Wednesday, May 17, 2017

28. Immoral by Brian Freeman

Jonathan Stride #1
listened on Audible, mostly in the car on the drive to Maine
Read by Joe Barrett - did the Minnesota accent okay, female voices not quite so well (but okay)
2005 St. Martin's Minotaur (741 pgs. HC)
2006 Headline (471 pgs.)
Audible 13 hrs. 30 min.
Adult Murder Mystery/Police Procedural
Finished Wed., May 17, 2017
Goodreads rating: 3.87 - 5262 ratings
My rating:  3.9....
Setting: Duluth MN and Las Vegas

First line/s:  "Darkness was a different thing in the north woods than it was in the city.  He had forgotten."

My comments:  Rating?  Not quite a four.  This was a little slow for me at the beginning, sped up a bit, then slowed down again during a long trial (which I have discovered that I do not enjoy in a book).  There were things to like a lot as well as things to dislike.  The plot twists and turns were huge, and I discovered that I missed some of the major clues at the beginning.  All the loose ends were eventually wrapped up, though in a somewhat weird way.  Setting - Duluth, MN and Las Vegas, NV - both places I have been to more than once, were believable and well written.  Because of the nature of the story, some of the characters weren't as fleshed out as others, which was a setback for me, although minor.  Stride's attraction to and fascination with Serena was difficult to believe and understand.  So, all in all, what do I look for in a good mystery?  A plot line that keeps me guessing.  Check.  Little surprises along the way.  Check.  A setting that is interesting and an integral part of the story.  Check.  Characters that are believable and seem real.  Not quite so much.  Writing.  Freeman strayed a few times from the protagonist's point-of-view, which was a bit disconcerting.  Will I read another in the series?  Sure, this was the first and he's up to seven with two novellas in between.  Bet he's gotten better.  All in all, a good find.

Goodreads synopsis:  In Duluth, Minnesota, a young woman, Rachel Stoner, has gone missing. Cop Jonathan Stride, a sharply focused detective despite the stresses of his troubled personal life, is quick to suspect her stepfather of murder. And yet, he has his doubts. Even for a man accustomed to power, the accused seems remarkably convinced he'll go free. Could he be telling the truth? While Stride endeavours to make sense of the conflicting pieces of evidence, a young woman's body lies half-buried deep in the woods. But if it's not the body of Rachel, where is the missing girl? Is she dead, or is the terrible, unexpected fate that awaits Graeme Stoner one he does not deserve? In this dark, involving mystery, nothing is as it seems, and readers will be gripped to the very last page as the shocking truth gradually emerges.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Blog Entry Number 2100

How can this be?
Congratulations to me!
Let's par-tee!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

Illustrated by the Author
1990 Philomel Books
32 pgs.. - 4830 ratings
Goodreads rating:  4.35
My rating:  5
Endpapers:  Dark Red

1st line/s:  "On sultry summer days at my grandma's farm in Michigan, the air gets damp and heavy."

My comments:  I see absolutely no reason not to give this book a "5" rating.  It's wonderful.  Sometimes Polacco's books are really heavily texted, this one is not quite so.  And there are, of course, her wonderful illustrations.  A special grandmother-granddaughter relationship (I love that!), and a cool way to help the child be not so afraid of thunder as well as helping her realize that not everything is quite as scary as it seems.  Lots of great things in one beautiful picture book - plus a recipe that looks like a lot of fun to make, which adds some tomato the the chocolate flavoring....magic....

Goodreads:  Grandma consoles her frightened granddaughter by telling her that the dark clouds of the impending storm are nothing more than the ingredients for a Thunder Cake

Monday, May 8, 2017

MOVIE - The Dinner

R (2:00)
Limited release 5/5/17
Viewed 5/8/17 at The Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, PA
IMBd: 5.5
RT Critic: 53   Audience:  17
Critic's Consensus:  The Dinner's strong ensemble isn't enough to overcome a screenplay that merely skims the surface of its source material's wit and insight.
Cag:  3/ Liked some of it a lot, didn't like some of it a lot....
Directed by Oren Moverman
Chubbco Film Company
Based on the novel by Herman Koch

Richard Gere, Laura Linnley, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, Chloe Sevigny

My comments:  This was one bizarre movie.  And what will follow contain spoilers, I'm sure. Because you can't talk about this movie without mentioning spoilers.  Mental illness is not the biggest theme in the movie. Overprotecting children, total and complete selfishness, "bad" kids, and good politicians - all the major themes are almost polar opposite of what we would like to think we believe - as "good" people of the world.  And as I let this movie sit, and sink in, and stir inside my head, I'm incredulous.  The only sane, good person, was the politician.  The rest were so totally flawed that that the only redemption might come to the brother with mental illness.  But not unless he rids himself of his ridiculous wife.  Mental health issues are a sickness, and this point is made abundantly clear (thank goodness) in this movie.  But the director really copped out when it came to the ending.
     I can't believe that I watched this movie in a theater in Gettysburg, not knowing that part of it was set in Gettysburg. That was quite a surprise. A great surprise.  One of the shots was the exact same shot I took a couple of weeks ago! The actors were superb.  But I think the story was confusingly woven in a way that the majority of viewers will get really confused.  I know that for me not to have someone to discuss it with is a huge downfall.  I need Sheila!
     And after the cop-out ending, the music BLARING from the screen was "Don't let them fuckers get you down."  The whole experience was a bizarre one.  I know that all the other people in the theater with me (about a dozen) left the theater complaining and/or scratching their heads.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  When Stan Lohman (Richard Gere), a popular congressman running for governor, invites his troubled younger brother Paul (Steve Coogan) and his wife Claire (Laura Linney) to join him and his wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) for dinner at one of the town's most fashionable restaurants, the stage is set for a tense night. While Stan and Paul have been estranged since childhood, their 16-year- old sons are friends, and the two of them have committed a horrible crime that has shocked the country. While their sons' identities have not yet been discovered and may never be, their parents must now decide what action to take. As the night proceeds, beliefs about the true natures of the four people at the table are upended, relationships shatter, and each person reveals just how far they are willing to go to protect those they love.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

27. Bellamy and the Brute by Alicia Michaels

read on my iPhone
2017 Clean Teen Publishing
 300 pgs.
YA Ghost Story/Fantasy w/mostly RF
Finished 5/3/17
Goodreads rating: 3.92 - 302 ratings
My rating:  2
Setting: Contemporary Wellhollow Springs

First line/s: "Loose gravel crunched beneath her boots as Special Agent Camila Vasquez navigated the almost-empty parking lot to her car."

My comments:   The first half of the book was quite interesting but, for me, rapidly deteriorated in the second half.  Much too much lovey-dovey, kissy stuff and more telling than showing.  Not enough information about why the bad guys were bad guys.  The ghosts weren't connected enough and could have been tackled in a really interesting way ... but no such luck. All in all, a disappointment.

Goodreads synopsis:   When Bellamy McGuire is offered a summer job babysitting for the wealthy Baldwin family, she’s reluctant to accept. After all, everyone in town knows about the mysterious happenings at the mansion on the hill—including the sudden disappearance of the Baldwin’s eldest son, Tate. The former football star and Golden Boy of Wellhollow Springs became a hermit at the age of sixteen, and no one has seen or heard from him since. Rumors abound as to why, with whisperings about a strange illness that has caused deformity…turned him into a real-life monster. Bellamy wants to dismiss these rumors as gossip, but when she’s told that if she takes the job she must promise to never, ever visit the 3rd floor of the mansion, she begins to wonder if there really is some dark truth being hidden there.
          Tate’s condition may not be the only secret being kept at Baldwin House. There are gaps in the family’s financial history that don’t add up, and surprising connections with unscrupulous characters. At night there are strange noises, unexplained cold drafts, and the electricity cuts out. And then there are the rose petals on the staircase. The rose petals that no one but Bellamy seems to be able to see. The rose petals that form a trail leading right up to the 3rd floor, past the portrait of a handsome young man, and down a dark hallway where she promised she would never, ever go…
          As Bellamy works to unravel the mysteries of Baldwin House and uncover the truth about Tate, she realizes that she is in way over her head, in more ways than one. Can her bravery and determination help to right the wrongs of the past and free the young man whose story has captured her heart?

Friday, April 28, 2017

26. In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell

read on my iPhone
2017 Lake Union Publishing
282 pgs.
Adult Historical Fiction - gothic
Finished 4/27/17
Goodreads rating: 3.64 - 4763 ratings
My rating: 1
Setting: 1928 Chicago area/ on Lake Michigan

First line/s:  "Last night I dreamed Lakecrest was on fire."

My comments:  Bleh.  From slow, plodding, and boring to rushed and ridiculous at the end, I found nothing to like in this novel - not one of the characters, not the setting, and certainly not the mood.  It was supposed to have a Gothic feel, I'm sure, but it was just too ridiculous and ... off.  Nothing worked for me.  The plot was disjointed and choppy, and the characters didn't seem the least bit real.  I can't believe I didn't quit before the end..... (I always hate to give a negative review because I don't want to hurt the author's feelings, but I have to be honest, so apologies to the author, who spent a lot of time and energy, I'm sure, writing this book.)

Goodreads synopsis:  The year is 1928. Kate Moore is looking for a way out of the poverty and violence of her childhood. When a chance encounter on a transatlantic ocean liner brings her face-to-face with the handsome heir to a Chicago fortune, she thinks she may have found her escape—as long as she can keep her past concealed.
          After exchanging wedding vows, Kate quickly discovers that something isn’t quite right with her husband—or her new family. As Mrs. Matthew Lemont, she must contend with her husband’s disturbing past, his domineering mother, and his overly close sister. Isolated at Lakecrest, the sprawling, secluded Lemont estate, she searches desperately for clues to Matthew’s terrors, which she suspects stem from the mysterious disappearance of his aunt years before. As Kate stumbles deeper into a maze of family secrets, she begins to question everyone’s sanity—especially her own. But just how far will she go to break free of this family’s twisted past? 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - 20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street by Mark Lee

Illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
2013 Candlewick Press
HC $15.99
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  3.84 - 393 ratings
My rating: 4
Endpapers" Bright rusty red

1st line/s:  "One ice-cream truck selling everything sweet
Breaks down and blocks the middle of our street."

My comments:  I've been reading picture books at storytime at the library to toddlers...and this book would be loved by many of them!  I have some toddler boys who have a difficult time paying attention when they even HEAR a truck go by on the street below.  Rhyming (though the rhythm is off in a few places) and great illustrations by Kurt Cyrus, along with the opportunity to count trucks...all the way up to 20...make this a great, fun read.

Goodreads:  If you’re a little boy on a bike, an ice-cream truck on your street is always a welcome sight. But what if it the truck breaks down and blocks the mail truck behind it (now there are two), not to mention a third truck carrying hay? One by one, trucks of all types and sizes and functions are sure to pile up behind, offering ample opportunity for ogling — and counting. And maybe the boy’s idea for putting one of the trucks to good use might even save the day!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Authors on my Blog

Here are all the authors and their books that are on this blog, by last name:

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I-J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q-R  S  T  U-V W  X-Y-Z

25. Rewinder by Brett Battles

listened to on Audible
2014 Creative Space Independent Publishing
272 pgs.
Unabridged 7:48)
YA Fantasy/Time Travel
Finished Wednesday, 4/26/16
Goodreads rating: 3.87 - 2737 ratings
My rating: 5
Setting: Time Travel, but much is contemporary America....sort of.....

From chapter 2:  " I read somewhere that everyone is the hero of his or her own story.  Maybe that's true for most people, but not for me.  Of all the rules we were taught before we were allowed to travel in time, one stands above all:  Don't screw anything up.
     I didn't mean to, but, well...
     Here I am, Denny Younger, destroyer of worlds.
     You wouldn't be here if not for me."

My comments:  I think this one's a five!  Every now and then I come across a book I just can't put down.  This is one of them.  What would've happened if American had always stayed a British colony?  There are really two parts to the book, and both were intense - the steps building up to the climactic changing point and what happened because of it.  I had to think clearly in order to follow all the time traveling that was going on, but I was able to do it.  I was afraid at the end I would be left hanging, but although the ending entices me to want to read the next volume, I was quite satisfied.

Goodreads synopsis:  You will never read Denny Younger’s name in any history book, will never know what he's done. 
          But even if you did, you’d never believe it.
          The world as you know it wouldn't be the same without him. 
          Denny was born into one of the lowest rungs of society, but his bleak fortunes abruptly change when the mysterious Upjohn Institute recruits him to be a Rewinder, a verifier of personal histories. The job at first sounds like it involves researching old books and records, but Denny soon learns it's far from it. 
          A Rewinder's job is to observe history.
          In person.
          Embracing his new duties with enthusiasm, Denny witnesses things he could never even imagine before. But as exciting as the adventures into the past are, there are dangers, too. For even the smallest error can have consequences. 
          Life-altering consequences. 
          Time, after all, is merely a reference point.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - The Case for Loving: the Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko

Illustrated by the author's husband, Sean Qualls
2015 Arthur A. Levine/ Scholastic
Author's note & Bibliography
HC $18.99
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.27 - 836 ratings
My rating: 5+
Endpapers: white with hearts and music
Illustrations: Collage and paint and colored pencils (mixed media) Edge of page to edge of page :)

Preface:  "Imagine not being able to marry the person you loved, just because they were a race different from your own.  Here is the story of the love between Mildred and Richard Loving.  Here is the story of the courage they needed to have that love recognized:  a story about how the law changed for the better, about how the law made room for the Lovings, and by doing so made way for love."

My comments:  This book is a SIX star book!  Selina Alko writes the story perfectly.  It couldn't have been told better, or illustrated more lovingly or well.  Because this book is shelved in our library in the nonfiction section instead of the picture books, I  almost missed it.  It was because of the recent movie about the Lovings that it jumped out at me.  Thanks goodness.  I loved it.  I  want to own it.  I want to share it with every 8, 9, 10 11, 55, or 88 year old I see.  This is the story of the two people who fought for nine years to have their interracial marriage legal in their home state of Virginia. It wasn't until 1967 ... 1967!!! ... that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of interracial marriage....because of this shy, loving pair who only wanted to be able to live as a married couple. Superbly told story by a interracial couple - terrifically!

Goodreads:  For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.
          This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state's laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents' love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court - and won!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - Why is Art Full of Naked People and Other Vital Questions about Art? by Susie Hodge

Illustrated by Claire Goble
2016, Thames & Hudson, Britain
HC $19.95
96 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.12 - 25 ratings
My rating: 5
Glossary, Index
Endpapers: Light blue with all sorts of different question markes in white
Thick board cover - not sure why, it makes it appear to be a big board book, which it isn't

My comments:  When I picked up this book, before opening it I asked myself, "How can you write a whole book - for kids - explaining why art if full of naked people?" Well, come to find out, it's the second half of the title that really explains the book - Other Vital Questions About Art.  Hodge uses 88 pieces of well-known art by famous artists, and with humorous and informative short paragraphs answers good questions and gives interesting information while giving the reader a chance to examine great art.  As many times (hundreds!) that I've looked at Seurat's  "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Tatte" I never, ever realized that he'd drawn a frame around the picture using more dots - thousands of them!  I really, really enjoyed reading this book....and discovered quite a bit of new artists while doing so!

GoodreadsWhy is Art Full of Naked People? is an irreverent and informative primer that asks tricky questions about what makes art art. What is with all the fruit? Why is art so weird nowadays? There are questions about how art views the world, from cave paintings through to Cubism, from the Renaissance to contemporary art, questions about different genres, including still-life painting, landscapes and portraits, and questions about the role and value of art in the past and today.
          Artists ask questions when they make art and viewers ask questions when they look at art; this book provides an engaging way for young people to explore asking and answering questions for themselves. The book is structured around twenty-two questions, each one tackled over two spreads. Through this provocative approach it offers an introduction to art history and a toolkit to enable young people to feel confident asking questions, searching for answers, and “reading” art for themselves.

23. Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless

Sydney Rose Parnell #1
listened on Audible
2016, Thomas & Mercer
386 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery - beginning of a series
Finished 4/22/27
Goodreads rating:  4.2 - 7696 ratings
My rating: 4
Setting: Contemporary Denver, CO

First line/s:  "His life wasn't worth spit in a hard rain."

My comments:  Mixed emotions after reading this story.  So much horror in war.  Although the setting and genre is a murder in contemporary Denver, so much is about the aftermath and memories of being in Iraq and the horrors, atrocities, and nightmares that returning military carry with them.  It was good, but emotionally hard to read.  Sydney, for me, was not the most likable protagonist, which makes her all-the-more real.  Her military dog, Clyde, was her best friend and sidekick, and their relationship wasn't too overdone for this "oh-no-not-another-animal" person. It leaves me with a big question.  Why would someone who is freaked out by death and killing and sees the ghosts of all the people she worked on during her post in Marine mortician services in Iraq take a job as a gun-slinging cop once she returns stateside?

Goodreads synopsis:  A Suspense Magazine Best of 2016 Books Selection: Debut
          A young woman is found brutally murdered, and the main suspect is the victim’s fiancĂ©, a hideously scarred Iraq War vet known as the Burned Man. But railroad police Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell, brought in by the Denver Major Crimes unit to help investigate, can't shake the feeling that larger forces are behind this apparent crime of passion.
          In the depths of an icy winter, Parnell and her K9 partner, Clyde―both haunted by their time in Iraq―descend into the underground world of a savage gang of rail riders. There, they uncover a wide-reaching conspiracy and a series of shocking crimes. Crimes that threaten everything Parnell holds dear.
          As the search for the truth puts her directly in the path of the killer, Parnell must struggle with a deadly question: Can she fight monsters without becoming one herself?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - Billy's Booger by William Joyce and his younger self

A Memoir (sorta) Illustrated by the author
2015, Atheneum
40 pgs. plus 12-page insert
Goodreads rating:
My rating: 5 Stars, Glorious!

1st line/s: "Once upon a time, when TV was in black and white, and there were only three channels, and when kids didn't have play dates --- they just roamed free in the out of doors - there lived a kid named Billy."

My comments:  I'm always on the lookout for picture books for older kids.  Fourth and fifth grade boys will love this's funny, and imaginative, and a teeny tiny bit gross...

GoodreadsA young lad who would rather draw than do math, spell, or gargle finds the perfect outlet for his always-on imagination in this manifesto to creative joie de vivre, featuring a book within a book, from the brilliant minds that brought you The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
          Billy loves to draw. He draws on books and on his homework and even on his math tests—he might not get the answer right, but doesn’t it look swell sitting in a boat at sea? His teacher doesn’t think so, and neither does the principal. But the librarian has an idea that just might help Billy better direct his illustrative energies: a book-making contest!
          Billy gets right to work, reading everything he can about meteors, mythology, space travel, and…mucus? Yep, his book is going to be about the world’s smartest booger, who stays tucked away until needed—say, to solve multiplication problems, or answer questions from the President. Billy’s sure his story is a winner. But being a winner doesn’t mean you always win.
          Full of nostalgic references to a time when TV was black-and-white and Sunday newspapers had things called the funnies, this wildly fun story-within-a-story is based loosely on children’s book legend William Joyce’s third grade year, and includes a sewn-in mini-book of that tale of the world’s smartest booger.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

22. The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore

listened on Audible
2017 Houghton Mifflin
294 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery - Police Procedural
Finished 4/11/17
Goodreads rating:  3.83 - 339 ratings
My rating: 5
Setting: Contemporary San Francisco

First line/s:  "It was after midnight, and Cain and his new partner, Grassley, watched as the excavator's blade went into the hole, emerging seconds later with another load of earth to add to the pile growing next to the grave."

My comments:  This had everything I love in a mystery.  Best of all, it's all show and no tell.  A setting - San Francisco - that I know, with lots of great description that emphasizes the map in my head.  Deeply interesting characters that are real and not superficial or just words on a page.  A small part of the story is about the protagonist and what's going on in his life, which is slowly unfurled and also tinged, just a bit, with mystery.  And a super suspenseful, intricate plot that keeps you wondering and thinking until the very end, then wraps everything up without any questions left in your mind.  Whew!  What a ride.  Masterfully read by David Colacci, I'm so sad that it had to come to an end.

Goodreads synopsis:  Gavin Cain, an SFPD homicide inspector, is in the middle of an exhumation when his phone rings. San Francisco’s mayor is being blackmailed and has ordered Cain back to the city; a helicopter is on its way. The casket, and Cain’s cold-case investigation, must wait. At City Hall, the mayor shows Cain four photographs he’s received: the first, an unforgettable blonde; the second, pills and handcuffs on a nightstand; the third, the woman drinking from a flask; and last, the woman naked, unconscious, and shackled to a bed. The accompanying letter is straightforward: worse revelations are on the way unless the mayor takes his own life first. 
          An intricately plotted, deeply affecting thriller that keeps readers guessing until the final pages, The Dark Room tracks Cain as he hunts for the blackmailer, pitching him into the web of destruction and devotion the mayor casts in his shadow. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - Library Mouse: A Museum Adventure by Daniel Kirk

Library Mouse #4
Illustrated by the author
2012, Abrams Books for Young Readers
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  3.57 - 190 ratings
My rating:  3
Endpapers:  red
1st line/s:  "Late one night, Sam the Library Mouse was hard at work.  His friend Sarah dropped in and asked, "What are you doing, Sam?  Writing a new book?"

My comments:  I love Sam the library mouse, and the first book in this series is still one of my all-time favorites. In this, the fourth book about Sam - book writer and art lover extraordinaire, - he and his friend, Sarah venture next door to the museum.  Here they find that all their preconceived notions about cats being scary are wrong.  The museum cat has created a gallery of paintings depicting mice!  Sam insists that Sarah bring a journal, even though she doesn't want to, and discovers that it was an excellent idea.  Somehow, the whole journal thing felt a little flat, as did the meeting up of other animals in the museum.  It didn't touch me like the previous titles have. Still enjoyable, though!

Goodreads:  Sam the library mouse and his friend Sarah are off on a new adventure. This time they leave the library behind and go to a museum so Sam can make sketches in his explorer’s journal. Sarah isn’t so sure that explorers have the time or the interest to write in journals. But Sam shows her that a journal can contain anything, from a ticket stub to drawings of cool things like dinosaurs and ancient Egyptian mummies. As they explore the museum, they see all kinds of art and unexpectedly make friends with another artist. The latest book in this bestselling series is sure to entice readers to come along on the museum adventure.