Shredderman: Secret Identity, by Wendelin Van Draanen
Fifth-grader Nolan Byrd, tired of being called names by the class bully, creates a secret identity---Shredderman---and is determined to turn the tables on Bubby Bixby!
Shredderman: Secret Identity, by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Ravenmaster's Secret, by Elvira Woodruff
It's 1735. Eleven-year old Forrest Harper's life inside the Tower of London consists of three ways to pass the time: chores, chores, and more chores. His only friends are the spirited ravens he tends with his father. So when vicious Scottish Rebels are captured, Forrest can't wait to prove himself by standing guard. If only Forrest's prisoner hadn't turned out to be Maddy, the daughter of a Scottish noble held prisoner. And if only Maddy wasn't about to be executed. . . .Now, Forrest must choose between committing treason, or watching an innocent friend hang.
The Charm School, by Nelson Demille
One of Nelson Demille's earlier books, The Charm School is a wonderful example of why he has remained a very widely-read author noted for books with intriguing plots for years. Set during the days of the Cold War, The Charm School offers a terrifically interesting plot. Briefly, while traveling through Russia in a Pontiac Grand Am, American Gregory Fisher quite accidentally and briefly stumbles across Major Jack Dodson in a pine forest. Dodson tells Fisher the seemingly outlandish tale that he has just escaped from a type of prisoner of war camp run by the Russians called Mrs. Ivanovs's Charm School. His fellow American prisoners at the "school" were all taken by the North Vietnamese during the United States involvement in the Vietnam War and shipped to Russia. When Fisher gets to Moscow, he contacts the American Embassy and tells Lisa Rhodes, a consular officer at the embassy this strange story. Rhodes subsequently enlists another embassy officer, Sam Hollis, to help verify the strange possibility that there indeed might be such a prison camp.
The Charm School takes off as Rhodes and Hollis travel around Russia trying to uncover the truth, if any, to this tale. A great feature supposedly of this school is that is serves as a training ground for Russian agents to be placed in America as spies. The school trains them to acquire true American traits and characteristics. Hollis and Rhodes face dangerous situations and tough dealings with the Cold War era Russian military officers as they race to find the truth.
Demille's writing makes The Charm School fun and gripping reading. He captures the Cold War mentality and tensions between the Russians and Americans quite strongly. When details of the school do emerge, the story becomes all the more entertaining. This is a great read and highly recommended.
Johnny Carson, by Henry Bushkin
When I was growing up, I used to hear everyone talking about The Tonight Show with host Johnny Carson. He seemed to be larger than life. I usually didn't stay up that late to watch him, so I didn't really know that much about him. Recently, I spotted a downloadable book by Henry Bushkin titled (what else) Johnny Carson. I've always been curious about the rich and famous, and since Carson was so popular in the 1960s, I thought I'd do a little research.
The book picks up as Carson is firmly entrenched as the host of The Tonight Show. Henry Bushkin becomes Carson's attorney, as well as adviser, confidant and friend. Bushkin determines Carson's previous advisers were not looking after his best interests, but were worried about lining their own pockets. In fact, Carson was signed to a surprisingly large number of unprofitable deals. Despite making tons of money for NBC, he had little to show for it. Bushkin turned this all around, and helped make Carson the most successful star in TV history. The book describes a lot of the wheeling and dealing that goes on behind the scenes.
Despite all this success, Carson was a very insecure and unhappy person. He grew up in Nebraska. His mother was uncompassionate, unappreciative and very cold. Not what you'd call very loving. In a case of "the nut not falling far from the tree", Carson became estranged from his 3 children, the result of 3 failed marriages. The fact that he was a heavy drinker and womanizer didn't help matters any. Bushkin devoted a lot of time to his demanding boss, and started emulating his womanizing ways - resulting in his failed marriage. When Carson announces he wants to leave the "Tonight Show" because he is burned out, this sets into motion a series of events which has an interesting end. Sometimes, despite all the celebrity, someone can be struggling with life. Johnny Carson was a prime example.
This book presents a very balanced look at the great entertainer. Bushkin is in a unique position to describe Carson's personal and professional life firsthand. It's well-written and easy to follow. Every time I picked it up to read, I had a hard time putting it down. You should give it a try.
The Seven Treasure Hunts, by Betsy Byars
Two boys make up a series of treasure hunts for each other , with disastrous and hilarious results.
Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel, by K.A. Holt
Mike is whisked away on a trip to Mars on only eight hours' notice, and while that sounds kind of cool. . . things aren't quite right. His parents might be involved in a sabotage plot; the know-it-all, talks-too-much girl in his class seems out of this world; and his sister back on Earth is missing. As if all that weren't enough, Mike's teacher seems to come from the Dark Ages of the twenty-first century, and his mom's assistant is a creepy goon.
The film Looper has a very interesting and suspenseful plot. Loopers are assassins hired by the mob to kill problem people sent back from the future (2074). Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays such a hired gun. He is paid with silver bars that are strapped to the target's body. One day, a target escapes, and he finds out it's his future self (Bruce Willis). The mob wants him to kill himself to "close the loop". The plot gets complicated when his future self seeks to stop the person who has ordered the loop closed so he can reunite with his deceased wife. Levitt tries to protect the person (who is a child) from Willis, who is trying to kill him. Jeff Daniels plays a mob boss who returns from the future. The special effects are excellent, and the acting is superb. I give this movie 4-and-a-half stars out of 5.
Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, by Wendy Lower
The history of the role some German women played in serving the Nazi government and its murderous objectives during World War II can be, as Wendy Lower shows in the above-titled book, very disturbing and gruesome reading. Lower, a professor of history at Claremont McKenna College and a consultant for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, follows several German women from the war's beginning to the aftermath of the German defeat. Their--at times very enthusiastic--participation in the Nazi extermination of Jewish people often occurred as they worked their jobs serving the Nazi war machine.
In particular, the German drive eastward into Poland and the Ukraine during the first years of the war provided job opportunities for many German women. They took positions as nurses, teachers and administrative staff as the German Reich expanded tight control over these areas. As Lower shows, many women took these jobs for financial reasons as well as a great opportunity to travel and see the areas that Germany had newly conquered. And, many of these women ended up taking active roles in the German extermination of Jews. Lower also points out that wives of German officers often accompanied their husbands as they served the German Reich in the East and they too could become active in carrying out German atrocities. Lower's notes are extensive as she cites scholarly works, trial testimony, diaries and interviews to detail this historical chapter.
Hitler's Furies is a fascinating study of a facet of the German society during World War II. Possible answers are given as to why and how these women became swept up in supporting the German war effort in such a deadly way. This book is highly recommended and especially for World War II enthusiasts.
When I was browsing the DVD shelves on the second floor one day, I picked up the DVD Lawless because I saw Shia Labeouf's name on it. (I've enjoyed his acting ever since I saw him in The Greatest Game Ever Played.) The cover itself didn't really jump out at me; but as I've always known, "you can't judge a book (or DVD) by its cover". It's based on the true life of the 3 Bondurant brothers, who ran moonshine during the Prohibition period in the hills of Virginia. They sell to the speakeasies in major cities.
Business is doing fine, until some gangsters hit town. These unscrupulous thugs are trying to force the bootleggers to sell through them, but the Bondurants resist. Many locals and police authorities decide to go along with the gangsters since they see no other choice. The Bondurants resist. Add a mysterious, attractive woman from Chicago, and the storyline becomes very exciting.
My only complaint is the profanity-laced dialogue. I don't believe it's necessary to use offensive language to make a hit, but it is what it is. Nonetheless, it's a very good movie - well worth the time you invest.
The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater
First in a projected series of four installments, The Raven Boys centers around young Blue Sargent, whose mother is the local psychic (she gives readings) in the town of Henritta, Virginia. Blue's always been told since childhood that if she ever kisses her true love, he'll die. That just gives her one more reason to avoid the preppy rich kids -AKA "the Raven Boys"- at the local Aglionby Academy. But one night, while with her "half aunt" Neeve (also a psychic, with her own TV show) in a graveyard, Blue discovers she has the same power as Neeve to "see" the spirits of people who are fated to die soon. The spirit she sees is that of Gansey, who with his fellow classmates Ronan and Adam, is trying to track down the spirit of a dead king. A search that one of their instructors is also bent on. To say more would spoil the surprises (like who was Blue's father and Neeve's secret agenda, for example). The Raven Boys is a terrific, spellbinding (in more ways than one) thriller that builds slowly, emphasizing character motivations while setting up a mystery that'll span the rest of the series. Maggie Stiefvater has a brisk, punchy style that holds the reader's interest. The Raven Boys will keep you glued from start to finish and leave you wanting to read the first sequel, The Dream Thieves, that just came out. Recommended.
Don't Start With Me
Don't Start With Me is a one-woman show that was originally filmed for Showtime and then released on DVD in 2013. For those fans of Joan Rivers, this is a constant stream of her hilarious observations on life and so many well-known personalities. While Rivers was in her late 70's when this was presented, the show demonstrates she has lost none of her wit, stage presence, or stamina to stop at nothing in order to entertain. Salty and on the edge, Joan Rivers shows in this DVD why she still can command audience allegiance and give them a rousing good time. Highly recommended for Rivers's special brand of wild fun and hilarity!
An Invisible Thread, by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski
This is a true story that takes place in Manhattan. As the story opens up, a young boy is on the street begging passersby for spare change because he is hungry. Laura passes him by as he is asking her for change. She hears him begging but doesn't really hear him. His voice mixes in with the sounds of traffic and other city noises that New Yorkers learn to tune out. Yet for some unknown reason she then stops about several yards down the street and then turns back to look at him. She is now looking at him, really looking at him for the first time and sees a poorly, slovenly dressed child, a tiny fellow with sticks for arms and legs with dirty fingernails but his eyes are bright and there is something about him that draws her back to him. She sees his sweetness. He tells Laura he is hungry but instead of giving him money she takes him to McDonald's and they proceed to have their first meal together. Many such other meals will occur in the ensuing months and years to come.
An Invisible Thread draws you in and then you climb aboard for the ride. This book is beautifully and simply written. The story shows its readers that there exists an invisible thread that connects one human being to another and these connections can activate at any given time throughout our lives. You will enjoy this quick read about the triumph of the human spirit over adversity and tragedy. Commitment, friendship, integrity, trust, protection, fortitude and much more can be found within An Invisible Thread.