a lot
TPPL - both audio and book
Setting:  Contemporary London, England

1st sentence/s: " 'Someone bloody famous,' said the hoarse voice on the end of the line, 'better've died, Strike.'" 

My comments:  Good story, but overly long, I think.  I like the characters of Strike and Robin and I love the story that's developing between them.  I look forward to more.  (Oh, and I'm not so crazy about all the quotes at the beginning of the chapters...50 chapters, 50 quotes.....

Goodreads book summary:  Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestsellerThe Cuckoo's Calling.
          When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
          But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
          When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...

PICTURE BOOK - The Farmer and the Clown - Marla Frazee

Illustrated by the author
2014 Beach Lane Books
HC $17.99
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  4.32
My rating: 4
Endpapers:  red
Title Page: browns and yellow: sunrise: farmer heading for the fields, walking away from his small house
Wordless picture book

My comments:  A farmer (who lives alone way out in the country) rescues a baby clown who falls off a circus train. Through days and nights they bond and become very attached to one another - until the train returns and the farmer gets to reunite baby clown to his family. 
Happy? Yes. Sad? Yes! Perhaps my current loneliness makes me feel extra, ultra sorry for the poor farmer, but I'm left with such a sad feeling after reading this story!

Goodreads:  Whimsical and touching images tell the story of an unexpected friendship and the revelations it inspires in this moving, wordless picture book from two-time Caldecott Honor medalist Marla Frazee.
          A baby clown is separated from his family when he accidentally bounces off their circus train and lands in a lonely farmer’s vast, empty field. The farmer reluctantly rescues the little clown, and over the course of one day together, the two of them make some surprising discoveries about themselves—and about life!
          Sweet, funny, and moving, this wordless picture book from a master of the form and the creator of The Boss Baby speaks volumes and will delight story lovers of all ages.

Friday, January 16, 2015

6. None of the Above - I. W. Gregorio

I read an ARC of this
2015 (due out in April) Balzer + Bray/ Harper Collins
328 pgs.
Finished 1/15/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.31
My rating:   4.5/ Super Excellent book
Acquired from my YALSA group
Setting:  contemporary Utica, NY

1st sentence/s:  "Dawn is my favorite time of day.  There's something sacred about being awake when the rest of the world is sleeping, when the sky is just turning toward the light, and you can still have the sounds of night before the engines and conversations of the day drown them."

My comments:  4.5 This was an excellent, informative read.  I love when you find a book that teaches AND has a good story.  Usually it's historical fiction, but this one covered a lot of information about intersex/AIS/hermaphrodite women.  There were a few things that were sort of just "thrown in," a little off-putting because I felt it might have been missing other things too (a quick mention about an Adam's apple, as one example, sort of out-of-the-blue), but overall I ingested it in two sittings. (One comment about the cover:  yuck!)

Goodreads book summary:  A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she's intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.
          What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?
           When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.
           But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned--something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."
           Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

MOVIE - Wild

R (1:55)
12/3/14 Limited release
Viewed 1/13/15 at Roadhouse all by my lonesome
RT Critic: 91   Audience:  82  
Cag:  5/Terrific movie
Directed by Jean -Marc Vallee
20th Century Fox
Based on the book by Cheryl Strayed

Reese Witherspoon

My comments:   I saw this on Tuesday night, tossed and turned all night thinking about it, and couldn't get it out of my head the next day.  For me, the overall theme is how powerfully the many different ways we grieve play out.  I hadn't read the book, though I was always drawn to it.  And I wonder how Cheryl Strayed is dealing with her grief....her decisions....and her life, now.  Her unbelievable determination was/is so amazing.

RT: Summary:  With the dissolution of her marriage and the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed has lost all hope. After years of reckless, destructive behavior, she makes a rash decision. With absolutely no experience, driven only by sheer determination, Cheryl hikes more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, alone. WILD powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddens, strengthens, and ultimately heals her.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

MOVIE - Selma

PG-13 (2:07)
Wide release 1/9/2015
Monday 1/12/15 at El Con with Sheila and Gwen
RT Critic:  99  Audience:  87
Cag:  5/Liked it more-than a lot, and it was beautifully crafted
Directed by Ava DuVernay
Paramount Pictures
Based on a true event

David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, 

My comments:  Wow.  This is not just any old story...this is an incredibly important piece of history.  This happened when I was a freshman in high school in a suburb of Boston, and I don't recall knowing about it at the time.  Imagine!  What a wonderful way to learn about the details of Martin Luther King's brilliance, determination, and sensitivity. The acting, particularly by David Oyelowo, was amazing.  His portrayal of MLK was ... mesmerizing.  (And to think I probably wouldn't have gone to see this if it hadn't been chosen by Sheila as our monthly fare!)

RT Summary:  SELMA is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernays SELMA tells the real story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history,

Sunday, January 11, 2015

5. We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

Read on my iPhone
2014 Delacorte Press
228 pgs.
Finished 1/11/15
Goodreads rating:  3.89
My rating:  (3) Liked it  
Setting:  A contemporary private island off the coast of Massachusetts, near Martha's Vineyard

1st sentence/s: 
      "Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.
        No one is a criminal
        No one is an addict.
        No one is a failure.
        The Sinclairs are athletic, tall, and handsome.  We are old-money Democrats.  Our smiles are wide, our chins square, and our tennis serves aggressive."

My comments:  I honestly don't know exactly how I feel about this book, so for right now, until I mull it over for awhile, I'll stick with the fact that I liked it.  I loved the suspense, I loved that no matter what my guesses were, I was incorrect.  I like the way the story was put together.  I liked that I could understand the Sinclair family enough that I had instant disdain for them.  I didn't hate it...I didn't love it.  It was, however, a darn good (quick) read.

Goodreads book summary:  A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
           We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
          Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.