Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What We're Reading: Edward

Fever Dream

by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast is at the old family mansion in Louisiana for a required visit. While there he happens to open the cabinet that holds the guns from his last African safari. He notices that his wife's gun is dirty. While cleaning the gun, he realizes that the gun was filled with blanks. The blanks lead to her, Helen, death in the jaws of a red-maned lion. She was MURDERED! Within a day Pendergast has recruited NYPD Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta. They travel to Africa to pick up the twelve year old trail. Why was she killed? Helen was an epidemiologist with an interest in the paintings of John James Audubon. Was she looking for a famous lost painting? Was there a link between her vocation and her avocation? The two detectives fight their way through the swamps of Louisiana to find the answer.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What We're Watching: Jan

Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di Ferragosto). Directed by Gianni Di Gregorio. Starring Gianni Di Gregorio and Valeria De Franciscis.

This film is an Italian “slice of life” story that is humorous, charming, and uplifting. The main character is Gianni, a middle-aged man who lives with and takes care of his elderly, demanding mother in Rome. Gianni expects to stay home during the mid-August holiday, Pranzo di Ferragosto, when most Italians leave the city to avoid the heat. He is low on money and behind on his rent. The condo-manager Alfonso makes a deal with Gianni – he can write-off Gianni’s debt if Gianni will take care of Alfonso’s mother during the holiday. After agreeing to the plan, Alfonso arrives with his mother and an aunt, and the town doctor then presses Gianni to look after his mother too. The premise sounds at the least to be a crowded condo. However, it is more than that. It is a mixture of personalities, experiences, and pasta techniques among the feisty ladies. Gianni has his hands full but creates an atmosphere of caring and a memorable lunch that delights his mother and guests. The ladies are having fun as in their youth and are feeling alive again. The backdrop includes real Italian neighborhoods and Gianni as a man with flaws but a good heart too, who tries to not just accommodate his housemates but comfort them as well. In Italian with English subtitles.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What We're Listening To: Abby

The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard. Unabridged Audiobook read by Tavia Gilbert.

This is the story of Jody Linder who's father was killed and mother assumed killed when she was three years old. Her father, Hugh Jay was the oldest child of the wealthy Linder family in Rose, Kansas. Justice is swift in this murder case as
Billy Crosby an angry, wife-beating drunk is sent away for the crime. Billy's long suffering wife Valentina and young son, Collin remain in Rose though residents and classmates shun them. Jody is a couple years younger than Collin so they see each other over the years in school only managing to speak to one another once or twice. But after 23 years in jail and thanks to Collin who is now a lawyer, Billy's sentence is commuted and he is released from prison because of the flimsy evidence that he was convicted on. Collin knew his father was not guilty of this crime and could not in good conscience let this injustice stand no matter how unsavory a character his father was. When Billy returns to Rose more angry than ever innocents are murdered and the truth is revealed in a suprising turn of events.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What We're Reading: Rita

The Widower's Tale: A Novel by Julia Glass

The newest title from the National Book Award-winning novelist (for Three Junes). The widower of the title is Percy Darling, a 70-year-old retired Harvard librarian. When the curmudgeonly Percy uncharacteristically offers the use of his barn to the local alternative preschool, he finds his life changing dramatically. To say that Percy has been living a quiet life for the past 30 years is an understatement; he has been a virtual social recluse since the death of his wife, whose dance studio in the barn he has preserved as a kind of shrine. But as Percy opens his barn to the Elves & Fairies school, he finds himself opening up as well. He leaves the huge historic house he's been rattling around in for the past several years for his new routine of a daily run through town and, as he meets new people and renews old acquaintances, is surprised (and often outraged) at how much has changed.

The characters are an intriguing bunch, and there are a lot of them. The main players are Percy's two daughters, who are polar opposites; his grandson Robert and his friend Turo, both Harvard students; his new (after 30 years) love interest Sarah, whose son is an Elves & Fairies student; Ira, a new teacher at the school; and Celestino, an illegal immigrant who works for a local landscaping service. All of them are tied to Percy in some way, and the many plots they're involved in make this a complex, but ultimately satisfying read. Ms. Glass is an exceptional writer, and her descriptions of both the people and the settings in this New England-based novel are lovely.

What We're Reading: Edward

Trial by Fire

by J. A. Jance

If you have read any of Jance's other series ( J. P. Beaumont or Joanna Brady), you will want to try her Ali Reynolds series. Trial by Fire is the fifth in the series. Ali Reynolds grew up in the Red Rock/Sedona area of Arizona. Her career as a journalist took her to the glamorous life of a television anchor in Los Angeles. At the beginning of the series, she experiences the joint trauma of losing both her job and her husband to younger women. Ali is now back home. She finds herself involved in all sorts of criminal matters. In the latest installment murder and eco-terrorism are mixed. A woman is found severely burned at the scene of an arson fire. Was the fire set to kill the woman? Or was the fire set by eco-terrorists? Ali gets involved with the hospital's "Angel of Death". Will they both work together to protect the injured woman? Can Ali get to the bottom of both cases without getting herself getting killed? A must read to the mystery lover!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What We're Reading: Edward

Red, Green, or Murder?
by Steven F. Havill
If you have visited New Mexico, you have probably been asked the official state question: Red or Green? This of course refers to the type of chile sauce you want on your New Mexican food. Havill turns the state question into a mystery. Former Under-Sheriff Bill Gastner has retired and is now a state livestock inspector. Gastner witnesses a ranch accident and helps get the injured cowboy to the hospital. Later in the day another cowboy goes missing. The ranch's truck and trailer are traced to the border with Mexico. Thinking out of the box, Gastner rescues the injured missing cowboy. Saving two lives is all in a day's work for the former lawman. But Gastner misses lunch with an old friend. The old friend turns up dead at the lunch table. Was the death due to natural causes of something more sinister? Gastner sees that things just don't add up. Will he be able to solve this mystery?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What We're Reading: Cathy

The Butcher and the Vegetarian by Tara Austen Weaver

This wasn't the story I expected. The author, a life-long vegetarian, tries eating meat after doctor recommends it for her health. She enters the world of the butcher shop, of BBQ's, and the steak house. She finds that she actually likes meat - especially bacon, salami, and Syrian kebabs - although she feels guilty about it. She investigates some of the meat producers and even watches a cow getting slaughtered. Throughout the book she contemplates the ethics and environmental consequences of our food choices. Her personal choice at the end of the story will surprise you.

What We're Reading: Edward

Falconer's Trial

by Ian Morson

In this the seventh medieval Oxford mystery featuring Master William Falconer, Falconer is in jail. He was seen near the dead body of Lady Ann Segrim. Her servants believe that he had inappropriate designs on the Lady. They believe that Falconer poisoned her. Falconer is put on trial for murder by the university administration. While he is in jail it is up to his friends to investigate the murder and clear him. Thomas Symon, his favorite student, Saphira Le Veske, his paramour, and Peter Bullock, the town constable, each use their special skills to search for the real murderer. Was it the brother-in-law, whose advances Lady Ann spurned? Did it have something to do with the Templar Knight, who followed her husband home from the Crusade? Or was it related to a death at the local convent? Falconer's friends must work quickly before he is found GUILTY!