Saturday, October 22, 2016

Saturday Snapshot 10/22: Assateague Island - the Beach

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads. 

More photos from our recent trip to Maryland. We started on the Eastern Shore (on the Chesapeake Bay) at Janes Island State Park, then we moved our camper to Assateague Island National Seashore, on the Atlantic.

We enjoyed more kayaking among the salt marshes of the bay, with the wild horses all around (those pics next week!) and also the beautiful ocean and beach. My husband's not too fond of the ocean (he grew up in Oklahoma), but I love it. The last of these photos shows our blissful ignorance, having been off the  grid all week: we had no idea there was a HUGE storm coming that night! Heavy rain and winds up to 50 mph that lasted for over 12 hours...and we were right on the ocean! Quite an experience in our little pop-up camper. But before the storm hit, we enjoyed the beautiful beach:

Our campsite, tucked among the dunes at Assateague Island

I love the ocean!

A cloudy, overcast day but warm & pleasant

Day 2: we saw how rough the surf was...little did we know what was coming!

Blissfully ignorant of the coming storm!

Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Books Read in September

September was a great reading month for me, with the last of my summer reading - including one last book for my Big Book Summer Challenge - at the start of the month, transitioning to some dark, creepy reading for fall and the start of the RIP XI Challenge.

Here's what I finished in September (my reviews at the links):

  • The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell, adult novel (India, Scotland)
  • Drag Teen by Jeffrey Self, teen/YA novel on audio (FL, NY)
  • They Are Trying to Break Your Heart by David Savill, adult novel (UK, Bosnia, Thailand) - due out in March 2017

Nine books in all! Possibly a record for me. The month started with a long weekend readathon and ended with a week-long vacation, so that explains the extra reading time! I read all fiction in September, which is really not a rarity for me! I did, however, read a nice mix of middle-grade, teen/YA, and adult novels and with widely diverse topics, genres, and tones. My favorite was Sleeping Giants, an amazing and wholly unique novel that you must read!

Progress on 2016 Reading Challenges:
This is my favorite part of my monthly summary - updating my Reading Challenges! I read 4 more TBR books in September for my Read Your Own Damn Books Challenge - that's a total of 17 so far this year. For the Monthly Motif Reading Challenge, September was Sci Fi/Fantasy month - Sleeping Giants fits that category (though don't let that dissuade you from reading it if you don't normally read sci fi - like The Martian, it has broad appeal & is very well-written). I added no new nonfiction books to my 2016 Nonfiction Reading Challenge, and one more classic for the 2016 Classics Challenge - I'm up to 3 now! For my Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge, I added books set in Scotland, Bosnia, Thailand, and Ukraine (though many of my books this month were set in NY or UK). I am also tracking the states my books are set in, even though there is no Where Are You Reading challenge this year, but I added no new states this month. And I kicked off the RIP XI Challenge with three books.

Finally, I filled 20 spaces on my monthly Bookish Bingo hosted by Chapter Break - my best month yet! (you can join the fun any month without officially joining a challenge). Here's my Bingo card for September:

My books filled these spaces:
The Many Lives of John Stone - Shelf Love, lawyer
The Summer Guest - note/letters, vacation, run/alcohol
The Sense of an Ending - library book
The Many Lives of John Stone - Shelf Love, lawyer
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - affair, recommended to you, boat/ship, step family, child, secrets/lies
Drag Teen - debut novel, friendship, pink on the cover, free book
They Are Trying to Break Your Heart - tattoo
Sleeping Giants - alien, in a series
Free space

What was your favorite book read in September? 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fiction Review: Sleeping Giants

Since spring, I had been hearing rave reviews about Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, so I got it for my husband for Father’s Day. He loved it, too! I finally got a chance to read this wholly unique, compelling novel for myself and can’t wait for book 2 of this new series called The Themis Files.

In the prologue, an 11-year old girl in South Dakota is out riding the new bike she got for her birthday. She leaves her bicycle on the side of the road for a moment to investigate a sound in the woods and falls into a huge hole in the ground. When rescuers find her, she is at the bottom of a big rectangular pit, lying in the palm of a giant metal hand, unlike anything anyone has ever seen before. Along the sides of the rectangular hole are huge panels, covered in strange symbols. All of it – the hand and the panels – are glowing with a brilliant turquoise light.

Then the novel opens 17 years later, when that little girl is now a woman named Dr. Rose Franklin, a professor with a PhD in Physics at the University of Chicago. By a strange twist of fate, she has been put in charge of a joint program between the university and NSA to study the hand and figure out what it is, what it can do, and how it got into a hole in South Dakota. The military didn’t make any progress with the hand years ago, and now she has been given a small team to study it.

Other members of her team include Kara Resnick, a skilled but sometimes abrasive Army helicopter pilot whose helicopter mysteriously stopped in mid-air and crashed while flying over Turkey. The project also includes Kara’s co-pilot from that same mission, Ryan Mitchell. Rounding out the team is Vincent Couture, a scientist from French Canada who is brilliant with computers. Unlike the military team 17 years earlier, this team begins to make headway.

I won’t say much more about the plot because this is one of those books whose secrets are gradually and deliciously revealed, bit by bit, as you read, so that you can hardly bear to set it down. The whole story is told in an epistolary style, with each chapter representing the transcript from an interview, an experiment log, a journal entry, or other type of document in the case file. Part of the mystery of the book is that it is filled with interview transcripts of all the main players on the team, but we don’t know whom the mysterious interviewer is.

All the rave reviews I heard about this novel are true…and more. The action starts fast and continues to build momentum with every page. The more the team learns, the more it is clear that this thing they are investigating is almost certainly a game-changer, something so high-tech that nothing like it has ever been seen – or dreamt of – before.

Besides action and suspense, this novel is also thought-provoking and asks the big questions: about the price of scientific development, the balancing of the needs of the many over the sacrifices of a few, and what is to be the fate of humanity. This hand is clearly non-human made, and the deeper the team digs into its origins and use, the more the moral and ethical questions pile up. It is an engrossing story that will pull you deep into its depths. Just when you think you understand what’s going on, the book ends with a twist that leaves you dying to read the next book in the series. I can’t wait to see what Sylvain Neuvel dreams up next in book 2!

Book 2, Waking Gods, is due for release April 4, 2017.

304 pages, Del Ray (an imprint of Random House)

P.S. Movie rights to Sleeping Giants have been purchased (yay!), but nothing concrete is in the works yet.

NOTE: If you have not yet read the first book, don't read the description of book 2 - spoilers!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

2016 Big Book Summer Giveaway!

Better Late Than Never?

That's pretty much my life motto, and it certainly applies here. It just occurred to me recently that my Big Book Summer Reading Challenge finished up at the beginning of September, but I never did the end-of-challenge giveaway! Well, that will just make it more special for the winner now, right?

I considered everyone who participated in the challenge, both bloggers who left their sign-up links on the challenge page, and readers from Goodreads who signed up in the Big Book Summer group there. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to include those living outside of the U.S. - the shipping costs are just too high (more than the value of the book!). I used the random number generator at, and the winner is....

Congratulations, Jada!

Jada has a wonderful blog featuring book reviews and other bookish fun, so head over there to check it out!

Jada, you get to choose one Big Book from the following list. They are all over 400 pages, and they have all been (gently) read and enjoyed but are in good shape:

  • NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, a horror thriller read by my husband (Hill is Stephen King's son)
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt, a drama set on a college campus with a murder at its center
  • The Marvels by Brian Selznick, a unique middle-grade novel told in drawings and text that I read for Big Book Summer this year and loved.
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, a drama that follows a group of friends from art camp in their teens through their adult lives - I read it for last year's Big Book Summer & enjoyed it.
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, YA fantasy novel and book 4 in The Raven Cycle.
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese - an epic story about twin brothers who grow up in a hospital in Ethiopa.
Hope you will join the fun for next year's Big Book Summer Challenge!

You may now return to your regularly scheduled fall...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

TV Tuesday: Frequency

I thought I would review another TV show perfect for this creepy season (and my RIP XI Challenge) - this one has some supernatural elements to it. My husband, 22-year old son, and I have started watching the new CW show Frequency and are enjoying it so far.

Raimy Sullivan, played by Peyton List, is a young female police detective who lives in Queens, NY. Her father died when she was just 8 years old, as a detective on an undercover assignment whose colleagues said he'd gone rogue. Raimy and her sister were brought up by her mother, Julie, played by Devin Kelley, who we see in the first episode is dying of cancer.

Raimy discovers that the old ham radio in the garage that used to be her father's suddenly lights up and starts working again, after years of sitting there broken. Raimy's dad loved his ham radio, and Raimy always enjoyed going on it with him. To her surprise, the grown-up Raimy suddenly hears her dad's voice coming through the radio. They begin talking and - after a lot of disbelief and convincing discussions - they figure out that she is in 2016 and he is in 1996, and they are somehow talking to each other. Raimy's dad, Frank, played by Riley Smith, is just one day from the undercover operation that will take his life, and Raimy warms him of what is going to happen, from the crime report she has read.

Well, you know what happens when you tamper with history! The next day, after Raimy warned her dad of what would happen that night, a lot of things - both good and bad - have changed. For everyone else, this is just the way things have always been, but Raimy can remember both the original 2016 world and this new, changed world. She and her dad begin talking every day, trying to work together to solve some serious, life-changing crimes that occur in both timelines and hoping to change some of their own personal tragedies.

Only two episodes of Frequency have aired so far, but we are loving it! It's a police show but with a big twist: communicating across time. I always love time travel plots, and though this is not time travel per se, it has the same element of "be careful what you change in the past because it can have unforeseen consequences," which I love. My husband pointed out halfway through the first episode that this show is based on a movie, also called Frequency and starring Dennis Quaid, that he and I watched a few years ago. We are enjoying the twisty plot so far and can't wait to see where it goes.

Frequency is currently airing on CW network, Wednesdays at 9 pm. You can catch past episodes On Demand, on the CW website, and on Amazon Prime for $1.99 an episode or $24.99 for all of season one.

Monday, October 17, 2016

It's Monday 10/17! What Are You Reading?

Doing better here & getting back into my normal routine. My Lyme disease came back about two weeks ago, and I restarted treatment about a week ago. Luckily, I caught it quickly this time (the symptoms are unmistakable for me now), so I am already feeling a lot better. My younger son came home from college with a sinus infection this week, but we got him into the doctor right away and onto antibiotics, so he is doing better now, too. Otherwise, it was an OK week, with plenty of writing time (since I couldn't do much active stuff), and a very nice weekend with both family and friends.

As always, we all enjoyed our books last week:
  • I finished A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, though I missed the library's discussion of it last week. It fit in perfectly with my RIP XI Challenge for this spooky season. A wealthy, successful man in the early 1900's in rural Wisconsin places an ad looking for "a reliable wife." Catherine, the woman that answers and is chosen, says in her letters that she is a "simple, honest woman," but she is anything but. We know from the start that she plans to poison and kill her new husband but not why or who she really is. It was good and full of surprises, with a very dark and creepy tone perfect for this month!
  • Now, I am reading a review book, The River of Kings by Taylor Brown, a novel with an intriguing mix of adventure, family drama, and historical fiction. It's about two brothers in Georgia who are kayaking the length of a river to honor their father's memory. He lived his whole life on the river, and they are carrying his ashes on their journey. Chapters of their kayaking trip alternate with flashbacks of their father's life on the river and scenes from the 1500's when the first French settlers came to this area and encountered Native Americans, illustrated by real drawings made by those explorers. I'm really enjoying it so far. It is due out in March.
  • On audio, I am listening to The Hunt by Megan Shepherd, a teen/YA novel and sequel to The Cage, which I enjoyed. This series takes place in another world, where a group of teens from Earth are being held captive. Gripping suspense and intriguing concepts here!
  • My husband, Ken, finished one of the new books I gave him for his birthday, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, author of the books that were made into the Wayward Pines TV series. In this intriguing novel, a man is knocked out and abducted and wakes up with a completely different life - different wife, no kids, everything changed. Ken said it was great and very weird. I definitely want to read this one, too (those are the best kind of gifts to give!).
  • Last night, Ken started Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. Last year, we inherited my dad's collection of Stephen King and Dean Koontz books, but the first book in this series was missing. So, Ken bought a copy on our vacation a couple of weeks ago, and is looking forward to reading this novel that my dad enjoyed so much. We both miss him a lot, and reading his favorite books helps us feel close to him.
  • Jamie, 22, is still reading book 3 in the Scott Lynch series Gentleman Bastards, The Republic of Thieves, which he bought this summer. He loves this series (so does my husband) and says it is about con men in Medieval times. 
 On the blog last week:
TV Tuesday: Dexter - a creepy, unique, gripping show about a serial killer (who is actually the good guy) - perfect for the season!

New Travel Article: Stay in a Treehouse in Oregon - my latest travel article about one of our all-time favorite vacation stops

Fiction Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - a dark and twisty Gothic classic

Middle-Grade Review: Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson - a warm, moving story of friendship and healing

Saturday Snapshot: Kayaking at Janes Island State Park - Eastern Shore of Maryland

Weekend Cooking: Paleo Pumpkin Coffee Cake - delicious for dessert or breakfast & perfect for fall!

What are you and your family reading this week?    

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.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Weekend Cooking: Paleo Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

My son and I eat a Paleo diet for medical reasons. Paleo means no diary, grains, or legumes and only natural sugars. We are both supposed to avoid all sugar, as well. So, I really miss baked goods and especially desserts.

Last week, a friend of mine posted a link to a recipe for Paleo Pumpkin Coffee Cake on Facebook, and I immediately clicked the link and printed the recipe. I made it yesterday and took it to a potluck, where it was gobbled up! It's really delicious, and my son said it tasted like fall. I agree!

The recipe is from the blog Jay's Baking Me Crazy, which I had never been to before. You can read the full blog post, see lots of photos, and print a nice copy of the recipe at this link: Paleo Pumpkin Coffee Cake. I don't have any of my own photos because there is nothing left but crumbs! Amazingly, though, it came out looking just like her photo, which is a rarity for me.

I made a few small changes because we are supposed to avoid all sugar. I cut the maple syrup and coconut sugar both in half and added in 2 teaspoons of Stevia. So, that is a lower-sugar option.

BONUS: I had some canned pumpkin left after making the cake yesterday, so this morning we had Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes with Bacon and Pecans for breakfast, a recipe from Against All Grain, one of my favorite sources for Paleo recipes - mmmm! (Once again, I subbed 2 teaspoons Stevia for the honey called for in the recipe - that was for a half a recipe.) It's been a fall pumpkin cooking bonanza this weekend!

Paleo Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 58 minutes
Yield: 9

  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  1. Preheat oven to 325° and line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper.
  2. Make the crumb topping first: in a small bowl, combine coconut flour, almond flour, coconut sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup, and coconut oil. Mix well- it should resemble wet sand. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine coconut oil, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and pumpkin. Mix well.
  4. Add in the eggs and mix until incorporated.
  5. Add in the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and salt. Mix until no dry pockets remain. Pour into prepared pan and top with crumb topping.
  6. Bake for 45-50 minutes.
  7. Store in fridge after the first day.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturday Snapshot 10/15: Kayaking at Janes Island State Park, MD

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads. 

Here is Part 2 of my photos from the beautiful Janes Island State Park on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where my husband and I vacationed and camped a couple of weeks ago. Most of these photos were taken while kayaking because Janes Island is a fabulous kayaking spot, with a half dozen different water trails through the salt marshes and the Chesapeake Bay beyond.
Morning reflections on the water - wish it had stayed that calm!

Morning clouds reflected in the water

Beautiful day for kayaking

Me and the marsh grasses

Tiny periwinkles clinging to the marsh grasses

Great Blur Heron standing on the shore (click to enlarge)

Heron flew past us & into this tree!

Dusk at the Crisfield town docks - crab cakes for dinner!

Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Middle-Grade Review: Swing Sideways

I recently listened to a middle-grade audiobook, Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson, a debut author. This story of a summer friendship between two girls is warm, tender, and full of adventure.

Annabel and her parents arrive at the cottage on a lake in rural New York where her family has spent every summer (and her parents spent their childhood summers as well!), but this summer is different. Annabel has an eating disorder, and her therapist has made her mother promise to give Annabel some – in fact, a lot of - freedom this summer.  Her mother normally fills her days with scheduled activities, kept track of via a spreadsheet stuck on the refrigerator door, but this summer, she is supposed to let Annabel do whatever she wants…with no schedule or spreadsheet.

On their way to the house the first day, Annabel spots a girl about her age at a farm down the road, and she knows exactly what she wants to do with her summer. The girl is running through fields and climbing trees, in bare feet and with her hair loose and tangled. She waves when Annabel and her family pass, and Annabel can’t wait to go back to the farm and meet the girl. She looks like she lives the kind of country life Annabel has always dreamed of – she adores books like the Little House books that tell of a rural life.

The next day, Annabel runs down to the farm and meets California, the girl she spotted the day before. California was brought up on a commune with her mother and is full of energy and enthusiasm. She is spending the summer with her grandfather who has cancer. Caught up in the excitement of freedom and new experiences, Annabel introduces herself as Annie, and her summer of freedom and adventure begins.

Annie and California spend their days outdoors on the farm, climbing trees (California teaches Annie how), picking raspberries and eating them right from the vine, and swimming in the river. Annie’s mother would not approve of any of this and is appalled when Annie shows up for dinner dirty and with messed-up hair, but she keeps her end of the deal and doesn’t nag. The two girls eventually settle on a special quest: California wants to find the ponies that meant so much to her mother when she was young, to lure her mother back to the farm and fix whatever caused the rift between her mother and grandfather. She thinks the ponies are loose in the wild around the farm somewhere, so the two girls search every day.

This is a story about friendship, but it is so much more than that. Both girls are suffering in their own ways and in need of healing that this special summer can provide. There are plenty of secrets, here, too, not just between the girls but family secrets that they will uncover as well. As their friendship blossoms and grows, the two girls grow close to each other and when needed, learn how to be brave. It’s a summer of growth for both of them and of healing for their families.

I enjoyed this fast-paced, warm novel very much. It’s one of those books that slowly steals your heart as you come to care for the characters. Children will love all of the adventures the two girls experience, but this is also a story with plenty of heart (and a few tears, too). It is sad at times, but mostly, it is a story about hope and healing and the power of friendship.

HarperChildren’s Audio

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fiction Review: Wuthering Heights

I’ve been trying to read more classics lately, and my old copy of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte was calling to me from the bookshelf. I last read this classic Gothic novel when I was 15 for my 10th grade English class (which is obvious from the boy’s name written all over it!). I remembered I liked it but not too much about the plot, other than that the main characters were Heathcliff and Catherine. In fact, I often confused Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in my memory. I re-read it last month and once again enjoyed this dark story of unrequited love and revenge.

It’s a complex story of two families whose lives are intertwined. Their two homes – Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange – are a few miles apart on the lonely, windy moors of England. Three children grow up together as siblings at Wuthering Heights: Hindley, Catherine, and Heathcliff. Heathcliff was not born to the family but was found when he was very young and brought up as an equal to the other two. In fact, Mr. Earnshaw, their father, actually favors Heathcliff in many ways, resulting in Hindley’s lifelong envy and anger toward Heathcliff.

Heathcliff and Catherine, on the other hand, get along very well and are inseparable playmates as children. They love to roam the moors together and explore the outdoor world. Things start to go awry, however, when they are teens and young adults. Cathy, as Heathcliff affectionately calls her, falls in love with Edgar Linton, one of their neighbors at Thrushcross Grange, and eventually marries him. This sets off a lifelong rage in Heathcliff, whose love for Catherine never dims.

That’s the underlying situation that sets these two families off on a twisting path of rage, vitriol, and revenge that will last not only a lifetime but through generations. Hindley hates Heathcliff who, in turn, hates Hindley. Heathcliff loves Catherine, but she’s married to Edgar, and so, by extension, Heathcliff hates all of the Lintons. Heathcliff harbors this boiling rage his whole life, with a revenge scheme that he carries out not only on those he hates but on their descendants as well.

The whole novel is set within the framework of the Earnshaw’s beloved servant, Nellie, telling the history of the two houses and two families to Mr. Lockwood, a current tenant at Thrushcross Grange. Mr. Lockwood is mystified and curious after meeting his sullen and wrathful landlord, Heathcliff, so when he retires back to Thrushcross Grange, he asks Nellie to explain the strange situation at Wuthering Heights to him. Nellie, who also grew up as a small child among the three Earnshaw siblings, starts from the beginning, and brings him up to the present.

Wuthering Heights is a dark, brooding novel (a perfect fit for my RIP XI Challenge this month). It’s a story of passionate – but unrequited – love that lasts a lifetime and possibly beyond (there are intimations of restless ghosts here, too). It is also a story of a plan of revenge so deep that it is the culmination of a lifetime of hatred enacted on multiple generations. Most of the characters are somewhat unlikable, though there are often reasons for their wretchedness, and you feel empathy for what they have been through to make them the way they are – even Heathcliff. Despite all this darkness, there is an element of hope at the end, a hint that life will improve for the next generations. All in all, it is a satisfying, passionate family drama that is beautifully written; it’s easy to see why it is a classic.

320 pages, Signet Classic

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New Travel Article: Stay in a Treehouse in Oregon

Another of my travel articles has been published on the website, My Itchy Travel Feet. This one is:

Reconnect with Nature By Staying Off-Grid in a Treehouse

about one of our favorite travel experiences ever! This gorgeous treehouse high in the trees in southern Oregon was our home for 2 nights about 5 years ago, and we never wanted to leave! It is truly an extraordinary experience and sure beats a hotel room or even our much-loved pop-up camper.

The treehouse is part of a "treesort" with about a dozen treehouses, many of which you can also stay in, though we enjoyed the peace and quiet of this one (top photo) off by itself. Check out the article with lots more photos and definitely book a treehouse next time you are in Oregon!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

TV Tuesday: Dexter

In honor of Halloween coming up and my RIP XI Challenge (Peril on the Screen), I thought I would talk about an older show that my husband and I have been watching lately. Dexter aired on Showtime from 2006 - 2013. My husband and I watch it when we are camping together because we have it on DVD (it was one of our older son's favorites a few years back), so we can watch an episode on my laptop at night in our little camper, even without electricity or internet.

Dexter is a very odd show, but it really grows on you. The main character, boyishly handsome Dexter Morgan, is a serial killer...and he's the protagonist, the one you root for! Yes, you will root for him, even if you don't think so now...

Dexter, played by Michael C. Hall, works as a forensic blood specialist, analyzing blood spatter at crime scenes and other blood-related forensics work for the Miami police department. His sister, Deb (played by Jennifer Carpenter), also works for the police department as a detective, following in the footsteps of their father. Dexter was adopted into the family when he was just four years old, so he and Deb grew up like real siblings and are quite close (or as close as Dexter is to anyone).

In reality, you know from his narration from the very first episode, that Dexter is a psychopath who  has difficulty feeling real emotions or relating to other people normally. He loves Deb in his own way, though. He also has a sweet girlfriend named Rita, played by Julie Benz. Rita is damaged in her own way from a past abusive relationship, so she and Dexter get along well. She doesn't expect much from him - in fact, is often apologizing for not being ready to move things along faster - and he is fine with that. She has two adorable little kids, a girl and a boy, and they adore Dexter, who is playful & caring with them.

And, yeah, Dexter is a serial killer. However, he is a serial killer with a strict moral code - he only kills really bad guys who kill other people. He calls it the Code of Harry, after his adopted father, a police detective, who carefully trained Dexter. He could see at an early age that Dexter had these urges inside of him and so taught him to release that pressure and allow himself to kill only in a very specific, controlled way (and also, so as to not get caught). It was his way of protecting Dexter, the only way he could. We see that training gradually unfold in flashbacks.

Dexter has most of the people around him fooled - no one suspects that this easy-going, funny guy is really a cold-hearted killer underneath. Well, one person suspects something is wrong: Detective Doakes, played by Erik King, works in Homicide (with Deb and Dexter). Doakes is creeped out by Dexter and is certain he is hiding something sinister underneath his mild-mannered appearance. Dexter can't believe he's the only one creeped out by him when he is surrounded by homicide detectives!

That's the general outline of the show: Dexter helps to solve murders by day and commits them by night, leading a double life. But the crazy thing is that within a few episodes - and definitely by the end of the first season when you know more about Dexter's background - you actually like him. While you may not be rooting for him to kill again (though the people he kills are truly evil), you do hope he doesn't get caught and/or can maybe heal somehow and pull his life together.

This show definitely belongs in the creepy category for RIP XI this month because not only is it about a serial killer, but it can be pretty gory at times. I admit to covering my eyes during some scenes! The opening credits alone will creep you out (not gory, just creepy)! In between, though, it's similar to a typical detective show. Much of its appeal is due to the fact that the cast is excellent. Hall as Dexter manages to be both likable and creepy, Carpenter is fabulous as his sister (and we enjoyed her last year in the Limitless TV show), and the supporting cast are all great, especially David Zayas as Detective Angel Batista. The writing is also top-notch: realistic, engaging, and even funny.

On our last camping trip two weeks ago, we finished season 1 and watched the first episode of season 2 (it's a real cliff-hanger!), and we are totally hooked now.

You can watch all seven seasons of Dexter on Netflix streaming, on DVD, or for free on Amazon Prime or Showtime if you have a Showtime subscription (otherwise you can buy it on Amazon Prime).

Have you watched Dexter? What's your favorite creepy TV show?

Monday, October 10, 2016

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

Ah....quiet Monday morning, though not for long. It's a week full of appointments & meetings, and I have to meet my father-in-law at the doctor's office in a half hour - off and running!

I had a rough week because it seems that my Lyme disease is back (third time's a charm?) on top of my chronic immune disorder, so I had severe knee pain all week and all of my "normal" symptoms were badly flared up, including just feeling totally wiped out. Not a very productive week for me. I have a whole new appreciation for people who live with chronic pain every day.  I saw my Lyme specialist on Friday and have started treatment, so I am hoping to start feeling better soon.

Meanwhile, as always, books bring me comfort and escape! Here's what we've been reading this week:
  • I finished Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, one of this spring's hottest new releases. All the rave reviews were right on target - it's SO good!! It's a novel about the discovery of a giant metal hand in the ground and the investigation that follows to figure out what it is and where it came from. Highly recommended, even if you think you don't like sci fi!!
  • Now I am reading this month's choice for my library's discussion group, A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. I rarely have time to squeeze in the library's book group (I belong to 3 other book groups!), but this book was on my TBR shelf and it fits in perfectly with my RIP XI Challenge for this spooky season. A wealthy, successful man in the early 1900's in rural Wisconsin places an ad looking for "a reliable wife." Catherine, the woman that answers and is chosen, says in her letters that she is a "simple, honest woman," but she is anything but. We know from the start that she plans to poison and kill her new husband but not why or who she really is. It's good so far and full of surprises, with a very dark and creepy tone perfect for this month!
  • On audio, I am listening to The Hunt by Megan Shepherd, a teen/YA novel and sequel to The Cage, which I enjoyed. This series takes place in another world, where a group of teens from Earth are being held captive. Gripping suspense and intriguing concepts here!
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett, a very old paperback we had here at the house (I was surprised he'd never read it before!). It's a classic spy thriller - Follett is an excellent writer. He loved it.
  • Last night, Ken started one of the new books I gave him for his birthday last week, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, author of the books that were made into the Wayward Pines TV series. In this intriguing novel, a man is knocked out and abducted and wakes up with a completely different life - different wife, no kids, everything changed. Sounds great, doesn't it? I definitely want to read this one, too (those are the best kind of gifts to give!).
  • Last I heard, Jamie, 22, was reading book 3 in the Scott Lynch series Gentleman Bastards, The Republic of Thieves, which he bought this summer. He loves this series (so does my husband) and says it is about con men in Medieval times. 
Blog posts from last week:
Teen/YA Review: Drag Teen by Jeffrey Self, a warm, funny road trip story about 3 friends

Fiction Review: The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson, an immersive story within a story about Chekhov's summer at a guest house in Ukraine - captivating

What Makes Me Happy - The Happiness Tag

Saturday Snapshot: Janes Island - Eastern Shore of Maryland - kayaking & gorgeous sunsets

What are you and your family reading this week?    

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.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Saturday Snapshot 10/8: Janes Island State Park, MD

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads. 

My husband and I went away for our first Empty Nest Vacation last week! We had planned to go to Vermont but found out it was going to be far too cold for camping, so at the last minute - really, the very last minute - we changed all our reservations and went south instead! We spent a lovely week at Janes Island State Park on Maryland's Eastern Shore and at Assateague Island National Seashore, with the last couple of days (and our anniversary) back in Delaware at Rehoboth Beach.

First, a few photos from our first day at Janes Island State Park, a lovely park right on the Chesapeake  Bay, with wonderful water trails for kayaking and a gorgeous sunset over the water:

Kayaking one of the many water trails thru the salt marsh

Out on the water - cue the seagull!

Our lovely campsite near the water

Sunset through the trees, from our campsite

Fabulous sunset over the Chesapeake Bay

Last of the color, through the trees

Hope you are enjoying a great weekend!