Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday Snapshot: Winter Skies


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

There are a million other things I should be doing on this busy Saturday, but I really enjoy participating in Saturday Snapshot!

Here are a few photos from the past couple of months of various winter skies. We've had a lot of overcast days, but when the sky is blue and there are interesting-looking clouds out, I get out my camera. Always remember to look up!

I liked these little cottonball clouds!

Sunlight, clouds, and treetops

Winter branches & sky

More cottonball clouds

But this is how the sky has looked for most of the winter!

I was so happy to see blue sky again this week, I grabbed my camera!

Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Teen/YA Review: The Pirates of Cologne

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you've probably heard me say (multiple times) that I need a break from World War II books. They are often very good but usually emotionally wrenching - important to read but perhaps not as a steady book diet. So, I surprised myself by agreeing to review a new YA novel set during WWII, The Pirates of Cologne by Dinah Mack. I was even more surprised by how how powerful and compelling this story-based-in-fact was. I'm glad to have read it.

Thirteen-year old Sebastian is living in Cologne, Germany, in 1942. He managed to escape from a Hitler Youth Camp, and is now taking care of his grandmother while his father, who was a leader of the local Communist party, is in a Nazi prison camp. Sebastian loves to read (though books are scarce now) and write, but he is lonely until he meets Hans, another teen boy. Hans dropped out of school in order to support his mother, while his nineteen-year old brother is at the front. Hans introduces Sebastian to the other Pirates of Cologne, a small group of local boys who associate themselves with the Edelweiss Pirates, who aim to resist Hitler and Nazi propaganda. Sebastian gets involved with the Pirates, first participating in small shows of resistance, like stealing food from Nazi officer homes. Soon, though, the boys have a chance to join the larger resistance movement, and have a greater impact...though they are also exposed to far more danger.

The Pirates of Cologne is a gripping, moving story that pulled me in right from the first pages. The novel is action-packed and filled with suspense, but it also has a lot of heart, as you come to care for these brave boys who choose to put their lives at risk for what is right. It is inspiring, but it is set in WWII, so it is not all happy endings for all of the boys. As much as I resisted reading yet another WWII story, there are still important stories to be told, and this novel introduced me to a different aspect of that period of history that I had been unaware of. The Edelweiss Pirates were real, though these characters are fictional, and the courage and dedication of these young people was awe-inspiring and is important for today's youth to learn about.

216 pages, Levellers Press


Disclosure: I received this book from the author 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.


Purchase from an Indie bookstore:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or you can order the paperback or e-book from Amazon:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Fiction Review: Exit West

Exit West, a novel by Mohsin Hamid, appeared on many Best of 2017 lists in the book world, and I had heard several intriguing interviews with the author on my favorite book podcasts last year. My husband gave me the book for my birthday last summer, and I finally read it last month. This unique, thoughtful, and compelling novel was a great way to start the new year!

Saeed and Nadia live in an unnamed Muslim country when they meet and begin tentatively dating. Their budding relationship is moved forward rather quickly, though, as their country is embroiled in a civil war, and their city becomes a violent, frightening, and unsafe place. The two come together to keep each other - and Saeed's father - safe amid bombings and other destructive violence. Then, something entirely new and unforeseen happens. Mysterious doors begin to emerge all over the world, including in their city. Word is that you walk through these black doors and emerge into an entirely different part of the world - a random town or city in a far-away country. Things can't get much worse than where they are, so Nadia and Saeed combine their savings, pay someone off, and decide to walk through one of these doorways. They end up in a more peaceful place, but that country is struggling with the sudden influx of immigrants. Nadia and Saeed make their way across the globe, with several journeys through different doors, as the world is rocked by this new type of immigration.

I loved this imaginative story that combines the very intimate lives of this new couple with the emerging global problems created by the doors. The immigration controversies that better-off countries are dealing with today in the real world are amplified in this brave new world where thousands of people can move to a new country simply by walking through a door. Hamid has found a very clever and thought-provoking way to explore these issues. At the same time, this slim novel is also a love story, following the arc of a relationship, from its beginning. The complexities and evolution of the relationship are paralleled with the more global evolution of a new world order. I was captivated from beginning to end of this creative and introspective story of love, immigration, and worldwide changes.

231 pages, Riverhead Books


Disclosure: This book was from my own shelves. My review is my own opinion.

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.

Purchase from an Indie bookstore:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or order Exit West from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

TV Tuesday: The Alienist

My husband and I (and my dad, too) enjoyed reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr, shortly after it was published in 1994, amid a flurry of rave reviews. Now TNT has turned this best-selling story of an 1896 serial killer into a TV series.

If you cross the TV show Bones with an FBI psychological profiler and set it in the 1890's, you begin to get an idea of the feel of this dark thriller. In 1896 New York City, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, played by Danial Bruhl, is an alienist. According to the show's intro:
"In the 19th century the mentally ill were thought to be alienated from their own nature. Experts who studied them were known as Alienists."
Kreizler is something of a renegade in showing both interest and compassion toward the mentally ill since the standard practice of that time was to lock them up or try to "cure" them through all kinds of barbaric methods.  When Kreizler hears that a young boy dressed as a girl has been found brutally murdered on top of the just-being-built Brooklyn bridge, he sends his friend, John Moore (played by Luke Evans), to the scene, since Moore sometimes works as a crime reporter, putting his drawing skills to work. Moore brings a drawing of the horrific scene back to Kreizler.

The police - who are mostly corrupt and operate on a bribe system - show little interest in solving the case, even after Kreizler points out that other child prostitutes have been found in similar condition recently. This is a class of people the police would prefer to just brush under the rug. Sara Howard, played by Dakota Fanning, grew up with Moore and now works as an assistant to Police Commissioner Roosevelt, the only woman in the police department. She is also interested in the case, and the three begin to investigate it on their own, along with the help of two Jewish brothers who are budding forensic specialists. Despite the apathy of the rest of the police force, Roosevelt wants to do the right thing and so allows this undercover investigation.

As with the original novel the show is based on, my husband and I are both enjoying The Alienist. If you enjoy modern detective and forensic shows, then it is pretty fascinating to see this turn-of-the-century approach, where fingerprint analysis was a brand-new concept and crime scene investigation cursory at best. The three main characters - and the supporting actors as well - are excellent in their roles, and the growing mystery is captivating. As you might expect from a show of this nature, it is pretty gruesome at times and very, very dark, both in topic and tone. I prefer not to watch this one right before bed! It's engrossing though, and we can't wait to see what happens next - I only wish my dad were still here - he would love this show!

We are three episodes into the new show, and all three episodes are still available On Demand (where we watch it) or on the TNT website. You can also watch The Alienist on Amazon, where the first episode is free and additional episodes start at $1.99 (or $15.99 for the entire season).



Monday, February 12, 2018

It's Monday 2/12! What Are You Reading?

Ahhh....back home in my recliner with a blanket and a cup of Tangerine Orange Zinger tea. Total comfort. I just got back from seeing my massage therapist (plus a quick stop at the grocery store). I have no idea what I did, but somehow this weekend, I tweaked my upper back & neck - really badly - and I woke up this morning in awful pain and unable to turn my head to either side! I was so grateful to already have an appointment with the massage therapist - usually, he helps me with chronic stuff and trying to prevent future stints in PT, but today I could hardly move. Feeling a bit better now, though still not great. So, yes, glad to be home and in my happy place...and talking books, too!

The weekend didn't go quite as planned. Last week, I mentioned we were gearing up for our annual Mardi Gras party, but Friday morning, I heard from one couple that had to go out of town for a family emergency. We already had a pretty slim group of "yes" RSVPs, and these friends that called Friday are our oldest - and used to live in New Orleans with us. So, we postponed until this coming weekend, though it's looking like they still won't be able to make it. We are just ignoring the fact that Mardi Gras season officially ends tomorrow! We'll just enjoy a small, late celebration.

Anyway, we kind of needed the quiet weekend, and I am working to get caught up on things (though still drowning in e-mails). Here's what we've been reading this past week:
  • I finished The Fold by Peter Clines, a book I bought for my husband for Father's Day at Northshire Bookstore last spring. It's about a new invention that "folds" time and allows teleportation for the first time, but the man sent to investigate it suspects there may be some problems with it that the close-knit scientific team won't admit to. It was SO good!! I love this kind of mind-bending story, and this one had plenty of unexpected twists and turns.
  • I also finished (and started) a middle-grade graphic novel, Swing It, Sunny by sister-brother team Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. It's a sequel to the hit graphic novel Sunny Side Up, which I read in 2016, and it has the same wonderful combination of warmth, fun, and serious issues...plus a heaping dose of 1970's nostalgia that I loved!
  • I am now reading the next selection for my neighborhood book group, Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. This is a nonfiction book that was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award, set in Oklahoma in the 1920's. It's already fascinating and compelling.
  • I finished listening to The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah, a teen/YA audio book set in Australia about a boy named Michael whose parents are strongly anti-immigration. Then he meets Mina, a new girl in school who is a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan, and Michael must decide what side he is on. It was excellent and very engaging - I was surprised to find out these same conflicts are playing out in Australia as well as the U.S.
  • Now, I am listening to A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline, an adult novel that centers on a painting by Andrew Wyeth. It's especially interesting to me because Andrew and his father N.C. Wyeth, both famous painters, lived in our area - in fact, my husband and I just saw an Andrew Wyeth painting at the Delaware Art Museum yesterday! I also wanted to listen to this book now because Kline will be here in our area in April, and I plan to go to her talk. Our All-County Reads book is her earlier novel, Orphan Train, which I loved, but I wanted to read this newer release as well.
  • My husband, Ken, just finished reading The Midnight Line, the latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child - his favorite author and series! I gave him this one for Christmas, and he enjoyed it very much. He hasn't chosen his next book yet - something to look forward to when he comes home from work tonight!
  • Our son, Jamie, 23, is reading book 5 in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven. He loves this epic fantasy series! He has several more books in the series at his apartment (he has used almost all of his Christmas gift cards already), but he's not sure yet whether to continue this series or switch to another favorite fantasy series next. Spring semester started last week, and he has a heavy load, plus working, and looking for a permanent job (he graduates in 3 months!), so his reading time will be a bit limited for a while.
Last week's blog posts - catching up!
Movie Monday: Hello, My Name is Doris - warm, funny movie starring Sally Field

2018 Reading Challenges - yes, finally! I found some good ones!

Middle-Grade Review: Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer in Training - fun graphic novel

Fiction Review: Hap & Hazard and the End of the World by Diane DeSanders - debut novel set in 1950's Dallas & narrated by a child

Saturday Snapshot: Winter Hike at an Old Amusement Park - mixing nature & history

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.


What are you and your family reading this week?  

You can follow me on Twitter at @SueBookByBook or on Facebook on my blog's page.  
I loved this colorful glass sculpture at our local art museum.
  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Saturday Snapshot: Winter Hike at Old Amusement Park


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

Wow, I haven't had time for a Saturday Snapshot post since Christmas! I probably still don't have the time today, but I have missed this meme!

Today's photos are from a hike my husband and I took a couple of weekends ago - when the sun was shining and the sky was blue! We went to Brandywine Springs Park, a local park that used to include a popular amusement park back in the early 1900's. It looks like they are fixing up the area where the old amusement park was, with new bridges and paths, framed photos from the park's heyday, and some markers showing where the different attractions were. It was a beautiful day and lots of fun, so enjoy!

Beautiful blue sky day! A rarity here lately.

My husband walking along the trail.

A markers showing where some food stands were.

Newly built bridge over the creek.

Winter trees and blue skies.

Photo from 1906: the Light Lunch Pavilion

1901-1918 Photo of park entrance.

The requisite hiking selfie!

Hope you are enjoying a nice weekend!

Friday, February 09, 2018

Fiction Review: Hap & Hazard and the End of the World

In December, I read Hap & Hazard and the End of the World, a novel by debut author Diane DeSanders, and reviewed it for Shelf Awareness. My review of this January release was published this week, and you can read it at this link.

I enjoyed this immersive novel. It takes place in the 1950's near Dallas and is told from the perspective of a little girl. This child has a lot of serious stuff to deal with in her young life, so the novel is a mix of amusing childhood observations and experiences - like her efforts to find out if Santa is real, which her parents deal with by taking her to see the newly released Miracle on 34th Street (which only confuses her more) - and some difficult and even disturbing scenes. I was taken by surprise by one especially disturbing episode toward the end of the novel, but overall, I enjoyed the book and really liked the innocent but determined young narrator. I was rooting for her and wished I could somehow protect her from the sometimes cruel realities of life. Ultimately, her story is one of real life - with its ups and downs, joys and pains - that also draws a picture of the world at that time.

You can read my full review on Shelf Awareness.

288 pages, Bellevue Literary 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.

Purchase from an indie bookstore:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or order from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Middle-Grade Review: Cici's Journal

This winter, I have been making my way through a stack of middle-grade and YA graphic novels and memoirs. They are fun to fit in the cracks in between longer books! My latest graphic novel read was Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer in Training by Joris Chamblain with illustrations by Aurélie Neyret. I enjoyed this unique story about an inquisitive young girl who is both a budding writer and detective.

Ten-year old Cici wants to write books when she grows up, and she practices writing in her journal. Her process is to observe people and imagine their lives and their secrets. She lives with her mom and hangs out with her two best friends, Lena and Erica. In Part 1, her attention is captured by a mysterious old man who walks past her house every day, covered in paint. Driven by her insatiable curiosity, Cici starts an investigation and discovers something amazing. In Part 2, she notices another neighbor's strange habits, follows her one day, and investigates why she checks out the same book from the library every week. Cici often becomes single-minded, disobeying her mom and alienating her friends in her quest for the truth, though she also helps people and learns some important lessons about family and friendships along the way.
Sample pages from Cici's Journal

This graphic novel uses a unique approach, with a combination of colorful illustrations of Cici's adventures (see sample above) and excerpted pages out of Cici's own journal telling part of the story. Those include photos, clipped articles, postcards, letters, and other assorted extras "pasted" into her journal, scrapbook-style. It's an immersive approach that makes Cici feel like a real little girl. Both mysteries are intriguing, and it's fun to watch Cici solve them...though you also want to shout at her not to ignore her friends! Since my friends and I used to pretend to be Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden but could never find any mysteries to solve in our quiet neighborhood, I enjoyed following along at Cici's side!

150 pages, First Second


To order from an Indie bookseller: 
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or purchase Cici's Journal from Book Depository with free shipping worldwide.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

2018 Reading Challenges

Yes, yes, I realize it is now February, and most reading challenges are already into their second month! You know me - better late than never!

This year I re-signed up for some old favorites and discovered some new ones, too.

If, like me, you haven't signed up for your reading challenges for 2018 yet - or you just want to add an extra one or two to your list - check out the Master List of 2018 Reading Challenges posted by Girlxoxo. This post was SO helpful to me!

You can check out how I did last year in my 2017 Reading Challenges Wrap-Up (many of the same ones). And anytime this year, you can stop by my 2018 Reading Challenges tab to see how I am doing.

Here are the reading challenges I chose for 2018 - I can't wait to get started!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018 hosted by My Reader's Block

Despite my efforts to read my own books every year, my TBR bookcase now has double rows on 3 shelves! A review job where I receive 3 books every month but only need to review one of them isn't helping. I am losing ground but will keep trying. Since I read 28 TBR books last year, I am signing up for the Mount Vancouver level this year and aiming to read at least 36 books from my own shelves.

There will be quarterly check-ins (I will try to remember!)


2018 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge hosted by Girlxoxo

A favorite challenge that I sign up for every year, with a different theme for one book each month. This one has monthly check-ins, which I never realized before, so I will try to keep up! Here are this year's themes - I dd well in January, despite my late sign-up!

JANUARY – Diversify Your Reading
Kick the reading year off right and shake things up. Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own.

FEBRUARY – One Word
Read a book with a one word title.


MARCH – Travel the World
Read a book set in a different country than your own, written by an author from another country than your own, or a book in which the characters travel.

APRIL – Read Locally
Read a book set in your country, state, town, village (or has a main character from your home town, country, etc)

MAY- Book to Screen
Read a book that’s been made into a movie or a TV show.

JUNE- Crack the Case
Mysteries, True Crime, Who Dunnit’s.

JULY – Vacation Reads
Read a book you think is a perfect vacation read and tell us why.

AUGUST- Award Winners
Read a book that has won a literary award or a book written by an author who has been recognized in the bookish community.

SEPTEMBER- Don’t Turn Out The Light
Cozy mystery ghost stories, paranormal creeptastic, horror novels.

OCTOBER- New or Old
Choose a new release from 2018 or a book known as a classic.

NOVEMBER- Family
Books where family dynamics play a big role in the story

DECEMBER- Wrapping It Up
Winter or holiday themed books or books with snow, ice, etc in the title or books set in winter OR read a book with a theme from any of the months in this challenge (could be a theme you didn’t do, or one you want to do again).


Back to the Classics hosted by Books and Chocolate.

Another one I am returning to this year. I aimed to read 6 classics last year and managed just 5, so I am once again setting my goal at 6 classics. Here are the categories:

1.  A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.

2.  A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1968. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.


3.  A classic by a woman author


4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories). Modern translations are acceptable as long as the original work fits the guidelines for publications as explained in the challenge rules.


5. A children's classic. Indulge your inner child and read that classic that you somehow missed years ago. Short stories are fine, but it must be a complete volume. Young adult and picture books don't count!


6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. This can be a true crime story, mystery, detective novel, spy novel, etc., as long as a crime is an integral part of the story and it was published at least 50 years ago. Examples include The 39 Steps, Strangers on a Train, In Cold Blood, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, etc.  The Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones list is an excellent source for suggestions. 


7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. The journey itself must be the major plot point -- not just the destination. Good examples include The Hobbit, Around the World in 80 Days, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, Kon-Tiki, Travels with Charley, etc. 

8. A classic with a single-word title. No articles please! Proper names are fine -- Emma, Germinal, Middlemarch, Kidnapped, etc.


9. A classic with a color in the title. The Woman in White; Anne of Green Gables; The Red and the Black, and so on. (Silver, gold, etc. are acceptable. Basically, if it's a color in a Crayola box of crayons, it's fine!)


10. A classic by an author that's new to you. Choose an author you've never read before.


11. A classic that scares you. Is there a classic you've been putting off forever? A really long book which intimidates you because of its sheer length? Now's the time to read it, and hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised!


12. Re-read a favorite classic. Like me, you probably have a lot of favorites -- choose one and read it again, then tell us why you love it so much. 




2018 Badass Books Reading Challenge hosted by Melissa Hawkins, Badass by Design.

This is a new one for me (thanks to Girlxoxo for their comprehensive list of challenges!)

The idea is to use this checklist (below) to read at least one book in each category during the year - looks like fun!

A book published in 2018.
A book published the year you were born.
A classic book or a book published over 100 years ago.
A book that you’ve started before and never finished.
A book you should have read in school, but didn’t.
A Book you’ve already read – time for a re-read!
A book that you’ve put off reading.
A banned book.
A book by an author you’ve never read.
A popular author’s first book.
A book turned movie you’ve seen but haven’t read.
A book turned TV show you’ve seen but haven’t read.
A funny book.
A book that will make you smarter.
An award-winning book.
A book based on a true story.
A book chosen for you by a friend.
A book set during Christmas.




Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge hosted by Mom's Small Victories, one of my favorite blogs. I signed up for this one back in 2014, so this is a continuation (it's a perpetual challenge) - I can't wait to see what places I visit in books in 2018! Last year I read 27 books set in other countries/cultures (14 different countries/regions), so I hope to do even better this year.






2018 Literary Escapes Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas Into a Good Book.

I love tracking where I read! Last year, I read books set in 24 different states for this challenge, so I hope to do even better this year.

 Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California 
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska 
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming


Bookish Bingo hosted by Chapter Break - not really a challenge per se, but a fun game that I play each month! Stop by to print out this month's Bingo card and play along!




Big Book Summer Challenge hosted by Book By Book (me!)

My own challenge! It will run again from Memorial Day weekend (last in May) to Labor Day (first Monday in September) - any books with 400 or more pages count. I look forward to this one every summer as a chance to finally get to some of the bigger books I never seem to have time for - and they are usually TBR books, so that helps my Mount TBR Challenge, too!


What reading challenges have you signed up for this year?

Monday, February 05, 2018

Movie Monday: Hello, My Name is Doris

After writing my year-end movie wrap-up, Favorite Movies Watched in 2017, recently, I had one of those middle-of-the-night realizations (am I the only one who does that?) - I hadn't reviewed Hello, My Name is Doris last year! Somehow, the review fell through the cracks, which is a shame because it probably would have taken the prize for my favorite comedy last year. I watched this warm and funny movie with my two closest friends, and we all loved it.

Sally Fields stars as the 60-something Doris and steals the show in this fun, quirky role. As the movie opens, Doris has just lost her mother, whom she lived with and cared for her whole life. She is on her own for the first time and has lots of neuroses, including never throwing anything away and living in the midst of clutter. She works in an office, and someone new comes into her reclusive, habit-driven life when a new art director is hired. John, played by Max Greenfield (Schmidt on The New Girl), is hunky and kind to Doris. After a lifetime of reading romance novels, Doris is primed for true love (or lust) and falls for John, despite his being decades younger than her. Her best friend Roz, played by Tyne Daly, thinks she has lost her mind, but Doris' world is opening up for the first time. She is scared but also excited and enlists Roz's granddaughter's help in stalking John online. They discover that John loves a certain band that is playing locally the following week, so Doris goes to the bar where they are playing, sees John there, which leads to even more new experiences.

My friends and I just loved this warm, hilarious movie. Sally Field is perfect as Doris, with her wigs, brightly-colored clothes, and her infectious and growing enthusiasm for life. It's so much fun to see Doris' world opening up, as she explores her freedom for the first time in her 60+ years. It's an earnest, heart-warming, and very funny movie that is filled with joy. This is a great movie to watch when you need a lift!

Hello, My Name is Doris is available for free on Amazon Prime streaming or on DVD. It is available through Netflix only on DVD, not streaming.

You MUST watch this trailer, which highlights some of the warmth and humor of the movie:



    

It's Monday 2/5! What Are You Reading?

Woohoo! Go Eagles! We live just south of Philadelphia, so everyone around here is going CRAZY over the Eagles first-ever Superbowl win last night. It was an exciting game right up to the last moments. Even better, we enjoyed way too many yummy snacks, and there were some great ads last night - my favorite was the one where Alexa lost her voice & various celebrities subbed for her - hilarious and very clever! My mom and her husband were here for the weekend, so our college sons were home all weekend, and we also had my father-in-law over for the game last night. Now the house is almost quiet again - taking my mom to the train station this afternoon, and then I need to recover from all the noise and excitement!

I won't have too much time for recovery, though, because next weekend is Mardi Gras! We can no longer manage the big blow-out parties we used to have with 60 people here, but we still have a small group of close friends come over, and I make some of our favorite New Orleans dishes (we used to live there). Here are some ideas and links for celebrating Mardi Gras, no matter where you live. There's even a link there to live webcams of the parades in New Orleans. Unfortunately, the links to my recipes on that post are no longer working (the magazine I published them in was sold, so they are no longer on the site), but you can see those recipes here, in a copy of the article. Mardi Gras Day this year falls on Tuesday, February 13, so next weekend is a great time to celebrate (in New Orleans, they start celebrating 10 days after Christmas).

And amidst all these mid-winter celebrations, of course we still make time to read each day (though far less this weekend than usual!). Here's what we've been reading this week:
  • I just finished a new novel: Speak No Evil, by Uzodinma Iweala, the author of the highly acclaimed Beasts of No Nation. I'm reviewing this one for Shelf Awareness - it's due out on February 6. It is about a top student in DC who is headed for Harvard but can't tell his very conservative Nigerian parents that he's gay. He finally comes out to his best friend, Meredith, but after that, a series of events leads to tragedy. It was an incredibly moving, powerful book touching on so many important issues: tolerance, inclusion, immigration, violence, and more.
  • Don't you love that moment when you get to choose your next book? I have some space in between obligations for reviews and book groups, so I chose a book off our shelves I have been dying to read: The Fold by Peter Clines, a book I bought for my husband for Father's Day at Northshire Bookstore last spring. It's about a new invention that "folds" time and allows teleportation for the first time, but the man sent to investigate it suspects there may be some problems with it that the close-knit scientific team won't admit to. It is already SO good!!
  • I am still listening to the audiobook, The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah, a teen/YA novel set in Australia about a boy named Michael whose parents are strongly anti-immigration. Then he meets Mina, a new girl in school who is a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan, and Michael must decide what side he is on. It is excellent so far and has really kept my attention.
  • My husband, Ken, finished a book I gave him for Christmas, The Last One by Alexandra Oliva. It's about 12 people on a reality show like Survivior, who are out in the wilderness when a real-life disaster hits. They have no idea what's happening in the outside world, and when they see some evidence of the devastation, they assume it's a part of the show. Doesn't that sound like an amazing premise? He really liked it - and it was a pretty quick read.
  • Our son, Jamie, 23, is reading book 5 in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven. He loves this epic fantasy series! He has several more books in the series at his apartment (he has used almost all of his Christmas gift cards already), but he's not sure yet whether to continue this series or switch to another favorite fantasy series next. Classes for spring semester start today, so his reading time will be cut way back.
Last week's blog posts - I finally finished the 2017 wrap-ups, but I STILL haven't signed up for my 2018 challenges!
Movie Monday: Blade Runner - yes, the 1982 original starring Harrison Ford!

TV Tuesday: Favorite TV Shows Reviewed in 2017 - so many GOOD ones!

Fiction Review: NightSun by Dan Vining - mystery, thriller & dystopia set in 2025 LA

Fiction Review: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain - real-life story of 1900's female aviator

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.


What are you and your family reading this week?  

You can follow me on Twitter at @SueBookByBook or on Facebook on my blog's page.  
 
Lots of goodies for our Superbowl party!

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Fiction Review: Circling the Sun

I have heard many rave reviews of both The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun, Paula McLain's two latest best-selling novels about real-life women, so I was interested when my neighborhood book group chose Circling the Sun for our January selection. I wasn't sure I would like the novel much, though, since the subject matter - a female pilot in Africa in the early 1900's - wasn't of particular interest to me. I found that I enjoyed the book very much - far more than I expected to! All those rave reviews were right.

Beryl Markham was a real-life woman, and this novel tells the story of the first half of her life, spent mostly in Kenya, where she became the first female horse trainer in the British colony there and a record-setting pilot in the early years of aviation. The novel is written in first-person, from Beryl's perspective, and begins with her childhood in Kenya with her father. Her mother left Africa, along with Beryl's older brother, to return to England when Beryl was just four years old, so she grew up running wild on the family's horse farm. Though she felt abandoned and confused by her mother's departure, Beryl loved her life in the wilds of Africa, playing with her best friend, a native boy named Kibii, from the neighboring village. Beryl felt equally at home in the Kenyan native village and on her father's farm and grew up among horses, which eventually led to her determination to become a horse trainer.

I was pulled into Beryl's story right from the start and especially enjoyed the early sections describing her childhood. The diary-like approach made me feel like Beryl was confiding in me, and the descriptions of the beautiful but dangerous African countryside were immersive. In her later years, her portrayal of the British colonial society in the midst of that African wildness was fascinating (and sometimes appalling!). Beryl encountered many difficulties in her life, which I will leave for you to discover on your own. She was strong, though, and determined to follow her passions. I was rooting for her throughout the book. Not everyone in my book group loved the novel as much as I did. A few people disliked Beryl herself because of some of her relationships, but I felt that she made the best she could of a life filled with challenges and tragedies. Not only that, but Beryl became an early female hero, busting stereotypes about women, setting records, and excelling in both horse training and flying. I found Beryl's life to be very inspirational, and this novel to be engrossing and captivating. Now, I am also interested in reading The Paris Wife, which many women in my book group loved.

355 pages, Ballantine Books


Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library. My review is my own opinion.

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.


To order from an Indie bookstore:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or purchase Circling the Sun from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Fiction Review: NightSun

My latest review for Shelf Awareness has been published: NightSun by Dan Vining. You can read the full review at this link.

NightSun is a detective story with a twist: it's set in 2025 Los Angeles. So, it works as a mystery, a thriller, and a dystopian novel. Although there are two different cases being investigated in this novel, the backdrop and setting of near-future LA get plenty of attention, too. The tone and mood are fairly dark, as are most futuristic settings in books! The mysteries here and the bigger issues encountered are not all wrapped up in a neat bow by the end, so it's not a typical mystery novel, but there are some resolutions to the two cases. I wondered whether this might be the start of a series, with detective Nate Cole and PI Ava being introduced for future adventures.

All in all, I enjoyed this unique novel, and it is now in my husband's to-be-read stack! Check out the full review on Shelf Awareness.


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.
 
Find NightSun through an independent bookstore:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or order NightSun from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.