Friday, August 31, 2018

88. In Dark Company by Linda Castillo

#9.5 Kate Burkholder aka Burkholder super-short story....
read on my iPhone
2018 Minotaur Books
60 pgs.
Adult Mystery Novella
Finished 8/31/18
Goodreads rating:  4.18 - 435 ratings
My rating: 2.5
Setting: contemporary Painters Mill, Ohio

First line/s:  "He was going to kill her."

My comments:  This one introduces Linda Castillo's reading community to the Hutterites, a division of Anabaptists like Amish and Mennonite.  About six months ago I watched a YouTube documentary about them which I found interesting and disconcerting.  The biggest difference between Hutterites and the Amish is that the Hutterites live communally and are mainly located in Canada.  This short story does not include a murder, but amnesia, assault, and robbery instead.  Very simplistic but interesting in its way.

Goodreads synopsis:  From the New York Times bestselling author of DOWN A DARK ROAD comes Linda Castillo's IN DARK COMPANY: a short story about an injured young woman with amnesia who seeks Chief of Police Kate Burkholder’s help to remember her identity—and her attacker. 
          It’s the middle of the night in Painters Mill, and Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called to a scene where a mysterious young woman, battered and terrified, has sought shelter at an Amish farmhouse. She can’t remember her name or where she’s from, but she knows one thing: someone was trying to kill her. Kate suspects that “Jane Doe” remembers more than she’s letting on, but when Jane is attacked again on Kate’s watch, Kate resolves to find the truth. As Jane’s memories start flooding back and Kate dives deeper into her murky past, they must race to discover what Jane was running from—and who is still pursuing her.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

87 Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke

read on my iPhone
2018, Clarion
420 pgs.
YA CRF
Finished 8/30/18
Goodreads rating:  3.97 - 1887 ratings
My rating:  3
Setting: contemporary anywhere, usa
First line/s:  "I'm not a particularl;y good daughter, but I sat through a month of therapy for my parents' sake."

My comments: I don't know why I didn't like this more than I did.  It was written in an interesting way - somewhat like a script or a play, much of the time.  It was about teenage angst, normal and abnormal.  It was about faith and religion, friendship and family, who-cares-what-anyone-thinks, and uncertainty.  And although I hate reality TV, this was a fun way to go about telling the story of a troubled teen.  Maybe there just seems to be too much overtelling in places, or that sometimes it rambled too much?

Goodreads synopsis:  The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.
           Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don't know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she'll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.
           As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She'll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

86. Amish Renegade by Rose Doss

read on my iPhone
Independently published in 2018
190 pgs.
Amish Romance
Finished 8/29/18
Goodreads rating:  4.48 - 46 ratings
My rating: 3
Setting:

First line/s:  "Kate Beiler clutched at the small, warm hand of the girl she'd raised since her marriage, numbness gripping her as she stood facing the plain wooden coffins in front of her."

My comments: This latest Amish story seemed a little bit more real to me.  It spoke more of feelings vs. suppressing them.  I think the strongest realization that has come from reading these stories is that Amish suppress feelings, don't talk to each other about anything of importance - everything is "what you see is what you get" and led by God's will, which is pretty much interpreted by the men of the congregation,  This particular story included real human feelings which the two protagonists , because of their teachings and upbringing, didn't really know how to handle well.  There is so much repetition in these books that the real meat of the story could probably be told in one chapter, as a short story, but when I get around all of that this one has appealed to me more than the others.  It actually speaks about love for another human being, which I haven't seen or even felt much in previous books of this type. 

Goodreads synopsis:  Kate must ask her first love to marry her even though she later married another man! When Kate’s only financial support dies in a buggy accident along with her beloved parents, widowed Kate Bieler must find refuge for herself and the young child of her deceased husband. Refusing the bishop’s suggestion that she marry his teenaged son, she very reluctantly asks the only other single Mann in their small Amish settlement to marry her. Unfortunately, Kate and Enoch Miller share a conflicted past. When she went on rumspringa against his wishes, he cut communication and their courtship ceased. Distressed and angry, Kate then married another Mann…but she never stopped loving Enoch. When widowed shortly later, after praying to Gott, she knows she must ask Enoch to marry her and take in the child of the Mann she’d married instead of Enoch. 
          Agreeing to this, Enoch angrily—and out of a deep hurt—deviously determines to make Kate pay. Only he ends up again falling in love with her…and the child of his rival that she brings with her. Can they find the love they once lost? 

Monday, August 27, 2018

85. The Secret by Beverly Lewis

Seasons of Grace #1
read on my iPhone
2009 Bethany House Publishers
364 pgs.
Adult Amish Romance
Finished 8/27/18
Goodreads rating:  4.04 - 5894 ratings
My rating: 2.5
Setting: Contemporary PA Dutch country

First line/s:  "Honestly, I thought the worst was past."

My comments:  This is one heck of a long, drawn out story, so long and drawn out that it became quite boring.  It's the first of the series and leaves you pretty much hanging at the end.  I think the series is three books - books which could have been made into just one of the smae length.  It sure needed chopping!  And for being such a close knit clan/community, no one ever - EVER - really talks to each other or shares anything of any kind of importance.  Crazy.  They sure know how to gossip, though.  Is this what the AMish community is really like?  I'd love to find out what will happen to the three major portagonists but I refuse to spend the time....

Goodreads synopsis:  In the seemingly ordinary Amish home of Grace Byler, secrets abound. Why does her mother weep in the night? Why does her father refuse to admit something is dreadfully wrong? Then, in one startling moment, everything Grace assumed she knew is shattered. Her mother's disappearance leaves Grace reeling and unable to keep her betrothal promise to her long-time beau. Left to pick up the pieces of her life, Grace questions all she has been taught about love, family, and commitment.
          Heather Nelson is an English grad student, stunned by a doctor's diagnosis. Surely fate would not allow her father to lose his only daughter after the death of his wife a few years before. In denial and telling no one she is terminally ill, Heather travels to Lancaster County--the last place she and her mother had visited together. Will Heather find healing for body and spirit?
          As the lives of four wounded souls begin to weave together like an Amish patchwork quilt, they each discover missing pieces of their life puzzles--and glimpse the merciful and loving hand of God.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

My Amish "KICK" - What is it about this genre of Amish Christian Fiction?

It's no secret that I'm fascinated with the simple life of the Amish, I think it's a fascination of anyone that knows of this religion/sect/cult, especially if you're enchanted with living 200 years in the past and love history and Colonial Williamsburg, Sturbridge Village, and other such historical places.  Being a raised-in-the-church Protestant, past Sunday School superintendent, and now-Atheist, I am also fascinated with the religious beliefs of the Amish people.

(Note:  for Amish NON-Christian mysteries, etc., see the bottom of the page.)

I've decided to read some of the different authors and check out different aspects of the novels.
My criteria:

Setting:
Protagonist/s:
Patriarchal/Male dominated beliefs:
The BISHOP:
God and the Bible:
Relationship with the English:
Modern conveniences:
Why readers might enjoy this genre (Amish Christian romance):
Questions?
My rating:
In general:

Authors:
Cameron - A Road Unknown, 2014 (3.5)
Doss, Rose - Amish Renegade, 2018 (3)
Lewis, Beverly - The Secret, 2009 (2.5)
..........................The Shunning, 1997 (1)
Newport, Olivia - Accidentally Amish, 2012 (3)
Price - Fields of Corn, 2010 (2)

Movies (all described below):
Saving Sarah Cain, 2007

1.  Fields of Corn by Sarah Price, 2010 (read July, 2018)
Setting: Leola, PA
Protagonist/s: Shana Slater, Englisher turned Amish
Patriarchal/Male dominated beliefs: VERY MUCH SO
The BISHOP: Not offensive that I can recall
God and the Bible:  Lots, the idea that everything is "God's will" is stated over and over
Relationship with the English: some trepidation
Modern conveniences: The Amish family rented out a small guest house to an Englisher, with electricity (which seems a little improbable to me...)
Why readers might enjoy this genre (Amish Christian romance): Romance, non-Amish girl falls in love with Amish boy and changes everything in her life for him.  First 3/4 of the book is okay, but the last quarter...
Questions? The young man in this story at first made consessions to Shana, but rapidly pushed her to his whim, and then became almost like a different person when he dug his heels in as the patriarchal head.  It didn't fit with the person that began the book.
My rating: 2
In general:  The last quarter of the book really set my feminist teeth grinding....yuck!


2.  A Road Unknown by Barbara Cameron, 2014 (read August, 2018)
Setting: Paradise, PA (and Goshen, Indiana)
Protagonist/s:  Elizabeth B
Patriarchal/Male dominated beliefs: not particularly
The BISHOP:  Not a nice guy
God and the Bible: not a big part of the book
Relationship with the English: positive, they run a touristy gift shop in Lancaster County
Modern conveniences:  cell phones, hire drivers to get around even locally much of the time
Information that teaches of Amish ways?  Yes...
Why readers might enjoy this genre (Amish Christian romance): a super clean romance without a whole lot of religion shoved down your throat....
Questions?  The Amish celebrate Thanksgiving?
My rating:  3.5
In general:  Didn't make the hairs on the back of my neck stick up!

MOVIE:  Saving Sarah Cain 
2007, PG (1:43) directed by Michael Landon, Jr. RT Audience:  73% Borrowed from Bosler Library
RT Summary:  A well-meaning but self-centered newspaper columnist learns the importance of placing career before family when her sister dies and she brings her late sibling's five Amish-raised children to live with her in the big city. There was a time when Sarah Cain was one of the city's best-known writers, but these days she seems to have lost her touch. When Sarah's sister Ivy dies and the writer is suddenly saddled with five children who aren't accustomed to city life, her editor urges her to document the unique experience in her column. As a result, Sarah once again finds the success that has eluded her for so long - but her time in the spotlight yields some unexpected consequences. When the children find out that Sarah has exploiting the situation to bolster her readership, they feel so devastated and betrayed that they demand to be placed with a new foster family.
Setting:  Lancaster County, PA (and Portland, Oregon)
Protagonist/s: Sarah Cain, an Englisher, and her five orphaned Amish nieces and nephews
Patriarchal/Male dominated beliefs: No
The BISHOP: Unimportant
God and the Bible: Hardly any
Relationship with the English: Weird...they let those kids be taken off by this unknown aunt without any fight at all....this doesn't fit with any of the information I have, to date, about what would really happen...
Modern conveniences: No, but the homes are really big and spacious and well-lit, which isn't how I picture Amish homes.
Why readers might enjoy this genre (Amish Christian romance):  It's a fun story.
Questions? Lots.  This is definitely a movie made for the general population...sad but light, with beautiful people
My rating: 3
In general: Entertaining, like a Hallmark movie that didn't actually turn my stomach.

3.  Accidentally Amish by Olivia Newport, 2012 (read August 2018)
Unfortunately, I'm entering this quite awhile after reading it, so the nitty gritties are forgotten...I rated it a 3.
My review/comments:  The first in a series of three that follow Analise/Annie into the Amish life.  The reality is that she fell for an Amish guy and because of her high-powered , crazy life she is ready for some simplicity.  Only a little is mentioned about faith and God, so I can totally believe that she thinks she might be able to deal with/handle this incredible life change because she's in love.  So, thus far, it's been fairly believable.  However, for her to ever follow this lifestyle for the rest of her life, she's going to have to become like a "born-again" and I think that would drive me -- and her -- absolutely nuts AND be hard to believe.  Yes, all that sort of think is nonsense to me....
     So will I read on?  Doubt it greatly.

4.  The Secret - Beverly Lewis - 2009 (read August, 2018) rated 2.5
This is one heck of a long, drawn out story, so long and drawn out that it became quite boring.  It's the first of the series and leaves you pretty much hanging at the end.  I think the series is three books - books which could have been made into just one of the same length.  It sure needed chopping!  And for being such a close knit clan/community, no one ever - EVER - really talks to each other or shares anything of any kind of importance.  Crazy.  They sure know how to gossip, though.  Is this what the Amish community is really like?  I'd love to find out what will happen to the three major protagonists but I refuse to spend the time....

5.  Amish Renegade  - Rose Doss 2018 rated 3
My comments: This latest Amish story seemed a little bit more real to me.  It spoke more of feelings vs. suppressing them.  I think the strongest realization that has come from reading these stories is that Amish suppress feelings, don't talk to each other about anything of importance - everything is "what you see is what you get" and led by God's will, which is pretty much interpreted by the men of the congregation,  This particular story included real human feelings which the two protagonists , because of their teachings and upbringing, didn't really know how to handle well.  There is so much repetition in these books that the real meat of the story could probably be told in one chapter, as a short story, but when I get around all of that this one has appealed to me more than the others.  It actually speaks about love for another human being, which I haven't seen or even felt much in previous books of this type.

Amish Mysteries written from the point-of-view of outside the Amish community:

Hopkins, Karen Ann
     Sheriff Serenity Adams, Blood Rock, Indiana
     #1:  Lamb to the Slaughter, 2014 (3)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

84. Accidentally Amish by Olivia Newport

Valley of Choice #1
read on my iPhone
2012 Shiloh Run Press
368 pgs.
Adult Amish romance
Finished 8/25/18
Goodreads rating:  4.15 - 1015 ratings
My rating:  3
Setting: Contemporary Colorado Amish community

First line/s:  "His kiss was firm and lingering as he cradled her head in one broad palm."

My comments:  The first in a series of three that follow Analise/Annie into the Amish life.  The reality is that she fell for an Amish guy and because of her high-powered , crazy life she is ready for some simplicity.  Only a little is mentioned about faith and God, so I can totally believe that she thinks she might be able to deal with/handle this incredible life change because she's in love.  So, thus far, it's been fairly believable.  However, for her to ever follow this lifestyle for the rest of her life, she's going to have to become like a "born-again" and I think that would drive me -- and her -- absolutely nuts AND be hard to believe.  Yes, all that sort of think is nonsense to me....
     So will I read on?  Doubt it greatly.

Goodreads synopsis:  Escape the helter-skelter of the modern culture and join software creator Annie Friesen, hiding at the home of an Amishman. With her high-tech career in jeopardy, Annie runs from fast-paced Colorado Springs—and straight into the hospitality of San Luis Valley’s Amish community. There she meets cabinetmaker Rufus Beiler, and the more time she spends with him, the more attracted she becomes. When Annie finds she shares a common ancestor with Rufus, she feels both cultures colliding within her. But is her love for Rufus strong enough for her to give up the only life she’s ever known?

Friday, August 24, 2018

83. Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne

#1 Jessica Blackwood, FBI agent and magician
read on my iPhone
2014 Bourbon Street Books
368 pgs.
Adult murder mystery/police procedural
Finished 8/24/18
Goodreads rating:  4.02 - 2604 ratings
My rating: 4
Setting: contemporary spots in the US

First line/s:  " 'You're going to die.' I tell her this not to be cruel, but out of compassion."

My comments:  Well, that was a fascinating book.  After enjoying a couple of books by Andrew Mayne about Professor Theo Cray and his somewhat outlandish escapades, I thought I'd try this book about a female FBI agent who is also a talented magician.  I couldn't put it down.  A magician definitely wrote this book, and although I am not a big fan of magic, I've become a big fan of Andrew Mayne, also a magician in "real life."  Looking forward to the next Jessica Blackwood.

Goodreads synopsis:  FBI agent Jessica Blackwood believes she's left her complicated life as a gifted magician behind her . . . until a killer with seemingly supernatural powers puts her talents to the ultimate test.
          A hacker who identifies himself only as "Warlock" brings down the FBI's website and posts a code in its place that leads to a Michigan cemetery, where a dead girl is discovered rising from the ground . . . as if she tried to crawl out of her own grave.
          Born into a dynasty of illusionists, Jessica Blackwood is destined to become its next star—until she turns her back on her troubled family to begin a new life in law enforcement. But FBI consultant Dr. Jeffrey Ailes's discovery of an old magic magazine will turn Jessica's world upside down. Faced with a crime that appears beyond explanation, Ailes has nothing to lose—and everything to gain—by taking a chance on an agent raised in a world devoted to achieving the seemingly impossible.
          The body in the cemetery is only the first in the Warlock's series of dark miracles. Thrust into the media spotlight, with time ticking away until the next crime, can Jessica confront her past to stop a depraved killer? If she can't, she may become his next victim.
 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

MOVIE - Ant Man and the Wasp

PG-13 (1:58)
Wide release 7/6/18
Viewed Thursday, 8/23/18 at Hanover Theater
IMBd: 
RT Critic:  88  Audience:  77
Critic's Consensus:  A lighter, brighter superhero movie powered by the effortless charisma of Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly, Ant-Man and The Wasp offers a much-needed MCU palate cleanser.
Cag:  4/Liked it a lot
Directed by Peyton Reed
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins

My comments:  Very funny, very fun movie, though not at all relaxing to watch!  The cast is wonderful.  The ending/s which correspond to the ending of the Avengers which came out just about the same time, left me with a huge "WHAT????"

RT/ IMDb Summary  From the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes a new chapter featuring heroes with the astonishing ability to shrink: "Ant-Man and The Wasp." In the aftermath of "Captain America: Civil War," Scott Lang (Rudd) grapples with the consequences of his choices as both a Super Hero and a father. As he struggles to rebalance his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, he's confronted by Hope van Dyne (Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Douglas) with an urgent new mission. Scott must once again put on the suit and learn to fight alongside The Wasp as the team works together to uncover secrets from their past.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Baked Oatmeal Cups

Baked oatmeal cups on a platter topped with maple syrup, berries and mint.

BAKED OATMEAL CUPS

These baked oatmeal cups are a grab and go breakfast made with oats, milk, brown sugar and eggs. Top your oatmeal muffins with maple syrup and fresh fruit for a wholesome and filling meal!
 Servings 6 (2 muffins)
 Calories 319 kcal
 Author Dinner at the Zoo - THANKS SO MUCH!!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • cooking spray
  • maple syrup and berries for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the wells of a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Dump everything into a mixing bowl and stir until well blended.
  3. Spoon the oatmeal mixture into the prepared muffin tin.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a baking rack to cool.
  5. Serve, topped with maple syrup and berries if desired.

Recipe Notes

  1. Oatmeal cups can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  2. For freezer storage, place the oatmeal cups on a parchment lined sheet pan, then freeze until solid. Transfer the oatmeal cups to a freezer bag for longer term storage.
  3. To reheat, microwave an oatmeal cup for 20-30 seconds.
  4. Try adding/substituting:          
  5. Orange or lemon zest
  6. Almond or coconut milk
  7. Fresh fruit
  8. Chocolate chips
  9. Coconut
  10. Raisins
Nutrition Facts
Baked Oatmeal Cups
Amount Per Serving
Calories 319Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 5g25%
Cholesterol 75mg25%
Sodium 103mg4%
Potassium 346mg10%
Total Carbohydrates 45g15%
Dietary Fiber 4g16%
Sugars 17g
Protein 9g18%
Vitamin A7.1%
Vitamin C0.2%
Calcium13.9%
Iron12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

82. The Dime by Kathleen Kent

#1 in Betty Rhyzyk, Dallas narcotics cop - #2, The Kiln, will be published in the spring of 2019
listened to Audio - borrowed from Pima Library
2017 Mulholland Books
352 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery/Police Procedural
Finished 8/19/18
Goodreads rating: 3.81 - 1051 ratings
My rating:  4
Setting:  Contemporary Dallas, Texas

First line/s:  "From my position in the hallway - on my ass, head pressed against the door frame, legs drawn up with my gun two-handed against my sternum - I try to recall the layout of the room: three sets of bunk beds, four corpses sprawled across bloody sheets, my partner, shot three times, lying motionless by the nearest bunk, and, somewhere in there, one lunatic, a screaming infant in one hand and a semiautomatic pistol in the other."

My comments:  This looks like the beginning of another decent murder mystery/police procedural series!  Female protagonist who is also a lesbian.  5 foot 11, strong, red-haired, and smart.  Although she's from Brooklyn, which the author uses as a bit of the setting in reminisces, her new home in Dallas is a large part of the story.  Killing off the good guys doesn't phase this author, and much of the action is pretty violent.  That said, I still look forward to a second installment!

Goodreads synopsis:  Brooklyn's toughest female detective takes on Dallas-and neither is ready for the fight.
          Dallas, Texas is not for the faint of heart. Good thing for Betty Rhyzyk she's from a family of take-no-prisoners Brooklyn police detectives. But her Big Apple wisdom will only get her so far when she relocates to The Big D, where Mexican drug cartels and cult leaders, deadbeat skells and society wives all battle for sunbaked turf.
          Betty is as tough as the best of them, but she's deeply shaken when her first investigation goes sideways. Battling a group of unruly subordinates, a persistent stalker, a formidable criminal organization, and an unsupportive girlfriend, the unbreakable Detective Betty Rhyzyk may be reaching her limit. 
NOTE:  I do not agree that Betty's girlfriend is unsupported, this simply isn't true!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

81. Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

read on my iPhone
2017 Viking Books for Young Readers
368 pgs.
YA CRF
Finished 8/18/18
Goodreads rating:  4.22 - 1251 ratings
My rating: 4
Setting:  The woods of northern Ontario, Canada

First line/s:  "Dear mom,  Thanks.  Really.  I can't wait for this tiny excuse for an airplane to take off into the sky, and then deliver me into the dismal middle of nowhere."

My comments:  I do enjoy these books that put the protagonist ubri a summer camp/survival situation, a sort of upward/outward bound of staggering proportions.  This is the second one I've read this year, but very different from Wild Bird (Van Draanen).  It's told by slipping back and forth between the three-week tough hiking/survival experience and Ingrid's life, which is entirely dependent upon and wrapped up by and with her mother.  A few interesting twists and turns, though not especially unexpected, add to the story, which is set in the forests of northern Ontario, Canada.  And I really did read this in one long sitting!

Goodreads synopsis:  Wild meets The Breakfast Club in this story of a girl who must survive an extreme wilderness experience to prove to her mother that she has the strength to pursue her dreams.
Then 
Ingrid traveled all over Europe with her opera star mother, Margot-Sophia. Life was beautiful and bright, and every day soared with music.
Now 
Ingrid is on a summertime wilderness survival trek for at-risk teens: addicts, runaways, and her. She’s fighting to survive crushing humiliations, physical challenges that push her to her limits, and mind games that threaten to break her.
Then 
When the curtain fell on Margot-Sophia’s singing career, they buried the past and settled into a small, painfully normal life. But Ingrid longed to let the music soar again. She wanted it so much that, for a while, nothing else mattered.
Now 
Ingrid is never going to make it through this summer if she can’t figure out why she’s here . . . and why the music really stopped.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

MOVIE - Three Identical Strangers

PG-13 (1:36)
Limited release 6/29/17
Viewed 8/16/18 with Sandy at Carlisle Theater
IMBd:  7.7
RT Critic: 96   Audience:  88
Critic's Consensus:  Surreal and surprising, Three Identical Strangers effectively questions the nature of reality and identity.
Cag:  3.5
Directed by Tim Wardle
NEON

My comments:  A documentary that starts out with great exuberance and gets darker and darker as the layers of these three guys' stories are peeled.  Nature versus nurture.  Three identical triplets, separated at birth ... what happens when they "meet" each other 20 years later?  A true story.  I had no idea going into this that it was a documentary or any idea about anything other than that it was about triplets, which added to the experience.  Quite fascinating, actually.

RT/ IMDb Summary  Three strangers are reunited by astonishing coincidence after being born identical triplets, separated at birth, and adopted by three different families. Their jaw-dropping, feel-good story instantly becomes a global sensation complete with fame and celebrity, however, the fairy-tale reunion sets in motion a series of events that unearth an unimaginable secret -- a secret with radical repercussions for us all.

80. A Road Unknown - Barbara Cameron

read on my iPhone
2014 Abingdon Press
304 pgs.
Adult Amish Fiction
Finished August 16, 2018
Goodreads rating:  4.3 - 214 ratings
My rating:  3.5
Setting:  Contemporary Paradise, Lancaster County, PA

First line/s:  "Some people say that if you look at a map of Goshen, Indiana, you'd see almost all Amish country roads lead into the town."

My comments:  My second foray into Amish literature, a bit of a better choice than the first.  A young woman in her very early 20s flees her home and family in Goshen, Indiana, because, as the eldest of eight, all she does is care for her siblings.  She does not depart from the Amish way of life, but does travel by bus to Paradise, Pennsylvania, to share a small apartment with an Englisher. She soon finds a job in an Amish gift shop, run by a young Amish man she met on the bus. These are not the super-strict Amish, but a sect that hires drivers to transport them from place to place when needed and even carry a phone.  Part of the plot it about "dating," all very understated, and I think this is a pretty reasonable depiction of some of the Amish's way of life in Lancaster County.

Goodreads synopsis:  Elizabeth is at a crossroad. Will rumschpringe lead her away? Or bring her home?
          She's been given the chance to experience life outside of her community, away from the responsibility to care for her eight younger siblings, but Elizabeth Bontrager can't decide which road to take. Goshen has its charms and pressures, but Paradise, Pennsylvania, sounds . . . well, like paradise. And it's also home to her Englisch friend, Paula. Decision made. Elizabeth is Paradise bound.
          But will the small town live up to its name? When Elizabeth meets Paula's friend, Bruce, she quickly learns he wants more than a friendship. And the same might be true of Saul Miller, her new boss at the country story that sells Amish products to the Englisch community. As the two compete for her attention, Elizabeth is surprised to realize she misses her family and becomes even more uncertain about where she belongs. She has a choice to make: return home or embrace this new life and possibly a new love?

Monday, August 13, 2018

79. The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh

read on my iPhone
2017, Eco
382 pgs.
Adult Mystery
Finished August 13, 2018
Goodreads rating:  3.73 - 4054 rtings
My rating:  4
Setting: Contemporary rural east Texas, middle of nowhere

First line/s:  "She's old enough, at thirty-six, to remember flashes of other places, other lives, but her son is only eight years old, which means he was born right here in the Blinds."

My comments:  For the first half of this book I kept comparing it to City of the Lost, which I read a few months ago and very much enjoyed.  I kept wondering which one had been written first.  Copy cat?  It appears that this one was written about a year after City of the Lost.  But after the first half, comparisons were less and less relevant, the story taking its own quirky turns.  Or, twists and turns, I guess I should say!  I was certainly kept on the edge of my seat, and read the whole book in pretty much one big swallow.

Goodreads synopsis:  A blistering thriller from the Edgar-nominated author of Shovel Ready—a speculative modern Western with elements of Cormac McCarthy, Jim Thompson, and the Coen brothers that is wickedly funny, razor-sharp, and totally engrossing
          Imagine a place populated by criminals-people plucked from their lives, with their memories altered, who’ve been granted new identities and a second chance. Welcome to The Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by misfits who don’t know if they’ve perpetrated a crime, or just witnessed one. What’s clear to them is that if they leave, they will end up dead. 
          For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace—but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town’s residents revolt. Cooper has his own secrets to protect, so when his new deputy starts digging, he needs to keep one step ahead of her—and the mysterious outsiders who threaten to tear the whole place down. The more he learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway. It’s simmering with violence and deception, aching heartbreak and dark betrayals.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

MOVIE - The Spy Who Dumped Me

R (1:16)
Wide release 8/3/18
Viewed 8/12/18
IMBd:  6/10
RT Critic:  49   Audience:  61
Critic's Consensus:  The Spy Who Dumped Me isn't the funniest or most inventive spy comedy, but Kate McKinnon remains as compulsively watchable as ever.
Cag:  2.5 (Not a total waste of time...)
Directed by Susanna Fogel
Lionsgate

Mila Lunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux

My comments:  Really, really stupid with lots of funny parts.  I couldn't STAND Kate McKinnon - the part she played or her acting.  I can't say it was a total waste of time, but close.

RT/ IMDb Summary  Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon), two thirty-year-old best friends in Los Angeles, are thrust unexpectedly into an international conspiracy when Audrey's ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment with a team of deadly assassins on his trail. Surprising even themselves, the duo jump into action, on the run throughout Europe from assassins and a suspicious-but-charming British agent, as they hatch a plan to save the world.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

78. Spectre Black by J. Carson Black

Cyril Landry #3
listened on Audible
2015 Thomas & Mercer
304 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished August 11, 2018
Goodreads rating:  3.71 - 317 ratings
My rating:  3.5
Setting: contemporary southern New Mexico

First line/s:  "Jolie Burke heard something.

My comments:  This third entry into the Cyril Landry saga is set in southern New Mexico and involves Jolie Burke, who Landry has partnered with in books one and two  They are taking on a disrupt sheriff, sheriff's department, and local rich guy/bud guy, his schizophrenic, bipolar son and just-plain-nuts FBI agent daughter.  There are definitely shades of the ridiculous - painting vehicles with some sort of stealth paint that makes them invisible as they roar down the road - but it suits the purposes of the story.  Cyril's seemingly unending cash flow and friends in the right places, along with his military prowess serve him well - there would be no story without any of it!  It's certainly entertaining, once you suspend too much questioning.

Goodreads synopsis:  When homicide detective Jolie Burke awakens to intruders in the dark of night, she’s forced to flee. Jolie’s nobody’s victim, but she cannot fight this faceless enemy alone. She reaches out to Cyril Landry, the ex–Navy SEAL who is long on special-ops skills and short on patience. He suffers no fools—ever. But when Landry rolls into Branch, New Mexico, Jolie is gone, and there’s nothing waiting for him but trouble.
          As Landry hunts for Jolie, he becomes immersed in a quagmire of corruption—a toxic brew of graft, homicide, and the ominous shape of something much bigger. Framed for murder and dodging a sexy FBI agent and a suspicious sheriff, Landry finds himself pitted against a psychopath with secrets even blacker than his sinister sports car. Now Landry’s on a double-barreled mission: reach Jolie before the killers do and dig up some dirt on his enemies before they get the chance to dig his grave.

Friday, August 10, 2018

77. Front Desk by Kelly Yang

read on my iPhone - eBook borrowed from Library
2018, Scholastic
286 pgs.
Middle Grades CRF
Finished 8/10/18
Goodreads rating:  4.29 - 1249 ratings
My rating:  4.5
Setting: Contemporary Anaheim, California

First line/s:  "My parents told me that America would be this amazing place where we could live in a house with a dog, do whatever we want, and eat hamburgers till we were red in the face."

My comments:  This is a beautifully written story about a feisty, smart, exceptional 10-year-old that is actually based on the author's true story.  It's about the immigrant experience in southern California.  And although it's about Chinese immigrants, it could be about any immigrant from any country; it puts yourself in their shoes.  I must admit I was upset and pissed through most of the book.  Language barriers, poverty, and of course prejudice are almost insurmountable - but young Mia figures ways around and through obstacles with a never-give-up-attitude that is incredibly believable.  This is a touching, warmhearted story about love and friendship and not giving up.  A winner!

Goodreads synopsis:  Front Desk tells the story of 10-year-old Mia Tang. Every day, Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel while her parents clean the rooms. She’s proud of her job. She loves the guests and treats them like family. When one of the guests gets into trouble with the police, it shakes Mia to her core. Her parents, meanwhile, hide immigrants in the empty rooms at night. If the mean motel owner Mr. Yao finds out, they’ll be doomed!
          Based on the author's life, the story follows Mia — the daughter of first generation Chinese immigrants. 

POETRY - Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth

Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
2017, Candlewick Press
I owned - but have donated it to Bosler, who does not
$16.99
56 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.37 - 920 ratings
My rating: 5!!!
Endpapers: Mottled purple
Illustrations are mixed media collage in GLORIOUS colors!

My comments:  Oh my goodness, what a SPLENDID book of poetry!  Three poets:  Alexander, Colderley, and Wentworth chose famous poets that young people would recognize and wrote poems in their styles AND celebrating them.  They are glorious, as are the incredible illustrations.  What a gorgeous book!  A few of my favorite poems follow:

How Billy Collins Writes a Poem
celebrating Billy Collins


When you first wake up, notice
how your mother's voice, calling
you to breakfast, sound like a fire alarm.
Watch the steam rising off your oatmeal
like tiny clouds and guess where it goes.

Pay attention to the smallest things:
a fly buzzing near the kitchen window,
bright rocks in the driveway,
the handful of marbles in your pocket --
the sound they make when you walk.

Imagine that the leaves spinning in the wind
on the walk to school are alien ships
and that barking dogs belong to a prince.
At night, when the stars seem close
reach up and grab some.

Our lives are made from these things,
and when you describe them,
you discover magic.  It's the way
your pen becomes a wand in your hand,
and this may be the only thing you need to know.

                            -Marjory Wentworth

(Loving) The World and Everything In It
celebrating Mary Oliver

Each day I walk out
onto the damp grass
before the sun has spoken,
because I love the world
and the miracle of morning.

I love to stand beside
the old oak trees
beneath a symphony 
of birdsong and listen
to every perfect note

while the wind passes
around me like a warm sea.  
Sometimes a feather
drifts down into my hands;
I hold it and imagine flying.

                                -Marjory Wentworth

No Idle Days
celebrating William Carlos Williams

the hurried days
of two lives
crammed into one

a modest man
in Rutherford
New Jersey
a doctor poet

making house calls
and noticing
the stuff
of ordinary moments

scribbling on prescription blanks
typing
in spare minutes
between patients

a trendsetter
and a rule breaker
crafting
a new American voice

for people who carry their plums
in brown 
paper bags

                       --Chris Colderley

How to Write a Poem
celebrating Naomi Shihab Nye

Hush.

Grab a pencil
some paper
spunk.

Let loose your heart --
raise your voice.

What if I have many voices?

Let them dance together
twist and turn
like best friends
in a maze
till you find
your way
to that one true word

(or two).

            --Kwame Alexander

Goodreads:  Out of gratitude for the poet's art form, Newbery Award winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors' hearts sing and their minds wonder.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

PICTURE BOOK - Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers

Illustrated by the author
2010 Philomel Books
Still in print 8/18 - HC $17.99
40 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.07 - 2849 ratings
My rating: 4
Endpapers: florescent orange
1st line/s:  "Once there were two friends....who always did everything together."

My comments:  This is, apparently, the fourth book Oliver Jeffers has written about "the boy."  It's a heartwarming story of friendship - between this boy and his penguin buddy - and the penguin's desire to try out flying.  Very cute, very Oliver Jeffers.  Must find others about "the boy!
1 - How to Catch a Star
2 - Lost and Found
3 - The Way Back Home


Goodreads:  From the illustrator of the #1 smash hit The Day the Crayons Quit comes a humorous, resonant tale about the value of shared experiences.
          A penguin has wings for a reason . . . doesn't he? Having a best friend with his own airplane is one thing, but actually experiencing what it feels like to fly by himself? Here is one penguin who believes this is precisely what he needs to feel complete. Only . . . if flying by himself is so wonderful, then why does he feel so empty?Because some experiences are better shared. (And penguins are much happier on the ground.)
          Oliver Jeffers delivers the perfect companion to his much-loved Lost and Found. Penguins everywhere will take flight in delight.