Monday, December 26, 2016

73. Die Trying by Lee Child

#2 Jack Reacher
listened to in the car - end of trip to PA and up to Maine, all in December, 2016
originally published in 1998
552 pgs. in Mass Market paperback
12 unabridged cds
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 12/26/16
Goodreads rating: - 4.0 - 67,368
My rating: 3
Setting: Chicago, then the wilds of northwestern Montana

First line/s: "Nathan Rubin died because he got brave."

My comments: I'm reading this series out of order, which works fine for me.  This is the second book in the series, and what I'm finding is that I like the more recent books better than the beginning titles.  This one was TOO detailed, too much information and explanation about guns, bullets, velocity, too much of the nitty gritty.  (If it were about cutting fabric for a quilt I'd probably feel differently).  It also seemed to go on forever and ever and ever...but no matter how impatient I get, these are great for listening to on a 8 hour plus drive!

Goodreads synopsis:  In a Chicago suburb, a dentist is met in his office parking lot by three men and ordered into the trunk of his Lexus. On a downtown sidewalk, Jack Reacher and an unknown woman are abducted in broad daylight by two men - practiced and confident - who stop them at gunpoint and hustle them into the same sedan. Then Reacher and the woman are switched into a second vehicle and hauled away, leaving the dentist bound and gagged inside his car with the woman's abandoned possessions, two gallons of gasoline. . . and a burning match. The FBI is desperate to rescue the woman, a Special Agent from the Chicago office, because the FBI always - always - takes care of its own, and because this woman is not just another agent. Reacher and the woman join forces, against seemingly hopeless odds, to outwit their captors and escape. But the FBI thinks Jack is one of the kidnappers - and when they close in, the Bureau snipers will be shooting to kill.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

MOVIE - Why Him?

R (1:51)
Wide release 12/23/16
Viewed in Carlisle, in the cushy recliners at RC Carlisle 8
RT Critic:  40  Audience:  61
Critic's Consensus: Solidly cast but overall misconceived, Why Him? offers the odd chuckle, but ultimately adds disappointingly little to its tired father-vs.-fiancé formula.
Cag:  4.5
Directed by John Hamburg
20th Century Fox

James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Megan Mellally, Zoey Deutch

My comments:  Okay, I loved this movie.  It was really crass and really funny.  All the actors were wonderful, though I wished it had shown a little more about the relationship between Laird and Steph.  But the scenes between Bryan Cranston and James Franco were a RIOT!!!!!  James Franco can do anything...and all the wild & crazy paintings throughout the movie were done by him.  Love it, love it.  Today is Chrismas, I saw it last night and I can't get it out of my head.  What a hoot!

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Over the holidays, Ned (Bryan Cranston), an overprotective but loving dad and his family visit his daughter at Stanford, where he meets his biggest nightmare: her well-meaning but socially awkward Silicon Valley billionaire boyfriend, Laird (James Franco). The straight-laced Ned thinks Laird, who has absolutely no filter, is a wildly inappropriate match for his daughter. The one-sided rivalry-and Ned's panic level-escalate when he finds himself increasingly out of step in the glamorous high-tech hub, and learns that Laird is about to pop the question.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

72. The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan

Library Book
2016, Katherine Tegen Books
96 pgs.
Middle Grades CRF w/a touch of magical fantasy
Finished 12/22/16
Goodreads rating: 4/03 - 740 ratings
My rating: 4
Setting:   Contemporary winter, somewhere in the USA where it snows

First line/s:  "I found the boy at dusk.  The blizzard was fierce, and it would soon be dark."

My comments:  A very sweet, gentle story, told as though a dog could really and truly converse with humans; humans who love poetry and dogs.

Goodreads synopsis:  From Newbery Medal winner Patricia MacLachlan comes a poignant story about two children, a poet, and a dog and how they help one another survive loss and recapture love. "Just what I needed," raves "It's a heart-warming story of loss and love that filled me with hope for a better future and renewed my belief in good."
          Teddy is a gifted dog. Raised in a cabin by a poet named Sylvan, he grew up listening to sonnets read aloud and the comforting clicking of a keyboard. Although Teddy understands words, Sylvan always told him there are only two kinds of people in the world who can hear Teddy speak: poets and children.
          Then one day Teddy learns that Sylvan was right. When Teddy finds Nickel and Flora trapped in a snowstorm, he tells them that he will bring them home—and they understand him. The children are afraid of the howling wind, but not of Teddy’s words. They follow him to a cabin in the woods, where the dog used to live with Sylvan . . . only now his owner is gone.
          As they hole up in the cabin for shelter, Teddy is flooded with memories of Sylvan. What will Teddy do when his new friends go home? Can they help one another find what they have lost?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016 Golden Globes

Best Motion Picture: Drama
     Hacksaw Ridge
     Hell or High Water
     Manchester by the Sea

Best Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy
     20th Century Women
     Florence Foster Jenkins
     La La Land
     Sing Street

Best Actor: Motion Picture Drama
     Casey Affleck; Manchester by the Sea
     Joel Edgerton; Loving
     Andrew Garfield: Hacksaw Ridge
     Viggo Mortensen: Captain Fantastic
     Denzel Washington; Fences
Best Actor: Musical/Comedy
     Collin Farrell; The Lobster
     Ryan Gosling; La La Land
     Hugh Grant; Florence Foster Jenkins
     Jonah Hill; War Dogs
     Ryan Reynolds; Dead Pool
Best Actress: Motion Picture Drama
     Amy Adams; Arrival
     Jessica Chastain: Miss Sloane
     Isabelle Huppert; Elle
     Ruth Negga; Loving
     Natalie Portman: Jackie
Best Actress: Musical/Comedy
     Annette Bening; 20th Century Women
     Lily Collins; Rules Don't Apply
     Hailee Steinfeld; The Edge of Seventeen
     Emma Stone; La La Land
     Meryl Streep; Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Supporting Actor
     Mahershala Ali; Moonlightt
     Jeff Bridges; Hell or High Water
     Simon Helberg; Florence Foster Jenkins
     Dev Patel; Lion
     Aaron Taylor-Johnson; Nocturnal Animals

Best Supporting Actress
     Viola Davis; Fences
     Naomie Harris; Moonlight
     Nicole Kidman;  Lion
     Octavia Spencer; Hidden Figures
     Michelle Williams; Manchester by the Sea

Best Director
     Davien Chazelle, La La Land
     Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
     Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
     Barry Jenkins; Moonlight
     Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Best Screenplay
     Damien Chazelle, La La Land
     TomFord, Nocturnal Animals
     Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
     Keneth Londergan, Manchester by the Sea
     Taylor Sheridan; Hell or High Water

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

71. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

The Mortal Instruments #3
listened to Audible
2009, Margaret McElderry
541 pgs.
YA Dystopia
Finished 12-13-16
Goodreads rating: 4.34 - 579,031 ratings
My rating: 3
Setting:  Alicante, the Shadowhunter home "world"

First line/s:  "The cold snap of the previous week was over; the sun was shining brightly as Clary hurried across Luke's dusty front yard, the hood of her jacket up to keep her hair from blowing across her face."

My comments:  I listened to this book - mostly on the road traversing Texas.  It was highly predictable, a little repetitive and wordy in places, but pure entertainment during a long, long road trip.  I've recently watched the Shadowhunter TV series and totally dislike the actor portraying Jace.  It took me about half the book to get back the original picture of Jace that I had in my head. The setting moved from NYC to Alicante, of which I wasn't the greatest fan.  I think, perhaps, that this would be an excellent place to end this series.

Goodreads synopsis:  To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters - never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.
     As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City - whatever the cost?

Friday, December 9, 2016

MOVIE - Rules Don't Apply

Wide release 11/23/16 - went to cheap theaters almost immediately
Viewed date at Century Gateway Friday, 12/9/16 MY LAST MOVIE IN TUCSON!!!
RT Critic: 56   Audience:  44
Critic's Consensus: With Rules Don't Apply, Warren Beatty takes an overall affable -- but undeniably slight -- look at a corner of old Hollywood under Howard Hughes' distinctive shadow.
IMbD Rating:  6.3/10 
Cag:  4
Directed by Warren Beatty
Twentieth Century Fox

Warren Beatty, Lily Collins

My comments: I came out of the theater feeling a little unsettled.  that's what the movie did for me, it was unsettling.  Some of it was much too long and drawn out, some of it was just delightful.  A lot of big names appeared here and there, and that was fun.  The two young leads had great rapport and I enjoyed the scenes with the two of them together most.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  An aspiring young actress (Lily Collins) and her ambitious young driver (Alden Ehrenreich) struggle hopefully with the absurd eccentricities of the wildly unpredictable billionaire, Howard Hughes, (Warren Beatty) for whom they work. It's Hollywood, 1958. Small town beauty queen, songwriter, and devout Baptist virgin Marla Mabrey (Collins), under contract to the infamous Howard Hughes (Beatty), arrives in Los Angeles. At the airport, she meets her driver Frank Forbes (Ehrenreich), who is engaged to be married to his 7th grade sweetheart and is a deeply religious Methodist. Their instant attraction not only puts their religious convictions to the test, but also defies Hughes' #1 rule: no employee is allowed to have any relationship whatsoever with a contract actress. Hughes' behavior intersects with Marla and Frank in very separate and unexpected ways, and as they are drawn deeper into his bizarre world, their values are challenged and their lives are changed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

70. The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

listened to on Audible
2013 Tyndale House
400 pgs. - read 125 pgs.
Adult CRF
Started and gave up on the same day, Sat. 11/26/16
Goodreads rating: 4.1 - 6069 ratings
My rating: 1.5
Setting: Contemporary Cape Hatteras

First line/s:  "When trouble blows in, my mind always reaches for a single, perfect day in Rodanthe."

My comments:  I've listened to over 30% of this book and I can't get into it...perhaps because I can't stomach the protagonist or her choices?  Or perhaps it goes waaaay too slowly.  Not going to waste my time going any further...too many others waiting for me out there.

Goodreads synopsis:  When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola's rambling Victorian house.Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola's walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola's youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper--the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.

Monday, December 5, 2016

69. Against the Odds by Mara Jacobs

Anna Dawson, Las Vegas Gambler #1
read on my Kindle
228 pgs.Adult Mystery
Finished 12-5-16
Goodreads rating:  4.09 - 570 ratings
My rating: 4
Setting:  Contemporary Las Vegas, NV

First line/s:  "Get it together, I told myself.  This isn't life or death.  It's just college basketball.  Nobody's going to die from what I'm about to do."

My comments:  I purchased this book despite the cover (not one I'd usually choose) and I made the correct choice.  The book is nothing like the cover, or even the blurb on Goodreads, which make it sound like it's a "romance."  This is a good whodunnit through and through, in a setting I love (Las Vegas) with a bunch of really interesting characters.  And Anna, the protagonist, is a really great person with a big flaw or two.  In other words, REAL.  I liked the plot, setting, and characters, and will read more in the series since this looks like the first one.

Goodreads synopsis:  My name is Anna Dawson, and I'm a professional poker player. And I'm good. Very good.  But, I also have a little bit of a problem with placing bets on a sporting events. Not so good.
          Sometimes my little problem becomes a whole lot of trouble and I need to resort to some, shall we say, less than stellar actions to get out of debt. So, I become my alter ego, JoJo, and fix college basketball games. Hey, a victimless crime, no one's the wiser, and it's better than the alternative, which is a drive into the desert with my loan shark and a shovel in the trunk. Although, it has to be said, my loan shark is pretty good looking.
          I love Vegas, and I love the life I've built, but when one of my friends is murdered, and another one shot at, I know I need to take a serious look at myself. And I need to call in the big guns. Even if that means teaming up with detective Jack Schiller, a man who's dealing with his own problems. But dang, he sure is sexy.
          I'm just trying to juggle protecting my friends, helping sexy detective Jack while not letting him get to close, and finding a murderer. And, oh yeah, no one can learn about JoJo.
          Because if they do, there's no way I'll be able to bluff my way out.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

MOVIE - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

PG-13 (2:12)
Wide release November 18, 2016
Viewed Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 at Century Park Place....for the last time?
RT Critic:  78  Audience: 83
Critic's Consensus: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them draws on Harry Potter's rich mythology to deliver a spinoff that dazzles with franchise-building magic all its own.
Cag:  4/Enjoyed it very much, but it was a bit long
Directed by David Yates
Warner Brothers Picture
Written by J. K. Rowling

Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler (I really liked him!)

My comments:  The first few bars of music at the very, very beginning of the movie are notes from the Harry Potter theme.  After those first few notes, the music hanges.  Yes, this movie is by J. K. Rowling and yes, it is set in the world of wizards and awizardry, but other than that there's not much comparison to Harry Potter.  It's a standalone.  The setting, for one thing, is completely different - 1920s in New York City.  And for the most part, the story is about adults, not kids or even young adults.
     It's hard to compare the two movies, they are pretty much incomparable.  It was okay, entertaining, and had interesting actors.  I loved Jacob Goldstein, he was actually my favorite character in the move.  The Actor, Dan Fogler, was wonderful.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

Friday, December 2, 2016

One Postcard Received Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

702.  Greetings from Czech Republic
Because I have only painting "reading cards" and you are man (!!) with a sense of humor, I send you raven card.  Raven is poem from Edgar Allan Poe, and you know it.  Enjoy your raven card and have a funny day, Jana.  
PS:  Raven in Czech:  KRKAVEC

MOVIE - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

PG-13 (2:07) (might be scary for younger or nervous kids)
Wide release 9/20/16
Viewed 12/2/16 at Century Gateway
RT Critic: 63   Audience:  64
Critic's Consensus:  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children proves a suitable match for Tim Burton's distinctive style, even if it's on stronger footing as a visual experience than a narrative one.
Cag:  4.5 Liked it so much more than planned...
Directed by Tim Burton
20th Century Fox
Based on the book by Ransom Riggs

Eva Green, Chris O'Dowd, Judi Dench (small part)

My comments:  I couldn't get into the book, only got as far as Jake finding the bombed-out mansion.  However, the movie was fascinating, the storyline incredibly clever.  Maybe I didn't go far enough?  Apparently for me it translated better on film than in print.  I wonder what the difference are between them?  All the effects were pretty darn cool and I love the kind o mind that can come up with a story like this.  Fantastic time travel/fantasy.  Chris O'Down, as the dad, was marvelous.  And I wish there had been more of Juki Dench - love her!

RT/ IMDb Summary:  From visionary director Tim Burton, and based upon the best-selling novel, comes an unforgettable motion picture experience. When Jake discovers clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds a magical place known as Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers...and their powerful enemies. Ultimately, Jake discovers that only his own special "peculiarity" can save his new friends.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

68. The Body Reader by Anne Frasier

read on my iPhone/Book/listened to audio CD/Audible...
2016, Thomas & Mercer
289 pgs.
adult murder mystery
Finished 12-1-16
Goodreads rating:  4.18
My rating: 4.5

First line/s:  "One day she stopped screaming."

My comments:  First of all, I can't (and don't want to) imagine what it would be like to be held captive in a basement "cell" for three years.  In the best of circumstances this would be horrendous, but Jude Fontaine was held under horrid circumstances.  So when she is able to escape and re-enter the real world, it is hard to comprehend how she would or could survive.  The foremost feeling I have after reading this book is that Anne Frasier is a wonderful, creative writer.  It's a really believable story that could so easily be the opposite.  Impressed.

Goodreads synopsis:  For three years, Detective Jude Fontaine was kept from the outside world. Held in an underground cell, her only contact was with her sadistic captor, and reading his face was her entire existence. Learning his every line, every movement, and every flicker of thought is what kept her alive.
     After her experience with isolation and torture, she is left with a fierce desire for justice—and a heightened ability to interpret the body language of both the living and the dead. Despite colleagues’ doubts about her mental state, she resumes her role at Homicide. Her new partner, Detective Uriah Ashby, doesn’t trust her sanity, and he has a story of his own he’d rather keep hidden. But a killer is on the loose, murdering young women, so the detectives have no choice: they must work together to catch the madman before he strikes again. And no one knows madmen like Jude Fontaine.

Postcards Received Thursday, 12-1-2016

698.  Postcrossing Indonesia - Batam
Hello.  I am Ucy.  I live in Batam City, but my hometown is Bukithngsi city, west of Sumatra province.  I like to collect stamps, coins, banknotes, and I like to crochet.  I hope you like this card.  Happy Postcarduniting!

699.  Tura Beach, NSW, Australia
Did You Know? Humpback Whale
The humpback whale is not the largest of the whale family, but it can still grow to 16 metres in length, weigh up to 40 tonnes and can live to be 48 years old.  These great mammals can throw their great mass up out of the water in a fantastic display.  They are a living wonder and have been an endangered species since 1963.  The breeding ground of the Humpback Whale remains a mystery.  Pods of humpback whales are observed every year on the coast of Australia during their 5000 km migration, returning to Antarctica.

700.  Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Hello Chris, Greetings from Penang Island - the second smallest state in Malaysia.  Georgetown is Penang state capital and UNESCO world cultural heritage site.  This historic city was founded in 1786 by Captain Francis Light as a British trading port.  Penang Road (Jalan Penang) is a famous street in Georgetown with many classic shops such as this shop which trades caneware.  It is a vanishing trade as there are just few shops of its kind left in the city.  Rattan is the raw material for making caneware and is harvested from rain forests.

701.  Greetings from Malaysia!
Malaysia features some of the world's most stunning tropical beaches.  The diversity of this nation comes from the intermingling of Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian cultures, and has generated a dynamic environment with a unique cuisine.  There are many rainforests, natural scenery.  If you love travelling, maybe ccan think of travel here one day?  I choose this Classic Poem of Chinese for you.  Hope you will like it.  Happy Postcrossing and have a nice day! Janet

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

MOVIE - Moonlight

R (1:50)
Limited release 10/21/16
Viewed 11/29/16 at the Loft with Sheila
RT Critic: 98   Audience:  91
Critic's Consensus:   Moonlightuses one man's story to offer a remarkable and brilliantly crafted look at lives too rarely seen in cinema.
Cag: 4.5 - for the most part, I liked this movie a whole lot
Directed by Barry Jenkins (who also wrote it)
Plan B Entertainment

My comments:  I loved parts one and two.  A lot. But part three threw me off a bit.  The physical change in the main character is too extreme.  He was intensely skinny in the first two parts, and even though he'd bulked up incredibly, he didn't have the leanness that I felt he still would have had.  So it was hard to relate to him as the same character.  And this third part went at what seemed to me like a slower pace.  The story, as a whole, was so sad and so well told - my heart breaks for kids who are brought up in drug-addicted households and poverty, and for kids who have to deal with intense bullying, mentally and physically.  Our world.....or at least some parts of it.  Horrible.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  The tender, heartbreaking story of a young man's struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love, while grappling with his own sexuality.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Postcards Received Monday, 11/28/16

694.  Bogza Art Gallery - Russia
Hello Chris, best wishes from Russia, Moscow.  Hope you like this card with one view of one Russian place - Sochi.  I hope that one day I can visit it.  Elene

695.  Two Cards from NYC - Mater & the Ghostlight and MOMA's version of the Empire State Building
Hi Chris!  I know you don't wan any more famous buildings, but I feel this Empire building is unique.   You can cut the card and make a building yourself.  It's from the MOMA.

696.  Russian Cemetery
Hello Chris!   My name is Maria.  My hobbies are breeding flowers, postcrossing, and travel with my husband.  I read tht you collect postcards with cemeteries, and like Halloween!  I hope you enjoy the card and its desing.  This postcard is from my collection from my grandmother and she's 32 years old! :) I wishy you all the best!

697.  Russian Landscape Painter Ivan I. Shishkin (mailed from Finland)
Hello there!!  I'm Veronica, 25, from Sipoo, Finland.  I'm a photographer and love all art.  I also enjoy travelling.  I have been living in 8 different places around the world.  Have a great day!  Veronica

Thursday, November 24, 2016

67. Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

read on my Kindle
2014, Delacorte Press
296 pgs.
Finished 11/24/16
Goodreads rating: 3.59 - 1,723 ratings
My rating: 3.5
Setting:  Contemporary NYC and England

First line/s:  "I should know this room.  I've been inside it countless times.but everything looks different now.  The vibrant colors have all turned gray, the view out the windows is a foreign blur, and someone must have rearranged the furniture without telling me."

My comments:  Back in the early days of my marriage when I knew no one in the tiny village of Northeast Harbor and my new husband was away at Basic Training, I practically lived in the town library.  I inhaled every book by Jane Aiken Hodge, Daphne duMaurier, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis A. Whitney.  What were they called...gothic romances?  I drank up Suspicion in one sitting because it reminded me so much of those days and those books.  And it ended up being a very likeable book.  Didn't blow me away, but certainly entertained me for awhile.

Goodreads synopsis:  Seventeen-year-old Imogen Rockford has never forgotten the last words her father said to her, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family’s English country manor.
           For seven years, images of her parents’ death have haunted Imogen’s dreams. In an effort to escape the past, she leaves Rockford Manor and moves to New York City with her new guardians. But some attachments prove impossible to shake—including her love for her handsome neighbor Sebastian Stanhope.
           Then a life-altering letter arrives that forces Imogen to return to the manor in England, where she quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind Rockford’s aristocratic exterior. At their center is Imogen herself—and Sebastian, the boy she never stopped loving.
          Combining spine-tingling mystery, romance, and unforgettable characters, Suspicion is an action-packed thrill ride.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

MOVIE - Keeping Up with the Joneses

PG-13 (1:41)
Wide 10/21/16
Viewed 11/23/16 at Century Gateway
RT Critic: 19   Audience:  46
Critic's Consensus:  Keeping Up with the Joneses squanders a decent premise -- and a talented cast full of funny people -- on a witless and largely laugh-free suburban spy adventure.
Cag:  3.5/totally enjoyed it (though not to be considered a "great" movie)
Directed by Greg Mottola
20th Century Fox

Zach Galifianakis, Jon Hamm

My comments:  Holy catfish, this was a fun movie to watch...funny as heck, actors that have great chemistry and fast moving.  Took my mind away from everything else, as a good movie should, and left me with not a lot of "deep thinking," which at this particular point in my life I'm grateful about!

RT/ IMDb Summary:  A suburban couple becomes embroiled in an international espionage plot when they discover that their seemingly perfect new neighbors are government spies.

66. Once Shadows Fall by Robert Daniels

Sturgis & Kale #1
read on my Kindle AND listened on Audible
2015, Crooked Lane Books
352 pgs.
Adult Mystery
Finished  11/23/16
Goodreads rating:  4.03 - 186 ratings
My rating: 4
Setting:  Contemporary Atlanta, GA

First line/s:   "Luck:  hard to plan for it, hard to predict when it might show up."

My comments:  A new, female homicide detective gets handed a case that looks like a copycat -  a copycat because the deranged killer of what look like the same type of serial murders is locked away in a psychiatric hospital.   As more similar murders appear, she teams up with a brilliant - though reluctant - ex-FBI agent who is now a college professor.  Of course rapport between them grows as we slowly learn his story, which is deeply imbedded in the original serial killer's story.  Oh, these dark, twisted minds! This was a satisfying mystery, though quite easy to figure out early on if you've read a lot of murder mysteries.  I look forward to reading more in the series.

Goodreads synopsis:  After years of paying her dues on the force, Beth Sturgis has earned her place as a detective for the Robbery-Homicide division of the Atlanta PD. Now, she's heading up a major manhunt for a potential serial killer who’s working his way inward from the outskirts of the city. The copycat elements in the first crime scene lead Sturgis to retired FBI agent Jack Kale, who was responsible for apprehending and nearly killing the murderer known as the Scarecrow, the same Scarecrow who appears to be this new killer's terrible inspiration.
          A reclusive single father and university professor, Kale is trying to keep the demons at bay through therapy and avoidance. That is, until Sturgis shows up asking for his help. Against his better judgment, Kale is drawn into the most dangerous cat and mouse game of his life. Robert Daniels's Once Shadows Fall, is a gripping thriller in the bestselling tradition of Silence of the Lambs and is sure to become a crime fiction classic.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Recipes - I've Been Cooking

I've Been Cooking

Baked Crab Rangoons
Loaded Cauliflower Bake
Mac & Cheese Lasagna (w/chicken)
Salsa Chicken Casserole
Tuna Rice Casserole

Crockpot Main Meals 
8-Can Taco Soup (with canned chicken or leftovers)
Potato Soup (Instapot, can be crockpot as well)

Christmas Crack

Freezer Meals (Freeze in baggie, thaw for 24 hours - or in microwave - then use crockpot or instapot)
8-Can Taco Soup (with canned chicken or leftovers)
8-Can Taco Soup (with canned chicken or leftovers)
Potato Soup (Instapot)

Ramen Skillet

Potato Soup 

Vegetables & Side Dishes
Broccoli Stuffing Bake

I've Been Cooking - Fruit Crisp Dump Cake

1 box (Betty Crocker SuperMoist) yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 21-oz can pie filling (I used apple, others suggest cherry)
1 8-oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
     Note: more fruit needed!
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In large bowl, stir together cake mix and butter until crumbly.
  • Spread pie filling and pineapple in ungreased 9 / 12 pan.  Sprinkle cake mix mixture evenly over fruit.
  • Bake 38 - 44 min. or until deep golden brown.  Cool 30 minutes.
  • Store loosely covered.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

MOVIE - Arrival

PG-13 (1:51)
Wide release 11/11/16
Viewed date at Park Place Mall on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016 after getting my hair cut.
RT Critic:  93  Audience:  83
Critic's Consensus:  Arrival delivers a must-see experience for fans of thinking person's sci-fi that anchors its heady themes with genuinely affecting emotion and a terrific performance from Amy Adams.
Cag:  5.5  I really loved it, superior movie, may change to a 6...
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
21 Laps Entertainment

Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forrest Whitacker

My comments:  Now that's a MOVIE!  Clever, believable science fiction where you slowly figure out what's going on, and the reality is much ... deeper ... than superficial.  I'll be thinking about this one for a long while yet.  It left me with a couple of small questions, that I'm sure I'm supposed to figure out on my own (sort of like the end of reading The Giver for the first time).

RT/ IMDb Summary:  When mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team - lead by expert linguist Louise Banks - is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers - and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

MOVIE - Jane Got a Gun

R (1:37)
Wide release 1/29/16 (on DVD in April)
Viewed on Netflix 11/16/16
RT Critic:  40  Audience:  38
Cag:  4.5  Liked it a whole lot
Directed by Gavin O'Connor
Relativity Media
Joel Edgerton is credited as one of the three writers

Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton

My comments:  I don't add movies I didn't see on the "big screen" on the blog, but am making an exception for this one.  It's a pretty current movie and I really liked it a lot, so I want to keep track of it.  It's a rich story, and although there's a lot of killing, the gun battles aren't quite as long and drawn out as in the other westerns I've seen recently.  A gang of outlaws vs. three people protecting a small home, one of whom is totally incapacitated.  Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton make a believable couple, and as their story unfolds as the movie progresses, it really tugs on the heart strings.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Jane Hammond has built a new life with her husband Bill "Ham" Hammond after being tormented by the ultra-violent Bishop Boys outlaw gang. She finds herself in the gang's cross-hairs once again when Ham stumbles home riddled with bullets after dueling with the Boys and their relentless mastermind Colin. With the vengeful crew hot on Ham's trail, Jane has nowhere to turn but to her former fiancé Dan Frost for help in defending her family against certain destruction. Haunted by old memories, Jane's past meets the present in a heart-stopping battle for survival.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

MOVIE - Doctor Strange

PG-13 (2:10)
Wide Release 11/4/16
Viewed 11/15/16 at Century Park Place
RT Critic: 91   Audience: 90
Critic's Consensus:  Doctor Strange artfully balances its outré source material against the blockbuster constraints of the MCU, delivering a thoroughly entertaining superhero origin story in the bargain.
Cag: 5/Loved it
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Walt Disney Studios
Based on the Marvel Comic

Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swanton, Chiwetel Ejiofor

My comments:  Wow, loved this movie!  Not your "typical" Marvel/comic movie at all!  Not an overwhelming amount of fighting/action scenes, lots of incredible effects, a fantastic story, and WONDERFUL acting by Benedict Cumberbatch.  I think I'd like to see this in 3-D, although I don't usually like wearing the glasses, I bet this would be awesome!  Easy to go see again, too.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  A disgraced former surgeon named Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) becomes a powerful sorcerer under the tutelage of a mystic known as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, and Chiwetel Ejiofor co-star in this entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Monday, November 14, 2016

Christmas 2016 Letterbox Trading Cards (5 of 30)

65. Suspect by Robert Crais

Scott James & Maggie #1 (they will reappear with Joe Pike & Elvis Cole)
listened to CD while driving (around Tucson and on Lake Havasu/Flagstaff trip)
performed by Macleod Andrews
2013, G. P. Putnam's Sons
312 pgs
7 unabridged cds (8:34)
Adult mystery
Finished  11/14/16
Goodreads rating: 4.14 - 15,709 ratings
My rating: 4
Setting: Contemporary LA

First line/s:  "Maggie's tail thumped the dirt hard.  This was a game they played often, so Maggie knew what was coming, and lived for the joy of this moment."

My comments:  I was looking for a good mystery from an author I know and trust for my car trip.  I know and trust Robert Crais - I love both Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.  This was a "standalone" about a young LA police officer and his dog.  I almost didn't take it.  I'm not a so-called animal lover (I can't say I even particularly like dogs), and I usually run... fast and far... from literature that gives an animal a major role.  But since Robert Crais is tried and true for me, I decided to go for it.
      This is a long introduction to a short review.  From the very first words I was hooked.  The narration was beautifully done, I liked the two protagonists, the plot, the pacing, and all the twists and turns.  The best part?  Getting a little insight into why man and dog have always had such close bonds.  This is something I've never totally understood.  So I got a great mystery and a little insight. It looks like both Scott and Maggie will appear in a Elvis & Joe mystery, too.  Excellent, I look forward to seeing them again.

Goodreads synopsis:  LAPD cop Scott James is not doing so well. Eight months ago, a shocking nighttime assault by unidentified men killed his partner Stephanie, nearly killed him, and left him enraged, ashamed, and ready to explode. He is unfit for duty...until he meets his new partner.
          Maggie is not doing so well, either. A German shepherd who survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives before losing her handler to an IED, her PTSD is as bad as Scott's.
           They are each other's last chance. Shunned and shunted to the side, they set out to investigate the one case that no one wants them to touch: the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie. What they begin to find is nothing like what Scott has been told, and the journey will take them both through the darkest moments of their own personal hells. Whether they will make it out again, no one can say.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

64. The Thirteenth Continuum by Jennifer Brody

read on my Kindle
2016, Turner
416 pgs.
YA Dystopia
Finished 11/13/16
Goodreads rating: 3.99 - 136 ratings
My rating:4

First line/s:  "It was well past midnight when Sari woke to the alarm blaring through the White House."

My comments:  Thirteen colonies were transported to different parts of the solar system when living on earth came to a cataclysmic end.  In The Thirteenth Continuum, the first in a trilogy about what happens 1000 later to two of those colonies - one at the bottom of the sea and one flying around in outer space, we meet the teenage protagonist from each continuum.  There was a startling difference between "good" people and incredibly evil people in each of the colonies, with not too much in between.  No insight into why life-changing laws were introduced, which was troubling.  Maybe in the next book?  Certainly kept my attention.

Goodreads synopsis:  One thousand years after a cataclysmic event leaves humanity on the brink of extinction, the survivors take refuge in continuums designed to sustain the human race until repopulation of Earth becomes possible. Against this backdrop, a group of young friends in the underwater Thirteenth Continuum dream about life outside their totalitarian existence, an idea that has been outlawed for centuries. When a shocking discovery turns the dream into a reality, they must decide if they will risk their own extinction to experience something no one has for generations, the Surface.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

63. Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

read on my Kindle
2010 Australia, 2015 USA
304 pgs.
Finished 11/9/16 (read in one day)
Goodreads rating: 3.77 - 2898 ratings
My rating:  5
Setting: Contemporary suburban Sydney, Australia

First line/s:  "There's this girl I know.
I know her by heart.  I know her in every way but one: actuality.\
Her name is Estelle.  I yearn for her."

My comments:  Loved this book!  A believable 15-year old male protagonist with wit, humor, hormones, flaws, and gumption....I was entranced! Tickled with every character, an extremely believable plot, and a setting in Australia, I didn't want this to end.  I laughed aloud...actually four different places.  I've known so many young men like this, and I'm really glad to see a ya novel written from the male perspective!

Goodreads synopsis:
In this charming story of one guy's efforts to get it together when his life is falling apart, award-winning author Fiona Wood introduces an irresistible voice and a delightfully awkward character who is impossible to forget.
1. Kiss Estelle.
2. Get a job.
3. Cheer my mother up.
4. Try not to be a complete nerd/loser.
5. Talk to my father when he calls.
6. Figure out how to be good.

          Nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, moving, new-school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on Estelle, the girl next door. His life is a mess, but for now he's narrowed it down to six impossible things…
          In this charming story of one guy’s efforts to get it together when his life is falling apart, award-winning author Fiona Wood introduces an irresistible voice and a delightfully awkward character who is impossible to forget.

MOVIE - Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

PG-13 (1:58)
Wide release 10/21/16
Viewed 11/9/16 at Century Park Place
RT Critic:  37  Audience:  48
Critic's Consensus:  Monotonously formulaic, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is one action thriller sequel whose title also serves as a warning.
Cag:  4.5 Really well done, liked it a lot
Directed by Edward Zwick
Paramount Pictures
Based on the book by Lee Child

Tom Cruise

My comments:  This is the one where he saves the woman who now has his old job from false accusations and they both go on the run.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

62. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

read on my Kindle
2014 Balzer & Bray
416 pgs.
YA High fantasy
Finished 11/8/16
Goodreads rating:  4/01 - 29,851 ratings
My rating:  3

First line/s:  "Block!"
      "I can't tell you where - you're supposed to follow my movements!"
      "Well then, slow down!"

My comments:  Well.  This was certainly an entertaining book.  The protagonist, Meira, has definitely become a fierce warrior in her sixteen years on earth. There's a lot of blood-and-guts battling in this book, a lot of really black hatred and evil, and a tiny bit of romance (for me, just the right amount).  The revelations are not exactly surprises, and the ending is satisfying. I'm not a big magic fan, and there are tastes and touches and revelations about it throughout. Personally, I hate winter, so the love of biting temperatures and snow and gray skies turns me completely off.  So for me, several pros and just as many cons.  Yup, I'll read the next one.

Goodreads synopsis:  Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.
          Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.
           So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

MOVIE - The Magnificent Seven

PG-13 (2:12)
Wide release 9/23/16
Viewed 11/6/16 at Century Park Place
IMBd:  7/10
RT Critic: 63   Audience:  75
Critic's Consensus:  The Magnificent Seven never really lives up to the superlative in its title -- or the classics from which it draws inspiration -- but remains a moderately diverting action thriller on its own merits.
Cag:  4, Liked it more than I should have...
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Sony Pictures

Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard, Matt Bomer

My comments:  The old west.  Lots of gunfights, as expected, but entertaining story.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  With the town of Rose Creek under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, the desperate townspeople employ protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns - Sam Chisolm, Josh Farraday, Goodnight Robicheaux, Jack Horne, Billy Rocks, Vasquez, and Red Harvest. As they prepare the town for the violent showdown that they know is coming, these seven mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Postcards Received Thursday & Friday 11/3 and 11/4/2016

639.  Malaysia
Dear Chris, greetings from Malaysia!  So sorry to send you this PC which you unlike, but it was so adorable, right?  All the best, Onh See Min

640. Cologne, Germany
Hello Chris!
Many greetings from Germany!  My name is Melanie.  I'm 43 years old and live together with my two children in Cologne, the 4th larges city of Germany.  In my free time I love reading, knitting, swimming, and writing postcards.
All the best to you!

641.  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Selamat Pagi!  It means Good Morning the the Malaysian language.  It is currently 29 degrees C here in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur.  Hopfully the weather is treating you nicely over there in the U. S. A.
Best, Ati

642.  Hong Kong
Hello Chris,
This is Amily writing from Hong Kong.  I'm 21 years old an I'm a law student.  I mostly sepnd my time on reading, and more reading ... this has made me quite a boring person LOL.  I wish you ALL THE BEST!

643.  Hildesheim, Germany
Hello Chris,
I'm Holger, a teacher of maths and ethics, married father of two sons.  We live in a 164 years old house with our own library.
Best wishes, Holger

Thursday, November 3, 2016

61. Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

read on my Kindle
2016, William Morrow
368 pgs.
Adult "romance" CRF
Finished 11/3/16
Goodreads rating:  4.07 - 2,001 ratings
My rating: 3
Setting: Contemporary rural Vermont

First line/s:  "I can't believe we're arguing about a water buffalo."

My comments:   Okay.  This is definitely a "romance fiction."  Not my cuppa tea. At all.  That said, there were components of the book that I liked.  The way it was written, back and forth - from "now" to "then."  The setting, rural Vermont.  I liked the premise of coming out of a coma, of having brain injury, but I had mixed feelings about Annie's slow (and fast!) coming around after being asleep for a year. I am also not a cook, but I think all the cooking talk would be a huge plus for some. A quick, easy read...nothing to figure out, every scenario ending in pretty much the expected way.  A well-written romance for lovers of that genre.

Goodreads synopsis:  For readers of Kristin Hannah and Jodi Picoult comes a powerful, emotionally complex story of love, loss, the pain of the past—and the promise of the future.
          Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes.
          Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Manhattan home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child.
          But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a year-long coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she's lost.
          Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned ex-cop. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.
          Family Tree is the story of one woman’s triumph over betrayal, and how she eventually comes to terms with her past. It is the story of joys unrealized and opportunities regained. Complex, clear-eyed and big-hearted, funny, sad, and wise, it is a novel to cherish and to remember.