Thursday, December 31, 2015

73rd Annual Golden Globe Nominations - 2016

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Mad Max – Fury Road
The Revenant WINNER

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
The Big Short
The Martian WINNER

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Bryan Carnston – Trumbo
Leonardo Dicaprio – The Revenant WINNER
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
Will Smith – Concussion
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Steve Carell – The Big Short
Matt Damon – The Martian WINNER
Al Pacino – Danny Collins
Mark Ruffalo – Infinitely Polar Bear

Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson – Room WINNER
Rooney Mara – Carol
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy WINNER
Melissa McCarthy – Spy
Amy Schumer – Trainwreck
Maggie Smith – The Lady in the Van
Lily Tomlin – Grandma

Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Any Motion Picture
Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
Sylvester Stallone - Creed WINNER

Best Actress in a Supporting Role – any motion picture
Jane Fonda – Youth
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Helen Mirren – Trumbo
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs WINNER

Best Director – Motion Picture
Todd Haynes – Carol
Alejandro G. Inarritu – The Revenant WINNER
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott –  The Martian

Best Motion Picture – Animated
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out WINNER
The Peanust Movie
Shaun the Sheep

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
The Brand New Testament (Belgium/France/Luxembourg)
The Club (Chile)
The Fencer (Finland/Germany/Estonia)
Mustang (France)
Son of Saul (Hungary) WINNER

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

71. Till the Sun Breaks Down - Tom Leveen

Deviant Aeon Book 1
read on my iPhone
2015 for Kindle
130 pgs.
Finished 12/10ish/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.00 (only four ratings)
My rating: 1
Setting: Phoenix and LA sometime in the future

First line/s: "Phoenix nights are as warm as the recently dead."

My comments:  Just let's leave it that I won't be reading book 2..... I read this for a book group read (anything by Tom Leveen, who is a Phoenix author coming to the Festival of Books in March).Not a good fit for me, I guess!

Goodreads synopsis:  Malikai awoke in the desert with nothing but a name and a sword, lacking any memory whatsoever of his identity or past. Discovering that his inhuman strength and reflexes made him a Deviant in the eyes of human society -- a monster who must be identified, cataloged, and registered, or else done away with -- he hid himself in an abandoned farm outside Phoenix. 
          But driven by an unnamed and voiceless force within himself, he fights to bring justice to the criminals of Phoenix, a once vibrant city now fallen into ruin. 
          When his zealous quest accidentally ruins one father’s pursuit of his kidnapped daughter, Malikai vows to find the girl and return her safely home. This promise takes him to the shining beacon of Los Angeles, where he uncovers a gang of human traffickers operating below the city streets. But this bloody job does more than expose the evil men do for profit -- it exposes the truth of his own origin and the penalty he has yet to pay... 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

70. Deception - Jonathan Kellerman

Alex Delaware #25
audio read John Rubenstein
cd back & forth from school and back & forth from Reagan Airport....
2010 Ballantine
338 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 12/27/15
Goodreads rating: 3.95
My rating: 3.5?  It held my interest...
Setting: Contemporary LA
First line/s:  "The woman had haunted eyes."

My comments:  These Kellerman mysteries keep me involved and thinking, though I appreciate the detective, Milo Sturgis, much more than Alex Delaware, the supposed protagonist, who only seems to be along for the ride.

Goodreads Summary:  Her name is Elise Freeman, and her chilling cry for help comes too late to save her. On a DVD found near her lifeless body, the emotionally and physically battered woman chronicles a long ordeal of abuse at the hands of three sadistic tormentors. But even more shocking is the revelation that the offenders, like their victim, are teachers at one of L.A.’s most prestigious prep schools. Homicide detective Milo Sturgis is assigned to probe the hallowed halls of Windsor Prep Academy, and if ever he could use Dr. Alex Delaware’s psychological prowess, it’s now. As the scandal-conscious elite close ranks around Windsor Prep, Alex and Milo push to expose the dirty secrets festering among society’s manor-born. But while searching for predators among the privileged, Alex and Milo may be walking into a highly polished death trap.

Friday, December 25, 2015

MOVIE - Alvin and the Chipmunks - The Road Chip

G (1:26)
Wide/ release 12/18/15
Saw it on 12/23/15 at the Carlisle 8 with Ella and Tristan
RT Critic: 14   Audience:  60
Cag:  4/Actually liked this one a lot
Ella:  "Very funny, cute fictional movie, totally worth going."
Tristan:  "It was good."
Directed by Walt Becker
20th Century Fox
Justin Long did the voice of Alvin, but also co-wrote, which is kind of cool...

My comments:  I've yawned my way (or rolled my eyes through) the previous Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, but this one was cute and entertaining.  Of course, the two cutie pies sitting on either side of me helped my personal enjoyment a great deal!

RT Summary:  When Dave (Jason Lee) introduces Alvin, Simon, and Theodore to his new girlfriend Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and her troublemaking son Miles (Josh Green), the chipmunks begin to panic at the thought of Dave proposing to her while on a trip to Miami. Fearing that they will be sent back to the forest if the relationship becomes too serious, the three decide to head to Florida to stop the proposal. Luckily, Miles isn't thrilled with the idea of having a stepfather, so he decides to accompany them on their zany road trip

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

69. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell - Chris Colfer

The Land of Stories #1
read aloud during book club to 3rd and 4th graders (who all loved it)
2012 Little Brown Young Readers
438 pgs.
Middle Grade fantasy
Finished 12/16/15
Goodreads rating: 4.17
My rating: 3
Setting: Fairy tale land, for the most part

First line/s:  "The dungeon was a miserable place.  Light was scarce and flickered fromthe torches bolted to the stone walls.  Foul-smelling water dripped inside from the moat circling the palace above.  Large rats chased each other across the floor searching for food.  This was no place for a queen."

My comments:  I read this aloud to my 3rd & 4th grade book club that takes place thrice a week at lunch/recess.  There are probably about 20 kids and they LOVED this book!  I was not quite as enthralled as they were, though I admire Chris Colfer as a musician and actor  and am thrilled that he's going down the author road.  Probably my biggest problem is that I am not a fairy tale admirer, and watching the tv series "Once Upon a Time" has more than fulfilled any desire for more "twisted" fairy tales.

Goodreads Summary:  Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairy tales. 
          "The Land of Stories" tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. 
          But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.

68. The Hired Girl - Laura Amy Schlitz

2015 Candlewick Press
387 pgs.
YS Historical Fiction
Finished 12/12/15
Goodreads rating:  4.05
My rating:4.5 - an excellent read
Setting:  1911 Baltimore, Md.

First line/s:  Sunday, June the fourth, 1911  "Today Miss Chandler gave me this beautiful book.  I vow that I will never forget her kindness to me, and I will use this book as she told me to - I will write in it with truth and refinement."

My comments:  The book is divided into seven "parts," each with a painting as it frontispiece and title. The paintings are acknowledged in the back of the book with painter, date, size, and gallery where each can be found.  I liked this.  The story is about Joan Skaggs (who renamed herself Janet Lovelace), a fourteen year old abused runaway who becomes the hired girl for an upper-class Jewish family in Baltimore.  The story is told from her point-of-view, in first person format, which works really well for this interesting tale.  I particularly enjoyed all the reference to cultural Judaism, which I've learned so much about in my last few years teaching in a Jewish day school.

Becky's review from Becky's Book Reviews

Goodreads Summary:  Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself—because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of—a woman with a future. 

Inspired by her grandmother’s journal, Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sharp wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a comedic tour de force destined to become a modern classic. Joan’s journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a society household in Baltimore (Electricity! Carpet sweepers! Sending out the laundry!) takes its reader on an exploration of feminism and housework, religion and literature, love and loyalty, cats, hats, bunions, and burns.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

MOVIE - Spotlight

R (2:07)
Limited release 11/6/15
Viewed 122/10 at ElCon with Sheila
RT Critic:  98  Audience:  96
Critics Consensus: Spotlight gracefully handles the lurid details of its fact-based story while resisting the temptation to lionize its heroes, resulting in a drama that honors the audience as well as its real-life subjects.
Cag:  6  Wonderful movie, superbly done
Directed by Tom McCarthy (who also co-wrote)
Open Road Films
Based on the book by

Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber, John Slattery,

My comments: I'm beginning to realize that my favorite movies are the ones that tell a true story.  Perhaps it's the actors that take on these stories?  Whatever the reason, this ensemble cast and clear, un-boring telling of how a huge coverup was detected was super-interesting from beginning to end.  The acting?  Superb!

RT Summary:  The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Friday, December 4, 2015

67. Running Blind - Lee Child

Jack Reacher #4
read by Jonathan McClain - a different reader than I'm used to for Reacher, couldn't quite get used to it
11 unabridged cds
2000/2012 Penguin Audio
512 pgs.
Adult murder mystery
Finished 12/8/2015
Goodreads rating:  4.07
My rating: 3
Setting:  Washington DC and the northwest

First line/s:  "Life is full of decisions and judgments and guesses, and it gets to the point that you're so accustomed to making them you keep right on making them even when you don't strictly need to.  You get into a what if thing, and you start speculating about what you would do if some problem was yours instead of someone else's.  It gets to be a habit.  It was a habit Jack Reacher had in spades."

My comments:  There were too many rights-related happenstances that I found difficult to believe in this book.  Reacher was able to get past them all, but it did get the old eyeballs rolling a few times.....  It was a great mystery, convoluted and believable.....  I love to envision this tall, well-built man, lying on his back in bed for an entire night just thinking and figuring and tossing different scenarios around in his mind.....

Goodreads Summary:  There were too many rights-related happenstances that I found difficult to believe in this book.  Reacher was able to get past them all, but it did get the old eyeballs rolling a few times.....  It was a great mystery, convoluted and believable.....  I love to envision this tall, well-built man, lying on his back in bed for an entire night just thinking and figuring and tossing different scenarios around in his mind.....

66. George by Alex Gino

2015 Scholastic Press
199 pgs.
Middle Grades
Finished 12/2/15
Goodreads rating:  3,96
My rating:  4
Setting: Contemporary -- New Jersey? (2 hrs. from the Bronx, a couple hours from Pennsylvania's Poconos)
I like the cover.  A lot.

First line/s:  (From Chapter 1:  Secrets)  "George pulled a silver house key out of the smallest pocket of a large red backpack.  Mom had sewn the key in so that it wouldn't get lost, but the yarn wasn't quite long enough to reach the keyhole if the bag rested on the ground.  Instead, George had to steady herself awkwardly on one foot while the backpack rested on her other knee.  She wiggled the key until it clicked into place."

My comments:  First of all, I'm thrilled that this book is written for and accessible to younger (ages 9, 10, 11) kids.  It IS written very simply, it IS a quick read, but it's real, it has heart, it elicits much more empathy than hearing things on the nasty news.  I know I have parents in my classroom that will have a fit if their son/daughter reads it.  I'll deal. A needed book.
     (Then why not a 5-rating?  I'm not sure.  It was a really good book, but lacking the little extra something for me that pushes it up to a five.)

Goodreads Summary:   BE WHO YOU ARE.
          When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.
          George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy.  
          With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

MOVIE - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

PG-13 (2:16)
Wide Release 11/20/15
Viewed at ElCon
RT Critic:  70  Audience:  70
Cag:  2/ It was okay, but just barely....more BLEH!
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Lionsgate Films
Based on the book by Suzanne Collins

Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, Liam Hemsworth

My comments:  Total disappointment.  I hated the last book in this series, and didn't like the movie at all.  I'm still so disappointed in the casting pf Peta - don't like him at all, practically not charisma with Katniss at all.

MOVIE - Sufragette

PG-13 (1:46)
Limited release 10/23/15
Viewed at ElCon with Sheila
RT Critic:  72  Audience:  74
Cag:  4.5 Liked it a lot - learned a lot about the Women's movement in Great Britain
Directed by Sarah Gavron
Focus Features

Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep (for just a small portion).

My comments:  This was a heart-wrenching, eye-opening film.  The story of  the British women's rights' movement was quite unfamiliar to me previously, this was entertaining as well as educational.  A great movie experience.

RT Summary:  Academy Award nominees Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter, and three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep, lead the cast of a powerful drama about the women who were willing to lose everything in their fight for equality in early-20th-century Britain. The stirring story centers on Maud (played by Carey Mulligan), a working wife and mother whose life is forever changed when she is secretly recruited to join the U.K.'s growing suffragette movement. Galvanized by the outlaw fugitive Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), Maud becomes an activist for the cause alongside women from all walks of life. When increasingly aggressive police action forces Maud and her dedicated fellow suffragettes underground, they engage in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the authorities, who are shocked as the women's civil disobedience escalates and sparks debate across the nation. Inspired by true events, SUFFRAGETTE is a moving drama exploring the passion and heartbreak of those who risked all they had for women's right to vote - their jobs, their homes, their children, and even their lives. 

MOVIE - The Martian

PG-13 (2:14)
Wide release 10/2/15
RT Critic:  93    Audience:   93
Cag:  4.5 liked it a whole lot
Directed by Ridley Scott
20th Century Fox
Based on the book by Andy Weir

A Critic review:   Damon has never seemed more at home than he does here, millions of miles adrift. Would any other actor have shouldered the weight of the role with such diligent grace?

Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig

My comments:  Fun, though nail-biting experience, Matt Damon's quick wit and quirky grin added to my enjoyment of the film.  Although scifi, it was really quite believable....

RT Summary:  During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring "the Martian" home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney's safe return. Based on a best-selling novel, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, THE MARTIAN features a star studded cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover.

MOVIE - Love the Coopers

PG-13 (2:00)
Wide release 11/13/15
Saw this one by myself
RT Critic: 20   Audience: 41
Cag:  2.5 It was okay....
Directed by Jessie Nelson

Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Alan Harkin

My comments:   This was sort of stupid and unbelievable.  Diane Keaton is bent on leaving John Goodman after many years of marriage....but why?  It's totally unapparent and really dumb.  A few laughs, Alan Arkin is great....but I was pretty unimpressed.

RT Summary:  LOVE THE COOPERS follows the Cooper clan as four generations of extended family come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration. As the evening unfolds, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday.

MOVIE - Bridge of Spies

PG-13 (2:15)
Wide release 10.16-15
ElCon with Sheila
RT Critic: 91   Audience:   89
Cag:  6/Awesome
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Coen Brothers

Tom Hanks - Mark Rylance was particularly GOOD

My comments:  This was one interesting, fascinating movie.  So much history!

RT Summary:  Tom Hanks stars as the American attorney tasked with negotiating the release of a U-2 spy plane pilot who was shot down over Russia at the height of the Cold War in this historical drama.

MOVIE - Rock the Kasbah

R (1:40)
Wide release 10/23/15
Saw this on Sat. 10/24 at Century Oro Valley Marketplace all by my lonesome....
RT Critic: 8   Audience: 39
Cag: 2/It was okay but sort of a waste of time and effort for Bill Murray's talents
Directed by Mitch Glazer
Open Road Films

Bill Murray, Kate Hudson

My comments: I was really looking forward to this, but decided it was pretty much a waste of time.  So disappointed.  The whole music contest show didn't make sense to me...the premise was pretty cool, but it didn't connect with me at all.

RT Summary:  A has-been rock manager from Van Nuys, California stumbles upon a once-in-a-lifetime voice in a remote Afghan cave in Rock the Kasbah, a dramatic comedy inspired by stranger-than-fiction, real-life events and directed by Oscar winner Barry Levinson. Richie Lanz (Bill Murray), dumped and stranded in war-torn Kabul by his last remaining client (Zooey Deschanel), discovers Salima Khan (Leem Lubany), a Pashtun teenager with a beautiful voice and the courageous dream of becoming the first woman to compete on national television in Afghanistan's version of "American Idol." Richie partners with a savvy hooker (Kate Hudson), a pair of hard-partying war profiteers (Danny McBride and Scott Caan) and a hair-trigger mercenary (Bruce Willis) and, braving dangerous cultural prejudices, manages his new protégée into becoming the "Afghan Star."

MOVIE - Man from U.N.C.L.E

PG-13 (1:56)
Limited release 8/14/15
Saw this sometime in October, 2015
RT Critic: 67   Audience:  76
Cag:  4 Liked it a lot
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Warner Bros. Pictures

My comments:  I totally enjoyed this.  I was sure it wouldn't live up to my loving memories of David McCallum's Illya Kuryakin, but it did...and perhaps even surpassed those memories.  The two protagonists were cast really well.  The story was interesting, and the time flew by.  

RT Summary:  Henry Cavill ("Man of Steel") stars as Napoleon Solo opposite Armie Hammer ("The Social Network") as Illya Kuryakin in director Guy Ritchie's "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," a fresh take on the hugely popular 1960s television series. Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." centers on CIA agent Solo and KGB agent Kuryakin. Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo's only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Quest Scouts December - Atlas

December 1, 2015
Type: Standard
Need 1000 pts. (out of 2500)
Expires 10/1/16

Sunday, November 29, 2015

65. The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Book 1:  The Saga of Shahzrad and Khalid
2015, G. P. Putnam's Sons
395 pgs.
YA Fantasy/HistFiction/Retelling of 1001 Nights...
Finished 11-29-2015
Goodreads rating:  4.23
My rating:  4
Setting:  Ancient "Khorasan" (Persia?)
Book 2:  The Rose and the Dagger should appear in May, 2016

First line/s:  "It would not be a welcome dawn.  Already the sky told this story, with its sad halo of silver beckoning from beyond the horizon."

My comments:  A little heavy on the romance, but the main character - many of the characters, actually - were sassy, with great senses of humor....real.  I love the setting of ancient times, and the introduction of magic, though a little more of that would have been welcome.  Kahlid was a little too silently smoldering, but I think a lot of YA females will enjoy that.  Decent storytelling!  I look forward to the second in the series to see what directions the plot will take and what happens to some of the more endearing - and not-so-endearing characters.
     Note:  the illustration/photo of Shahzrad in the cover and front endpaper is perfect - sassy, gorgeous, young....and I loved the cover, too....

Goodreads Summary:  One Life to One Dawn.
          In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.
          Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?
          Inspired by A Thousand and One NightsThe Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Letterboxing: My Very First PLANT

When I finally figured out what to carve for my first plant it was easy.  MY FIRST PLANT!  And I actually drew it myself....reminiscent of the plant that I paper-punched for Laura's wedding seating cards!

I hunted in three different stores for the right container.  It had a red cover, but was the perfect size.  I wish I had thought to purchase some spray paint...perhaps gray, to hide in the rocks, but I'll do that next time.

I made a little pouch to hold the stamp, put them all together and took off looking for a place to plant it.  I'd been looking and thinking about this for awhile, but after I drove into the cemetery I'd been considering I said "nay" and bid it adieu.  Too snaky in the summer, no rocks to create a SPOR, By his time it was getting past dusk...and overcast day made it even darker so I sadly decided to wait until today to find a spot.

I'd made a reservation at Roadhouse to go see Mockingjay today (Thanksgiving)...and there it was!  The perfect place!

So now MY FIRST PLANT is hidden and posted on AtlasQuest.  I feel like I've hit the big time!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

64. Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

2014 National Book Award FINALIST
audio read by Kirsten Potter
2014, Random House Audio & Knopf
11 unabridged cds
336 pgs.
Adult fantasy/dystopia
Finished 11/15/15
Goodreads rating:  4.0
My rating: 3
Setting:  Michigan area, contemporary times after a pandemic

First line/s:  "The king stood in a pool of light, unmoored. This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theater in Toronto."

My comments:  This is a tough one for me to rate.  It's the kind of book I'd like to sit down with a book group and discuss.  Great writing, lots of jumping around (most of it's easy to follow, Mandel must have had to use a wall covered with diagrams to keep things straight...), but there's something a little bit missing.  It's not a book that will be easily forgotten, that's for certain, but it left me feeling I'd missed something (or some things)....

Here are some notes I found later on my phone:  I thought for awhile since finishing this book about what I really take away from it.  This is the kind of book I'd like to sit and talk about with friends.  I bet everyone would think the theme of the book was different than others thought.  There are so many levels, so many relationships, and so many things that I haven't even figured out connecting.  I picture the author having a huge black wall in front of her, creating characters and scenarios and overlapping an circling and layering plot and setting, particularly time.  Time.  Plague.  Why some people get sick and others didn't.  TWhy did they live in public buildings and not in houses they could've easily taken over - for comfort and safety alone.  What had happened to the entire company that they missed each other on the road?  Seems totally imporbable.  What was so important about the glass paperweight?  Didn't seem to fit completely into the story.  Would people really turn on each other the way they did?  And how exactly would an entire world ground to a halt the way it did?  The resources were still there and there had to be people still left that knew how to tap them...

Becky's Review from Becky's Book Reviews

Goodreads Summary:  An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. 
      One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them. 
      Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave. 
      Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

63. The Impossible Knife of Memory - Laurie Halse Anderson

2014, Viking Books for Young Readers
391 pgs.
Finished 11/9/15
Goodreads rating:  3.93
My rating: 4
Setting: Contemporary New York State - somewhere between Albany and Poughkeepsie, which are both mentioned more than once.

First line/s:  "It started in detention.  No surprise there, right?"

My comments:  I read this book in one afternoon/evening/late night.  It was hard to put down. It's about PTSD and its effect on a family.  It's powerful and is a wonderful blend of good characterization and excellent plot.  There are two things that keep me from giving this a 5 - and I don't want to dwell on them, only mention them, because this book is really good.  The hard-to-get-to-know, leave-me-alone protagonist becomes instant best friends with Gracie, a girl she knew, but doesnt' remember, when she way little.  Excellent.  However, there is never any mention of any other friends that Gracie might have.  None.  She's not the type of young lady that would be friendless.  What happened to them?  This didn't work for me.  And then there's the ending, or at least the wrapping-it-up part.  Too quickly told, and not quite totally believable to me.  I love happy endings, but I need to feel they could really happen in the way they're told.  Oh well. I will definitely be recommending this book.

Becky's review from Becky's Book Reviews

Goodreads Summary:  For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.
        Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

PICTURE BOOK - Sharing the Bread: an Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller

Illustrated by Jill McElmurry
2015, Random House Children's Books
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.92
My rating:  4
Endpapers:  Front bright red; back navy blue
1st line/s:  
     "Mama fetch the cooking pot.
      Fetch our turkey-cooking pot.
      Big and old and black and squat.
      Mama, fetch the pot."

My comments:       I love to check out the new holiday picture book offerings - especially Thanksgiving, which has become so over-shadowed by Christmas and Black Friday!  So it was fun to peek at this new picture book today.
     Sharing the Bread is set in the late 19th century, is simple and sweet, with lovely rhyming, rhythmic verses.  Everyone in the family has a job to do in preparation for the meal.  The only religious overtones are at the end when the double-page spread depicts the entire family holding hands around the table. "Fold. Shout. Sit. Pray.  All together on this day." A lovely book.

Read the review on Great Kids Books

Goodreads:  Celebrate food and family with this heartwarming Thanksgiving picture book. We will share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread. / Grateful to be warm and fed. / We will share the bread. In this spirited ode to the holiday, set at the turn of the twentieth century, a large family works together to make their special meal. Mama prepares the turkey, Daddy tends the fire, Sister kneads, and Brother bastes. Everyone—from Grandma and Grandpa to the littlest baby—has a special job to do. Told in spare, rhythmic verse and lively illustrations, Sharing the Bread is a perfect read-aloud to celebrate the Thanksgiving tradition.

"A warm and wonderful holiday treasure." —Publishers Weekly, Starred

"Captures the spirit of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner." —School Library Journal

"A delightful holiday book that shows the heartwarming tradition of food and family." —Booklist

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Quest Scouts November - Paper & Ink

Paper & Ink
November 1, 2015
Type: Standard
Need 1,000 pts. (out of 2,500)
Expires 9/1/16

Friday, October 30, 2015

62. Tag Man - Archer Mayor

Joe Gunther #22
7 unabridged cds
2011 Minotaur Books
290 pgs.
Adult mystery
Finished 10/28/15
Goodreads rating:  3.79
My rating:  2.5
Setting: Contemporary Brattleboro, VT

First line/s:  "He sat in the center of the love seat, in the darkened bedroom, settled against the soft pillows behind him.  His hands, clad in thin cotton gloves, were folded in his lap; his feet, wrapped in blue surgical booties stretched out before the neatened coffee table before him."

My comments: A police procedural "murder mystery" set in contemporary Brattleboro, Vermont.  There were lots and lots of books in the series that came before this one, none that I'd read, but I had no problem at all following the characters or plot.  It was okay.  I don't know why I wanted more, but I did.

Goodreads Summary:  Someone is breaking into the homes of the rich, bypassing their high-tech security, their state-of-the-art locks and then making himself at home. The intruder doesn’t seem to steal anything except some food. At each break-in, he leaves the remains of his snack out and a Post-it note stuck next to the bed where the owners are sleeping. One word is written on the note: Tag.
Although the press loves him, problems begin for the elusive Tag Man when he removes some documents from the home of a mobbed-up man. Shortly thereafter, the danger increases when a trip through a beautifully furnished mansion turns up a secret basement room, where the Tag Man discovers a truly horrifying secret. Joe Gunther, struggling to recover from a devastating personal loss, leads his VBI team to untangle the many conflicting pieces of evidence, while the burglar himself struggles for survival in the no-man's-land between the police and the villains.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

61. Victims - Jonathan Kellerman

Alex Delaware #27
listened to the audio cd on the way back and forth from work
audio read by John Rubenstein - very enjoyable
2012, Random House Audio,
12 hours/10 unabridged cds
338 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 10/6/2015
Goodreads rating: 3.91
My rating: 4/ very good storytelling, though gritty/gross
Setting: contemporary LA area

First line/s:  "This one was different.  The first hint was Milo's tight-voiced eight a.m. message, stripped of details."

My comments:  I haven't read a Jonathan Kellerman for many years, but have read a few in the past, so decided to read this one out-of-order (I'm so anal, I don't usually do this).  Very interesting story, especially when looking at the deep dark workings of the human psyche that have gone awry...very awry.  Alex Delaware is the psycho-therapist sidekick to LA detective Milo Sturgis.  He doesn't really do too much, perhaps sheds a little insight, but when Milo Sturgis is on the track, watch out.  I love the way that John Rubenstein "reads" Sturgis - tough, gritty, but with great empathy.  I enjoyed this one, as super-gritty (gross) as it was...

Goodreads Summary:

Monday, October 5, 2015

MOVIE - Black Mass

R (2:02)
Wide release 9-18-15
Viewed 10-1-15 at ElCon with Sheila and Connie
RT Critic:  76  Audience:   76
Cag:  5/Loved it 
Directed by Scott Cooper
Warner Bros. Studios
Based on the true story of Jimmy "Whitey" Bulger,  South Boston crime lord

Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson....and even Peter Sarsgaard

My comments:  This was a good one.  A true story I could relate to (being "from" Boston) - excellent story retelling and super actors.  Enjoyed every minute.  Interesting to watch the goodness in someone collide with the badness and watch a psychopath become crazier.  And then there's corruption.  Cops.  I grew up in the 60s and cops have always given me the heebie-jeebies, my 60s residue.  This movie reminded me of so much - especially Southie vs. the North End.....

RT Summary:  In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) persuades Irish mobster James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp) to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy: the Italian mob. The drama tells the story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement, consolidate power, and become one of the most ruthless and powerful gangsters in Boston history.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

2015 Row By Row

6/21/2015 - 9/8/2015
Go to the National website here.

License Plates I Have:
11 States! 18 PLATES (Didn't get them from every shop I perused....)

CT - HAPPY QUILTING - Quilting By the Yard,, Vernon
DE - BEACH QUILTER - Mare's Bears Quilt Shop, Lewes
ID - T + G + P = LUV - The Gathering Place, Rupert
ME - SEW NOT NORMAL - The Cotton Cupboard Quilt Shop, Bangor
ME - QUILTING LOONS - Choppin' Cotton, Bangor
ME -
ME - VIRTUOSEW - Sewing by the Sea, Trenton
MI - SEW FINE - The Quilters Garden, Fenton
MI - GOT FABRIC? :) - Delphine's Quilt Shop, Gaylord
MI - SEW BY THE LAKE - Fabric Patch, Ironwood
MN - SUPERIOR DAYS - Hannah Johnson Fabrics, Duluth
MN - I BR8k 4 FABRIC - Quilts on Broadway, Foley
MN - QUILTERS ROCK! - Quarry Quilts & Yarns, LLC, Sandstone
NV - EVERYTHING COZY - Comfy Cozy Quilt Shop, Winnemucca
NJ - QUILTR 4 EVR - Budding Star Quilts, Lebanon
OH - SEWK UP COLOR - Sew Deja Vu, Stow
PA - BSHORE2MBELLISH - Half Moon Handwerks, New Cumberland
WI - CHEQUAMEGON BAY - (shih-KWAN-a-men) Ashland Area Fabric & Quilt, Ashland

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

MOVIE - Paper Towns

PG-13 (1:49)
Wide release 7-24-15
Viewed at Century Gateway on 9/21/15
RT Critic:  55  Audience:   57
Cag:  3.5 / Entertaining and watchable, liked it
Directed by Jake Schreier
20th Century Fox
Based on the book by John Green

My comments:  Perhaps the part of Margo was miscast for me, because I didn't like her (particularly) couldn't figure out why Q was so taken with her, and couldn't even figure out what motivated her.  However, the parts with Quentin and his two best friends were priceless and special.

RT Summary:  Adapted from the bestselling novel by author John Green ("The Fault in Our Stars"), PAPER TOWNS is a coming-of-age story centering on Quentin and his enigmatic neighbor Margo, who loved mysteries so much she became one. After taking him on an all-night adventure through their hometown, Margo suddenly disappears--leaving behind cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. The search leads Quentin and his quick-witted friends on an exhilarating adventure that is equal parts hilarious and moving.Ultimately, to track down Margo, Quentin must find a deeper understanding of true friendship--and true love. 

60. Court of Fives - Kate Elliott

#1 Court of Fives
Actually read the just-out, hard-covered book!
2015, Little Brown & Co.
432 pgs.
YA Fantasy/Dystopia
Finished 9/22/15
Goodreads rating:  3.66
My rating:  5/Loved it

First line/s: We four sisters are sitting in the courtyard at dusk in what passes for peace in our house.  Well-brought-up girls do not fidget nor fume nor ever betray the least impatience or boredom.  But it is so hard to sit still when all I can think about is how I am going to sneak out of the house tomorrow to do the thing my father would never, ever give me permission to do.

My comments:  This is a story of class and rank and color, taking place in a world woven by the imagination of Kate Elliott. It's a story of five women - four sisters and their mother, who have had very few choices in their lives, but seem to have cleverly stayed on the shaky path they each have been able to make for themself. Of course those paths are fraught with disconcerting "uh-ohs" at every turn, but the choices they are able to make actually win out - or come close.  They all have an unsteady place in the society woven in this book, and as things go from okay to bad to worse, the story flies along unceasingly. Fast.  Gritty.  I really, really enjoyed it and couldn't put it down.  Sure, some of it was not-quite believable, but I didn't care.  Jessamy, the protagonist, is a winner - and I don't mean in just the court of fives!
          I've read some negative reviews about this book. To each her own taste. I truly enjoyed it, every awkward, eye-rolling happening!
     (I wonder if the next in the series is going to be from the missing-for-most-of-this-book Bettany's point of view?)

From the copyright page:  When a scheming lord tears Jes's family apart, she must rely on her unlikely friendship with Kal, a high-ranking Patron boy, and her skill at Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory, to protect her Commoner mother and mixed-race sisters and save her father's reputation.

Goodreads Summary:
On the Fives court, everyone is equal.

And everyone is dangerous.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.
     Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.
     In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.