Thursday, August 31, 2017

53. A Desperate Place for Dying by William Scott Carter

(Pseudonym:  Jack Nolte)
Read on Audible
Audio read by Roy Grimsley
2012, Flying Raven Press
262 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 8/31/17
Goodreads rating: 4.09 - 498 ratings
My rating: 4.5
Setting: Wet and windy Oregon coast, contemporary

First line/s:  "His real name was Anthony Bruzzi, but at his trial he told the judge that only his mother called him Anthony -- everybody else just called him Tony."

My comments:
If you like mystery series, here’s one you might not have heard of.  It’s pretty fast-paced.  Interesting, imperfect characters.  Constant surprises.  Dry humor.  This second in the series takes place about a year after the first, and has curmudgeon Garrison Gage dealing with a teenage girl he’s now guardian of, and some love-life problems he never thought he’d encounter again.  And the mystery is really good! ( I listened to this - read by Steven Roy Grimsley, who was terrific.)

Goodreads synopsis: 
     An old flame.
     A killer on the loose.
     A crazy cult on the rise.
     Nearly a year has passed since Garrison Gage became the reluctant guardian of a troubled teenage girl, but neither fatherhood nor the intervening months have improved his mood. His right knee is still mostly worthless. He still prefers to drink his bourbon alone. And even with a certain blonde bombshell a persistent part of his life, he still can't be bothered to buy a cell phone. Or any phone, for that matter. Why? Then somebody might call him.
     But grumpy as Gage can be, he still finds that life on the Oregon Coast has settled into a comfortable if not happy routine - until the man who murdered his wife shows up in town.
     That's just for starters. A desperate plea from an old flame - his first love, in fact - soon entangles Gage in a high profile case involving a famous and brazenly outspoken lecturer on evolution and atheism, a crazy fundamentalist cult that uses all means necessary to silence its critics, and a brutal local murder of a far more personal nature.
     Before the mystery can be unraveled, Gage's abilities and beliefs will be put to the ultimate test. And the man who claims he doesn't need anyone will discover he may just lose everything.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

52. Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin

read on my iPhone
2014 Blaze Publishing
306 pgs.
Finished 8/30/17
Goodreads rating:  4.17 - 151 ratings
My rating:  3
Setting: contemporary rural North Carolina

First line/s:  "Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine what a normal school morning looks like."

My comments:  Love the cover.  It's gorgeous.  This is a love story with two protagonists, alternating chapters with their first person accounts.  The only problem was that they both sounded exactly the same; they had the same voice, the same kinds of quirks, the same angst.  The same "goodness."  Each had one single close friend.  I loved the setting and Bucchin's description of it: a commune on a mountain in North Carolina.  40 cabins, 100 or so people, and a once a week community meal.  However, out of those 100 people we only get to meet a very few.  I so wanted to meet more, and it was hard to visualize this commune full of so many people when you're only thinking about eight or nine.  Lost the big picture a bit.  Pretty well written love story, all in all, with a pat, satisfying ending - always okay with me.  There are definitely going to be some females that swoon over this book.

Goodreads synopsis: Mitchell Morrison and Josie Sedgwick have spent their whole lives at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune full of colorful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and they aren't particularly close--at least, not anymore. Josie wishes she could spend all of her time at Paintbrush planting tomatoes, hiking the trails, or throwing giant communal birthday parties, while Mitchell can’t wait to escape the bizarre spiritual sharing and noisy community dinners. Luckily for both of them, high school graduation is just around the corner.
          But when Mitchell’s mother makes a scandalous announcement that rocks the close-knit Paintbrush community, and Josie’s younger sister starts to make some dangerously bad decisions, the two find themselves leaning on each other for support – and looking at each other in a whole new light. Their childhood friendship blossoms in to something more as they deal with their insane families, but as graduation approaches, so does life in the real world, forcing Josie and Mitchell to figure out what, exactly, their relationship is – and if it can survive their very different plans for the future.

Monday, August 28, 2017

51. Outage by Ellisa Barr

Powerless Nation #1
read on my iPhone
2014 Parker Heritage Press
218 pgs.
YA CRF/Dystopia
Goodreads rating:  3.81 - 458 ratings
My rating: 3.5
Setting: contemporary rural Washington state

First line/s:  "Dee sat outside the farmhouse and peeled slivers of paint from the old porch swing."

My comments:  A survival story, and a believable one, for the most part. Definitely entertaining, I felt like I was watching this story. Not necessarily living it like other stories, but intensely observing. The only character you really get to know is the protagonist, Dee, because you get inside her head. Near the beginning you discover that one of the characters is part of a Mormon family, but to my relief and delight the book never gets preachy or religious. I've watched enough of the new tv shows about post-apocalyptic survival, so there was nothing particularly surprising happening, but the descriptions and panic and planning and problem-solving kept me interest from beginning to end.  

Goodreads synopsis: When fifteen-year-old Dee is left at her grandpa's farm in rural Washington, she thinks life is over. She may be right.
          A high-tech electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack destroys the country's power and communication grids, and sends the U.S. hurtling back to the Dark Ages. Can Dee learn to survive without the basics: electricity, clean water... even her cell phone?
          The chaos caused by the EMP isn't her only problem. A sinister plot by a corrupt official threatens Dee and all she holds dear. She will have to fight if she wants to survive in this hostile new world.
          Written for all fans who love apocalypse stories, Outage is a Young Adult novel of survival with a hint of romance and a lot of action-adventure.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

MOVIE - The Glass Castle

PG-13, (2:07)
Wide release 8/11/2017
Viewed 8/26/17
RT Critic:  51  Audience:  72
Critic's Consensus:  The Glass Castle has an affecting real-life story and a hard-working cast in its corner, but they aren't enough to outweigh a fundamentally misguided approach to the material.
Cag:  5.5
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Based on the memoir by Jeanette Walls 

Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts

My comments:  Terrific movie.  Based on the book which is based on the memoir of Jeanette Walls.  Didn't read the book, though I contemplated doing so several times.  What a beautifully told, sad, exhilarating, painful and joyous story.  Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts were brilliant.  I particularly liked the way that the story was told with three different sets of actors depicting three different time periods, flashing back and forwards, showing the full and total picture of what it would have been like to be in this family's shoes.  During the end credits, photos of the real people were shown and labeled, putting a crowning touch on a really good couple of hours.  Alcoholism is a horrible disease....

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Chronicling the adventures of an eccentric, resilient and tight-knit family, THE GLASS CASTLE is a remarkable story of unconditional love. Oscar (R) winner Brie Larson brings Jeannette Walls's best-selling memoir to life as a young woman who, influenced by the joyfully wild nature of her deeply dysfunctional father (Woody Harrelson), found the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

PICTURE BOOK - Snail Mail: With Pull-Out Postcards by Sharon King-Chai

Illustrated by the author
2016, Hodder Children's Books (UK)
32 pgs. with 6 x 8 envelopes containing heavy-stock postcards
Goodreads rating: 5.0 - 2 ratings
My rating:  5
Endpapers: A map of the world with the "snail trail."

1st line/s:  "Hi there!  I'm Sam, the Seashell Snail.  I live by the seashore."

My comments:  
I vacillated between a 4 and a 5 for this one, mainly because my adult mind questioned how snails could travel the world, and so quickly. But the premise of the book. - similar to the idea of the Jolly Postman books and Vera Williams' Stringbean's Trip to the Shining Sea - and the information presented are top-notch. So are the fun and fanciful Snail family and friends. Actually, the whole package is just plain FUN! It would fit perfectly into any sort of epistolary unit that a teacher may do in school, too. Two thumbs up.

Goodreads:   Sam the Seashell Snail is too young to go surfing around the world with his brother, Tiger. Not wanting Sam to miss out on the adventure, Tiger sends him Snail Mail from Brazil, America, India, Japan and France. Tiger's last Snail Mail has a very special birthday surprise!
          With pull-out postcards to pore over, this fun and charming picture book will captivate even the most tech-savvy of children.
          A Jolly Postman for this generation.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

50. Escape Clause - John Sandford

Virgil Flowers #9
listened to on Audible
read by Eric Conger
2016, GP Putnam's Sons
400 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 8/24/17
Goodreads rating: 4.21 - 10,751 ratings
My ra ting:  4.5
Setting: Contemporary Minnesota

First line/s:  "Peck popped a Xanax, screwed the top back on the pill tube, peered over the top of the bush and through the chain-link fence, and in a hoarse whisper asked, "You see the other one?"

My comments
Viva Virgil Flowers! My favorite serial good guy. Eric Conger is definitely the voice of Virgil Flowers. Add in John Sandford, who created Virgil, and you have a perfect trinity. I could listen to Virgil problem-solving and telling about his escapades for days on end. The beginning of this (book 9 in the series) started out just a tiny bit slowly. However, I didn't despair because I knew it would get more interesting quickly. Yup. There were two main plot lines happening - a personal one involving Virgil's girlfriend, Frankie and her sister; and one involving his job as the head investigator into the robbery/kidnapping of two endangered tiers from the Minnesota Zoo. Both got stickier and stickier and it's Virgil's job to keep his head above water and his paces closer and closer to the perpetrators. Good reading

Goodreads synopsis: Whenever you hear the sky rumble, that usually means a storm. In Virgil Flowers’ case, make that two. The exceptional new thriller from the writer whose books are “pure reading pleasure” (Booklist)
          The first storm comes from, of all places, the Minnesota zoo. Two large, and very rare, Amur tigers have vanished from their cage, and authorities are worried sick that they’ve been stolen for their body parts. Traditional Chinese medicine prizes those parts for home remedies, and people will do extreme things to get what they need. Some of them are a great deal more extreme than others -- as Virgil is about to find out.
          Then there’s the homefront. Virgil’s relationship wi th his girlfriend Frankie has been getting kind of serious, but when Frankie’s sister Sparkle moves in for the summer, the situation gets a lot more complicated. For one thing, her research into migrant workers is about to bring her up against some very violent people who emphatically do not want to be researched. For another…she thinks Virgil’s kind of cute.
          “You mess around with Sparkle,” Frankie told Virgil, “you could get yourself stabbed.”
           “She carries a knife?”
           “No, but I do.”

Forget a storm – this one’s a tornado.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Postcards of Libraries, New and Old

871.  Germany
Rococo Library in Bad Schussenried
My name is Michaela.  I like to travel, read, animals, nature and lots more.  TLC.  Love, Michaela

858.  Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura
Royal Portuguese Reading Office
Hello Chris,  This postcard shows a library we have in Rio de Janeiro that has more than 350,000 books.  It was created in 1837 and received books from Portugal.  It also has some rare books that are related to the history of Brasil and Portugal.  Did you know it?  23 July 2017

839.  Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius University (Largest in Lithuania)
Hi!  Greetings from Lithuania's capital Vilnius!  I'm sending postcards after five years break.  This postcard is very old, here is main library at our capital's University but description is written in Polish language here.  One I have translated is book of Nicholas Sparks "At First Sight."

836.  Saint Petersburg Russia
The Winter Palace, Gothic Library of Nicholas II
Many greetings from Russia, from interesting and beautiful Saint Petersburg!  Have a nice day.  Tatiana

799.  Furstliche Bibliothek Corvey - GERMANY
(Princely Library Corvey - aristocratic private library)
Hello Chris, my name is Hans.  This is one of many rooms of library at the Princely Palace Corvey, Germany.  all the best.

798.  Maas en Peel Library, The Netherlands
De Bibliotheek Mass en Peel - Vestiging Reuver
Hi Chris, my name is Jessica.  I am German, but I moved to the Netherlands for a job many years ago.  My husband is German, too.  We met on the internet!
NOTE:  She responded to my thank you!:
“Hi Chris,
yes, the card shows my local library. They used to do postcrossing, too (TheBusyLibrarian), but they stopped because the postage costs have been rising through the roof in the Netherlands the last 3-4 years. It made me cut down considerably, too :-( It's becoming a little bit of a luxury in the Netherlands, doing postcrossing. But hey, it's a hobby and hobbies do tend to cost money ;-)
By the way, I took the picture myself and also, it is me in the picture, haha... They weren't open at the time I was there to take pictures and the staff was busy, but I wanted somebody in the picture to make it look more alive. So I took a remote-control picture of myself :-)
Well, wishing you a nice day & happy postcrossing.

788.  Benedictine Monastery Library in Broumov, Czech Republic
send from a postcrosser in Poland
I'm a 45-year old woman who works as a pediatrician and I love my job.  I come from a small town Itza, 80 miles south of Warsaw, which was famous for its clas pottery in Poland since the Middle Ages.  Nowadays, Itza is know for ruins of the medieval castle (you have received postcrd with photo of them from Piorunica), knigh tournaments, and delicious ice cream.  Cheers  (I visited this place two years ago.)

49. Colorless by Rita Stradling

Colorless #1
read on my iPhone
400 pgs.
YA Fantasy
Finished 8/21/17
Goodreads rating: 3.73 - 64 ratings
My rating: 3.5

First line/s:  "Staring at the white streak across my most cherished painting, I considered my death."

My comments:  
This is only my second NetGalley read, and the first one was bitterly disappointing, so my heart sank a few chapters in as I was unsure about whether I'd keep going. I couldn't get into this world at all. There was too much left to the imagination, and my imagination wasn't cuttin' it. And I was put off by the Daily Devotions to the gods. Although this world became (slowly) more clear, I think the little information imparted by those Daily Devotions could have been revealed in a different way. Found myself skipping them entirely in the second half of the book. But all of a sudden things started connecting and reading between the lines of all three points-of-view helped me enjoy the plot more and more. That's not to say I don't still have about a hundred questions, but I'll leave those to be answered in volume 2 (that's not to say that more questions will be included!).
          Great characters, interesting setting, out-of-the ordinary plot, not enough world building, and short added tidbits between chapters that I didn't need or want to read. I think that sums it up....and I greatly look forward to another entry in the saga. However, I'll probably want to reread this one just before I begin the next....

Goodreads synopsis:  In Domengrad, there are rules all must live by: Fear the Gods. Worship the Magicians. Forsake the Iconoclasts.
          To Annabelle Klein, the rules laid down by the Magicians are the mere ramblings of stuffy old men. As far as she’s concerned, the historic Iconoclasts, heretics who nearly destroyed the Magicians so long ago, are nothing but myth. She has much more important matters to worry about.
          Heiress to a manor mortgaged down to its candlesticks and betrothed to her loathsome cousin, sixteen-year-old Annabelle doubts the gods could forsake her more.
          Then Annabelle is informed of her parents’ sudden and simultaneous deaths, and all of the pigment drips out of her skin and hair, leaving her colourless. Within moments, Annabelle is invisible and forgotten by all who know her.
          Living like a wraith in her own home, Annabelle discovers that to regain her color she must solve the mystery behind her parents’ murders and her strange transformation.
          Meanwhile, hundreds of the Magicians’ monks, with their all-black eyes and conjoined minds, have usurped control of Annabelle’s family manor. An Iconoclast is rumored to be about—a person who they claim goes unseen, unheard, and lost to memory, yet is the greatest threat to all of Domengrad. For the first time in a hundred years, the monks plan to unleash the dire wolves of old.
         Their only target: Annabelle.

Postcards Received

807 - 819   7/13 - 7/21/17
785 - 804   7/8 - 7/12/17
757 - 783  6/15 - 7/5/17
702             12/2/16
698 - 701   12/1/16
694 - 697   11/28/16
639 - 643   11/3 - 11/4/16
634 - 638   11/1/16
627 - 633   10/31/16
626            10/28/16
623 - 625   10/24/16
621 - 622   10/22/16
617 - 620   10/21/16
613 - 616   10/20/16
607 - 612   10/18/16
602 - 604   10/13 - 10/14/16
596 - 601   10/11/16
591 - 595   10/7 - 10/8/16
589 - 590   10/6/16
586 - 588   10/4/16

583 - 585   10/3/16
571 - 582   9/29 - 10/1/16
559 - 570   9/20 - 9/27/16
547 - 557   9/19/16
542 - 546   9/17/16
538 - 541   9/16/16
536 - 537   9/14/16
534 - 535   9/13/16
530 - 533   9/12/16
526 - 529   9/10/16
525             9/9/16
524             9/8/16
523 - 525    9/1/16  A few numbers were used twice here
520 - 522    8/31/16
518 - 519    8/29/16
516 - 517    8/26/16
512 - 515    8/25/16
510 - 511    8/24/16
507 - 509    8/23/16
503 - 506    8/22/16
500 - 502    8/19/16
499              8/17/16
498              8/16/16
496 - 497     8/15/16
494 - 495    8/13/16
474 - 493    8/12/16
472 - 473    8/1/16
469 - 471    7/30/16
463             7/26/16
457 - 462    7/25/16
455 - 456    7/22/16
451 - 454    7/18/16
yes, there's a gap here....
411 - 415    6/27/16
408 - 409    6/23/16
407              6/22/17
405 - 406    6/20/16
404 - 404    6/18/16
396 - 402    6/17/16
392 - 394    6/16/16
372 - 391    6/13/16
366 - 371    6/6/16
359 - 364    6/2/16
358             5/31/16
342 - 357    5/23/16
341             5/20/16
337 - 338    5/18/16
333 - 336    5/17/16
328 - 332    5/16/16
327             5/14/16
321 - 326    5/13/16
314 - 320    5/9/16
311 - 313    5/6/16
310             5/5/16
303 - 309    5/3/16
300 - 302    5/2/16
298 - 299    4/30/16
293 - 297    4/29/16

Saturday, August 19, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - Karl, Get Out of the Garden: Carolus Linnaeus and the Naming of Everything by Anita Sanchez

Illustrated by Catherine Stock
2017, Charlesbridge
48 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  4.05 - 37 ratings
My rating:  4
Endpapers:  brown sketches of plants and animals on white

1st line/s: "Karl Linne was in the garden again.  He just wouldn't stay out of it!"

My comments
This picture book, perfect for elementary age kids and a great introduction to classification in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade, is interesting and informative. I had no ideas that the classification system was created by a Swedish young man who had a love for flowers and became a college professor - in the early to mid 1700s. Fascinating! Excellent book.
Includes an afterward, easy explanation of how the classification works, a timeline, and resource list.

GoodreadsDo you know what a Solanum caule inermi herbaceo, foliis pinnatis incises, racemis simplicibus is?*
          Carolus (Karl) Linnaeus started off as a curious child who loved exploring the garden. Despite his intelligence--and his mother's scoldings--he was a poor student, preferring to be outdoors with his beloved plants and bugs. As he grew up, Karl's love of nature led him to take on a seemingly impossible task: to give a scientific name to every living thing on earth. The result was the Linnaean system--the basis for the classification system used by biologists around the world today. Backyard sciences are brought to life in beautiful color.
          Back matter includes more information about Linnaeus and scientific classification, a classification chart, a time line, source notes, resources for young readers, and a bibliography.

PICTURE BOOK - Stand Up and Sing: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice by Susanna Reich

Illustrated by Adam Gustavson
2017, Bloomsbury
HC $17.99
44 pgs.
Goodreads rating:4.28 - 58 ratings
My rating: 5
Endpapers: Solid dark Blue

1st line/s:  (after a wonderful foreward by Peter Yarrow) "Pete Seeger plucks and strums the banjo.  His warm, high voice floats over the crowd.  Heads begin to bob and toes begin to tap."

My comments:  I've been a folk music follower since my early 20s and a Pete Seeger fan for a long, long time.  I was so thrilled to discover this text-rich biography of this banjo-playing activist, perfect for elementary kids, especially if they know or have heard of any of his music.  What a great gift for kids - a copy of this book and a cd with many of the songs that he is SO famous for - We Shall Overcome; Turn, Turn, Turn; If I Had a Hammer, Where Have All the Flowers Gone; and Little Boxes to name a few.  Reading this book in the same week that the craziness in Charlottesville happened is especially meaningful, as "We Shall Overcome" should still be sung at the top of our voices!

Goodreads:  Inspired by the rhythms of American folk music, this moving account of Pete Seeger's life celebrates his legacy, showing kids of every generation that no cause is too small and no obstacle too large if, together, you stand up and sing!
          Pete Seeger was born with music in his bones. Coming of age during the Great Depression, Pete saw poverty and adversity that would forever shape his worldview, but it wasn't until he received his first banjo that he found his way to change the world. It was plucking banjo strings and singing folk songs that showed Pete how music had the incredible power to bring people together.
          Using this gift throughout his life, Pete encouraged others to rally behind causes that mattered--fighting for Civil Rights, ending the Vietnam War, or cleaning up the Hudson River. For Pete, no challenge was too great, and what started out as a love for music turned into a lifetime of activism and change. His greatest talent--and greatest passion--would become an unforgettable part of American history.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

PICTURE BOOK - The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon by Greg Pizzoli

Illustrated by the author
2017, Viking
Hardcover $17.99
40 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  4.14 - 120 ratings
My rating: 5
Endpapers:  Green - Newpapers cut up in the shapes of leaves and vegetation
Illustrations:  "silkscreen, photographic halftones, Zipatone, photocopy machines, newspapers, cut paper, and Photoshop"!

1st line/s:  "Less than one hundred years ago, maps of the world still included large 'blank spots': distant and dangerous lands that mapmakers and scientists had no yet explored."

My comments:  A fascinating, interesting read, a perfect nonfiction picture book for 3rd and 4th graders, and a great addition to the nonfiction adventurer/explorer genre. Simple illustrations add to the text but do not overpower it.  Mr. Pizzoli doesn't shy away from facts that might be glossed over by other authors, particularly the many deaths that accompany a dangerous profession.  Included are four sidebars with information about The Royal Geographical Society, The Amazon Rain Forest, Mosquitoes, and Famous Explorers, and an Author's Note, afterward, glossary, and resource listing that are all just as interesting as the story.  Diseases spread by mosquitoes kill at least 750,000 people every year! And 20 percent of Earth's oxygen is produced in the Amazon rainforest!  Top Notch.

Goodreads:  British explorer Percy Fawcett believed that hidden deep within the Amazon rainforest was an ancient city, lost for the ages. Most people didn't even believe this city existed. But if Fawcett could find it, he would be rich and famous forever. This is the true story of one man's thrilling, dangerous journey into the jungle, and what he found on his quest for the lost city of Z.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

48. Lost Girls by Angela Marsons

D. I. Kim Stone #3
read on my iPhone
2015, Bookouture
442 pgs.
Finished 8/16/17
Adult Mystery
Goodreads rating:  4.4 - 8048 ratings
My rating: 4
Setting: Contemporary England

First line/s:  "Emily Billingham tried to scream through the hand that covered her mouth."

My commentsKim Stone is great...fearless, smart, and snarky. Unlikeable in so many ways, which makes her even more likeable in just as many. She does have a softer side, which is appearing more and more. No matter how long I go between reading about her, I remember more than I usually do with other serial characters. This particular story made me uncomfortable, there was so much hate and violence, but I couldn't wait to get back to it each time I had to stop reading. Edge-0f-your-seat plot and incredible characterization is making Angela Marsons one of my favorite authors to date!

Goodreads synopsis: Two girls go missing. Only one will return.  The couple that offers the highest amount will see their daughter again. The losing couple will not. Make no mistake. One child will die.
          When nine-year-old best friends Charlie and Amy disappear, two families are plunged into a living nightmare. A text message confirms the unthinkable; that the girls are the victims of a terrifying kidnapping.
          And when a second text message pits the two families against each other for the life of their children, the clock starts ticking for D.I. Kim Stone and the squad.
          Seemingly outwitted at every turn, as they uncover a trail of bodies, Stone realizes that these ruthless killers might be the most deadly she has ever faced. And that their chances of bringing the girls home alive, are getting smaller by the hour…
          Untangling a dark web of secrets from the families’ past might hold the key to solving this case. But can Kim stay alive long enough to do so? Or will someone’s child pay the ultimate price?

Great Words: A Dictionary

I keep running across wonderful words that are not used frequently enough, and I've decided to make a dictionary of them here.  One wonderful word at a time, including my two favorite words.

bizarre (adjective) very strange or unusual; unconventional, outlandish ("As arrows fell around them, Fawcett gave a bizarre order: he told his crew to start singing." - The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon, Pizzoli)

cacophony (noun) a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds ("The room erupted into a cacophony of screams and exhalations." - Lost Girls, Marsons)

chortle (verb) to laugh in a breathy, gleeful way; chuckle ("The chortling and rocking continued unbroken until I felt ridiculous standing there, glaring intothe old woman's mirthful face." - Colorless, Stradling)

enigmatic (adjective) difficult to interpret or understand; mysterious ("Perhaps the painting was my favorite because its meaning had always been enigmatic to me." - Colorless, Stradling)

forage (verb) to search widely for food or provisions (Goats scamper past.  They forage through the trash for food." - One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, Paul/Zunon))

jargon (noun) special words or expressions used by a group that are difficult for other people, outside that group, to understand ("One called it Rosa Sylvestris seu canina.  Another called it Rosa Sylvestris alba cumrubore, folio glabro.  "Chaos!" Karl cried.  "Barbarian jargon!" - Karl, Get Out of the Garden by Anita Sanchez)

prudent (adjective) acting with or showing caring thought for the future ("And sometimes things to bed I take,/As prudent sailors have to do;/Perhaps a slice of wedding cake,/Perhaps a toy or two." from "My Bed is a Boat" by Robert Louis Stevenson" - Under the Silver Moon by Pamela Dalton)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

47. The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller

listened to on Audible
Read by Will Damron
2017 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
336 pgs.
Adult CRF
Finished 8/15/17
Goodreads Rating:  4.12 - 771 ratings
My rating:  5
Setting: Contemporary Middle East and a short time period 22 years before that....probably Iraq....

First line/s:  "Arwood Hobbs was bored.  Not your regular bored.  Not your casual rainy-day Cat in the Hat-style bored that arrives with the wet, leaving you with nothing to do.  It wasn't post-fun or pre-excitement bored, either.  It was somehow different."

My comments:   This book puts you smack dab in the middle of Iraq, first in 1991 and then in 2013, following the same group of characters as they begin...and then finalize....a huge episode in their lives.  This is a modern war story, the story that we see hinted at on the news and in hearing stories of returning soldiers who have been mentally (and physically) wounded.  The story wasn't exactly eye-opening, but more illuminating.  Every nerve-wracking, frazzled step.  What made it especially real for me is all the humor that seeps in.  You'd not expect humor, but that's how it maintains its believability, and its humanity.
     You can read the plot summary that Goodreads gives.  It's the characters, and of course the setting, that set this story apart.  It wasn't easy to read.  It isn't easy to rate a 5.  But it earned it.  Mr. Miller is a great writer and storyteller, and the guy who read it (I listened on Audible) did a terrific job.

Goodreads synopsis: From the author of Norwegian by Night, and Short Listed for the 2017 CWA Gold Dagger Award, a novel about two men on a misbegotten quest to save the girl they failed to save decades before.
          1991. Near Checkpoint Zulu, one hundred miles from the Kuwaiti border, Thomas Benton meets Arwood Hobbes. Benton is a British journalist who reports from war zones in part to avoid his lackluster marriage and a daughter he loves but cannot connect with; Arwood is a mid-western American private who might be an insufferable ignoramus, or might be a genuine lunatic with a death wish--it's hard to tell.
          Desert Storm is over, peace has been declared, but as they argue about whether it makes sense to cross the nearest border in search of an ice cream, they become embroiled in a horrific attack in which a young local girl in a green dress is killed as they are trying to protect her. The two men walk away into their respective lives. But something has cracked for them both.
          Twenty-two years later, in another place, in another war, they meet again and are offered an unlikely opportunity to redeem themselves when that same girl in green is found alive and in need of salvation. Or is she?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

MOVIE - Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

PG-13 (2:17)
Wide release 7/21/17
Viewed one night after work - 9:30 show in Carlisle (8/9/17)
IMBd: 6.7/10
RT Critic:  50  Audience:  57
Critic's Consensus:  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planetsuses sheer kinetic energy and visual thrills to overcome narrative obstacles and offer a viewing experience whose surreal pleasures often outweigh its flaws.
Cag:  4 I liked it, it was fun and reminded me of Star Wars a bit
Written & Directed by Luc Besson
EuropaCorp/STX Films

Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevigne, Clive Owen, Rihanna

My comments:  Interesting movie, and entertaining, though a little long.  It was sort of StarWars-y, I'd say.  Lots of humor, weird-looking creatures from elsewhere in space, plenty of action, and lovey-dovey stuff.  I think I noticed during the credits that Lucasfilms had something to do with it, and I'm not surprised.  I liked it, it was fun.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is the visually spectacular new adventure film from Luc Besson, the legendary director of The Professional, The Fifth Element and Lucy, based on the ground-breaking comic book series which inspired a generation of artists, writers and filmmakers. In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha-an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

MOVIE - The Midwife

Not Rated (1:57)
Limited release 7/21/17
Viewed Saturday evening, August 12, 2017 at The Carlisle Cinema (by myself)
IMBd: 7.0/10
RT Critic:  83  Audience:  83
Critic's Consensus:  The Midwifetakes a rewardingly patient approach to potentially melodramatic material, emerging with a well-acted, emotionally resonant character study.
Cag: 4/Liked it quite well
Directed by Martin Provost
Music Box Films
In French, with subtitles

Catherine Deneuve

My comments:  A French film with subtitles and Catherine Deneuve.  Claire is a 48-year old single woman who happens to be a fantastic midwife in a hospital that appears to be in a suburb of Paris.  She lives a simple life:  working the night shift, riding her bicycle back-an-forth to work, climbing four flights to her small apartment because the elevator is frequently broken, and caring for her garden on a small plot of land along the Seine.  Her 20-something son, Simon, is in medical school.  Everything changes, however, when the woman who had been her father's mistress 35 years earlier shows up and forces herself back into Claire's life.  Claire is very reluctant, feeling that Beatrice had abandoned both her and her father all those years before.  Claire meets a man (an interestingly unattractive one at that - hurray for the filmmakers!) loses, her much-loved job because the hospital is taken over by a conglomerate, and even her son't course in life veers off.  This is quite an interesting, captivating tale.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Two of French cinema's biggest stars shine in this bittersweet drama about the unlikely friendship that develops between Claire (Catherine Frot), a talented but tightly wound midwife, and Béatrice (Catherine Deneuve), the estranged, free-spirited mistress of Claire's late father. Though polar opposites in almost every way, the two come to rely on each other as they cope with the unusual circumstance that brought them together in this sharp character study from the César-award winning director Martin Provost (Séraphine).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

46. Meet Josefina by Valerie Tripp

First book in the series
1997, Pleasant Company Publications
85 pgs.
Erly Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Finished 8-10-17
Goodreads rating:  3.85 - 3491 ratings
My rating:  4
Setting: 1820's Santa Fe, NM

First line/s: "Josefina Montoya hummed to herself as she stood in the sunshine waiting for her sisters."

My comments: A good, wholesome, story with a seemingly well-researched setting just outside Santa Fe New Mexico in the 1820s.  This is the first in this American Girl series about a New Mexican, Spanish-speaking nine-year-old, the youngest of four girls being raised by their widowed father.

Goodreads synopsis: Josefina Montoya is growing up on a rancho near Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1824. Ever since Mama died a year before, Josefina and her three sisters have been struggling to carry on without her. One bright fall day, happy news arrives--their beloved grandfather is returning home after a long trading trip. Josefina knows that he will bring exciting stories and wonderful treasures from his journey. But this time he brings something more--a great surprise that Josefina and her sisters never even dreamed of!" 

Friday, August 4, 2017

45. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass #1
read/listened to on Audible
2012 Bloomsbury USA Children
404 pgs.
YA Fantasy
Finished 8-4-17
Goodreads rating:  4.24 - 327,825
My rating:  3.5

First line/s:  "After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovear, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point."

My comments:  3.5. I couldn't stand the protagonist and that makes enjoying a book a little tough. Celaena was pretty impressed with herself, to the point of cockiness. Granted, she did always come out on top - which was a bummer, in a way. Always? Seriously.
          I liked many of the other characters and see great possibilities for the future, although other than Celaena, the bad guys were very, very bad and the good guys were very good. I suppose that happens in a lot of fantasies when you have the good guys versus the bad guys, but this seemed a little overwhelming. I'm looking forward to more magic, more word symbols, and Dorian growing a little more spine - AND I'm sure we're going to discover that Celaena has hidden roots...

Goodreads synopsis: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
          Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her ... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
          Then one of the other contestants turns up dead ... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

44. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

read on my iPhone/Kindle/Book/Audible
2016, Crown Books for Young Readers
384 pgs.
Finished 8/1/2017
Goodreads rating:  4.21 - 8280 ratings
My rating:  5 Top-notch fiction
Setting: Contemporary rural Tennessee, somewhat near Nashville

First line/s:  "There were things that Dillard Wayne Early Jr. dreaded more than the first day of school at Forrestville High.  Not many, but a few."

My comments:  This wonderful book is about so many things.  It's about rising above the atrocities of horrible parenting.  It's about friendship, real friendship that touches your core.  It's about grief and about withstanding the hundreds of little pushes in the wrong direction that it might bring.  It's about perseverance and resilience.  It's about living your life for yourself, and finding the little things that matter the most and can sustain you, no matter what. Not only was this a fantastic book for young adults, fut for old adults, too.

Goodreads synopsis: Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.
          The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.
          Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and at times comic view of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible Belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one’s true self in the wreckage of the past.