Monday, August 31, 2015

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

Six friends create a game their first year at a University in England.  The rules to the game are pretty simple; you lose a round and you have to do consequences, things the other friends suggest that would be very uncomfortable and embarrassing for you to perform.  If you back out of the game at certain times you get the large monetary investment you made to the game back, at other times the money is forfeit.  Towards the end of the game only two players remain in play, and one of the previous players is dead.  The game is on a fourteen year hiatus, and play is about to resume.

The writing style of this book is interesting.  The story is told alternatively in the past and present and the way it is told you don’t even know who is telling the story until a good way into the narrative!  It’s a compelling read about the power of friendship contrasted with the power of greed and pride.  Which of the three are most important to you?  Are you sure?  I will keep an eye out for the next book by this author.

Big Game (Action Film - Starring Samuel L. Jackson)

Big Game (Action Film - Starring Samuel L. Jackson)

The President of the United States (Samuel L. Jackson) is headed to Helsinki for a conference when Air Force One is shot down over a northern Finland.  He successfully escapes in his pod-like contraption and lands in a remote area of the vast wilderness.  Fortunately Oskari (Onni Tommila), a boy going on thirteen, is in the woods to hunt big game to prove to his father and their group that he has become a man.  The President and Oskari must test the limits of their strength and cunning to survive the wild and the men chasing them.  But seriously, wouldn’t bringing POTUS back alive be the biggest game ever ‘caught’ in Northern Finland?

I really enjoyed this movie.  There is the camaraderie, humor and action of any good buddy movie; and this pair is odder than most.  The young actor playing Oskari is wonderful (you may have seen him before in Rare Exports) and I hope this is the start of a long career for him.  If you are looking for an action movie with a lot of heart, and a lot of recognizable faces, add this to your list.

Cold Prey (Foreign Horror Film / Norwegian)

Cold Prey (Foreign Horror Film / Norwegian)

Five friends, all avid snowboarders, take some time off to enjoy some pristine slopes in the Norwegian Mountains.  Sure, it’s great not having to share the slopes with anyone else, but it’s not so great when one of your friends gets a compound fracture, a blizzard is coming up, and you’re miles from your car and the nearest town.  Thankfully one of them spots an abandoned ski lodge in the distance.  But why has the lodge been abandoned these forty years if the terrain is so wonderful?

The setup reminded me of Dead Snow, Cabin in the Woods and Evil Dead.  Friends go to a place in the middle of nowhere, get trapped and bad stuff happens.  It’s a jumper of a movie; I had trouble sitting in one place and did a lot of pacing.  It is kind of bloody, and a bit scary, so you have to be a horror fan to enjoy it.  But if you are a horror fan, maybe keep this one for a night when you are snowed in this winter.  You’ll jump even higher that way!

There is a sequel I haven't seen yet.  Going to save that one for winter -- though it was cooling watching a winter horror film during a heat wave!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Foreign Film / Swedish)

Allan is in a nursing home and isn’t happy about it.  All because he blew up a fox, a creature that really had it coming to him.  Rather than celebrate his 100th birthday at the home he (you guessed it!) climbs out the window and disappears.  Allan is off on an adventure.

Allan is a really amazing character.  Throughout his life his greatest joy was blowing things up.  His passion led him to have meetings with some colorful historical characters like Franco, Stalin and Truman.  All these scenes are relayed in flashbacks as Allan remembers his past while on a road trip with his new friends.  And there is a suitcase.  Filled with cash.  That belongs to some nasty gangsters.  A suitcase Allan happens to currently possess.  And there you have the plot of the movie.

Interested in something absurd?  And funny?  And poignant?  Then you may want to take a journey with Allan.

The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

Caroline Cashion leads an ordinary life.  She is a professor of French Literature at Georgetown University, she regularly talks to and eats dinner with her parents, and she is content entering middle age.  One thing is bothering her however: her wrist.  Gradually over the past year using her wrist had become more and more painful; she walks with it swathed in a brace and cradled to her chest.  Her doctor finally sends her for an MRI.  After the scan the technician asks how Caroline got it.  Caroline has no idea what she’s talking about.  The tech is incredulous, how can Caroline not know how she got a bullet in her neck?  Good question and one Caroline is determined to answer.

This book is truly a page turner.  At the core the book is about the tragedy in Caroline’s life that resulted in her having a bullet pressed against her spine.  It is also about her transformation.  An academic through and through she is forced out of her comfort zone in her pursuit of answers, doing things she wouldn’t imagine herself doing to find more and more information.  This book really makes you wonder how far you would be willing to go to find the truth and to exact justice.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin

Lizzie Pepper is looking for a new part: something that will help jumpstart her career.  Instead, she meets her future husband, gorgeous, unbelievably successful and older Rob Mars.  Rob sweeps her off her feet and their whirlwind romance soon sees Lizzie pregnant and married.  Lizzie is completely in love with Rob, and starts to enjoy the secretive meditative practice he is heavily involved in, One Cell, and the friends she makes there.  Over time she begins to worry about One Cell and their activities.  Can Lizzie find a way out for her and her boys with help from her family and friends?

It’s impossible to overlook the Katie Homes and Tom Cruise vibe here.  I didn’t really follow their whole relationship and break-up, but no one could miss the broad strokes, and this book follows their arc. 

Getting the behind the scenes looks with Lizzie, since the book is told from her point of view, is a guilty pleasure – the life of luxury she leads is so over the top – but so stifling as well.  Her privacy, her freedom, has been taken from her and her boys.  I was hoping she would end her relationship, not just to get away from the cultish One Cell organization, but so she could regain some normalcy for her life.

The author was the ghostwriter of many celebrity memoirs, including those about Tori Spelling and Miley Cyrus, so if anyone would be able to accurately craft the life of a paparazzi hounded star she would be the one to write it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain is a secluded peak in Northern Georgia the Burroughs clan has ruled over for generations.  Originally the family brought a sense of community to those living on the mountain, but over the decades things have changed.  Moonshine, marijuana and now meth are created in the hills under the watchful eye of Halford Burroughs.  But trouble is coming to the mountains in the form of Simon Holly of the ATF.  Holly consults with the local Sherrif, Clayton Burroughs, about his plans to bring his brother Halford’s operations down.  Is Clayton a man of the law?  Or is blood thicker than water?

The chapters vary in time periods and focus.  Numerous members of the Burroughs clan and a few others slowly reveal elements of the story surrounding the family and their business dealings.  It should feel like a slow reveal, but it’s not.  This is a quick paced tale set in a slow moving town.  It’s an interesting mix.  I would compare the author’s writing style with Ron Rash and other new southern authors.  It’s a spare style, making the book shorter than expected, which is filled with great language, well constructed plotting and twists you don’t see coming.

I can’t wait to read what this author writes next.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Drunken Fireworks by Stephen King

Drunken Fireworks by Stephen King

Alden and his mom are slowly drinking their lives away in small town Maine and that is just the way they like it.  They came into some money and during the summers they spend their time, most of it drunk, on the shores of Lake Abenaki.  Three years or so ago the Massimo’s moved in across the lake in that fancy house with all the bedrooms.  That Fourth of July the two families inadvertently start a fireworks competition.  Who has the bigger, badder, louder fireworks? Every Independence Day the two families see who can top who. Well, things truly blew up this past July 4th.

If you have ever been to Maine and liked the local’s accents then you must give this one a listen.  The reader does an amazing job.  Sounds like a local just sat down on their porch to tell a tale.  It did take me a few minutes to get the accent right in my head so I could understand the words, but once I did it was great.

If you want to read this story right now, you’ll have to listen to it.  This short story (only two discs, running for ninety minutes) is only available as an audiobook.  (It will appear in his short story collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams in November.)

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

Dr. Eric Parrish is the Chief of the Psychiatric Unit at a hospital on the outskirts of Philly.  At the start of the book everything is mostly great in his life.  He is separated from his wife and doesn’t see his daughter as much as he would like, but his work at the hospital and his private practice are running well.  Until they are not.  Really not.  He’s accused of sexual harassment and put on leave from work.  One of his private patients is missing and possibly suicidal.  Oh, and the police think he was involved in a murder.  What is going on?

This book worked really well because you liked Eric a lot.  You didn’t want these horrible things to happen to him.  He is a great psychiatrist and sticking to his ethics keeps getting him in trouble, but he never breaks privilege, even when it could help his case. 

You know there is a sociopath on the loose from page one, someone is manipulating things against Eric, you know someone must, but who?  This book really keeps you guessing.

A good choice on audio; I think the voice of the reader when telling Eric’s parts made me like him even more.  He sounded compassionate, in voice not just in words.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny by Holly Madison

Reviewed by Laura the Librarian

Holly Madison hopes to extend her 15 minutes of fame in this dishy memoir about all things Playboy. Madison tries to portray herself as a bit naïve and above all the drama when she starts spending time at "the Mansion." She exposes the conflicts and complications that arise as she becomes Hugh Hefner's No.1 girlfriend. Madison certainly captures the resurgence of the Playboy brand and Hugh Hefner's popularity with a new generation.

She also provides a behind-the-scene glimpse at reality TV and the making of reality TV stars when she discusses, "The Girls Next Door," the hit series she filmed with Hef's fellow girlfriends Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson. Madison's big revelations revolve around the prickly Hefner and an overly ambitious Wilkinson. While it was hard to not roll your eyes with Madison's tendency to portray herself as just a small-town girl caught up in the Hollywood scene, the book works as a quick and gossipy read -- ideal for a lazy day. 

The Scribe by Matthew Guinn

The Scribe by Matthew Guinn
Reviewed by Keith McCoy, Somerset County Library System
Originally Submitted to Library Journal

Race, money, power, and scandal: this brew is steaming in Atlanta of 1881.  A disgraced detective is brought back to investigate the ritualized murders of two Negro businessmen.  Both were prosperous enough to have invested in the upcoming Exposition, which is intended to showcase the city as the forerunner of the New South.  Both had letters carved into their foreheads, as did the ambitious prostitute who is murdered the night Thomas Canby returns.  The business community wants this solved pronto, but is this a fight within the black community, or something more sinister?  Why was the Jewish upstart from Brooklyn framed to take the fall?  Canby is teamed with Atlanta’s first African-American patrolman, who also becomes a suspect in the process.  The action moves back and forth between the burgeoning city and the villages on the outskirts, ending in a thrilling railroad chase scene, and an assassination attempt on a prominent American.  

Verdict:  Both exciting and gruesome, The Scribe will appeal to readers who like crime mixed with history, but some may find the ending frantic and inconclusive.

This book will be published in September.

Holy Cow: A Modern-Day Dairy Tale by David Duchovny

Elsie the cow is in crisis.  She looked into the farmer’s window while the humans were mesmerized by the box god and learned the fate of her mother and what will eventually be her fate as well.  She also finds out from the flickering box god called Discovery that there is a land where cows are worshipped, not eaten, and she begins to plan her escape to India.  Other barnyard animals get wind of her plan and ask to go the lands of their dreams as well.  Jerry, a.k.a. Shalom, wants to go to Israel since the Jews there won’t eat him and Tom, a turkey, wants to go to…Turkey.  He figures things will be amazing for him there.  How do three animals leave America for lands abroad?  That’s where things get interesting.

In a word, this book is silly.  The main character is cow who wrote a book about her adventures so I shouldn’t have expected anything else.  Duchovny reads his novel, which lends a lot of humor to the audiobook.  I don’t think I could have finished the book if I was actually reading it instead of listening.  If you have a short road trip coming up and need a giggle, this could be a good choice.