Wednesday, February 8, 2017

5. Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo

#1 Six of Crows
listened to on Audible
2015 Henry Holt
read 151 pgs. of 465 pgs.
YA Fantasy
DNF - dropped
Goodreads rating:  4.45
My rating: Couldn't get into it at all

First line/s:  "Joost had two problems, the moon, and his moustache."

My comments:  I only read about 35% of this book, but had to force myself to read it, then would put it down after about 10 minutes.  I thought  I liked fantasy, but I not only couldn't get into this book, I didn't like it. I've discovered that these fantasies with huge world-building aspects just aren't for me.  So I'm not going to rate it - that's not fair when I only read a third of the book, but I don't intend to read any more of it.

Goodreads synopsis:  Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
          Break into the notorious Ice Court (a military stronghold that has never been breached)
          Retrieve a hostage (who could unleash magical havoc on the world)
          Survive long enough to collect his reward (and spend it)
          Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

I've Been Cooking - Breakfast Bowls

I love Jimmy Dean "Meat Lovers" Breakfast Bowls, but they're pretty expensive, anywhere from $2.50 to $3.00 each.  So I decided to make my own! (Note, this batch ended up costing me $1.40 each - and the time it took me to prepare, of course!)

1/2 lb. ground country sausage (Karns 1.00)
1/3 lb. 3/8" slice ham (Karns - on sale - 1.50
1 pkgs. real bacon bits (Aldi 1.29)
1/2 pkg. O'Brien hash browns (1.25)
1/2 pkg. frozen chopped onions (1.18)
10 eggs (.99 doz. at Aldi)
1 cup (or less) shredded Colby Jack Cheese (1.15)

As I prepped each ingredient, I divided it into 6 different freezer containers.

First I sauteed the hash browns and the onions in a little canola oil, letting them brown up a bit. Didn't take long.

I sliced the ham into small pieces and sprinkled them atop the potatoes.  Then the bacon bits (I actually didn't use the whole package).

I crumble-fried the sausage (I like them in pretty small chunks, so I kept breaking them apart), drained the mixture well, and divied it up into each container.

Using a little butter, I broke the 10 eggs directly into the frying pan.  I then broke all the yolks and scrambled them up.  It saves me a bowl, and I like little flecks of egg white in my eggs, although this way they got scrambled pretty well.  I like my eggs really well done, but I stopped cooking them a bit before I usually do, since they'll cook a little more when they're microwaved and I don't want them too dry.  That gets dumped into each of the containers.

A light dusting of the cheese, and they're ready to go.  I don't add salt & pepper, I do that after I microwave them at breakfast-time.

Once they're cool, I cover (trying to get out as much air as possible) and freeze.  I usually only freee four, because I'll be eating at least two in the following couple of days.

I microwave for about 4 minutes.   Everyone's microwave is different, so you'll have to double check the first few ones you cook.

I love 'em.  And they cost only $1.40 each!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

TV Show - Sense 8

Just finished watching Season 1 (and what they're calling Episode 1 of Season 2, but the rest of the season - 10 more episodes - won't come out until May 8th
Premiered: June 5, 2015 (Dec. 2016 was the 2-hour "Christmas" Special, Episode 13, or Episode 1 of Season 2)
Season: 1
Number of Episodes: 13
Length of Episode:
IMBd: 8.4/10
RT Audience Score:   92% (67 Critic)
cag:  It's sensational (6)
Produced by Netflix

     Will - Chicago cop (paired with Riley)
     Riley - Icelandic dj living in London (paired with Will)
     Wolfgang - Troubled young man in East Berlin (drawn to Kala)
     Lito - gay actor in Mexico City
     Capheus - Van Damm lover/bus owner in Nairobi
     Kala - newlywed in India (drawn to Wolfgang)
     Sun - wrongly imprisoned martial artist in Seoul
     Nomi -female transgender computer hacker in San Francisco

My comments:  It takes a bit of the first installment to figure out what's going on, but once you're in, you're totally and completely hooked.  LOVED this, and can't wait until May for more!

Storyline from IMBd:  Season 1 of this science fiction drama begins as eight strangers from different regions of the world unexpectedly become mentally and emotionally linked to each other. They learn that they are "sensates," a particular type of human that has the ability to psychically share their knowledge and skills with one another. The group soon finds themselves in danger and must work together in order to protect one another from a villainous sensate who is determined to hunt them down by using their powers against them.

4. Dead Connection by Alafair Burke

read on my Kindle
2007, Henry Hold
336 pgs.
Adult murder mystery/Police procedural
Finished 2-1-17
Goodreads rating:  3.73 - 2803 ratubgs
My rating: 4
Setting:  Contemporary NYC

First line/s:  "The man's first look at the newspaper item was a casual one, followed immediately by a more deliberate perusal."

My comments:  I read this book over the course of at least a month, and for some reason had no difficulty remembering details during the spans of nonreading time.  The storyline was interesting with a number of surprises, and the protagonist, Ellie Hatcher, was smart and real.  She took chances, sometimes without thinking things entirely through, and was willing to bend rules a little bit. I liked her a lot, as well as her brother, Jess, and the guy she ended up "seeing" by the end of the book, Peter.  There are a handful of Ellie Hatcher books following this one, and I'm looking forward to reading at least the next.

Goodreads synopsis:  In this electrifying thriller, a rookie detective goes undercover on the 
Internet dating scene to draw out a serial killer targeting single women
in Manhattan
           When two young women are murdered on the streets of New York, exactly one year apart, Detective Ellie Hatcher is called up for a special assignment on the homicide task force. The killer has left behind a clue connecting the two cases to First Date, a popular online dating service, and Flann McIlroy, an eccentric, publicity-seeking homicide detective, is convinced that only Ellie can help him pursue his terrifying theory: someone is using the lure of the Internet and the promise of love to launch a killing spree against the women of New York City. 
           To catch the killer, Ellie must enter a high-tech world of stolen identities where no one is who they appear to be. And for her, the investigation quickly becomes personal: she fits the profile of the victims, and she knows firsthand what pursuing a sociopath can do to a cop--back home in Wichita, Kansas, her father lost his life trying to catch a notorious serial murderer. 
           When the First Date killer begins to mimic the monster who destroyed her father, Ellie knows the game has become personal for him, too. Both hunter and prey, she must find the killer before he claims his next victim--who could very well be her.
           Expertly plotted and perfectly paced, Dead Connection advances Alafair Burke to the front ranks of American thriller writers.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - School's First Day of School by Adam Rex

Illustrated by Christian Robinson
2016, Roaring Brook Press
HC $17.99
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.17 - 1597 ratings
My rating: 3
Endpapers:  a birds-eyeish view of a concrete playground with various white-line-painted games being played by kids
Illustrations: Acrylic paint and collage, very simple, lots of white
1st line/s:  "That summer, they dug up the big field, and poured the foundation, and set brick on top of brick until they'd built a school"

My comments:  Many people had talked about this being a possibility for the Caldecott, which surprises me since that's an award for illustrations.  The story and illustrations do well together, but I'm not sure whether the illustrations would be of Caldecott level....though I usually don't agree with the award choices. (He did win the Caldecott last year! Shows how much I know or agree!) The story, though simple, is sweet and will engage kids well.  And no mention of why it's named Frederick Douglass Elementary, which would have been nice even if it is geared towards kindergarten kids... A great example of anthropomorphism that is not an animal.
Goodreads:  It's the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone's just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him?
     The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he's not the only one going through first-day jitters.

TV Show - Between

Premiered: June, 2015 - a Canadian production
Season 1 - 6 episodes; Season 2 - 6 episodes
Uncertain about whether there will be a Season 3
Length of Episode: 45 minutes
IMBd: 6.0/10
RT Audience Score:  71 (Critics = 22) This was for Season 1
cag:  3 (Liked it)
Produced by:

     Adam - smart, supposedly geeky, has had a crush on Wiley for many years
     Wiley - had an affair with Chuck's (slimy) father and fathered his child, preacher's kid, main character but not very likable at all
     Chuck - rich father owned most of the town, thinks he knows it all
     Gord - worker/farmer/genuine nice guy, looks 30 not younger than 22
     Ron and Pat- two brothers from the "bad side" of town, one's a good guy, the other's a drug dealer and pretty sketchy at the beginning of the series
     Mark - had been in the penitentiary for murdering his father, incredible light blue eyes

My comments:  Reminds me of "Under the Dome," except with only kids and young adults.  Same sort of storyline, unknown cause of the deadly virus, some try to escape, others cope by helping each other, one faction feels the need for force and tote guns and an attitude....

Storyline from IMBd:  Between is the story of a town under siege from a mysterious disease that has wiped out everybody 22 years and older. The series explores the power vacuum that results when a government has quarantined a 10-mile diameter area and left the inhabitants to fend for themselves.

PICTURE BOOK - Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco

Illustrated by the author
2015 Simon & Schuster
48 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.54
My rating: 4 (or a little less)
1st line/s:  "I was born in Allen, Kentucky, on October third, nineteen hundred and twenty four.  I grew up like any backcountry boy in Kentucky.  Tougher than last year's jerky and faster than a scared jackrabbit.  I could whittle and carve just about any kind of stick or wood and I could sneak up on just about anything.  Came in right handy for huntin'.  My pa taught me how to use a shotgun when I was knee-high to a grasshopper."

Based on a True Story

Lesson plan with questions and activities

My comments: I'll begin by saying that I'm a HUGE Patricia Polacco fan.  I've read almost all of her many wonderful books. They're not picture books for four year olds.  They're almost always geared to an older reader.  This one especially, for many reasons.  Lots of text - a typical trademark for Polacco, which I particularly enjoy as a fourth and fifth grade teacher.  A higher level of vocabulary and more complex storyline.  Always a plus for me!  I had two problems with this book.  First, some of the vocabulary and explanations about this particular war and setting could probably not be answered correctly by me or many adults sharing the book. It needed a short afterword, or something with more in-depth explanation of some of the added information that didn't belong in the main text of the story. It included an epilogue which included a little more information about the two protagonists, but nothing more.  And second, the ending left too many questions for me. Joe must have been about 85 by the time he was reunited with Little Heart.  That would have made her in her early 70s. At least.  She was still nursing? How on earth did she end up in the same hospital where he happened to be?  In MICHIGAN? I needed more information on these two points. It makes me skeptical.  However, that's adult skeptical, probably not most-kid skeptical....

Goodreads:  Friendship, loyalty, and kindness stand the test of time in this heartwarming World War II–era picture book based on a true story from the beloved author-illustrator of Pink and Say and The Keeping Quilt.
     Tucky Jo was known as the “kid from Kentucky” when he enlisted in the army at age fifteen. Being the youngest recruit in the Pacific during World War II was tough. But he finds a friend in a little girl who helps him soothe his bug bites, and he gets to know her family and gives them some of his rations. Although the little girl doesn’t speak English, Tucky Jo and Little Heart share the language of kindness. Many years later, Tucky Jo and Little Heart meet again, and an act of kindness is returned when it’s needed the most in this touching picture book based on a true story.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

TV Show - Travelers

Just finished watching Season 1 of Travelers
premiered globally on Netflix 12/23/16
Season: 1
Number of Episodes: 12
Length of Episode: 45 minutes
IMBd: 8.1/10
RT Audience Score:  90
cag:  6/Loved it
coproduction between Showcase and Netflix

Characters:  Five people in the team sent from the future:
     McLaren (Erik McCormack) team leader, FBI agent in the present
     Trevor - Team engineer, HS student in the presentr
     Marcy -  Team medic, lives with "David" in the present
     Carly - Team tactician, Single mom in the present
     Phillip - Team historian with a photographic memory, heroin addicted young man in the present

My comments:  This was so addicting, I loved it!  Hated it to end, very attached to the six main characters.

Storyline from IMBd:  Hundreds of years from now, surviving humans discover how to send consciousness back through time, into people of the 21st century, while attempting to save humanity from a terrible future.
     Created by Brad Wright, executive producer, and writer of all three Stargate series, and includes directors and actors from all three, including: Andy Mikita, Martin Wood, Wil Waring, Teryl Rothery, Patrick Gilmore, Jennifer Spence, Garry Chalk, Louis Ferriera and more.
     Filmed in Vancouver, BC


PG-13 (2:08)
Limited release 12/9/16
Viewed Tuesday, 1/17/17 at RC Carlisle
IMBd: 8.8/10
RT Critic: 93   Audience:  88
Critic's Consensus:  La La Land breathes new life into a bygone genre with thrillingly assured direction, powerful performances, and an irresistible excess of heart.
Cag:  3.5 Liked it, but don't get the hype
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Liongate Films

Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

My comments: Well, I'm really not sure what everyone is raving about.  The first third of the movie was really slow and I might even say boring.  Some of the singing and dancing were pretty random, some were perfect.  Performances were good...but Academy Award worthy?  It was certainly an homage to Hollywood and its roots.  And an interesting story, but nothing profound.  I was anticipating something really great, but, unfortunately, for me it wasn't.

RT/ IMDb SummaryThe story of Mia, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a dedicated jazz musician, struggling to make ends meet while pursuing their dreams in a city known for destroying hopes and breaking hearts. With modern day Los Angeles as the backdrop, this musical about everyday life explores what is more important: a once-in-a-lifetime love or the spotlight.

Mystery Quilts

I went to the LeTort Quilt Guild Meeting last night, and was lucky enough to see not only a few show and tells from members, but two "trunk shows" of quilts made by individual members through the years.  One of them had done a lot of mystery quilts, and there was a bit of talk about all the cool mystery quilts you could find online.

So I've spent a good bit of time checking out ideas and quilts on the internet.  I think I want to try one!  After much research, I've found three that look great to me.  The first is from a Facebook Group called Peace, Love, Quilt (right up my alley!) You can follow along with others on Facebook as you create your own.  It started on October 16th and runs through April, so I have a bit of catching up to do.  And I probably won't start until I'm able to get at all my fabrics that are still sitting on a moving van somewhere in central Pennsylvania!  I'm itching to get started!

The second is Meadow Mystery Quilt from Meadow Mist Designs.  It, too, has already started, but I can go at my own pace and TRY not to cheat by looking ahead.  There's also a Facebook group you can be part of.

The third is a MURDER MYSTERY QUILT.  This one is really intriguing, because you read a chapter to a murder mystery each month, follow clues/directions to make a block, and there's supposedly clues to the murder mystery in each block.  This one hasn't started yet, so I wouldn't have to jump in at the middle or end, I could actually start at the beginning!  It costs $9/month, whereas the previous two are free.

As usual, I'm about to jump in with both feet.  Slow down, girl, slow down!  How will I choose? Where will I begin?

Monday, January 16, 2017

MOVIE- Hidden Figures

PG (2:07)
Wide release 1/6/17
Viewed Sunday, 1/15/17 at Carlisle 8 with Ella
RT Critic: 93   Audience:  94
Critic's Consensus:  In heartwarming, crowd-pleasing fashion, Hidden Figures celebrates overlooked -- and crucial -- contributions from a pivotal moment in American history.
Cag:  6/Awesome  
Directed by Ted Melfi
20th Century Fox
Based on a real story

Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst

My comments: I love these "based on a true story" movies, but this one was particularly poignant, well told, and well acted.  Powerful story!  It's also good to be reminded that as recently as the 1960's, people with a skin color other than white couldn't use the same bathrooms, drink from the same fountains or percolators, find any sort of comparable job, and were treated with such incredible disrespect. Brilliant women who, if this story is truthful, truly helped make the space program of the 1960s literally get off the ground.  A fantastic movie.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  The incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson - brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Short Story - from The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngoi Adichie

The Thing Around Your Neck 
Chimamanda Ngoi Adichie
2009; Anchor Books, Random House
Nigerian American woman
12 short stories
I purchased a paperback copy of the book

"Cell One"
p. 3 - p. 21
read Sat. 1/14/17
Adichie put me in Nigeria immediately.  I instantly knew the four characters in the story, the teller, her brother, Nnamabia, and her two parents.  When Nnamabia is thrown into jail because he stayed out past curfew and was with cult members in a bar, the family drive to visit him every day.  His cockiness slowly ebbs and his humanity shines through as he witnesses humiliations to a 70-year old man.  The abrupt ending put me off a bit.  I wanted more.  Good story.

Friday, January 13, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas

Illustrated by Erin E. Stead
2016, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin
HC $17.99
40 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.94 - 974 ratings
My rating: 4
Endpapers: Dark sage green
Illustrations:  woodblock prints, oil pastels, and pencil.
1st line/s: "The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles lived alone on a high spot with only one tree for shade.  He always kept his eyes on the waves, watchful for a glint of glass."

My comments:  A gentle book about loneliness.  It made me sad, actually.  I wonder how kids would feel about this story, and what ages would work best? Lovely illustrations, creative, and imaginative, three things I look for in a picture book.  This one will definitely work for adults and older kids!

Goodreads:  The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, who lives alone atop a hill, has a job of the utmost importance. It is his task to open any bottles found at sea and make sure that the messages are delivered. He loves his job, though he has always wished that, someday, one of the letters would be addressed to him. One day he opens a party invitation—but there’s no name attached. As he devotes himself to the mystery of the intended recipient, he ends up finding something even more special: the possibility of new friends.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

MOVIE - Lion

PG-13 (2:00)
Limited release 11/25/16
Viewed Thursday, 1/12/16 at Midtown Cinema, Harrisburg
IMBd: 7/8/10
RT Critic: 87   Audience:  93
Critic's Consensus:  Lion's undeniably uplifting story and talented cast make it a moving journey that transcends the typical cliches of its genre.
Cag:  5 Loved it
Directed by Garth Davis
Adapted from the book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly (the protagonist of the movie)

Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman

My comments: This was a wonderful, moving movie.  The first half, about the life of 5-year old Saroo, his mum, brother, and sister, eventually shows how he came to get lost over a thousand miles away from home, in Calcutta, India.  The second half shows Saroo as a 25 year-old adult, his life after adoption in Australia, and the journey he took to find his family.  Both actors who portrayed Saroo were magnificent, the young Sunny Pawar is TERRIFIC, as is the super Dev Patel.  The settings of India and Tasmania were also gorgeous and brilliant. A tear jerker for sure.
     NOTE:  I recently watched an interview of Dev Patel explaining how he prepared for this role.  What an eloquent, intelligent, gentle young man!

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of Kilometers across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - Sonya's Chickens by Phoebe Wahl

Illustrated by the author
2015, Tundra Books
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.96 - 339 ratings
My rating: 4
Illustrations: Watercolor, collage, and colored pencils 

My comments:  The illustrations drew me to pick up this book. Sonya is given three baby chicks to care for, which she lovingly does, as they grow into adults.  When one is killed by a fox, her dad explains to her that the fox only did so to feed his own children.  This is a great explanation of the life cycle and predator/prey without being too preachy, and includes a discussion-worthy "celebration" of the dead chicken's life.  Gentle ending - an egg hatches (another jumping off point for cycle of life discussions).
GoodreadsSonya raises her three chickens from the time they are tiny chicks. She feeds them, shelters them and loves them. Everywhere Sonya goes, her chicks are peeping at her heels. Under her care, the chicks grow into hens and even give Sonya a wonderful gift: an egg! One night, Sonya hears noises coming from the chicken coop and discovers that one of her hens has disappeared. Where did the hen go? What happened to her? When Sonya discovers the answers, she learns some important truths about the interconnectedness of nature and the true joys and sorrows of caring for another creature.