Monday, February 28, 2011

14. The Jacket - Andrew Clements

Illustrated by McDavid Henderson
Scholastic, 2002
92 pgs, 6 chapters
Rating: 4

Phil, a white boy, sees Daniel, an African American boy, wearing what he thinks is his brother's jacket. This starts a chain of events that gets Phil thinking about prejudice - convincing himself, to his dismay, that he himself is prejudice. He discusses it with his mother, thinks about it a lot, discovers that his dad is a bigot, and finally puts things right with Daniel - almost becoming friends.

There's a list of discussion questions at the end, and my fourth grade lit. circle group had a very healthy discussion around the story.

There are 19 full-page black and white pencil-drawn illustrations that could also be used as discussion starters - a nice addition to the story, which is a very quick read, but meaty.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

13. No Time for Goodbye - Linwood Barclay

an adult "thriller"
Bantam Books, 2007
pap $7.99
470 pgs.
Rating: 3.5 (it was good, but I figured out what happened in the first third of the book)

Cynthia Bigge wakes up one morning when she's 14 and both her parents and her brother are gone. No trace. No cars. No clues. A total and complete unknown.

Cynthia is raised by her mother's sister, Tess. And 25 years later she's married to a great guy, Terry Archer, who she met in college. The story is told by him, in the first person, and takes place now. A TV special has been made about the disappearance and then weird things start happening. Break-ins where nothing is stolen, but her father's hat is left on the kitchen table. Phone calls and emails with mysterious messages. And still so many unanswered questions. So a private detective is hired. And the story slowly unfolds. It's a pretty decent story, and the husband/protagonist is a pretty decent guy. An English teacher, so of course he is...

And yes, I'd read another by this author. I want to see if all his writing is as predictable as this one seemed to me. Even so, I did enjoy it....

MOVIE - I Am Number Four

So kept my attention - but of course, the book was better
Released 2-18-11 (DVD 5-24-11)
PG-13 (1:44)
2/22/22 at El Con, alone
RT: 30 cag: 80
Director: D. J. Caruso
from the book by Pitticus Lore
Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron (from Glee)

First of all, I couldn't wait to see Timothy Olyphant play the "dad" figure, Henry. However, it didn't work. I couldn't see the strong, loving bond that I felt so strongly in the book. Alexc Pettyfer is a doll, but wasn't the John I had in my mind. diaan Agron played the Sarah really well, and the bad guys were perfect.

To remind myself of the storyline, I can just read my book review. There's a huge opening for a second installment, but I haven't read anywhere about another. I'll have to do some research.

Monday, February 21, 2011

MOVIE - Unknown

A wonderful mind-tickler
Released widely 2-18-11
PG-13 (1:49)
2-21-11 At the Orleans, Las Vegas with Fran
RT 55% cag 88%
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Liam Neeson (and a great favorite of mine, Aidan Quinn), Diane Kruger

Dr. Martin Harris, a botanist, is in a taxi accident in Berlin just before he is to give a major speech at an environmental conference. He is in the hospital for a few days, and when he regains his memory and tries to return to his life, no one remembers him - not even his beloved wife - and another man has taken on his identity. He is believed and helped by a couple of people, but things get weirder and weirder. It's really hard to figure out what's going on...which is pretty great, actually. You're kept guessing and wondering.

I really enjoyed this movie. It made me think. It probably didn't hurt that I was on vacation and having the time of my life with wonderful, close friends....but I did enjoy this movie and would recommend it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

12. The Art of Mending - Elizabeth Berg

Audio read by Joyce Bean
Brilliance Audio, 2004
6 unabridged cds
6 hrs.
237 pgs.
Rating: 3.5 (I had my ups and downs with the protagonist)

Laura and her family travel to Minnesota to their annual family reunion/state fair trip. Her sister Caroline wants to talk to Laura and their brother Steve alone. Always strange - weird, even - Caroline opens up about issues with her mother from when she was a child. Neither Steve or Laura believe her, Steve is actually disgusted with her. Then their father died, the only person other than their mother who might know the actual truth. Laura watches, thinks, questions, and even has her mother come stay with them. Reality shifts and changes upon close examinations, of course. Interesting. But none of the characters was particularly likeable. Maybe it was the mood I was in. I enjoy Elizabeth Berg immensely, but this one didn't hit home at all for me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

11. Dark of the Moon - John Sandford

Virgil Flowers #1
audio read by Eric Conger
Penguin Audio, 2007
$39.95, Paperback Swap
9 unabridged cds
10.5 hrs.
384 pages
Rating: 5

Both my husband and son have enjoyed the Lucas Davenport "Prey" series, written by John Sandford, so when Brian began this series, I decided to join him. Good decision.

Virgil Flowers works for some sort of Minnesota crime bureau under the aforementioned Lucas Davenport. He's sort of a one-man solo investigator that is sent out to rural communities to help on murder cases. When he arrives in small town Bluestem to help the locals investigate the murder of an elderly couple, he comes upon a blazing house fire. It looks like another elderly man has been murdered. This one, a wealthy schemer with a history of womanizing, is hated by just about everyone in town. Amid a smidgeon of romance and quite a bit of humor (he wears rock tee shirts everyday, chosen to match his mood and the case/s he's working on), Flowers leaks information in the right places, asks the right people the right quesitons, and flushes out the killer in style. Excellent murder mystery. Great protagonist.

Monday, February 14, 2011

MOVIE - The Social Network

Excellent, just excellent
Released widely 10-1-10
PG-13 (2:00)
My Valentine's Day movie 2-14-11 at Crossroads
RT 96 cag 97
Director: David Fincher
Jesse Eisenberg

This was the gripping story of how Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, becoming the world's youngest billionaire while ruthlessly stomping many friends and foe along the way. Eisenberg was awesome.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

MOVIE - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

A bit disappointing, left me wanting more...what?
Limited release 10-29-10
R (2:28)
RT 52% cag 69%
2-13-11at Crossroads, alone (saw the first two at the Loft, I waited too long for this one)
Director: Dan Alfredson
in Swedish, with sbutitles
From the book by Sven Larsen

Lisbeth Salander is accused of murdering her father (she did), but it was self-defense, which has to be proved. Usual chip on her shoulder, spiked hair, makeup, and multiple piercings are really dominant. Reaches way down to your gut and helps you realize she's been through some real crapola in her life. Mikael has to work to prove her innocence. It isn't easy. His sister takes on the case as Lisbeth's lawyer. It's so hard to understand....and like....this girl. But you do.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

9. Shiver - Lisa Jackson

Audio read by Joyce Bean, complete with major southern accents
Brilliand Audio, 2006
13 unabridged cd's
$38.95 (free from PBS)
16 hrs.
512 pgs.
Rating: 3

Set in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, a serial killer is brutally murdering people in pairs, male and female, and staging a scenario for each. They all seem to revolve around Abby Chastain and her mother Faith, who supposedly committed suicide in a mental institution when she was 35. The story, told from many points-of-view including the killer and some of the victims, unfolds slowly...a little too slowly, actually. You can pretty much figure out what's going on and what's going to happen, and Jackson throws in plenty of lustful thinking and not just a little sex, especially when police detective Reuben Montoya enters the scene and meets Abby Chastain.

A little too much coincidence, a little too much dragging here and there, but good plotline and interesting characters kept me listening. Would I listen to another by Lisa Jackson? Probably...if it weren't quite so long.

MOVIE - True Grit

So good!
Released 12-22-10 (Wide)
PG-13 (1:50)
2/5/11 at El Con alone
RT 95% cag 94%
Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen
Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon

Sure, I saw the original with John Wayne, Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell. I remembered the story, but it'd been so long I didn't remember the particulars.

THIS cast nailed it. Loved it. So good.

MOVIE - Tiny Furniture

Pathetic protagonist - did nothing for me
Released 11-12-10 (Limited)
unrated (1:38)
Saw 2/4/11 at the Loft with Sheila and Ronnie
RT: 75% cag: 39%
Director: Lena Dunham (also the writer and lead actress)

No one is likable in this boring, who-cares? story of a girl who comes home after graduating from college with no motivation and only a fell-sorry-for-herself attitude.

None of the characters is likable. I wanted to push the mother off the Brooklyn Bridge and shove the sister's head into a gas oven. The newly-befriended loser who sponges off her should have been shoved in front of a fast-moving taxi. Only her two friends, one whom she treats abominably, are at all likable.

This movie shows that people who worry about the young people who are tomorrow's leaders DO have something to worry about. Are we supposed to empathise with this girl? She's a loser, whiner, and totally pathetic. Crappy movie.