Sunday, November 29, 2015

65. The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Book 1:  The Saga of Shahzrad and Khalid
2015, G. P. Putnam's Sons
395 pgs.
YA Fantasy/HistFiction/Retelling of 1001 Nights...
Finished 11-29-2015
Goodreads rating:  4.23
My rating:  4
Setting:  Ancient "Khorasan" (Persia?)
Book 2:  The Rose and the Dagger should appear in May, 2016

First line/s:  "It would not be a welcome dawn.  Already the sky told this story, with its sad halo of silver beckoning from beyond the horizon."

My comments:  A little heavy on the romance, but the main character - many of the characters, actually - were sassy, with great senses of humor....real.  I love the setting of ancient times, and the introduction of magic, though a little more of that would have been welcome.  Kahlid was a little too silently smoldering, but I think a lot of YA females will enjoy that.  Decent storytelling!  I look forward to the second in the series to see what directions the plot will take and what happens to some of the more endearing - and not-so-endearing characters.
     Note:  the illustration/photo of Shahzrad in the cover and front endpaper is perfect - sassy, gorgeous, young....and I loved the cover, too....

Goodreads Summary:  One Life to One Dawn.
          In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.
          Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?
          Inspired by A Thousand and One NightsThe Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Letterboxing: My Very First PLANT

When I finally figured out what to carve for my first plant it was easy.  MY FIRST PLANT!  And I actually drew it myself....reminiscent of the plant that I paper-punched for Laura's wedding seating cards!

I hunted in three different stores for the right container.  It had a red cover, but was the perfect size.  I wish I had thought to purchase some spray paint...perhaps gray, to hide in the rocks, but I'll do that next time.

I made a little pouch to hold the stamp, put them all together and took off looking for a place to plant it.  I'd been looking and thinking about this for awhile, but after I drove into the cemetery I'd been considering I said "nay" and bid it adieu.  Too snaky in the summer, no rocks to create a SPOR, By his time it was getting past dusk...and overcast day made it even darker so I sadly decided to wait until today to find a spot.

I'd made a reservation at Roadhouse to go see Mockingjay today (Thanksgiving)...and there it was!  The perfect place!

So now MY FIRST PLANT is hidden and posted on AtlasQuest.  I feel like I've hit the big time!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

64. Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

2014 National Book Award FINALIST
audio read by Kirsten Potter
2014, Random House Audio & Knopf
11 unabridged cds
336 pgs.
Adult fantasy/dystopia
Finished 11/15/15
Goodreads rating:  4.0
My rating: 3
Setting:  Michigan area, contemporary times after a pandemic

First line/s:  "The king stood in a pool of light, unmoored. This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theater in Toronto."

My comments:  This is a tough one for me to rate.  It's the kind of book I'd like to sit down with a book group and discuss.  Great writing, lots of jumping around (most of it's easy to follow, Mandel must have had to use a wall covered with diagrams to keep things straight...), but there's something a little bit missing.  It's not a book that will be easily forgotten, that's for certain, but it left me feeling I'd missed something (or some things)....

Goodreads Summary:  An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. 
      One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them. 
      Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave. 
      Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

63. The Impossible Knife of Memory - Laurie Halse Anderson

2014, Viking Books for Young Readers
391 pgs.
Finished 11/9/15
Goodreads rating:  3.93
My rating: 4
Setting: Contemporary New York State - somewhere between Albany and Poughkeepsie, which are both mentioned more than once.

First line/s:  "It started in detention.  No surprise there, right?"

My comments:  I read this book in one afternoon/evening/late night.  It was hard to put down. It's about PTSD and its effect on a family.  It's powerful and is a wonderful blend of good characterization and excellent plot.  There are two things that keep me from giving this a 5 - and I don't want to dwell on them, only mention them, because this book is really good.  The hard-to-get-to-know, leave-me-alone protagonist becomes instant best friends with Gracie, a girl she knew, but doesnt' remember, when she way little.  Excellent.  However, there is never any mention of any other friends that Gracie might have.  None.  She's not the type of young lady that would be friendless.  What happened to them?  This didn't work for me.  And then there's the ending, or at least the wrapping-it-up part.  Too quickly told, and not quite totally believable to me.  I love happy endings, but I need to feel they could really happen in the way they're told.  Oh well. I will definitely be recommending this book.

Goodreads Summary:  For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.
        Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

PICTURE BOOK - Sharing the Bread: an Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller

Illustrated by Jill McElmurry
2015, Random House Children's Books
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.92
My rating:  4
Endpapers:  Front bright red; back navy blue
1st line/s:  
     "Mama fetch the cooking pot.
      Fetch our turkey-cooking pot.
      Big and old and black and squat.
      Mama, fetch the pot."

My comments:       I love to check out the new holiday picture book offerings - especially Thanksgiving, which has become so over-shadowed by Christmas and Black Friday!  So it was fun to peek at this new picture book today.
     Sharing the Bread is set in the late 19th century, is simple and sweet, with lovely rhyming, rhythmic verses.  Everyone in the family has a job to do in preparation for the meal.  The only religious overtones are at the end when the double-page spread depicts the entire family holding hands around the table. "Fold. Shout. Sit. Pray.  All together on this day." A lovely book.

Goodreads:  Celebrate food and family with this heartwarming Thanksgiving picture book. We will share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread. / Grateful to be warm and fed. / We will share the bread. In this spirited ode to the holiday, set at the turn of the twentieth century, a large family works together to make their special meal. Mama prepares the turkey, Daddy tends the fire, Sister kneads, and Brother bastes. Everyone—from Grandma and Grandpa to the littlest baby—has a special job to do. Told in spare, rhythmic verse and lively illustrations, Sharing the Bread is a perfect read-aloud to celebrate the Thanksgiving tradition.

"A warm and wonderful holiday treasure." —Publishers Weekly, Starred

"Captures the spirit of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner." —School Library Journal

"A delightful holiday book that shows the heartwarming tradition of food and family." —Booklist

Friday, October 30, 2015

62. Tag Man - Archer Mayor

Joe Gunther #22
7 unabridged cds
2011 Minotaur Books
290 pgs.
Adult mystery
Finished 10/28/15
Goodreads rating:  3.79
My rating:  2.5
Setting: Contemporary Brattleboro, VT

First line/s:  "He sat in the center of the love seat, in the darkened bedroom, settled against the soft pillows behind him.  His hands, clad in thin cotton gloves, were folded in his lap; his feet, wrapped in blue surgical booties stretched out before the neatened coffee table before him."

My comments: A police procedural "murder mystery" set in contemporary Brattleboro, Vermont.  There were lots and lots of books in the series that came before this one, none that I'd read, but I had no problem at all following the characters or plot.  It was okay.  I don't know why I wanted more, but I did.

Goodreads Summary:  Someone is breaking into the homes of the rich, bypassing their high-tech security, their state-of-the-art locks and then making himself at home. The intruder doesn’t seem to steal anything except some food. At each break-in, he leaves the remains of his snack out and a Post-it note stuck next to the bed where the owners are sleeping. One word is written on the note: Tag.
Although the press loves him, problems begin for the elusive Tag Man when he removes some documents from the home of a mobbed-up man. Shortly thereafter, the danger increases when a trip through a beautifully furnished mansion turns up a secret basement room, where the Tag Man discovers a truly horrifying secret. Joe Gunther, struggling to recover from a devastating personal loss, leads his VBI team to untangle the many conflicting pieces of evidence, while the burglar himself struggles for survival in the no-man's-land between the police and the villains.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

61. Victims - Jonathan Kellerman

Alex Delaware #27
listened to the audio cd on the way back and forth from work
audio read by John Rubenstein - very enjoyable
2012, Random House Audio,
12 hours/10 unabridged cds
338 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 10/6/2015
Goodreads rating: 3.91
My rating: 4/ very good storytelling, though gritty/gross
Setting: contemporary LA area

First line/s:  "This one was different.  The first hint was Milo's tight-voiced eight a.m. message, stripped of details."

My comments:  I haven't read a Jonathan Kellerman for many years, but have read a few in the past, so decided to read this one out-of-order (I'm so anal, I don't usually do this).  Very interesting story, especially when looking at the deep dark workings of the human psyche that have gone awry...very awry.  Alex Delaware is the psycho-therapist sidekick to LA detective Milo Sturgis.  He doesn't really do too much, perhaps sheds a little insight, but when Milo Sturgis is on the track, watch out.  I love the way that John Rubenstein "reads" Sturgis - tough, gritty, but with great empathy.  I enjoyed this one, as super-gritty (gross) as it was...

Goodreads Summary:

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: