Saturday, August 29, 2015

58. The Eighth Day - Dianne K. Salerni

Eighth Day #1
read on my iPhone
2014 Harper Collins
320 pgs.
Middle Grades/YA Fantasy
Finished 8/28/15
Goodreads rating: 4.02
My rating: 4
Setting:  Western PA, Contemporary time (with a foray to Ancient Mexican ruins near the end.

First line/s: "Jax pedaled home fromt he store and muttered in cadence with the rhythm of his bike wheels:  This sucks.  This sucks.  This sucks."

My comments:  I hadn't heard of this dystopian adventure until a colleague mentioned the possibility of doing a book club with a group of her enrichment students.  After looking it up and reading a couple of summaries and reviews, I downloaded it and read it on one gulp. Good story!  Strong characters  with a storyline based on the Legends of King Arthur.  A bit violent for younger kids, but entirely appropriate for advanced readers of younger ages (a mature 9/10 and up?) looking for meatier content than they might find from their "typical" intermediate age group choices.

Goodreads Summary:  In this riveting fantasy adventure, thirteen-year-old Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend. Fans of Percy Jackson will devour this first book in a new series that combines exciting magic and pulse-pounding suspense.
          When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it's the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he's really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who's been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.
          And there's a reason Evangeline's hiding. She is a descendant of the powerful wizard Merlin, and there is a group of people who wish to use her in order to destroy the normal seven-day world and all who live in it. Torn between protecting his new friend and saving the entire human race from complete destruction, Jax is faced with an impossible choice. Even with an eighth day, time is running out.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

57. Red Queen - Victoria Aveyard

listened to on Audible
read by Amanda Dolan - superbly
2015 Orion
383 pgs.
YA Dystopia/Fantasy
Finished 8/23/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.13
My rating: 5
Setting:  "The Stilts" a poor, muddy lower class town and the summer palace of the highest of the upper class, in the future.

First line/s:  "I hate First Friday.  It makes the village crowded, and now, in the heat of high summer, that's the last thing that anyone wants. From my place in the shade it isn't so bad, but the stink of bodies, all sweating with the morning work, is enough to make milk curdle.  The air shimmers with heat and humidity, and even the puddles from yesterday's storm are hot, swirling with rainbow streaks of oil and grease."

My comments:  This book started out deliciously Hunger Games-y and whether scenes ... and people ... were eye-rollingly ridiculous, maddeningly perfect, or over-the-top malicious it really didn't matter to me.  I loved this story from beginning to end.  I'm not even sure why.  It sparked the 16-year-old spitfire adventurer in me, and I'm betting this is a book that lots of YA females are going to embrace. Really REALLY looking forward to the next.

Goodreads Summary:

Saturday, August 22, 2015


R (1:57)
Wide release 6/5/15
Viewed 8/22/15 at Centery Gateway (cheapie)
RT Critic:  94  Audience:  83
Cag: 4.5 so funny - loved it!
Directed by Paul Feig
20th Century Fox

Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Allison Janney, Robert Carnivale

My comments: Hystericall funny.  Melissa McCarthy  makes me laugh like , almost no other.  She had a BLAST with this part, you can tell.  AND, it was a healthy message for larger women everywhere - every one of us can totally relate to everything "Susan Cooper" felt when it came to the way people perceived her.  She came of as incredibly intelligent, witty, funny, fun, loyal, and savvy.  I loved this movie! ! !

RT Summary:  Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is an unassuming, deskbound CIA analyst, and the unsung hero behind the Agency's most dangerous missions. But when her partner (Jude Law) falls off the grid and another top agent (Jason Statham) is compromised, she volunteers to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent a global disaster. 

MOVIE - American Ultra

R (1:39)
Limited release 8/21/15
Viewed date at the Roadhouse
RT Critic:  44  Audience:  47 
Cag:  2.5 /It was okay - actually, disappointing
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh
Lionsgate Pictures

Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Walter Googins

My comments:  Love Jesse Eisenberg and he didn't disappoint.  He was the perfect stoner.  Although not a Kristen Stewart fan, she fit the part quite well.  Yes, the movie was pretty stupid and incredibly violent, but if viewed with an eye-rolling indifference to the CIA and its ridiculous antics, it was quite watchable.  It was also fun to see Walter Googins (I loved him in Justify) Topher Grace, and Bill Paxton portraying over-the-top, ridiculous characters.  Certainly not a great movie, but because of the filter I used to watch it - enjoyable in its own way.

RT Summary:  American Ultra is a fast-paced action comedy about Mike (Eisenberg), a seemingly hapless and unmotivated stoner whose small-town life with his live-in girlfriend, Phoebe (Stewart), is suddenly turned upside down. Unbeknownst to him, Mike is actually a highly trained, lethal sleeper agent. In the blink of an eye, as his secret past comes back to haunt him, Mike is thrust into the middle of a deadly government operation and is forced to summon his inner action-hero in order to survive.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

56. Six Years - Harlan Coben

read by Scott Brick
listened to while driving back & forth to work during the opening days of the school year...
2013, Dutton
368 pgs.
Adult mystery
Finished 8/20/15
Goodreads rating: 3.78
My rating: 3 - liked it for the most part
Setting: a prestigious contemporary college (Landford) in Western Massachusetts in the present time. Amherst, perhaps?

First line/s:  "I sat in the back pew and watched the only woman I would ever love marry another man."

My comments:  Well. The love story part of this is ridiculous, sappy, and over-the-top.  However it's an action-packed page turner when it comes to the mystery and following the clues.  I'm not a big Scott Brick fan when it comes to readers, so he came really close to ruining the story for me.  Maybe I would have liked it better if I'd read it or if it were read by someone else?  So, six of one; half-a-dozen of the other....I liked this, I didn't like this.....

Goodreads synopsis:  Harlan Coben, the master of domestic suspense, returns with a standalone thriller in the vein of #1 bestsellers Hold Tight, Caught and Stay Close that explores the depth and passion of a lost love . . . and the secrets and lies at its heart. Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd. But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for . . . but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for more than a decade, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life—a time he has never gotten over—is turned completely inside out. As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart—and who lied to him—soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on carefully constructed fiction. Harlan Coben once again delivers a shocking page-turner that deftly explores the power of past love and the secrets and lies that such love can hide.

55. Sapphire Blue - Kerstin Gier

Book # 2 in the Ruby Red trilogy
read the actual hardcover book!
2012, Henry Hold (originally published in 2009 in German)
362 pgs.
YA Fantasy - time travel
Finished 8/19/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.20
My rating:  4
Setting:  Contemporary London (with forays through time back to the 1950's and 1782)

First line/s: "The streets of Southwark were dark and deserted.  The air smelled of waterweeds, sewage, and dead fish.  He instinctively held her hand more tightly."

My comments:  Throughout this book, the second of three, the aspect of romance seemed a little heavier. I tried to put myself in the place of an 8th or 9th grade girl and that's when I realized that this is so on the mark.  Kids in that age group, kids raised close to family and in a private school, would probably have similar reactions to boys (and drinking) as Gwen.  She's practically swooning over handsome Gabriel....well, I did plenty of practically-swooning when I was that age.  I actually remember when I'm forced to!  So we shouldn't get grown-up, mature thinking and reactions and attitudes, I realized.  I think the Ms. Gier has pretty well hit the mark.  The mystery and tension are still pretty high as well.  I'm really looking forward to seeing how it all works out in book number 3!

Goodreads synopsis:  Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.
          At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

MOVIE - I'll See You In My Dreams

PG-13 (1:35)
Limited release 5-15-15
Viewed 8-18-15 At Century Gateway with Sheila
RT Critic:  94  Audience:   71
Cag:  2.5 - It was okay, I liked some of it
Directed by Brett Haley
Bleecker Street
Blythe Danner, Sam Elliott, Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, June Squibb, 

My comments:  Okay, big time depressing.  Good movie though, especially the scenes with Carol (Blythe Danner) and her three best friends, all living in little cottages in a retirement community in southern California - Rhea Perlman, June Squibb, and Mary Kay Place.  But looking at Carol's life, thinking about some of the things people in the movie say about death, seeing how suddenly a life can well as watching the poor young man who's hopelessly stuck cleaning pools when he wants to be writing poetry (I know, I know, at the end there might be a teeny, tiny turning of events, but who knows....)  Too much leftover thinking for me.  The kind of stuff I don't want to think about. Hmmm.....

RT Summary:  In this vibrant, funny, and heartfelt film, a widow and former songstress discovers that life can begin anew at any age. With the support of three loyal girlfriends (June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, and Mary Kay Place), Carol (Blythe Danner) decides to embrace the world, embarking on an unlikely friendship with her pool maintenance man (Martin Starr), pursuing a new love interest (Sam Elliott), and reconnecting with her daughter (Malin Akerman).

54. A Reliable Wife - Robert Goolrick

I read this one!  The only one I could find was Large Print.....
2009, Algonquin Books
291 pgs.
Adult Historical Fiction with a more than touch of mystery...
Finished August, 2015
Goodreads rating: 3.24
My rating: 4
Setting: Winter , 1907, rural Wisconsin

First line/s:  "It was bitter cold, the air was electric with all that had not happened yet."

My comments:  This book was not at all what I expected, and I read it all in one long sitting (a great day to spend inside when it's 110 degrees outside). I enjoyed the surprises and the way they were added to the story. Although I can't define "normal" sexuality, desires, self-admiration, self-loathing, and religious fervor, I do think the author goes a little over the top here and there. The time period and setting added another layer of unexpectedness, as I don't read a whole lot of historical fiction and know very little about the state of Wisconsin. On the whole, I enjoyed reading this book very much. 

Goodreads synopsis:  Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt a passionate man with his own dark secrets has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways. 
With echoes of "Wuthering Heights" and "Rebecca," Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.

53. A Hidden Secret - Linda Castillo

Kate Burkholder #6.5
read on my iPhone
2015 Minotaur Books
74 pgs.
Adult Mystery Short Story
Finished August, 2015
Goodreads rating: 4.08
My rating: 4
Setting: Contemporary Ohio Amish Country

First line/s:  "She thought she'd be prepared.  What a fool she was to think she could do this on her own.  Stupid, stupid girl."

My comments:  Good plot, mystery, and setting for a short story....with the wonderful voice of Kate Burkholder holding it all together.  It did seem like Tomasetti was just stuck in here and there so he'd appear, and at times it seemed a little convoluted to include him, but for a short, satisfying Kate Burkholder "fix" this worked just fine for me!

Goodreads synopsis:  When a baby-only hours old-is discovered on the Amish bishop's front porch in Painter's Mill, Ohio, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called in to investigate. The newborn is swaddled in an Amish crib quilt, and the only other item found with the child is a hand-carved wood rattle, which Kate also recognizes as Amish.          
          The little girl seems healthy and whole; but who would abandon her and why? Though the quilt and rattle could be purchased, Kate suspects the mother is Amish, possibly young and unmarried, both of which would be powerful motives for such a desperate act. With the rattle and the baby quilt as the only clues, Kate must call upon her own Amish roots, and with the help of state agent John Tomasetti, search the Amish and "English" communities of Painters Mill for clues to unravel the poignant, puzzling mystery.

52. Kiss of Deception

The Remnant Chronicles #1
listened to on Audible
2014, Henry Holt
492 pgs.
YA Fantasy
Finished 8/10/15
Goodreads rating: 4.08
My rating: 3

First line/s:  "Today was the day a thousand dreams would die and a single dream would be born."

My comments:  I read this for my YA book group and enjoyed it, for the most part, very much. It was recorded by four different voices, one for Lia, one for Rafe, one for Kaden, and a female voice for the beginning entries of each of the seventy-something chapters. Other than the question: who is the prince...who is the assassin? there were very few surprises. I'm not a huge fan of love triangles, so that's a point off, and there were sections that dragged a bit, but not enough so that I was bored. Lia is the rebellious, I'm-going-to-do-what-I-want-unless-you-give-me-a-good-reason-not-to princess/heroine, which does get a tiny bit tiring. It would be nice if she took a misstep once in awhile. Three stars means I liked it, which I did. And it left off with a nice cliffhanger, so I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

Becky's Review from Becky's Book Reviews

Goodreads synopsis:  A princess must find her place in a reborn world.
She flees on her wedding day.
She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.
She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.
She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.
          The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.
          Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

MOVIE - Ricki and the Flash

Wide/Limited release
Viewed date at
RT Critic:    Audience:   
Cag:  6/Awesome  5/Loved it  4/Liked it a lot  3/Liked it  2/It was okay  1/Didn’t like it
Directed by
Based on the book by


My comments:

RT Summary:

Saturday, August 8, 2015

51. Ruby Red - Kersten Geir

Precious Stone Trilogy #1
listened to on Audible
translated from German by Anthea Bell
330 pgs.
YA Dystopia/Time Travel
Finished 8/8/15
Goodreads rating: 4.12
My rating: 4

First sentence/s:  "I first felt it in the school canteen on Monday morning.  For a moment it was like being on a roller coaster when you're racing down from the very top.  It lasted only two seconds, but that was long enough for me to dump a plateful of mashed potatoes and gravy all over my school uniform.  I managed to catch the plate just in time, as my knife and fork clattered tot he floor."

My comments:  I listened to this first in the series with its lovely lilting accent, making it very British indeed.  Time flew by as I sewed and listened.  I jut wish that Gwyneth would speak up for herself a little more other than just thinking her feelings.  Nothing seemed at all familiar to me...until I went to enter it onto my book list and see I'd already read it.  Nothing seemed familiar at all!  So weird.  But you can see my first review here.  It's a pretty decent review!

Goodreads synopsis:  Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!
          Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

50. Darkness First - James Hayman

McCabe & Savage #3
read on my iPhone
2013 Witness Impulse eBook
496 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished beginning of August, 2015
Goodreads rating: 4.08
My rating: 3
Setting: Contemporary Eastport/Machias, Maine

First line/s:  "At 7:47 on a Friday evening in August, Dr. Emily Kaplan's office was still open, as it was every Friday night, for the convenience of those who found it difficult to come in at any other time."

My comments:  I don't think I enjoyed this third in the series as much as the first two.  The setting has changed a bit - from Portland to the Eastport/Machias area.  The main protagonist changes from McCabe to his sidekick, Maggie, but McCabe puts in a brief appearance near the end.  Characters travel from one place to another quickly, which is a bit off-putting, because the distance between, say, Machias and Augusta isn't just a hop, skip, and jump like the plot implies.  The whodunit part was cleared up early on (as far as I was concerned), which was a bit of a let-down.  However, because the setting was so real to me, it was still a fairly decent mystery, and I don't hate the characters (though there's a bit of an interesting, though unsettling twist, in this one) I'll happily look forward to a fourth installment.

Goodreads synopsis:  The mutilated body of a young woman. The town doctor lying comatose in the road. A hundred and fifty tablets of Canadian OxyContin. This is the havoc that a merciless killer has wreaked on a sleepy Maine seaport.
          As detectives Maggie Savage and Michael McCabe investigate, they realize the man they are after does not exist. Nobody knows his real name. Nobody has seen his face. But everybody fears his blade.
          The only one who may know the murderer's true identity is an eleven-year-old girl—who has vanished into thin air.
          Taut, twisting, and starring two unforgettable heroes, Darkness First will thrill fans of John Sandford and C. J. Box.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

MOVIE - Trainwreck

R (2:02)
Wide release 7/17/15
Viewed 8/3/15 at ElCon with Sheila
RT Critic: 85   Audience:   77
Cag:  5/Loved itt
Written by Amy Schumer
Directed by Judd Apatow
Universal Pictures

Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, 

My comments:  Amy Schumer is hilariously funny, terrifyingly honest, and has a serious side that is unexpected and welcome.  I say this because she wrote this screenplay as well as starred in it, and I was impressed on both counts. It was pretty raunchy, which might be off-putting to some, but I loved how very, very real it made the protagonist.  Having LeBron James as one of the characters was so much fun ... and he did a great job!  And casting Bill Hader was genius.  He was so perfect for the role!  What a great flick.

RT Summary:  Since she was a little girl, it's been drilled into Amy's (Schumer) head by her rascal of a dad (Colin Quinn) that monogamy isn't realistic. Now a magazine writer, Amy lives by that credo-enjoying what she feels is an uninhibited life free from stifling, boring romantic commitment-but in actuality, she's kind of in a rut. When she finds herself starting to fall for the subject of the new article she's writing, a charming and successful sports doctor named Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), Amy starts to wonder if other grown-ups, including this guy who really seems to like her, might be on to something.

Monday, August 3, 2015

49. Killing Floor - Lee Child

read by Dick Hill
listened to in the car on the CD player - driving west from PA
1997 Brilliance Audio
12 unabridged cds
525 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 8/5/15
Goodreads rating: 4.02
My rating: 4
Setting: Contemporary Margrave, GA

First line/s:  "I was arrested at Eno's Diner.  At twelve o'clock.  I was eating eggs and drinking coffee.  A late breakfast, not lunch.  I was wet and tired after a long walk in heavy rain.  All the way from the highway to the edge of town."

My comments:  I'm skipping around reading this series, and this is the first of them chronologically.  It gave a teeny, tiny more insight into protagonist Jack Reacher and why he is living life in his chosen, off-beat way.  The mystery was great, fascinating, kept you guessing, and entirely improbable.....which was totally okay with me!  This is the perfect book for a reluctant reader from young adult onward.  It's hard to put down.

Goodreads synopsis:  Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. He's just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in less than an hour, he's arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Jack knows is that he didn't kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn't stand a chance of convincing anyone. not in Margrave, Georgia. Not a chance in hell.

48. After the Storm - Linda Castillo

listened to audio on Audible
audio read by Kathleen McInerney
2015 Minotaur Books
320 pgs. (11 hrs. 8 min.)
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 8/1/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.11
My rating:  4.5
Setting:  contemporary Ohio Amish Country

First line/s: "I was eight years old when I learned there were consequences for associating with the English.  Consequences that were invariably negative and imposed by well-meaning Amish parents bent on upholding the rules set forth by our Anabaptist forefathers nearly 300 years ago."

My comments:  4.5  I really, really liked this book, as I have every one of the books in the series leading up to this one. I love peeking inside a little bit of the Amish life, gaining new insights into their religion and varying strictness of sects (well that's awkwardly worded....) and the lovely setting of rural Ohio that includes real towns and places.  I like that there were several subplots (of course all tied up well at the end) and I love the way Castillo balances really lovely writing with quite gritty goings-on.  An almost-perfect read for me.  However, since this book was just published, I'm going to have to wait an interminably long time for the next one.....

Goodreads synopsis:  In this electrifying thriller by New York Times bestseller Linda Castillo, Kate Burkholder must uncover a family's long-hidden past to solve a brutal murder
          When a tornado tears through Painters Mill and unearths human remains, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder finds herself tasked with the responsibility of identifying the bones--and notifying the family. Evidence quickly emerges that the death was no accident and Kate finds herself plunged into a thirty year old case that takes her deep into the Amish community to which she once belonged.
            Meanwhile, turmoil of an emotional and personal nature strikes at the very heart of Kate's budding relationship with state agent John Tomasetti. A reality that strains their fragile new love to the breaking point and threatens the refuge they've built for themselves--and their future.
       Under siege from an unknown assailant--and her own personal demons--Kate digs deep into the case only to discover proof of an unimaginable atrocity, a plethora of family secrets and the lengths to which people will go to protect their own.