Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Book: The Hard Truth by Mariah Stewart

The setting is in rural Pennsylvania. Lorna returns to her childhood home to sell the family property since her parents have died. Soon after she arrives, the police discovered the body of Jason who mysteriously disappeared after the disappearance of his sister, Melinda. Melinda was a childhood friend of Lorna, and more bodies are discovered on her property. She enlists the support of a private investigator . T. J. Dawson for help. More bodies are discovered and time is running out on this investigation. There are several suspects, but you have to read the book to discover the "Hard Truth".

Grade: B

Book: Cold Truth by Mariah Stewart

It was extremely difficult to put down this Mystery thriller by Mariah Stewart. The setting is in a small town of Bowers Inlet. Twenty six years ago, Cassie Burke lost her parents and her sister in a brutal attack. A transient worker was found hiding in the basement covered with blood and was subsequently convicted of the crime and died in prison. Cassie is now a cop who is faced with several murders of young women who resembled her mom in physical appearance. Help is on its way with an FBi agent by the name of Rick Cisco. Can they find the real murdered in this sleepy seaside town before another victim is selected.? Recommend that you read this book. It is extremely suspensful and enjoyable for a summer read.

Grade: A+

Book: Mercy Street by Mariah Stewart

Another mystery thriller by Mariah Stewart. Two teenagers are shot dead in Conroy, Penn. and two other teenagers who were with them are missing. Are them the killers or are they hiding and why? Mallory Russo , a former cop and now private investigator is hired to find the missing teenagers. She is assisted by a new detective who was hired to replace her. Charlie Wanamaker. There are several twists and turns in this thriller as they solve this mystery. This mystery comes highly recommended.

Grade: A

Book: Last Look by Mariah Stewart

Last Look by Mariah Stewart is another thriller by this mystery writer. The setting is Georgia where a body of a recently murdered prostitute turns out to be Shannon Randall who was "murdered 24 years ago." The heat is on the FBI who was involved with the wrongful conviction of Eric Beale and subsequent execution of this innocent man. Now the FBI has Andrew Shields on the case along with another agent: Dorsey Collins who just happens to be the daughter of the FBI agent who was involved with the case 24 years ago. Dorsey has an agenda of her own to vindicate her dad and redeem his reputation. The questions asked include: What made Shannon run away and not contact her family who believed that she was murdered 24 years ago? Who was responsible for her murder now? Highly recommend this thriller which doesn't disappoint as a must summer read!

Grade: A

Book: A Year Without Made in China

A YEAR WITHOUT MADE IN CHINA by Sara Bongiorni is Bongiorni's description of trying to go an entire year without buying anything made in China. Her reasons seem a bit vague--she claims not to be opposed to Chinese goods per se, and was willing accept them as gifts. Indeed, at times she basically *asked* people to give her children specific things that they wanted that were made in China. And she spent a lot of time explaining to her children, and friends, and us, that it was not that she disliked China, or that China was bad. Also, her efforts were mostly at the end-product level, because it became obvious that one could not always tell where the parts for something were made (though she did try). Bongiorni seems to vacillate between spending a lot more money to avoid something made in China and conniving to get as a gift something she (or more often, her son) wants that is made in China. It is also not clear how much buy-in she had from her family on this project that they were involved in. While there are interesting anecdotes about trying to find children's shoes or
sunglasses, it mostly seems like an undirected experiment, sort of like deciding not to buy anything made with plastic. (Or perhaps even less directed than deciding not to buy anything made with

Grade: C

Book: The Affinity Bridge

THE AFFINITY BRIDGE by George Mann is a steampunk novel with airships and mechanical automata, as well as a glowing blue policeman who has apparently come back from the dead to avenge his murder. The subtitle "A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation" tells you several things. One, this follows in the great tradition of detective/assistant mysteries. Two, neither Newbury or Hobbes is likely to turn out to be the villain. And three, both will survive, because there seems to be clear intention to make this a series if this one is successful. And it is reasonably entertaining in a steampunky, Victorian-detective sort of way.

However, Tor really needs a better proofreader. On page 98, we read: "The device is designed to power itself. When the automaton moves, a rotor inside its abdomen rocks back and forth, racheting the winding mechanism and causing the mainspring in the chest to become taut. Effectively, the unit is self-winding, and thus it will never power down, unless commanded to do so. If left inactive for long periods without instructions, the unit will eventually move itself to trigger the winding mechanism." This may be an alternate world, but they presumably have not repealed the Laws of Thermodynamics. First, what Mann has described is a perpetual motion machine, one in which no energy is lost while it is operating (a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics). But even assuming that worked, why would it then have to wind itself when it was inactive for a while? That implies that energy is leaking out somehow, but that it can recharge itself as a closed system to restore that energy (a violation of the First Law of Thermodynamics).

(It is true that the person who says this is not scrupulously honest, but there is no revelation that he has lied in this context.)

Grade: B

Book: House of the Scorpion

This book is also on the 8th grade reading list and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about possible futures with our real life scientific advances. The story centers on a boy, Matt, who is a clone of a very powerful drug leader, El Patron. This will be a longer, and harder book to follow than Stargirl, the other 8th grade reading list book I reviewed, but encourage your child to make this effort. Don't let them pass up this book because of the 380 pages. They will be rewarded by a great story with lots of things to think about after each chapter. A great book to discuss with your parents: If everything was the same about me, but I found out I was a clone, would that make me different? Does how others treat you change the way you see yourself? Will all the scientific advances lead to a better life? These are just a few of the many interesting ideas written into the house of the Scorpion.

Grade: A

Book: Stargirl

This is one of the books on the reading list for incoming 8th graders. First, I recommend that parents read the books on this list: they are chosen for a reason. If you can't read them all, read the one your child picked so you can enjoy it together. This book is a wonderful look at the way kids treat a child who is different. Stargirl will inspire kids to be themselves and to look more closely at why they react so negatively to someone who acts different. There have been plenty of books written on this subject, but the A is because Jerry Spinelli writes so light and fresh and fun you enjoy the story as you contemplate the meaning of all that is happening.

Grade: A

Book: City Witch, Country Witch

A very cute and fun picture story book, an adorable read right before bed. Unless you’re scared of witches though.

Grade: A

Book: The Manga Guide to Electricity

A very fun and informative way to learn something about a boring subject. This book makes things that put you asleep into a new and fun adventure.

Grade: A

Book: The Fetch

An attention grabbing book that keeps you sucked in till the very end. This haunting tale is attention grabbing and will make you think that everything is real.

Grade: A

Book: Melting Stones

A quest to become a stone mage becomes a destined path written in stone way past the day of the holder. It’s up to the hero to save the world.

Grade: A

Movie: Grave of the Fireflies

A wonderfully sad, yet happy film. It is heart-warming and crushing yet ut makes you miss and love your family more.

Grade: A+

Book: Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb

A fantastic fantasy good for the younger audiences full of giant squirrels, a haunted mansion, and friends.

Grade: C

Book: Queen of Cool

The main character, Libby, has everything going for her, but she gets bored and through an internship at the zoo and bonding with some new friends she finds her inner person she finds who she really is.

Grade: A

Book: Janes in Love

It was a great book about love, friendship, and passion. These girls bonded together to fight for their right to do art. Highly recommend.

Grade: A

Book: If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

An amazing book. After feeling like she’s lost her best friend and her family, Kristen goes in search of new friends in form of walk, the new black kid, and his group only to find out a secret that shakes her and Walt’s world.

Grade: A

Book: The Eighth Confession

This is not one of Patterson’s best books. It is interesting and creative, but I like his other series better. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Grade: B

Friday, July 24, 2009

Movie: Love in the Time of Cholera

Well plotted and different. Realistic setting. Enjoyed it even though lengthy. As historical romance it is one of the better films.

Grade: A

Movie: Over Her Dead Body

Corny. Not well acted or not well done. Could of used time more wisely- washing dishes.

Grade: D

Movie: Hotel for Dogs

One of the nicest kids movies in years. Perfect for all ages. Interesting and cute. Very funny.

Grade: A

Book: Design Intelligence 2009

… I don’t think any book of that size should be $40, but it was helpful. It is good to grab to look at for school. =)

Grade: B

Book: A Great & Terrible Beauty

I read it and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next in the series. =)

Grade: B

Book: Rebel Angels

It’s not my type of genre but I actually enjoyed it.

Grade: C

Event: Zanzibar (band)

Great entertainment- at the library (first Friday) lead singer played numerous instruments- great voice- band sounded terrific! Will definitely go on their website to catch them playing in our area.

Grade: A

Event: Billy Eliot on Broadway

Heartmoving story about a young boy who has a dream to become a ballet dancer. The setting is in the 1800s England where the family is actually involved with the coalminers strike. Times are hard and the community raises money for Billy Eliot to get an audition with the ballet company. The acting and musical numbers were superb. Recommend this musical highly as a must to see.

Grade: A

Book: The Bankcroft Strategy

Suspenseful book by Robert Ludlum- had many twists and turns before the ending. Characters: Todd/Andrea endured numerous obstacles before solving the “Genesis Mystery”, couldn’t put the book down.

Grade: A

Event: Children's Summer Reading Program

My kids loved it. Especially for every 5 books they get a prize then if 20 they get put in a drawing. My kids couldn’t wait to finish reading.

Grade: A

Book: Pull Yourself Out of the Mud

This good is a great easy to read and follow book. Had great ideas and was not boring. It also had great assignments to do.

Grade: A

Book: Eat My Globe

Enjoyable read for a foodie. Simon takes a year off from the real world and eats his way around the world from stir fried rat in China to a great hot dog at Hot Doug’s in Chicago.

Grade: A

Book: Cage of Stars

Intriguing from the first page. A look into a family’s ways with the murder of two children- from sister's and parents’ point of view.

Grade: A

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book: Finger Lickin' Fifteen

This isn’t her best book. I would recommend it, though, for Evanavich fans. This book has her usual dilemmas between Ranger and Mavell, cars getting blown up, and her getting into trouble.

Grade: B

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book: A Face at the Window, a Home Repair is Homicide Mystery

While this is a light-hearted "cozy" series, I rated it A because I am always looking for the next book. The series is set in Eastport, Maine, a delightful place to visit; I enjoy reading about and remembering it. Jake Tiptree, the main character, is a person who relocated from NYC, where she was an accountant for some not-entirely-savory characters. Quite often they seek her out to coerce her into helping them--in this case to change her victim-impact-statement regarding her own mother's murder. You can also learn some home-keeping tips.

Grade: A

Book: Murder on the Short List

I rated this an A because Lovesey has created some of my favorite characters: Rosemary and Thyme, Bertie, The Prince of Wales, and Sergeant Cribb. His stories have engaging twists, such as an old schoolchum confessing to inadvertently murdering the wrong man--when he really wanted to get rid of his classmate so his mother could see him as an "invisible" ballboy in Center Court at Wimbleton. The language is delightful; "The hip-swinging became a touch less energetic when Chelsea Barracks came up on his right. It wouldn't be wise to over-excite the army."

Grade: A

Book: Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swenson Mystery with Recipes

I give this book a C Plus because it's a light murder mystery series that also includes recipes. I enjoy the series but it's not in the same class as Alexander McCall Smith or Peter Lovesey. Hannah Swenson is a baker by profession and a sleuth by avocation. One of her boyfriends is a detective, Mike, and the other main man is a dentist, Norman. Mike shares some information about the corpse, Gus's, murder but really wants to get info from Hannah. Norman climbs over a fence and even flies to Atlantic City to check on the victim. Hannah, of course, gets herself in serious danger; does she get out?
I copied down some to the recipes.
Author: Joanne Fluke

Grade: C+

Book: Plato & a Platypus Walk into a Bar

PLATO AND A PLATYPUS WALK INTO A BAR: UNDERSTANDING PHILOSOPHY THROUGH JOKES by Tom Cathcart and Dan Klein gives a very sketchy outline of such topics as metaphysics, logic, ethics, and so on. Each aspect of the topic is illustrated with jokes so, for example, a paragraph on utilitarianism is followed by a joke illustrating (or refuting) it. My problems with the book are that the philosophy is fairly superficial, and the jokes fairly old. It is clearly intended as a book intended to make people feel they are reading something edifying, while not taxing them too much. There is a brief (humorous) glossary, but no index.

I did notice a couple of errors. A housewife is told that a certain household appliance that would cut her work in half. "Great, I'll take two!" she says. The authors point out that this is wrong; two would only cut it by three-quarters. Fine, but then they say three would cut it by five-sixths. Bzzzt! But thank you for playing.

Another joke has a museum guard telling someone that the dinosaur bones on display are three million four years and six months old. How does he know so exactly? Well, when he started he was told they were three million years old, and that was four-and-a-half years ago. Since the dinosaurs died out sixty-five million years ago, this is way off.

This is okay for a quick read, but don't mistake it for a useful text on philosophy.

Grade: B

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wesbite: Book Bundlz

BookBundlz.com is a website that was started in February 2009 to manage reading clubs both public and private. It also has a goal to start locally and grow internationally, emphasizing the importance of reading and the value of education. There are references to other websites as to how people can get involved by improving lives and communities through literacy.

The book club rules are presented with a lot of humor which makes this website fun for all.

Anyone can join as a “clubie” free of charge and receive his or her own member page and monthly newsletter.

BookBundlz is worth visiting and joining.

Grade: A

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book: The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham & Mary

This book is a collection of short articles/anecdotes about these two fascinating people that keeps you wanting to read more. It narrated remarkable historical information while providing original photography and illustrations from the time period. There was great deal of information about the Lincolns’ home life, especially regarding Mary, that I had never known before. It was like looking behind the scenes of a famous family and seeing their lives on a more personal level that was not readily apparent to the public before. The fact that it is written in short sections (most covering only a third of each page) prevents the long-winded explanations that is very prevalent in most history books. I would definitely recommend this book to adults and teens interested in Lincoln or even the time period of the Civil War.

Grade: A+

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book: Dead Reign

Didn’t Expect some things … Cool.

Grade: A

Book: Poison Sleep


Grade: A

Book: Blood Engines

Yes I would recommend it. It's a different, entertaining to boot.

Grade: B

Movie: Suburban Girl

Good acting. Plot ok. Ending appropriate.

Grade: B

Movie: Igor

Animated frankstein with a twist. ok for children boring for adults.

Grade: B

Book: The Perfect Poison

Another romance novel by Amanda Quick. This book is a sequel about the Arcane Society. A botanist comes under scronity when someone is poisoned with a plant that mysteriously disappeared. The setting is Victorian London and several characters from the Arcane Society and the great aunt reappear in this suspenseful mystery.

Grade: A

Event: Fleetwood Mac

Att: Don’t miss Fleetwood Mac reunited with Stevie Nicke/ L.Buckingham, Great acoustics and great show.

Grade: A

Book: First Comes Marriage

The first of 3 books about a family whose life changes with the Valentine’s Day Dance. From being gentled poor, they become members of the ton. Stephen the youngest son becomes a titled lord. However, the story is about a marriage of the lord’s sisters to his guardian. From a marriage of convenience, it becomes a real love story. Don’t miss the other two books about the family siblings. Author: Mary Balogh Setting: England.

Grade: A

Movie: Gran Torino

Definitely recommend this movie. Clint Eastwood, produced, acted in this movie about a Korean War Veteran who betrayed the family next door (Asian Family), who are threatened by gangs. It was suspenseful and got my attention.

Grade: A

Event: Broadway

This play is a revival of the original production Hair. Setting 1967. One of the main characters receives her draft notice during the Vietnam War. The muskal numbers (Age of Acquarus/Detec were wonderful. Actors actively engaged the audience would like to see it again.

Grade: A

Book: Salvation in Death

Another suspenseful mystery by J.D. Robb. This time the murder takes place at a Church. Detective Eve Dallas is on the case, but quickly determines that the priest wasn’t really a priest. Then a second murder takes place. The clues and hints about gang connectors and personal revenge. J.D. Robb is at her best!

Grade: A

Book: Middlemarch

MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot was published in 1872, yet well over a century later, there are some surprisingly relevant passages. For example, writing of Lydgate, the new physician in Middlemarch, Elliot says, "since professional practice chiefly consisted in giving a great many drugs, the public inferred that it might be better off with more drugs still if they could only be got cheaply..."

And there is still a lot of truth in Eliot's observations about marriage and people's expectations upon entering into it: that what you see of someone during brief periods during the day does not necessarily reflect the experience of living with them 24/7. Of course, nowadays people who find themselves in a marriage that is not coming up to expectations can usually get out fairly easily, but in George Eliot's time things were more difficult.

And the current economic crisis seems for many very much the same situation Lydgate finds himself in. In preparation for his impending marriage, he spends several hundred pounds on furnishings for his house, feels he must keep two horses, and says nothing when his wife insists on buying only the best quality food and throwing frequent parties. At the same time, the income from his practice has declined. He has seen lack of money in his patients, but never applied the concept to himself. Although "Lydgate believed himself to be careless about his dress, and
he despised a man who calculated the effects of his costume," yet "it seemed to him only a matter of course that he had abundance of fresh garments--such things were naturally ordered in sheaves." [page 588] He does not want to ask for money from his father-in-law, but his wife does anyway--only to be told by her father that he might soon need a loan himself. If this doesn't sound contemporary, you haven't been paying attention.

This is not to deny that some of the passages are written in a very convoluted 19th century style that is hard to understand. But the book as a whole is surprisingly modern and rewarding.

Grade: A