Tuesday, October 31, 2017

TV Tuesday: Wisdom of the Crowd

For my Halloween TV Tuesday post (and my last R.I.P. Challenge TV post), I want to tell you about a new detective show with a twist, Wisdom of the Crowd, that my husband and I have been loving. We binged the first four episodes last week and can't wait for more!

If you saw the movie (or read the book) The Circle, the concept here is similar in some ways. Jeremy Pivens stars as Jeffrey Tanner, a high-tech millionaire who made his money (and his fame) with a hugely popular social media platform. Now, he has left his old company to start a new one with a new kind of social media software that crowd-sources crime solving. With him in this new start-up, no-frills company is Sara (played by Natalia Tena), his partner both in business and romance (though they keep their relationship a secret), and Josh (played by Blake Lee), a brilliant programmer, along with some support staff.

Tanner's motivation in this new venture is the death of his daughter, Mia. The police arrested a man named Carlos (played by Ramses Jimenez) who is awaiting trial in prison, but Tanner is certain he didn't do it (and Carlos continues to profess his innocence). The police and even Tanner's ex-wife, Alex (played by Monica Potter from Parenthood) are convinced the killer has been caught, but Tanner wants to put the power of crowd-sourcing behind the case. Information from the case and new clues are posted online (his new program is called Sophe), users comment or use their phone's cameras to add additional data, and Sophe sifts through it all. For instance, when a user posts a not-seen-before video clip of the front of Mia's apartment, showing a mysterious man leaving the night of her murder, users add their own videos and photos from that night and help look for and identify the "person of interest."

Detective Cavanaugh, played by Richard T. Jones, headed up the murder case. Although he's not convinced, he shares some of Tanner's misgivings that they might have arrested the wrong man, and he wants to be absolutely certain, so he accepts Tanner's invitation to help on the sidelines...though officially in the department, the case is closed. Once Sophe catches on and helps to solve a fresh case, the police department starts to pay some attention to it, and Cavanaugh is officially assigned as liaison so the police can use Sophe as a crime-solving tool.

We are four episodes in so far (episode 5 aired on Sunday, but my husband is out of town!) and totally hooked on this suspenseful and unique show. Pivens has a lot of charisma and intensity as Tanner, and I'm also enjoying Jones in his role as the detective. It is suspenseful, as you'd expect, with a new case each episode while they continue to make progress in Mia's older case. I am expecting - as happened in The Circle - for the crowd to go too far at some point in their zeal to help catch a criminal, and there were hints of that in the first episode. We are both immersed in Mia's murder and enjoying the new cases that come along each episode. There is even a sense of humor and a touch of romance in the show. We can't wait to see what happens next!

Wisdom of the Crowd is currently airing on CBS on Sunday evenings. We've been watching it On Demand to catch up. As of today, all five of the first episodes are still posted On Demand (it says that the first one will come off on 11/4) and for free on the CBS website. Once the free episodes are pulled off, they will be available on CBS All Access (CBS's streaming service). It is also available on Amazon for $1.99 an episode or $17.99 for the first season.

Have you seen Wisdom of the Crowd yet? What new shows are you enjoying this fall?



Monday, October 30, 2017

Movie Monday: If I Were You

I have a backlog of movie reviews to write because I have been too busy on Mondays lately to write an extra post. It turns out that "Movie Monday" isn't very convenient for me...but I do like the alliteration!

To catch up, I thought I'd go in reverse order and start with the movie I watched most recently, Saturday night after my husband left for Europe. As usual when he is out of town, I was looking for something female-centric to indulge in. I stumbled onto a movie on Amazon Prime called If I Were You that turned out to be very, very funny, with moments of warmth and emotion, too.

Marcia Gay Harden (don't you love her?) stars as Madelyn, an older woman married for decades with a career in marketing. In the opening scene, Madelyn talks on the phone with her husband, Paul (played by Joseph Kell), and he tells her he will be working late tonight and won't be home for dinner. It's clear that this has become a frequent routine for him. Madelyn stops into a bistro to indulge in a fancy take-out dessert for herself (two servings!) and sees her husband at a corner table having a clearly intimate conversation with a beautiful, young woman. Shocked and flustered, Madelyn hides in a nearby convenient store as the two lovers leave the restaurant.

To her dismay, her husband's lover comes into the store after her, crying and clearly upset. She buys a rope and leaves, sobbing. Madelyn follows her to her apartment, pretending to live in the building. Standing outside the woman's apartment door, she can hear her ever-more distraught tears. Worried she is going to kill herself, Madelyn knocks on the door. Her fears were correct, and the young woman, named Lucy (played by Leonor Watling), invites her in and begins to confide in her. Madelyn doesn't admit that SHE is the wife of Lucy's married man, though she does tell her she just found out that her own husband is cheating on  her. She learns that Lucy and Paul have been having an affair for a while, that Lucy is in love with Paul, and that he just left their romantic dinner to go home to his wife.

Surprisingly, the two women - both upset and in need of someone to lean on - get to know each other and become friends. Since each seems to have good advice for the other, Lucy comes up with a pact that Madelyn reluctantly agrees to: they will each make decisions for the other woman and tell her what to do. Lucy is still completely unaware that they are both upset over the same man.

What follows is a hilarious farce of miscommunications, mistaken assumptions, and a situation that quickly spins out of control. When Madelyn's husband thinks she is the one having an affair, he suddenly turns jealous and possessive and tries to woo Madelyn back. Madelyn encourages Lucy to concentrate on her career and stop obsessing over Paul, so aspiring actress Lucy goads Madelyn into joining her on stage for a very amateur production of King Lear, with Madelyn playing King (Queen) Lear, and Lucy playing the Fool.

This movie is full of surprises around every corner. Marcia Gay Harden is excellent as Madelyn. She normally plays serious drama roles, but she has a great sense of comedic timing. The other actresses and actors are all very good, too. If I Were You is wholly unpredictable, very funny, and lots of fun, from beginning to end. I laughed out loud while watching this movie but also found it heartwarming and honest.

If I Were You is available for free to Amazon Prime members or you can rent it for just $1.99 (link below - it says $7.99 but that's to purchase). It is also available on DVD (second link). On Netflix, it is not available on streaming but is available as a DVD.

Have you seen If I Were You? What other movies have you liked Marcia Gay Harden in? And what's your favorite funny movie?



    

It's Monday 10/30! What Are You Reading?

I can't believe November starts this week! How did that happen? We had one last gorgeous day Saturday, with sunshine and 70's, so we did some yardwork and cleaned up and closed our camper for the season - so sad! Sunday, the weather changed to pouring rain and cool temperatures. I guess it's really fall now! We've had a warm October. On the downside, I have a very painful medical condition (erythromelelgia) that flares up when the weather turns cooler, and I felt the first burning twinges in my toes yesterday. Now it starts. I have an appointment with a specialist at Johns Hopkins in two weeks, so I'm hoping he can help - he's supposed to be one of the few doctors in the nation who knows how to treat this.

On the homefront this week, we carved our pumpkins, a family tradition we all enjoy. On Saturday, my husband left for a week for the Netherlands. I had REALLY hoped to join him next weekend in Amsterdam, but the cost and timing just didn't work. By the time he had firm dates from the plant he is visiting, flights were in the $2000 range! I haven't had time to be lonely, though, because my older son came home yesterday to rest and recuperate from the weekend. Truthfully, I am looking forward to a productive week to myself, hoping to finally get caught up on some things with both writing and the house.

Of course, we have all been enjoying our books this week! Here's what we've been reading:
  • This week, I read The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, a two-for-one that works for both my seasonal R.I.P. Challenge and my 2017 Classics Challenge. I was glad to finally read this sci fi classic. It has plenty of suspense, as a scientist who succeeds in making himself invisible then finds that invisible life has its challenges. He gets in trouble, has entire towns chasing after him, and gets increasingly violent. However, I was pleasantly surprised to also find a sense of humor woven through the story. I enjoyed it very much.
  • Now, I have just started NightSun by Dan Vining, my next review book for Shelf Awareness. It's a suspenseful detective story but set in 2025 LA, where severe drought and cheap nuclear energy have created a new world, with the police taking to the air in lightweight mini helicopters and regular citizens of all levels of income able to afford small cars, leaving them stuck in gridlock traffic that makes today's LA traffic look like nothing! I just started it last night, but it's good so far - definitely an intriguing concept.
  • I am still listening to Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas - yes, another suspense novel!  It's about a woman who is still haunted by her best friend's disappearance 18 years ago and returns to their hometown to see if she can finally find out what happened. The narrative alternates between the remaining friend, now in her late 30's, and the girl who disappeared, in a sort of diary form in the weeks leading up to her demise. I'm enjoying it - besides the suspense, there is a bit of ghost-y stuff maybe going on, too. I hope to finish it by tomorrow to include in my R.I.P. Challenge.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Artemis by Andy Weir, the new novel by the author of The Martian that is being released in November. I just read it and reviewed it for Shelf Awareness (I'll post my review here after it is published), and Ken couldn't wait to read it himself! It's basically a caper set on the moon, with Weir's trademark blend of science, suspense, and humor. He enjoyed it, too.
  • Ken picked out the lightest-weight and longest paperback he could find on our shelves for his week-long trip! He is reading To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, a novel he gave me and that I read in January (my review at the link). It's a time travel farce, combining historical fiction (set in Victorian England), time travel, and plenty of humor. I enjoyed it, so I hope he does, too.
  • Jamie, 23, finished The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, an epic fantasy that was recommended by our friends at Northshire Bookstore in Vermont. We gave him book 1, The Blade Itself, for his birthday in August, and he raced through it in just a few days! He was thrilled to find books 2 & 3 at his favorite used bookstore, and this week, he finished book 3, Last Argument of Kings. Score one for mom and dad (and Northshire) for a good birthday gift!
  • Now, Jamie is having to take a break from his favorite kinds of fiction to read a nonfiction book for a class, The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability by James Gustave Speth. He is majoring in environmental engineering and specializing in sustainability. I used to work in environmental management consulting myself, so I think this book sounds interesting!
Blog posts last week:
TV Tuesday: One Mississippi - a wonderful show on Amazon that I binged in a week! In fact, I'm listening to the soundtrack as I write this.

Teen/YA Review: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth - an epic fantasy by the author of Divergent

My Summary of Books Read in September  - an all-fiction month!

Saturday Snapshot: Halloween and Pumpkins - celebrations of the season

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.    

Our family & our pumpkins!
 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Saturday Snapshot: Halloween & Pumpkins!


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

Our sons are now 19 and 23, so we are well beyond the trick-or-treat years (much to our dismay!), but they have both been planning their costumes for parties at college. And they still love our family traditions this time of year. They both came home last weekend for our annual trip to the pumpkin farm, and they both came home last night to carve pumpkins (I enticed them with a steak dinner!). We love that they still like to do these things with Mom and Dad (and Grandad) - here's a peek at our pumpkin fun this past week:

Northbrook: our annual spot for pumpkins...

...and more importantly, homemade, hot donuts and cider! SO good!


A colorful array of pumpkins

Family selfie at Northbrook
Our sons carving pumpkins, with Grandad watching

Our finished jack-o-lanterns

I especially like our sons' creativity this year (the wolf and the tree)

Hope you are enjoying this gorgeous day and having a nice weekend!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Books Read in September

Yikes - the 27th already - I lost some ground with my monthly summary this month! But, September was a good reading month with a lot of books read & reviews to write, so that's what took so long. Here's what I finished reading in September:


  • Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Kormon, audio middle-grade thriller (WY)
  • A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry, adult literary suspense (NY)
(oops - I just realized I haven't yet reviewed that last one! I'll try to get that review up in the next few days)


That's a total of 8 books read in September, which is a lot for me. All but one of them counted for my R.I.P. Challenge (suspenseful stuff for the season!). Two of the eight books were audiobooks (Carve the Mark was a long one). I read a good mix of adult, middle-grade, and teen/YA, but it was all fiction (I plan to get some nonfiction in next month). I really enjoyed this month packed full of suspense and thrillers - it was a lot of fun reading! I enjoyed all of these, but my favorite is - oddly - the only non-suspense novel among the bunch, Be Frank With Me, which was warm and moving but also very, very funny and a favorite with my book group.

Progress on 2017 Reading Challenges:
This is my favorite part of my monthly summary - updating my Reading Challenges! Five of my eight books were from my own shelves for my Read Your Own Damn Books Challenge - woohoo! For the Monthly Motif Reading Challenge, September was Creepy, Chilling & Frightful - most of my books last month would fit that one, so I chose Hollow City as the creepiest.
No classics last month for the 2017 Back to the Classics Challenge, but I am reading one now! Nothing new to add to the Well-Rounded Challenge because the categories are almost filled now. No new countries for my Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge. For my 2017 Literary Escapes Challenge, I added just one more state, Alaska. I added one last book over 400 pages for my own Big Book Summer Challenge, finished Labor Day weekend, just in time! And, of course, I added 7 books to my R.I.P. Challenge.

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 23 squares on my Bingo card last month - possibly my best Bingo month ever!





Spaces filled in:
Carve the Mark - royalty, friends to lovers, verb in the title, audio book
Overpowered - set in a school, free book
Hear the Wolves - new to you author, physical book, 
Be Frank with Me - loved it, contemporary, library book
In a Dark, Dark Wood - coffee or tea, no kids, gregarious
Hollow City - hunter (demon/vampire/other), creature mythical or not
Masterminds: Payback - naive/inexperienced, water on the cover, betrayal, in a series
A Cold and Lonely Place - accident, shelf love (TBR book) 

What was your favorite book read in September?  

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Teen/YA Review: Carve the Mark


Author Veronica Roth is well known for her wildly successful dystopian trilogy (and series of movie adaptations) that began with Divergent. Her latest teen/YA novel, Carve the Mark, is quite different, a fantasy that takes place in another world, though it has some similar elements, including romance, suspense, and a violent society.

Akos Kereseth lives a quiet life on the frozen nation-planet Thuvhe, with his older brother, Eijeh, and their sister, Cisi. Their father is a farmer, but their mother is an oracle - someone who can see the future - so their family is at the top of the Thuvheian hierarchy, though their society is a peaceful one. One day, a team of soldiers from Shotet, Thuvhe's enemies, forces their way into the Kereseth home, kidnaps the two brothers, and kills their father.

Across the world in Shotet, Cyra Noavek has grown up in a very different family and society. As members of the ruling family, the Noaveks are viewed by their community with both awe and fear. Cyra loves her mother, who treats her kindly, but her father, Lazmet, is a cruel, violent man. Cyra's brother, Ryzek, is a full ten years older than her and takes the brunt of their father's temper, as Lazmet wants to make Ryzek into a strong leader who can one day take over his role. Unfortunately, once his father dies, Ryzek assumes his role as leader in much the same cruel way his father did, the only way he's ever learned.

Both countries live in a world ruled by "the current." The current is a magical kind of power that flows through the universe that appears as a blue light. As each child reaches adolescence, he or she develops some sort of current gift. Akos' mother's gift is her ability to see the future. Cyra develops her current gift at a very young age: the ability to cause pain to others merely through her touch. The current can be seen visibly moving beneath her skin, a testament to her powerful gift. Unfortunately, Cyra herself must endure constant pain. To make matters worse, her father forces her to use her gift to punish and torture others who have wronged him in some way.

Akos' current gift is the ability to negate others' gifts - a kind of anti-power that can neutralize the powers of those around him. His brother has some of the same oracle powers as their mother, which is part of why he was kidnapped by the Shotet. Both brothers now live in the palace-like home of the Noaveks, with Cyra and her cruel brother, Ryzek. As Akos is the only person who can ease Cyra's constant pain, the two become close companions and eventually friends. But can friendship (and perhaps more) overcome the force of their families' and communities' long-running animosity?

You can probably tell just from this brief plot summary that this is a very complicated story. In addition, since it takes place in another world, the novel is filled with other unfamiliar nouns besides the characters' names - plants, animals, foods, potions, and places. This made it very confusing for me, especially listening on audio. I struggled with it for at least the first half, though I did eventually get into the flow of the story and ended up enjoying it somewhat. I generally prefer sci fi and dystopian stories to fantasy. When I do particularly like fantasy novels, they are usually set in our own world, with some fantasy elements, like Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys or Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. So, this isn’t really my kind of novel.

For those who enjoy this kind of epic fantasy, Carve the Mark creates an in-depth, intriguing world that is entirely different than our own, where current gifts (i.e. powers) are a main driving force. The battle between the two countries and their ways of life become even more interesting when an underground revolution is revealed in Shotet. There is a fair amount of violence here, not only when Cyra is forced to use her current gift to hurt people but also in the Shotet tradition of resolving conflict through public fights to the death (picture the Coliseum, only without the lions). There is also a thread of romance, as Cyra and Akos become closer and start to care for each other. This novel is just book one of a series, as the ending clearly indicates, so if fantasy and world-building are your kind of thing, you'll probably enjoy it and want to read more.

480 pages, Katherine Tegen Books
HarperAudio

You can listen to a free sample of the audiobook at the Amazon/Audible link below.

Disclosure: I received this audiobook from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by any 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.



Carve the Mark
by Veronica RothHardcover

Powells.com
 
-->

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

TV Tuesday: One Mississippi

Last week, my husband was out of town, and I was couch-bound for a few days, hitting both physical and emotional lows for various reasons. I was missing our TV time together in the evenings and looking for something to watch on my own. I settled on One Mississippi, a warm, funny, wholly unique show on Amazon, and I ended up finishing its two seasons in under a week. I love this show!

One Mississippi is a half-hour drama/comedy based in part of the real-life story of its star, Tig Notaro, who plays herself on the show. Tig is a gay radio host who lives in L.A. and returns to her hometown in Mississippi for her mother's funeral. She is just recovering from breast cancer and dealing with other health issues as well. Her step-father, Bill, and her brother, Remy, still live in her childhood home. Tig stays on for a while after her mother's funeral to help sort through her things and to give herself time to grieve and recover from her own recent challenges.

Bill is a hilariously rigid man, who likes things done in a certain way (the right way) and has never been warm or affectionate toward Tig and Remy...but you can tell that he cares underneath that gruff exterior. Tig's mom, seen in flashbacks, was just the opposite - the bubbly free spirit to Bill's stability. Tig misses her mother terribly; they were close, and her mom always seemed to understand her. Remy is kind of like a full-grown little boy, still living in the attic of his parents' house, working as a high school history teacher and enjoying Civil War reenactments in his spare time. Rounding out the initial cast are Tig's girlfriend back in L.A. and a young woman named Kate who works at the local radio station and helps Tig produce her show when she decides to keep recording in Mississippi.

This is one of those shows that just grabs you right from the first episode. It's a wonderful cast, and Tig is especially warm and welcoming, with a sense of (often dark) humor that makes her radio show such a hit. You just wish you could sit down with her in the local coffee shop and get to know her in real life! Tig's character is very open and honest, though there is an old family secret that all of them are struggling with and don't talk about much. The show deals with some very difficult topics - death, cancer, and chronic illness pop up in the very first episode - but always with a sense of humor and heart. It is both moving and at times, laugh-out-loud funny, mainly due to Tig's deadpan delivery of hilarious one-liners that tell it like it is. Tig being openly gay in the ultra-conservative, religious deep south is an obvious source of conflict and humor, but this ensemble cast makes you care about each and every one of them.

And the music! I almost forgot to tell you about the wonderful soundtrack to this show. Tig's radio show generally follows the formula of her telling a story about herself or her childhood (often humorous) and then playing music that fits the theme. The music she chooses is almost always great indie stuff that I have never heard before but instantly like. In fact, after watching a few episodes one night and loving the song that played with the credits at the end, I clicked over to Amazon Music and listened to the playlist, Music from One Mississippi. Wonderful songs to accompany the wonderful stories.

I loved this show and watched it in 2-3 episode binges. I actually missed the characters and thought about them when it wasn't on! I only just realized when I started this review that the last episode I watched at lunchtime today was actually the last episode of season two. I'm so sorry it's over already! Word is that season three is still up in the air, so please watch this funny, heartwarming, extraordinary show right away and let Amazon know you want more! You can follow One Mississippi on Twitter and Facebook, to help show Amazon how many fans it has.

One Mississippi is an Amazon original program, so it is available exclusively on Amazon Prime. I also just discovered (just this moment!) that there is a documentary about Tig on Netflix called Tig - I am definitely going to be watching that, too.

Have you watched One Mississippi yet or seen the documentary Tig? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.



    

Monday, October 23, 2017

It's Monday 10/23! What Are You Reading?

Wow, October is just flying by - I can't believe it is almost Halloween! We made our annual trip to the pumpkin farm yesterday. Well, there's no farm anymore - they sold off all their orchards & farmland years ago (we always sing, "They paved paradise & put up a parking lot" when we go there because they replaced some of our favorite Halloween stuff with a giant parking lot!). But they still have AMAZING hot, fresh cider donuts, and they still let you guess the weight of your pumpkin (within 0.25 pounds and it's free!), and...it's tradition! We are big on tradition here - our sons both came home from college for this visit, and my 92-year old father-in-law came along, too.

Last week turned out to be crazy - I had eye surgery, a trip to the podiatrist with resulting pain, we had a new hot water heater installed ($$!), my husband was away, and my chronic illness flared up the second half of the week. And the next month is going to be nonstop!

The upside to not feeling well is more reading time! Here's what we've all been reading this week:
  • I finished Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, a best-seller from last year that I gave my husband  for Christmas. It's a literary thriller about a private plane crash with only two survivors - a man and a little boy. There is plenty of suspense as to why and how the plane crashed (and whether it was some sort of error or intentional), but the novel also digs deeply into each of the characters who were on the plane. I loved it - it was riveting from start to finish!
  • Next, I had to set aside my creepy reading for the R.I.P. Challenge to read a book for my neighborhood book group. I finished The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom. I wasn't excited about this one. I loved Albom's first two books: Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, but the ones I've read since then have all seemed a bit contrived and manipulative to me, like he is trying too hard to be profound. This one was similar. I didn't hate it - it was an interesting story, about the life of a unique and talented musician - but I didn't love it, either. I felt about the same way about his The First Phone Call From Heaven. I just finished the novel last night, so it's back to seasonal spooky stuff for me!
  • I am still listening to Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas - yes, another suspense novel!  It's about a woman who is still haunted by her best friend's disappearance 18 years ago and returns to their hometown to see if she can finally find out what happened. The narrative alternates between the remaining friend, now in her late 30's, and the girl who disappeared, in a sort of diary form in the weeks leading up to her demise. I'm enjoying it - besides the suspense, there is a bit of ghost-y stuff maybe going on, too.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton, which won the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Novel. I gave it to him for his birthday recently, as recommended by a reading friend of mine. It's a thriller about a young man who the unusual talent of being able to open any lock. He enjoyed it very much.
  • Now, Ken is reading Artemis by Andy Weir, the new novel by the author of The Martian that is being released in November. I just read it and reviewed it for Shelf Awareness (I'll post my review here after it is published), and Ken couldn't wait to read it himself! It's basically a caper set on the moon, with Weir's trademark blend of science, suspense, and humor.
  • Jamie, 23, recently returned to The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, an epic fantasy that was recommended by our friends at Northshire Bookstore in Vermont. We gave book 1, The Blade Itself, to Jamie for his birthday in August, and he raced through it in just a few days! He was thrilled to find books 2 & 3 at his favorite used bookstore, and this week, he finished book 2, Before They Are Hanged and is now reading book 3, Last Argument of Kings. Score one for mom and dad (and Northshire) for a good birthday gift!
Blog posts last week:
Graphic Novel Review: The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry by David L. Carlson and Ladis Blair (illustrator) - a moving true story told in a unique way

Teen/YA Review: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, book 2 in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series

Middle-Grade Review: Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Kormon, a satisfying conclusion

Fiction Review: Machine Learning by Hugh Howey, collection of short stories by author of Wool and the Silo series

Saturday Snapshot: Elk Neck State Park & Lighthouse, Maryland

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.    

Family Selfie after Donuts & Pumpkins!
 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Saturday Snapshot: Elk Neck State Park & Lighthouse, Maryland


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

Last weekend, my husband and I fit in one more camping trip while the weather was nice...or so we thought! It turned out to be gray all weekend and rainy at times, though still pretty warm. THIS weekend, of course, when we are at home, it is 77 and sunny! Oh, well - we did enjoy a nice camping weekend, including a hike and a campfire. Here are some highlights from our weekend at Elk Neck State Park in Maryland - one of our favorite camping spots less than an hour away. It's been over a decade since I could manage the hike to the lighthouse, but I did it last weekend!

Hike to Turkey Point Lighthouse

Looking out at the Chesapeake Bay on a gray day

Selfie at Turkey Point with the Chesapeake Bay behind us
Turkey Point Lighthouse

View from the top of the lighthouse

Inside the lighthouse - lots of stairs to get up to the top!

A monarch butterfly alight on a honeysuckle flower

Walking the trail back.

Our campsite at Elk Neck State Park, MD

Hope you are enjoying this gorgeous weekend!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Fiction Review: Machine Learning

If you read my blog this summer, you know that my husband and I are HUGE fans of Hugh Howey's Silo series: Wool, Shift, and Dust. That trilogy is a completely unique post-apocalyptic, dystopian story with suspense, an intriguing setting, and in-depth characters you come to care about. I finished it this summer for my Big Book Summer Challenge, and both my husband and I loved it. We first read book 1, Wool, because multiple friends of ours from all over the country kept telling us, "You HAVE to read this book!" They were right.

So, I was beyond thrilled to see a new collection of short stories by Hugh Howey among my choices to review for Shelf Awareness and even more thrilled when I was assigned it. I was right to get so excited. Machine Learning is an eclectic mix of compelling and thoughtful stories, from 3 to 40 pages long, in a wide array of genres.

I enjoyed every single story in the collection, but some were truly mind-blowing. Howey has a way of taking common tropes and turning them on their heads, looking at familiar storylines from a completely new perspective. He covers topics as diverse as artificial intelligence, alien invasions, Old West stories, and myths and folklore. He even includes 3 Silo stories for those who didn't get enough of the characters in the 3 long books (like me!) - but I recommend you read the Silo trilogy before the Silo short stories because there are some spoilers there, and they just make more sense if you are familiar with the world.

You can read my full review of Machine Learning at Shelf Awareness, which includes examples of some of the stories in the collection.

Have you read any Hugh Howey novels or short stories yet? Are you a mega fan like we are?


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.

Machine Learning New & Collected Stories
by Brett LantzTrade Paperback
Powells.com


Or order Machine Learning from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Middle-Grade Review: Masterminds: Payback


I'm not often inspired to finish series, but in the case of the middle-grade sci fi thriller series Masterminds by Gordon Kormon, I couldn't wait for the third and final book! I thoroughly enjoyed the fast-paced action and unique plot in the first book, Masterminds, and the second book, Masterminds: Criminal Destiny. Book 3, Masterminds: Payback, wrapped up the series nicely with more action and adventure.

If you read my reviews regularly, you know that I hate spoilers, so I am going to carefully describe book 3 without giving away the secrets in books 1 or 2 - half the fun is all the surprises!

This series focuses on a unique, isolated town in New Mexico named Serenity. True to its name, Serenity has no crime and no poverty and has been voted #1 in the U.S. for standard of living. Honesty and integrity are among the core values of its 185 citizens. A small group of 12- and 13-year olds have grown up together in Serenity, including model citizen and high-achiever Amber; her best friend, artistic Tori; computer whiz Eli whose dad is the town's mayor; and Malik, a rebel (which is an oddity in Serenity).

In book 1, these kids discover some startling secrets about Serenity and themselves and manage to escape from the town. In book 2, they are out in the real world and on their own for the first time, with the security force from Serenity hot on their heels. Here, in book 3, those four kids are still on their own and still trying to evade the frightening people who want to haul them back to Serenity. At the start of the book, they get split up, with Amber and Malik ending up in Chicago with an infamous crime boss, while Tori and Eli head to California, to track down a possible lead to more information about their own origins.

Eventually, the four main characters are reunited and still intent on their plans to unravel all the secrets of Serenity and their own lives and now, to rescue the other kids left behind in town and make those responsible pay for what they have done. As in the previous two books, there are plenty of unexpected twists and turns in the plot and nonstop action, as the kids race across the U.S. (and beyond). I listened to all three novels on audio and enjoyed the multiple-voice productions. With plenty of suspense, the series finally comes to a satisfying conclusion. Masterminds is perfect for both boys and girls in middle grades who enjoy a fast-paced thriller.

320 pages. Balzer + Bray
HarperAudio

If you want to avoid spoilers, don't read the blurbs for books 2 and 3!

You can listen to an audio sample of book 1, Masterminds, here:



I received this audiobook 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.

Masterminds
by Steve Kenson and Darren Bulmer and Christopher McGlothlinTrade Paperback
Powells.com
    
Masterminds 02 Criminal Destiny
by GRR5514, Steve Kenson, Scott BennieTrade Paperback
Powells.com

Masterminds 03 Payback
by GRR5514, Steve Kenson, Scott BennieHardcover
Powells.com



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Teen/YA Review: Hollow City


I am still loving that spooky season R.I.P. Challenge! Last month, I finally read book 2 in the Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs. I really enjoyed book 1 (review at the link), and book 2 continued the fast-paced fantasy adventure, in this unique series that builds its story around the weirdest vintage photos you've ever seen!

I am going to tiptoe around the plot to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t yet read the first book. Jacob Portman was living an ordinary life in Florida, when his grandpa, who'd always told wild stories about fighting monsters, died under mysterious circumstances. So, in book 1, Jacob followed his beloved grandfather's stories and journeyed to a small island off the coast of Wales, where he found the home for peculiar children hidden in a unique time warp and found out that all of his grandpa's stories were actually true. Peculiar people have strange talents - like invisibility or creating a flame in their hands - that would put them in danger among "normal" society. Oh, and it turns out that Jacob is peculiar, too, with the unique ability to see the monsters that are relentlessly chasing the peculiar children…just like his grandpa could.

Fast-forward to the start of book 2, Hollow City, where Jacob and a small group of his new peculiar friends have had to leave their protected home on the island and are looking for a way to help their beloved headmistress, Miss Peregrine. Their journey eventually takes them to London in 1940, where the city is being bombed nightly and children are being sent out to the country. Jacob feels a responsibility to keep his fellow peculiars safe while they search for answers and assistance.

Along the way, they discover other "time loops" hiding other groups of peculiars, as well as some peculiar children living among normal people, doing their best to hide their special abilities. All of this fantasy adventure, though, is set against the grim background of the London blitzkrieg, so that the children are fighting against both supernatural and all-too-real dangers.

The most unique and fascinating aspect of this series is the photographs that accompany it. Both books 1 and 2 (and book 3 which I haven’t read yet) are filled with real-life vintage photos that will make you believe that peculiars are absolutely real. These are some of the weirdest - dare I say most peculiar? - pictures that you've ever seen. Most are quite old, from well before Photoshop, but you will find yourself examining each one closely, wondering, "How did someone do that?"

Just a few of the bizarre vintage photos in Hollow City

The author found these vintage photos - and thousands more - in flea markets at auctions, and among collectors, and he wrote the story to fit the photos (you will see how a single one of these strange photos could easily become the fodder for an entire story), which makes the combination of bizarre vintage photos and Riggs' imaginative story so compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed following the suspenseful adventures and close calls of the peculiar children in this second part of their story. I was riveted by the story and its twists and turns and can't wait to read the final piece in this very original series.

396 pages, Quirk Books

NOTE: I had the pleasure of meeting one of the founders of Quirk books, author Jason Rekulak, earlier this year at Booktopia. It's a very unique publisher, with a lot of fun books! And I highly recommend Jason's own novel, The Impossible Fortress.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from a friend. 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.

 
Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom RiggsTrade Paperback
Powells.com


 Or you can purchase Hollow City (or book 1) from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.