Friday, April 28, 2017

26. In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell

read on my iPhone
2017 Lake Union Publishing
282 pgs.
Adult Historical Fiction - gothic
Finished 4/27/17
Goodreads rating: 3.64 - 4763 ratings
My rating: 1
Setting: 1928 Chicago area/ on Lake Michigan

First line/s:  "Last night I dreamed Lakecrest was on fire."

My comments:  Bleh.  From slow, plodding, and boring to rushed and ridiculous at the end, I found nothing to like in this novel - not one of the characters, not the setting, and certainly not the mood.  It was supposed to have a Gothic feel, I'm sure, but it was just too ridiculous and ... off.  Nothing worked for me.  The plot was disjointed and choppy, and the characters didn't seem the least bit real.  I can't believe I didn't quit before the end..... (I always hate to give a negative review because I don't want to hurt the author's feelings, but I have to be honest, so apologies to the author, who spent a lot of time and energy, I'm sure, writing this book.)

Goodreads synopsis:  The year is 1928. Kate Moore is looking for a way out of the poverty and violence of her childhood. When a chance encounter on a transatlantic ocean liner brings her face-to-face with the handsome heir to a Chicago fortune, she thinks she may have found her escape—as long as she can keep her past concealed.
          After exchanging wedding vows, Kate quickly discovers that something isn’t quite right with her husband—or her new family. As Mrs. Matthew Lemont, she must contend with her husband’s disturbing past, his domineering mother, and his overly close sister. Isolated at Lakecrest, the sprawling, secluded Lemont estate, she searches desperately for clues to Matthew’s terrors, which she suspects stem from the mysterious disappearance of his aunt years before. As Kate stumbles deeper into a maze of family secrets, she begins to question everyone’s sanity—especially her own. But just how far will she go to break free of this family’s twisted past? 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - 20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street by Mark Lee

Illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
2013 Candlewick Press
HC $15.99
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  3.84 - 393 ratings
My rating: 4
Endpapers" Bright rusty red

1st line/s:  "One ice-cream truck selling everything sweet
Breaks down and blocks the middle of our street."

My comments:  I've been reading picture books at storytime at the library to toddlers...and this book would be loved by many of them!  I have some toddler boys who have a difficult time paying attention when they even HEAR a truck go by on the street below.  Rhyming (though the rhythm is off in a few places) and great illustrations by Kurt Cyrus, along with the opportunity to count trucks...all the way up to 20...make this a great, fun read.

Goodreads:  If you’re a little boy on a bike, an ice-cream truck on your street is always a welcome sight. But what if it the truck breaks down and blocks the mail truck behind it (now there are two), not to mention a third truck carrying hay? One by one, trucks of all types and sizes and functions are sure to pile up behind, offering ample opportunity for ogling — and counting. And maybe the boy’s idea for putting one of the trucks to good use might even save the day!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Authors on my Blog

Here are all the authors and their books that are on this blog, by last name:

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I-J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q-R  S  T  U-V W  X-Y-Z

25. Rewinder by Brett Battles

listened to on Audible
2014 Creative Space Independent Publishing
272 pgs.
Unabridged 7:48)
YA Fantasy/Time Travel
Finished Wednesday, 4/26/16
Goodreads rating: 3.87 - 2737 ratings
My rating: 5
Setting: Time Travel, but much is contemporary America....sort of.....

From chapter 2:  " I read somewhere that everyone is the hero of his or her own story.  Maybe that's true for most people, but not for me.  Of all the rules we were taught before we were allowed to travel in time, one stands above all:  Don't screw anything up.
     I didn't mean to, but, well...
     Here I am, Denny Younger, destroyer of worlds.
     You wouldn't be here if not for me."

My comments:  I think this one's a five!  Every now and then I come across a book I just can't put down.  This is one of them.  What would've happened if American had always stayed a British colony?  There are really two parts to the book, and both were intense - the steps building up to the climactic changing point and what happened because of it.  I had to think clearly in order to follow all the time traveling that was going on, but I was able to do it.  I was afraid at the end I would be left hanging, but although the ending entices me to want to read the next volume, I was quite satisfied.

Goodreads synopsis:  You will never read Denny Younger’s name in any history book, will never know what he's done. 
          But even if you did, you’d never believe it.
          The world as you know it wouldn't be the same without him. 
          Denny was born into one of the lowest rungs of society, but his bleak fortunes abruptly change when the mysterious Upjohn Institute recruits him to be a Rewinder, a verifier of personal histories. The job at first sounds like it involves researching old books and records, but Denny soon learns it's far from it. 
          A Rewinder's job is to observe history.
          In person.
          Embracing his new duties with enthusiasm, Denny witnesses things he could never even imagine before. But as exciting as the adventures into the past are, there are dangers, too. For even the smallest error can have consequences. 
          Life-altering consequences. 
          Time, after all, is merely a reference point.

Monday, April 24, 2017

MOVIE - Gifted

PG-13 (1:41)
Limited release 4/7/17
Viewed date 4/24/2017
RT Critic:  72  Audience:  85
Critic's Consensus:  Gifted isn't quite as bright as its pint-sized protagonist, but a charming cast wrings respectably engaging drama out of a fairly predictable premise.
Cag:  5 - It was really, really good
Directed by Marc Webb

Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer

My comments:  How do you know when yo're rating a movie on its merits or in the way it makes you feel and think?  What are the kind of criteria tht people use when writing a movie review?  Acting?  Stoy?  Characters and setting?  More and more, for me, it's how it makes me feel and think when I walk out of the darkened auditorium after the credits hae rolled.  There were only five of us in the theater, but I don't think there were many more in the other seven auditoriums on this Monday night.
     I loved this movie.  I loved the actors - Chris Evans is becoming a favorite.  I love that it was about a precocious kid.  I loved that it had heart ans surprises and even that I shed a tear or two.  Was it a great movie?  It was for me.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising a child prodigy - his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) - in a coastal town in Florida. Frank's plans for a normal school life for Mary are foiled when the seven-year-old's mathematical abilities come to the attention of Frank's formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Frank and Mary. Octavia Spencer plays Roberta, Frank and Mary's landlady and best friend. Jenny Slate is Mary's teacher, Bonnie, a young woman whose concern for her student develops into a connection with her uncle as well

Sunday, April 23, 2017

24. Seeds of Deception - Linda Castillo

Kate Burkholder #7.5
listened on Audible
Narrated by Emily Sutton-S
2016, Minotaur Books
ebooks 74 pgs.
Adult Mystery, short story/novella
Finished 4/23/17
Goodreads rating: 3.6
My rating: 2
Setting:  More-or-less contemporary Ohio

First line/s:  "Zimmerman's orchard was the last place 14-year-old Katie Burkholder wanted to be, especially with her older brother, Jacob.  He was bossy and about as much fun as a milk cow -- one that kicked."

My comments:  Another short story from Linda Castillo based on her Kate Burkholder series.  I have not particularly enjoyed previous short story/novellas by her and my opinion did not change with this installment.  This time Kate is 14 and the story is a little snipped of time with her more-than-mischievous best friend, Maddie.  It seems like it's written by a different author than the best-selling murder mystery series!  Two stars is being generous....and I love, love, love Linda Castillo's full length Kat Burkholder books!  Weird.

Goodreads synopsis  From the New York Times bestselling author of THE DEAD WILL TELL comes a new short story offering a glimpse into Chief of Police Kate Burkholder's past and her Amish roots.
          It's autumn in Painter's Mill, and fourteen year old Katie Burkholder has been tasked with picking apples in Zimmerman’s Orchard with her brother. It’s just another day filled with chores—until her best friend Mattie arrives to help. Somehow, boredom transforms into fun and games whenever the girls are together. The innocent fun comes to an end when Billy Marquardt and his gang of friends interrupts. Katie is no prude, but she knows better than to associate with the older English boys, especially since they’re known troublemakers. Mattie has no such compunction. Thumbing her nose at the Ordnung and all of the Amish rules, she disappears into the old barn with Billy.
          Moments later, the Zimmerman’s barn is consumed by fire. Katie suspects Billy had something to do with the blaze, but he denies it. When the facts don’t add up, Katie begins her own investigation—and she doesn’t like what she finds. Will her friendship with Mattie survive the truth?

PICTURE BOOK - The Case for Loving: the Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko

Illustrated by the author's husband, Sean Qualls
2015 Arthur A. Levine/ Scholastic
Author's note & Bibliography
HC $18.99
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.27 - 836 ratings
My rating: 5+
Endpapers: white with hearts and music
Illustrations: Collage and paint and colored pencils (mixed media) Edge of page to edge of page :)

Preface:  "Imagine not being able to marry the person you loved, just because they were a race different from your own.  Here is the story of the love between Mildred and Richard Loving.  Here is the story of the courage they needed to have that love recognized:  a story about how the law changed for the better, about how the law made room for the Lovings, and by doing so made way for love."

My comments:  This book is a SIX star book!  Selina Alko writes the story perfectly.  It couldn't have been told better, or illustrated more lovingly or well.  Because this book is shelved in our library in the nonfiction section instead of the picture books, I  almost missed it.  It was because of the recent movie about the Lovings that it jumped out at me.  Thanks goodness.  I loved it.  I  want to own it.  I want to share it with every 8, 9, 10 11, 55, or 88 year old I see.  This is the story of the two people who fought for nine years to have their interracial marriage legal in their home state of Virginia. It wasn't until 1967 ... 1967!!! ... that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of interracial marriage....because of this shy, loving pair who only wanted to be able to live as a married couple. Superbly told story by a interracial couple - terrifically!

Goodreads:  For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.
          This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state's laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents' love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court - and won!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - Why is Art Full of Naked People and Other Vital Questions about Art? by Susie Hodge

Illustrated by Claire Goble
2016, Thames & Hudson, Britain
HC $19.95
96 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.12 - 25 ratings
My rating: 5
Glossary, Index
Endpapers: Light blue with all sorts of different question markes in white
Thick board cover - not sure why, it makes it appear to be a big board book, which it isn't

My comments:  When I picked up this book, before opening it I asked myself, "How can you write a whole book - for kids - explaining why art if full of naked people?" Well, come to find out, it's the second half of the title that really explains the book - Other Vital Questions About Art.  Hodge uses 88 pieces of well-known art by famous artists, and with humorous and informative short paragraphs answers good questions and gives interesting information while giving the reader a chance to examine great art.  As many times (hundreds!) that I've looked at Seurat's  "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Tatte" I never, ever realized that he'd drawn a frame around the picture using more dots - thousands of them!  I really, really enjoyed reading this book....and discovered quite a bit of new artists while doing so!

GoodreadsWhy is Art Full of Naked People? is an irreverent and informative primer that asks tricky questions about what makes art art. What is with all the fruit? Why is art so weird nowadays? There are questions about how art views the world, from cave paintings through to Cubism, from the Renaissance to contemporary art, questions about different genres, including still-life painting, landscapes and portraits, and questions about the role and value of art in the past and today.
          Artists ask questions when they make art and viewers ask questions when they look at art; this book provides an engaging way for young people to explore asking and answering questions for themselves. The book is structured around twenty-two questions, each one tackled over two spreads. Through this provocative approach it offers an introduction to art history and a toolkit to enable young people to feel confident asking questions, searching for answers, and “reading” art for themselves.

23. Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless

Sydney Rose Parnell #1
listened on Audible
2016, Thomas & Mercer
386 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery - beginning of a series
Finished 4/22/27
Goodreads rating:  4.2 - 7696 ratings
My rating: 4
Setting: Contemporary Denver, CO

First line/s:  "His life wasn't worth spit in a hard rain."

My comments:  Mixed emotions after reading this story.  So much horror in war.  Although the setting and genre is a murder in contemporary Denver, so much is about the aftermath and memories of being in Iraq and the horrors, atrocities, and nightmares that returning military carry with them.  It was good, but emotionally hard to read.  Sydney, for me, was not the most likable protagonist, which makes her all-the-more real.  Her military dog, Clyde, was her best friend and sidekick, and their relationship wasn't too overdone for this "oh-no-not-another-animal" person. It leaves me with a big question.  Why would someone who is freaked out by death and killing and sees the ghosts of all the people she worked on during her post in Marine mortician services in Iraq take a job as a gun-slinging cop once she returns stateside?

Goodreads synopsis:  A Suspense Magazine Best of 2016 Books Selection: Debut
          A young woman is found brutally murdered, and the main suspect is the victim’s fiancĂ©, a hideously scarred Iraq War vet known as the Burned Man. But railroad police Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell, brought in by the Denver Major Crimes unit to help investigate, can't shake the feeling that larger forces are behind this apparent crime of passion.
          In the depths of an icy winter, Parnell and her K9 partner, Clyde―both haunted by their time in Iraq―descend into the underground world of a savage gang of rail riders. There, they uncover a wide-reaching conspiracy and a series of shocking crimes. Crimes that threaten everything Parnell holds dear.
          As the search for the truth puts her directly in the path of the killer, Parnell must struggle with a deadly question: Can she fight monsters without becoming one herself?

Friday, April 21, 2017

MOVIE - Boss Baby

PG (1:37)
Wide release 3/31/17
Viewed 4/21/17 with Tristan
IMBd: 6.3/10
RT Critic:  52  Audience:  51
Critic's Consensus: The Boss Baby's talented cast, glimmers of wit, and flashes of visual inventiveness can't make up for a thin premise and a disappointing willingness to settle for doody jokes
Cag:  2.5
Directed by Tom McGrath
DreamWorks Animation

Alec Baldwin (BossBaby voice)

My comments:  Friday night with Tristan - incredibly far fetched concept that doesn't really make sense in multiple ways, but entertaining nonetheless.  Tristan seemed to enjoy it, cut could't really tell me what it was about or what his favorite part was.  The teenager sitting beside me laughed all through it so it certainly help appeal for some! I've certainly seen worse.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  DreamWorks Animation and the director of Madagascar invite you to meet a most unusual baby. He wears a suit, speaks with the voice and wit of Alec Baldwin, and stars in the animated comedy, DreamWorks' The Boss Baby. The Boss Baby is a hilariously universal story about how a new baby's arrival impacts a family, told from the point of view of a delightfully unreliable narrator, a wildly imaginative 7 year old named Tim. With a sly, heart-filled message about the importance of family, DreamWorks' The Boss Baby is an authentic and broadly appealing original comedy for all ages.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - Billy's Booger by William Joyce and his younger self

A Memoir (sorta) Illustrated by the author
2015, Atheneum
40 pgs. plus 12-page insert
Goodreads rating:
My rating: 5 Stars, Glorious!

1st line/s: "Once upon a time, when TV was in black and white, and there were only three channels, and when kids didn't have play dates --- they just roamed free in the out of doors - there lived a kid named Billy."

My comments:  I'm always on the lookout for picture books for older kids.  Fourth and fifth grade boys will love this's funny, and imaginative, and a teeny tiny bit gross...

GoodreadsA young lad who would rather draw than do math, spell, or gargle finds the perfect outlet for his always-on imagination in this manifesto to creative joie de vivre, featuring a book within a book, from the brilliant minds that brought you The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
          Billy loves to draw. He draws on books and on his homework and even on his math tests—he might not get the answer right, but doesn’t it look swell sitting in a boat at sea? His teacher doesn’t think so, and neither does the principal. But the librarian has an idea that just might help Billy better direct his illustrative energies: a book-making contest!
          Billy gets right to work, reading everything he can about meteors, mythology, space travel, and…mucus? Yep, his book is going to be about the world’s smartest booger, who stays tucked away until needed—say, to solve multiplication problems, or answer questions from the President. Billy’s sure his story is a winner. But being a winner doesn’t mean you always win.
          Full of nostalgic references to a time when TV was black-and-white and Sunday newspapers had things called the funnies, this wildly fun story-within-a-story is based loosely on children’s book legend William Joyce’s third grade year, and includes a sewn-in mini-book of that tale of the world’s smartest booger.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

22. The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore

listened on Audible
2017 Houghton Mifflin
294 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery - Police Procedural
Finished 4/11/17
Goodreads rating:  3.83 - 339 ratings
My rating: 5
Setting: Contemporary San Francisco

First line/s:  "It was after midnight, and Cain and his new partner, Grassley, watched as the excavator's blade went into the hole, emerging seconds later with another load of earth to add to the pile growing next to the grave."

My comments:  This had everything I love in a mystery.  Best of all, it's all show and no tell.  A setting - San Francisco - that I know, with lots of great description that emphasizes the map in my head.  Deeply interesting characters that are real and not superficial or just words on a page.  A small part of the story is about the protagonist and what's going on in his life, which is slowly unfurled and also tinged, just a bit, with mystery.  And a super suspenseful, intricate plot that keeps you wondering and thinking until the very end, then wraps everything up without any questions left in your mind.  Whew!  What a ride.  Masterfully read by David Colacci, I'm so sad that it had to come to an end.

Goodreads synopsis:  Gavin Cain, an SFPD homicide inspector, is in the middle of an exhumation when his phone rings. San Francisco’s mayor is being blackmailed and has ordered Cain back to the city; a helicopter is on its way. The casket, and Cain’s cold-case investigation, must wait. At City Hall, the mayor shows Cain four photographs he’s received: the first, an unforgettable blonde; the second, pills and handcuffs on a nightstand; the third, the woman drinking from a flask; and last, the woman naked, unconscious, and shackled to a bed. The accompanying letter is straightforward: worse revelations are on the way unless the mayor takes his own life first. 
          An intricately plotted, deeply affecting thriller that keeps readers guessing until the final pages, The Dark Room tracks Cain as he hunts for the blackmailer, pitching him into the web of destruction and devotion the mayor casts in his shadow. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - The Longest Night: A Passover Story by Laurel Snyder

Illustrated by Catia Chien
2013, Schwartz & Wade Books
HC & price
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.84 - 102 ratings
My rating: 4
Endpapers:  Front: Very dark blue sky
Back:  Light Blue morning sky

1st line/s:  "Every morning with the light
Came another day like night."

My comments:  This is a Jewish story, read and interpreted by a non-Jew, but a non-Jew who worked in a Hebrew Day School for 12 years and loved to learn all the stories and traditions of Judaism.  This story is written in couplets, with lovely rhythm in most places.  It tells the story from the point-of-view of a Jewish slave girl through the plagues and parting of the sea.  The language is beautiful, and when slowly and digested I loved it.  I was not a fan of the illustrations, and I hate saying that, but they were what I call "vague" illustrations.  Not abstract, but with a sense of abstractness.  I love abstract painting, but I like more detail in my picture books.  Personal preference, apologies to Ms. Chien.

Goodreads:  Here's a picture book for all Jewish families to read while celebrating Passover. Unlike other Passover picture books that focus on the contemporary celebration of the holiday, or are children's haggadahs, this gorgeous picture book in verse follows the actual story of the Exodus. Told through the eyes of a young slave girl, author Laurel Snyder and illustrator Catia Chien skillfully and gently depict the story of Pharoah, Moses, the 10 plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea in a remarkably accessible way. 
          "Evocative and beautiful... flawlessly evokes the spirit of the Old Testament story," raves Publishers Weekly in a starred review. This dramatic adventure, set over 3,500 years ago, of a family that endures hardships and ultimately finds freedom is the perfect tool to help young children make sense of the origins of the Passover traditions.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - Library Mouse: A Museum Adventure by Daniel Kirk

Library Mouse #4
Illustrated by the author
2012, Abrams Books for Young Readers
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  3.57 - 190 ratings
My rating:  3
Endpapers:  red
1st line/s:  "Late one night, Sam the Library Mouse was hard at work.  His friend Sarah dropped in and asked, "What are you doing, Sam?  Writing a new book?"

My comments:  I love Sam the library mouse, and the first book in this series is still one of my all-time favorites. In this, the fourth book about Sam - book writer and art lover extraordinaire, - he and his friend, Sarah venture next door to the museum.  Here they find that all their preconceived notions about cats being scary are wrong.  The museum cat has created a gallery of paintings depicting mice!  Sam insists that Sarah bring a journal, even though she doesn't want to, and discovers that it was an excellent idea.  Somehow, the whole journal thing felt a little flat, as did the meeting up of other animals in the museum.  It didn't touch me like the previous titles have. Still enjoyable, though!

Goodreads:  Sam the library mouse and his friend Sarah are off on a new adventure. This time they leave the library behind and go to a museum so Sam can make sketches in his explorer’s journal. Sarah isn’t so sure that explorers have the time or the interest to write in journals. But Sam shows her that a journal can contain anything, from a ticket stub to drawings of cool things like dinosaurs and ancient Egyptian mummies. As they explore the museum, they see all kinds of art and unexpectedly make friends with another artist. The latest book in this bestselling series is sure to entice readers to come along on the museum adventure.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

21. Still Life by Louise Penny

#1 Chief Inspector Armande Gamache
listened on Audible
2005 St. Martin's Press
312 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 4-6-17
Goodreads rating: 3.91 - 63,992 ratings (that's a lot!)
My rating: 3
Setting: Contemporary Three Pines, Quebec, CANADA (just south of Montreal)

First line/s:

My comments:  Dozens of people have told me through the years that this is their favorite mystery series of all of them, and I just HAVE to read at least one.  Just the other day, a coworker got really excited that I was reading this because it's her favorite - she was so excited.  When I asked her "why?" she told me she'd tell me when I finished reading the entire book.  (I'll go see her tomorrow!).  So what is my honest opinion?  The setting was beautifully described, almost like another character.  Characterization was deep and complete.  The mystery was interesting but not entirely surprising.  The process that Gamache goes through and the respect he commands from his people are thoroughly enjoyable.  So why only a "this book was okay" kind of rating?  It was almost too much like a cozy for me.  Which makes me wonder about myself.  Am I looking for blood and guts, thrilling adventure, fast action?  I always thought that it was the deep, intricate puzzle that drew me into totally enjoying a mystery  Well, this book certainly had that.  But it's pacing seemed really slow, just like Three Pines, slow and lazy.  I'm guessing this was intentional on Ms. Penny's part.  And yes, I'll read the next one, to see if I still get the same feeling....

I Think I like this cover better!

Goodreads synopsis:  The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships.
     Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines - a place so free from crime it doesn't even have its own police force. But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets...

PICTURE BOOK - Maya's Blanket / La Manta de Maya by Monica Brown

Illustrated by David Diaz
2015 Children's Book Press (Lee & Low Books\
$17.95 HC
24 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  4.1 - 124 ratings
My rating: 5
Endpapers:  Dark aqua fabric with "stitched" purple butterflies
Illustrations:  Bright and dark, completely filling the page with no white!  Heaven!
1st line/s: "Little Maya Morales had a special manta that she loved very much."

My comments:  Another extra-special picture book to love.  And when it starts out with a quilt (or a blanket or manta in this case) made by a child's loving grandmother (abuelita), is bilingual, and is also illustrated by the incredible David Diaz....well, need I say more?  The rich illustrations that spread completely across the page from edge to edge in deep purples, greens, aquas, are wonderful.  The story, based on the Jewish folktale about Joseph and his overcoat, if great fun with repetition that isn't boring.  And in these days of recycling, re-purposing, and DIY, this "hidden" theme takes on new importance. Two thumbs up!

Goodreads:  Little Maya has a special blanket that Grandma stitched with her own two hands. As Maya grows, her blanket becomes worn and frayed, so with Grandma s help, Maya makes it into a dress. Over time the dress is made into a skirt, a shawl, a scarf, a hair ribbon, and finally, a bookmark. Each item has special, magical, meaning for Maya; it animates her adventures, protects her, or helps her in some way. But when Maya loses her bookmark, she preserves her memories by creating a book about her adventures and love of these items. When Maya grows up, she shares her book Maya s Blanket/La manta de Maya with her own little daughter while snuggled under her own special blanket. Inspired by the traditional Yiddish folk song Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl ( I Had a Little Coat ), this delightful bilingual picture book puts a child-focused, Latino spin on the tale of an item that is made into smaller and smaller items. Maya s Blanket/La manta de Maya charmingly brings to life this celebration creativity, recycling, and enduring family love."

20. Mourning Gloria by Andrew Downs

A Leah Hudson Thriller
read on my iPhone
2015, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
308 pgs.
Adult Mystery/FBI
Finished 4-6-17
Goodreads rating: 4.21 - 382 ratings
My rating: 3
Setting: Late 1980s California

First line/s:  "The Good Samaritan was famished...practically starving.  His hunger had been building for weeks, fueled by an insatiable desire, which could only be fulfilled by one thing...the kill."

My comments:       Something was just a little bit of with this book, but I guess I'm going to have to mull a bit to come up with what it might be.  I think it had to do with the characters.  The mystery was pretty decent, the setting - California from LA to San Francisco and in between - is a bit known to me and it worked.
     I used to tell my students when they were learning to write to "show me, don't tell me."  Well, I feel like the characters in Mourning Gloria were told about, not shown.  Either that or the parts about them that were showing didn't totally agree with what the author was telling.  Or something.  Can't quite put my finger on it. Definitely something to do with characterization.  As usual, I hate to say anything negative about an author's hard work, but I'll add more if I figure it out.

Goodreads synopsis:  From The Author Of The Alex Hollick Series Comes A Dark Heart-Pounding Thriller With Brilliant Plotting, Continuous Suspense and a Jaw Dropping Finale! 
          When a murder suspect escapes indictment on a technicality, Agent Leah Hudson is forced to shift her focus to a new task, a cold case. Five years after Gloria Stone disappears, Hudson must piece together the final days of her life, but Gloria was no ordinary girl. Shortly after surviving a brutal gang rape on her twenty-first birthday, the affluent wine heiress vanished, her car abandoned in a supermarket parking lot. 
With the help of her onetime mentor, Hudson retraces the steps of an old investigation, determined to succeed where all others have failed. Making her way through a slew of once discounted suspects, she edges closer to a horrifying truth - Gloria wasn’t alone…there are other victims and a misogynistic serial killer continues to lurk in the shadows of the Central Valley, threatening the lives of young women who fit his sick and twisted M.O. 
          Mourning Gloria brings together the elements of a thriller and a murder-mystery into one bone-chilling tale that examines the darkest depths of human nature. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

MOVIE - Ghost in the Shell

PG-13 (1:46)
Wide release 3/31/17
Viewed April 4, 2017
IMBd:  6.4/10
RT Critic:  43  Audience:  51
Critic's Consensus:  Ghost in the Shell boasts cool visuals and a compelling central performance from Scarlett Johansson, but the end result lacks the magic of the movie's classic source material.
Cag:  4
Directed by Rupert Sanders
Paramount Pictures
Based on Japanese manga "The Ghost in the Shell"

Scarlett Johansson

My comments:  Creepy.  Good Creepy.  Delicious creepy.  Gross.  Violent.  Based on a Japanese comic book.  I don't remember much of Blade Runner - I saw it a zillion years ago - but the setting reminded me of what I remember about it.  You couldn't be bored with this movie, because you're thinking all the time, figuring out how pieces fit together, figuring out what's going on.  And it all comes together quite well.  I do enjoy science fiction, and I did enjoy this movie.  I bet it cost a bundle to make, the credits at the end for all the animation --and creepy stuff-- went on and on.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world's most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people's minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others. Based on the internationally acclaimed Japanese Manga, "The Ghost in the Shell."

Sunday, April 2, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - My Name is James Madison Hemings by Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Terry Widener
2016, Schwartz & Wade Books
Goodreads rating: 4.26 - 151 ratings
My rating: 5
Endpapers Front:  Brown / Back: Dark Green
Illustrations:  Acrylic on Bristol board.  Fantastic.
1st line/s: "My mother, Sally Hemings, was herself born into slavery, as had been her mother, my grandmother Elizabeth."

My comments:  Here is a picture book for older readers (we need more of them!) that doesn't tiptoe around the truth.  Yippee, Jonah Winters!   Beautifully told from the point-of-view of James Madison Hemings as a child, he tells how he feels to be "owned" by his father, treated a bit better than the other slaves at Monticello, but nowhere near like Jefferson treated his white grandchildren.  Terry Widener's illustrations are right-on, perfect for the text.  Usually Jonah Winter's mother, Jeanette, does his illustrations, but as much as I LOVE her work, I really like the way this book is presented as a whole. It was a brave topic to be tackled for a children's picture book and Jonah Winter did an admirable job.

Goodreads:  Here’s a powerful historical picture book about the child of founding father Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved Sally Hemings. 
          In an evocative first-person account accompanied by exquisite artwork, Winter and Widener tell the story of James Madison Hemings’s childhood at Monticello, and, in doing so, illuminate the many contradictions in Jefferson’s life and legacy. Though Jefferson lived in a mansion, Hemings and his siblings lived in a single room. While Jefferson doted on his white grandchildren, he never showed affection to his enslaved children. Though he kept the Hemings boys from hard field labor—instead sending them to work in the carpentry shop—Jefferson nevertheless listed the children in his “Farm Book” along with the sheep, hogs, and other property. Here is a profound and moving account of one family’s history, which is also America’s history.
          An author's note includes more information about Hemings, Jefferson, and the author's research.

19. Mouse Scouts by Sarah Dillard

1st in a series
Library Book
2016, Alfred A. Knopf
118 pgs.
Fantasy - Anthropomorphism - Early Chapter Book
Finished 4-2-17
Goodreads rating:  3.67 - 123 ratings
My rating: 5
Setting: Contemporary anywhere, USA

First line/s:  "Violet placed her acorn cap on her head.  It made her forehead itch and her ears stick out, but that didn't matter!"

My comments:  There are three reasons that I really like this beginning chapter book.  First, it's about mice that are scouts....every Daisy and Brownie in the US can relate to this, the song, the pledge, the handbook, the uniform (including the acorn hat!).  Second, at the end of each chapter are step-step directions...for kids....about how to go about beginning and growing a garden, including taking care of pests!  It's like a nonfiction book written in fiction form.  I'm not a nonfiction lover, but would sit down to read this informative book in a second as a kid.  And third, I love some of the language that Sarah Dillard uses.  Although written for really young kids, she uses words that can be understood just from the context of the sentence in which they're written.  Looking forward to reading another in this series to see whether she follows the same format, because it's wonderful.

Goodreads synopsis:  Meet Violet, Tigerlily, Hyacinth, Petunia, Junebug, and Cricket, six new Mouse Scouts who are trustworthy and strong, thrifty and brave . . . and destined to be friends to the end! Best friends Violet and Tigerlily can’t wait to start earning their merit badges. But their troop leader, Miss Poppy, is one strict rodent. And earning their first badge—planting a vegetable garden—is hard work. Will the troop drive unwanted pests from the garden and earn their Sow It and Grow It badge? And will they ever get Miss Poppy to smile? 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards

A Story About Knitting and Love
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
2016, Schwartz & Wade Books
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.34 - 386 ratings
My rating:  5 stars
Endpapers:  Front:  vague knit stitches  Back:  the same vague knit stitches plus pompoms!
Hat AND PomPom instructins follow the story...and they're really easy!
1st line/s:  "When Sophia was a tiny baby, Mrs. Goldman next door knit her a tiny baby hat to keep her warm."

My comments:  Okay, I love this book.  LOVE it!  Mrs. Goldman knits hats for everyone she knows, many, many hats.  Sophia tries to knit, but discovers she'd rather make pomp poms for Mrs. Goldman's hats.  She's really good at that, and Mrs. Goldman assures her that it's a mitzvah.  Okay, I'm sold.  Knitting.  Mitzvahs. Hooray!  You could end right there and I'd be happy. But then Sophia discovers that Mrs. Goldman has given her own hat away, and their long winter walks are cold and blow Mrs. Goldman's hair everywhere.  Sophia comes up with a plan....and problem-solves through issues she encounters until the story reaches a very satisfying conclusion.  Bravo!

Goodreads:  Here’s a heartwarming winter picture book that’s sure to appeal to families who love knitting. 
          Mrs. Goldman always knits hats for everyone in the neighborhood, and Sophia, who thinks knitting is too hard, helps by making the pom-poms. But now winter is here, and Mrs. Goldman herself doesn’t have a hat—she’s too busy making hats for everyone else! It’s up to Sophia to buckle down and knit a hat for Mrs. Goldman. But try as Sophia might, the hat turns out lumpy, the stitches aren’t even, and there are holes where there shouldn’t be holes. Sophia is devastated until she gets an idea that will make Mrs. Goldman’s hat the most wonderful of all. Readers both young and old will relate to Sophia’s frustrations, as well as her delight in making something special for someone she loves.

POSTCROSSING and Postage Postcards

1950.  St Petersburg, RUSSIA
Postcrossing Meet-Up

1274.  Zweeloo, Netherlands
Zine-Go-Round Postcard
Hi Chris!  I see you are a postcrosser too!! :)  And that you also like mailboxes.  This mailbox is hanging outside my atelier (studio)  And in May 2016 I was interviewed by Porter (for their blog) because of this mailbox.  This was also the first card I designed for Postcrossing & since then I've expanded the collection quite a bit.  The other card I will leave blank for you, so you can use that one.  All the best...warm greetings from Ellen
620.  Happy Postcrossing from Holland
Hello, My name is Monique and I live in Holland.  I hope you like this mailbox card.  Greetings from Holland

815.  Belarus
20 years of postage stamps

796.  Northeast Ontario, CANADA
Greetings from NE Ontario.  Today is your big holiday - we celebrated Canada Day on July 1st.  It's our 150th, so celebrations all year.  It's a beautiful day, sunny & 30 degrees C, we've had a lot of rain so the is welcome!  Hpe your mailbox is full of great postcards!

613.  Postcrossing the World - Shanghai, CHINA
Hi friend,
Greetings from Shanghai china.  Your profile shows that you like map cards so I choose this card for you.  Have a good time.  Zhang

591.  Postcrossing Bucharest Meetup, 25 September 2016, The Botanical Garden
Signed by many at the 20th Postcrossing Meeting, Bucharest!

508.  Port Moody, British Columbia, CANADA
Hello!  Greetings from the north!  I live in the small city of Port Moody, which is near Vancouver in the lower mainland of BC.  I'm very happy to call it home.  Carmen

Happy Postcrossing!
I live in the old Russian city of Bryansk.  It's famous for its beautiful landscapes and churches.  I hope you'll like my post card with matroskkas.  Tatyana

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!

Postcards Received from IRELAND

776.  Cork, IRELAND
Greetings from a beautiful and green Ireland.  My name is Ivone.  I am Polish but over 11 years live in Ireland.  I love this fantastic island but miss for my home in Poland.  I love to travel, make pictures, read books and postcards.  Ivone.

Postcards From and About ICELAND

card sent from Malaysia!
Greetings from Ipoh, a small city in Malaysia!  My name is Ivy Fan.  I'm a housewife.  I love reading novels, watching TV drama, and writing journals.  Her's a card of Iceland Map.  Hope you will like it.  Have a nice day!