Thursday, August 18, 2022

Fiction Review: The Cartographers

Three years ago, as part of my Big Book Summer 2019, I listened to The Book of M, a unique post-apocalyptic novel from a debut author, Peng Shepherd. I enjoyed that first book very much, so I was looking forward to reading her latest novel, The Cartographers. It turned out to be another unique story, combining mystery, history, and fantasy.

Nell Young is a cartographer (map specialist), just like her famous father, Dr. Daniel Young. The two of them used to work together at the New York Public Library's Map Division, which Nell considered her ideal job. In an effort to impress her father and gain his respect, she searched through a box of old, uncatalogued maps in the library, hoping to find something valuable, a new discovery. Instead, she found an old 1930 gas station map, still folded as if it came right from someone's glove compartment. Puzzled, she showed her father the map and was stunned by his response. He reacted harshly, taking the map from her, yelling at her angrily, and then getting her fired from the job she loved. That was seven years ago, and Nell and her father haven't spoken since. Now, she is at work at a small map company in the city when she gets a phone call from an old colleague at the NYPL that her father has died at his desk. She rushes over there, for the first time in seven years. The police soon begin to suspect some sort of foul play. The next day, Nell returns to her father's office and looks through his desk. Hidden in a compartment only she and he knew about is that very same cheap roadmap that caused the horrible rift between them. Why on earth would her father have kept it all these year? And why would he have hidden it? Nell brings it home and begins looking into it, checking online discussion boards and databases that map collectors use. It seems that all copies of this particular roadmap of New York State have been destroyed, and people all over the world are searching for a copy, offering to pay astounding amounts. As Nell tries to figure out what makes this ordinary map so special, her inquiries catch the attention of some dangerous people. She slowly, with the help of a friend, begins to unravel the map's secrets, but it's clear that her own life is at risk.

As with Shepherd's first novel, there is a very unique premise at the heart of this original story. It's a mystery, loaded with suspense and tension, but there is also a thread of magic throughout the story, as Nell and her friend try to unravel the map's secrets. Along the way, Nell ends up learning a lot about her own family's history and some long-held secrets, so it is a personal journey as well. The narrative moves back and forth between different people, each helping to uncover more of Nell's and the map's past. The audio book was very well done, with multiple narrators for the characters' chapters, providing a radio drama kind of experience. I enjoyed listening to this engrossing, gripping, and very unique novel.

400 pages, William Morrow

HarperAudio

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Diversity Challenge

Big Book Summer Challenge
 

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.


Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, as Nell describes her current job and her background, and/or download it from Audible.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!

     

 

Or you can order The Cartographers from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Fiction Review: Lucky Turtle

I talked a lot this spring about Booktopia, a unique annual event held in Vermont every May that brings authors and readers together. While I read most of the Booktopia selections before the event, so I could discuss them there, one book, Lucky Turtle by Bill Roorbach, was just being released that week. So, I bought a copy at Northshire Bookstore, where Booktopia is held, and saved it for Big Book Summer. I read it last month and absolutely loved this moving, delightful story of love and friendship, set against the beauty of nature.

Sixteen-year-old Cindra gets into some big trouble in her hometown in Massachusetts. She goes along with her older boyfriend and his brother on a revenge mission, and the three of them get arrested for theft and assault. The boys get sent to prison and juvie, but since this is Cindra's first offense, she's a good student, and her guidance counselor speaks on her behalf, the judge at her hearing sentences her to two years at Camp Challenge, a remote reform camp for girls in the Montana wilderness. Soon after, Cindra is shipped off to Montana and emerges into another world. Montana is rugged but beautiful, and Cindra has always enjoyed nature. It's a big adjustment, though, and she's not allowed to communicate at all with her parents. Those first weeks are rough for Cindra, though she begins to get to know some of the other girls. She also discovers that there are abuses occurring at the camp and does her best to speak out, though it doesn't go well. There's a handsome, quiet young man working there named Lucky, and rumors about him abound among the girls, including one rumor that he's mute. He drives Cindra to town for laundry duty, and on the way back, Cindra finds out that Lucky is not mute, but his first words to her are quite startling.

And that's all I'm going to tell you about the plot of this unique novel; all of that happens in the first chapters. Cindra's and Lucky's stories unwind across decades in unexpected ways, and this is one of those novels best experienced as it happens. In fact, I think the description of the book on the jacket (which, thankfully, I didn't read until I was more than halfway through the book) is loaded with spoilers, and I recommend avoiding it. This is a novel about love, friendship, and motherhood, but it is all set against a gorgeous natural backdrop. In fact, nature plays a huge role in the characters' lives, even when they are living in cities and not in Montana. The characters themselves are fully developed, interesting, and likable. Lucky's history and background remain a mystery for much of the book, providing one of the many enticing secrets in this story. It is loaded with adventure and suspense but also romance, longing, and joy. Reading this novel was a delightful experience that I never wanted to end; I still miss the characters.

404 pages, Algonquin

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Mount TBR Challenge

Monthly Motif Challenge - Summer Lovin' - Having a Blast

Diversity Challenge 

Literary Escapes Challenge - Montana

Big Book Summer Challenge

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.

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, from the start of the novel as Cindra (read by Brittany Pressley) narrates, and/or download it from Audible.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



 

Or you can order Lucky Turtle from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Monday, August 15, 2022

It's Monday 8/15! What Are You Reading?

Hosted by The Book Date

Last week was a productive one because I had most of the week to myself, at home. Since the pandemic started, my husband's been working from home. While I love him very much and enjoy his company, I have missed the quiet solitude of my work days during the week! He went into the office several days last week, and it was nice to have that quiet time to myself again. I got a lot done and finally feel like I'm starting to catch up from the funeral, etc. plus move forward on some projects.

The big news here is that we finally came out of those endless heat waves! It's been almost nonstop temperatures in the 90's with high humidity all summer, which makes it impossible for me to enjoy the outdoors (which is really important to me). Around Thursday last week, the temperatures dropped into the 70's and low 80's, and the humidity came down. I was finally able to spend some time outside, walk a bit, and make a tiny dent in weeding our overgrown jungles that used to be gardens. I even recorded my weekly reading video outside!

We had a busy weekend, with a good mix of fun and work. We took advantage of the perfect weather Saturday and had breakfast outside at our favorite local cafe, then took a short hike on a trail we'd never walked before. It ran along one of the many beautiful creeks in our area. Very nice. We did our usual Saturday evening take-out (I know, we live wild lives), and the entire day was relaxing. 

Beautiful summer day by the creek

We're out!

Sunday, we finally tackled some long overdue cleaning. I can't do much because of my chronic illness, so I usually handle the dusting (and even that was a lot for me--I'm pretty worn out today!). Usually, my husband has to do all the rest--cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming, washing floors--but yesterday, our son was home, so he pitched in, too. We're trying to get the house in shape for visitors next weekend: our son with his girlfriend for his birthday and my mom and her husband. 

I uploaded two new reading videos last week:

July Reading Wrap-up - quick overviews of the four Big Books I finished last month.

Friday Reads and Trees! 8-12-22 - my usual weekly catch-up, recorded outside, plus some nature video, inspired by The Overstory


And here's what we're all reading this week:

I did finally finish The Overstory by Richard Powers; it took longer than I expected but was well worth the time! It won the Pulitzer Prize, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and was on many Top 10 lists in 2018. The first part is a series of separate but connected stories about people and families. In each story, there is a tree or trees that grow and develop along with the people or otherwise deeply affect their lives. It all comes together beautifully in the second half of the book, as many of the characters in the first part meet, united by a common purpose of saving trees. It's wholly original, both beautiful and devastating, and a very powerful read.

 

Now, I am reading my last print book for the #BigBookSummer Challenge, Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King. This was one of dozens of King (and Dean Koontz) novels that we inherited from my dad. My husband read this one last year for Big Book Summer and loved it, so I've been looking forward to it. It's a novella and several short stories that are all interconnected, set in the same town and about the same people, over time. The first part, the novella, is about 11-year-old Bobby in 1960, and it showcases King's incredible talent in writing from a kid's perspective. It's mostly set in the real world (though there is a thread of something vaguely supernatural running through it) and while it's not horror in the traditional sense, there are some real-world horrors that Bobby and his friends and family must deal with. It has so much emotional depth and is gripping, moving, and engrossing. I've been staying up much too late reading! That guy can write.


I also finished Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian on audio. This YA novel is set in 1989 in New York City in the midst of the AIDS crisis and follows several teens. Art is a very out gay boy who is flamboyant and open. Reza is a recent immigrant from Iran, by way of Canada, who is very closeted, in part due to his family's culture and in part due to a fear of AIDS. Judy is a teen girl who is Art's best friend, is very close to her gay uncle, Stephen, and has a crush on Reza (not knowing, of course, that he's gay). It's a wonderful novel, with compelling characters and a unique and intriguing coming-of-age story.

 

I haven't started my next audio book yet because I need to set up my new iPod (yes, I still use an iPod!). But I've chosen my next audio (and last one for Big Book Summer): The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny. This will be a cross-over book (and Hearts in Atlantis, too) to finish up Big Book Summer and kick off the R.I.P. Challenge in September! This is book 17 in her Inspector Gamache series. I enjoy this mystery series set in Quebec but have not been reading them in order. I read book 1, Still Life, and then skipped to #15, A Better Man, and now this one. I hope to start it today.

 

My husband, Ken, is reading another Father's Day gift, Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger. I read my first Krueger novel in the spring, This Tender Land, and was blown away by its beautiful writing, gripping plot, and wonderful characters. Iron Lake is the first book, published back in 1998, in his mystery series that features P.I. Cork O'Connor, former sheriff of Aurora, MN. He's enjoying it so far and says he definitely wants to read more of the series.

 

Our son, 27 (not for long!), finished reading Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe, book one of the Arcane Ascension series and then moved onto book 2, On the Shoulders of Titans He's enjoying that series. Now, he is halfway through Blood of a Fallen God, book one of the Forgemaster Cycle series by Joshua C. Cook. I can't wait to see my son this weekend!

Last week's blog posts:

TV Tuesday: The Bear - one of our favorite shows this summer - outstanding!

Fiction Review: Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane - gripping psychological suspense

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?

Friday, August 12, 2022

Fiction Review: Since We Fell

In July, my husband and I took a long road trip out to Oklahoma for my father-in-law's funeral. We hadn't been able to travel in several years since we've been caring for him, so despite the sad circumstances, it was good to be on the road again! We have a big backlog of thriller audio books (his favorite and what we like to listen to together in the car) from these past years, so we chose Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane for the trip. This psychological suspense novel kept us engrossed and made the miles fly by!

Rachel works hard to achieve her career goals: on-air reporter for a major news station in Boston. She is finally doing what she has long dreamed of, reporting on hard-hitting news stories that matter. At the peak of her career, she is sent to Haiti to report on the devastating earthquakes there. Over an extended stay, she breaks the cardinal rule of reporting and gets personally involved. Her heart goes out to the people there suffering--and especially the girls and women--not only from the earthquake's destruction but also from the looting, rape, and assault that is rampant. Worse, she is furious that people in the U.S. don't seem to be paying attention. One day, on air, she has a complete break-down that abruptly ends her career. Forever changed by what she saw and experienced there, Rachel returns home with severe PTSD and becomes a shut-in, terrified of leaving her apartment. Eventually, she reconnects with a man she's known for years, and they marry. Rachel is still very fragile and limited, but her new husband treats her like gold and is incredibly loving and supportive. He cares for Rachel while gradually helping her to overcome her fears and venture out again. This idyllic marriage shatters one day when Rachel sees something that changes everything and makes her re-evaluate everything she thought she knew. As her world crumbles around her, Rachel must find the inner strength to decide what to do to move forward.

That seems like a detailed description, but it's really only the set-up, in the first half of the novel, for a twisty thriller-like plot with surprises around every corner! Like many Dennis Lehane novels, this one starts slowly, providing lots of character development and background so that the reader comes to know Rachel well, before the action starts. Then, the last third of the novel moves at breakneck speed, with plenty of action, nonstop secrets and surprises, and lots of suspense. Award-winning narrator Julia Whelan does a great job embodying Rachel. My husband is usually pretty good at guessing the twists in suspense and thriller stories (an annoying trait when watching movies together), but we were both shocked by some of what unspooled here, as the plot twists came one after another. Since We Fell is a captivating thrill ride that kept us rapt.

432 pages, Ecco

HarperAudio

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Big Book Summer Challenge

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.

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!   
 
 

Or you can order Since We Fell from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

 

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

TV Tuesday: The Bear

One of our favorite TV shows this summer has been The Bear, a unique, engrossing show about a professional chef trying to save his family's dive restaurant.

Carmen Berzatto (Carmy or Bear to his friends and family) is played by Jeremy Allen White, a wonderful actor best known for his long-running role as Lip on Shameless. Carmy has come home to Chicago after his brother Michael's death by suicide. Michael left the family's grimy beef sandwich restaurant to Carmy, who trained as a professional chef at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in what's considered the best restaurant in the nation. Carmy was even recognized as one of the top young chefs in the country. His family's run-down sandwich shop is a big step down for him and is failing financially. Filled with grief, Carmy is determined to turn things around and make it a success. Most of the employees have worked for Michael for years and are devoted to the restaurant but have no professional training. Tina, played by Liza Colon-Zayas, is a smart-alecky woman who doesn't like being told what to do by this new guy intent on changing things. In contrast, Marcus, played by Lionel Boyce, who normally just bakes the rolls for the sandwich shop, is excited to have his role expanded and has dreams of baking some of the magnificent desserts he's seen in books and magazines. Richie, played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach, is an obnoxious, loudmouth who is always yelling, but he grew up with Michael and Carmy and is a part of the business. Carmy brings in one new person, Sydney, played by Ayo Edebiri, an ambitious young sous chef who has big ideas and is willing to work in this dive restaurant just for the honor of working under the great Carmine Berzatto. In just eight episodes, this ragtag crew argues and fights to try to keep the restaurant afloat, with plenty of conflict between Carmy's professional chef methods and the way things have always been done. Carmy almost destroys himself with his long hours, grief, and the stress of trying to save the restaurant. Somehow, things begin to come together and improve, but this determined group encounters one challenge after another, from overflowing toilets to kitchen fires to a rowdy bachelor party.

I've been trying to figure out what makes this show so special and engaging. Certainly, part of the equation is Jeremy Allen White, but the other cast members are just as important (and talented). It's an ensemble show with a lot of emotional depth about trying to achieve what seems an insurmountable goal against horrible odds. We were rooting for these flawed people every step of the way (even Richie once we better understood him). There is suspense in whether or not they can keep the restaurant going and whether they can improve it without going bankrupt, and there are plenty of surprises and secrets left behind by Michael (mostly bad ones). It's an underdog story with a lot of heart, and we loved every moment of it. We hope there will be a second season!

The Bear, an eight episode season, aired on FX and is also available on Hulu. Just watching the trailer gives me chills and makes me want to watch the show all over again!


Monday, August 08, 2022

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

Hosted by The Book Date

I had a very busy week last week, with meetings or appointments every single day (very rare for me). Then we decided to take a last-minute trip to my hometown--Rochester, NY--to see family this weekend! My cousin texted last weekend to say he and his wife would be visiting Rochester and were going to try to get all the cousins together for a picnic, so we decided to drive up there. This is a new experience for us after the last several years of caring for my father-in-law--just being able to leave on a last-minute trip (or any trip, for that matter).

It's a long drive up there and back, about 7 1/2 hours with a lunch stop, so it was a lot of driving for just about 36 hours there. But it was wonderful! We stayed with my step-mom all weekend and had dinner Friday night with my aunt, uncle, and cousin; I hadn't seen any of them since last Thanksgiving. Saturday was the big picnic on my dad's side of the family, including aunts and cousins I hadn't seen in over three years! I couldn't help crying as I hugged one aunt I hadn't seen in 3-4 years. I had an absolute blast just sitting in the shade chatting with all my cousins. We reminisced about fun times as kids together and caught up on our current lives.


While in town, we also splurged on some Rochester favorites, like Bill Gray's (used to be a single burger place and now has many locations and a big menu), where we got a local classic, the fish fry. I don't know why you can't get them here in Delaware, but yum! And we got Abbott's Frozen Custard twice - sooo amazing! When we moved to Delaware, I got excited to see frozen custard advertised in nearby New Jersey, but it was basically just soft-serve ice cream. Abbott's is the real deal and totally original!


 


Sunday morning, we had breakfast in a diner my family used to go to. So many favorite local places have closed over the years, but this one was still open! Then, we listened to my favorite classic rock station (it was just "rock" in the 70's and 80's, but it's still the same music!) as we drove out of town and spotted all the familiar landmarks. I was in nostalgia heaven. There's just something so wonderful about returning home. Sadly, my dad is no longer there, but we enjoy spending time with my step-mom, and I sort of got to hug my dad!

 


I posted just one new book video last week:

Friday Reads 8/5/22 - my weekly recap of what I'm reading

I've also posted two new chronic illness videos recently, if you're interested in that topic:

Interview with The Crooked Spine Podcast - Dr. Tony interviewed me about living with chronic illnesses

Chronic Illness Vlog - July - Short video clips of my everyday life - the good days, the bad days, and everything in between!

And here's what we've all been reading this past week, though we didn't have much reading time this weekend!

I'm still reading The Overstory by Richard Powers. This one was in my stack for #BigBookSummer 2021! It won the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and was on many Top 10 lists in 2018. It's a series of separate but connected stories about people and families. In each story, there is a tree or trees that grow and develop along with the people or otherwise deeply affect their lives. It all comes together beautifully in the second half of the book, as many of the characters in the first part meet, united by a common purpose of saving trees. It's wholly original, both beautiful and devastating, and so far, excellent.

 

On audio, I've been  listening to Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian. This YA novel is set in 1989 in New York City in the midst of the AIDS crisis and follows several teens. Art is a very out gay boy who is flamboyant and open. Reza is a recent immigrant from Iran, by way of Canada, who is very closeted, in part due to his family's culture and in part due to a fear of AIDS. Judy is a teen girl who is Art's best friend, is very close to her gay uncle, Stephen, and has a crush on Reza (not knowing, of course, that he's gay). It's a wonderful novel so far, with compelling characters and a unique and intriguing story.

 

My husband, Ken, is now reading another Father's Day gift, Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger. I read my first Krueger novel in the spring, This Tender Land, and was blown away by its beautiful writing, gripping plot, and wonderful characters. Iron Lake is the first book, published back in 1998, in his mystery series that features P.I. Cork O'Connor, former sheriff of Aurora, MN. Lots of friends told me this series is great, so I figured it was a good one to get my husband started on. He's enjoying it so far.

 

Last I heard, our son, 27, was reading Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe, book one of the Arcane Ascension series, and enjoying it! I need to catch up with him.

Last week's blog posts:

Movie Monday: The Power of the Dog - this award-winning movie was dark, beautifully filmed & emotionally complex

Fiction Review: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir - amazing, hilarious, and warm-hearted, but I can't tell you what it's really about - perhaps my favorite book of the year!

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?

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Fiction Review: Project Hail Mary

While we were traveling out to Oklahoma last month, I was reading Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, which turned out to be the perfect immersive, uplifting story for a difficult week. I enjoyed Weir's earlier novels, The Martian and Artemis, but this latest novel absolutely blew me away with its warmth, humor, and emotional depth.

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a mission to save the entire Earth and every living thing on it. But he doesn't know that yet ... or even his own name. He awakens in a weird, round room, with his body covered with electrodes and with tubes ... well, everywhere. It's clear he's been in some sort of medical coma, but he feels okay, other than tired and weak. He's in an oval bed attached to the curved wall, and he can see two other similar beds around the room. When he is able to get up and check, though, he discovers that both occupants died a very long time ago and are now just two desiccated mummies. There's a computer with long metal arms that's clearly been caring for him and keeps asking him questions. He can answer many of them, except what his name is. He suddenly flashes back to a very detailed memory, about what is probably a typical day in his normal life, and every detail of a complicated e-mail about astronomy. He even remembers what he was thinking and feeling then, but he still doesn't know who he is or what he's doing here. Over the coming days and weeks, his memory will gradually return, in these kinds of seemingly random, detailed flashes of memory, but it will be quite a while before he can put it all together and remember everything that led up to this moment. Along the way, he will have to deal with some very difficult, sometimes life-threatening challenges--it's a good thing he seems to know a lot about math and science--but also some amazing new experiences that he never could have imagined in his earlier life.

And, that's all I can tell you about this novel--basically what is set up in the first chapter--without spoiling the massive, incredible surprises that Weir has in store for the reader. If you enjoyed The Martian, Project Hail Mary has a similar tone to it, with science sprinkled into a story with life-or-death consequences and a hefty dose of humor. But this wholly unique novel goes to entirely new places and is incredibly moving and heartwarming, too. And while Mark Watney was trying to save his own life (admittedly no small feat), Ryland Grace is responsible for nothing short of the entire human race, its planet, and every living thing on Earth. So, there is plenty of fast-paced tension and suspense in this novel, but it's so much more than that. I'm dying to blurt out what this story is really about, but this original novel is best experienced as the author intended, with both the background story and the current action gradually being revealed as Ryland himself experiences it. Despite Ryland's isolation, it's a story about connection. You will want to read this book with someone else available to you who has already read it (I'm available!), because you will need to talk about it. I had my husband by my side in our hotel room each night, and whenever I laughed out loud or gasped or said, "Oh, my gosh!," he eagerly asked, "What happened? Which part are you reading?" We still repeat some of the funnier, more memorable lines to each other. Since I am unable to tell you about the remarkable things that happen in this story, I will tell you how it made me feel: moved, uplifted, heartened, and gleefully happy. It's got some tough competition, but Project Hail Mary may now be the best book I have read this year ... and maybe a new entry in my ever-changing Top 10 Books of All Time. I never wanted it to end, but the ending was perfect, and I hugged it to my chest when I finished it. Just trust me: Go into it with an open mind and an open heart, and read this book.

476 pages, Ballantine Books

Audible Studios

A movie adaptation is already in the works, with Ryan Gosling cast as Ryland (not the best casting, in my opinion, but I can't wait to see this book come to life on the screen!).

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Mount TBR Challenge

Alphabet Soup Challenge - P

Big Book Summer Challenge

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.

 

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, from the opening passage of the novel, and/or download it from Audible.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!

      

 

Or you can order Project Hail Mary from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

 

 

Monday, August 01, 2022

Movie Monday: The Power of the Dog

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I decided to watch a movie on Saturday night. We've gotten so caught up in following all the great TV shows available on cable and streaming now that we rarely watch movies anymore. That means we are way behind on watching all the award nominees. We chose The Power of the Dog which had been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in 2022, as well as eleven other Academy Awards! This gorgeous Western was not exactly what we expected, but it was an excellent movie.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Phil Burbank (and was nominated for a lead actor Oscar for his role), a hard but charismatic rancher in 1925 Montana. He and his brother own the ranch left to them by their father, but it's clear that George, played by Jesse Plemons, is more the businessman, and Phil is the hardcore rancher. He inspires awe and fear in those around him. While on a cattle drive, Phil and George and their men stay at a boarding house/restaurant run by the widowed Rose Gordon (played by Kirsten Dunst, also nominated), who lives there with her teen son, Peter (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee). George falls for Rose, and they are soon married. Rose drops Peter off at school, where he will study to become a surgeon, and then heads off with George on a multi-day trek across a bare but beautiful landscape to the isolated ranch. There, George and Rose are happy at first, but Phil seems determined to torture Rose. George is often away on business for a week or two at a time, and during those times especially, Phil is relentless in making Rose feel like an unwelcome intruder, driving her to turn to alcohol. When Peter visits during his summer break, he can immediately see the frail emotional state his mother is in and that she's been drinking. In an unexpected move, though, Phil stops mocking the boy for being effeminate and instead takes him under his wing, teaching him to ride and rope. With all the different tensions just below the surface, it's unclear what will happen next.

There are plenty of secrets lurking behind the characters here, and some plot twists that took us by surprise. The growing tension on the ranch creates plenty of suspense. It just feels like something will eventually have to give in this unequal battle of wills. The stunning landscape and gorgeous cinematography add a lot to this film (it was also Oscar-nominated for Best Cinematography, and it's clear why). It's easy to get lulled by the atmosphere and harsh beauty of the ranch so that you don't see the surprises coming. This is a dark movie with a lot of emotional complexity. It was different than what either of us expected, but it was very good, and it's obvious why it got so many award nominations.

Have you seen any of this year's Best Picture nominees yet? This was only our second!

The Power of the Dog is currently available on Netflix.

It's Monday 8/1! What Are You Reading?

Hosted by The Book Date

I had a busy week last week, without much writing time, but I do finally feel like I am starting to catch up a bit, after all the flurry of activity related to my father-in-law's funeral. We finished our thank you notes yesterday, and I submitted the travel insurance claim for my son's cancelled flight. Making progress!

We had a very nice weekend. The temperature and humidity finally dropped so that we could get outside! My husband and I took a lovely walk at our local nature center Saturday morning. Their butterfly garden is in full bloom ... wow! It seemed like there was a butterfly on every single blossom, but they were all in constant motion, so it was hard to capture in photos.



Saturday afternoon, our oldest son came for a visit. Since he had to miss the funeral, it had been a while since we'd all been together. We spent a very relaxed weekend together; it was so nice to have him here! All four of us were together for Saturday dinner, and I made one of our family summertime favorites, Adobo Flank Steak with Summer Corn-Tomato Relish. The beef gets a 24-hour marinade, so it's super flavorful, and all the fresh summer produce (watermelon, too) was delicious!


I got some eye rolls, but I insisted we all sit down together for a photo because we're so rarely all together now.

I finally finished my last book review for books read in June ... before August! Like I said, catching up. You can hear my overview of the four Big Books I finished last month in my June Reading Wrap-Up video.

Here is my 2022 Reading Challenge Update, as of the end of June (click the link to see the details of my challenges):

Mount TBR Challenge - I read two more books from my own shelves (I don't count audio books), but I've still only read 13 books from my own shelves this year ... and my goal is 48!

Monthly Motif Challenge - June was Supporting Pride Through Books, and one of my books fit ... but I'm not going to tell you which one because it's a spoiler!

Back to the Classics 2022 - I read another classic, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, which I put under the 19th century classic category. That's 5 already, and my goal is 6.

Alphabet Soup Challenge - Still just 17 letters filled in so far (of 26). It gets harder once the common letters are used! Where are the book titles that start with Q, X, and Z?

Nonfiction Reader Challenge - No nonfiction in June.

Diversity Challenge - Two of the four books I read in June were diverse, bringing my total up to 27 so far (with a goal of 40).

Travel the World in Books - I added France in June, so I've been to ten countries so far in my books this year.

Literary Escapes Challenge - I added Nevada in June, so I've filled in 16 of the 51 states (including DC) so far. Too many books set in California!

Big Book Summer Challenge - Doing well on my own challenge so far, with all four books read in June 400 or more pages!

And I added two new videos to my YouTube channel last week:

Little Free Library Vlog - a quick tour of four Little Free Libraries in my area!
 
Birthday Books and Friday Reads 7-29-22 - my weekly reading update, plus the books I got for my birthday 
 


And here's what we've all been reading this past week:


I'm still reading The Overstory by Richard Powers. This one was in my stack for #BigBookSummer 2021! It won the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and was on many Top 10 lists in 2018. It's a series of separate but connected stories about people and families. In each story, there is a tree or trees that grow and develop along with the people or otherwise deeply affect their lives. It all comes together beautifully in the second half of the book, which I am really loving! It's wholly original and so far, excellent.
 
 
 
On audio, I finished The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd, another Big Book (audios count, too!). In this unique, magical mystery, a woman finds a mysterious map after her father dies. She and her father--and many other characters here--are cartographers who have devoted their lives to working with maps, but none of them have ever seen a map like this one! The audio was completely engrossing, right from the first chapter, and it kept surprising me with new twists and turns. 
 
 

Now, I have just started listening to Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian. I'm not too far into this YA novel yet, but it's set in 1989 in New York City in the midst of the AIDS crisis and follows several teens. Art is a very out gay boy who is flamboyant and open. Reza is a recent immigrant from Iran, by way of Canada, who is very closeted, in part due to his family's culture and religion. Judy is a teen girl who is Art's best friend, is very close to her gay uncle, Stephen, and has a crush on Reza (not knowing, of course, that he's gay). I'm enjoying it so far!
 
 

My husband, Ken, is reading one of his Father's Day gifts, Trespasser by Paul Doiron. This is book two in a mystery/thriller series about Maine game warden Mike Bowditch. Ken enjoyed the first book in the series and is enjoying this one, too. After reading two Big Books that were fairly complex, Ken says this is easy reading!
 


I got to catch up with our son, 27, this weekend. He's been reading a lot! He finally finished everything Michael G. Manning has written (so far) and thoroughly enjoyed each series and trilogy. Next, he read The White Tower by Michael Wiseheart, book one in The Aldoran Chronicles, a series that caught his eye. He enjoyed that and is now reading Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe, book one of the Arcane Ascension series.

Last week's blog posts:

Movie Monday: Where the Crawdads Sing - excellent adaptation with gorgeous cinematography

Teen/YA Review: Gone by Michael Grant - exciting sci fi thriller about kids on their own

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?