Friday, June 30, 2017

36. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

#1 Monsters of Verity
read on my Kindle
2016, Greenwillow Books
427 pgs.
Genre/Level: YA Dystopia/Fantasy
Finished 6/30/2017
Goodreads rating: 4.14 - 18,963 ratings
My rating: 3
Setting: Verity City, USA in the future

First line/s:  "The night Kate Harker decided to burn down the school chapel, she wasn't angry or drunk.  She was desperate."

My comments:  This book was okay.  So much darkness, just a little too much, it definitely overtook the light.  What is a monster?  There are more than just three detailed in this book!  Kate, a human and Andrew, a monster that wants to be human, are enemies....until they meet and bond in a weird way.

Goodreads synopsis:  There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.
          Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives. 

MOVIE - Beatriz at Dinner

R (1:23)
Limited 6/9/17
Viewed 6/30 at Carlisle Theater
IMBd: 6.5/10
RT Critic:  76  Audience:  69
Critic's Consensus:  Beatriz at Dinner offers timely social commentary enlivened by powerful, layered performances from Salma Hayek and John Lithgow.
Cag:  It should have been a 6 (awesome) but ended up being just so-so
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Roadside Attractions
Based on the book by

John Lithgow, Salma Hayek

My comments:  Another totally wonky ending.  Enough already!  Too many of these lately, another one that made no sense to me, only pissed me off... Spoiler: I realize that mental illness took a jump into this film.  You could see it coming...depression, then hyper-talking, then long silences. I know that depression and other kinds of mental illness are what spawn many suicides.   However, I still find them very difficult to accept and/or understand.  And in this case, she let him win!  This movie had such great possibilities.....

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Beatriz, an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her innate kindness to build a career as a health practitioner in Southern California. Don Strutt is a real estate developer whose cutthroat tactics have made him a self-made, self-satisfied billionaire. When these two polar opposites meet at a dinner party, their worlds collide and neither will ever be the same.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - Pop's Bridge by Eve Bunting

Illustrated by C. F. Payne
2006, Houghton Mifflin
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.07 - 210 ratings
My rating:  5
Endpapers:  Dark Evergreen
1st line/s:  "My pop is building the Golden Gate Bridge.  Almost every day after school Charlie Shu and I go to Fort Point and watch."

My comments:  I am so fond of this book...I've read it many times, to myself and aloud to different groups of kids.  Last week I read it aloud to a group of nine to twelve-year-olds that were attending the "Bridges" STEM camp that I was facilitating, and it delighted me once again.  I love the Golden Gate Bridge.  I never saw it or drove over it until about 15 years ago when I went to visit a dear friend in Marin County, California.  Since that first visit there have been at least two visits a year, and we always drive at least one back-and-forth trip over "my" bridge.  My friend's mom was one of the thousands of people who walked across the span on opening day in 1937.  She's told me the story several times.  This is a wonderful book of two friends and the dads who built the Golden Gate Bridge.

Goodreads:  The Golden Gate Bridge. The impossible bridge, some call it. They say it can't be built.
          But Robert's father is building it. He's a skywalker--a brave, high-climbing ironworker. Robert is convinced his pop has the most important job on the crew . . . until a frightening event makes him see that it takes an entire team to accomplish the impossible.
          When it was completed in 1937, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge was hailed as an international marvel. Eve Bunting's riveting story salutes the ingenuity and courage of every person who helped raise this majestic American icon.
Includes an author's note about the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

35. Posted by John David Anderson

Read on my iPhone
2017, Walden Pond Press
384 pgs.
Middle Grades CRF
Finished 6-27-17
Goodreads rating:  4.34 - 254 ratings
My rating: 4
Setting:  Contemporary small town Michigan

First line/s:  "I push my way through the buzzing mob and freeze, heart - struck, dizzy."

My comments: This book looks bullying right in the eye and takes it on.  It doesn't give answers.  The writing is beautifully crafted, taking a few major themes and weaving them around and together, the unifying link being  friendship, where it comes from and where it goes.  Quite a book.

Goodreads synopsis:  From John David Anderson, author of the acclaimed Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, comes a humorous, poignant, and original contemporary story about bullying, broken friendships, and the failures of communication between kids.
In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.          
     When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.
     In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.

PICTURE BOOK - Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
2015, Chronicle Books (SF)
48 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.1 - 794 ratings
My rating:  5
Endpapers: Beige with brown line drawings of plants and garden tools
Illustrations:  No white border, actually no white: all beige, edge of page to edge of page...
1st line/s:  "Up in the garden, I stand and plan ---
my hands full of seeds and my head full of dreams."

My comments:  Great information about gardens, soil, planting, and seasons, this reads as a fiction book but is full of information for little ones.  It also has beautiful language, lots of alliteration, and great rhythm.  I read it aloud to eight preschoolers, holding all their attention, and will use it with my STEM "Down and Dirty" (soils) summer camp at the library.  

Goodreads:  In this exuberant and lyrical follow-up to the award-winning Over and Under the Snow, discover the wonders that lie hidden between stalks, under the shade of leaves . . . and down in the dirt. Explore the hidden world and many lives of a garden through the course of a year! Up in the garden, the world is full of green—leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt exists a busy world—earthworms dig, snakes hunt, skunks burrow—populated by all the animals that make a garden their home.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

TV Show - The Handmaid's Tale

Just finished watching Season 1
Premiered: 4/26/17
Season: 1
Number of Episodes: 10
Length of Episode
IMBd: 8.7
RT Consensus: Haunting and vivid, The Handmaid's Tale is an endlessly engrossing adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel that's anchored by a terrific central performance from Elisabeth Moss.
RT Audience Score: 93% (100% from critics!
cag: 6
Produced by:  Hulu
Based on the Margaret Atwell novel of the same title (Margaret Atwood even had a bit part in the show!)

Offred - Elizabeth Moss
Commander Fred Waterford - Joseph Fiennes
Serena Joy Waterford - Yvonne Strahovski
Nick (the Commander's driver and Offred's secret) - Max Minghella
Moira (Offred's best friend in her previous life)- Samira Wiley
Luke (Offred's husband in her previous life) - J. T. Fagbenle
Ann Dowd - Aunt Lydia

My comments:  This is wonderfully done. Really fantastic entertainment, such a story!  Elizabeth Moss is also a producer.  She does a great job as Offred, but there are so many silent tears!  She handles her feelings really well and silently (for the most part), but those silent tears are a few too many....

Storyline from IMBd:  Adapted from the classic novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale is the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly the United States. Facing environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate, Gilead is ruled by a twisted fundamentalism in its militarized "return to traditional values." As one of the few remaining fertile women, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) is a Handmaid in the Commander's household, one of the caste of women forced into sexual servitude as a last desperate attempt to repopulate the world. In this terrifying society, Offred must navigate between Commanders, their cruel Wives, domestic Marthas, and her fellow Handmaids--where anyone could be a spy for Gilead--all with one goal: to survive and find the daughter that was taken from her.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

34. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Passenger #1
read on my iPhone
2016, Disney-Hyperion
498 pgs.
YA Time Travel
Finished 6/20/2017
Goodreads rating: 3.85 - 23,715 ratings
My rating: 2.5
Setting: Contemporary NYC with forays to 1776, ancient middle east, etc.

First line/s:  "As they ascended, retreating farther from the winding trails that marked the way to nearby villages, the world opened to him in its purest form:  silent, ancient, mysterious.  Deadly."

My comments:  2.5  I usually like time travel stories.  I just could not understand how this one worked.  I'm not sure the author did, either....or at least didn't know how to get it across to her audience.  Some of the description was ridiculously long and there was too much inner turmoil about the love-dovey stuff.  And it seemed to start in a weird place.  Other than that, it was okay.  It left it way up in the air about what would happen next - or not happen next - and, to tell the truth, I don't really care what happens.  Ate least at this moment.  Sol maybe a three rating is a little generous?

Goodreads synopsis  
Passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.
          In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.
          Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.
          Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home... forever.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

33. The Plantation by Chris Kuzneski

Payne & Jones #1
listened on Audible
2002, Paradox Publishing
432 pgs.
Adult Contemporary Mystery
Finished Sunday, June 18, 2017
Goodreads rating:  3.73
My rating: 2
Setting: Mostly New Orleans area, contemporary

My comments:  Didn't do it for me.  Took me forever to get through.  I'm thinking that I'm so used to this particular reader (I listened on audio), who has been the narrator for so many other mysteries  I've read that his inflections have become associated with other protagonists.  The"good" guys in The Plantation approach killing with the same kind of glee that the horrid slave owners did.  Very off-putting.  Also,  good vs. evil with no in between?  Payne's ardor for Ariana was also a little off-putting, it was so constantly notated.  And his "best friend's" subservient manner towards him bugged me too.  Waaaaay too long

Goodreads synopsis:  One by one, in cities across America, people of all ages are taken from their homes, their cars, their lives. But these aren’t random kidnappings. They’re crimes of passion,
planned and researched several months in advance, then executed with a singular objective in mind. Revenge.
          Ariane Walker is one of the victims, dragged from her apartment with few clues to follow. The police said there’s little they can do for her, but that isn’t good enough for her boyfriend, Jonathon Payne.

          With the help of his best friend (David Jones), Payne gives chase, hoping that a lead in New Orleans somehow pays off. Together, they uncover the mystery of Ariane’s abduction and the truth behind the South’s most violent secret.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

MOVIE - Paris Can Wait

PG (1:32)
Limited release 5/12/17
Viewed 6/17 at Carlisle Theater
IMBd: 6/10
RT Critic:  48   Audience:  46
Critic's Consensus:  None
Cag:  3 liked it, but that's all
Directed by Eleanor Coppola
Sony Pictures Classics

Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin

My comments:  Other than getting to travel a little bit through France and enjoying Diane Lane's performance, this movie didn't do much for me.  I wasn't turned on even the tiniest bit by the French guy who ended up sweeping her off her feet, which made what might have been a good ending a bit blah.....

RT/ IMDb Summary:  When her director husband is occupied with work in Paris, an American woman takes a jaunt with his business associate, a charming Gallic rogue who is happy to squire her on a tour of some of the finest meals in Provence. The first feature directed by Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis and director of the "Apocalypse Now" documentary "Hearts of Darkness".

Friday, June 16, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - What Degas Saw by Samantha Friedman

Illustrated by Cristina Pieropan
with reproductions of works by Edgar Degas (7 of them)
2016, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
40 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.97 - 34 ratings
My rating: 4
Endpapers: Front: Pen and Ink people - Back: Made to look like a blank canvas

My comments:  The concept of the book is that Paris is changing and that Degas, as an artist, wanted to change with the times.  So he went out walking the streets of Paris, examining its people and their activities.  The explanation is in words and watercolor and ink illustrations, but when you turn the page, you see Degas' actual painting.  The writing was lovely, except for the first and last page. "The world was changing.  Paris was alive." (What, exactly, does this mean?).  Then, on the next-to-last page was my favorite paragraph, "Soon he would put brush to canvas, or pastel to paper, or ink to plate, and he would try to describe the city's push and pull, its run and hum, its lean and stretch."  But when you turn the page, it reads, "But for just a little while, all was still."  There is still activity on the streets.  Those two pages - because of their words - just didn't work for me.  Ah, well.  Otherwise, an excellent picture book.

Goodreads:  What Degas Saw looks at the world through a beloved artist’s eyes and provides insight into his creative process. Walking through the streets of Paris with cape and cane, the French artist Edgar Degas observes the world around him, finding inspiration at every turn. From the blurry faces of passersby glimpsed through a bus window to the sun-dappled landscape seen from a moving train, from the hunched profiles of laundresses at work to light-bathed ballerinas on the opera house stage, the artist—with open eyes and a curious mind—collects impressions of the people and places he sees. Accompanies major MoMA exhibition, Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty, on view March 26 through July 24, 2016.

Monday, June 12, 2017

MOVIE - The Mummy

PG-13 (1:50)
Wide release 6/9/17
Viewed Monday, 6/12/17 at Carlisle 8 (comfy reclining seats)
IMBd: 5.8/10
RT Critic: 15 (Now that's pretty bad!)  Audience:  42
Critic's Consensus:  Lacking the campy fun of the franchise's most recent entries and failing to deliver many monster-movie thrills, The Mummy suggests a speedy unraveling for the Dark Universe.
Cag:  3/Liked it for the most part
Directed by Alex Kurtzman
Universal Studios

Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Courtney B. Vance

My comments:  I can't believe that both Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe would do such a silly, forgettable movie.  For the money? silly as it was, I enjoyed it for the most part.  I loved the ancient Egyptology, I loved going to Mesopotamia/Iran, I even enjoyed the legend...but why did they have to include zombies?  Her minions could've been done so much more cleverly.  It also seemed overly long.  Great ending.  Left it open for many more, and I'm guessing this one will be lucrative enough so there will probably be more coming.  Just not what I pictured as a Tom Cruise/Russell Crowe film.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Tom Cruise headlines a spectacular, all-new cinematic version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: The Mummy. Thought safely entombed in a tomb deep beneath the unforgiving desert, an ancient princess (Sofia Boutella of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond) whose destiny was unjustly taken from her is awakened in our current day, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia and terrors that defy human comprehension. From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, The Mummy brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters. Cruise is joined by a cast including Annabelle Wallis (upcoming King Arthur, television's Peaky Blinders), Jake Johnson (Jurassic World), Courtney B. Vance (TV's American Crime Story: The People V. O.J. Simpson) and Oscar (R) winner Russell Crowe (Gladiator). 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

32, My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni

Tracy Crosswhite #1
read on my iPhone
2014 Thomas & Mercer
416 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 6/10/17
Goodreads rating:  3.99 - 53,305 ratings
My rating:  3
Setting: Contemporary mountains of Washington state

First line/s:  "Her tactical instructor at the police academy liked taunting them during early morning drills.  'Sleep is overrated,' he would say.  'You'll learn to do without.'  He lied."

My comments:  Set in a small town where everyone knows and likes your family, throw in a somewhat likable heroine who's lived with 20 years of a mystery that has stilted her life, just for the heck-of-it sprinkle with a sideline of romance with a "perfect" guy and layer on lots of secrets....that's what this book is all about!

Goodreads synopsis:  Tracy Crosswhite has spent twenty years questioning the facts surrounding her sister Sarah’s disappearance and the murder trial that followed. She doesn’t believe that Edmund House — a convicted rapist and the man condemned for Sarah’s murder — is the guilty party. Motivated by the opportunity to obtain real justice, Tracy became a homicide detective with the Seattle PD and dedicated her life to tracking down killers.
          When Sarah’s remains are finally discovered near their hometown in the northern Cascade mountains of Washington State, Tracy is determined to get the answers she’s been seeking. As she searches for the real killer, she unearths dark, long-kept secrets that will forever change her relationship to her past — and open the door to deadly danger.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

MOVIE - Their Finest

R (1:50)
Limited release 4/7/17
Viewed 6/7/17 at Carlisle Theater, Downtown Carlisle
IMBd:  6.9/10
RT Critic:  87  Audience:  77
Critic's Consensus:  Carried along by a winning performance from Gemma Arterton, Their Finest smoothly combines comedy and wartime drama to crowd-pleasing effect.
Cag:  3.5  Would have liked it a lot - maybe even loved it - if it hadn't gotten so depressing
Directed by Lone Scherlig
Europa Corps/ STX Films

British actors (including Bill Nighy)

My comments:  I was liking this movie a lot until something very sad happened and then I changed my mind.  1940 London, and women are definitely inferior human beings.  The movie highlights a woman who is actually able to get somewhere in the very inhibiting and controlling male world of the time.  I love the premise of the movie,but throwing in something sad when it's not serving any purpose that I can see or think of really pissed me off.  I left feeling extremely deflated and quite a bit depressed.  I guess it was a good movie overall, but who wants to leave down in the dumps?

RT/ IMDb Summary:  The year is 1940, London. With the nation bowed down by war, the British ministry turns to propaganda films to boost morale at home. Realizing their films could use "a woman's touch," the ministry hires Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) as a scriptwriter in charge of writing the female dialogue. Although her artist husband looks down on her job, Catrin's natural flair quickly gets her noticed by cynical, witty lead scriptwriter Buckley (Sam Claflin). Catrin and Buckley set out to make an epic feature film based on the Dunkirk rescue starring the gloriously vain, former matinee idol Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy). As bombs are dropping all around them, Catrin, Buckley and their colorful cast and crew work furiously to make a film that will warm the hearts of the nation.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

MOVIE - Norman

R (1:58)
Limited release 4/14/2017
Viewed June 1, 2017 at Downtown Carlisle Theater
IMBd: 6.2/10
RT Critic: 89   Audience:  57
Critic's Consensus:  Norman's elegantly told story is brought brilliantly to life by a quietly powerful performance from Richard Gere.
Cag:  3.5 
Directed by Joseph Cedar
Sony Pictures Classics

Richard Gere, Michael Sheen

My comments:  I was a little confused at first, which unsettled me a bit.  So it took me about the first half of the film to get into it and relax.  Once I completely realized what was happening, I went with the flow.  There was some interesting cinematography, juxtaposing conversations in two different places on the same screen in a really interesting way.  Quickie, almost cameos, by some really good actors.  All in all, I'm glad I went.  I also realized that this beautiful old theater in downtown Carlisle must have been created by the same architect that created the Critereon in Bar Harbor, Maine.  They are so alike!

RT/ IMDb Summary:   Norman Oppenheimer is a small time operator who befriends a young politician at a low point in his life. Three years later, when the politician becomes an influential world leader, Norman's life dramatically changes for better and worse.