“Aloha” is a film that you really want to be good.  It seems to have all the ingredients for a fine movie.  It was written and directed by Cameron Crowe–remember “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous.”  It is, of course, set in Hawaii.  The scenery is wonderful.  There is a cast of talented actors.  But in spite of all these things, the movie just doesn’t work.  It is billed as a romantic comedy, but a key element of the plot deals with a military contractor who is using his position to advance his company to the detriment of the government and the people of Hawaii. Crowe also includes scenes describing the injustices done to native Hawaiians.  In addition, the characters are not fully developed, so despite good acting there are too many loose ends.

In spite of all these faults, there are parts of the movie that are funny and enjoyable.  Millionaire military contractor, Bill Murray, dancing with Emma Stone, an Air Force captain; Bradley Cooper and John Krasinski wordlessly communicating their feelings, with accompanying subtitles; and Alex Baldwin, playing a military general, ranting and raving, which he does so well, about Cooper messing up his mission.  0043396443433_p0_v4_s118x184

See this movie, but don’t expect too much.

Saint Anything

9780451474704I’ve been a long time fan of Sarah Dessen’s novels and her latest, Saint Anything, although not my favorite from her, does not disappoint!

Sydney is a high school student who’s charismatic and reckless older brother Peyton has just been sent to prison for a drunk driving incident in which a another young boy winds up paralyzed from the waist down. After dealing with him being in and out of trouble for a few years, Sydney’s parents have now thrown themselves into being advocates for Peyton in prison, visiting him every week and talking on the phone daily. Sydney, who had been perfectly content living in her handsome yet misguided brother’s shadow until this point, transfers from her well-to-do private school Perkins Day to the local public high school because she doesn’t want to face the attention that her brother’s embarrassing tragedy has caused. She feels guilty for the boy that her brother injured with his stupidity and cannot fathom why her parents seem to be acting as if Peyton, instead of the boy, was the true victim.

Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.

Although I loved the story, for anyone who has read Dessen’s other novels, some of the characters seem to be a little recycled from her other stories (it’s basically another version of The Truth About Forever). Also I would have loved it if Dessen had delved more into the issue of Sydney spending years dealing with all the attention going to her brother’s drug and legal problems, and what that did to her self-esteem. To me, the story could have gone deeper into this type of situation- what about the siblings of the troublemakers and drug users who witness the lives of their loved ones spiraling out of control?

Besides these issues, the book was a good read. And lets face it- who can resist a Sarah Dessen book?

Devil’s Bridge


This latest mystery by Linda Fairstein centers on the kidnapping of her main protagonist, assistant DA Alex Cooper, and the efforts of her boyfriend, Detective Mike Chapman to locate her before it’s too late. The department thinks it’s an attempt at revenge by one of the felons that she has put behind bars, and the case moves accordingly. Fingers are also being pointed at  Antonio Estevez, whom Alex is prosecuting for sex trafficking, or Reverend Hal, an unscrupulous pastor known for inappropriate sexual advances toward underage parishioners and paying off politicians to look the other way. A cryptic text by Alex leads Chapman’s investigative efforts to several NY landmarks: Lady Liberty and the George Washington Bridge. Fairstein weaves some interesting facts about the two famous landmarks into her narrative, as Chapman’s hunt for Alex intensifies. It’s a great read for mystery lovers.

Shades of London Series: The Name of the Star


Rory Deveaux, teenager from Louisiana, travels to London to spend her senior year while her parents teach Law classes for a year. As she arrives at her new school, Wexford Academy, a series of brutal murders occur that mirror the Jack the Ripper killing spree that took place a century ago in the area of London surrounding her school. The police have no leads and no witnesses. Except for one, Rory. On the eve of the next expected murder (each murder was on the exact day and time as each of the original Ripper killings) Rory encounters a strange, ghostly man- minutes before another murder occurs on her school grounds. Rory tells the police about the strange man, but she is the only one that saw him- and possible the only one who can see him. Rory seems to have tapped into an ability to see the supernatural, but will following this ability and attempting to help solve the murders make her the next target?

The author, Maureen Johnson, is one of my favorite YA authors. The Name of the Star is the first in the Shades of London series which is a book that deals with the supernatural, which is far from the usual content of Johnson’s stories. The writing in this story was also a slight break from her normal style: the narration is a bit choppy (although this could have something to do with the odd humor of Rory as a protagonist), and the stereotypical roles that her British classmates fall into are a little bit too familiar. However, the story moves past this quickly and delves into an action packed page turner of a spooky mystery. The setting alone- a traditional British boarding school with historical buildings and uniforms complete with pleated skirts- makes for a wonderful story.

This book is only first in the series and I can’t wait to read the next two. Johnson is a terrific author and I would recommend this book to anyone!

“Days of Awe”

Product DetailsIsabel Moore is a school teacher and married with a twelve year-old daughter. “Days of Awe” begins with the car accident and funeral of her best friend and fellow teacher, Josie. As Isabel grieves for her best friend, her marriage is floundering and her husband has moved out ‘temporarily’.  “Days of Awe” meanders through Isabel and Josie’s lives as we learn of Josie’s over-the-top behavior before her death, Isabel’s sullen-and-entering-puberty daughter Hannah, and tentative new beginnings for Isabel as she struggles to figure out who she is without her best friend, husband, and a moody young daughter.

In bits and pieces, we learn of Josie’s last year or so of life as she contemplated an affair, behaved oddly at work, and grew distant to Isabel.  Helene, Isabel’s mother, offers up comic relief as she encourages Isabel to attend “Relationships In Transition” meetings with her.  Slow in spots, “Days of Awe’ has enough humor, reflection and character development that put it in the recommend category.