Tuesday, January 29, 2013

MOVIE - Zero Dark Thirty

R (2:37)
Wide Release 1-11-13
at El Con Monday, Jan. 28, 2103 (alone)
RT Critic:  93 Audience:  85
Cag: 4.5/Liked it a whole lot
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Columbia Pictures

Jessica Chastain plays the lead, is up for an academy award for her performance......

From Fandango:  Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden becomes one of the most-wanted men on the planet. The worldwide manhunt for the terrorist leader occupies the resources and attention of two U.S. presidential administrations. Ultimately, it is the work of a dedicated female operative (Jessica Chastain) that proves instrumental in finally locating bin Laden. In May 2011, elite Navy SEALs launch a nighttime strike against bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, killing him.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

5. Drop Shot - Harlan Coben

#2 Myron Bolitar
audio read by Jonathan Marosz
7 cds/ 8 hours
1996, Random House Audio
341 pgs.
Written for adults
Finished: January 23, 2013
Genre: Murder mystery
Goodreads Rating: 3.87
My Rating: 3/ Liked it
Acquired: PBS
Setting: NYC in the mid 90's - cell phones still have antennas...

First Line/s:  " 'Cesar Romero,' Myron said.
Win looked at him.  'You're not serious.'
'I'm starting off with an easy one.' "

My comments:  The mystery was interesting, the storytelling was very good, and the humor was wonderful. I laughed out loud a few times as I listened. The reader gives a weird inflection to the speech of Myron's friend, Win, which I didn't really like, but other than that it was a great read, passed road time very quickly.

Goodreads Review:  Myron Bolitar feels compelled to investigate the murder of a young female tennis star on the verge of making a comeback. The initial complication is that a current client is a suspect in her murder. That accusation is quickly dismissed because the young man under suspicion was playing in the US Open on national TV at the time of the crime. Other complications arise, including a murder from the past, two mothers handling grief very differently, a shady tennis coach, and mobsters with long-term dislike for Myron. The other regulars from this series show up: Win, Esperanza, Jessica, and Myron's parents. Myron's troubled relationship with Jessica gets cursory attention, and there are some too-convenient rescues, but the plot kept me turning the pages.

Poems and Books About TREES

Picture Books About Trees:

Chin, Jason - Redwoods
Duval, John:  The Great Spruce
Fan Brothers:  The Night Gardener
Filippucci, Laura:  The Universe is a Tree
Formento, Alison - The Tree Counts
Gerber,Carole - Winter Trees
Gourley, Robbin - Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Bake You a Pie
Jackson, Alison - Thea's Tree
Karas, G. Brian:  As an Oak Tree Grows
Mora, Pat - Pablo's Tree
Muldrow, Diane - We Planted a Tree
Nichols, Lauri - Maple
Nivola, Claire A.:  Planting the Trees of Kenya
Pallotta, Jerry - Who Will Plant a Tree?
Prevot, Franck:  Wangari Maathai:  The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees
Rex, Adam - Tree Ring Circus
Roth, Susan L. & Trumbore, Cindy - The Mangrove Tree
Strand, Kieth:  Grandfather's Christmas Tree
Thong, Roseanne - The Wishing Tree
Winter, Jeanette - Wangari's Tree of Peace
Worth, Bonnie - I Can Name 50 Trees Today

Tu b'Shvat

Tu b'Shvat is one of the "new year" celebrations in the Jewish culture. In short, it's a celebration of trees.  As a non-Jew, this is one of my favorite Jewish celebrations (since I work in a Jewish day school, I do get to "celebrate" most Jewish holidays and holy days). This year, Tu b'Shvat falls on January 26th.  Here are some of my favorite poems that have to do with trees...old poems and newish poems.


The Oak is called the king of trees,
The Aspen quivers in the breeze,
The Poplar grows up straight and tall,
The Peach tree spreads along the wall,
The Sycamore gives pleasant shade,
The Willow droops in watery glade,
The Fir tree useful in timber gives,
The Beech amid the forest lives.
       Sarah Coleridge


Hemlock and pine
stand in July
grassy steeples
against the sky.

Sequoia and yew
October days short
green shadows lengthen
over the court.

Spruce and cypress
December winds blow
emerald palaces
shining in snow.

Cedar and fir
March freshets and rains
whatever the season
green remains

Juniper conifer constancy
evergreen evergreen evergreen grow
evergreen evergreen ever green grow.
       Eve Merriam

The Tree on the Corner

I’ve seen

the tree on the corner

in spring bud

and summer green.


it was yellow gold.

Then a cold
wind began to blow.

Now I know ---
you really do not see
a tree
until you see
its bones.
Lilian Moore

In Hardwood Groves

The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above.
To make one texture of faded brown.
And fit the earth like a leather glove.
Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.
They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world
I know that this is the way in ours.
       Robert Frost


THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
        Joyce Kilmer

The Leaves Fall Down

One by one the leaves fall down
From the sky come falling one by one
And leaf by leaf the summer is done
One by one by one by one.
Margaret Wise Brown


In spring,
yellow-green and tiny,
you pop out and dress big trees
in baby clothes.
You grow bigger and greener
in different shapes and styles
for different kinds of trees.
You flutter in the breeze like flats
and whisper, "Shhhhhhh.
Listen to the world."
You turn your backs to storms,
flash and sparkle in the sun,
and for Halloween
you wear costumes!
Some dress as flames or grapes,
some as orranges or gold coins.
And when the wind ocmes for you,
you let go of the branches
and fly, whirling in flocks
with the sparrows
till you drift
to the ground
like a blanket of colorful,
crispy cornflakes,
and we rake you up,
and leap into you ---
you're all we have left of summer.
But don't forget!
Come back
next spring.

     ~Mordicai Gerstein
       from Dear Hot Dog

Tree Song

As a tree
so it
the earth,
and sun
the sky.
Its roots
and its crown
in spring,
in the summer
and fall:
for many,
for all.

     -George Ella Lyon
      from Falling Down the Page:
                a book of List Poems

Sunday, January 13, 2013

4. Once Upon a Day - Lisa Tucker

audio read by Joyce Bean (beautifully!)
10 unabridged cds, 11 hours
2006, Brilliance Audio
368 pgs.
Adult contemporary realistic fiction
Finished Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013
Goodreads Rating: 3.62
My Rating 4/Liked it a lot
Acquired: PBS
Setting: Contemporary St. Louis, rural New Mexico, and LA (with 1980's Hollywood flashbacks)
My commentsOnce I started listening to this book, I couldn't stop. I usually don't like a story that switches from one character to another, but Tucker has done it very effectively here. Joyce Bean reads it with sensitivity and nails the 23-year old's voice perfectly...perhaps her reading enhanced the entire book for me? I liked it a lot.

Goodreads Review  Nineteen years ago, a famous filmmaker disappeared from Los Angeles, taking his two children, Dorothea and Jimmy, to a desolate corner of New Mexico. There he raised them in complete isolation without television, computer, radio -- not even a newspaper. Now, at twenty-three, Dorothea leaves in search of her missing brother -- and ventures into the outside world for the first time. Her search becomes an odyssey of discovery when Dorothea meets Stephen Spaulding, a cab driver dealing with his own mysterious history. With him as her guide, Dorothea uncovers the truth of her family's past and the terrifying day that changed her father forever. Together, they have a chance to discover that although a heart can be broken by the tragic events of a day, a day can also bring a new chance at love and a deeper understanding of life's infinite possibilities

Saturday, January 12, 2013

3. Sweetheart - Chelsea Cain

#2 Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell ("the Beauty Killer")
audio read by Carolyn McCormick
8 discs, 9.5 hours
2008, Macmillan Audio
328 pages
Murder Mystery (pretty grisly) written for adults
finished Sat. 1-12-13
Goodreads rating:  3.97
My rating:  4 Liked it, despite a tiny bit of wondering if one part of the scenario would really happen...
Acquired through PBS
Setting:  contemporary Portland, Oregon
1st sentence/s  "Forest Park was pretty in the summer.  Portland's ash sky was barely visible behind a canopy of aspens, hemlock, cedars,and maples that filtered the light to a shimmering pale green."

Goodreads Review:
When the body of a young woman is discovered in Portland’s Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the last time they found a body there, more than a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer’s first victim, and Archie’s first case. This body can't be one of Gretchen's—she’s in prison—but after help from reporter Susan Ward uncovers the dead woman's identity, it turns into another big case. Trouble is, Archie can't focus on the new investigation because the Beauty Killer case has exploded: Gretchen Lowell has escaped from prison.

Archie hadn't seen her in two months; he'd moved back in with his family and sworn off visiting her. Though it should feel like progress, he actually feels worse. The news of her escape spreads like wildfire, but secretly, he's relieved. He knows he's the only one who can catch her, and in fact, he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all.

My comments
Oh, Archie, how can you let yourself become so obsessed by Gretchen, so addicted to pain killers, and stay such a likable guy?  This second story in the series added the dimension of newspaper reporter Susan Ward and her research into the past of senator who had years previously had a fling with a 14-year old.  Susan is a 28 year old turquoise-haired, cigarette-puffing, almost-Stephanie-Plum-like character who becomes the unlikely sidekick to Archie and his partner, Henry.  Her mother, a white-haired, dreadlocked old hippie, is a hoot, and her antics are a slightly humorous addition to the story.  And at the end, Gretchen is on the loose again....

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2. Iron Lake - William Kent Krueger

#1 Cork O'Connor
1998, Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster
438 pgs.
Murder Mystery for adults
Finished Jan. 10, 2012
Goodreads Rating: 3.94
My Rating:  Awesome, couldn't wait to read/5
Acquired TPPL paperback
Setting: contemporary northern Minnesota in winter
1st sentence/s:  "Cork O'Connor first heard the story of the Windigo in the fall of 1965 when he hunted the big bear with Sam Winter Moon.  He was fourteen and his father was dead a year."

My comments: This book, the first in a new series for me, kept my interest and beckoned me to read even when I shouldn't have taken the time. Cork O'Connor, the protagonist, is smart and real, with small flaws and misgivings. Krueger did kill off a lot of his characters, though, but I can't think of any holes in the plot to speak of and the mystery was quite plausible. The setting, rural Minnesota that includes an Indian reservation in the blizzards of winter (it's winter right now, as I write this, and my feet are freezing, so I can totally relate) worked really well. It's exciting to find a new series that has a setting and protagonist that immediately pulled me in. I'm going out on a limb giving it a five, it's probably closer to 4.5, but I'm not going to quibble.

Goodreads Review:
Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, Corcoran "Cork" O'Connor is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota. Embittered by his "former" status, and the marital meltdown that has separated him from his children, Cork gets by on heavy doses of caffeine, nicotine, and guilt. Once a cop on Chicago's South Side, there's not much that can shock him. But when the town's judge is brutally murdered, and a young Eagle Scout is reported missing, Cork takes on a mind-jolting case of conspiracy, corruption, and scandal.

As a lakeside blizzard buries Aurora, Cork must dig out the truth among town officials who seem dead-set on stopping his investigation in its tracks. But even Cork freezes up when faced with the harshest enemy of all: a small-town secret that hits painfully close to home

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

MOVIE - Silver Linings Playbook

R (2:00)
Supposedly widely released 11/21/12 (but not here in Tucson!)
Viewed Monday, 1/7/13 at El Con
RT Critic: 91  Audience: 90
Cag:  Awesome/Terrific/More-than loved it *6*
Directed by David O. Russell
The Weinstein Company

Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker

I was totally entranced by this film.  Bradley Cooper was wonderful as a bipolar man trying his best to keep his life together without medication.  Robert DeNiro, the father who loved him (and ultimately had similar mental disabilities as his son), was so believable. Jacki Weaver, the mom, was right-on perfect (I though she was an aged Sally Struthers throughout the movie) Chris Tucker, who played the in-again, out-again friend, added just the right touch.  And Jennifer Lawrence just shined.  She nailed the part.  What a cast!  What a story!  Such fantastic acting!!!!  I loved it. And I'd watch it again and again.


Life doesn't always go according to plan. Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything -- his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert DeNiro) after spending eight months is a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife, despite the challenging circumstances of their separation. All Pat's parents want is for him to get back on his feet-and to share their family's obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he'll do something very important for her in return. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives

Sunday, January 6, 2013

1. Web of Evil - J. A. Jance

#2 Ali Reynolds, Sedona, AZ
audio read by Karen Ziemba
9 unabridged cds, 10.25 hours
2007 Simon & Schuster/Recorded Books

368 pgs.
Written for adults
Finished:  Sunday, 1-6-13 (read it from ME to PA on Dec. 27th and from Phoenix to Tucson on January 3rd)
Genre: Mystery
Goodreads Rating: 3.71
My Rating: It was okay/2
Acquired through PBS, will now try to "sell" it back!
Setting: Contemporary Los Angeles, CA

1st sentence/s:  "When the man opened his eyes, it was so dark that at first he thought they were still closed."

My comments:  Ali Reynolds is definitely not one of my favorite protagonists, but the mysteries that she encounters are entertaining.  She writes a stupid blog called cutloose.com that seems irrelevant and silly, but the story was read well and kept me, for the most part, entertained.  This one took place in LA instead of Sedona, which I don't mind, but I love the Arizona setting.

Goodreads Review:
      The highway from Los Angeles to the Palm Springs desert is parched, unforgiving, and deadly. In the suffocating stillness of a car trunk, a man -- his mouth and hands bound with tape -- awaits his fate. What possible enemy could be bitter enough to commit such a heinous crime? And when will the monster make another move?
     Ali Reynolds is traveling that same blistering, lonesome highway, looking forward to putting her past behind her. But her cheating husband is in a hurry for a divorce, and the television network who wrongfully dismissed Ali for the sole sin of being over forty will face her in court as well. So Ali must return to the scene of these crimes. As she passes the site of a horrifying accident, she thanks goodness it's no longer her job to report the news. Until she finds out the news is her own. . . . For the victim is Ali's cheating husband, and soon she'll find herself the prime suspect at the center of a terrifying web of evil.

Movie - A Late Quartet

R (1:45)
Limited Release 11/2/12
on dvd 2/5/13
Viewed 1/6/13, Sunday matinee at Crossroads
RT Critic: 72  Audience: 74
Cag: Liked it more than I thought I would at the beginning - actually, a whole lot (4)
Directed by Yaron Zilberman
Entertainment One

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener

For the first fifteen minutes, I was sure this wouldn't be one of my favorites.  For one, I didn't like most of the characters (I softened about most of them by then end of the movie).  For another, it's totally about classical music (with a lot of listening to it)....not my cuppa tea at all.  But I really enjoyed the way the characters and plotline began to grow and move, taking closer and closer looks at the inner workings of this group of friends.  I ended up enjoying it very much......and Philip Seymour Hoffman continues to be a terrific actor.  Christopher Walken takes on the beginnings-of-Parkinsons role quite well, though this was a bit hard for me, reminding me so much of what my mother must have gone through, mentally.

From Fandango:   On the eve of a world renowned string quartet’s 25th anniversary season, their beloved cellist, Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken), is diagnosed with the early symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. When Peter announces he wishes to make the upcoming season his last, his three colleagues find themselves at a crossroad. Competing egos and uncontrollable passions threaten to derail years of friendship and collaboration. Robert Gelbart (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the quartet’s second violinist, announces his desire to alternate chairs with first violinist Daniel Lerner (Mark Ivanir), after years of sacrifice and peacemaking for the benefit of the group. Robert’s wife, violist Juliette Gelbart (Catherine Keener) has a particularly difficult time grappling with the tragic diagnosis, as Peter has served not only as a colleague, but as a dear father figure since childhood.

Friday, January 4, 2013

My Own Personal Reading Challenge for 2013

I've got a stack of books I want to read and a list that I keep adding to, and this year I plan to tackle this pile and list!  I want to read some new titles and some of the old ones that have been calling my name...loudly.....
including  a few new mystery authors and series:  So here's my own personal CHALLENGE:

Andrews, Sarah (Geologist Em Hansen) Tensleep
Atkins, Ace (Quinn Colson) The Ranger
Atkinson, Kate
Bolton, S. J.(Tora Hamilton, Shetland Islands) Sacrifice
Browning, Sinclair (Trade Ellis, Tucson, AZ), The Sporting Club
Cain, Chelsea (Archie Sheridan vs. Gretchen Lowell) Sweetheart (READ January, 2013then Evil at Heart
Child, Lee (any, in any order)
Coben, Harlan (Myron Bolitar, NJ sports agent) Drop Shot
Coel, Margaret (Father John O'Malley) The Eagle Catcher is #1, but I may read out-of-order
Cole, David (Laura WInslow, AZ) Dragonfly Bones
Connelly, Michael (Harry Bosch) good old LA A Darkness More than Night, City of Bones
Connor, Beverly (Diane Fallon) One Grave Too Many
Crais, Robert (Elvis Cole) any order
Doiron, Paul (Mike Bowditch, ME Game Warden) Trespasser
Fowler, Earlene (Benny Harper, So. Calif, Quilts) Irish Chain
Francis, Dick (any)
Greenlaw, Linda (ME) Fisherman's Bend
Hamilton, Denise (Eve Diamond), Sugar Skull
Hand, Elizabeth (Cass Neary, druggie photographer-dark) Generation Loss
Jance, J. A. (Ali Reynolds) Hand of Evil
Keller, Julia, A Killing in the Hills
Krueger, William Ken Krueger (Cork O'Connor) setting: Minnesota - there are 12 books in the series so far.#1 is Iron Lake. (read January 2013)
Kuzneski, Chris ((Payne and Jones)set somewhere in PA I believe, and there are currently 7 books in the series.
McGarrity, Michael (Kevin Kerney, NM) Hermit's Peak
Miller, Susan Cummins (Frankie McFarlane) AZ-Tucson Detachment Fault
Nesbo, Jo (Harry Hole) which takes place in Norway.  There are nine novels.The Redbird
O'Connell, Carol (Kathleen Mallory) The Man Who Cast Two Shadows
Parker, Robert B. (one of the new authors continuing Parker's series) Lullaby (Ace Atkins) Read March, 2013
Parks, Brad (Carter Ross) Eyes of the Innocent
Perry, Marta, Murder in Plain Sight (2012)
Sandford, John (Kidd) The Fool's Run
Sandford, John (Virgil Flowers, MN) Heat Lightningn Read March, 2013
Satterthwaite, Walter (Joshua Croft-Santa Fe) A Flower in the Desert
Talton, Jon (AZ) Cactus Heat Read February & March, 2013
Thornton, Betsy (Chloe Newcombe, Bisbee, AZ), Dream Queen
Thurlo, Aimee & David (Ella Clah) Blackening Song
Thurlo, Aimee & David (Lee Nez) Blood Retribution
Verdon, John (Dave Gurney) Let the Devil Sleep
Webb, Betty (AZ) Desert Shadows
Willig, Lauren, Secret History of the Pink Carnation
Wolf, Dick (Jeremy Fisk) The Intercept: Wolf's first foray into writing a mystery series... Read January, 2013 (audio)

And then some stand-alones or series that aren't particularly mystery:

Blake, Sara, The Postmistress (2010)
Carrell, Haunt Me Still (2010)
Condie, Allie, Insurgent (Divergent #2)
Flynn, Gillian, Gone Girl, 2012
Franklin, Tom, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Germillon, Helene, The Confidant, 2010
Green, John,
Hilderbrand, Elin - The Island, 2010 Read February 2013
Hoffman, Alice,  The Red Garden (2011)
Kingsolver, Barbara, Flight Behavior (2012) Read April 2013
Letts, Billie (any)
Luzzatoto, Kfir, The Evelyn Project (2012)
Mapson, JoAnn, Finding Casey (2012)
Morton, Kate, The Secret Keeper (2012)
Noel, Alyson, Blue Moon (#2 in The Immortals series)
Sloan, Robin, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (2012)
Whelan, Gloria (any)

And from my classroom library:

Davies, Jacqueline; The Lemonade War
Harvey, Gwen, Esperanza Means Hope
Kinney, Jeff; Diary of a Wimpy Kid #1
Korman, Gordon; Swindle
LaFleur, Suzanne; Eight Keys
Lowell, Susan; I am Lavina Cumming
Messner, Kate; Capture the Flag
Rex, Adam, Cold Cereal
Russell, Renee Russell; Dork Diaries #1, Tales from a Not-so-Fabulous Life
Sandiford, Natalie; The Secret Tree
Stewart, Trenton Lee; The Mysterious Benedict Society