Friday, November 26, 2010


I did not like this book written by Tony Abbott. Tom is attracted to a girl at his school named Courtney. He fantasizes on different ways he can impress her. Jessica is the new girl who is attending their Catholic school, while receiving treatment at an area hospital for severe burns to her face, hands, and other parts of her body. The other students aren’t sure how to react to her, including Tom. Since he lives close to her, their teacher asks him to deliver some assignments to her that she missed. He is reluctant to do so, but this act of kindness leads to a new understanding and friendship. When I was in elementary, I had a crush on a girl named Courtney.


This is an okay book written by Obert Skye. After his ill mother passes away, fifteen-year-old Beck Phillips is sent off to live with his wealthy and reclusive uncle. The man lives in a secluded village at a high elevation where it is often cloudy. On the train ride, Beck meets a quiet girl named Kate who is traveling to the same town. Beck meets a boy named Milo who helps him to explore the forbidden areas of his uncle's land. They discover that his family has a long history of raising dragons. This is the first book in the trilogy.

Bullets over Broadway (1994)

This is an okay movie. An aspiring playwright (John Cusack) garners a deal on his recent play, but in exchange he has to hire a mob boss’s girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly), an inexperienced and uneducated actress who doesn’t like to practice and complains about her lines. Her bodyguard comes to the auditions and makes suggestions on the story. At first the writer is upset, but then he decides to implement some of the ideas. A famous actress (Dianne Wiest) is also performing in the play and he starts to have an affair with her, leading to public gossip which upsets his current girlfriend.

Dianne Wiest won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The film's revenue was less than the budget.

The Trumpeter of Krakow

This is an okay book written by Eric Kelly and based on true events. It is late July in 1461 when young Joseph Charnetski and his family arrive in the great city of Krakow, Poland, with its glorious church towers and lively marketplace. The Charnetskis have come to Krakow to seek refuge with their relatives. They are faced with danger and adventure. First, a menacing stranger tries to take their pumpkin at sword point. Then a beautiful girl and her black-robed uncle befriend Joseph. Soon he and his family are caught up in the plots of alchemists, hypnotists, and a dark messenger of evil.

The book was published in 1928 and won the Newbery Medal in 1929. I found it interesting how the author mentioned some awful things that had happened in Poland's history and the novel was written a decade before the invasion by the Nazis.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bad Blood

This is an okay book written by John Sandford. After a young man commits murder and reports it as an accident, he quickly dissolves into tears when the cops question him. The man is jailed, only to be found hanging lifeless the next morning. Realizing her staff may be implicated in the death, the sheriff calls in private investigator Virgil Flowers. As he methodically uncovers clues from all over town, he reveals a sordid web of secrets connecting numerous families to an ever-growing list of murders and horrible sexual crimes. This is the fourth book in the Virgil Flowers Series.

The Candy Shop War

This is an okay book written by Brandon Mull. Four young friends – Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon – meet the grandmotherly Mrs. White, owner of the Sweet Tooth, and soon learn about the magical side effects of her candies. Then Mr. Stott arrives with a few enchanted sweets of his own. Danger unfolds as the four youngsters discover that the magical strangers have all come to town in search of a legendary, hidden treasure – one that could be used for great evil if it fell into the wrong hands. The kids must try to retrieve the treasure first.

A film is being planned based on the story. Mull is expected to release a sequel to the book called The Arcadeland Catastrophe.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

This is a solid movie. Young William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is trying to establish his reputation after a few unsuccessful plays. He works for The Rose theater which is in financial distress and desperate for a popular performance. The beautiful Lady Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) is passionate about acting and disguises herself as a boy to audition. Her secret could cause the theater to be shut down. Shakespeare learns of her true identity and falls in love, giving him inspiration for his later plays.

The film was co-written by playwright Tom Stoppard who is the author of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which expands upon the adventures of two minor characters in Hamlet. The film is largely fictional, but some of the characters are based on real people. The movie won seven Academy Awards. Shakespeare was born in 1564 and married Anne Hathaway in 1582. Her exact birth date is unknown, but she was about 8 years older than him. They had three children together. She gave birth to their first daughter only six months after getting married.


I did not like this book written by Walter Dean Myers. Steve Harmon is 16 years old. He’s a good student, who’s shown promise in his film-making class. He has a stable and loving family. And he’s on trial for murder. Accused of acting as the lookout for a drug store robbery in which the owner was killed, Steve finds his world turned upside down. He’s being held as an adult in a New York detention center. In an attempt to cope with the brutality and degradation of jail and the helplessness he feels at the trial, Steve writes down his experiences and feelings as though it were the script for a movie.

Usually minors involved in robbery are only held until they turn 18, but if a murder is involved they might be charged as adults. The author drew some experiences from his own life for the novel. He was raped by his father when he was 10 years old. After his mother died he moved in with his father's ex-wife and her new husband. He had a speech impediment and was often teased in school, leading to fights. He was caught selling drugs in school. He joined the Army at age 17 and while working at a construction job decided to develop his talent as a writer.

Friday, November 19, 2010


This is an okay book written by Gordon Korman. Middle school is scary enough if you’re a normal kid. What if your name is Capricorn, you’ve never tasted pizza, and you’ve never seen a television show in your entire life? Well, then middle school might be downright terrifying. Cap Anderson has spent his entire life with his hippie grandmother on her farm commune, growing fruits and vegetables. After an accident puts Grandma in the hospital, Cap is forced to attend Claverage Middle School and live with his guidance counselor. The tradition at Claverage is for students to nominate the biggest nerd for class president, and Cap is the obvious choice.

The book claims that an ideal of the 1960s was charity. However, there were bad things about that decade including violent protests, demonization of the American military, rejection of the traditional family, and racial and gender quotas through affirmative action. In politics it included the start of Medicare, Medicaid, and federal funding of education.

The Devil’s Arithmetic

This is an okay book written by Jane Yolen. When thirteen-year-old Hannah reluctantly celebrates the Passover Seder with her family, she wonders why she, a modern American teenager, must take part in such a meaningless ritual. At the end of the ceremony, feeling like a fraud, she opens the door for Elijah. But as the knob turns, she is transported back to 1942 Poland and a concentration camp is waiting to swallow the baffled young woman.

If there was a way to witness what Jews went through during the Holocaust, I think it would be beneficial to a lot of people to see what true evil looks like. It would also be interesting to go back in time and try to remember everything you had been taught about that era. The novel won the National Jewish Book Award in the category for children's literature in 1989. It was made into TV movie starring Kirsten Dunst and Brittany Murphy in 1999.

Before Sunrise (1995)

This is an okay movie. An American (Ethan Hawke) is traveling through Europe and meets a pretty French woman (Julie Delpy) on a train. After an introductory conversation, he convinces her to explore Vienna, Austria with him for a day. They visit a music store, a church, a couple of bars, and other attractions while walking through the city. They start to fall for each other, but are unsure about what the future will bring. Deciding not to correspond by mail, they promise to meet again at the same train station in six months.

The actors did well at showing the awkwardness of a first date and also the excitement of feeling a connection to the other person. Hawke and Delpy reprised their roles for a scene in the 2001 animated film Waking Life. There is a 2004 sequel called Before Sunset. In 1989 director Richard Linklater met a woman at a toy shop in Philadelphia and they walked around the town for several hours.

The Penderwicks

This is an okay book written by Jeanne Birdsall. Meet the Penderwicks, four different sisters with one special bond. There’s responsible, practical Rosalind; stubborn, feisty Skye; dreamy, artistic Jane; and shy little sister Batty, who won’t go anywhere without her butterfly wings. When the girls and their doting father head off for their summer holiday, they are in for a surprise. Instead of the cozy, tumbledown cottage they expected, they find themselves on a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon the girls are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens. But the most wonderful discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The novel has been compared to Little Women and The Story of the Treasure Seekers. A sequel, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, was released in April 2008.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Christmas Carol

This is an okay book written by Charles Dickens. It’s Christmas Eve and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is in a foul temper – good cheer and joyful spending turn his very insides to vinegar. But before Scrooge sees the dawn break on yet another miserable Christmas morning, he will have come face-to-face with a parade of startling apparitions, and most disconcerting of all – himself.

It was first published on December 19, 1843. The story is credited with reviving the Christmas spirit in Britain. The book has never gone out of print. Christmas Trees were introduced into England in 1841, followed by the Christmas card in 1843. Some critics think the novel's philosophy is conservative, individualistic, and patriarchal. There are at least 21 film adaptations of the story.

The Report Card

This is an okay book written by Andrew Clements. Nora always gets average grades so she can forgo the pressure-cooker gifted program. But when Nora gets fed up over testing and the fuss everyone makes about grades, she brings home a terrible report card just to prove a point. Pretty soon her teachers, parents, and the principal are launching a massive effort to find out what’s wrong. But Nora tries to convince them that tests alone aren’t a good measure of intelligence.

There are some bad things associated with grades, such as being stressed out, or focusing too much on the scores rather than the content. However, a popular alternative has been to say that all kids are the same and they should only be judged based on participation and subjective matters like self esteem. This is a dangerous precedent to set for later life, and teaches kids that knowledge, intelligence, and performance aren’t very important.

Lunch Money

I did not like this book written by Andrew Clements. Greg started looking around the cafeteria, and everywhere he looked, he saw quarters. He saw kids trading quarters for ice cream sandwiches and cupcakes and cookies at the dessert table. He saw kids over at the school store trading quarters for neon pens and sparkly pencils, and for the little decorations like rubber soccer balls and plastic butterflies to stick onto the end of those new pencils. There were quarters all over the place, buckets of them. At that moment Greg’s view of school changed completely and forever. School had suddenly become the most interesting place on the planet. Because young Greg had decided that school would be an excellent place to make his fortune.

There were a few parts in this that I could relate to. I started my first savings account when I was 8-years-old after being baptized. I would constantly calculate how much interest I was earning. Throughout my childhood I kept saving and it was helpful during my first year of college. I also enjoy collecting coins.


I did not like this book written by Carl Hiaasen. Noah's dad has a little problem with anger control. He tried to stop the Coral Queen casino boat's illegal dumping . . . by sinking the boat. But his bold protest fizzles: within days the casino is back in business, and Noah's dad is behind bars and out of action. Now Noah is determined to succeed where his father failed. But even though pumping raw sewage into the waters of the Florida Keys is both gross and against the law, turns out it’s near impossible to catch the flusher – especially when he’s already bamboozled the prosecutors and the local press.

The part detailing the sewage was gross, and I didn’t like the approach to environmental activism. The plot is similar to Hoot but it doesn't have the same characters.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fever 1793

This is an okay book written by Laurie Halse Anderson and based on true events. In August 1793, fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook is ambitious, adventurous, and sick to death of listening to her mother. Mattie has plans of her own. She wants to turn the Cook Coffeehouse into the finest business in Philadelphia, the capital of the new United States. But the waterfront is abuzz with reports of disease. Fever spreads from the docks and creeps toward Mattie’s home, threatening everything she holds dear. As the cemeteries fill with fever victims, fear turns to panic, and thousands flee the city. Then tragedy strikes the coffeehouse, and Mattie is trapped in a living nightmare. Suddenly her struggle to build a better life must give way to something even more important – the fight to stay alive.

I had never heard of this epidemic before, but it is interesting because it happened so soon after the Constitution was ratified and the country was just starting out. It must have been frightening to a lot of people. The on-going Haitian Revolution forced many French refugees to flee, and many of them landed in Philadelphia, carrying the contagious disease. The condition caused a person's eyes and skin to turn yellow. Only ten out of eighteen senators and thirty-six out of seventy-two representatives showed up at the state legislature to deal with the crisis. Eventually, these numbers dropped even lower.

Farmers refused to bring food into the city for fear of contracting the disease, causing food prices to increase two or three times their original amount. Dolley Payne Todd's husband and newborn baby died of the fever, and she later married James Madison. Because many thought it was unconstitutional to meet outside of Philadelphia, the federal Congress didn't meet in the time of the plague. To avoid any future problems, Congress granted the President the power to move a meeting in a time of grave danger and threat.

Touching Spirit Bear

This is an okay book written by Ben Mikaelsen. Within Cole Matthews lie anger, rage, and hate. Cole has been stealing and fighting for years. This time he caught Peter Driscal in the parking lot and smashed his head against the sidewalk. Now, Peter may have permanent brain damage – and Cole is in the biggest trouble of his life. He receives a one-year banishment to a remote Alaskan island. There, he is mauled by a mysterious white bear of Native American legend. Hideously injured, Cole waits for death. His thoughts shift from anger to humility. To survive, he must stop blaming others and take responsibility for his life. Rescuers arrive to save Cole’s body, but it is the attack of the Spirit Bear that may save his soul.

I am very disturbed by the image of someone having their head slammed into the ground. I sometimes think about what it would be like to be confronted by a large predator and what methods are available to protect yourself. There is a sequel called Ghost of Spirit Bear. Ben Mikaelsen owns a pet Black bear named Buffy, he saved from execution. The bear had its claw removed. Circle Justice is a Native American practice, originating in Canada, and practiced in Minnesota and some other Midwestern states.

Open House

This is an okay book written by Elizabeth Berg. Sam Morrow’s husband has left her, and now she must strive to reconstruct a life for herself and her 11-year-old son. Her eccentric mother tries to help by fixing her up with dates, but a more pressing problem is money. To meet her mortgage payments, Sam decides to take in boarders. A new friend also suggests she get a job. In order to emerge from grief and the past, she has to learn how to make her own happiness.

There is a 2003 television movie based on the novel starring Christine Lahti and Daniel Baldwin.

Among the Hidden

This is an okay book written by Margaret Peterson Haddix. At a time in the future, when having more than two children is illegal, 12-year-old Luke Garner is a third born, a shadow child – his very existence punishable by death. He spends his whole life hiding and knows only his immediate family and their small farm. When a new housing development is built near his family’s home, Luke is forced into even greater secrecy, spending days and nights in his attic room. But after catching a glimpse of someone in one of the new houses, Luke is sure he’s found another third child.

I didn’t like how Luke and his family have to suffer because of their secret, and yet the other girl basically lives a normal life. It seems like she fits into a separate category and is hardly able to relate to his experience. This is the first of seven novels in the Shadow Children series.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Silent to the Bone

This is an okay book written by E.L. Konigsburg. 13-year-old Branwell Zamborska is struck dumb and his baby half-sister, Nikki has slipped into a coma. Branwell dials 911 after realizing she is not breathing properly, but when the emergency operator answers, Branwell cannot speak. Vivian Shawcurt, the au pair from England, takes over. She tells the emergency medical team that Branwell dropped Nikki and shook her. After he is sent to the Clarion County Juvenile Behavior Center, his best friend Connor visits to see if he can break the silence and find out what happened.

The Postcard Killers

This is an okay book co-written by James Patterson and Liza Marklund. NYPD detective Jacob Kanon is on a tour of Europe’s most gorgeous cities. But the sights aren’t what draw him – he sees each museum, each cathedral, and each café through the eyes of his daughter’s killer. Kanon’s daughter, Kimmy, and her boyfriend were murdered while on vacation in Rome. Since then, young couples in Paris, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Stockholm have been found dead. Little connects the murders, other than a postcard to the local newspaper that precedes each new victim.

Liza Marklund is the second Swedish author to reach number one on the New York Times list. A film version is being considered.

The School Story

I liked this book written by Andrew Clements. Twelve-year-old Natalie Nelson has written a powerful school story. It’s a short novel called “The Cheater,” and her best friend Zoe is certain it should be published. All Natalie has to do is give the manuscript to her mom, an editor at a big publishing company house. However, Natalie doesn’t want any favors from her mom. Spurred into action, Natalie invents a pen name for herself and Zoe becomes a self-styled literary agent. But if the girls are to succeed, they’ll need support from their wary English teacher.

Since I’ve also had a book published, I found the information about the publishing industry to be fascinating.

The Poisonwood Bible

This is an okay book written by Barbara Kingsolver and based on true events. Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist, takes his wife and four daughters on a mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them all they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it – from garden seeds to Scripture – is calamitously transformed on African soil. When a tragedy strikes the family, it changes everything and puts each member on a different path.

The story reminded me of the book of Job. Near the end, the pastor is portrayed as a really awful man. Although he is authoritarian, traditional, and religious, I didn’t think of him as a bad person. Mobutu Sese Seko was the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (also known as Zaire) from 1965 to 1997. He had an authoritarian, but anti-communist, approach to governing.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Red (2010)

This is a noteworthy movie. Ex-CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) lives off of his pension income. After a few calls to the federal service line he finds an engaging woman (Mary-Louise Parker) who enjoys talking to him. One early morning he wakes up and realizes that agents have surrounded his house. He fights his way out and flies out to meet that woman. He is worried that with his phone line tapped, the CIA probably suspects her of being a spy. He takes her to meet a former colleague (John Malkovich). They learn that someone with high authority in the government is killing every agent who was involved in a covert operation in 1981.

John Malkovich and Helen Mirren have great roles in this film. The story is based on the three-issue comic book mini-series published in 2003 and 2004. In the film, the title is an acronym for: retired, extremely dangerous.

Hidden Empire

I liked this book written by Orson Scott Card. Averell Torrent is the new President. After securing power at home, he now has plans to expand his influence abroad. He gets an opportunity when a deadly new plague sweeps through Africa. The President puts a quarantine on the African continent until the disease is contained. He sends in a military operation to run relief operations and protect the scientists trying to find a cure. Some of the soldiers start to become concerned about Torrent's motivations. This is the sequel to Empire and I thought this book was better.


This is an okay book written by Joseph Heller. Bombardier Yossarian has had enough of World War II and he wants out. His desire, however, is thwarted when his Commanding Officer raises the number of missions the men must fly to fulfill their service requirements. So, Yossarian decides to file for his release – and is then confronted by the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade. In order to be discharged, he has to be declared insane. But to prove his insanity, he must continue his bombing missions, because only an insane person would willingly keep flying. It is this twisted bureaucratic logic that Yossarian struggles against in order to be set free.

There were a few funny lines. I didn’t like the repetitive dialogue and the inability for most of the characters to respond to simple questions. The book was published in 1961. It has a non-chronological style. In popular usage, a Catch-22 represents a no-win situation, but in the novel it refers to self-contradictory military orders. Heller wrote a sequel in 1994 called Closing Time. He served as a bombardier during World War II, but says he didn't have a bad officer.

The Social Network (2010)

This is an okay movie based on a true story. Harvard freshman and expert programmer Marc Zuckerman (Jesse Eisenberg) returns to his dorm room drunk, after being dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara). Within a few hours he hacks into the school’s network, downloading pictures of all the students for a new website where women can be rated and compared. Another day he starts developing an exclusive social network webpage for college students. His idea becomes really popular, and he is sued by others who feel they deserve credit for the proposal.

I enjoyed the music. I didn’t know about the controversy surrounding the founding and ownership of Facebook. Jesse Eisenberg’s birthday is very close to mine. The story is based on the nonfiction book, The Accidental Billionaires written by Ben Mezrich. Eisenberg's cousin, Eric Fisher, was a Facebook product designer. Scenes were filmed around the campuses of two Massachusetts prep schools, Phillips Academy and Milton Academy. The Beatles rarely license their music to be used in feature films, but this time they gave permission for the song "Baby You’re A Rich Man."

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Girls

This is an okay book written by Amy Goldman Koss. One day Maya decides to invite one of her friends to go along on a family trip to Magic Mountain. After calling several of them, she learns of a sleepover party that she was not invited to. She feels distraught, but her father convinces her to go to the amusement park anyways. At the party a few of the girls are unsure about why Candace, their leader, has chosen to leave her out. Later the girls gradually decide to overcome their bitterness and reach out to Maya once more. I found it sad how the small female clique started to treat the remaining girl.

Peter and the Sword of Mercy

I liked this book co-written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The year is 1902 – it’s been twenty-three years since Peter and the Lost Boys returned from Rundoon. Since then, nobody on the island has grown a day older, and the Lost Boys continue their friendship with the Mollusk tribe and their rivalry with Captain Hook. Meanwhile, in London, Molly has married George Darling and is raising three children: Wendy, Michael, and John. Molly is determined to locate and protect the starstuff, but when she suddenly goes missing, it is up to her eleven-year-old daughter, Wendy, to contact Peter Pan so he can save the world from a shadowy doom. This is the fourth novel in the Starcatchers series.

The Mulberry Tree

I liked this book written by Jude Devereaux. Lillian, the plump young wife of billionaire James "Jimmie" Manville, has always felt isolated in her husband's world, but when he suddenly dies in a plane crash, she is devastated. He left her a dilapidated farmhouse in rural Calburn, Virginia, and told her to find out more information about the Golden Six. To avoid the attention of the press, she changes her name, loses weight, and has a nose job. She allows a neighbor, Matt, to move in with her. Together they research a tragic secret that happened in the town many years ago.


This is an okay book written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Eleven-year-old Marty Preston loves to spend time up in the hills behind his home near Friendly, West Virginia. Sometimes he takes his .22 rifle to shoot cans from the rail fence. Other times he goes up early in the morning just to sit and watch the fox and deer. But one summer Sunday, Marty comes across something different on the road just past the old Shiloh schoolhouse – a young beagle – and that’s when the trouble begins.

This book won the 1992 Newbery Medal. A film version was released in 1997. Naylor based on the story on an abused stray dog she found while on a walk.

Monday, November 01, 2010


I liked this book written by Brandon Mull. For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of the enchanted preserve. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives.

On September 30th I heard a talk by the author at Utah Valley University during their Book Academy writing conference. I enjoyed his humor and advice on writing fictional characters.

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo

I loved this book written by Obert Skye. Fourteen-year-old Leven Thumps lives a wretched life in the fictional town of Burnt Culvert, Oklahoma. But his life is about to change and his destiny be fulfilled as he learns about a secret gateway that bridges two worlds – the real world and Foo, a place created at the beginning of time in the folds of the mind that makes it possible for mankind to dream and hope, aspire and imagine. But Foo is in chaos, and three transplants from that dream world have been sent to retrieve Leven.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

This is an okay movie. Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), an electrician, is sent to discover the source of widespread power outages. While in his truck he sees a flying saucer causing various objects to be flung around. He tells his wife of the experience but she doesn’t believe him and after watching his strange behavior takes their children to her sister’s house. Several people who witnessed the lights of the flying saucers are now seeing an image of a volcanic structure and hearing five musical notes, without knowing what they mean.

UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek developed a scale which describes the level of interaction with an unidentified flying object; the third category includes seeing a physical being with the craft. There were a series of studies performed by the United States Air Force, known as Project Blue Book, to research unidentified flying objects. The project started in 1952, but was stopped in 1970. The small aliens in the final scenes were played by local girls in Mobile, Alabama. Ray Bradbury declared it the greatest science fiction film ever made. The film won an Oscar for Best Cinematography.

Too Close to Home

This is an okay book written by Linwood Barclay. Promise Falls isn’t the kind of community where a family is shot to death in their own home. But that is exactly what happened to the Langleys one sweltering summer night, and no one in this small upstate New York town is more shocked than their next-door neighbors, Jim and Ellen Cutter. They visited for the occasional barbecue, and their son, Derek, was friends with the Langleys’ boy, Adam; but how well did they really know their neighbors? From the town’s criminally corrupt mayor to the tragic suicide of a talented student a decade before, Promise Falls has more than its share of secrets. And Jim Cutter, failed artist turned landscaper, need look no further than his own home and his wife Ellen’s past to know that things aren’t always what they seem.