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Signal by Patrick Lee (2015)

signalWith a device that can't be explained by logic or reality, power hungry villains, and a secret government project, Signal is another fast-paced futuristic thrilling adventure. Once I got over my disappointment that we wouldn't be seeing more of Rachel, I became engrossed in Sam's next escapade. Brought in by his old colleague Claire, Sam must race against the clock to battle a sightless enemy with a constant advantage.

Just like the first in the series (Runner), you'll need to suspend your disbelief. A lot of crazy stuff is going to happen, but you'll be frantically flipping the pages to discover what comes next in Patrick Lee’s latest conspiracy novel.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly (2014)

burningroomHarry Bosch is near retirement and is assigned to cold cases with a young but very bright partner who has received favorable publicity from her last assignment. He and his young partner find themselves investigating two unusual cases simultaneously. The first involves the recent death of a victim shot 10 years before and the second case, the death of children in a fire from which his partner, as a child, survived. The cases would appear unrelated except for an anonymous phone call (placed by Harry?) on the department tip line.

The young partner and the reader have the benefit of Harry’s experience on a fast-paced tour involving a grisly autopsy, an arrest of a loner survivalist, political and departmental pressure, along with lots of sound but risky police investigation. At the end, could there be penance and redemption for a wrongdoer, and does Harry keep his job for yet another case?

Check out Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch novel The Burning Room (for another take, check out The New York Times review). And if you enjoy the adventures of Harry Bosch, check out our list of other popular mystery and suspense series.

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny (2014)

louisepennyFormer Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has retired from the Quebec police and is enjoying a peaceful retirement with his wife Reine-Marie in Three Pines. Life is serene with good food, company of friends, and social gatherings. But Clara and Peter Morrow have had a riff, agreeing to separate for one year and meet again to assess their relationship. After that one year Peter fails to return and Clara, in distress, seeks help from the good inspector.

Gamache and his prior associate Guy Beauvoir join with Clara and her friend Myrna in the search. They trace Peter’s journey from Quebec to Scotland then return to visit Peter’s art professor and family in Canada and end with a stormy voyage along the St. Lawrence. Strange paintings Peter left with a young relative may be important to resolve the mystery. Jealousies, danger, and storms plague the investigators throughout the search in Louise Penny’s The Long Way Home.

Vikings. Seasons 1 & 2 (2013-2014) TV14

vikingss1Imagine Game of Thrones but with Vikings. Action, political intrigue, and betrayals only begins to describe it. Simply put...it's amazing.

Viking farmer Ragnar Lothbrok dreams of sailing west to discover new lands, but timid and conservative Earl Haraldson refuses to consider his request. Ignoring his commands, Ragnar sets sail and opens the West to Viking raids and starts off a power struggle between him and his earl.

Check out both seasons 1 and 2 of Vikings from the library today. Visit History.com for a behind the scenes look at the show, including videos, pictures, and blogs.

The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre (2001)

constantgardenerA gruesome murder of Tessa Quayle in northern Kenya sets off the action of this gripping story. The Constant Gardener is not just the story of a diplomat seeking to find those responsible for the murder of his beautiful young wife, but also a parable of the conflict between forces seeking power and money opposed by those led by human values. The title is most appropriate as Justin Quale persists in uncovering those responsible in the face of powerful and deadly opposition. The ending is sad but not unexpected as Justin in one sense does accomplish some of the goals of his most courageous wife and finds a way to reconnect with her.

Of his 23 novels, John Le Carre rates Gardener as one of his four best.

The Messenger (2006) and The Secret Servant (2007) by Daniel Silva

messengerGabriel Allon, the Israeli spy in many of Daniel Silva’s novels, is cast against terrorist groups from al-Qaeda and the sword of Allah who would attack the Vatican and kill the Pope and/or the U.S. President should their schemes succeed. The Secret Servant follows The Messenger and includes many of the same characters and intrigues of the prior novel. These adventures give the reader a bad taste for most of the antagonists and an appreciation for Israeli secret service. The Secret Servant has an extra twist of an Arab willing to help the Israelis in an effort to save a woman’s life as well as that of his own son. In both novels, a young woman is in great danger in the hands of terrorist but Allon and his team come to the rescue.

The Lone Ranger (2013) PG-13

lonerangerI will watch any movie starring Johnny Depp, so although this one wasn’t well received, I watched it.

In The Lone Ranger, Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into the legendary Lone Ranger. In this telling, Tonto is no sidekick, but rather a full character equal to the Lone Ranger.

In a lot of ways I wasn’t disappointed. It is action-packed! And the special effects are spectacular! However, it does tend to be gruesome and violent. While this aspect is integral to the story, I doubt that it was necessary to have a villain who cut out human hearts and ate them.

The Lego Movie (2014) PG

legomovieA fun, funny, and somewhat crazy movie! It was amazing to see the familiar Lego blocks transformed by 3D computer animation in The Lego Movie.

The Lone Ranger (2013) PG-13

lonerangerThis film is a lot of fun and can be thoroughly enjoyed with the right perspective. Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger give fine performances. In fact, The Lone Ranger has become one of my favorite Johnny Depp movies. There is a lot of humor in this film especially between Depp and Hammer. There are two main villains in this film, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and the other I won’t say because that would be giving too much away. And the two villains are thoroughly despicable.

The film was nominated for two Oscars including Best Achievement in Visual Effects. And that nomination is well deserved. While some of the action scenes are impossible, just sit back and enjoy them as they are spectacular. The Lone Ranger is a western and an adventure film, but it is also a fantasy film.

When I saw this film, I was prepared to be disappointed as I was a Lone Ranger fan when it was on television in the 1950s, and I have been very disappointed in many movies based on television shows. And a lot of the reviews were very critical. But unless you are a Lone Ranger purist and you do one simple thing, you will probably get a great deal of enjoyment out of this film. One of the criticisms of this film is that it is too long. When I saw it the first time, I took a break to have dinner after about an hour and ten minutes into the movie. When movies were very long in the 1950s and early 1960s, movie makers had the good sense to interrupt the film with an intermission. The film probably would have done a lot better at the box office if the producers had installed an intermission. But you as a viewer watching it on DVD, you can impose your own intermission.

Also Lone Ranger fans, the film includes the William Tell Overture but you have to wait for it.

One more word of warning: this film could be pretty intense for younger viewers. That said, the rest of you should saddle up as this movie is a great ride.

Transhuman by Ben Bova (2014)

index.aspxLuke Abramson, a research biologist, takes his ten-year-old granddaughter Angela out of the hospital without her parent’s knowledge after specialists agree there is nothing more to be done for her brain tumor. Angela’s doctor agrees to go along to protect her patient. Luke begins an experimental therapy that he believes will kill Angela’s tumor as the three go on a cross country adventure dodging the FBI and a greedy entrepreneur determined to control the new technology. Luke also finds ways to reverse his own fatigue and aging process with the new medical techniques. Surprisingly, Luke awakens to a romantic interest in his much younger medical companion.

This story is highly recommended for septuagenarian grandfathers who love their granddaughters and can fantasize about increased vitality when blessed with the company of younger women. Ben Bova’s Transhuman touches on intellectual property policy and corruption of the powerful, but mostly is an exciting adventure for those not annoyed by some unlikely events.

 

Rush (2013) R

This exciting and thrilling movie follows self-destructive playboy British auto racer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and serious Austrian auto racer Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), competing in the 1970s to become the Formula 1 champion. There is intense rivalry between the two drivers, and the race scenes had me on the edge of my seat.

Rush is based on a true story and is directed by the renowned Ron Howard. Check out an interview with Lauda.

Other auto racing movies you might want to check out are Grand Prix and Le Mans.

 

Jack Reacher (2012) PG-13

Based on Lee Child’s book One Shot, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) travels across the USA and always runs into some very dangerous people who have killed innocent people and are planning to do more until Reacher stops them. In the movie as well as the book, James Barr is accused of killing five random people and the evidence against him will likely produce a guilty verdict. The suspect doesn’t want an attorney, he won’t confess even though the police and the DA have advised him that if he elects to be tried, the DA will do his best to get him executed. The suspect wants only one thing: to see Jack Reacher.

Jack Reacher has plenty of action, but it will give the viewer plenty to think about as well. Rosamund Pike gives a fine performance as Barr’s defense attorney Helen, as does Werner Herzog who plays the chief villain. Robert Duvall stars as Cash, and he gives a fine performance as well.

I have already seen this movie three times and I don’t usually see newer films this many times within such a short period (the last 7 months). I recommend it.

 

The Longest Road by Philip Caputo (2013)

Caputo, his wife, and his two hunting dogs travel from the southernmost to the northernmost point of the U.S. trying to answer the question: what is the glue that holds Americans together? We are such a diverse people spread out over such a diverse landscape from sea to shining sea.

Historical trivia, local color, and a few laughs follow Philip Caputo on his long trip. It's all in the journey, not the destination. Also, it is a very personal journey. Each one of us could write a very different memoir about the same trip. I anxiously await my opportunity.

The Longest Road is the 2014 Big Read selection. Find discussions, programs, and author visit information here, he’ll be at Ashton Place on May 1.

Man of Steel (2013) PG-13

This 2013 retelling of the origin of Superman is superb. Man of Steel stars Henry Cavill as Superman and Clark Kent, and he is outstanding. Amy Adams gives a fine performance as Lois Lane.

If you are looking for action, there is plenty of it. And the special effects should get at least an Oscar nomination if not a win.

The chief villain is General Zod (Michael Shannon), and he is a great nemesis. The battles between General Zod and Superman are titanic. Kal-El’s father Jor-El is played by Russell Crowe, and he gives a very solid performance. For those of you who’ve forgotten, Kal-El is Superman’s Kryptonian name.

The movie, although a little dark at times, is a lot of fun.

Speed (1994) R

Speed, starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, is an “on the edge of your seat” thriller from beginning to end. An evil villain (Dennis Hopper) has planted a bomb on a city bus that will explode if the bus does not continue going over 50 miles per hour.

What else do you need to say? There are plenty of near misses to ramp up the tension, and Reeves and Bullock are great together. Speed will take you on a fun ride.

http://youtu.be/7nhBoOC-44Q