Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Grandmother's Flower Garden - Week 4 Update

I can't wait to get home each evening to work on this!  My design wall (on the living room wall, so lovely!) has been a blast to use, so that I can pin up each flower or diamond as I complete them.  One finger and one thumb are seriously pricked, and I love it!

The count, at the end of four weeks:

Completed flowers:   29
Completed kits (flowers ready to be sewn together):  16
Diamonds completed:  5
Hexies waiting   267

Total hexies:  1167
Total single-edges sewn:  1256

26. Hundred-Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker

Spencer #34
Audio read by Joe Mantagna
5 unabridged cds
2006 Putnam Adult
291 pgs.
Adult Mystery
Finished 3/29/2015
Goodreads rating: 3.79
My rating:   4 - Loved it
PBS - will now trade it back in
Setting: contemporary Boston with a couple of forays to NYC

My comments:  It makes me so sad to know that Robert B. Parker is gone.  I feel like I know Spencer, that he's a personal friend.  I've read almost every one of the books in this series at least once.  Spencer's tongue-in-cheek humor, morality, friendships, intelligence, honor, and "his" Boston are all tremendously endearing to me. Then this story, which he wrote nearing the end of his life, about his re-acquaintance with April Kyle and the efforts he went through to "save" her once again. There's a very thin line between goodness and badness - and Parker has always made me realize that there can be a lot of goodness in the bad guys and badness in the good ones. These mysteries, for me, aren't just figuring out whodunnit.  They probe deeper, and leave me thinking for a good long while.

Goodreads book summary:  A client from a decades-old case reaches out to Boston PI Spenser-but can he rescue troubled April Kyle once more? 
          Longtime Spenser fans will remember that once upon a time, though not so long ago, there was a girl named April Kyle-a beautiful teenage runaway who turned to prostitution to escape her terrible family life. The book was 1982's Ceremony, and, thanks to Spenser, April escaped Boston's "Combat Zone" for the relative safety of a high-class New York City bordello. April resurfaced in Taming a Sea-Horse, again in dire need of Spenser's rescue-this time from the clutches of a controlling lover. But April Kyle's return inHundred-Dollar Baby is nothing short of shocking.
          When a mature, beautiful, and composed April strides into Spenser's office, the Boston PI barely hesitates before recognizing his once and future client. Now a well-established madam herself, April oversees an upscale call-girl operation in Boston's Back Bay. Still looking for Spenser's approval, it takes her a moment before she can ask him, again, for his assistance. Her business is a success; what's more, it's an all-female enterprise. Now that some men are trying to take it away from her, she needs Spenser.
          April claims to be in the dark about who it is that's trying to shake her down, but with a bit of legwork and a bit more muscle, Spenser and Hawk find ties to organized crime and local kingpin Tony Marcus, as well as a scheme to franchise the operation across the country. As Spenser again plays the gallant knight, it becomes clear that April's not as innocent as she seems. In fact, she may be her own worst enemy.

25. Booked to Die - John Dunning

Cliff Janeway #1
Audio read by George Guidall
Unabridged (11:03)
1992 Scribner
394 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 3/29/2015
Goodreads rating:
My rating:  (5) Awesome
Audible download
Setting: Late 1980s Denver, CO

My comments:  :As I first began reading this, even though I knew it was a "bibliomystery" (love that word!), the fact that it was a contemporary mystery from over 20 years ago put me off a bit, I'm not sure why.  However, it didn't take long for me to become entirely engrossed.  There's mystery; and submystery; and the fun of building up a new bookselling enterprise; and insight into the book-buying buisiness; and lots of intricate, interesting, well-fleshed-out characters in a fascinating setting (Denver).  I couldn't put it down (read/listened to the entire thing over a 24-hour period) and now I want more.  As fast-paced as it was, I don't think Mr. Dunning missed a trick.  Excellent storytelling, plotting, characterization.  Loved it.

Goodreads book summary:  Denver homicide detective Cliff Janeway may not always play by the book, but he is an avid collector of rare and first editions. After a local bookscout is killed on his turf, Janeway would like nothing better than to rearrange the suspect's spine. But the suspect, local lowlife Jackie Newton, is a master at eluding the law, and Janeway's wrathful brand of off-duty justice costs him his badge. 
          Turning to his lifelong passion, Janeway opens a small bookshop -- all the while searching for evidence to put Newton away. But when prized volumes in a highly sought-after collection begin to appear, so do dead bodies. Now, Janeway's life is about to start a precarious new chapter as he attempts to find out who's dealing death along with vintage Chandlers and Twains.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

24. Flight 12: A Kristin Cunningham Thriller - Allan Leverone

#1 of 12 (all on Kindle) of FLIGHT 12, all related and to become one book (apparently)ight
May 2014, Rock Bottom Books
79 pgs.
Adult Mystery
Finished 3/28/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.28
My rating:  2 - it was okay
Acquired through Kindle
Setting:  contemporary Boston

1st sentence/s:"The stairs were creaky, and that was a problem."

My comments:  I didn't find Kristin a particularly believable character, but I have not read any of the previous stories where I might have gotten a little more feeling for her.  I can't picture her Houdini-like escape from a deserted train car, even after reading twice. The FBI sure is sloppy in this - in more ways than one.  Those are my thoughts after reading this short story.  It sets up the premise for the next eleven, and you sure wonder what's going on in that plane .... and it was an OKAY read, which doesn't mean it's horrible....

Goodreads book summary:  In FLIGHT 12, A KRISTIN CUNNINGHAM THRILLER, FBI Special Agent Kristin Cunningham is still recovering from injuries suffered preventing the assassination of U.S. President Robert Cartwright. Assigned to a desk, Kristin is thrilled to learn she's been recruited for an undercover sting designed to break up a brutal Russian Mafia human sex trafficking ring. 
          Kristin's job is simple: play a frightened teen kidnap victim in an attempt to identify and apprehend the high-level members of the human trafficking ring. 
          Almost immediately, the FBI sting begins to unravel, and Kristin Cunningham finds herself unarmed and bound, taken prisoner by a desperate, highly volatile man. Now Kristin must focus on staying alive, matching wits with a cunning criminal with nothing to lose. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

PICTURE BOOK - Let the Celebrations Begin! by Margaret Wild

A Story of  Hope for the Liberation
illustrated by Julie Vivas
for Older Kids
1991, 2013 Candlewick Press
HC $16.99
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.10
My rating: 5 stars!

1st line/s:  "We are planning a party, a very special party, the women and I.  My name is Miriam, and this is where I live.  Hut 18, bed 22."

My comments:  Not based on a true story, but that possibility becomes more real after reading the quote from Antique Toys and Their Background: "A small collection of stuffed toys has been preserved which were made by Polish women in Belsen for the first children's party held after the liberation." This is a powerful book. Words and illustrations couldn't work more beautifully together. It doesn't TELL a story of the Holocaust, it SHOWS it. Brilliantly, with a quiet serenity that makes it over-the-top-special. Not for little ones.

Goodreads:  Miriam lives in hut 18, bed 22. She has little to eat and nothing to play with, but she can remember what it was like before, when she had her own food, her own bed, and her very own toys. As World War II nears an end, everyone says the soldiers are coming, so Miriam joins the women in planning a celebration. Every night, while the guards sleep, they busy themselves crafting toys out of scraps of their clothing to surprise the younger children. Based on a reference to a small collection of stuffed toys made by women in Belsen for the first party held after the liberation of the camp, this new edition of Let the Celebrations Begin!, originally published in 1996, is an affecting story 
of human survival.

PICTURE BOOK - Earmuffs for Everyone by Meghan McCarthy

How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs
illustrated by the author
2015, Paula Wiseman, Simon & Schuster
HC $17.99
40 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.59
My rating: 4
Illustrations:  a bit cartoonish, but they work okay.

1st line/s:  "The word "muff" has been around since the Middle Ages.  Starting in the 1700s, people wore muffs on their hands to keep them warm."

My comments:  Excellent resource to teach kids about researching completely before writing informational/non-fiction.  Chester Greenwood is known - and celebrated - as the INVENTOR OF THE EARMUFF.  But his is not, not at all.  In these 40 pages we learn a little about Chester Greenwood and his life, about the history of earmuffs, about how history became "changed," about inventions and getting a patent for them, and then, by reading the excellent 2-page afterword ("A Note about This Book"), how much research went into correctly chronicling this history.  Includes extensive bibliography and acknowledgements.

Goodreads:  As a young boy, Chester Greenwood went from having cold ears to becoming a great inventor in this nonfiction picture book from the acclaimed author-illustrator of Pop! and Daredevil.
          When your ears are cold, you can wear earmuffs, but that wasn't true for Chester Greenwood back in 1873. Earmuffs didn't exist yet! But during yet another long and cold Maine winter, Chester decided to do something about his freezing ears, and he designed the first pair of ear protectors (a.k.a. earmuffs) out of wire, beaver fur, and cloth. He received a patent for his design by the time he was nineteen, and within a decade the Chester Greenwood & Company factory was producing and shipping "Champion Ear Protectors" worldwide!
          But that was just the beginning of Chester's career as a successful businessman and prolific inventor. In this fun and fact-filled picture book you can find out all about his other clever creations. The Smithsonian has declared Chester Greenwood one of America's most outstanding inventors. And if you';re ever in Maine on December 21, be sure to don a pair of earmuffs and celebrate Chester Greenwood day!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Beginning a Grandmother's Flower Garden - EPP English Paper Pieced - Hexie - Quilt

(Now that's a mouthful!)

For the last three weeks I've been frantically basting 2 1/2 inch pieces of fabric to 1-inch cardstock hexagons that I've punch out using a Fiskar's punch.

I decided to use the collection of black & white fat quarters that I've been amassing for the last few years. As of last weekend I'd created over 600 individual hexagons and whip stitched 20 different 19-piece flowers together.  I decided to make the inside block of each a really bright center, with the first round being black on white and the second round being white-on-black.

I'm addicted.  Can't get enough.  I love hand sewing!

....and I'm using the back of my couch as a pincushion and pinning-board .... it works perfectly!

MOVIE - Insurgent

PG-13 (1:59)
Wide release 3/20/2015
Opening day, 3/20/15 at Roadhouse with Cyra
RT Critic: 32     Audience: 71
Cag:  3.5  Liked it - quite good
Directed by Roibert Schwentke
Lionsgate Films
Based on the book by Veronica Roth (who was also some type of producer for the movie)

Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller

My comments:  It seemed to follow the book quite well, but I think I liked this movie retelling a little better.  The scenes near the end where Tris goes through the different simulations is easier to relate to, I think.  I hate when people say, "oh, they're such a cute couple," but in this case, I've got to echo that emotion.  These two make a very believable twosome.  Naomi Watts seems waaaay too young to be Tobias's mother.  That didn't work for me one tiny bit.

RT Summary:  THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT raises the stakes for Tris as she searches for allies and answers in the ruins of a futuristic Chicago. Tris (Woodley) and Four (James) are now fugitives on the run, hunted by Jeanine (Winslet), the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite. Racing against time, they must find out what Tris's family sacrificed their lives to protect, and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them. Haunted by her past choices but desperate to protect the ones she loves, Tris, with Four at her side, faces one impossible challenge after another as they unlock the truth about the past and ultimately the future of their world.

23. Flight 12: A Laura Cardinal Thriller - J. Carson Black

#2 in a set of connected mysteries
Read on my iPhone through Kindle
June, 2014, Breakaway Media
92 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 3/18/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.23
My rating:  4 - Enjoyed it greatly
Acquired: Amazon/Kindle
Setting: contemporary Tucson, Arizona

1st sentence/s:

My comments:  I read this book because it's a Laura Cardinal mystery set in Tucson, not because it's part of this Flight 12 series.  However, I am unfamiliar with the other 11 authors and protagonists, so I think I might try some out to see what's going on -- and to find some new mystery writers.  This shortish story is an interesting read, as Black takes us back to characters we've met before.  She plays on the good-and-bad-twisting-and-writhing personality changes that lay, usually dormant, inside people, and makes one think hard about how fragile we can all be - without even realizing it.  I didn't want this particular "bad guy" to go downhill!  Ah well, I'd love to see what's going to happen with this (probably) ill-fated flight!

The 12 Website

Interesting quote from a reader on Amazon:  J. Carson Black has always been a good writer, but it's a pleasure seeing her find her niche and master it. How much suspense can be built in just over 20,000 words. Black's Flight 12 contribution answers the question, and demonstrates surprising depth in the process. Laura Cardinal is becoming more of a hardened veteran in Black's series, but someone who's absolutely committed to getting it right. Thanks to the ghost of her former partner, Frank Entwistle, she's got a delightful though not especially well groomed conscience to keep her on course. Great read, fast and fun and highly recommended!

Goodreads book summary:  Hailed by New York Times Bestselling Author T. Jefferson Parker as “a strong new voice in American Crime Fiction,” New York Times and U.S.A. Today Bestselling Author J. Carson Black is back—and so is her iconic detective, Arizona DPS Criminal Investigator Laura Cardinal. 
          Ten minutes to midnight: 
A man waits in line at JFK International Airport to board Skyways Airlines Flight 12 to Rome. His face is impassive, his eyes bleak. His fists are clenched. The woman behind him has a bad feeling . . . 
          Months before: 
A young woman approaches Arizona Department of Public Safety detective Laura at the fitness center they share, telling her that she is slated for death, and wants Laura to “investigate her murder” when it happens. Weeks later, the woman is found dead in her car—forcing Laura to revisit the most disturbing homicide case of her career. During the course of her investigation, Laura learns the truth about the killer she arrested long ago. 
          What Laura doesn’t know: 
What will happen to the 388 souls on Flight 12? 
* * * * * 
          What do you get when a dozen bestselling, award-winning mystery/thriller authors write brand-new material centered on one heart-stopping event? 
          You get FLIGHT 12, the revolutionary followup by The Twelve to the New York Times and USA Today bestselling DEADLY DOZEN. The groundbreaking FLIGHT 12 series will feature a new release from each member of The Twelve, plus very special guests, with a conclusion so thrilling it could only come from the minds of our readers. 
          Join The Twelve in the ongoing FLIGHT 12 project. Don't just read about your favorite characters, participate in the story, win prizes, and see storytelling in a totally new way . . .

THE 12 - FLIGHT 12

Apparently there's a group of 12 authors - mystery/thriller writers - who have joined together to create a set of connected stories.  This seems to be their second outing.  I discovered it because I was looking to read another J. Carson Black in her Laura Cardinal/Tucson series.  Now I think I'll try to catch up on all the "installments" for this Fligh 12 series to see where it's going.  And maybe I'll find some new authors/protagonists/settings to love!

Now, the big question.  Should I start with the first title, or skip around reading about characters that sound interesting?

#1 (5/12/14) A Kristin Cunningham Thriller by Allan Levorone (Goodreads review)  Kristine Cunningham is an FBI Special Agent based in the Boston field office.  The passenger that she chases to the airport, almost-but-not-quite-in-time-to-catch, is Ivan Lukyanov, a Russian mafia "exporter" of kidnapped young women for the European and Middle Easter sex trade - girls as young as ten years old.

#2 (6/12/2014) A Laura Cardinal Thriller by J. Carson Black (Goodreads review) (My review) Laura Cardinal is an Arizona law enforcer/detective, based in Tucson, Arizona.  Ms. Black's passenger on Flight 12 is a sort-of-bad-guy-set-free that has returned to his black-out, black days (and I can't help but like this guy, so this should be interesting).....

#3 (7/12/2014)  A Jess Kimball Thriller by Diana Capri (Goodreads review)

#4 (8/12/14) A Sloane Monroe Thriller by Cheryl Bradshaw (Goodreads review)

#5 (9/12/14) A Kirk Weston Thriller by Aaron Patterson (Goodreads review)

#6 (10/12/14) A Dick Moonlight PI Thriller by Vincent Zandri (Goodreads review)

#7  (11/12/14) An Evie Preston Thriller by Michele Scott (Goodreads review)

#8 (1/12/15) A Jonathan Quinn Thriller by Brett Battles (Goodreads review)

#9 (1/12/15) A Xandra Carrick Thriller by Joshua Graham (Goodreads review)

#10 (2/12/15) A Kylie Cain Thriller by A. K. Alexander & J. R. Rain (Goodreads review)

#11 (3/12/15) A Jessie Knight Thriller by Carol Davis Luce (Goodreads review)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

MOVIE - Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

PG (2:02)
Wide release 3/6/15
Viewed 3/17/15 at ElCon
RT Critic: 63 Audience: 67
Cag: 3/Liked it, with reservation
Directed by John Madden
20th Century Fox
Based on the book by

Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Richard Gere, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Richard Gere

My comments:  Well.  I was so looking forward to this, I loved the first one so much. But this one was ... different.  It was more depressing, and more stupid.  The addition of Richard Gere was dumb, I was embarrassed for him.  Poor Sonny, the writers made him a dolt for over 50% of the movie The filming in India was great.  There were a few good chuckles, and an Indian wedding has always seemed really cool to me.  Entertaining, but certainly not great.

RT Summary  Now that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is full up with its long-term residents, co-managers Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) and Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) have a dream of expansion, and they've found just the place: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. With plans underway, Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) venture into the Jaipur workforce, wondering where their regular breakfast dates will lead. Meanwhile, Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) navigate the swirling waters of an exclusive relationship, as Madge (Celia Imrie) juggles two very eligible suitors, and recent arrival Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) finds a muse in Sonny's mother, Mrs. Kapoor (Lillete Dubey) for his next novel. As his marriage to Sunaina (Tina Desai), the love of his life, quickly approaches, Sonny finds his plans for the new hotel making more claims on his time than he has available. Perhaps the only one who may know the answers is Muriel, the keeper of everyone's secrets. As the big day nears, family and guests alike find themselves swept up in the irresistible intoxication of an Indian wedding.​ 

22. Red Mist - Patricia Cornwell

Kay Scarpetta #19
Audio read by
11 unabridged cds
2011 Putnam Adult
512 pgs.
Adult Mystery
Finished 3/15/2015
Goodreads rating: 3.70
My rating:   4 - Excellent story
Contemporary Savannah, GA

My comments:  I haven't read a Kay Scarpetta novel in years and years, so when this audio book "fell" into my hands I decided to take another look/listen.  I still find Scarpetta self-absorbed, haughty, and unlikable, but the mystery and the story surrounding it are fascinating.  Cornwell can certainly spin an interesting tale....interesting, gruesome, and actually, quite believable.....

Goodreads book summary: Determined to find out what happened to her former deputy chief, Jack Fielding, murdered six months earlier, Kay Scarpetta travels to the Georgia Prison for Women, where an inmate has information not only on Fielding, but also on a string of grisly killings. The murder of an Atlanta family years ago, a young woman on death row, and the inexplicable deaths of homeless people as far away as California seem unrelated. But Scarpetta discovers connections that compel her to conclude that what she thought ended with Fielding's death and an attempt on her own life is only the beginning of something far more destructive: a terrifying terrain of conspiracy and potential terrorism on an international scale. And she is the only one who can stop it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

21. Digging to America - Anne Tyler

Audio read by
Audio discs/hours
277 pgs.
Adult CRF
Finished 3/13/2015
Goodreads rating: 3.51
My rating:   4 - Enjoyed it very much, made me think
Contemporary rural Baltimore, MD

My comments:  Oftentimes when I take a break from my "usual" murder mystery or YA, I miss them and wonder why I strayed.  This book, however, didn't do that.  I was taken with the story right from the beginning.  Character-driven, this is the story of two families, both American, though the roots of one are Iranian. They are linked by the adoption of two baby girls from Korea, meeting at the Baltimore Airport when both were brought to the US.  This is the story of personalities; how we understand - or don't understand - each other for the simplest of reasons.  Different personalities that are not understood. Misunderstanding. Friendship. Throughout the story the "voice" comes from different characters, but it is the character of Maryam that sings out the loudest to me.  She is no more interesting than any of the others but because she is so different in personality than me but has so many similar feelings, I really related to her and enjoyed looking at the world through her focus.

Goodreads book summary:  In what is perhaps her richest and most deeply searching novel, Anne Tyler gives us a story about what it is to be an American, and about Maryam Yazdan, who after thirty-five years in this country must finally come to terms with her "outsiderness." 
Two families, who would otherwise never have come together, meet by chance at the Baltimore airport--the Donaldsons, a very American couple, and the Yazdans, Maryam's fully assimilated son and his attractive Iranian American wife. Each couple is awaiting the arrival of an adopted infant daughter from Korea. After the babies from distant Asia are delivered, Bitsy Donaldson impulsively invites the Yazdans to celebrate with an "arrival party," an event that is repeated every year as the two families become more deeply intertwined. 
Even independent-minded Maryam is drawn in. But only up to a point. When she finds herself being courted by one of the Donaldson clan, a good-hearted man of her vintage, recently widowed and still recovering from his wife's death, suddenly all the values she cherishes--her traditions, her privacy, her otherness--are threatened. Somehow this big American takes up so much space that the orderly boundaries of her life feel invaded. 
A luminous novel brimming with subtle, funny, and tender observations that cast a penetrating light on the American way as seen from two perspectives, those who are born here and those who are still struggling to fit in.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

MOVIE - McFarland USA

PG (2:09)
Wide Release 2/20/15
Roadhouse Cinema 3/9/15
RT Critic: 79    Audience: 92
Cag: 5/Loved it
Directed by Niki Caro
Disney Studio
Based on a true story

Kevin Costner, Maria Bello

My comments:  What's not to love about a Kevin Costner movie?  The story, following a group of young men who discover that having a goal and being part of a team is incredibly meaningful, is moving, as is the insight we see into the coach's family and situation he's created - unwittingly - for himself.  And, since it's based on a true story, the way that the director added the "epilogue" - showing AND telling what happened to the seven young men, as they run beside the actors, was totally, wonderfully awesome!  What a great way to end a great movie.

Disney Summary:  Inspired by the 1987 true story, “McFarland, USA” follows novice runners from McFarland, an economically challenged town in California’s farm-rich Central Valley, as they give their all to build a cross-country team under the direction of Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), a newcomer to their predominantly Latino high school. Coach White and the McFarland students have a lot to learn about each other but when White starts to realize the boys’ exceptional running ability, things begin to change. Soon something beyond their physical gifts becomes apparent—the power of family relationships, their unwavering commitment to one another and their incredible work ethic. With grit and determination, the unlikely band of runners eventually overcomes the odds to forge not only a championship cross-country team but an enduring legacy as well. Along the way, Coach White realizes that his family finally found a place to call home and both he and his team achieve their own kind of American dream.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

20. The Closers - Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch #11
Audio read by Len Carriou
10 Unabridged cds
2005 Hachette Audio
432 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 3/8/2015
Goodreads rating:  4.00
My rating:  5

My comments:  Harry Bosch returns to the LAPD and is partnered with one of his previous partners, Kiz Rider. The beginning of the story seemed to drag a bit - there was no action because the facts of a 17-year old cold case were being disclosed to Harry and Kiz.  But as they begin to dig into old facts and look into new clues, the story becomes more-than-interesting, with a few twists and turns and a great deal to think about.  Michael Connelly sure seems to know the ins and outs and dirty laundry of a big city police department!

Goodreads book summary:  He walked away from the job three years ago. But Harry Bosch cannot resist the call to join the elite Open/Unsolved Unit. His mission: solve murders whose investigations were flawed, stalled, or abandoned to L.A.'s tides of crime. With some people openly rooting for his failure, Harry catches the case of a teenager dragged off to her death on Oat Mountain, and traces the DNA on the murder weapon to a small-time criminal. But something bigger and darker beckons, and Harry must battle to fit all the pieces together. Shaking cages and rattling ghosts, he will push the rules to the limit--and expose the kind of truth that shatters lives, ends careers, and keeps the dead whispering in the night...

MOVIE - Leviathan

R (2:20)
Limited release 12/25/2014
The Loft with Sheila on March 5. 2015
RT Critic: 99 Audience: 81
Cag: 3.5 - I liked it but it was really bleak (as I say below) and depressing
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Sony Pictures Classics
In Russian, with subtitles

My comments:  A bleak, interesting story that takes place somewhere on the coast of Russia, in an economically deprived village that sports a fishery where most of the women seem to work.  The mayor is out to get the land of a hard-working mechanic who is incredibly down-on-his-luck.  This is the story of a family, a community, and sneaking in and snaking around it all is the Catholic Church. Corruption.  Sadness.  Bleak. (And it didn't really help that I didn't "click" with the protagonist.)

RT Summary:  The latest drama from Andrey Zvyagintsev, the acclaimed director of The Return (Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner and Golden Globe nominee). Kolya (Alexe├» Serebriakov) lives in a small fishing town near the stunning Barents Sea in Northern Russia. He owns an auto-repair shop that stands right next to the house where he lives with his young wife Lilya (Elena Liadova) and his son Roma (Sergue├» Pokhodaev) from a previous marriage.

19. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Audio read by Wil Wheaton
13 unabridged cds (15.5 hrs)
2011 Random House
374 pgs.
YA/Adult Fantasy
Finished 3/5/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.31
My rating:  3.5
Setting: Oklahoma City & Columbus, but most of it was inside a virtual world

My comments:  This was certainly not my "usual" type of book.  It's all about 1980 video games being played in the 2040's, when the physical earth is in tatters and everyone lives pretty much in the virtual world of OASIS, with their personal avatar trying to find a virtual "egg" that a crazy now-dead billionaire programmer left as the prize at the end of an all-consuming quest.  Phew.  That sentence is too long, but it says it all!  Of the 13 unabridged cds, there are probably four or five complete cds worth of 1980s game, music, movie, and computer talk.  None of this really interested me, but the exceptional reading voice of Wil Wheaton kept me on track and I greatly enjoyed the story itself.  I compare it to The Circle in that it made me think of a future world where technology consumes us and changes the meaning of humanity completely.

Goodreads book summary:  In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. 
   But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

18. Rules of Prey - John Sandford

#1 Lucas Davenport (a very lengthy series)
Read on my iPhone/through Kindles
479 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 3/1/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.14
My rating: 4
Setting: Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) MN

1st sentence/s

My comments:  After reading (and loving) all of Sandford's books about Virgil Flowers, I decided it was time I tried out a Lucas Davenport.  My son, who has read them all, told me I should really start from the first title.  So I did!  Published in 1989, and without some of the modern technology that I've been used to having included, the story or Davenport's pursuit of Mad Dog is cleverly intricate, looking at things from both protagonist and antagonist's points of view.  Lucas Davenport is so cocky, street, savvy, and just-plain interesting that he intrigues me....but not as much as Virgil!  Rules of Prey is plot-driven and character-driven, and I look forward to more in the series written in this vein.

Goodreads book summary: The "maddog" murderer who is terrorizing the Twin Cities is two things: insane and extremely intelligent. He kills for the pleasure of it and thoroughly enjoys placing elaborate obstacles to keep police befuddled. Each clever move he makes is another point of pride. But when the brilliant Lieutenant Lucas Davenport--a dedicated cop and a serial killer's worst nightmare--is brought in to take up the investigation, the maddog suddenly has an adversary worthy of his genius.