Tuesday, September 18, 2018

TV Tuesday: Goliath

My husband and I just finished watching season 2 of Goliath, an Amazon Prime original show starring Billy Bob Thornton.

Thornton plays Billy McBride, a talented but disgraced lawyer living in L.A. He drives an old convertible, drinks way too much, and takes on small cases, nothing like what he used to do in the huge law firm that he helped start. Little by little, we find out about the case that sent Billy into a tailspin. Meanwhile, Patty, a real estate agent and part-time lawyer played by Nina Arianda, approaches him to ask his help on a case: a woman whose husband was killed in an explosion on a boat. The man's employer, a large and powerful corporation and the Goliath of the title, claims it was an accident, but his wife suspects something far more sinister. Patty convinces McBride to take the case, and against his better judgement, Billy finds himself drawn into it. Tania Raymonde plays Brittany, a prostitute who Billy has helped in the past and who sometimes serves as his legal secretary. The large corporation they are suing is represented by Billy's old firm (another Goliath), now run by Donald Cooperman, Billy's old partner played by William Hurt, who is a creepy recluse who spies on his employees and holds a grudge against Billy. Maria Bello plays Michelle McBride, Billy's ex-wife who still works for his old firm.

The plot is intricate and engaging, as each episode goes deeper and deeper into the legal case and the circumstances surrounding the man's death, providing plenty of suspense. The cast is outstanding and really pulls this show up to a higher quality than most TV shows. Billy is a screw-up in many ways, but you can't help but like him, with his crooked smile and fervent belief in justice. The rest of his team is just as likable, while William Hurt's performance as Cooperman is the perfect bad guy you love to hate (he's super creepy). Season 1 of the show follows this case through to its conclusion.

In season 2, Billy and his team are back, though I won't say much more about their circumstances to avoid spoilers of the first season. This time, Billy is drinking more than ever but is asked by his friend Oscar, played by Lou Diamond Phillips, to represent his 16-year old son, who is being held as a murder suspect. Oscar is certain his son is innocent, and Billy has known the boy for years, so he reluctantly gets pulled into the case. This time, the Goliaths and conspiracies are even bigger, involving the police, a drug cartel, and politics. This second season was far more gruesome and violent, with a couple of really warped people at the center of things. My husband and I were joking about needing to watch something more uplifting after watching Goliath this season, like an episode of Breaking Bad! It's pretty dark. I definitely preferred season 1, though season 2 still had a compelling plotline. It's really worth watching just for Billy Bob Thornton. Interestingly, though season 1 was enjoyed equally by critics and viewers, Rotten Tomatoes shows that for season 2, critics rated it an average of 86%, while regular viewers gave it only 53%.

Season 1 and Season 2 each feature 8 episodes and are available exclusively through Amazon Prime (at the links provided).

Here is the trailer for season 1, to avoid any spoilers:



    

Monday, September 17, 2018

It's Monday 9/17! What Are You Reading?

You won't believe this, but our vacation plans got thwarted once again last week (that's 3 times in the past month, if you are keeping score!). We spent all day Tuesday packing up, getting the camper ready, putting the kayaks on the truck. By evening, we were ready for an early morning start the next day...and my husband noticed that transmission fluid was leaking out of the truck....a lot of it! He figured out what part was leaking, and we made calls to all the Honda dealers in the area and a bunch of independent garages, but no one could get the part in until Thursday (this is an ongoing problem with our older cars!). So, we once again cancelled our camping reservations, with no way to tow our camper. Out of options for the outdoor vacation we'd planned, we booked a tiny Airbnb apartment in Great Barrington, MA (near the park where we wanted to camp and one of the towns we'd planned to visit), and once again cut the trip down by another day (lodging is a lot more expensive than camping!).

Finally - FINALLY - we left town on Thursday!! It was a mini vacation instead of the week-long camping trip we'd planned, but it turned out very well. Great Barrington is a wonderful town in the Berkshires (with 2 bookstores!), and our little apartment was right on Main Street, so we could walk to restaurants and other places. We went on 3 beautiful hikes - it is such a gorgeous area, filled with forests, rivers, lakes, mountains, and waterfalls - so we got some outdoor time. More details coming this week on the blog - photos, restaurant reviews, and bookstore reviews. Overall, it was a relaxing little getaway - and man, did we need it!

Back home now, with two cars to pick up from repair shops (though Volkswagen just called to say they found another problem with mine and it's not quite ready yet - it's been there for 8 weeks now!) and two borrowed cars to return, and another tropical storm on the way. Oh, well, at least we had 3 days of beautiful weather and relaxation.

Here's what we've been reading the past week:
  • I finished my next review book, The Rain Watcher by Tatiana De Rosnay (due out in October), author of Sarah's Key. It's about a family that comes together in Paris for a birthday/anniversary celebration in the midst of a natural disaster, with heavy rain causing historic flooding of the Seine and inundating the city while they deal with their own family crises. It's an immersive family drama set against a dramatic backdrop, though not a great choice for me last week, stuck at home because of the storm!
  • Now, I am back to my dark and creepy reading for the R.I.P. Challenge, reading Still Life by Louise Penny for one of my book groups. It's the first novel in her Inspector Gamache mystery series. I've heard great things about Penny's novels for years, so I am glad for the chance to finally try one. It's a classic mystery/police procedural set in a small town in Quebec, and I'm enjoying it so far.
  • I finished listening to Dark Saturday by Nicci French, another good choice for the R.I.P. Challenge. When I chose this one for review, I didn't realize it was part of a series (the Frieda Klein series), but there were some hints throughout to catch me up. The titular British psychologist is asked to look into an old murder case, where a girl (now a woman) was convicted of killing her parents and has been in a mental institute ever since. It was dark and gripping, though I do think I missed some bits of the ongoing story and character details by coming into the series in the middle, but it was a good thriller with an unexpected ending.
  • On our road trip, my husband and I started listening to Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter, a YA thriller. We went with a YA novel because it was a short trip (even so, we haven't quite finished it yet), though my husband has little patience for the teen romance angle! Luckily, it is mostly a suspenseful survival thriller set in Alaska, with the President's son getting kidnapped while visiting an old friend. We have a few chapters left - maybe we'll listen while doing all those car pick-ups and drop-offs!
  • My husband, Ken, is reading a book I gave him for Father's Day, The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen, which the cover says is the "First Department Q Novel." Ken says it's about the dark underbelly of Denmark.
  • Our son, Jamie, 23, is reading book 12 of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Gathering Storm, which is the first one that was co-authored by Brandon Sanderson. He was sick all last week, so he may have finished it by now!
Last week's one blog post:
Movie Monday: Jurassic World (2015) -  We all enjoyed it!

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, so head over and check out her blog and join the Monday fun! You can also participate in a kid/teen/YA version hosted by Unleashing Readers.

You can follow me on Twitter at @SueBookByBook or on Facebook on my blog's page.   

What are you and your family reading this week?   

Monday, September 10, 2018

Movie Monday: Jurassic World

We had a little movie spree a few weeks ago when we enjoyed a 3-day staycation with our sons and then the following week, our niece came to visit. I'll mention the second movie first. One night, it was just me, my 24-year old son, and my 16-year old niece, and everyone was worn out and wanted to watch a movie - but what would appeal to both of them?? They have very different movie tastes. I ended up with a movie I'd already seen this summer, but I though they'd both enjoy: Game Night, starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams (you can read my review at the link). Great choice! They both loved this unique movie that combines suspense and humor, and I enjoyed it a second time, too. It's still for rent on Amazon, if you're looking for a crowd pleaser!

So, going back to our staycation, we had another tough crowd to please because our sons don't always like the same movies. So, we reached back in time and watched Jurassic World - not the new one out this summer, but the one from 2015. We'd never seen it before, and everyone agreed on it!

Set 22 years after the events in the original Jurassic Park movie, this movie takes place on the original site, where a fully-functioning theme park called Jurassic World is now in operation. They've ironed out the problems and made the park safe (they think) for all the tourists that flock there to see real dinosaurs. Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard's daughter) plays Claire, who is the busy operations manager of the park. Her nephews, Zach and Gray, come to the island to visit, and get a tour of the amazing facilities. The research side of the operation has been working on a hybrid dinosaur - bigger and scarier than any other they have - called an Indominus. Meanwhile, Owen (played by Chris Pratt) has been carefully training the raptors so that they recognize him and respond to his commands. Owen evaluates the new Indominus and its enclosure and doesn't think the exhibit should be opened to the public because it's too dangerous and not secure enough. And guess what? He's right - the Indominus gets out and goes on a killing rampage, chewing up workers, tourists, and other dinosaurs indiscriminately. Zach and Gray are out in the park, so Claire and Owen go in search of them.

It's a pretty predictable plot but lots of fun to watch - giant dinosaurs terrorizing people, right? Of course, both Howard and Pratt are fun to watch, too - wait until you see Howard run from dinosaurs in her stilettos! (seriously, kick off the damn shoes when a dinosaur is chasing you!) It's what you'd expect from this franchise - loads of action, suspense, thrills, and peril. We all enjoyed it - it's just pure fun escapism, which was just right for our staycation. I was surprised to read just now that this is actually #4 in the Jurassic Park movies - I guess I missed a couple of them in the middle. And by the way, if you've never read the original novels by Michael Crichton - Jurassic Park and The Lost World - you should! They are both excellent.



You can stream Jurassic World starting at $2.99 on Amazon or watch it on DVD.

It's Monday 9/10! What Are You Reading?

Yup, I'm still here. I was supposed to be on vacation all week - relaxing, camping, and gloriously unplugged! But with this tropical storm sitting on top of the entire Northeast for 3 days, we had to (again) cancel the first half of our trip. Luckily, it looks like Hurricane Florence will stay far enough to the south of where we are going (NY/MA border area) that the end of the week forecast still looks beautiful up there, and we tacked an extra day onto the end, so we are hoping to still manage a 4-day trip later this week. Pretty depressing, though, when we are supposed to be on vacation enjoying the outdoors and are instead still home watching the rain out the window. We have had some really bad vacation mojo this year!

As always, our books are a bright spot in our lives! Here's what we've all been reading this past week:
  • I finished my first dark and creepy book of the season for the R.I.P. Challenge: Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. I am a big fan of Bohjalian's novels, and this one has been on my shelf since Christmas, so I am glad to get it. It's a suspenseful story of a woman who sleepwalks and just disappears one night. Her husband and daughters (and the police) fear the worst when she doesn't turn up right away. It's slow burn suspense with Bohjalian's typical twisty plotting and in-depth characterization (and a lot of fascinating information about sleepwalking).
  • Now, I have briefly stepped away from the creepy reading for my next review book, The Rain Watcher by Tatiana De Rosnay, author of Sarah's Key (the title and concept are quite an ironic choice right now, given our own current weather!). It's about a family that comes together in Paris for a birthday/anniversary celebration in the midst of a natural disaster, with heavy rain causing historic flooding of the Seine. It's engrossing so far, with rich characters and lots of flashbacks to the son's childhood.
  • I am still listening to Dark Saturday by Nicci French, another good choice for the R.I.P. Challenge. When I chose this one for review, I didn't realize it was part of a series (the Frieda Klein series), but there were some hints at the beginning to catch me up. The titular psychologist is asked to look into an old murder case, where a girl (now a woman) was convicted of killing her parents and has been in a mental institute ever since. It's good so far - dark and gripping - though I do think I am missing some bits of the ongoing story and character details by coming into the series in the middle.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Waking Gods, book 2 of The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel. He and I both loved book 1, Sleeping Giants, and I gave him this one for Father's Day (I'm next!). It's a suspenseful and thought-provoking trilogy about a giant hand found buried that is definitely not human-made. He really enjoyed book 2, and I can't wait to get back to this fabulous series!
  • Now, Ken is reading another book I gave him for Father's Day, The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen, which the cover says is the "First Department Q Novel." Ken says it's about the dark underbelly of Denmark.
  • Our son, Jamie, 23, is reading book 12 of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Gathering Storm, which is the first one that was co-authored by Brandon Sanderson.
Last week's blog posts:
TV Tuesday: Fall TV Preview - a rundown of the shows we are looking forward to

Teen/YA Review: City of Savages by Lee Kelly - compelling post-apocalyptic story

2018 Big Book Summer Challenge Wrap-Up - another amazing summer of Big Books, for myself and 25 other participants

Summary of Books Read in August - a good reading month for me

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, so head over and check out her blog and join the Monday fun! You can also participate in a kid/teen/YA version hosted by Unleashing Readers.

You can follow me on Twitter at @SueBookByBook or on Facebook on my blog's page.   

What are you and your family reading this week?  
 

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Books Read in August

September is here! Yay! I am happy to say good-bye to August and to summer - it was a long, HOT, difficult summer here with no vacation time. Now, if we can just get some cooler weather and the rain would stop...

On the positive side, August was a great reading month, with 6 good books, including 3 more to end my Big Book Summer Challenge with a bang! Here's what I finished reading in August:
  • Plus One by Elizabeth Fama (IL) - teen/YA fiction on audio
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (Puerto Rico, Italy) - adult fiction
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (NY) - adult fiction, reviewed for Shelf Awareness

  • Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork (Mexico) - teen/YA fiction on audio
  • Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Ari Folman and David Polonsky (illustrator) (Netherlands) - adult & YA graphic memoir, reviewed for Shelf Awareness
  • City of Savages by Lee Kelly (NY) - teen/YA fiction


I finished 6 books in August, and 5 of them were fiction. You can read my reviews of each of them at the links (and I will link to the two Shelf Awareness reviews as soon as they are published). Three were teen/YA novels, and the other half were for adults, with two audio books. It was an excellent reading month - I enjoyed every one of these very much! My favorite was definitely The Sparrow, a novel I had been hearing about for years that lived up to the hype and blew my mind - I want to read the sequel now.

Progress in 2018 Reading Challenges:
This is my favorite part of my monthly summary - updating my Reading Challenges! I read 2 books from my own shelves for my Mount TBR Reading Challenge, bringing my total-to-date to 16. I can always rely on my Big Book Summer Challenge to boost my TBR numbers! For the Monthly Motif Reading Challenge, August was Award Winners, and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell won 6 literary awards! No new books for the Back to the Classics Challenge, and just one for the 2018 Badass Books Challenge: a book chosen by a friend. It was quite the literary travel month, with Italy, Puerto Rico, Netherlands, Mexico, and even another planet (Rakhat) added to my Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge. For my 2018 Literary Escapes Challenge, I added just one new state, Illinois (and I have now read 8 books this year set in New York). And for my own Big Book Summer Challenge, I read 3 more Big Books, for a total of 6 for the summer.
 
Finally, Bookish Bingo hosted by Chapter Break - not really a challenge per se, but a fun game that I play each month. I filled in 19 squares in August - a good Bingo month for me!





Spaces filled in:
Plus One - Outdoor activity, not in a series, free book, empowered female
The Sparrow - In a series, society, musician
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing - Read a physical book, new adult, pop culture references
Disappeared - Contemporary, suspense, audio book
Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation - Woman on the cover, deception
City of Savages - New to me author, shelf love, past rears its ugly head
 
What was your favorite book read in August?     

Thursday, September 06, 2018

2018 Big Book Summer Wrap-Up

It's still 93 degrees and humid here today, but the calendar says that it's September and Labor Day was Monday, so it's time to officially wrap up another great Big Book Summer!

I host this challenge every summer and always enjoy participating in it myself. You can read all the details at the Big Book Summer Challenge page, but the bottom line is to read books 400 pages or longer during the summer - just one or a few or as many as you want! What I really love about this challenge is that it gives me the extra incentive I need to finally tackle some of the longer books I've put off reading - I always end up reading some really amazing books, and I make a (small) dent in my overflowing TBR bookcase, too! You can go back to my starting post for My 2018 Big Book Summer in May to see what books I hoped to get to this season.

So, drumroll, please! Here are the Big Books I read this summer:


Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (599 pages) 
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (740 pages)
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (457 pages)
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (405 pages)
City of Savages by Lee Kelly (406 pages)
And I also listened to Plus One by Elizabeth Fama on audio (400 pages in print)

So, I met my goal of finishing 6 Big Books this summer, though I added the audio and didn't have time for The City of Mirrors (#3 in The Passage trilogy) by Justin Cronin (though I still plan to read it and finish the trilogy). Wow, that's a pretty good Big Book Summer for me!

You can read my reviews of the Big Books I read at the links above. I enjoyed every one of these, and a few (Afterworlds, Dragonfly in Amber, and The Sparrow) just blew me away. As I say every summer, why did I wait so long to read these amazing books??

So, that was my summer, but lots of other people enjoyed a wonderful Big Book Summer, too. A total of 26 people joined the challenge this year, with 15 linking up on the challenge page and another 11 through the Goodreads group for those who don't have blogs. I enjoyed reading all your reviews of Big Books, and we had some great discussions in the Goodreads group! You can check out links to reviews and wrap-up posts on the challenge page.

And now, it's time for the 2018 Big Book Summer Giveaway! I'm doing something different this year. Instead of giving away one of my own Big Books, I'm giving away a $15 gift card to either Book Depository or Amazon. I used a random number generator, and the winner of this year's giveaway is:


Congratulations, Jane!

Jane is a repeat participant from past summers and enjoyed the challenge again this year.

Here's to another rewarding, fun Big Book Summer - Congratulations to everyone who participated! 

I hope that YOU will join the fun next year! 



 

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Teen/YA Review: City of Savages

My last Big Book of the Summer for my annual reading challenge was City of Savages, a YA post-apocalyptic novel (with a touch of dystopia) by Lee Kelly. Though it was a bit uneven at times, overall I found the novel very compelling, as evidenced by the fact that I stayed up much too late every night while I was reading it!

Sisters Skyler (Sky) and Phoenix (Phee) have grown up in a Manhattan transformed by a terrible war that started when Sky was a baby. The only world they've ever known is one in which they, along with their mother, are prisoners of war in a camp in Central Park overseen by the Red Army and directly run by a fellow POW named Rolladin. Tough but generally fair, Rolladin rules the new citizens of the park, as they grow crops, hunt, and try to maintain some semblance of a society. Sky, Phee, and their mom live on their own in an abandoned building on Wall Street during the summer but return to the park each fall for the required annual prisoner census and live with the others in an apartment in the Carlyle during the winter. Rolladin and her female warlords - whom the sisters refer to among themselves as whorelords - maintain the peace and keep order, sometimes with violent means. Life has always been this way for Sky and Phee, but this fall, some strangers arrive in the park with stories that contradict everything they've ever known about the world. About the same time, Sky finds an old diary of her mom's that finally tells them all the things they've ever wanted to know about the start of the war and their own past.

This captivating novel combines a post-apocalyptic world ruined by war with a fledgling dystopian society and plenty of suspense. Family drama and a dose of romance are also rolled into the story. As I said, I found the story very engaging and often forced my eyes to stay open at night for "just one more chapter." The chapters alternate between the sisters' perspectives, and although they are very close - having never been apart from each other - they are also very different, so their different points of view add complexity to the story. Excerpts from their mom's diary are included in the text so that the reader learns how all this started alongside Phee and Sky. Although I guessed one big twist in the plot about 150 pages before it was revealed, there were plenty of other unexpected developments that took me by surprise (though some were admittedly a little strange). Overall, it's a unique and absorbing story that easily kept my attention right through to the satisfying conclusion. A good end to a very good Big Book Summer.

406 pages, Saga Press


Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Listen to a sample of the audiobook. I didn't listen on audio (other than this sample), but it sounds like it would be good, with four different narrators.

Purchase City of Savages from an indie bookstore (or online through IndieBound):
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or order City of Savages from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

TV Tuesday: Fall TV Preview

It's September! And that means a new fall TV season is quickly approaching.

Here are some of our old favorites coming back, some new shows I'm excited to try, and a few disappointments of old shows that have been cancelled:

Old Favorites Coming Back

These are the shows we look forward to returning to in the fall, with expected start dates:

The Last Ship - 9/9/18 - We love this post-apocalyptic show starring Eric Dane (McSteamy) that has grown and evolved with each season - this year, it moves from summer to fall.

The Resident - 9/24/18 - We just started watching this new medical show last winter and although it has some flaws, we generally enjoy it (and especially its main cast members).

This Is Us - 9/25/18 - I watch this show on my own during lunchtime and love to laugh and cry with every episode! I can't wait to see what they do with season 3.

Grey's Anatomy - 9/27/18 - Season 15?? Yup, and we've watched it since season 1 and still love it! What other huge medical disasters and new couplings can they come up with?

Madam Secretary - 10/7/18 - One of the best shows on television, with an outstanding cast - suspenseful, intriguing, and even funny.

Blindspot - 10/12/18 - We've watched this fast-paced thriller for 3 seasons and are eager to see what's in store for Jane Doe next.

Favorite Shows That Got Cancelled
They're not coming back? Say it isn't so! These are worth watching the old seasons, if you haven't tried them yet:

Scorpion - Though it sometimes stretched the bounds of believeability, we enjoyed all 4 seasons of this suspenseful and funny show and will miss it in this fall's line-up.

Wisdom of the Crowd - Though it only aired 1 season, we loved this unique show about fighting crime with crowd-sourcing. Rumor is that allegations of sexual misconduct by Jeremy Piven, its star, (though he denied them) may have shut it down. I'm sorry to see it go.

Designated Survivor - My husband is going to be SO upset to hear this one isn't coming back. Though we both enjoyed this political thriller starring Keifer Sutherland, it was his favorite in the fall/winter line-up. Its 2 seasons are well worth watching.

New Shows We Plan to Check Out
I watched a lot of YouTube trailers tonight, and there are a few shows I am looking forward to trying.

Manifest - 9/24/18 - I can't wait to watch this one, about a plane full of passengers that went missing five years ago and suddenly reappears - oooh! Intriguing!



New Amsterdam - This looks pretty good, starring Ryan Eggold (Tom from Blacklist), but I don't know if we have room in our hearts (or viewing schedule) for a third TV medical drama.



A Million Little Things - A new ABC drama about a group of friends who are upset when one of their own commits suicide, along the lines of NBC's This Is Us, in terms of an ensemble drama. I will probably try this one on my own at lunchtime.



I Feel Bad - There are a whole slew of new sitcoms this season, but we don't watch too many of those (except Modern Family and Life in Pieces when our kids are home). I might try this one myself - the preview was pretty funny!



Those are the highlights for fall TV on our horizon.

What are YOU looking forward to this fall on TV?


Monday, September 03, 2018

It's Monday 9/3! What Are You Reading?

Hurray, it's September! We made it! This was not a good summer for us, with one family crisis after another, plus weather so hot & humid I barely left the house. It's still 90's today and so humid our windows are covered with condensation, but the turning of the calendar page tells me the heat will pass soon. Fall is my favorite season, and I can't wait for it to cool down a bit so I can get back to my normal walking routine.

My husband and I have enjoyed a quiet Labor Day weekend with perfect balance: some downtime, dinner with friends, some productivity (we actually cleaned out our kitchen junk drawer!), and my FIL came over for dinner. And of course, lots of reading! I finished my Big Book Summer reading and have turned my attention to dark and creepy books for the annual R.I.P. Challenge (I still need to sign up for 2018). And my husband is next to me reading right now.

Here are the books we've been reading this past week:
  • I finished my 5th and final Big Book of the year, just in time for the end of summer: City of Savages by Lee Kelly, a YA post-apocalyptic (and somewhat dystopian) novel that's been on my shelf for far too long! It's the story of two teen girls and their mother, trapped in a Manhattan that has been destroyed by war, and the ragtag society that has been established among the survivors. It must have been compelling because I stayed up way too late reading every night!
  • Now, I am reading my first dark and creepy book of the season (though that last one would have counted, too) - Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. I am a big fan of Bohjalian's novels, and this one has been on my shelf since Christmas, so I am glad to get it. It's a suspenseful story of a woman who sleepwalks and just disappears one night. Her husband and daughters (and the police) fear the worst when she doesn't turn up right away. So far, it's a tense and engaging story that I am loving.
  • On audio, I finished listening to Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork. I am a huge fan of Stork and enjoyed this novel. It's set in Juarez, Mexico, about a young woman whose best friend disappeared one day, along with many other young women over the years from their city. As a reporter, she is looking into the disappearances, but powerful people want to stop her. The narrative goes back and forth between her and her younger brother. It was intense and suspenseful, with in-depth characters, and an examination of some important issues, like all of Stork's novels.
  • I have now switched my listening to a darker vibe now, too (though again, my last audio book would definitely have fit for RIP) and started Dark Saturday by Nicci French. When I chose this one for review, I didn't realize it was part of a series (the Frieda Klein series), but there were some hints at the beginning to catch me up. The titular psychologist is asked to look into an old murder case, where a girl (now a woman) was convicted of killing her parents and has been in a mental institute ever since. It's good so far - dark and gripping.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Waking Gods, book 2 of The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel. He and I both loved book 1, Sleeping Giants, and I realized earlier this year we'd missed the release of the next two books, so I gave him this one for Father's Day (I'm next!). It's a suspenseful and thought-provoking trilogy about a giant hand found buried that is definitely not human-made. I can't wait to get back to this fabulous series!
  • Our son, Jamie, 23, finished book 11 of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Knife of Dreams and moved right along to book 12, The Gathering Storm, which is the first one that was co-authored by Brandon Sanderson.
 Not a lot of time for blogging last week - just a couple of posts:
Teen/YA Review: Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork - suspenseful and immersive

Saturday Snapshot: Salute to Reading - photos of my family enjoying books, together and individually, through the years

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, so head over and check out her blog and join the Monday fun! You can also participate in a kid/teen/YA version hosted by Unleashing Readers.

You can follow me on Twitter at @SueBookByBook or on Facebook on my blog's page.   

What are you and your family reading this week?  

Today's the last day for the Big Book Summer Challenge! If you are participating, be sure to leave links to your Big Book reviews or challenge updates/wrap-ups on the Challenge page or leave your updates in the Goodreads group (you have another month to finish up reviews and/or wrap-ups). Seems like it's been an excellent Big Book Summer for a lot of people! I'll be posting my own last review and wrap-up this week.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Saturday Snapshot: Salute to Reading


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at West Metro Mommy Reads.

The horrible heat and humidity have continued here (until yesterday when we got torrential rain!), so I have hardly been outside at all. That means very few walks and no interesting photos from the last couple of weeks to share. Since this weekend marks the end of my 2018 Big Book Summer Challenge, and I plan to spend part of my holiday weekend relaxing with books, I thought I'd dedicate this Saturday Snapshot to reading!

We began reading aloud to our sons when they were babies and continued into their teens. Our younger son doesn't really enjoy reading now, but our older son, my husband, and I are avid readers. From our sons' earliest years until now, we have spent many happy hours reading, both together and individually. A few highlights through the years:

Dad reading to our oldest son.

My mom reading to her first grandchild (The Rainbow Fish!)

Our oldest looking very serious pretending to read a grown-up book.

Dad reading to our younger son.

Gramie reading to our younger son and my niece (Curious George was clearly a favorite!)

Our oldest reading to his younger brother.
A tradition I miss now: reading Christmas books to my sons, niece & nephew.
My nephew much older and now an avid reader himself, on his grandparents' boat.
Our older son reading on a camping trip.
Me reading The Metamorphosis while camping in MD.

And reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers while camping in Shenandoah.

Our son last summer reading in our camper.

I love how books play such a big role in our lives!

Hope you are enjoying a relaxing holiday weekend!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Teen/YA Review: Disappeared

I am a fan of YA author Francisco X. Stork, and I enjoyed his novels Marcelo in the Real World, Irises, and The Memory of Light. He has a talent for telling stories that feature realistic young characters with deep emotional depth and address important issues. I recently listened to his latest novel, Disappeared, on audio, and it was no exception, a suspenseful tale about two siblings in Mexico each faced with ethical decisions with life-or-death consequences.

Sara Zapata lives with her mother and younger brother in a tiny house in Juarez, Mexico. She works as a journalist at a local newspaper to help support her family. Four months ago, Sara's best friend, Linda, disappeared, and since then, Sara has written articles about the many young women who disappear from Juarez each year so that people will remember them and the police will not give up looking for them. One morning at work, though, Sara receives a serious death threat that also names her family, and she must decide whether to continue her quest or give it up to protect herself and her family. That same day, she also receives a mysterious phone message that she is certain is from Linda, with a photo that might contain clues to her and the other women's whereabouts. Sara must find Linda and the other missing women, but the more she learns, the more danger she is in.

Meanwhile, Sara's brother, Emiliano, is facing a moral dilemma of his own. He mostly lives a normal teen life, going to school, playing soccer, and nursing a crush on Perla Rubi. Emiliano also contributes to his family's income by working with local youth to collect and resell artisan crafts. He works hard, using his bicycle to pick up and deliver the craft products. He's also involved in a local organization that helps at-risk youth, which he himself was at one time, after getting caught shoplifting. Emiliano is in love with Perla Rubi, but he knows that her family will never accept him because he is poor. He is desperate to show them that he is good enough for her, so when he is offered a role in the local crime ring that he knows is wrong but would bring his family out of poverty, he is tempted.

Sara and Emiliano are each immersed in their own quandaries, though gradually, there is some overlap that eventually comes to light. This novel has the trademark thoughtfulness and poignancy of Stork's other novels, but I was surprised that it is also a fast-paced thriller at times, particularly Sara's story. Her investigation of the abduction of the women carries plenty of suspense, especially as the stakes get higher. The eventual resolution of the siblings' problems was also a surprising twist for me. The audio production was very well-done. The text includes many Spanish words, so I appreciated hearing them pronounced correctly by the dual Mexican narrators - Roxana Ortega and Christian Barillas - voicing the alternating viewpoints of Sara and Emiliano. The book kept my attention, and I was immersed in Sara's and Emiliano's stories, hoping for each of them to do the right thing and also stay safe. As usual, Stork tells a specific story while also bringing to light important issues in our global world today.

336 pages, Arthur A. Levine Books
Scholastic Audio


Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here.

Purchase Disappeared from an indie bookstore or from IndieBound online:
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Monday, August 27, 2018

It's Monday 8/27! What Are You Reading?

Busy end of summer around here! My 16-year old niece was visiting for a few days last week, so my sons were both home - lots of fun but tiring, too. It was nice to have her here and spend some time together - rare now that she is older. I was also busy with my father-in-law - he half-tore off a toenail last weekend, so I ran around a bit this week taking him to the podiatrist and then taking turns with my sons visiting him each day to change the band-aid and check on him. On the plus side, he was watching an old episode of Columbo when I came to visit one day - what fun! Leonard Nimoy was guest-starring as a surgeon. He and I enjoyed that.

So, it's a new week, but still super busy - need to rush out now to take my father-in-law for a follow-up appointment with the podiatrist and then back here to meet my husband and son for lunch so we can all swap cars (mine is STILL in the shop - over a month now!)...

OK, I'm back! Amidst all this hectic busy-ness, we are still enjoying our books. Here's what we've all been reading this past week:
  • I finished reading An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green, brother of the famous YA novelist John Green and one-half of the popular Vlogbrothers video series. Hank has a huge following of his own, thanks to the vlogs and his own two educational and science video series. This new novel, due out September 25, is about a group of young adults who unwittingly find themselves at the center of the biggest thing that's ever happened in the world. Green explores our celebrity culture, the role of social media, and through the mirror of a bizarre, otherworldly series of events, even reflects on our current divided state politically. But while doing all that, it's also a whole lot of fun and very funny. I really enjoyed it and wrote my review for Shelf Awareness last week, so I will share that when it is published in September.
  • Next, I read another review book for Shelf Awareness, Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Ari Folman and David Polonsky (illustrator) and Anne, of course. This graphic novel-style adaptation is just as moving and powerful as the original, and the realistic drawings include startling war-time illustrations, depictions of life in hiding, as well as fantastical imaginings from Anne. I just re-read the original last year, and I thoroughly enjoyed this new approach.
  • And now it is time for my 5th and final Big Book of the year, just in time for the end of summer! I am reading City of Savages by Lee Kelly, a YA post-apocalyptic (and somewhat dystopian) novel that's been on my shelf for far too long! I'm enjoying it so far. It's the story of two teen girls and their mother, trapped in a Manhattan that has been destroyed while war still rages around the city, and the ragtag society that has been established among the survivors. Definitely dark, but intriguing so far.
  • I am still listening to Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork. I am a huge fan of Stork and am enjoying it so far. It's set in Juarez, Mexico, about a young woman whose best friend disappeared one day, along with many other young women over the years from their city. As a reporter, she is looking into the disappearances, but powerful people want to stop her. The narrative goes back and forth between her and her younger brother. So far, it's intense and suspenseful, with in-depth characters.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Waking Gods, book 2 of The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel. He and I both loved book 1, Sleeping Giants, and I realized earlier this year we'd missed the release of the next two books, so I gave him this one for Father's Day (I'm next!). It's a suspenseful and thought-provoking trilogy about a giant hand found buried that is definitely not human-made. I can't wait to get back to this fabulous series!
  • Our son, Jamie, 23, has been reading book 11 of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Knife of Dreams. He loves this series and has been plowing through the huge books this year!About 50 pages left of this one.
Blog posts from last week:
Movie Monday: Extinction - sci fi action, suspense & lots of twists

TV Tuesday: Breaking Bad - we finally tried it and are hooked!

Fiction Review & Interview: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens - compelling novel by a fascinating author

Teen/YA Review: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama - suspenseful dystopian romance

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, so head over and check out her blog and join the Monday fun! You can also participate in a kid/teen/YA version hosted by Unleashing Readers.

You can follow me on Twitter at @SueBookByBook or on Facebook on my blog's page.   

What are you and your family reading this week?   


Just one more week left for the Big Book Summer Challenge! If you are participating, be sure to leave links to your Big Book reviews or challenge updates/wrap-ups on the Challenge page or leave your updates in the Goodreads group. Seems like it's been an excellent Big Book Summer for a lot of people!