Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fall Books & Movies

I have fallen behind in sharing my columns and reviews published at Shelf Awareness here, so I thought today - Halloween - was a good day to catch up on a couple of recent seasonal book columns (click the links to read the columns).

Dark and Creepy Fall Reading
As you well know if you've read my blog at all in the past couple of months, I love to devote this season to dark and creepy reading and have been thoroughly enjoying the RIP Challenge (which ends today!). This column features 4 excellent choices for suspenseful novels that feature dark settings and/or plots - both my husband and I enjoyed all four of these. The spooky season might be ending today, but a good thriller is always in season!

Books Coming to the Big Screen
This column features four movies, all adapted from great books, coming to theaters this fall - several of them are already out. I want to see all of these, but at the moment am trying to find a friend to go see The Hate U Give with me - I need some of my book blogger friends to live closer to me! Set the books down for a couple of hours to enjoy these movies that all promise to be excellent.

Time for me to go finish my last dark & creepy books in print and on audio before midnight!

Happy Halloween!


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

TV Tuesday: You

You is a new drama on the Lifetime network (which I rarely watch) that surprised me and is perfect for this creepy season! It's a romcom that soon turns dark.

You begins as a sweet romcom when pretty MFA grad student Guinevere Beck, who goes by Beck, played by Elizabeth Lail, walks into a bookstore and hits it off with the cute bookstore manager, Joe, played by Penn Badgley. It's clear the two have chemistry and share a love of books - so sweet! Very quickly, though, we find out that Joe has a dark side, as he begins to stalk Beck to learn more about her so he can woo her. This is not just checking out her Facebook page (though he does that, too), but following her, looking through her windows, and cloning her phone so he can track her every move. Creepy? Oh, yeah...and it just gets worse. I won't ruin all the dark surprises in this show, but Joe is seriously twisted and has his heart set on Beck. And his strategy works! The two begin to date and get closer, as Joe secretly does more and more seriously dark stuff behind the scenes to remove obstacles to their relationship.

I expected a romcom, so this show surprised me, but I am enjoying it. It has a dark sense of humor, suspense, and increasing tension with each episode. Lail is adorable as Beck, and Badgley is deceptively charming on the outside as Joe, with a dark underbelly, though Beck has some secrets of her own. It's just a fun show that is completely original. I've watched six episodes so far and am looking forward to the rest of the season. And it looks like a second season is planned for 2019!

You is currently airing on Lifetime, with all episodes available free On Demand or on Lifetime's website. It is also available for $1.99 an episode or $18.99 for the season on Amazon.



Monday, October 29, 2018

Movie Monday: A Star Is Born

My friends and I had been trying to find a day when the three of us could all go to see the new remake of A Star Is Born, but it took us three weeks to get our schedules (and the stars) aligned. It was worth the wait. Though I expected to like it, this powerful movie - and its music - just blew me away.

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are the stars in this version, in the roles most recently played in 1976 by Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand. Cooper plays Jack, a rock country music star slightly past his prime who still brings in massive crowds. Gaga stars as Ally, a down-to-earth waitress who dreams of being a star, though she's been told by many people in the music business that she doesn't have the looks for it. In the opening scenes, she sings at open mic night among drag queens in a dive bar. Cooper, an alcoholic always looking for another drink, happens to spot the tiny bar on his way home from a concert and asks his driver to pull over. Wowed by Ally's singing, he chats with her afterward in the dressing room and then takes her out. There is awesome chemistry between the two of them immediately, as they talk about music and life, and it's clear that Jack is smitten. He pulls Ally into his world and literally pulls her onstage with him at a huge concert, where they sing a duet of one of her original songs that she's always been too shy to sing in public. That appearance becomes a viral hit, and Ally is off and running, soon with her own manager and producer, while her limo driver father and his friends cheer her on. At first, its bliss for the two singers, making music together and falling in love, but Cooper's alcoholism begins to get in the way, and his condition steadily worsens as her star rises.

I never saw any of the earlier versions of A Star Is Born (crazy, right?), so I went into this knowing almost nothing about it, though I've heard that this version does not follow the exact same plot as earlier films. I expected to be entertained by the music, but there is so much emotional depth to the story. Cooper and Gaga are both extraordinary in their roles (definite Oscar contenders), inhabiting their characters so completely that I felt as if they were those people, which is quite a feat for two such well-known stars. The supporting cast is equally good, with Sam Elliot as Jack's manager, a surprising Andrew Dice Clay as Ally's dad, and Dave Chappelle as Jack's oldest friend, among others. And the music? Wow, just wow. Of course, Lady Gaga is an extraordinary singer but here she is stripped of her usual outrageous costumes and gimmicks and her raw talent is amazing. And who knew Bradley Cooper could sing? He's actually quite good and totally believable in this role. The original songs created for the movie (mostly written by Gaga) are not the kind of throw-aways you'd expect for "fake hits" in a movie; they are moving, powerful songs. The day after I saw the movie, I listened to some of the songs on Youtube and got chills down my spine all over again. The plot of the movie was darker than I expected, but it is so full of honest feeling that I was swept along. The highs are super high, and the lows are really low. This is a must-see and definitely worth seeing on the big screen for the musical performances.

A Star Is Born is currently in theaters (but probably not for much longer) - find a recliner theater near you, like we did!     
           







Fandango- A Star is Born in Theaters 10/5!

It's Monday 10/29! What Are You Reading?

Kind of a rough week, with a couple of Halloween-y highlights. My immune disorder has been flared up for over a week now, which means sore throat, flu-like aches, and exhaustion. I thought I was past it this weekend and then felt awful again on Sunday. Slightly better today but still symptomatic. Trying hard to listen to my body and take it easy.

We did have some family fun last week, though. We made our annual visit to a local farm market to pick out pumpkins & enjoy their homemade cider donuts - yum! We had to go on Wednesday morning to get all of us together, but we did it. On Friday, we carved pumpkins with our older son and his girlfriend - her first time! You can see our highlights on my Saturday Snapshot post.

The upside of feeling sick? More reading time! Both last weekend and this weekend, cozying up on the couch and in bed with good books lifted my spirits and helped me stick to my goal of resting and not pushing myself. And I read a lot!

Here's what we've all been reading the past week:
  • Remember that book I really didn't want to read for book group? I not only finished all 600 pages but LOVED it! America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie is historical fiction about Jefferson's daughter, and it was absolutely fascinating. I drove my husband crazy interrupting his own reading to say, "Did you know...?" over and over. I learned so much! The history is interesting, the story is compelling, and the characters feel real. Kamoie is a history professor, and much of the novel is based on Jefferson's actual letters. With my sick days helping me, I ended up reading the entire book in only about 8 days...and then read every word of the extra stuff at the end because I just wasn't ready to leave that world yet. Highly recommended.
  • Next, I jumped back into the last bit of my RIP Challenge with Fifty Mice by Daniel Pyne, a thriller set on Catalina Island in California. A man is forcibly brought into the Witness Protection Program but has no idea what he is supposed to know or have seen. It's an intriguing concept and a gripping story so far. 
  • I've also been slowly making my way through a middle-grade graphic novel, The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier. It's an engaging, colorful, spooky fantasy featuring pirates and sea creatures so also a good fit for the RIP Challenge.
  • On audio, I finally finished listening to Macbeth, after I finished reading the print version so that I could better understand what was happening! Like all Shakespeare tragedies, almost everyone dies and there is a lot of stabbing...but also 3 witches and a ghost, so it did include some seasonal spookiness.
  • I also finished listening to The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal. It's the first book in a new thriller series starring Nora Watts, a woman who was brought up in foster care and now lives a solitary life and looks for missing people. This case is different, though, because the missing teenager is the daughter Nora gave up for adoption 15 years ago. It's set in Vancouver and has plenty of action, adventure, and suspense, but the main character and her history are also fascinating and compelling.
  • Now I am squeezing in one last dark and creepy audio book this month: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather (yes, of those Mathers). This teen/YA novel combines modern teen problems of starting at a new school and fitting in with history of the Salem Witch Trials. Samantha Mather, descended from the infamous Cotton Mather, moves to Salem and discovers that history is still entirely relevant to the people in town, as teen descendants of the original witches hung in Salem make life a nightmare for her. This one includes witches and a ghost, so it is a perfect way to end this spooky month! It's excellent so far.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading one of his birthday gifts from me, The Outsider by Stephen King. It's a suspenseful thriller that he's been looking forward to. We only wish we could share it with my dad, who was a huge King fan. I've been missing him a lot lately.
  • Our son, Jamie, 24, finished book 3 in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer, a big brick of a book at 1250 pages! Not sure what he started next - he had a lot to choose from.
Blog posts last week:
Teen/YA Review: The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher - a dark thriller

Fiction Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware - suspenseful thriller set on a cruise

Saturday Snapshot: Halloween 2018 - fun with pumpkins last 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.

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

What are you and your family reading this week? 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Saturday Snapshot: Halloween 2018


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

Still not much fall color here - the meteorologists say it was too wet all summer and fall and way too hot in the fall (we had 80's right through mid-October) for good color in the leaves. Much of it is just going from green to brown and then falling off. Still hoping that we get a little color - early November is usually our peak here.

So, instead of fall leaves, here are some photos of our pumpkin adventures this week! We made our annual trip to a local market (used to be a huge orchard & farm) where we go each year to pick out our pumpkins and eat homemade donuts! The only time we could get everyone together was Wednesday morning, but we managed it. Last night, one son and his girlfriend came over for carving pumpkins (her first time ever). Here are some highlights:


Enjoying donuts at Northbrook!

Mmm...homemade cider donuts and hot apple cider

Time to pick out pumpkins (see the green trees still?)

My "little" boys and I

My son & his girlfriend carving pumpkins

My jack-o-lantern

They look spooky in the dark!

Our finished creations
Hope you are enjoying the weekend and staying dry if you are here in the path of the Nor'Easter!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Fiction Review: The Woman in Cabin 10

I have SO been enjoying reading dark and creepy stuff for the RIP Challenge. Since my husband reads a lot of mysteries, thrillers, and suspense, we have a lot of them on our shelves, so this season gives me a chance to "catch up" (I'd actually need a couple of years to really catch up on our TBR shelves!). Earlier this month, I excitedly turned to The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, a thriller that my husband gave me as a gift and has been waiting for me to read so that he can read it! We both enjoyed Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood. The Woman in Cabin 10 is a suspenseful story in a unique setting, on a luxury cruise in the North Sea.

Laura "Lo" Blacklock is a struggling journalist working for a travel magazine. As the novel opens, a man breaks into her apartment and robs her in the middle of the night, leaving her with just a minor injury to her face but feeling badly shaken. Her boyfriend, Judah, tries to comfort her after he gets back from a trip, but it is clear Lo is still terrified...and exhausted because she's having trouble sleeping. Nevertheless, she doesn't want to miss the amazing opportunity coming up in a couple of days, to go on the maiden voyage of a very exclusive private luxury cruise to Norway with a handful of other journalists and some wealthy customers. Lo thinks if she does well on this assignment, her editor might choose her to cover for her upcoming maternity leave. So, after several sleepless nights and with nerves still jangling, Lo boards the cruise. She drinks a lot, in an effort to calm her anxiety, and tries to focus on the job and on making important contacts with the other passengers. On her first night, though, she borrows a mascara from the woman in the cabin next door and then hears a commotion in the middle of the night - a scream and a big splash. She calls security, but no one believes her. She is told that cabin 10 is empty (and shown that it is) and everyone seems to think her story is ludicrous, but Lo is convinced she heard a murder.

There are a couple of classic mystery tropes woven into this original story. The novel is narrated by Lo, and clearly, she is an unreliable narrator, marred by exhaustion, anxiety, and drinking too much. As readers, we see and hear what she does, so we want to believe her, but no one else does. Also, since there are only twelve passengers and a small crew on the boat, it is something of a locked-room mystery; there are only a small number of potential suspects who would know about the mysterious passenger who disappeared (whom only Lo saw) or the events of that night. Lo embarks on her own investigation, but someone wants her to stop, as anonymous threats to her get more and more frightening. This fast-paced, suspenseful thriller kept me guessing - and reading - and I can't wait to read Ruth Ware's two more recent novels.

340 pages, Scout Press


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.

I read this one in print, but the audio book sounds great - listen to a sample here, from Chapter 1.

You can purchase The Woman in Cabin 10 from an independent bookstore, locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or order The Woman in Cabin 10 from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Teen/YA Review: The Killing Woods

As part of my annual RIP Challenge this fall, I read a YA novel that has been on my TBR shelf for much too long: The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher. I loved Christopher's YA novel, Stolen, and her middle-grade novel, Flyaway. This newer (well, published here in 2014!) novel combines thriller-like action and suspense with emotional complexity that delves into some important issues.

Emily's dad recently returned from war and is suffering from severe PTSD. He is afraid of everything and spends much of his time in the woods behind their home. He suffers from flashbacks, especially when loud noises, like thunder, startle him, and he has difficulty with his memory and with speaking sometimes. One stormy night, he comes into the house carrying the limp body of a teenage girl. Emily recognizes Ashlee, a popular girl from her class at school, and she and her mom try to find out what happened. Emily's dad is clearly in the midst of a flashback, though, and speaking incoherently, repeating the same sentences and phrases he always does when remembering what he's been through in the past. The police don't understand that, though, and they arrest him and later charge him with Ashlee's murder. Meanwhile, unknown to Emily, Ashlee's boyfriend, Damon, and the rest of their friends are panicking because they play a secret game in the woods that they don't want anyone to find out about. Emily doesn't think her dad is capable of this crime, but the rest of their town believes it. What really happened to Ashlee back there that night?

Chapters alternate between Emily's and Damon's points of view, but neither of them knows exactly what happened that night, so the story slowly comes together. This novel was perfect for the season, dark and filled with suspense and action. As with Christopher's other novels, though, it is so much more than that, digging into topics like PTSD, death of a parent, and teens seeking increasingly dangerous thrills. It is definitely for older teens and young adults, with teen drinking, drugs, and sex dealt with in very honest ways (though certainly not glorified). This novel was a thrill ride, and every time I thought I had it figured out, another twist took me by surprise, right up until the stunning conclusion. It's fast-paced and exciting but also thoughtful and heartwarming. Now, I need to read the latest Lucy Christopher novel waiting on my shelf, Storm-Wake!

359 pages,  Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic


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.

I read this one in print, but the audio book sounds excellent. Listen to a sample here.

You can purchase The Killing Woods from an indie bookstore, either locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or order The Killing Woods from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Monday, October 22, 2018

It's Monday 10/22! What Are You Reading?

I had a pretty good week - busy, as always, but I also had two full days at home for writing, so I got some things done. I didn't feel well on Saturday - my chronic illness was flared up. But then I realized it was Dewey's Readathon weekend, so I listened to my body, settled in on the couch, and enjoyed extra reading, which is a real treat for me that usually only happens when we are on vacation.

Here's what we've all been reading this past week:
  • I finished a review book for Shelf Awareness, The Adults by Caroline Hulse, a debut novel due out in late November. It's a funny farce about two parents who go on a Christmas vacation with their daughter - and both of their new partners (and their daughter's invisible friend who has some very firm opinions about everything). What could go wrong? It was filled with drama, unexpected twists, and plenty of humor, with warmth underneath the laughs. I enjoyed it.
  • Now, I am reading a book I really didn't want to read at first: America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. My book group chose it (I missed that meeting), and I wasn't too excited about a 600-page novel about Jefferson's daughter, especially in the middle of the annual RIP Challenge, when I have SO been enjoying reading fast-paced thrillers, mysteries, and ghost stories. BUT...it's actually really good! My need to rest this weekend meant that I read about 200 pages Saturday (a lot for me), so I am now past the midway point, and I have to admit that it's fascinating. I'm driving my husband crazy interrupting his own reading to say, "Did you know...?" over and over. The history is interesting, the story is compelling, and the characters feel real. Kamoie is actually a history professor, and much of the novel is based on Jefferson's actual letters. There's no way I will finish it in time for book group Wednesday, but I think I will finish it (I wasn't planning on reading the whole thing when I started!).
  • I finally finished making my way - slowly - through the print version of Macbeth by Shakespeare. As with all of his tragedies, pretty much everyone dies, and there are a LOT of stabbings. But, at least now, I understand the storyline, so I plan to go back and finish the audio production.
  • In the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying listening to The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal. It's the first book in a new thriller series starring Nora Watts, a woman who was brought up in foster care and now lives a solitary life and looks for missing people. This case is different, though, because the missing teenager is the daughter Nora gave up for adoption 15 years ago. It's set in Vancouver and has plenty of action, adventure, and suspense, but the main character and her history are also fascinating and compelling.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Still Life by Louise Penny, book 1 in her classic mystery series of Chief Inspector Gamache novels, which I just read last month. He enjoyed it, and the ending took him by surprise - which is hard to do for him!
  • Now, Ken is moving onto one of his birthday gifts from me, The Outsider by Stephen King. It's a suspenseful thriller that he's been looking forward to. We only wish we could share it with my dad, who was a huge King fan.
  • Our son, Jamie, 24, is still reading book 3 in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer, a big brick of a book at 1250 pages. He says he didn't have much reading time this week!
Blog posts from last week:
Movie Monday: A Simple Favor - a very funny thriller with a great cast

TV Tuesday: Jack Ryan - a movie-like TV series with lots of action & suspense

Fiction Review: Dark Saturday by Nicci French - thriller series about a psychotherapist

Middle-Grade Review: The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag - book 2 in a graphic novel fantasy series

Books Read in September - summary of books I finished last month

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

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

What are you and your family reading this week? 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Books Read in September

I've fallen a bit behind in reviews and my monthly summary, but that's for a good reason - we've finally been able to travel a little bit and squeeze in some vacation time! Our attempts have still been thwarted by weather and shortened from what we'd planned, but we've had some brief respites in September and October. So, here is my September reading summary, a bit late. It was an excellent reading month, with a focus on dark stuff for the annual R.I.P. Challenge, which I love. Here's what I finished in September:
  • Dark Saturday by Nicci French (UK) - adult novel on audio
  • The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian (VT) - adult novel
  • The Rain Watcher by Tatiana De Rosnay (France) - adult novel, reviewed for Shelf Awareness


Eight books in all is a very good reading month for me, and they were all fiction, with five for adults and three for middle-grade/YA. Two were listened to on audio, and one was a graphic novel, so it was a nice mix. And though all but one (The Rain Watcher) were for the R.I.P. Challenge, they covered a variety of genres and types, from classic mystery to thriller to sci fi to ghost stories to witches! Choosing a favorite is tough because I enjoyed them all. Waking Gods is probably my favorite, with an honorable mention for City of Ghosts. In both cases, I am dying to read the sequels!

Progress in 2018 Reading Challenges:
This is my favorite part of my monthly summary - updating my Reading Challenges! I read 4 books from my own shelves for my Mount TBR Reading Challenge, bringing my total-to-date to 20. R.I.P. Challenge is always good for whittling down my TBR piles. For the Monthly Motif Reading Challenge, September was Don't Turn Out the Light, so almost all of my books counted! I put City of Ghosts down for that one. No new books for the Back to the Classics Challenge, and just one for the 2018 Badass Books Challenge:A popular author's first book (Still Life by Louise Penny) . I traveled to the UK, France, Canada, and Scotland for my Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge (though I'd read books set in all those countries earlier this year, too). For my 2018 Literary Escapes Challenge, I added just one new state, Vermont (you can always count on Chris Bohjalian for a VT setting). And I kicked off my RIP Challenge with seven wonderfully dark books!
 
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 18 squares in September - a decent Bingo month for me!




Spaces filled in:
Dark Saturday - audio book
The Sleepwalker - favorite author, shelf love (TBR)
The Rain Watcher - not in a series, read a physical book
Not If I Save You First - free book, enemies to friends/lovers, adventure/action
Still Life - book recommended to you, library book
City of Ghosts - historical, map, ship or plane
Waking Gods - mates/crew/friends/squad, in a series
The Hidden Witch - set on a school campus, magic/sorcery

Free Space
What was your favorite book read in September?      

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Middle-Grade Review: The Hidden Witch

Back in January, I reviewed (and enjoyed) The Witch Boy, book 1 in Molly Knox Ostertag's new graphic novel fantasy series for middle-grade readers. Book 2, The Hidden Witch, has the same fun stories and illustrations of life in a family of witches, with relevance to real-world kids.

Aster is a boy studying witchcraft with his cousins at their big home out in the country. Nearby in town, his friend, Charlie, is a regular kid who goes to regular school. She loves to play sports and is very kind, so when a new girl named Ariel starts at her school, Charlie is the first to befriend her. Ariel lives in foster care and had trouble with bullies in her last school, so her defenses are up, even with a nice girl like Charlie, because she doesn't expect to be treated well. When Charlie's not able to call her after school like she promised, Ariel assumes the worst and conjures up some dark magic to go after Charlie. Recognizing that magic is at work, Charlie runs through the woods to Aster's house, where she knows he and his family can help (they became friends in the first book). Of course, Aster wants to protect Charlie from this dark spirit, but Charlie hasn't given up on Ariel and still wants to help her and be her friend.

Ostertag has created a magical fantasy world that co-exists with our real world. As in the first book of this series, the friends and family are dealing with magic and witchcraft but also real-world problems, like bullies, starting at a new school, and figuring out where you fit into the world. The theme of listening to your heart and following your dreams is continued in this novel, as well. This compelling story is illustrated with bright, engaging pictures combining our world with magic, witchcraft, and dragons. Middle-grade readers will love going along with Aster and Charlie on their adventures.

203 pages, Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic

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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.

The Hidden Witch is due for release on October 30, 2018, but it can be pre-ordered here.



You can also pre-order The Hidden Witch through an independent bookstore, either locally or online with the link below:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Fiction Review: Dark Saturday

Back in September, I kicked off my fall R.I.P. Challenge with a dark and creepy audio book, Dark Saturday by Nicci French, a British thriller that is part of a series starring psychotherapist Frieda Klein. I enjoyed this suspenseful, twisty murder mystery.

Frieda Klein has her own psychotherapy practice, but she also consults for the police occasionally. In this case, Frieda is asked by one person on the police force to look into an old case. Ten years ago, 18-year old Hannah Docherty was convicted of killing her mother, step-father, and brother and has spent the last decade in a psychiatric hospital. Her name is well-known among the public as a a psycho killer responsible for one of the region's worst-ever massacres. When Frieda goes to the hospital to interview Hannah, though, she is stunned by what she finds. Hannah is clearly mistreated and abused there. Worse, though she barely talks at all, is that Frieda isn't sure Hannah was actually guilty of the horrible crime that put her there. Frieda gradually digs into the old case, but no one is happy about that; family and friends of the victims have tried to put the horror behind them, and the police aren't pleased about someone throwing doubt on a settled case from so long ago. The deeper she digs, though, the more Frieda believes there is more to this case than first thought...and the more she realizes that she - and everyone else she involves - is in danger.

This is a fast-paced twisty thriller with lots of unexpected surprises and suspense, so I enjoyed it. However, this is book 6 in a series, and there were frequent references to past experiences and Frieda's earlier cases, one of which is still causing problems in the present. There was some explanation of what had happened in earlier novels, where relevant, but I still felt like I had missed something. The audio book with Beth Chalmers as narrator was well-done and easy to follow (sometimes a problem with complex plots on audio). Dark Saturday kept me guessing with plenty of dead ends and red herrings, and I would definitely read another of Nicci French's novels.

400 pages, William Morrow


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

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

Listen to a sample of the audio of Dark Saturday.

You can purchase Dark Saturday from an indie bookstore, either locally or online:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or order Dark Saturday from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

TV Tuesday: Jack Ryan

When we were away for the weekend last month without access to our usual cable shows, we watched Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime on my laptop - by the time we got back home a few days later, we were hooked on this new TV series that feels like a movie.

John Krasinski (who played Jim on The Office) is the latest in a long series of actors to play Jack Ryan, a recurring character who appeared in many of Tom Clancy's thriller novels. As in the novels, Ryan is a mild-mannered analyst in the CIA, toiling away in his cubicle and analyzing various events and activities overseas. In the first episode of this new series, Ryan picks up on a pattern of communications and money transfers among suspected terrorists in the Middle East. It takes him a while to convince the higher-ups that the threat is real, but eventually he gets through to his new boss, James Greer (played by Wendell Pierce, a favorite of ours from Treme and The Wire), who has made some mistakes in his career and is supposed to be laying low in his new position. The two are sent overseas, where Ryan suddenly finds himself in the middle of the violence of the terrorists instead of behind a desk. The complex plot and the tension build, as the CIA tries to close in on a new terrorist leader, chasing him and his men all over Europe and the Middle East.

If you liked any of the previous movies based on Clancy novels and featuring Jack Ryan, then you will love this new series because it really has the feel of a movie. It is action-packed and fast-paced, with lots of suspense and a twisty plot. There is also a romance angle, as Ryan begins dating someone new but must keep his real job - and his increasingly dangerous assignments - secret from her. We thought Krasinski did a great job in the role. Obviously, with a thriller plot about terrorists, there is plenty of violence here, some of it graphic, with ample gunfire and explosions, but the show is filled with excitement and tension that keeps you watching (and perhaps even binging) to see what happens next. We enjoyed it very much.

The first 8-episode season is available exclusively on Amazon Prime, and a second season is in the works for 2019 - we'll definitely be watching it!



Monday, October 15, 2018

Movie Monday: A Simple Favor

When our camping trip got rained out last week, we came back home and enjoyed two more days of "staycation." With heavy rain on Thursday, we decided to indulge in a morning matinee in our local recliner theater. We went to see A Simple Favor, which turned out to be a fun and twisty thriller with a great sense of humor.

Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie, a single mom who is perfectly put-together and has her own "mommy vlog." The other parents at school get a little annoyed by her perky super-volunteer persona, but one mom takes an interest in her: Emily, played by Blake Lively. Emily is just the opposite of Stephanie - a high-powered career woman who dresses in tailored menswear (sometimes sans shirt!), super-expensive shoes, and exudes a cool confidence. Since their sons are best friends, Emily and Stephanie start to hang out together, sharing potent martinis at Emily's gorgeous showplace home in the afternoons while the kids play and sharing secrets, too. One day, Emily asks Stephanie to pick her son up from school, since she is tied up at work and her husband is overseas. No problem...except that Emily doesn't come to pick her son up that night - or the next day - or the day after that. Finally, her husband Sean, played by Henry Golding, returns home and he and Stephanie decide to call the police, even though Sean says Emily has disappeared before. What follows is a twisty mystery filled with surprises, as the police, Sean, and Stephanie all try to find Emily and uncover her secrets.

This movie is a whole lot of fun! Although it is a thriller, with a bit of violence and plenty of darkness, it is also very, very funny, frequently making the audience laugh out loud, even sometimes at inappropriate moments. The cast is all excellent, especially Kendrick and Lively, who both play their roles beautifully and each undergo some changes during the story. I've already mentioned the film is full of surprises, but there are SO many twists in this movie! Every time you think you've got it figured it out, something unexpected happens to turn all your previous assumptions on their head. We really enjoyed this original, fun movie that should appeal to almost every viewer.

A Simple Favor is now playing at theaters near you - check local listings at the link:
Guarantee the Perfect Movie Night with Fandango

It is due for release on DVD and streaming in December 2018.

(NOTE: Another fun movie with a similar tone that combines thriller and humor is Game Night).


It's Monday 10/15! What Are You Reading?

So, we finally got away for a camping vacation last week...but it was cut short, due to weather, once again! That's four times this year. However, before the nasty weather hit, we did enjoy two and a half days in the Pennsylvania mountains, with beautiful forests and lakes (you can see some photos here) and then we enjoyed two more days' staycation at home. This weekend was catch-up time, with lots of household stuff to do.

Monday has started off with a bang - my car stalled on the way to my massage therapy appointment. A really nice guy who works part-time as a mechanic stopped to help and had a tow rope in his car, so he towed me to the top of the hill, where it worked again (long story). I got to my appointment 15 minutes late and then had to take the car directly to the VW dealer - where it just spent 8 weeks (I just got it back two weeks ago). Now I am back home and waiting for the appliance repairman because our dishwasher broke! Deep breath...it's only Monday and not even noon yet.

Let's think of happier things...books! Here's what we've been reading the past two weeks, since my last update:
  • I finished The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher, a YA novel about a teen girl named Emily whose dad, suffering from PTSD, emerges from the woods one night carrying the dead body of Ashlee, one of her classmates, and is unable to remember anything. Police think he murdered her, but Emily doesn't believe he is capable of that. It was very good - suspenseful and dark. I loved Christopher's first novel, Stolen.
  • Next, I continued my RIP Challenge reading for the season with The Woman in Cabin 10, a thriller by Ruth Ware. It's about a journalistic on a small cruise's maiden voyage who thinks she heard a woman murdered in the cabin next to hers. Everyone tells her that cabin is empty, though, and the more she insists and investigates, the worse things get. I really enjoyed this fast-paced dark and twisty thriller with lots of surprises.
  • Next, I had to set aside the dark and creepy stuff for a review book: The Adults by Caroline Hulse, a debut novel due out in late November. This one has a completely different tone from most of what I've been reading this month! It's a funny farce about two parents (and ex-partners) who go on a Christmas vacation with their daughter - and both of their new partners. What could go wrong? So far it is filled with drama, unexpected twists, and plenty of humor.
  • I am still listening to (and struggling with) Macbeth by Shakespeare. It's a full audio production by L.A. Theater Works with multiple actors, but I was having a little trouble (toil and trouble - ha ha) understanding the language and following the story since it's not one I ever heard/read/saw before, so I have also picked up a paper copy that my son used in high school, and I paused in my listening until I catch up with the written word. I've decided to finish reading it in print before I finish the last of the audio.
  • So, this weekend, I started a new (less difficult!) audio book, The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal. It's the first book in a new thriller series starring Nora Watts, a woman who was brought up in foster care and now lives a solitary life and looks for missing people. This case is different, though, because the missing teenager is the daughter Nora gave up for adoption 15 years ago. It's great so far and was gripping from the first chapter! It's a unique premise, setting (Vancouver), and characters, and I can't wait to hear what happens next.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, a book I read for Big Book Summer this year and loved. It's the story of a group of people, including some Jesuit priests, who travel to another galaxy in search of extraterrestrial life. Something horrible and tragic happens during that mission, and only one man returns (not a spoiler). The novel begins with the present (2060), after the mission, and flashes back to the first ideas of the mission, ironically in 2019 (the book was published in 1996), and gradually fills in what happened in between. It is compelling and completely unique - a very powerful and thought-provoking novel. However, it is very dark (you know from page one that things don't end well), and it was a bit too dark for Ken. He liked it OK but found it too depressing.
  • Now, Ken is reading another book I recently finished, Still Life by Louise Penny, book 1 in her classic mystery series of Chief Inspector Gamache novels. I think he's enjoying it so far, though he said the number of characters introduced in the early chapters were a bit confusing (it takes place in a small village).
  • Jamie, 24, is still reading book 3 in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer, a big brick of a book at 1250 pages (and he's reading the hardcover!). He just came by for lunch and says he has 200 pages to go!
Blog posts from the past two weeks:
TV Tuesday: Forever - a quirky, funny yet thoughtful show starring Maya Rudolph

Teen/YA Review: Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter - survival thriller set in Alaska

Fiction Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel - book 2 in the fabulous Themis Files

Saturday Snapshot: Camping in Elk Neck State Park, Maryland

Saturday Snapshot: Locust Lake and Tuscarora State Parks, Pennsylvania

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

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

What are you and your family reading this week?