Thursday, May 31, 2018

May 2018 Reads


47. The Lovely Wicked Rain by Scott William Carter

#3 Garrison Gage
listened to on Audible
2014 Flying Raven Press
285 pgs.
Adult murder mystery
Finished My 31, 2018
Goodreads rating:  4.16 - 610 ratings
My rating: 4.5 This was a particularly good one, or maybe it was just the mood I was in, but I really liked it a lot.
Setting:

First line/s:  "It was raining.  It was a hard rain.  It was not a drizzle or a mist, so often the case on the Oregon coast, but a loud, powerful, torrential downpour -- rattling the windows that circled the little room, crackling on the aluminum roof a few feet above their heads, rising and falling with the moaning of the wind but never subsiding for long."

My comments:  Excellently plotted mystery with great description and some really funny banter from the protagonist.  Characters were really well drawn and the setting was a huge part of the story.  All the components worked together so well, including an outstanding reader, making a truly mesmerizing story for a lot of hours on the road.  This was thrived in the series and in a way I feel like they're getting even better, though it's been a bit since I read the other two, so this might be just as good - I remember liking them quite well - Garrison Gage, the protagonist, being the hardest person to get to know.  Second only to Virgil Flowers, I think!

Goodreads synopsis:  They find him on the beach, shooting bullets into the sand.
          His name? Jeremiah Cooper, the son of the bullheaded high school football coach. Slight of build, soft of voice, he's got all kinds of torment lurking behind his eyes. But despite Garrison Gage's best efforts, he can't pull the kid out of his shell. Then someone turns up dead at the local community college, and Jeremiah's fragile world shatters.
          Add a crisis in Gage's good friend's life, an ongoing feud with his adopted daughter about her life choices, and a hauntingly beautiful FBI agent with secrets of her own, and it's a lot more drama than a half-retired private investigator with a bum knee wanted. Whatever happened to quiet rainy nights sipping bourbon, watching the sun sink beneath the waves on the Oregon coast, and trying to think of a ten-letter word that means grumpy and glad about it?
          But before Gage can even write the word curmudgeon, he's pulled deeper into Jeremiah's world--a world of sex, secrets, and a sadistic evil that preys on human weakness.

Friday, May 25, 2018

46. The Kurdish Bike: A Novel by Alesa Lightbourne

read on my iPhone
2016, Alesa Lightbourne
324 pgs.
Adult CRF
Finished 5/25/18
Goodread/s rating:   4.4 - 126 ratings
My rating:  3
Contemporary Kurdistan

First line/s:  "Two women laugh exuberantly in a snapshot, their arms around each other, heads close together and aimed toward the camera."

My comments:  This feels like a self-published book, and reads like nonfiction.  There weren't enough details for me.  It was a total "telling," with no "showing."  I couldn't imagine the school, her apartment, the village, the kids.  No showing, only telling.  But was was told was really interesting, though I think it gave me an incomplete picture.  I wanted more, lots more.  Based on a true story and very readable, just lacking the details that I need to form a picture in my head.

Goodreads synopsis: “Courageous teachers wanted to rebuild war-torn nation.” 
          With her marriage over and life gone flat, Theresa Turner responds to an online ad, and lands at a school in Kurdish Iraq. Befriended by a widow in a nearby village, Theresa is embroiled in the joys and agonies of traditional Kurds, especially the women who survived Saddam’s genocide only to be crippled by age-old restrictions, brutality and honor killings. Theresa’s greatest challenge will be balancing respect for cultural values while trying to introduce more enlightened attitudes toward women — at the same time seeking new spiritual dimensions within herself.
 
          The Kurdish Bike is gripping, tender, wry and compassionate — an eye-opener into little-known customs in one of the world’s most explosive regions — a novel of love, betrayal and redemption.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

45. Eyes of the Innocent by Brad Parks

#2 Ross Carter, New Jersey journalist
listened on Audible
2011 Minotaur Books
304 pgs. (9:43)
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished May 24, 2018
Goodreads rating: 3.89 - 741 ratings
My rating:  4
Setting: contemporary Newark , NJ

First line/s:  "I made at least four mistakes that Monday morning, the first of which was going into the office in the first place."

My comments:  I listened to this great narration, whose inflections realized the subtle humor of the protanogist.  Carter is really honest, knowledgeable, smart, and a pretty darn good writer.  Other than the interplay with Tina, one of the editors of the newspaper for which he works, which gets a little tedious, this was a great addition to the series. The mystery comes together well, leaving no questions unanswered.

Goodreads synopsis: Carter Ross, the sometimes-dashing investigative reporter for the Newark Eagle-Examiner, is back, and reporting on the latest tragedy to befall Newark, New Jersey, a fast-moving house fire that kills two boys.
          With the help of the paper’s newest intern, a bubbly blonde known as “Sweet Thang,†Carter finds the victims’ mother, Akilah Harris, who spins a tale of woe about a mortgage rate reset that forced her to work two jobs and leave her young boys without child care. Carter turns in a front-page feature, but soon discovers Akilah isn’t what she seems. And neither is the fire. 
          When Newark councilman Windy Byers is reported missing, it launches Carter into the sordid world of urban house-flipping and Jersey-style political corruption. With his usual mix of humor, compassion, and street smarts, Carter is soon calling on some of his friends—gay Cuban sidekick Tommy Hernandez, T-shirt-selling buddy Tee Jamison, and on-and-off girlfriend Tina Thompson—for help in tracking down the shadowy figure behind it all.   
          Brad Parks’s debut, Faces of the Gone, won the Shamus Award and Nero Award for Best American Mystery. It was heralded as an engaging mix of Harlan Coben and Janet Evanovich. Now Parks solidifies his place as one of the brightest new talents in crime fiction with this authentic, entertaining thriller.

Monday, May 21, 2018

44. Kiss of Fire by Rebecca Ethington

Imdalind #1
read on my iPhone
2012
354 pgs.
YA Dystopia
Finished 5/21/818
Goodreads rating:  4.1 - 8485 reatings
My rating:  3.5

First line/s:  "Everything changed on my fifth birthday while my parents were in the backyard hanging the "Happy Birthday Joclyn" banner that was surrounded by yellow and blue streamers."

My comments:  I purposely didn't closely read the description of the book so that I would have no clue to what was going to happen.  What a perfect decision, the entire story kept me on the edge of my seat and I couldn't wait to get back to it, finishing it in a single day.  It was a pretty decent story, withholding any fantasy or magic until the second half of the book and then the shit really hits the fan!  Interesting world building, but there are six more books in the series - that's too many for me, I think.  It did get a little sluggish in places in the second half, but I'd still consider it a pretty decent read. 

Goodreads synopsis: Joclyn Despain has been marred by a brand on her skin. She doesn't know why the mark appeared on her neck, but she doesn't want anyone to see it, including her best friend Ryland, who knows everything else about her. The scar is the reason she hides herself behind baggy clothes, and won't let the idea of kissing Ryland enter her mind, no matter how much she wants to.
The scar is the reason she is being hunted.
          If only she knew that she was.
          If only she had known that the cursed stone her estranged father sent for her 16th birthday would trigger a change in her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and is miraculously throwing her high school bully ten feet in the air.
          Joclyn attempts to find some answers and the courage to follow her heart. When Ryland finds her scar; only he knows what it means, and who will kill her because of it.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

43. A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong

Casey Duncan (Lost City #2)
read on my iPhone (I listened to the first one...)
2017. Minotaur Books
416 pgs
Finished 5/20/17
Goodreads rating: 4.17 - 4717 ratings
My rating:  4
Setting:  Contemporary - Just below the Arctic Circle, in the forest...

First line/s:  "We've been tracking Shawn Sutherland for almost two hours when the blizzard strikes."

My comments:  The second installment in the Casey Duncan/Eric Dalton mystery series is very similar in style to the first installment, and just as addicting. The setting itself is like another character in the story and though some of the scenes seem a little repetitious, it’s an excellently executed plot. So once again character, setting, and plot and twine together quite well. I’m not a dog lover, and the introduction to the story of a puppy that needs full-time care didn’t quite do it for me, personally – though I bet others will really love it.

Goodreads synopsis: The follow-up to #1 NYT bestseller Kelley Armstrong’s acclaimed City of the Lost, Rockton town detective Casey Duncan makes a terrible—and dangerous—discovery in the woods outside of town.
          When experienced homicide detective Casey Duncan first moved to the secret town of Rockton, she expected a safe haven for people like her, people running from their past misdeeds and past lives. She knew living in Rockton meant living off-the-grid completely: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council’s approval. What she didn’t expect is that Rockton comes with its own set of secrets and dangers.
          Now, in A Darkness Absolute, Casey and her fellow Rockton sheriff’s deputy Will chase a cabin-fevered resident into the woods, where they are stranded in a blizzard. Taking shelter in a cave, they discover a former resident who’s been held captive for over a year. When the bodies of two other women turn up, Casey and her colleagues must find out if it’s an outsider behind the killings or if the answer is more complicated than that...before another victim goes missing.
          Casey Duncan returns in another heart-racing thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong.
 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

MOVIE - Deadpool 2

R (1:59)
Wide release 5/18/18
Viewed 5/19/18
IMBd: 8.1/10
RT Critic:  82  Audience:  86
Critic's Consensus:  Though it threatens to buckle under the weight of its meta gags, Deadpool 2 is a gory, gleeful lampoon of the superhero genre buoyed by Ryan Reynolds' undeniable charm.
Cag:  4/ Liked it a lot
Directed by David Leitch
Twentieth Century Fox

Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin

My comments:  So many funny parts, I tried to ignore all the violence and mayhem because it's so tongue in cheek and laughable.  Some jokes went right over my head, mostly because I couldn't quite understand what was being said.  Ryan Reynolds is such a natural in the part and it was a real blast having Josh Brolin enter the mix.  Music choices were wonderful, and all the additions right up to the very end of the credits were great fun.  Totally packed movie, I got the last seat, but it was smack in the middle of the back row and perfect.  Fun watching it with so many others even if I didn't know any of them!


RT/ IMDb SummaryAfter surviving a near fatal bovine attack, a disfigured cafeteria chef (Wade Wilson) struggles to fulfill his dream of becoming Miami's hottest bartender, while also learning to cope with his lost sense of taste. Searching to regain his spice for life, as well as a flux capacitor, Wade must battle ninjas, the yakuza, and a pack of sexually aggressive canines, as he journeys around the world to discover the importance of family, friendship, and flavor - finding a new taste for adventure and earning the coveted coffee mug title of World's Best Lover.

Friday, May 11, 2018

MOVIE - Life of the Party

PG-13 (1:45)
Wide release 5/11/18
Viewed 5/11/18 in Savannah, on our last night there, with Fran (opening night for this movie, too!)
IMBd:   5.5/10
RT Critic:  38  Audience: 44
Critic's Consensus:  Life of the Party's good-natured humor and abundance of onscreen talent aren't enough to make up for jumbled direction and a script that misses far more often than it hits.
Cag:  3.5 Liked it a lot, for the most part
Directed by Ben Falcone (I think that's Melissa McCarthy's husband)
New Line Cinema
Written by McCarthy & Falcone

Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Julie Bowen

My comments:  Knowing that it would be silly, stupid, and probably very funny in places, Fran and I decided to spend our last evening in Savannah at this movie.  That's exactly what it was:  silly, stupid, and very funny in lots of places.  Laugh really, really loud kind-of-funny.  Some of it was a real hoot.  There were three different scenes, however, that could have certainly been improved - taking out the eye-rolling stupid and continuing with the just-plain fun.  Oh well.


RT/ IMDb Summary:  When her husband suddenly dumps her, longtime dedicated housewife Deanna (McCarthy) turns regret into re-set by going back to college...landing in the same class and school as her daughter, who's not entirely sold on the idea. Plunging headlong into the campus experience, the increasingly outspoken Deanna-now Dee Rock-embraces freedom, fun and frat boys on her own terms, finding her true self in a senior year no one ever expected.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

42. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

read the book AND listened to on Audible...I really tried...
1994
386 pgs.
Adult Nonfiction
Stopped reading in May 8, 2018 after watching the movie and listening AND reading over 200 pages.
Goodreads rating:  3.91 - 186,079 ratings
My rating: 2.5/3ish
Setting: 1990s Savannah, GA

First line/s:  "He was tall, about fifty, with darkly handsome, almost sinister features: a neatly trimmed mustache, hair turning silver at the temples, and eyes so black they were like the tinted windows of a sleek limousine -- he could see out, but you couldn't see in."

My comments:   When this book first came out, everyone raved about it so, even though I have an aversion to nonfiction, I tried it.  I didn't get very far.  Las month, in anticipation of a trip to Savannah, I decided to try it again.  This time I listened to it, and I wonder if perhaps I wouldn't liked it better if I had read it.  I just didn't care for it.  I rented the movie on Amazon shortly before I left...although lots different from the book, I liked it better.

Goodreads synopsis: A sublime and seductive reading experience. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city has become a modern classic.
          Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty, early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.
          It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the "soul of pampered self-absorption"; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight. These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else.

MOVIE - Tully

1:34)R (Rating/Time
Wide release 5/4/18
Viewed 5/8/18 in a theater just outside Savannah, GA with Fran and Sheila
IMBd:   7.4/10
RT Critic:  87  Audience:  75
Critic's Consensus:  Tully delves into the modern parenthood experience with an admirably deft blend of humor and raw honesty, brought to life by an outstanding performance by Charlize Theron.
Cag:  3/Liked it, but it was too unsettling for me, never fully embraced it....it was considered a "comedy" and I disagree...
Directed by Jason Reitman
Focus Features

Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass, Ron Livingston

My comments: A movie about postpartum depression.  I guess I can't say I 100% liked this movie, although Charlize Theron was awesome ... as was the entire cast.  I feel really unsettled about it.  The first quarter of the movie for me was sort of slow moving, maybe even boring, and then when the nanny was introduced things seemed a little too weird to be anywhere near normal.  At first I thought the feeling I had was discomfort, but I think it was more just that it was unsettling.  The surprise ending made lots of puzzle pieces fit together, but I think I wouldn't liked to know the "surprise" a little bit sooner.  


RT/ IMDb Summary:   The film is about Marlo, a mother of three including a newborn, who is gifted a night nanny by her brother. Hesitant to the extravagance at first, Marlo comes to form a unique bond with the thoughtful, surprising, and sometimes challenging young nanny named Tully.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

MOVIE - I Feel Pretty

PG-13 (1:50)
Wide release 4/20/18, to disc & streaming July 17, 2018
Viewed May 3. 2018
RT Critic:  34  Audience:  34
Critic's Consensus:  I Feel Prettyhas a charming star and the outline of a worthwhile comedy -- but unlike its suddenly confident central character, it suffers from a fundamental lack of conviction.
Cag:  3.5 Liked it
Directed by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein
Studio STXfilms

Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel

My comments:  With the fabulous Amy Schumer!  Fun and funny and sweet and poignanat and all sorts of things, this was a totally enjoyable movie tied up in a big red bow.  The world has to stop judging everybody on how they look and concentrate more on how they act and think.  And the point of the whole movie:  it has to start with ourselves! 
 




RT/ IMDb Summary In I FEEL PRETTY a woman who struggles with feelings of deep insecurity and low self-esteem, that hold her back everyday, wakes from a brutal fall in an exercise class believing she is suddenly a supermodel. With this newfound confidence she is empowered to live her life fearlessly and flawlessly, but what will happen when she realizes her appearance never changed?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

41. Crime on the Fens by Joy Ellis

DI Nikki Galena #1
listened on Audible
2010 Joffe Books
285 pgs.
Adult Mystery - Police Procedural
Finished 5/1/18
Goodreads rating:  4.19 - 3407 ratings
My rating:  3.5
Setting: Contemporary Lincolnshire, England

First line/s:  "A night wind blew along the alleyway, bringing with it the smell of ozone and red diesel. Nikki Galena leaned back against the rough brickwork of the derelict warehouse and wondered how many other women of thirty-six would feel quite so comfortable in such unpleasant surroundings."

My comments:  Read with a thick lilt and including a few references I was unsure of, (the cabra?  Cabra?  since I read it I didn't know if it was a proper noun place or an improper noun place) I enjoyed this mystery (not loved, but liked). Perhaps not the most exciting or surprising that I've ever read, but entertaining nonetheless, more in the characterizations than anything else.

Goodreads synopsis: 
THE DETECTIVE DI Nikki Galena: A police detective with nothing left to lose, she’s seen a girl die in her arms, and her daughter will never leave the hospital again. She’s got tough on the criminals she believes did this to her. Too tough. And now she’s been given one final warning: make it work with her new sergeant, DS Joseph Easter, or she’s out. 
HER PARTNER DS Joseph Easter is the handsome squeaky-clean new member of the team. But his nickname “Holy Joe” belies his former life as a soldier. He has an estranged daughter who blames him for everything that went wrong with their family. 
THEIR ADVERSARY is a ruthless man who holds DI Galena responsible for his terrible disfigurement. 
The town is being terrorised by gangs of violent thugs, all wearing identical hideous masks. Then a talented young female student goes missing on the marsh and Nikki and Joseph find themselves joining forces with a master criminal in their efforts to save her. They need to look behind the masks, but when they do, they find something more sinister and deadly than they ever expected . . . 
THE SETTING
The Lincolnshire Fens: great open skies brood over marshes, farmland, and nature reserves. It is not easy terrain for the Fenland Constabulary to police, due to the distances between some of the remote Fen villages, the dangerous and often misty lanes, and the poor telephone coverage. There are still villages where the oldest residents have never set foot outside their own farmland and a visit to the nearest town is a major event. But it has a strange airy beauty to it, and above it all are the biggest skies you’ve ever seen.