Monday, October 5, 2015

MOVIE - Black Mass

R (2:02)
Wide release 9-18-15
Viewed 10-1-15 at ElCon with Sheila and Connie
RT Critic:  76  Audience:   76
Cag:  5/Loved it 
Directed by Scott Cooper
Warner Bros. Studios
Based on the true story of Jimmy "Whitey" Bulger,  South Boston crime lord

Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson....and even Peter Sarsgaard

My comments:  This was a good one.  A true story I could relate to (being "from" Boston) - excellent story retelling and super actors.  Enjoyed every minute.  Interesting to watch the goodness in someone collide with the badness and watch a psychopath become crazier.  And then there's corruption.  Cops.  I grew up in the 60s and cops have always given me the heebie-jeebies, my 60s residue.  This movie reminded me of so much - especially Southie vs. the North End.....

RT Summary:  In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) persuades Irish mobster James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp) to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy: the Italian mob. The drama tells the story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement, consolidate power, and become one of the most ruthless and powerful gangsters in Boston history.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

MOVIE - Paper Towns

PG-13 (1:49)
Wide release 7-24-15
Viewed at Century Gateway on 9/21/15
RT Critic:  55  Audience:   57
Cag:  3.5 / Entertaining and watchable, liked it
Directed by Jake Schreier
20th Century Fox
Based on the book by John Green

My comments:  Perhaps the part of Margo was miscast for me, because I didn't like her (particularly) couldn't figure out why Q was so taken with her, and couldn't even figure out what motivated her.  However, the parts with Quentin and his two best friends were priceless and special.

RT Summary:  Adapted from the bestselling novel by author John Green ("The Fault in Our Stars"), PAPER TOWNS is a coming-of-age story centering on Quentin and his enigmatic neighbor Margo, who loved mysteries so much she became one. After taking him on an all-night adventure through their hometown, Margo suddenly disappears--leaving behind cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. The search leads Quentin and his quick-witted friends on an exhilarating adventure that is equal parts hilarious and moving.Ultimately, to track down Margo, Quentin must find a deeper understanding of true friendship--and true love. 

60. Court of Fives - Kate Elliott

#1 Court of Fives
Actually read the just-out, hard-covered book!
2015, Little Brown & Co.
432 pgs.
YA Fantasy/Dystopia
Finished 9/22/15
Goodreads rating:  3.66
My rating:  5/Loved it

First line/s: We four sisters are sitting in the courtyard at dusk in what passes for peace in our house.  Well-brought-up girls do not fidget nor fume nor ever betray the least impatience or boredom.  But it is so hard to sit still when all I can think about is how I am going to sneak out of the house tomorrow to do the thing my father would never, ever give me permission to do.

My comments:  This is a story of class and rank and color, taking place in a world woven by the imagination of Kate Elliott. It's a story of five women - four sisters and their mother, who have had very few choices in their lives, but seem to have cleverly stayed on the shaky path they each have been able to make for themself. Of course those paths are fraught with disconcerting "uh-ohs" at every turn, but the choices they are able to make actually win out - or come close.  They all have an unsteady place in the society woven in this book, and as things go from okay to bad to worse, the story flies along unceasingly. Fast.  Gritty.  I really, really enjoyed it and couldn't put it down.  Sure, some of it was not-quite believable, but I didn't care.  Jessamy, the protagonist, is a winner - and I don't mean in just the court of fives!
          I've read some negative reviews about this book. To each her own taste. I truly enjoyed it, every awkward, eye-rolling happening!
     (I wonder if the next in the series is going to be from the missing-for-most-of-this-book Bettany's point of view?)

From the copyright page:  When a scheming lord tears Jes's family apart, she must rely on her unlikely friendship with Kal, a high-ranking Patron boy, and her skill at Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory, to protect her Commoner mother and mixed-race sisters and save her father's reputation.

Goodreads Summary:
On the Fives court, everyone is equal.

And everyone is dangerous.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.
     Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.
     In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

DNF - The Inquisitors Mark - Dianne K. Salerni

Eighth Day #2
Goodreads rating:  4.34
2015 Harper Collins
352 pgs.

Nope, decided not to continue with this....not that I disliked it, more that by page 93 I was bored and not interested - at this time - to continue.  I'm guessing I'll come back to it sometime in the future, especially if my students read it, so that I can discuss it with them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

PICTURE BOOK - What REALLY Happened to Humpty?: From the Files of a Hard-Boiled Detective by Jeannie Franz Ransom

Illustrated by Stephen Axelsen
2009 Charlesbridge
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.90
My rating: 5
Title Page

1st line/s:  "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall./ Humpty Dumpty had a great fall./Humpty Dumpty was pushed."

My comments:  This book cracks me up every time I read it (I love all the word play) and it works perfectly as an introduction to the mystery genre for my fourth graders.  This goes into my picture-books-with-a-little-more-intricateness/intricativity (how's that for taking a little touch of freedom with words? Try saying intricativity three times fast!)

Goodreads:  Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. Or, as his brother Detective Joe Dumpty thinks, was he pushed? This case isn't all its cracked up to be. Suspects are plenty (as are the puns) in this scrambled story of nursery rhyme noir. Was it Little Miss Muffet? There's something not right about her tuffet. Or could it have been Chicken Little, who's always been a little cagey? Or was it the Big Bad Wolf, who's got a rap sheet as long as a moonless night? Joe's on the beat and determined to find the truth. Readers of all ages will delight in the word play and hilarious illustrations in this mystery of what really happened to Humpty Dumpty on that fateful day. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

59. The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

Chaos Walking #1
listened to audio cd.
2008 Candlewick
479 pgs.
YA SciFi/Dystopia
Finished 9-7-15
Goodreads rating:  3.95
My rating:  Really didn't like it at all - too upper-level stressful, no down time....
Setting: a small planet similar to earth in a faraway place

First line/s:  "The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't go nothing much to say.  About anything."

My comments:  I've waited a few days to see if my original opinion abated a bit - but it's only grown stronger.  I love the premise of this book, but I was put off by the stress-level and ugliness.  I listened to it - and the narrator did a wonderful job of depicting what Todd felt, saw, heard -- but it was incredibly overwhelming to me, my stomach and jaws were clenched, I dreaded returning to it and almost didn't finish it.  I didn't realize it was the first in a series, so was utterly disappointed at the so-called end.  So-- Mr. Ness did a grand job in eliciting feeling and emotion, but reading for me is pleasure and I found not even the tiniest pleasure in the reading of this book.  I've read others' reviews and I'm really glad that it's been enjoyed by so many!

Goodreads Summary:  Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee -- whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not -- stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden -- a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

58. The Eighth Day - Dianne K. Salerni

Eighth Day #1
read on my iPhone
2014 Harper Collins
320 pgs.
Middle Grades/YA Fantasy
Finished 8/28/15
Goodreads rating: 4.02
My rating: 4
Setting:  Western PA, Contemporary time (with a foray to Ancient Mexican ruins near the end.

First line/s: "Jax pedaled home fromt he store and muttered in cadence with the rhythm of his bike wheels:  This sucks.  This sucks.  This sucks."

My comments:  I hadn't heard of this dystopian adventure until a colleague mentioned the possibility of doing a book club with a group of her enrichment students.  After looking it up and reading a couple of summaries and reviews, I downloaded it and read it on one gulp. Good story!  Strong characters  with a storyline based on the Legends of King Arthur.  A bit violent for younger kids, but entirely appropriate for advanced readers of younger ages (a mature 9/10 and up?) looking for meatier content than they might find from their "typical" intermediate age group choices.

Goodreads Summary:  In this riveting fantasy adventure, thirteen-year-old Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend. Fans of Percy Jackson will devour this first book in a new series that combines exciting magic and pulse-pounding suspense.
          When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it's the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he's really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who's been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.
          And there's a reason Evangeline's hiding. She is a descendant of the powerful wizard Merlin, and there is a group of people who wish to use her in order to destroy the normal seven-day world and all who live in it. Torn between protecting his new friend and saving the entire human race from complete destruction, Jax is faced with an impossible choice. Even with an eighth day, time is running out.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

57. Red Queen - Victoria Aveyard

listened to on Audible
read by Amanda Dolan - superbly
2015 Orion
383 pgs.
YA Dystopia/Fantasy
Finished 8/23/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.13
My rating: 5
Setting:  "The Stilts" a poor, muddy lower class town and the summer palace of the highest of the upper class, in the future.

First line/s:  "I hate First Friday.  It makes the village crowded, and now, in the heat of high summer, that's the last thing that anyone wants. From my place in the shade it isn't so bad, but the stink of bodies, all sweating with the morning work, is enough to make milk curdle.  The air shimmers with heat and humidity, and even the puddles from yesterday's storm are hot, swirling with rainbow streaks of oil and grease."

My comments:  This book started out deliciously Hunger Games-y and whether scenes ... and people ... were eye-rollingly ridiculous, maddeningly perfect, or over-the-top malicious it really didn't matter to me.  I loved this story from beginning to end.  I'm not even sure why.  It sparked the 16-year-old spitfire adventurer in me, and I'm betting this is a book that lots of YA females are going to embrace. Really REALLY looking forward to the next.

Goodreads Summary:

Saturday, August 22, 2015


R (1:57)
Wide release 6/5/15
Viewed 8/22/15 at Centery Gateway (cheapie)
RT Critic:  94  Audience:  83
Cag: 4.5 so funny - loved it!
Directed by Paul Feig
20th Century Fox

Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Allison Janney, Robert Carnivale

My comments: Hystericall funny.  Melissa McCarthy  makes me laugh like , almost no other.  She had a BLAST with this part, you can tell.  AND, it was a healthy message for larger women everywhere - every one of us can totally relate to everything "Susan Cooper" felt when it came to the way people perceived her.  She came of as incredibly intelligent, witty, funny, fun, loyal, and savvy.  I loved this movie! ! !

RT Summary:  Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is an unassuming, deskbound CIA analyst, and the unsung hero behind the Agency's most dangerous missions. But when her partner (Jude Law) falls off the grid and another top agent (Jason Statham) is compromised, she volunteers to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent a global disaster. 

MOVIE - American Ultra

Wide/Limited release
Viewed date at
RT Critic:    Audience:   
Cag:  6/Awesome  5/Loved it  4/Liked it a lot  3/Liked it  2/It was okay  1/Didn’t like it
Directed by
Based on the book by


My comments:

RT Summary:

Thursday, August 20, 2015

56. Six Years - Harlan Coben

read by Scott Brick
listened to while driving back & forth to work during the opening days of the school year...
2013, Dutton
368 pgs.
Adult mystery
Finished 8/20/15
Goodreads rating: 3.78
My rating: 3 - liked it for the most part
Setting: a prestigious contemporary college (Landford) in Western Massachusetts in the present time. Amherst, perhaps?

First line/s:  "I sat in the back pew and watched the only woman I would ever love marry another man."

My comments:  Well. The love story part of this is ridiculous, sappy, and over-the-top.  However it's an action-packed page turner when it comes to the mystery and following the clues.  I'm not a big Scott Brick fan when it comes to readers, so he came really close to ruining the story for me.  Maybe I would have liked it better if I'd read it or if it were read by someone else?  So, six of one; half-a-dozen of the other....I liked this, I didn't like this.....

Goodreads synopsis:  Harlan Coben, the master of domestic suspense, returns with a standalone thriller in the vein of #1 bestsellers Hold Tight, Caught and Stay Close that explores the depth and passion of a lost love . . . and the secrets and lies at its heart. Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd. But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for . . . but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for more than a decade, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life—a time he has never gotten over—is turned completely inside out. As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart—and who lied to him—soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on carefully constructed fiction. Harlan Coben once again delivers a shocking page-turner that deftly explores the power of past love and the secrets and lies that such love can hide.

55. Sapphire Blue - Kerstin Gier

Book # 2 in the Ruby Red trilogy
read the actual hardcover book!
2012, Henry Hold (originally published in 2009 in German)
362 pgs.
YA Fantasy - time travel
Finished 8/19/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.20
My rating:  4
Setting:  Contemporary London (with forays through time back to the 1950's and 1782)

First line/s: "The streets of Southwark were dark and deserted.  The air smelled of waterweeds, sewage, and dead fish.  He instinctively held her hand more tightly."

My comments:  Throughout this book, the second of three, the aspect of romance seemed a little heavier. I tried to put myself in the place of an 8th or 9th grade girl and that's when I realized that this is so on the mark.  Kids in that age group, kids raised close to family and in a private school, would probably have similar reactions to boys (and drinking) as Gwen.  She's practically swooning over handsome Gabriel....well, I did plenty of practically-swooning when I was that age.  I actually remember when I'm forced to!  So we shouldn't get grown-up, mature thinking and reactions and attitudes, I realized.  I think the Ms. Gier has pretty well hit the mark.  The mystery and tension are still pretty high as well.  I'm really looking forward to seeing how it all works out in book number 3!

Goodreads synopsis:  Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.
          At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

MOVIE - I'll See You In My Dreams

PG-13 (1:35)
Limited release 5-15-15
Viewed 8-18-15 At Century Gateway with Sheila
RT Critic:  94  Audience:   71
Cag:  2.5 - It was okay, I liked some of it
Directed by Brett Haley
Bleecker Street
Blythe Danner, Sam Elliott, Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, June Squibb, 

My comments:  Okay, big time depressing.  Good movie though, especially the scenes with Carol (Blythe Danner) and her three best friends, all living in little cottages in a retirement community in southern California - Rhea Perlman, June Squibb, and Mary Kay Place.  But looking at Carol's life, thinking about some of the things people in the movie say about death, seeing how suddenly a life can well as watching the poor young man who's hopelessly stuck cleaning pools when he wants to be writing poetry (I know, I know, at the end there might be a teeny, tiny turning of events, but who knows....)  Too much leftover thinking for me.  The kind of stuff I don't want to think about. Hmmm.....

RT Summary:  In this vibrant, funny, and heartfelt film, a widow and former songstress discovers that life can begin anew at any age. With the support of three loyal girlfriends (June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, and Mary Kay Place), Carol (Blythe Danner) decides to embrace the world, embarking on an unlikely friendship with her pool maintenance man (Martin Starr), pursuing a new love interest (Sam Elliott), and reconnecting with her daughter (Malin Akerman).

54. A Reliable Wife - Robert Goolrick

I read this one!  The only one I could find was Large Print.....
2009, Algonquin Books
291 pgs.
Adult Historical Fiction with a more than touch of mystery...
Finished August, 2015
Goodreads rating: 3.24
My rating: 4
Setting: Winter , 1907, rural Wisconsin

First line/s:  "It was bitter cold, the air was electric with all that had not happened yet."

My comments:  This book was not at all what I expected, and I read it all in one long sitting (a great day to spend inside when it's 110 degrees outside). I enjoyed the surprises and the way they were added to the story. Although I can't define "normal" sexuality, desires, self-admiration, self-loathing, and religious fervor, I do think the author goes a little over the top here and there. The time period and setting added another layer of unexpectedness, as I don't read a whole lot of historical fiction and know very little about the state of Wisconsin. On the whole, I enjoyed reading this book very much. 

Goodreads synopsis:  Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt a passionate man with his own dark secrets has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways. 
With echoes of "Wuthering Heights" and "Rebecca," Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.

53. A Hidden Secret - Linda Castillo

Kate Burkholder #6.5
read on my iPhone/Book/listened to audio CD/Audible...
publishing info
Goodreads rating:
My rating:

First line/s:

My comments:  Good plot, mystery, and setting for a short story....with the wonderful voice of Kate Burkholder holding it all together.  It did seem like Tomasetti was just stuck in here and there so he'd appear, and at times it seemed a little convoluted to include him, but for a short, satisfying Kate Burkholder "fix" this worked just fine for me!

Goodreads synopsis: