Saturday, January 31, 2015

12. The Museum of Extraordinary Things - Alice Hoffman

Audio read by Judith Light, Grace Gummer, and Zach Appelman
10 unabridged cds
2014, Scribner (Simon & Schuster Audio)
368 pgs.
Historical Fiction
Finished 1/31/2014
Goodreads rating: 3.72
My rating:    5 - A wonderful story, especially to listen to
Setting: 1911 NYC

1st sentence/s: "You would think it would be impossible to find anything new in the world; creatures no man has ever seen before, one-of-a-kind oddities in which nature has taken a backseat to the coursing pulse of the fantastical and the marvelous."

My comments:  This was really two stories that slowly....ever so slowly and deliciously....come together. The time period - early 20th century - is one that I don't especially enjoy reading about for some reason, but I was mesmerized by the bits of history (yes, some very horrific bits of history, but history nontheless) that Hoffman describes in great detail.  She is one heck of a writer and one heck of a storyteller. Additionally, this one was a treat to listen to, not read.  There was a lovely voice for Coralee, and strong male voice for Eddie, and the wonderful, intense reading of Judith Light as the narrator.  Terrific!

Goodreads book summary:  From the beloved, bestselling author of The Dovekeepers, a mesmerizing new novel about the electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.Coney Island: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show that amazes and stimulates the crowds. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man photographing moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.
          The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as an apprentice tailor. When Eddie captures with his camera the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance.
          New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Hoffman at her most spellbinding

PICTURE BOOK - Christopher Newport, Jamestown Explorer - Sharon K. Solomon

Illustrated by Dan Bridy
2013, Pelican Publishing
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.0
My rating: 3.5
Endpapers: rust
Illustrations nicely compliment the story, leaving less white on many pages than some smaller publishers might have (yay!)

My comments:  I've always had a fascination with the mysterious histories of Roanoke and Jamestown, even visiting each several times.  This picture book tells the story of Christopher Newport - who after years of being a privateer (PIRATE!), was hired by the Virginia Company to be the commander of the three ships - the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery - which were to be the founders of the first permanent settlement in America: Jamestown.  According to this, Captain John Smith was a passenger and somewhat of a troublemaker, not particularly the captain/leader that my memory of history seems to make him out to be.  But, alas, since I now have more questions about these two men and their parts in this history,I now have the desire to look into things a bit more and read anew.....

Goodreads:  Christopher Newport made history when he founded the first British colony in America. Discover how the young lad from Harwich, England, came to command three ships destined to reach the New World. This biography takes readers on Newport's adventures of the high seas, full of sword fights, exotic foods, and shipwrecks. Join him on the journey to America, the quest for the elusive Northwest Passage to China, and beyond.
          In 1857, Sir Francis Drake hired Newport to capture Spanish ships and bring treasures back to England. After ten years as a privateer, Newport was chosen by King James to command three ships owned by the Virginia Company. On this voyage, Newport and his crew changed the world by founding Jamestown, the first successful English-speaking colony in America.

Friday, January 30, 2015

11. Cry Wolf - J. Carson Black

Laura Cardinal #4 (Tucson, AZ)
Read on my iPhone
2013 Breakaway Media
132 pgs. Kindle edition
Adult Murder Mystery/Police Procedural
Finished 1/29/2015
Goodreads rating: 3.55
My rating:   2/ It was okay....
Setting: contemporary Tucson, AZ

1st sentence/s:  "Laura Cardinal was just finishing up breakfast when she got the call."

My comments:  Short, but not sweet.  Loved the setting - in and around Tucson, including Madera Canyon to the south, and the story was good.  So why didn't I like it more? All of a sudden Laura Cardinal has a (very) serious relationship that is close-to-meaningless because I've gotten to know her in the previous three books and this is entirely and completely just thrown in.  There is not enough development of the relationship between Laura and her partner. I think it must be the lack of character development that's thrown me off....

Goodreads book summary:  Laura Cardinal: Packs a SIG Sauer P226 9mm. Investigates homicides in small towns that have limited resources. Brings justice to murder victims--and to their killers. Laura’s job description: Criminal Investigator with the Arizona Department of Public Safety. But maybe it should just say “Troubleshooter”.
          Tell me no lies.
          Laura and her aspiring-film-director partner, Anthony, catch a homicide case where nothing is as it appears. When pathological liar Sean Perrin is found dead in his car at a trailhead in scenic Madera Canyon, he leaves behind a skein of lies and half-truths that are impossible to untangle. From violent death in a sordid motel room to a high-end prostitution ring in Las Vegas, Laura and Anthony follow Sean’s trail across a landscape of broken dreams and convincing lies—until they confront the true evil behind the mask.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

10. Heroes Are My Weakness - Susan Elizabeth Phillips

2014, William Morrow
364 pgs.
Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Finished 1/28/2015
Goodreads rating: 3.68
My rating:   5-Really, really liked it
Setting:  Isolated Maine island, Contemporary winter

1st sentence/s: "She didn't usually talk to her suitcase, but she wasn't exactly herself these days."

My comments:   I really enjoyed this book.  I remember eating up all sorts of English manor/stern male/savvy governess stories when I was a young adult and for some reason this reminded me of them - even though it took place in contemporary Maine!  The island way off the coast of Maine, only visited by a ferry once every six weeks, AND in the middle of winter, are all things that are either very familiar or somewhat familiar. I loved the characters, and I loved the puppets.  Puppets?  In our heroine's head the voices of her five "dummies" occasionally pop up.  At first I thought it would be irritating, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying the way that Annie's thoughts were shown through those puppet's voices.  And the relationship between Annie and Theo?  DELIGHTFUL!  Funny, thoughtful....real.  The two of them had me giggling over and over again.  Yup, I had a blast with this story. (But I really don't like the cover.  It looks like a nonfiction.  It could have been SO much better.)

Goodreads book summary:  The dead of winter.

An isolated island off the coast of Maine.

A man.

A woman.

A sinister house looming over the sea ...

He's a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She's a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids' puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.

But she's not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they're trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.

It's going to be a long, hot winter.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

PICTURE BOOK - A Home for Mr. Emerson - Barbara Kerley

Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
2014 Scholastic Press
HC $18.99
48 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.08
My rating: 4

My comments:  I've always known of Ralph Waldo Emerson - I knew he was a philosophical writer linked to Thoreau and Concord, Massachusetts.  This picture book biography, like somany I've read in the last few years, illuminates the man as a person - husband, father, friend; then thinker and and writer.  The book is filled with his quotes   - they are actually much of the text - and best of all is a list of writing ideas after the excellent Author's Note at the back of the book entitled "Build a World of Your Own."  
     A few suggestions:
          List 5 things you love to do
          List 3 things you'd like to learn more about
          Think about your favorie room - what do you like about it?
          Write down 5 favorite spots in  your city

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

"The only way to have a friend is to be one."

Goodreads:  From the award-winning creators of THOSE REBELS, JOHN & TOM, a joyful portrait of an American icon and an inspiring blueprint for how to live your life.

"All life is an experiment.
The more
experiments you make
the better."

          Before Ralph Waldo Emerson was a great writer, he was a city boy who longed for the broad, open fields and deep, still woods of the country, and then a young man who treasured books, ideas, and people. When he grew up and set out in the world, he wondered, could he build a life around these things he loved?
          This moving biography--presented with Barbara Kerley and Edwin Fotheringham's inimitable grace and style--illustrates the rewards of a life well-lived, one built around personal passions: creativity and community, nature and friendship.
          May it inspire you to experiment and build the life you dream of living.

MOVIE - The Imitation Game

PG-13 (1:54)
Wide release 11/24/14
Viewed Friday, 1/23/2015 at ElCon
RT Critic: 90   Audience:  94  
Cag:  5/Loved it
Directed by Morton Tyldum
The Weinstein Company

Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode (who mesmerizes me on The Good Wife....)

My comments:  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie; the story, the setting, and the acting.  Based on a true story during the second world war, it is really about the invention of the computer by genius Alan Turing - a genius who had all the expected genius-sort of oddities to go along with his personality. Yes, Benedict Cumberbatch truly deserved his Academy Award nomination. Wonderful movie, and terrific to learn about this piece of history.

RT Summary:  During the winter of 1952, British authorities entered the home of mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to investigate a reported burglary. They instead ended up arresting Turing himself on charges of 'gross indecency', an accusation that would lead to his devastating conviction for the criminal offense of homosexuality - little did officials know, they were actually incriminating the pioneer of modern-day computing. Famously leading a motley group of scholars, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers, he was credited with cracking the so-called unbreakable codes of Germany's World War II Enigma machine. An intense and haunting portrayal of a brilliant, complicated man, THE IMITATION GAME follows a genius who under nail-biting pressure helped to shorten the war and, in turn, save thousands of lives.

Charron Vineyards

This is probably the closest vineyard to my home - it can't be more than 30 minutes away, on the way to Sonoita, but actually in Vail.  And what a wonderful way to spend a gorgeous winter afternoon in southern Arizona!

Setting:  A long, wide deck, dotted with low tables and comfy chairs sports a wood-burning chimenia in the corner.  Lovely.  But the view?  GORGEOUS.  Sitting low on a mountain, the view of closely distant (can you picture that or is it a lousy description?) mountains is absolutely wonderful.  It was perfect for this 65-degree sunny day.  And in the summer when it's really hot hot hot in Tucson, it never goes much above 90 here (higher altitude than Tucson proper) and  they have misters completely surrounding the seating area.

The Deal:  Taste up to 6 wines for $7 including souvenir glass.  My friend Sheila had a "Living Social" coupon, which included a 6-oz. glass of wine after the tasting for $2.00.  They sell munchies (we had lentil chips and hummus) which was nice to clear the palate between tastings.  We were told to bring a picnic or any food (cheese & crackers, anyone) the next time we came.

Wines:  There were 14 offered, twelve of which were described on an easy-to-understand handout.  Dry wines on the left, sweet wines on the right.  Very helpful, and you can take notes on the handout and take it with you...and the handout includes pricing (which seemed very reasonable).

Personel & Service:  There were two women serving everyone - and there were probably five or six groups of people being served throughout our visit.  We never had to wait and we never felt rushed.  Both women were extremely nice, helpful, and knowledgeable enough for me!

The Company:  I went with two friends from Maine - all three of us teachers, one of us from Bar Harbor, one from Southwest Harbor, and one (me) from Northeast Harbor.  A lot of history.  Our kids went to MDIHS together.  It was as close to a perfect afternoon as I've had in a long, long while.

This was a GREAT way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  My sister is coming in May, and I can't wait to take her here, with a picnic basket of special snacks and a camera.....

Charron Vineyards website.

My choices:
from the "DRY" side:
Blanc De Noir - lite and dry, faintly sweet, but not enough for me
from the "SWEET" side:
Santa Rita Rose
*Tortolita Blanca (this was my full-glass choice, and the bottle I purchased) yup, sweet.  yup, yummy
Golden White Merlot - had a bit of a different taste (they said it had a "nuance of sweet sherry or cognac)
Tempranillo Rose - a sweet blush
Rincon Red - the only red wine I had, and very sweet

9. Saint's Gate - Carla Neggers

(It DOES look there will be more...)
2011, Mira Books
334 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 1/26/2015
Goodreads rating:  3.64
My rating: 2 - It was okay, but didn't grab me at all
Setting:  Contemporary southern Maine coast (with a tiny bit of Dublin, Ireland thrown in)

1st sentence/s:  "Emma Sharpe steeled herself against the sights and sounds of her pas adn kept up with the nervous woman rushing ahead of her in the dense southern Maine fog."

My comments:  I SOOOO wanted to like this book, but it was a little too like a cozy mystery for me.  The story could have been told quite well in 100-or so less pages.  The introduction and description of the two major paintings in the story were took me more than awhile to realize that two different paintings were being discussed.  There were too many solutions that just fell into their laps (one chapter even began with the protagonist "finding" a key to get into the rectory, a place he's never before been.....).  One of the reasons I picked up this book was the setting - I've been in all those smallish Maine coastal towns hundreds of times and the descriptions in the book didn't take me there at all.  Not even a little.  So I was really disappointed.  However, I bet there are lots of mystery readers that will love this book...a "lighter" mystery than my tastes crave.

Goodreads book summary:  When Emma Sharpe is summoned to a convent on the Maine coast, it's partly for her art crimes work with the FBI, partly because of her past with the religious order. At issue is a mysterious painting depicting scenes of Irish lore and Viking legends, and her family's connection to the work. But when the nun who contacted her is murdered, it seems legend is becoming deadly reality.   
          Colin Donovan is one of the FBI's most valuable assets -- a deep-cover agent who prefers to go it alone. He's back home in Maine after wrapping up his latest mission, but his friend Father Bracken presents him with an intrigue of murder, international art heists and a convent's long-held secrets that is too tempting to resist. As the danger spirals ever closer, Colin is certain of only one thing—the very intriguing Emma Sharp is at the center of it all.    
          A ruthless killer has Emma and Colin in the crosshairs, plunging them into a race against time and drawing them deeper into a twisted legacy of betrayal and deceit.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2015 Edgar Nominees

This Dark Road to Mercy - Wiley Cash
Wolf - Mo Hayder
Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King
The Final Silence - Stuart Neville
Saints of the Shadow Bible - Ian Rankin
Coptown - Karin Slaughter

Dry Bones in the Valley - Tom Bouman
Invisible City - Julia Dahl
The Life We Bury - Allen Eskens
Bad Country - C. B. McKenzie
Shovel Ready - Adam Sternbergh
Murder at the Brightwell - Ashley Weaver

The Secret History of Las Vegas - Chris Abani
Stay With Me - Alison Gaylin
The Barkeep - William Lashner
The Day She Died - Catriona McPherson
The Gone Dead Train - Lisa Turner
World of Trouble - Ben H. Winters

The Doubt Factory - Paolo Bacigalupi
Nearly Gone - Elle Cosimano
Fake ID - Lamar Giles
The Art of Secrets - James Klise
The Prince of Venice Beach - Blake Nelson

MOVIE - The Wedding Ringer

R (1:41)
Wide release 1/16/2015
Road House Cinemas 1/19/15
RT Critic: 33   Audience: 78
Cag: 4/I really liked it a lot
Directed by Jeremy Garelick
Sony Screen Gems

Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting

My comments:  Just plain fun and funny, limited hidden agenda, pleasing and pleasant story.  I laughed a lot!

RT Summary:  Doug Harris (Josh Gad) is a loveable but socially awkward groom-to-be with a problem: he has no best man. With less than two weeks to go until he marries the girl of his dreams (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), Doug is referred to Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), owner and CEO of Best Man, Inc., a company that provides flattering best men for socially challenged guys in need. What ensues is a hilarious wedding charade as they try to pull off the big con, and an unexpected budding bromance between Doug and his fake best man Jimmy. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

PICTURE BOOK - National Wildlife Federation's World of Birds: A Beginner's Guide - Kim Kurki

2014 Black Dog - Leventhal Publishing
HC $15.95
80 pgs.
Nonfiction picture book - dense with information
Goodreads rating: 4.53
My rating: 5 Stars - This is a grand book!
Endpapers:  green with simple, faint bird's footprints

This book is divided into four sections:
     Woodlands & Forests
     Wetlands, Shores, & Bodies of Water
     Fields, Thickets, & Backyards
     Deserts, Scrublands, & Rocky Slopes

My comments:  I can't say enough glowing things about this top-notch book.  As an adult who has only recently enjoyed watching birds, its useful information and fun, interesting facts are MUCH more  accessible than guidebooks or handbooks geared toward adults.  The illustrations are lovely and colorful, the occasional photo just enough, the quatrains written for each major bird are unforced and cleverly rhymed.  Usually I'm a little put off by a large mixture of fonts, but the many used inthis text are melded well and therefore avoid overwhelming jumble.  A really fine book!

Goodreads:  From the National Wildlife Federation, publishers of Ranger Rick, the popular nature magazine for kids, comes this exciting, dynamic, and wonderfully illustrated guide for young naturalists.
          National Wildlife Federation's World of Birds is arranged by habitat and identifies more than 100 birds. Kim Kurki¹s engaging and highly accurate illustrations give kids a true and close-up appreciation of each bird species, such as its size, shape, color, and markings, as well as its habitat, call, and behavior. Kids will learn to recognize the birds by their individual characteristics, such as the male cardinal¹s distinctive crest, the kestrel¹s helicopter hover, and the goldfinch¹s enchanting song. You¹ll also discover what makes each bird amazing, including which is the fastest flier, which lays the biggest egg, and which spends years of its life in the water, never touching land.
          The excellent illustrations, nontechnical language, and fascinating facts throughout make this an ideal guide for beginner bird-watchers—of any age!

8. Fifty Shades Darker - E. L. James

#2 Fifty Shades
2011 First Vintage Books
532 pgs.
X-Rated Adult 
Finished 1/18/15
Goodreads rating: 3.93
My rating:   2
2nd hand book through Amazon
Contemporary Seattle

1st sentence/s:  "I have survived Day Three Post-Christian, and my first day at work."

My comments:  Well, I discovered what Christian's major hangups were.  There was a bit of a plot in this second in the series, and ended with the possibility of more plot to come.  A good half of the book was Ana and Christians repeated sexual escapades, which were...pretty much....very, very similar to each other.  They say the same things to each other over and over and over.  Okay, so now I've read two of them.  I'm fully prepared for the movie next month.  (Oh, yes - this book was misnamed.  It should have been Fifty Shades Lighter.....)

Goodreads book summary:  Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house. 
           But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades.
           While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.
          This book is intended for mature audiences.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

7. The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)

#2 Cormoran Strike 
Listened to on cd in the car AND read 
Audio read by 
14 unabridged audio discs (17.5 hours)
2014 Mulholland Books/Little Brown
456 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 1/17/15
Goodreads rating: 4.01
My rating:   4/ Liked it a lot
TPPL - both audio and book
Setting:  Contemporary London, England

1st sentence/s: " 'Someone bloody famous,' said the hoarse voice on the end of the line, 'better've died, Strike.'" 

My comments:  Good story, but overly long, I think.  I like the characters of Strike and Robin and I love the story that's developing between them.  I look forward to more.  (Oh, and I'm not so crazy about all the quotes at the beginning of the chapters...50 chapters, 50 quotes.....

Goodreads book summary:  Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestsellerThe Cuckoo's Calling.
          When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
          But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
          When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...

PICTURE BOOK - The Farmer and the Clown - Marla Frazee

Illustrated by the author
2014 Beach Lane Books
HC $17.99
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  4.32
My rating: 4
Endpapers:  red
Title Page: browns and yellow: sunrise: farmer heading for the fields, walking away from his small house
Wordless picture book

My comments:  A farmer (who lives alone way out in the country) rescues a baby clown who falls off a circus train. Through days and nights they bond and become very attached to one another - until the train returns and the farmer gets to reunite baby clown to his family. 
Happy? Yes. Sad? Yes! Perhaps my current loneliness makes me feel extra, ultra sorry for the poor farmer, but I'm left with such a sad feeling after reading this story!

Goodreads:  Whimsical and touching images tell the story of an unexpected friendship and the revelations it inspires in this moving, wordless picture book from two-time Caldecott Honor medalist Marla Frazee.
          A baby clown is separated from his family when he accidentally bounces off their circus train and lands in a lonely farmer’s vast, empty field. The farmer reluctantly rescues the little clown, and over the course of one day together, the two of them make some surprising discoveries about themselves—and about life!
          Sweet, funny, and moving, this wordless picture book from a master of the form and the creator of The Boss Baby speaks volumes and will delight story lovers of all ages.

Friday, January 16, 2015

6. None of the Above - I. W. Gregorio

I read an ARC of this
2015 (due out in April) Balzer + Bray/ Harper Collins
328 pgs.
Finished 1/15/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.31
My rating:   4.5/ Super Excellent book
Acquired from my YALSA group
Setting:  contemporary Utica, NY

1st sentence/s:  "Dawn is my favorite time of day.  There's something sacred about being awake when the rest of the world is sleeping, when the sky is just turning toward the light, and you can still have the sounds of night before the engines and conversations of the day drown them."

My comments:  4.5 This was an excellent, informative read.  I love when you find a book that teaches AND has a good story.  Usually it's historical fiction, but this one covered a lot of information about intersex/AIS/hermaphrodite women.  There were a few things that were sort of just "thrown in," a little off-putting because I felt it might have been missing other things too (a quick mention about an Adam's apple, as one example, sort of out-of-the-blue), but overall I ingested it in two sittings. (One comment about the cover:  yuck!)

Goodreads book summary:  A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she's intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.
          What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?
           When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.
           But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned--something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."
           Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

MOVIE - Wild

R (1:55)
12/3/14 Limited release
Viewed 1/13/15 at Roadhouse all by my lonesome
RT Critic: 91   Audience:  82  
Cag:  5/Terrific movie
Directed by Jean -Marc Vallee
20th Century Fox
Based on the book by Cheryl Strayed

Reese Witherspoon

My comments:   I saw this on Tuesday night, tossed and turned all night thinking about it, and couldn't get it out of my head the next day.  For me, the overall theme is how powerfully the many different ways we grieve play out.  I hadn't read the book, though I was always drawn to it.  And I wonder how Cheryl Strayed is dealing with her grief....her decisions....and her life, now.  Her unbelievable determination was/is so amazing.

RT: Summary:  With the dissolution of her marriage and the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed has lost all hope. After years of reckless, destructive behavior, she makes a rash decision. With absolutely no experience, driven only by sheer determination, Cheryl hikes more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, alone. WILD powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddens, strengthens, and ultimately heals her.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

MOVIE - Selma

PG-13 (2:07)
Wide release 1/9/2015
Monday 1/12/15 at El Con with Sheila and Gwen
RT Critic:  99  Audience:  87
Cag:  5/Liked it more-than a lot, and it was beautifully crafted
Directed by Ava DuVernay
Paramount Pictures
Based on a true event

David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, 

My comments:  Wow.  This is not just any old story...this is an incredibly important piece of history.  This happened when I was a freshman in high school in a suburb of Boston, and I don't recall knowing about it at the time.  Imagine!  What a wonderful way to learn about the details of Martin Luther King's brilliance, determination, and sensitivity. The acting, particularly by David Oyelowo, was amazing.  His portrayal of MLK was ... mesmerizing.  (And to think I probably wouldn't have gone to see this if it hadn't been chosen by Sheila as our monthly fare!)

RT Summary:  SELMA is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernays SELMA tells the real story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history,

Sunday, January 11, 2015

5. We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

Read on my iPhone
2014 Delacorte Press
228 pgs.
Finished 1/11/15
Goodreads rating:  3.89
My rating:  (3) Liked it  
Setting:  A contemporary private island off the coast of Massachusetts, near Martha's Vineyard

1st sentence/s: 
      "Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.
        No one is a criminal
        No one is an addict.
        No one is a failure.
        The Sinclairs are athletic, tall, and handsome.  We are old-money Democrats.  Our smiles are wide, our chins square, and our tennis serves aggressive."

My comments:  I honestly don't know exactly how I feel about this book, so for right now, until I mull it over for awhile, I'll stick with the fact that I liked it.  I loved the suspense, I loved that no matter what my guesses were, I was incorrect.  I like the way the story was put together.  I liked that I could understand the Sinclair family enough that I had instant disdain for them.  I didn't hate it...I didn't love it.  It was, however, a darn good (quick) read.

Becky's review from Becky's Book Reviews

Goodreads book summary:  A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
           We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
          Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Upcoming 2015 Titles

Young Adult:
     Niven (Jan 5) All the Bright Places
     Sedgwick (Jan 6) The Ghosts of Heaven
     Crowder (Jan 8) Audacity (verse)
     Hall (Jan 13) Conspiracy of Us
     Meyer (Jan. 27) Fairest
     Demetrios (Feb 3) I'll Meet You There
     Aveyard (Feb 10) Red Queen
     Arnold (Mar 3) Mosquitoland
     Oliver (Mar 10) Vanishing Girls
     Meyer (Nov 15) Winter

     Bergman (Jan 6) Almost Famous Women (short stories)
     Graves (Jan 6) Winter at the Door (new gritty mystery, ME)
     Filipachi (Feb 2) Unfortunate Importance of Beauty
     Blackstock (Feb 3) Twisted Innocence
     Link (Feb 10) Get In Trouble: Stories
     Riordan (Feb 17) Fiercombe Manor ("fans of Kate Morton will love this")
     Rapp (Mar 3) Know Your Beholder
     Levy (Mar 3) The Unloved (and try previous novels including Swimming Home)
     Kearsley (Apr 7) A Desperate Fortune
     Castillo (July 14) After the Storm

PICTURE BOOK - All Different Now - Angela Johnson

Juneteenth; the First Day of Freedom
Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
2014, Simon & Schuster
32 pgs.
HC $17.99
Goodreads rating:
My rating:
Endpapers: mottled light green
Very little white on pages!

1st line/s:   "A June morning breeze off the port blew the smell of honeysuckle past the fields, across the yard, and into our room to wake us up."

My comments:  As usual, E. B. Lewis's illustrations are breathtaking.  He tells about their creation in an Illustrator's Note at the back of the book.  The first 24 pages tell the story of Juneteenth - June 19th - the emancipation of slavery - with simple verse and these incredible paintings.  The last five pages are more information - resources, reminisces, timeline, history, glossary.  Wow.  A huge piece of US history, simply and beautifully told and referenced.

Goodreads:  Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South. Since then, the observance of June 19 as African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. This stunning picture book includes notes from the author and illustrator, a timeline of important dates, and a glossary of relevant terms.

SHORT STORIES - Triple Time - Anne Sanow

Drue Heniz Literature Prize 2009
2009 University of Pittsburgh Press
151 pgs.
Adult Fiction - 1980's Saudi Arabia
Goodreads rating: 3.87
My rating:    (5) Awesome  (4) Loved it  (3) Liked it   (2) It was okay  (1) Yuck
TPPL found it in Sedona

1st story:  "Pioneer" pgs. 1 -19
     A nine-year-old has accompanied his construction-worker dad and pregnant mom to a hot, boring village in the Saudi desert where they will spend at least two years.  It's still summer, he has nothing to do (their possessions have not yet arrived), and none of his family is happy.  The baby arrives - early.  The story gives a feel for this hot, depressing place with little going for it and seems somewhat pointless other than that.

Goodreads book summary:  For Jill, a young American living in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, life is in “a holding pattern” of long days in a restrictive place-“sandlocked nowhere,” as another expat calls it.  Others don't know how to leave, and try to adopt the country as their own.  And to those who were born there, the changes seem to come at warp speed: Thurayya, the daughter of a Bedouin chief, later finds herself living in a Riyadh high-rise where, she says, there are “worlds wound together with years.”
           The characters in the linked stories in Triple Time are living an uneasy mesh of two divergent cultures, in a place where tradition and progress are continually in flux. These are tales of confliction-of old and new, rich and poor, sexual repression and personal freedom. We experience a barren yet strangely beautiful landscape jolted by sleek glass apartment towers and opulent fountains. On the fringes of urbanity, Bedouins traverse the desert in search of the next watering hole.
           Beneath a surface of cultural upheaval, the stories hold deeper, more personal meanings. They tell of yearnings-for a time lost, for a homeland, for belonging, and for love. Anne Sanow reveals much about the culture, psyche, and essence of life in modern Saudi Arabia, where Saudis struggle to keep their traditions and foreigners muddle through in search of a quick buck or a last chance at making a life for themselves in a world that is quickly running out of hiding places.

I've Been Cooking - Oven-Baked Cabbage Slices

Oven-Baked Cabbage Slices (with BACON!!)

1 head cabbage
6 slices of bacon
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350.
Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil and give it a quick spray.
Slice the cabbage into 1/2-inch slices and place on the sheet, close together.
Season with salt & pepper.
Top with sliced bacon.
Let it hand out in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Don't precook the bacon.  As it cooks, it releases all its yummy flavor into the cabbage.
This is incredibly delicious.
And, if you don't want to use bacon, I'm sure spraying the top of the cabbage and baking will still make it come out great!

I love cabbage...and I love bacon.

Addendum 1/18/15 Didn't want to buy a whole pound of I bought a package of Smoked Turkey kielbasa and placed it on top of the cabbage.....what a great meal!

I've Been Cooking - Beef Tamale Pie

Beef Tamale Pie

1 lb. ground beef (I use cheapo and drain really well)
1 cup shredded cheese
1 box corn muffin mix
2 eggs
1 jar (12 oz.) chunky salsa
1 T. chili powder
1 can corn, drained

Preheat oven to 450.  Coat 12 x 8 baking dish with spray.
Saute beef, breaking up clumps.
Mix together remaining ingredients with the beef and scrape into prepared baking dish.
Bake at 450 for about 25 minutes.  (Knife inserted into center should come out clean.
Let stand 10 minutes until cutting into pieces.
Serves about 8.

Biggest problem for me:  It's SO much that I end up eating it all week.  I freeze some servings, it freezes well.

4. One Came Home - Amy Timberlake

2013, Alfred A. Knopf
258 pgs.
Middle Grades Historical Fiction and Mystery
Finished 1/10/15
Goodreads rating: 3.85
My rating:   (2) It was okay 
1871 Wisconsin (Placid - where current day Wisconsin Dells stands)

1st sentence/s:  "So it comes to this, I remember thinking on Wednesday, June 7, 1871.  The date sticks in my mind  because it was the day of mys sister's first funeral and I knew it wasn't her last - which is why I left.  That's the long and short of it."

My comments:  This really was an okay story - and I'm not sure why I'm not more excited about it.  I like that it was a mystery and historical fiction.  Probably I'm so used to my adult mysteries that I wanted more in that department?  The setting was excellent, a dusty town in Wisconsin in 1871.  Time was tough to follow..people dying and marrying and the pigeons arriving all happened more closely together than the story made them seem.  And I liked that the 13-year-old protagonist really did seem 13.  Random thoughts, I know....

Goodreads book summary:  In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.
     But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn't, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of "pigeoners" trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha's blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.

Book Awards

This actually makes a great TBR list of kid's books!
(And this is Muddy Puddle's 1500th Blog!)

2015 Newbery Medal
Winner:  Last Stop on Market Street - Matt de la Pena
Honor:  Roller Girl - Victoria Jamieson
Honor - Echo - Pam Munoz Ryan

2015 Caldecott Award
Winner:  Finding Winnie:  The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear - by Lisa Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Honor:  Trombone Shorty - Andrews/Collier
Honor:  Waiting - Kevin Henkes
Honor:  Voice of Freedom:  Fannie Louflame - Weatherford/
Honor - Laswt Stop on Market Street - de la Pena/Christian Robinson

2015 Printz Award
Winner:  Bone Gap - Laura Ruby
Honor: Out of Darkness - Perez
Honor:  The Ghosts of Heaven; Sedgwick

2014 Newbery Award
Winner: The Crossover - Kwame Alexander
Honor:  El Deafo - Cece Bell
Honor: Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson

2014 Caldecott Award
Winner: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (written & illustrated by Dan Santat)
Honor:  Nana in the City (written & illustrated by Lauren Castillo)
Honor:  The Noisy Paintbox: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art (illustrated by Mary Grandpre, written by Barb Rosenstock)
Honor: Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett)
Honor:  Viva Frida (written & illustrated by Yuyi Morales)
Honor:  The Right Word: Roget & His Thesaurus (illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant)
Honor:  This One Summer (illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki)

2014 Printz Award
Winner:  I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
Honor:  And We Stay - Jenny Hubbard
Honor:  The Carnival at Bray - Jessie Ann Foley
Honor:  Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith
Honor:  This One Summer - Mariko Tamaki

2014 Cybil Finalists for Middle Grade Fiction
Abby Spencer Goes Bollywood - Varsha Bajaj
All Four Stars - Tara Dairman
Death by Toilet Paper - Donna Gephart
Ice Dogs - Terry Lynn Johnson
Nickel Bay Nick - Dean Pitchford
The Crossover - Kwame Alexander
The Meaning of Maggie - Megan Jean Sovern
Speculative Fiction for Elementary & Middle Grades
Boys of Blur - N. D. Wilson
Greenglass House - Kate Milford
Nuts to You - Lynne Rae Perkins
The Castle Behind Thorns - Merrie Haskell
The Jupiter Pirates - Hunt for the Hydra
The Luck Uglies - Paul Durham
The Swallow: A Ghost Story - Charis Cotter

2014 Cybil Finalists for YA Fiction
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces - Isabel Quintero
Girls Like Us - Gail Giles
I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
Pointe - Brandy Colbert
When I Was the Greatest - Jason Reynolds
Speculative Fiction for YA Fiction
Death Sworn - Leah Cypess
Glory O'Brien's History of the Future - A. S. King
Noggin - John Corey Whaley
Salvage - Alexandra Duncan
The Living - Matt De la Pena
The Winner's Curse - Marie Rutkoski
While We Run - Karen Healey

2014 Nerdy Book Awards for Middle Grade Fiction

Absolutely Almost - Lisa Graff
Boys Blurr - N. D. Wilson
Circa Now - Amber McRee Turner
Courage for Beginners - Karen Harrington
Dash - Kirby Larson
Death by Toilet Paper - Donna Gephart
Five, Six, Seven, Nate - Tim Federle
The Fourteenth Goldfish - Jennifer Holm
The Great Greene Heist - Varian Johnson
Greenglass House - Kate Milford
Half a Chance - Cynthia Lord
How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied - Jess Keating
The Mark of the Dragonfly - Jaleigh Johnson
Nest - Esther Ehrlich
Nightingale's Nest - Nikki Loftin
Rain Reign - Ann M. Martin
Revolution - Deborah Wiles
A Snicker of Magic - Natalie Lloyd
The Boundless - Kenneth Oppel
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing - Sheila Turnage
The Meaning of Maggie - Jean Sovern
The Night Gardener - Jonathan Auxier
The Riverman - Aaron Starmer
The Secret Hum of a Daisy - Tracy Holzcer
The Witch's Boy - Kelly Barnhill
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere - Julie T. Lamana
West of the Moon - Margi Preus

2014 Nerdy Book Awards for Young Adult Fiction
(a great list with great summaries of each title)

Noggin - John Corey Whaley
Glory O'Brien's History of the Future - A. S. King
100 Sideways Miles - Andrew Smith
The Impossible Knife of Memory - Laurie Halse Anderson
The Secret Sky - A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan - Atia Abawi
I Kill the Mockingbird - Paul Acampora
Belzhar - Meg Wolitzer
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces - Isabel Quintero
We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
The Summer of Letting Go - Gae Polisner
The Young Elites - Marie Lu
When I Was the Greatest - Jason Reynolds
Threatened - Eliot Shrefer
Afterworlds - Scott Westerfeld
Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith
Blue Lily, Lily Blue - Maggie Stiefvater
The Story of Owen - E. K. Johnston
Mortal Heart - Robin LaFevers
How It Went Down - Kekla Magoon
Love Letters to the Dead - Ava Dellaira
Plus One - Elizabeth Fama
To All the Boys I've Loved Before - Jenny Han
Pointe - Brandy Colbert
Silver - Chris Wooding
I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
The Infinite Sea - Rick Yancey

from ALA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults (mostly 2013 dates)

The Naturals - Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Freakboy - Kristin Elizabeth Clark
The Golden Day - Ursula Dubosarsky
Just One Day - Gayle Forman
The Tragedy Paper - Elizabeth Laban
Scarlet - Marissa Meyer
If You Find Me - Emily Murdock
Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
Counting by 7s - Holly Goldberg Sloan
The Language Inside - Holly Thompson
Navigating Early - Clare Vanderpool

YALSA Teens Top Ten 2014

1.  Splintered - A. G. Howard
2.  Monument 14 - Sky on Fire - Emmy Laybourne
3.  Earth Girl - Janet Edwards
4.  Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo
5.  The Eye of Minds - James Dashner

Saturday, January 10, 2015

3. Counting by 7s - Holly Goldberg Sloan

2013 Dial Books for Young Readers
380 pgs.
Tweens CRF
Finished 1/10/15
Goodreads rating: 4.15
My rating:    (5) Awesome  (I wanted more!)
Contemporary Bakersfield, CA

1st sentence/s:  "We sit together outside the Fosters Freeze at a sea-green metal picnic table.  All four of us.  We east soft ice cream, which has been plunged into a vat of liquid chocolate (that then hardens into a crispy shell)."

My comments:  'kay....I loved this story.  It was brilliant.  Willow, the 12-year-old genius and her collection of people that ultimately made up her family - priceless! I want to read on and on and on, want more, more, more.  A definite feel-good book for older kids AND adults!

Becky's review from Becky's Book Reviews

Goodreads book summary:  In the tradition of Out of My MindWonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family. 
     Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life... until now.
     Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

MOVIE - Into the Woods

PG (2:04)
Wide release 12/25/15
Roadhouse Cinema Friday 1/9/15 with Cyra
RT Critic: 72   Audience:   58
Cag: 2/It was okay....
Directed by Rob Marshal
Walt Disney Pictures

Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, 

My comments:  Well, I loved being at the Roadhouse.  I enjoyed the music, the set, and the costumes.  But the story, the plot, the way it all went together just didn't do it for me.  You were expected to know the stories (Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk...and I'm still not sure about the baker, his wife, and the witch) so that big important chunks were only discussed after the fact.  The interlude with the baker's wife and Prince Charming (Chris Pine nailed this)????   (My favorite scene was the one between Prince Charming and his brother, Rapunzel's beau, at the waterfall.) What happened to the witch at the end...and why?  Interesting to note:  Some of the audience broke into applause at the end (and the ending stunk).

Google Summary:  As the result of the curse of a once-beautiful witch (Meryl Streep), a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are childless. Three days before the rise of a blue moon, they venture into the forest to find the ingredients that will reverse the spell and restore the witch's beauty: a milk-white cow, hair as yellow as corn, a blood-red cape, and a slipper of gold. During their journey, they meet Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack, each one on a quest to fulfill a wish.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2. - Fifty Shades of Grey - E. L. James

Fifty Shades #1
2011, Vintage Books
510 pgs.
X-rated Adult Erotica
Finished 1/6/2015
Goodreads rating: 3.70
My rating:   (3) Liked it  
Setting:  contemporary Washington State (including Seattle)

1st sentence/s:  "I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror.  Damn my hair -- it just won't behave, and damn Katherine Kavanaugh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal."

My comments:  There have been many negative reviews by people that consider this book horrible because of all the erotica and sexual content.  Well....the genre is erotica, so if you don't like erotica and read it anyway, of course you're not going to like it.  Me?  I liked it.  The characters were interesting, thought-provoking (I might even read the second in the series to see if more is revealed about Christian's hangups) and ..... fun.  Neither were entirely believable, but that's okay in this story, for me.  Ana's innocence and inexperience, at 21--- not believable.  Oh well.  The humor that appears in the many emails that go back and forth between them is clesver.  My biggest complaint?  Ms. James used the word "clamber" dozens and dozens of times. THAT'S what drove ME crazy! (The movie is coming out next month, the trailer enticed me to read the book before seeing the movie - and yes, I'm going to see it!)

Goodreads book summary:  When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.
           Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.
          Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.
          This book is intended for mature audiences.