Monday, March 29, 2010

Mind Prey

I liked this book written by John Sandford. One of therapist Andi Manette’s former patients has kidnapped her and both of her young daughters. Deeply damaged psychologically, he acts out his violent sexual fantasies on Andi, but his interest in her fades as she loses touch with reality. His next target might be her 12-year-old daughter. When the kidnapper phones with taunts and hints, Deputy Chief Lucas Daveport begins to feel like a character in one of his own computer games. This is the 7th novel in the series.

Silent Prey

This is an okay book written by John Sandford. Bekker, an insane pathologist who experiments with his patients’ pain thresholds, is finally brought down by the unrelenting Daveport, who brutally maims the doctor’s face but keeps him alive. Minutes before the jury’s verdict, Bekker asks to use the bathroom and then kills his prison guard and escapes into New York City. Hiding himself in an elderly woman’s home, he continues to conduct his deadly and gruesome experiments, while Davenport tries to track him down. This is the 4th novel in the series.

La Dolce Vita (1960)

This is an imperfect-but-creditable Italian movie. Marcello is a journalist who has built his reputation by reporting on celebrity scandals. While visiting members of the high society in Rome, he discovers that their debauched lifestyles are starting to hurt him. He has a fiancée, but is unfaithful to her due to the temptation of famous and attractive women. He confesses to his friend that he is not getting fulfillment with a materialistic life and sometimes contemplates spiritual matters.

The title means “the sweet life” or “the good life.” The Catholic Church described it as a parody of Christ's second coming and the film was banned in Spain until 1975. Steiner’s suicide was influenced by the death of Italian novelist Cesare Pavese. Some of the extras were real aristocrats. The movie won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design in a Black-and-White film. The term paparazzi, for an independent photographer who tries to get candid photos of celebrities, derives from the name of the character Paparazzo.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

I did not like this book written by Laura Schlitz. A medieval village includes more than just lords and ladies. In this particular 13th century village, there are also Nelly the Sniggler, Edgar the Falconer’s son, and Mogg – daughter of the town villein, a common type of serf that had some rights but was not quite a freeman. The story is told in 22 monologues, interspersed with historical commentary from a narrator. The book won the 2008 Newbery Medal.

The Last Holiday Concert

This is an okay book written by Andrew Clements. Hart Evans is a popular sixth grade student who is also liked by adults. One day in choir he shoots two rubber bands at his teacher Mr. Meinert, hitting him in the neck. The teacher becomes so upset that he grabs Hart’s arm and marches him to the principal’s office. His punishment seems light with one hour spent in detention for two days after school. The choir instructor decides that to take back control of his classroom he is going to announce a concert and make the students design the program.

Cross Country

This is an okay book written by James Patterson. A strongly organized gang of vicious African teenagers, headed by a diabolical warlord known as the Tiger, have unleashed murders and explosions onto Washington D.C. Alex Cross decides to visit Nigeria to find out more about the motivations of the gang. As he travels through Africa he faces corrupt police officers and witnesses attacks on poor villages.

This is the 14th novel in the series. Patterson did well at describing the poverty and violence rampant throughout central Africa.

The Lovely Bones (2009)

This is a noteworthy movie. In 1973, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is tricked into an underground playhouse, murdered by her reclusive neighbor (Stanley Tucci), and becomes trapped in spiritual limbo. The beautiful afterlife is a lively and colorful place altered by your imagination. She attempts to connect with her family back on earth. Her father (Mark Wahlberg) is desperately trying to solve the case, but is hindered by the local police force and a lack of evidence.

The film was directed by Peter Jackson. The plot is based on the 2002 novel by Alice Sebold. She was raped during her first year of college, but later went back and graduated. The film was shot in Pennsylvania and New Zealand. The DVD will be released on April 20.

Alex Cross’s Trial

I liked this book written by James Patterson and Richard Dilallo. In 1906, Washington, D.C. lawyer Ben Corbett is given an assignment by President Theodore Roosevelt to return to Ben’s hometown of Eudora, Mississippi, to investigate rumors of the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. Upon arrival, he meets the wise and elderly Abraham Cross and his beautiful daughter, Moody. Ben enlists their help and is introduced to the hidden side of their idyllic town. Ben aims to break the reign of terror, but the truth of who is really behind it could break his heart. Abraham is Alex Cross’s great-uncle.

Sudden Prey

This is an okay book written by John Sandford. When his bank-robbing wife is gunned down during a shoot-out with the cops, Dick LaChaise swears revenge on each officer involved in her death. Now Deputy Police Chief Lucas Davenport feels powerless as LaChaise mounts a campaign of terror. The husband of one officer is brutally murdered. The wife of another is executed at work. At the tension mounts, Davenport knows he must stop the madman before he targets the Chief’s own family. This is the 8th novel in the series.

The Real Benjamin Franklin

This is an okay book written by Andrew M. Allison. Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston in 1706. At age 12 he was apprenticed to his brother James, a printer. After a disagreement with his brother he ran away in 1723 and took up lodging with John Read, where he met his future wife Deborah. In 1733, Franklin began to publish Poor Richard's Almanack. He was fascinated by science and made several discoveries and inventions. He started a volunteer firefighting company and also the Postal Service. He spent most of his life in politics and visited both England and France to represent the interests of the colonies.

The first half of the book gives an overview of Franklin's life and beliefs using summaries and quotes. The second half of the book includes Franklin's views on a variety of topics. I admire his focus on moderation, compromise, and diplomacy. I also like that he gave a lot to charity. He also refused to get patents on his inventions, because he wanted them solely for the public good. There is uncertainty about whether William Franklin was the son of Deborah Read or some other unknown woman.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

This is an imperfect-but-creditable movie. In 1920s New Orleans lives a poor black family with a little girl named Tiana. Her father (Terrence Howard) likes to cook and hopes to open his own restaurant and her mother (Oprah Winfrey) is a seamstress. Several years later, Prince Naveen visits the city hoping to find a rich wife. The evil Dr. Facilier turns him into a frog that can speak. He finds Tiana and asks for a kiss, turning her also into a frog. Now they must seek out Mama Odie, a voodoo priestess who can return them to human form.

Jasmine was a dark-skinned Arab, but Tiana is Disney's first black American princess. The story is based on the 2002 novel "The Frog Princess", written by E.D. Baker and was also influenced by "The Frog Prince" fairytale from the Brother's Grimm. This is the 49th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics category and used traditional animation. The evil magician has similarities to Captain Hook and Cruella De Vil. This had the best opening weekend in December for an animated film.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hard Boiled (1992)

This is a solid Chinese movie. Tequila (Chow Yun-Fat) is a cop determined to seek revenge against the gun smugglers who killed his partner in a tea house. He joins Alan, an undercover cop who has been trying to infiltrate the triad. Alan reluctantly shot a triad boss after a rival group invaded their arsenal. The rival gang keeps their own arsenal underneath a hospital and when the police learn of it, the criminals threaten to blow up the hospital and kill all of the patients.

There is a lot of gunfire in this film. Crane mythology is found in China, Korea, and Japan. Origami is Japanese for 'folding paper' and the art started in the 17th century. The director has a small role as a bartender in the Jazz bar.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Mary, Mary

This is an okay book written by James Patterson. FBI agent Alex Cross is on vacation with his family in Disneyland when he gets a call from the director. A top actress has been shot outside her home in Beverly Hills. Shortly afterward, an editor for the Los Angeles Times receives an e-mail recounting the murder in shocking detail, signed by Mary Smith. The authorities fear this is only the beginning. At an immediate glance it appears that the killer is a woman, but some details suggest he is a man.

This is the 11th book in the series. Alex Cross is upset to discover that a private investigator took a photo of his family being evacuated; yet, in an earlier book, The Big Bad Wolf, he sees the photographer.

The Secret Garden

This is an okay book written by Frances Burnett. Mary Lennox is orphaned in India and sent to live with her reclusive uncle in his house on the Yorkshire moors. There she meets her cousin Colin, a bedridden and demanding youth who has been shunned by his father. During her exploration of the manor grounds, Mary discovers a walled-in garden that has been locked and neglected for ten years. The young cousins soon become companions and their health improves.

The book was first published in 1911 and is now in the public domain. During Burnett's lifetime her other books were better known. A 1993 film version was made starring Maggie Smith.

The Big Bad Wolf

This is an okay book written by James Patterson. A team of kidnappers has been snatching successful men and women, in public, and then possibly selling them into prostitution. FBI agent Alex Cross, with his unique understanding of criminals and his unmatched knowledge of the D.C. streets, is the only person who stands a chance of solving this case, but only if he can convince his colleagues to try a new approach. This was the 57th best selling book of 2004 in the United States.


This is an okay book written by Robert Newton Peck. In the small town of Learning, Vermont, during the 1920s before television was invented, young pals Rob and Soup experience several adventures. They roll down hills in barrels, tie a woman to a tree, fling apples across an orchard and in other ways are constantly doing mischief. The main characters reminded me of Tom Sawyer. There are fourteen novels in the series.

Monday, March 08, 2010


This is an okay book written by Jerry Spinelli. Palmer LaRue is a 9-year-old boy living in a small community where they hold a pigeon shoot each year at the family fest. As a rite of passage, 10-year-old boys are encouraged to kill a pigeon by wringing its neck. Palmer is terrified about his upcoming birthday because he does not want to participate. When he is accepted by a gang of boys, he knows that he cannot be perceived as a wimp. And to complicate matters even more, he secretly keeps a pigeon as a pet.

New Moon (2009)

This is an okay movie. Soon after Isabella Swan's (Kristen Stewart) 18th birthday, the Cullen family disappears from Forks, Washington, expecting that it will keep her out of danger. Edward's (Robert Pattinson) departure causes Bella to enter a severe depression, with nightmares and loneliness. Eventually she reconnects with her childhood friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), which gives her a respite from her emotional meltdowns. Jacob has a secret of his own and helps to protect her from an earlier nemesis.

This is the sequel to Twilight and the second story in the series. Some of the filming occurred in Montepulciano, Italy. The film's release set a few box office records: biggest midnight screening, biggest single day domestic gross, and third highest domestic opening weekend (behind The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 3). The Quileute are a Native American tribe living in Washington, with only about 750 members remaining. According to their folklore, they are descended from wolves.