Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buddha Boy

I liked this book written by Kathe Koja. With his shaved head and begging bowl the new kid is an automatic target for the bully boys of Edward Rucher High – an easy mark for their casual cruelty. Watching this, Justin would gladly stay as far from the newcomer as possible – until their economics teacher pairs them for a project and he finds himself becoming fascinated by the kid the others mock as “Buddha Boy.”


I did not like this book based on true events and written by Sterling North. In 1918 Wisconsin, 11-year-old Sterling has an almost perfect life. He keeps skunks in the backyard, goes everywhere with his enormous Saint Bernard, and is building a canoe in the living room. The only trouble is life gets a little lonely for him and his father since his mother died. While scouting around the woods one afternoon, he discovers an abandoned, month-old raccoon. Afraid the kit will die on its own, he takes it home to join his menagerie. Soon Sterling and the mischievous raccoon Rascal are sharing one adventure after another.

A Disney film version was released in 1969. There was also a 52-episode anime series called Rascal the Raccoon, which led to raccoons being imported into Japan as pets. Sterling's childhood home in Edgerton, Wisconsin has been preserved as a museum and his daughter, Arielle North Olson, is the honorary director. The author died in 1974 at age 68. His older sister, Jessica Nelson North, was also a writer; she didn't like his portrayal of their family in the story.

Donnie Darko (2001)

This is a solid movie. During the election season in 1988, a jet engine crashes into the room of a teenage boy. Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) happened to be sleep walking at the time which saved his life. To cope with depression, he takes prescription pills but starts hallucinating while on them. In his visions he sees and hears a man (James Duval) wearing an eerie mask of a dark rabbit. The apparition tells Donnie that the world will end in one month, and convinces him to commit a few acts of vandalism.

The film was shot in 28 days. "Mad World" is a song from British band Tears for Fears and it was remade by composers Michael Andrews and Gary Jules for the film. The movie was released about 6 weeks after the September 11th attacks. The movie had a poor performance at the box office, not quite breaking even financially, but about a year later it started to gain a cult following and became more popular. A sequel was released in 2009 called S. Darko, which is about Donnie's younger sister Sam.

Term Limits

This is an okay book written by Vince Flynn. When three prominent politicians are callously murdered, a joint FBI-CIA task force is assembled to neutralize the assassins. However, when the culprits claim they will keep killing politicians until they abandon partisan politics, Michael O’Rourke, a freshman congressman with haunting memories from his time as a marine, becomes a one-man force in opposition of the demands.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The 9th Judgment

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. A woman and her infant child are ruthlessly gunned down while returning to their car in the garage of a shopping mall. There are no witnesses, and Detective Lindsay Boxer is left with only one shred of evidence: a cryptic message scrawled across the windshield in blood red lipstick. The same night, the wife of an A-list actor is woken by a cat burglar who is about to steal millions of dollars’ worth of precious jewels. In just seconds there is a nearly empty safe, a lifeless body, and another mystery that throws San Francisco into hysteria.

You’ve Been Warned

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Howard Roughan. Kristin Burns has lived her life by the philosophy "Don't think, just shoot" - pictures, that is. Struggling to make ends meet, she works full-time as the nanny for the fabulously wealthy Turnbull family, looking after their two wonderful children and waiting for her glamorous life as a New York photographer to begin. When her photographs are considered by an elite Manhattan art gallery, it seems she might finally get the chance that will start her career. But Kristin has a major distraction: forbidden love, with Mr. Turnbull. Now, she is having visions of a terrible crime that is about to happen and she must overcome her fear and unravel the mystery before it is too late.

Beach Road

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Peter De Jonge. Tom Dunleavy has a one-man law firm in the richest resort town in America – legendary East Hampton, summer home to billionaires and mega celebrities. But his job barely keeps him in paper clips. His clients come from the year-rounders he grew up with, the people who make a living serving the rich. Then an old friend of Tom’s, a local star athlete, is arrested for triple murder on the beach near a movie star’s mansion. Dante asks Tom to represent him in what could be the new Trial of the Century.

The Beach House

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Peter De Jonge. When New York City law student Jack Mullen hears the shocking news that his brother Peter has drowned in the ocean off East Hampton, he knows it couldn’t have been an accident. But as Jack tries to unravel the truth, he confronts a barricade of lawyers, police, and paid protectors who separate the multi-billionaire summer residents from local workers like Peter. And he learns that his brother wasn’t just parking cars at the summer parties of the rich. He was making serious money satisfying the sexual needs of the richest women and men in town.

The Midnight Club

I did not like this book written by James Patterson. John Stefanovitch is one tough New York cop. Nobody knows the city like he does. Stef is out to nab Alexandre St. Germain, the most treacherous and powerful member of the Midnight Club – a secret international society whose membership is limited to an elite group of ruthless crime czars, all of whom are respectable businessmen. And Stef’s the ideal man for the job – until he’s leveled by a blast from St. Germain’s shotgun and left for dead. Now, Stef is back, wheelchair bound, yet sworn to destroy the vicious St. Germain. With the help of a beautiful journalist and a Harlem cop, Stef is determined to crack the Midnight Club.

Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident

This is an okay book written by Eoin Colfer. Artemis is at a boarding school in Ireland when he receives an urgent video e-mail from Russia. In it is a plea from a man who has been kidnapped by the Russian Mafiya – a man Artemis thought he would never see again – his beloved father. As Artemis rushes to his rescue, he is stopped by a familiar nemesis, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon fairy police. But this time, instead of battling the fairies, he is going to have to join forces with them if he wants to save one of the few people in the world he loves. This is the second book in the series.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Legends of the Fall (1994)

This is an okay movie. Samuel returns from Harvard with his fiancée Susannah to introduce her to his family on their ranch in Montana. He decides to follow in his father’s (Anthony Hopkins) footsteps and joins the military, along with both of his brothers, during World War I to defeat the Germans. Susannah stays behind at the ranch. Samuel is killed in battle, and Tristan (Brad Pitt) comes back home. Due to feeling guilty for being unable to stop his brother’s death, he flees to lead a nomadic life. During his absense Susannah marries their other brother Alfred (Aidan Quinn).

The story is based on a novella written by Jim Harrison in 1979. The film won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. The movie was shot in western Canada. There was a real officer named William Ludlow (1843 - 1901). He was a major general and served in the Civil War, Plains Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War. He also led a scientific expedition into Yellowstone National Park. He wrote a book called Report of a Reconnaissance of the Black Hills of Dakota, which is shown in the film.


This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Howard Roughan. How does it feel to be desired by every man and envied by every woman? Wonderful. This is the life Nora Sinclair has dreamed about, the life she’s worked hard for, the life she will never give up. When FBI agent John O’Hara first sees her, she seems perfect. She has the looks. The career. The clothes. The wit. The sophistication. But, mysterious things keep happening to people around her, especially the men. And there is something dangerous about Nora when Agent O’Hara looks more closely.

Despicable Me (2010)

This is an impressive movie. Gru (Steve Carell) was the world’s greatest villain until learning of a nemesis that is stealing world monuments like the Great Pyramid in Egypt. Gru’s new plan is to use a shrink ray and steal the moon! Vector (Jason Segel) manages to steal the device and Gru is constantly foiled in his attempts to get it back. When three orphan girls are able to enter Vector’s fortress by selling Girl Scout cookies, Gru decides if he adopts them, he might have the perfect disguise to get revenge.

This is the first film I’ve seen in 3-D and it was an interesting experience. This is Universal Studios’ first computer animated film. The score was composed by Hans Zimmer. IHOP is promoting the film with three new menu items, a kids' breakfast meal, and a drink all having the word "minion" in their name. Best Buy released an application that translates what the Minions are saying during the end credits. Upon release this became the third highest grossing animated film of the year so far.

Cradle and All

This is an okay book written by James Patterson. In Boston, a young woman finds herself pregnant – even though she believes she is still a virgin. In Ireland, another young woman discovers she is in a similar impossible condition. And in cities all around the world, civic authorities are overwhelmed by epidemics, droughts, famines, floods, and worse. It all feels like a sign that something awful is coming. Anne Fitzgerald, a former nun turned private investigator, is hired by the Archdiocese of Boson to investigate the immaculate conceptions. Even as she comes to care about and trust the young women, she realizes that both are in great danger. This book has similar scenes and characters to Patterson's 1980 novel Virgin.

Esperanza Rising

This is an okay book written by Pam Muñoz Ryan and based on true events. Esperanza Ortega possesses all the treasures a young girl could want: fancy dresses; a beautiful home filled with servants in the bountiful region of Aguascalientes, Mexico; and the promise of one day rising to Mama’s position and presiding over all of El Rancho de las Rosas. But a sudden tragedy shatters that dream, forcing Esperanza and Mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp. There they confront the challenges of hard work, acceptance by their own people, and economic difficulties brought on by the Great Depression.

During the 1920s nearly half a million illegal Mexicans came to the U.S. Mexicans accounted for 56% of California's agricultural labor force. In the 1930s, California's population was 88% white. Today, whites only make up a plurality of the population at 42% compared to 36% for Hispanics. Esperanza means ‘hope’ in Spanish.

Hide & Seek

This is an okay book written by James Patterson. How could she do it? That’s what fans of Maggie Bradford, legendary vocalist, ask themselves. How could she murder her husband, a popular figure in his own right and father of her two children? Maggie claims it was in self-defense, but will the jury believe her?

Step on a Crack

I loved this book co-written by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. A former First Lady dies, and the rich and powerful from around the globe gather for her funeral in New York City. It is an assembly of epic proportions, but none of them suspect that they too may soon number among the dead. In a shocking turn of events, a ruthless madman hijacks the church memorial service and threatens to unleash a bloodbath. With few options and little time, Detective Michael Bennett is the only hope for ending this desperate standoff. This is the first novel in the series.