Saturday, August 31, 2013

MOVIE - Instructions Not Included

PG-13 (1:40)
Limited Release 8/30/13
Went on opening day (8/30/13) to ElCon
RT Critic: (none yet)  Audience: 98
Cag:  5/Loved it
In Spanish with subtitles
Directed by Eugenio Derbez (who also played the lead!)
Lionsgate Films

Eugenio Derbez

Rotten Tomatoes summary:  Valentin (Eugenio Derbez) is Acapulco's resident playboy-until a former fling leaves a baby on his doorstep and takes off without a trace. Valentin leaves Mexico for Los Angeles to find the baby's mother, but only ends up finding a new home for himself and his newfound daughter, Maggie (Loreto Peralta). An unlikely father figure, Valentin raises Maggie for six years, while also establishing himself as one of Hollywood's top stuntmen to pay the bills, with Maggie acting as his on-set coach. AsValentin raises Maggie, she forces him to grow up too. But their unique and offbeat family is threatened when Maggie's birth mom shows up out of the blue, and Valentin realizes he's in danger of losing his daughter- and his best friend.

My comments:  This movie was absolutely wonderful, from beginning to end.  F-U-N-N-Y.  Eugenio Derbez was fabulous. The little girl, Loreto Peralta, who played Maggie, reminded me, physically, so much of my own niece that it was uncanny.  What a terrific, bilingual actress she is.  This was a really special movie, highly recommended.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

34. Off Season - Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Sequel to Dairy Queen
read by Natalie Moore (brilliantly!
2007, Listening Library
5 unabridged cds
277 pgs.
Finished 8/28/30
Goodreads Rating:
My Rating:
Awesome (5) 
Setting: Contemporary Red Bend, Wisconsin

My comments:  This is the sequel to Dairy Queen, a book I finished very recently and loved.  I couldn't wait to read this one.  Same spectacular writing, same wonderful reading (Natalie Moore was just terrific). same intricate character development, same subtle, clever humor.  And such voice!  The story is a little sadder...I guess I should probably say bittersweet.... but quite remarkable.  I love the way Murdock digs into her characters and makes them feel so real.  As much as a "happy ending" is (always)anticipated, Murdock keeps it believable. Things don't always turn out the way you'd really like them to.  I love D.J. Schwenk! What a great girl!

Goodreads Review:  Life is looking up for D.J. Schwenk. She’s in eleventh grade, finally. After a rocky summer, she’s reconnecting in a big way with her best friend, Amber. She’s got kind of a thing going with Brian Nelson, who’s cute and popular and smart but seems to like her anyway. And then there’s the fact she’s starting for the Red Bend High School football team—the first girl linebacker in northern Wisconsin, probably. Which just shows you can’t predict the future. As autumn progresses, D.J. struggles to understand Amber, Schwenk Farm, her relationship with Brian, and most of all her family. As a whole herd of trouble comes her way, she discovers she’s a lot stronger than she—or anyone—ever thought.
   This hilarious, heartbreaking and triumphant sequel to the critically acclaimed Dairy Queen takes D.J. and all the Schwenks from Labor Day to a Thanksgiving football game that you will never forget.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

33. Frame 232 - Wil Mara

Looks like this might be the first in a series about billionaire amateur sleuth Jason Hammond
2013, Tyndale House Publishers
424 pgs.
Adult Mystery
Finished 8/27/13
Goodreads Rating: 4.21
My Rating: It was okay (2)
Setting: Prologue (28 pgs. long) is in Dallas on that fateful day in November, 1963 (50 years ago!), but the rest of the book is contemporary - Dallas, Cuba, DC.....

1st sentence/s:  "Margaret Baker felt more than a little foolish in her makeshift disguise - an overcoat she'd found n a box of her late mother's things, the prescription glasses she never wore, and a pink headscarf she'd borrowed from a friend."

My comments:  I wanted to like this book more than I did.  The premise was pretty cool, but I found the characters either unbelievable, or lacking .... something. There was a bond between the two protagonists that was just "there" and I couldn't quite understand it.  I loved the foray into Cuba, and I liked the way that chapters skipped around and showed point-of-view of different characters.  But my overall reaction....the story was okay.  That's all.

Goodreads Review:  During the reading of her mother’s will, Sheila Baker discovers that she has inherited everything her parents ever possessed, including their secrets. A mysterious safe deposit box key leads her to the answers to one of history’s greatest conspiracies: who killed John F. Kennedy? Not only does she have the missing film, revealing her mother as the infamous babushka lady, but she has proof that there was more than one shooter.
On the run from people who would stop at nothing to keep secrets buried, Shelia turns to billionaire sleuth Jason Hammond for help. Having lost his own family in a tragic plane crash, Jason knows a thing or two about running from the past. With a target on their backs, can Jason uncover the truth in time, or will this shooter finally make their mark?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

MOVIE - The Attack

R (1:42)
Limited release 6/21/2013
Viewed with Sheila at the Loft on 8/22/2013
RT Critic: 91 Audience:  79
Cag:   2/it was okay 
In Hebrew with subtitles
Based on the book of the same title by Yasmina Khadra
Directed by Zlad Doueiri
Cohen Media Group

Rotten Tomatoes summary:  Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman, Paradise Now) is an Israeli Palestinian surgeon, fully assimilated into Tel Aviv society. He has a loving wife, an exemplary career, and many Jewish friends. But his picture perfect life is turned upside down after a suicide bombing in a restaurant leaves nineteen dead, and the Israeli police inform him that his wife, Sihem (Reymonde Amsellem, Lebanon) who also died in the explosion, was responsible. Convinced of her innocence, Amin abandons the relative security of his adopted homeland and enters the Palestinian territories in pursuit of the truth. Once there, he finds himself in ever more dangerous places and situations. Determined, he presses on seeking answers to questions he never thought he would be asking.

My comments:  I loved the book - I read it when it first came out.  The movie left me with a totally different feeling.  At the end of the book, I think I understood how Jaafari felt.  Not at the end of the movie.  I can't understand his lack of conscience, it left me feeling empty and bereft.  It was a really tough movie, anyways.  

Return of the Library Dragon - Carmen Agra Deede

illustrated by Michael P. White
2012, Peachtree Publishers
Ellsworth Public Library
32 pages
Hardcover $16.95
cag:  4 stars
Title Page:  yellow dragon-y front on light blue, with dragonflies fluttering
front:  "Librarian Retires" news article
1st line/s:  "Sunrise Elementary School had a BIG problem:  their beloved librarian, Miss Lotty, was....../....RETIRING.

What happens when a tried & true librarian's job is taken over by a guy who gets rid of all the books and replaces them with technology?  The beloved librarian disappears and a dragon taker her place.  This book reinforces the idea that BOTH have their place and they can work TOGETHER.

When I was checking out new-to-me books at the library I almost put this one back until I spotted the 40+ quotes on the endpapers.  I was hooked!

"A book is a friend; a good book is a good friend.  It will talk to you when you want it to talk, and it will keep still when you want it to keep still; and there are not many friends who know enough to do that."  - B. A. Billingsley

"The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."  - Mark Twain

"Books are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind.  Books are humanity in print."  - Barbara W. Tuchman

"When I discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas every day."  - Jean Fritz

"My library was dukedom large enough."  - William Shakespeare

"When I get a little money I buy books; and if there is any left, I buy food and clothes."  - Erasmus

"I cannot live without books!  - Thomas Jefferson

"Never judge a book by its movie."  -J. W. Eagan

Zentangle Untangled - Kass Hall

Inspirantion and Prompts for Meditative Drawing
North Light Books, 2012
128 pgs.
$24.99 TPPL
Goodreads Rating:  3.62
My rating:  3/Liked it

I found the subtitle a little misleading,   - at least the "prompts" part.  I'm not sure what was meant by that, I don't really consider there are prompts, exactly, here.  However, I did learn from - and enjoy - this book - primarily as a gallery.  It's fun to see finished products that aren't part of instruction.  There are 12 tangles that are showcased, including 8 by the author and her friends.  Half the book is about adding color to your tangles, and her take is interesting.  I wouldn't consider this a beginning book, but one in which you can enjoy the art and the artist's thoughts.

Goodreads Summary:  Unwind, Tangle and Relax!In "Zentangle Untangled," Kass Hall introduces you to the fun and relaxing \doodling\" process of Zentangle(c)--an engaging art form that uses repetitive patterns to create striking works of art that anyone can achieve regardless of age or artistic ability.

Following an explanation of the Zentangle(c) process, inside you will find 12 step-by-step demonstrations showing you how to create enticing tangle patterns, followed by several examples of how to add eye-popping color to your pieces, as well as fun ways to use tangles in your art journals. Captivating pieces from Kass and a slew of other artists will further satisfy your craving for inspiration!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

32. Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock

1st book in a series of two
audio read by Natalie Moore
5 undabridged cds (6:09)
2006, Houghton Mifflin
275 pgs.
Finished 8/20/2013
Genre: YA CRF
Goodreads Rating: 3.77
My Rating: 4.5 - Loved it
Found the CD at a Friends of the Library book sale

My comments:  A delightful read - and I'm glad I listened to this one.  Beautifully read, wonderful story.  The protagonist - and other characters - seemed very real to me.  Who would have known that being raised on a Wisconsin cow farm would make such interesting reading?  I hope the library has the sequel on cd.....

Goodreads Review:  When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D.J. can't help admitting, maybe he's right. When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn't so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won't even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league. When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

MOVIE - The East

PG-13 (1:56)
Limited release 5/31/13
Sunday morning, 8-18-13 at Crossroads
RT Critic:  74  Audience:  72
Cag:  6/Awesome 
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page

Rotten Tomatoes Summary:  THE EAST, a suspenseful and provocative espionage thriller from acclaimed writer-director Zal Batmanglij and writer-actress Brit Marling, stars Marling as former FBI agent Sarah Moss. Moss is starting a new career at Hiller Brood, an elite private intelligence firm that ruthlessly protects the interests of its A-list corporate clientele. Handpicked for a plum assignment by the company's head honcho, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), Sarah goes deep undercover to infiltrate The East, an elusiveanarchist collective seeking revenge against major corporations guilty of covering up criminal activity. Determined, highly-trained and resourceful, Sarah soon ingratiates herself with the group, overcoming their initial suspicions and joining them on their next action or "jam." But living closely with the intensely committed members of The East, Sarah finds herself torn between her two worlds as she starts to connect with anarchist Benji (Alexander Skarsgård) and the rest of the collective, and awakens to the moral contradictions of her personal life.

My comments:  This was a fantastic movie...big corporations vs. the little guy.  What happens when a group of zealous, caring young people decide to get even with those uncaring, money-hoarding corporations? Are we talking terrorism here?  And what does it look like  from the corporate side?  Alexander Skarsgard is absolutely riveting in this incredible, thought-provoking drama.  I loved it.

Short Story - "Long Lost" - Linda Castillo

(#4.5 Kate Burkholder series)
ebook, 52 pages
purchased through Amazon (99-cents)
May, 2013

My thoughts:  Any opportunity to read about Kate - and this time the entire story includes John Tomasetti, he's not just "lurking" - is good.  This one was a little too easy (for me) to solve, but it is a short story, after all.  It was fun to read on my phone and was quite enjoyable, but not as much as Castillo's full-length books.

Goodreads rating:  3.87
Goodreads:  It’s autumn in Painters Mill, and Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and John Tomasetti are taking a much-needed vacation at a small bed and breakfast an hour outside of town. After closing a difficult case, they’re looking forward to some down time, but their relaxation is cut short by rumors that the old house where they’re staying is haunted by a girl who disappeared twenty years earlier, leaving nothing behind but some bloody clothes by the river and rumors of a volatile relationship. Swept up in the girl’s story, and a need for justice, Kate and John begin looking into the mysterious disappearance of Angela Blaine.  They discover long-buried secrets—and unravel a mystery with an unexpected outcome.

Movie - Before Midnight

Wide/Limited Release date
RT Critic:  Audience:
Cag:  6Awesome 5 Loved it 4 Liked it a lot 3 liked it 2 it was okay 1 nope
Directed by
Film Studio



My thoughts:  Well.....I loved some of the dialogue, for sure.  I guess this is a good thing, since the movie is all dialogue.  Celine and ............ driving and talking, walking and talking, sitting at a meal and talking, siting in a hotel room and talking.  Celine is extremely self-centered and .............. loves her completely despite this.  He is adorable. She is, mostly, a pain-in-the-ass.  A smart, funny pain-in-the ass, but a pain-in-the-ass nontheless.

Short Story - "The Amiable Miss Edith Montague" - Jan Burke

MOVIE - Blue Jasmine

PG-13 (1:38)
Limited release 7/26/13
El Con, after school on Friday, 8-16-13
RT Critic:  89 Audience: 86
Cag:  4.5 Liked it a lot-especially the incredible acting of Cate Blanchette
Directed by Woody Allen
Sony Pictures Classic

Cate Blanchette, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins

Fandango summary:  After her marriage to a wealthy businessman (Alec Baldwin) collapses, New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) flees to San Francisco and the modest apartment of her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Although she's in a fragile emotional state and lacks job skills, Jasmine still manages to voice her disapproval of Ginger's boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale). Jasmine begrudgingly takes a job in a dentist's office, while Ginger begins dating a man (Louis C.K.) who's a step up from Chili.

My comments:  Blue Jasmine was quite a movie.  It wasn't what I would typically expect from Woody Allen.  The first thought that I'll always have about this movie is that Kate Blanchette is an incredible actress.  The next is that it's incredibly sad.  The thrid is that I love the setting, at least half of it takes place in San Francisco.  The flashbacks take place in New York.  I actually like the way it jumps back and forth in time - it takes no time to figure out when and where you are.  The movie is crafted beautifully, the story is told beautifully, but, for me, it's a really sad movie.  It makes any kind of sorry I feel for myself to away instantly.

31. The Burgess Boys - Elizabeth Strout

Random House, 2013
320 pgs.
CRF for adults
Finished 8/17/2013
Goodreads Rating: 3.53
My Rating: Liked it quite well (3.5) 
Acquired: TPPL
Setting: Contemporary NYC and rural Maine (with a few pages hiking in the AZ desert...)
1st sentence/s: "On a breezy October afternoon in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Helen Farber Burgess was packing for vacation."  (There was a prologue, but I chose to ignore it for the purpose of 1st sentence, it had nothing (much) to do with the story....and gave away a few hints that I would have rather figured out myself as I read.)

My comments:  What do I think? Hmmm. Hard to say. First off, this was definitely a "Maine-Basher" book, which turned me off completely. I am a Mainer, and proud of it. However, I loved the way that Strout developed the characters. At first I felt the plot was being forced, but then when I understood the reasoning behind poor Zach's behavior (throwing a pig's head into a mosque!) I no longer felt that. When you have genuine feelings for characters (hatred, pity, apathy...), I guess you're relating to them, and isn't that what you want in a book? And thirdly, I will think about this awhile, even as I read other stories. It's not a forgettable story - at least not for me. Yes, I liked it.

Goodreads Review:  Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan—the Burgess sibling who stayed behind—urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.

MOVIE - 2 Guns

R (1:49)
Wide release 8/2/13
saw at ElCon with Sheila on 8-8-13
RT Critic: 64 Audience: 75
Cag: 3/liked it 
Directed by Baltasar Kormakur
Universal Pictures

Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg

Fandango summary:  For the past year, DEA agent Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) and U.S. Navy intelligence officer Marcus Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) have been working under cover as members of a narcotics syndicate. The twist: Neither man knows that the other is an undercover agent. When their attempt to infiltrate a Mexican drug cartel and recover millions goes haywire, the men are disavowed by their superiors. Trench and Stigman must go on the run lest they wind up in jail or in a grave.

My comments  2 Guns is the type of movie you go to just to get away from it all.  The two main actors are always fun to watch, and together they do a really great job - they're lots of fun to watch - always!  This one reminds me of something Shakespeare might have done with one of his comedies.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Short Story - Runaway - Alice Munro

"Runaway" - Alice Munro
The story is 45 pgs. long
from Runaway by Alice Munro, (Vintage, 2005)

I love Alice Munro's storytelling.  This one was particularly interesting because I'm not sure exactly what was going on near the end of the story.  I've thought and though about this ending.  Interesting.

This is the first story in Munro's collection of the same title.  It's about a young woman and her husband who run a small horse stable giving riding lessons and boarding a few horses.  Clark is gruff and subtly mean-spirited, and gives off weird vibes right from the beginning.  So with the help of a neighbor, Carla leaves him.  After only a short way she panics, leaves the bus,  calls Clark, and returns to him.  After a weird, epiphany-type happening between Clark and the neighbor, there's also a very odd ending.  I've tried to not include any spoilers, but give enough information to help me remember the story.

30. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan

2012 Farrar, Straus & Giroux
288 pgs.
Written for adults
Finished 8/12/13
Genre: Hard-to-say exactly, CRF with a tiny touch of fantasy?
Goodreads Rating: 3.78
My Rating:  Loved it (4) 
Setting: Contemporary San Francisco, Silicone Valley, NYC
1st sentence/s: " Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder."

My comments: One night I discovered that the yellow bars on the book spine and cover GLOW IN THE DARK!!! This was definitely a funky - and totally enjoyable - book. There were a lot of "technological" references that went right over my head, but that didn't impede the reading. I'm not even sure that Mr. Sloan didn't even just fabricate a lot of that part. A clever story, set in San Francisco, and about young computer "nerds." Fun.

Goodreads Review:  This was definitely a funky - and totally enjoyable - book. There were a lot of "technological" references that went right over my head, but that didn't impede the reading. I'm not even sure that Mr. Sloan didn't even just fabricate a lot of that part. A clever story, set in San Francisco, and about young computer "nerds." Fun.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

MOVIE - The Heat

R (1:57)
Wide Release 6/28/13
Viewed at ElC on Tuesday, 8/6/13
RT Critics:  66  Audience:  79
cag:  5/Loved it
Directed by Paul Feig
20th Century Fox

Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock

My comments:  This was one freakin' hilarious movie.  Never mind the crazy over-the-top Boston accents ("are you a nahk?" - too funny).  The storyline was somewhat plausible, the characters were waaaay out there - and the actors depicting those characters WORKED it!  Totally entertaining, ha-ha-ha funny, stupidly endearing - those two protagonists work together like peanut butter and jelly.

Rotten Tomatoes summary:  Uptight FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and foul-mouthed Boston cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) couldn't be more incompatible. But when they join forces to bring down a ruthless drug lord, they become the last thing anyone expected: buddies

29. Her Last Breath - Linda Castillo

Kate Burkholder #5 (Painter's Mill/Ohio Amish country police chief)
Minotaur Books, 2013
308 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.24
My rating :4/really good
Adult Murder Mystery
Setting: contemporary Painter's Mill, Ohio
1st line/s:  "The clip-clop of the standardbred' shod hooves against asphalt echoed withing the canopy of the trees."

My comments :I couldn't wait to read this latest installment in the Kate Burkholder "saga," so when my reserve became ready at the library I was overjoyed.  On my ride back from Maine, about 10 days ago, I actually visited Ohio's Amish country, including a couple of the towns mentioned in the book.  Since Painter's Mill is a fictional name, I'm betting that one of the towns I checked out is actually the "real" Painter's Mill. Very cool!  This installment was no disappointment, as I swallowed it up in just two readings and am ready for more.  Unfortunately, since this one was published last month, I've got a longish wait in front of me....

Goodreads summary:  A rainy night, an Amish father returning home with his three children, a speeding car hurtling toward them out of nowhere.  What at first seems like a tragic, but routine car accident  suddenly takes on a more sinister cast as evidence emerges that nothing about the crash is accidental.  But who would want to kill an Amish deacon and two of his children? He leaves behind a grieving widow and a young boy who clings to life in the intensive care wing of a hospital, unable to communicate.  He may be the only one who knows what happened that night.  Desperate to find out who killed her best friend’s husband and why, Kate begins to suspect she is not looking for a reckless drunk, but instead is on the trail of a cold blooded killer amid the residents of Painter’s Mill.  It is a search that takes her on a  chilling journey into the darkest reaches of the human heart and makes her question everything she has ever believed about the Amish culture into which she was born.

Monday, August 5, 2013

MOVIE - The Way, Way Back

PG-13 (1:43)
Limited release 7-5-13
Viewed Monday, 8-5-13 at El Con (just me...)
RT critic: 83 audience: 90
cag: 6/awesome
Directed by Jim Rash & Nat Faxon
Fox Searchlight

Actors: Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney

My comments:  This was a fabulous movie.  The acting was wonderful, the storyline was excellent, the energy was just terrific.  The young man who played the lead () is a kid to watch!

Rotten Tomatoes synopsis:  THE WAY, WAY BACK is the funny and poignant coming of age story of 14-year-old Duncan's (Liam James) summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), and his daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). Having a rough time fitting in, the introverted Duncan finds an unexpected friend in gregarious Owen (Sam Rockwell), manager of the Water Wizz water park. Through his funny, clandestine friendship with Owen, Duncan slowly opens up to and begins to finallyfind his place in the world - all during a summer he will never forget.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

28. The Weight of Water - Sarah Crossan

Bloomsbury, 2012
213 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.90
My rating: 5/Outstanding
For: Middle-school grades
Genre: CRF in verse
Setting: contemporary Coventry, England
1st line/s:    "The wheels on the suitcase break
Before we've even left Gdansk Glowny."

My comments:  Told in verse form (so it didn't take very long to read), this seemingly simple story is thought-provoking and incredibly relevant. It's definitely not simple. What's it like to be an immigrant? Bullies.... Divorce... A mother's incredible sadness that turns into a form of abuse....First love. Wonderful story, beautifully written, and very relevant for kids today.

Goodreads summary:  Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother's heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat." """"The Weight of Water" is a startlingly original piece of fiction; most simply a brilliant coming of age story, it also tackles the alienation experienced by many young immigrants. Moving, unsentimental and utterly page-turning, we meet and share the experiences of a remarkable girl who shows us how quiet courage prevails.

27. Fearless Fourteen - Janet Evanovich

#14 Stephanie Plum
Audio read by Lorelei King
7 unabridged cds
Macmillan Audio, 2008
310 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.98
My rating: 4/Really good - very, very funny
Adult "murder" mystery
Setting: contemporary Trenton, NJ
1st line/s:

My comments:  Okay, this one was funny (yes, ridiculous.....) but funny!  I've found that you have to read these with tongue-in-cheek.  Stephanie's antics seem to be calming down quite a bit, but Lula's are still going strong, and the variety of odd characters that Stephanie acquires - and accepts - without questions is wonderfully fun.  And Grandma Mazer.....I want to meet her...or BE another 25 years!

Goodreads summary:  Personal vendettas, hidden treasure, and a monkey named Carl will send bounty hunter Stephanie Plum on her most explosive adventure yet.

The Crime:  Armed robbery to the tune of nine million dollars.  Dom Rizzi robbed a bank, stashed the money, and did the time. His family couldn’t be more proud. He always was the smart one. The Cousin:  Joe Morelli.  Joe Morelli, Dom Rizzi, and Dom’s sister, Loretta, are cousins. Morelli is a cop, Rizzi robs banks, and Loretta is a single mother waiting tables at the firehouse. The all-American family.
The Complications:  Murder, kidnapping, destruction of personal property, and acid reflux. Less than a week after Dom’s release from prison, Joe Morelli has shadowy figures breaking into his house and dying in his basement. He’s getting threatening messages, Loretta is kidnapped, and Dom is missing.  The Catastrophe:  Moonman.   Morelli hires Walter “Mooner” Dunphy, stoner and “inventor” turned crime fighter, to protect his house. Morelli can’t afford a lot on a cop’s salary, and Mooner will work for potatoes.  The Cupcake:  Stephanie Plum.  Stephanie and Morelli have a long-standing relationship that involves sex, affection, and driving each other nuts. She’s a bond enforcement agent with more luck than talent, and she’s involved in this bank-robbery-gone-bad disaster from day one.  The Crisis:  A favor for Ranger.  Security expert Carlos Manoso, street name Ranger, has a job for Stephanie that will involve night work. Morelli has his own ideas regarding Stephanie’s evening activities.  The Conclusion:  Only the fearless should read Fourteen.

26. Evil at Heart - Chelsea Cain

#3 Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell
Audio read by Carolyn McCormick
8 unabridged cds
McMillan Audio, 2009
345 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.98
My rating:  4/Really, really good
Read on the ride from Maine through probably Ohio, August 2013
Genre: Murder Mystery (adult, of course)
Setting: contemporary Portland, Oregon

My comments:  Chelsea Cain is certainly a master storyteller, and her stories aren't pretty.  I have a huge aversion to cutting the skin and this is Gretchen Lowell's forte; sad for me, because I find this continuing story extremely fascinating. This one is particularly grizzly. Gretchen has made Archie a troubled soul, a pill-popping drug addict,and she never lets up.  What is truth and what is lies?  Are there elements of truth in every lie....are there elements of falsehood in all truth? 
Goodreads summary: Gretchen Lowell is still on the loose. These days, she’s more of a cause célèbre than a feared killer, thanks to sensationalist news coverage that has made her a star. Her face graces magazine covers weekly and there have been sightings of her around the world. Most shocking of all,Portland Herald reporter Susan Ward has uncovered a bizarre kind of fan club, which celebrates the number of days she’s been free.Archie Sheridan hunted her for a decade, and after his last ploy to catch her went spectacularly wrong, remains hospitalized months later. When they last spoke, they entered a détente of sorts---Archie agreed not to kill himself if she agreed not to kill anyone else. But when a new body is found accompanied by Gretchen’s trademark heart, all bets are off and Archie is forced back into action. Has the Beauty Killer returned to her gruesome ways, or has the cult surrounding her created a whole new evil?

25. The White Giraffe - Lauren St. John

audio read by Adjoa Ankoh
4 unabridged cds (4:47)
2006/ 2007 Random House audio
180 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.97
My rating: 2/It was okay
For: kids
Genre: Magical realism
Setting: contemporary South Africa

My comments:   I was hoping to read this aloud to my class, but it starts a little too brutally for my 4th graders (within the first few pages a raging house fire kills the protagonist's parents).  Pretty harsh.  Then, when Martine's whisked off to south Africa to live with the grandmother she never knew existed (?? - give me a break), that grandmother treats her quite harshly.  And later we're expected to believe that this woman loves this young girl?  Martine is really quite sneaky and is given free reign of the jungle?  Then, to top it all off, "magical reality" raises its eerie head, making the white giraffe - and its peculiar relationship with Martine - magical.  Just didn't do it for me, and won't for a lot of kids, but probably some will just love it.  I'll have it available during my Africa unit, but won't be reading it aloud.

Goodreads summary:  When Martine’s home in England burns down, killing her parents, she must go to South Africa to live on a wildlife game preserve, called Sawubona, with the grandmother she didn’t know she had. Almost as soon as she arrives, Martine hears stories about a white giraffe living in the preserve. But her grandmother and others working at Sawubona insist that the giraffe is just a myth. Martine is not so sure, until one stormy night when she looks out her window and locks eyes with Jemmy, a young silvery-white giraffe. Why is everyone keeping Jemmy’s existence a secret? Does it have anything to do with the rash of poaching going on at Sawubona? Martine needs all of the courage and smarts she has, not to mention a little African magic, to find out. First-time children’s author Lauren St. John brings us deep into the African world, where myths become reality and a young girl with a healing gift has the power to save her home and her one true friend.