Sunday, June 18, 2017

32. The Plantation by Chris Kuzneski

Payne & Jones #1
listened on Audible
2002, Paradox Publishing
432 pgs.
Adult Contemporary Mystery
Finished Sunday, June 18, 2017
Goodreads rating:  3.73
My rating: 2
Setting: Mostly New Orleans area, contemporary

My comments:  Didn't do it for me.  Took me forever to get through.  I'm thinking that I'm so used to this particular reader (I listened on audio), who has been the narrator for so many other mysteries  I've read that his inflections have become associated with other protagonists.  The"good" guys in The Plantation approach killing with the same kind of glee that the horrid slave owners did.  Very off-putting.  Also,  good vs. evil with no in between?  Payne's ardor for Ariana was also a little off-putting, it was so constantly notated.  And his "best friend's" subservient manner towards him bugged me too.  Waaaaay too long

Goodreads synopsis:  One by one, in cities across America, people of all ages are taken from their homes, their cars, their lives. But these aren’t random kidnappings. They’re crimes of passion,
planned and researched several months in advance, then executed with a singular objective in mind. Revenge.
          Ariane Walker is one of the victims, dragged from her apartment with few clues to follow. The police said there’s little they can do for her, but that isn’t good enough for her boyfriend, Jonathon Payne.
          With the help of his best friend (David Jones), Payne gives chase, hoping that a lead in New Orleans somehow pays off. Together, they uncover the mystery of Ariane’s abduction and the truth behind the South’s most violent secret.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - FLAP BOOK/BOARD BOOK: Hello World: A Celebration of Languages and Curiosities by Jonathan Litton

originally published in 2016 in Great Britain by Caterpillar Books
USA publication 2016 by 360 Degrees, Tiger Tales
18 pgs - 9 thick cardboard 10 3/8 x 12 3/4 inches with hundreds of flaps to open
Goodreads rating: 4.44 - 16 ratings
My rating:  5, it was fun, informative, and creative
Endpapers none
Illustrations: Large maps of continents

My comments:  Wonderful, creative, kid-friendly flap book.  Say hello in lots (and LOTS) of languages of the world, with pronunciation and world location on large, double-page spreads.  An Atlas and Language book combined!   A lift-the-flap book for all ages.

Goodreads:  Learn to greet people around the globe in this interactive atlas of hellos. With more than 150 languages, flaps to guide you through pronunciations, and features on hieroglyphs, sign languages, and different writing systems, a world of exploration is at your fingertips.

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.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

21. Still Life by Louise Penny

#1 Chief Inspector Armande Gamache
listened on Audible
2005 St. Martin's Press
312 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 4-6-17
Goodreads rating: 3.91 - 63,992 ratings (that's a lot!)
My rating: 3
Setting: Contemporary Three Pines, Quebec, CANADA (just south of Montreal)

First line/s:

My comments:  Dozens of people have told me through the years that this is their favorite mystery series of all of them, and I just HAVE to read at least one.  Just the other day, a coworker got really excited that I was reading this because it's her favorite - she was so excited.  When I asked her "why?" she told me she'd tell me when I finished reading the entire book.  (I'll go see her tomorrow!).  So what is my honest opinion?  The setting was beautifully described, almost like another character.  Characterization was deep and complete.  The mystery was interesting but not entirely surprising.  The process that Gamache goes through and the respect he commands from his people are thoroughly enjoyable.  So why only a "this book was okay" kind of rating?  It was almost too much like a cozy for me.  Which makes me wonder about myself.  Am I looking for blood and guts, thrilling adventure, fast action?  I always thought that it was the deep, intricate puzzle that drew me into totally enjoying a mystery  Well, this book certainly had that.  But it's pacing seemed really slow, just like Three Pines, slow and lazy.  I'm guessing this was intentional on Ms. Penny's part.  And yes, I'll read the next one, to see if I still get the same feeling....

I Think I like this cover better!

Goodreads synopsis:  The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships.
     Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines - a place so free from crime it doesn't even have its own police force. But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets...

PICTURE BOOK - Maya's Blanket / La Manta de Maya by Monica Brown

Illustrated by David Diaz
2015 Children's Book Press (Lee & Low Books\
$17.95 HC
24 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  4.1 - 124 ratings
My rating: 5
Endpapers:  Dark aqua fabric with "stitched" purple butterflies
Illustrations:  Bright and dark, completely filling the page with no white!  Heaven!
1st line/s: "Little Maya Morales had a special manta that she loved very much."

My comments:  Another extra-special picture book to love.  And when it starts out with a quilt (or a blanket or manta in this case) made by a child's loving grandmother (abuelita), is bilingual, and is also illustrated by the incredible David Diaz....well, need I say more?  The rich illustrations that spread completely across the page from edge to edge in deep purples, greens, aquas, are wonderful.  The story, based on the Jewish folktale about Joseph and his overcoat, if great fun with repetition that isn't boring.  And in these days of recycling, re-purposing, and DIY, this "hidden" theme takes on new importance. Two thumbs up!

Goodreads:  Little Maya has a special blanket that Grandma stitched with her own two hands. As Maya grows, her blanket becomes worn and frayed, so with Grandma s help, Maya makes it into a dress. Over time the dress is made into a skirt, a shawl, a scarf, a hair ribbon, and finally, a bookmark. Each item has special, magical, meaning for Maya; it animates her adventures, protects her, or helps her in some way. But when Maya loses her bookmark, she preserves her memories by creating a book about her adventures and love of these items. When Maya grows up, she shares her book Maya s Blanket/La manta de Maya with her own little daughter while snuggled under her own special blanket. Inspired by the traditional Yiddish folk song Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl ( I Had a Little Coat ), this delightful bilingual picture book puts a child-focused, Latino spin on the tale of an item that is made into smaller and smaller items. Maya s Blanket/La manta de Maya charmingly brings to life this celebration creativity, recycling, and enduring family love."

20. Mourning Gloria by Andrew Downs

A Leah Hudson Thriller
read on my iPhone
2015, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
308 pgs.
Adult Mystery/FBI
Finished 4-6-17
Goodreads rating: 4.21 - 382 ratings
My rating: 3
Setting: Late 1980s California

First line/s:  "The Good Samaritan was famished...practically starving.  His hunger had been building for weeks, fueled by an insatiable desire, which could only be fulfilled by one thing...the kill."

My comments:       Something was just a little bit of with this book, but I guess I'm going to have to mull a bit to come up with what it might be.  I think it had to do with the characters.  The mystery was pretty decent, the setting - California from LA to San Francisco and in between - is a bit known to me and it worked.
     I used to tell my students when they were learning to write to "show me, don't tell me."  Well, I feel like the characters in Mourning Gloria were told about, not shown.  Either that or the parts about them that were showing didn't totally agree with what the author was telling.  Or something.  Can't quite put my finger on it. Definitely something to do with characterization.  As usual, I hate to say anything negative about an author's hard work, but I'll add more if I figure it out.

Goodreads synopsis:  From The Author Of The Alex Hollick Series Comes A Dark Heart-Pounding Thriller With Brilliant Plotting, Continuous Suspense and a Jaw Dropping Finale! 
          When a murder suspect escapes indictment on a technicality, Agent Leah Hudson is forced to shift her focus to a new task, a cold case. Five years after Gloria Stone disappears, Hudson must piece together the final days of her life, but Gloria was no ordinary girl. Shortly after surviving a brutal gang rape on her twenty-first birthday, the affluent wine heiress vanished, her car abandoned in a supermarket parking lot. 
With the help of her onetime mentor, Hudson retraces the steps of an old investigation, determined to succeed where all others have failed. Making her way through a slew of once discounted suspects, she edges closer to a horrifying truth - Gloria wasn’t alone…there are other victims and a misogynistic serial killer continues to lurk in the shadows of the Central Valley, threatening the lives of young women who fit his sick and twisted M.O. 
          Mourning Gloria brings together the elements of a thriller and a murder-mystery into one bone-chilling tale that examines the darkest depths of human nature. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - My Name is James Madison Hemings by Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Terry Widener
2016, Schwartz & Wade Books
Goodreads rating: 4.26 - 151 ratings
My rating: 5
Endpapers Front:  Brown / Back: Dark Green
Illustrations:  Acrylic on Bristol board.  Fantastic.
1st line/s: "My mother, Sally Hemings, was herself born into slavery, as had been her mother, my grandmother Elizabeth."

My comments:  Here is a picture book for older readers (we need more of them!) that doesn't tiptoe around the truth.  Yippee, Jonah Winters!   Beautifully told from the point-of-view of James Madison Hemings as a child, he tells how he feels to be "owned" by his father, treated a bit better than the other slaves at Monticello, but nowhere near like Jefferson treated his white grandchildren.  Terry Widener's illustrations are right-on, perfect for the text.  Usually Jonah Winter's mother, Jeanette, does his illustrations, but as much as I LOVE her work, I really like the way this book is presented as a whole. It was a brave topic to be tackled for a children's picture book and Jonah Winter did an admirable job.

Goodreads:  Here’s a powerful historical picture book about the child of founding father Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved Sally Hemings. 
          In an evocative first-person account accompanied by exquisite artwork, Winter and Widener tell the story of James Madison Hemings’s childhood at Monticello, and, in doing so, illuminate the many contradictions in Jefferson’s life and legacy. Though Jefferson lived in a mansion, Hemings and his siblings lived in a single room. While Jefferson doted on his white grandchildren, he never showed affection to his enslaved children. Though he kept the Hemings boys from hard field labor—instead sending them to work in the carpentry shop—Jefferson nevertheless listed the children in his “Farm Book” along with the sheep, hogs, and other property. Here is a profound and moving account of one family’s history, which is also America’s history.
          An author's note includes more information about Hemings, Jefferson, and the author's research.

19. Mouse Scouts by Sarah Dillard

1st in a series
Library Book
2016, Alfred A. Knopf
118 pgs.
Fantasy - Anthropomorphism - Early Chapter Book
Finished 4-2-17
Goodreads rating:  3.67 - 123 ratings
My rating: 5
Setting: Contemporary anywhere, USA

First line/s:  "Violet placed her acorn cap on her head.  It made her forehead itch and her ears stick out, but that didn't matter!"

My comments:  There are three reasons that I really like this beginning chapter book.  First, it's about mice that are scouts....every Daisy and Brownie in the US can relate to this, the song, the pledge, the handbook, the uniform (including the acorn hat!).  Second, at the end of each chapter are step-step directions...for kids....about how to go about beginning and growing a garden, including taking care of pests!  It's like a nonfiction book written in fiction form.  I'm not a nonfiction lover, but would sit down to read this informative book in a second as a kid.  And third, I love some of the language that Sarah Dillard uses.  Although written for really young kids, she uses words that can be understood just from the context of the sentence in which they're written.  Looking forward to reading another in this series to see whether she follows the same format, because it's wonderful.

Goodreads synopsis:  Meet Violet, Tigerlily, Hyacinth, Petunia, Junebug, and Cricket, six new Mouse Scouts who are trustworthy and strong, thrifty and brave . . . and destined to be friends to the end! Best friends Violet and Tigerlily can’t wait to start earning their merit badges. But their troop leader, Miss Poppy, is one strict rodent. And earning their first badge—planting a vegetable garden—is hard work. Will the troop drive unwanted pests from the garden and earn their Sow It and Grow It badge? And will they ever get Miss Poppy to smile? 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards

A Story About Knitting and Love
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
2016, Schwartz & Wade Books
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.34 - 386 ratings
My rating:  5 stars
Endpapers:  Front:  vague knit stitches  Back:  the same vague knit stitches plus pompoms!
Hat AND PomPom instructins follow the story...and they're really easy!
1st line/s:  "When Sophia was a tiny baby, Mrs. Goldman next door knit her a tiny baby hat to keep her warm."

My comments:  Okay, I love this book.  LOVE it!  Mrs. Goldman knits hats for everyone she knows, many, many hats.  Sophia tries to knit, but discovers she'd rather make pomp poms for Mrs. Goldman's hats.  She's really good at that, and Mrs. Goldman assures her that it's a mitzvah.  Okay, I'm sold.  Knitting.  Mitzvahs. Hooray!  You could end right there and I'd be happy. But then Sophia discovers that Mrs. Goldman has given her own hat away, and their long winter walks are cold and blow Mrs. Goldman's hair everywhere.  Sophia comes up with a plan....and problem-solves through issues she encounters until the story reaches a very satisfying conclusion.  Bravo!

Goodreads:  Here’s a heartwarming winter picture book that’s sure to appeal to families who love knitting. 
          Mrs. Goldman always knits hats for everyone in the neighborhood, and Sophia, who thinks knitting is too hard, helps by making the pom-poms. But now winter is here, and Mrs. Goldman herself doesn’t have a hat—she’s too busy making hats for everyone else! It’s up to Sophia to buckle down and knit a hat for Mrs. Goldman. But try as Sophia might, the hat turns out lumpy, the stitches aren’t even, and there are holes where there shouldn’t be holes. Sophia is devastated until she gets an idea that will make Mrs. Goldman’s hat the most wonderful of all. Readers both young and old will relate to Sophia’s frustrations, as well as her delight in making something special for someone she loves.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - Egg by Kevin Henkes

Illustrated by the author
2017 Greenwillow Books
HC $17.99
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.97 - 713 ratings
My rating:  4.5
Endpapers: a simple checkerboard of the four pastel colors of the four eggs...looks very Easter-y

My comments: Oh my goodness, what a sweet book!  I didn't know what the surprise would be (I hadn't read any reviews, which are rich with spoilers) and I was really tickled when I got to it.  Simple, charming illustrations using a limited amount of colors AND words ... describing it as a graphic novel for toddlers is perfect.  Perfect and perfectly charming!

Goodreads:  Egg is a graphic novel for preschoolers about four eggs, one big surprise, and an unlikely friendship.

BOARD BOOK - Llama Llama Hoppity-Hop by Anna Dewdney

Illustrated by the author
2012 Viking/Penguin Young Readers
$5.99 - 7 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.89 - 441 ratings
My rating: 5 stars

My comments:  I've not read many board books in my time, and I read this one during our Baby Time at the library this week.  It's absolutely delightful!  Rhyme and rhythm.  Easy actions that kids can do as they read along (hop, jump, thump, touch, tap, clap, stretch, bow and hug!) Perfect.  Simple, sweet, and oh-so-rhythmic. Gotta find some more Llama Llama books!

Llama Llama TOUCH!
Llama Llama TAP!
Llama Llama Red Pajama

Can you move like Llama Llama? Watch Llama hop, stretch, touch, and tap in this third board book by Anna Dewdney. Then you can do it, too!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

BOARD BOOK - Mommies Say Shhh! by Patricia Polacco

Illustrated by the author
2005 Philomel Books, Penguin
Board Book, $6.99
17 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.8 - 264 ratings
My rating: 4

My comments:  Yippee, a Patricia Polacco board book!  My favorite (though 'wordy') picture book writer has a book for little ones!  This 17-page board book,shows one family on their farm with all sorts of animals and is primarily written to show the sounds they make.  (I've never seen dogs who say, "buff, buff, buff," but if you don't like that you can use your own woofs or arfs.)  There are a lot of fun things happening on each two-page spread, and you can even hunt for the different family members as you proceed from page to page.  Fun!

Goodreads:  Goats say “maa-maa-maa.” Birds say “cheep-cheep-cheep.” Horses say “neigh-neigh-neigh.” Rabbits say nothing at all! But when all of these animals get together and raise a honking, braying, neighing ruckus, what does Mama say? “Shhhhhh!” Now available in this adorable board book, Patricia Polacco’s fun-filled collection of animal sounds and beautiful rural landscapes is a perfect readaloud for beginning readers. They’ll want more-more-more.

Board Books

Since I've been preparing to present "Baby Time" at the Library, I've taken a closer look at the board books that are available for babies.  These seem to circulate at the library a LOT!!!  I've always had a few of my own favorites, but think I'll try to take a little closer look for awhile.....

Dewdney, Anna Llama Llama Hoppity-Hop (a rhyming, rhythmic book about movement...clapping, hopping, hugging, etc.)

Man-Kong - Lucky New Year (a pop-up, twirl around, hands-on board book that teaches about the Chinese New Year)

Meyers, Kevin & HailyAll Aboard!  National Parks (a great gift for a new baby that either lives near a national park or has parents that are hikers and explorers.  Parks included:  Acadia, Great Smoky Mountain, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Yellowstone...

Polacco, PatriciaMommies Say Shhh! (a farm animal book with all their sounds and a large family of kids to watch)

Schwartz, Betty - What Makes a Rainbow? (ribbons are included and change as each page is turned...Ella's favorite book when she was 3)

BOARD BOOK - All Aboard! National Parks by Devin & Haily Meyers

Illustrated by Haily Meyers
2016 Gibbs Smith
$9.99 board book
11 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  4.04 - 45 ratings
My rating: 4
Illustrations - Love the colors, errors (see below), but I like them otherwise

My comments:  I don't usually write any kind of review for board books, but I've found a couple today that take exception to that.  I love anything to do with national parks, and that there's a BOARD BOOK for little ones about them is more-than-super.  The colors are great and the illustrations are fun. Although the text is particularly sparse (it is a board book after all), the verbs used are wonderful.... savoring.... marveling at..... surveying.... experiencing.... peering over.....
          There's a map at the end with the locations of the nine parks notated.  Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Zion, Grand Canyon, Olympic, and Yosemite.
          I have two beefs with the illustrations, both of which tend to drive me crazy.  The first - when saguaro cacti are shown where they should not be!  There's not a single saguaro cacti at Grand Canyon National Park.  The closest one can be found in the Sonoran Desert, much to the south.  Secondly, there's a puffin denoting Acadia National Park.  Although I'm sure there are lots of puffins way out on the far outer islands of Maine, you will definitely not see one at Acadia National Park (I lived there for 30 years, so I know that for a fact). It does make me wonder if there are other misrepresentations for other parks in the book.  I know this is probably insignificant for most people, but I do wish it had been researched a little better!

Goodreads:  From the creators of BabyLit®: Every area of the world can be mapped out for adventure, and brilliant babies love the sophistication of traveling by train.
          This new board book series written by the husband and wife team of Haily and Kevin Meyers and illustrated by Haily, celebrates the unique qualities of each city while employing a fun primer element to tell the story. These books will have you and baby seeing the world by train and will turn story time into a globetrotting event. Perfect as a souvenir or as part of a geography collection for brilliant babies, the All Aboard! series will be pulling into your station next!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy by Beatrice Alemagna

Illustrated by the author
2015 Enchanted Lion Books, originally published 2014 in France
40 pgs. - one that opens out
Goodreads rating: 3.61 (470 ratings)
My rating: 4
Endpapers front: shocking pink
Endpapers back:  all the characters
Illustrations: watercolors over line art, some collage

My comments:  What a fun, fanciful story!  There's  a lot to like about this picture book.  I adore the illustrations (always love it when there's a little collage-y touches thrown in, as well as "lines" worked into the overall artwork).  The shocking pink endpapers, continuing into the story, are wonderful, as is the illustration on the closing endpaper.  There's so much to see on every page!  Perfect for five year olds...and four year olds...and six year olds....

Goodreads:  Eddie is five and a half, and thinks she is the only one in her family who isn’t really good at something.  So when she hears her little sister say “birthday—Mommy—fluffy—little—squishy,” it’s extra important for her to find this amazing present before anyone else does.  So, gregarious, charming, clever little Eddie goes all around the neighborhood to all her fabulous friends—the florist, the chic boutique owner, the antiques dealer, and even the intimidating butcher—to find one.  It’s a magical adventure that draws on Eddie’s special gifts, ones that she herself learns to appreciate.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

16 Years Now, I Can't Believe It!

Here's the post I put onto Facebook today:

     16 years ago today the world lost Steve Graves, a particularly good human being. To continue my commitment to making sure he isn't forgotten, I will continue my quest to make a difference in the world   on his behalf. Three years ago I decided to donate $14 to 14 different nonprofits in his memory. For the third year in a row I will do this – give $16 to 16 different nonprofits in his memory. And again, I'm asking anyone who might have known him or anyone who cares about me to take a moment in the next few days to give $16 to someone or somewhere that you think it will do good. And, I'd love to know what you decided to do!
     I miss him. I think of him a lot. I still cry a bit. But I look at the joy and reality of our two children and four grandchildren and continue to feel totally amazed. And grateful.
     If you've read this far, thanks so much for listening to my ramblings. Long live the memory of Steven T. Graves!

People who joined me:
Tamar Kugler (yay, Mika is deciding where!)
Kirstie Dunbar-Kari - a church near her who feeds and shelters the homeless (CA)
Cyra Sadowl - she'll let me know where when she decides
Rebecca Mann - Crohns and Colitis Foundation (go, Sarah!)
Mallory Linscott - New Horizons, Manchester, NH
Ann & Bill Paine - Thomas Promise Fdtn. (FL) Operation Backpack (no child will go hungry over the weekends)
Joan Preble - Ellsworth (ME) Backpack program (feeding kids over the weekend)
Lisa deMuro - Home Cooked Healing, Bar Harbor, ME (feeding cancer patients)
Iris Eichenlaub - Serve-a-Thon - service projects in the Rockland-Camden (ME) area
Chris Coose - He's IN!!!
Jan Ordway - She's in, too!

So let's start donating!

JDRF - Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation - website (in honor of Ashley)
Friends of Acadia - website (Steve loved the carriage paths for running)
Mount Desert Island YMCA - website (where Brendan spends half his life in the pool)
Home Cooked Healing (through Beth C. Wright Cancer Ctr) - website
Ben's Bells, Tucson AZ - website
Heifer International - website
Project Linus - website
Donors Choose - website (I chose to help a middle school reading class in Belfast, ME needing graphic novels)
Donors Choose (a second donation, this time to my friend, Cyra Sadowl, and her school library in Tucson, more books to keep those middle schoolers reading!!)
Days for Girls - website
Planned Parenthood - website
American Red Cross - website (Steve always donated blood - lots of it)
10 books through PaperBackSwap to donate to needy schools ($26.30)
PSA - Science Olympiad Club (Ridvan's Daughter, a branch of SSA) $25.00 (through GoFundMe)
National Foundation for Cancer Research (2017 Carlisle Area Annual Fund Drive)

MOVIE - The Sense of an Ending

Limited release 3/10/17
Viewed Sunday 3/26/17 at The Majestic Theater in Gettysburg
IMBd: 6.8/10
RT Critic:  71  Audience:  55
Critic's Consensus:   Anchored by a strong starring performance by Jim Broadbent, The Sense of an Ending proves consistently gripping even as it skims the narrative surface of its literary source material.
Cag:  4.5  Liked it a whole lot - had to figure out
Directed by Ritesh Batra
CBS Films

James Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Matthew Goode, Emily Mortimer

My comments:  This was a good one, a movie that kept you thinking and guessing and wondering what direction you'd be traveling in next.  Tony's story is told through flashbacks and coming-to-terms with current happenings and mysteries. I could relate to the settings...contemporary times when one is in their 60's and late high school year almost 50 years ago.  I felt it.  I liked it....

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Tony Webster leads a reclusive and quiet existence until long buried secrets from his past force him to face the flawed recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love and the devastating consequences of decisions made a lifetime ago.