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? 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Saturday Snapshot: Locust Lake & Tuscarora State Parks, PA


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

The good news is that we finally got away for a camping vacation last week. The bad news is that we came home early due to an impending storm & then super-cold temps predicted afterward. That's 4 camping vacation cancellations/postponements/early leavings since July! We have spent more in lost reservations and cancellation fees this year than in actual camping. But, we made the best of things and enjoyed two more days of staycation at home.

We did get two and a half lovely days in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, camping at Locust Lake State Park and also visiting nearby Tuscarora Lake State Park. The heat & humidity were a bit more tolerable three hours north and 1500 feet higher, and we even saw some glimpses of fall color (which hasn't really started here in Delaware yet). Here are some highlights from our trip:

Very foggy when we arrived at Locust Lake SP on Monday!

Hiking the Oak & Ridge Trails in Locust Lake SP

Lots of bridges, thanks to local Eagle scouts!


All that rain left lots of salamanders, like this Red Eft.

Treetops were still mostly green but a pretty carpet of leaves on the ground.
Some glimpses of fall color kayaking on Locust Lake

Locust Lake's resident Bald Eagle.

Fall color along Locust Lake

I'm happy that the sun finally came out!

Mid-week fall camping means mostly empty campgrounds!

Sun came out just in time for a gorgeous sunset on the perfectly still lake.

Sunshine on Wed! Tuscarora Lake through the trees.
Walking over the dam at Tuscarora Lake with the mountains in front.

A stand of birches along Tuscarora Lake

Blue skies and Tuscarora Lake

View of Tuscarora Lake from the top of the dam.
I am happy to finally have some fall weather now at home (though it seems that we are jumping right from 80's to 50's). Hope you are enjoying a great weekend!

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Saturday Snapshot: Elk Neck State Park, Maryland


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

After months of cancelled camping trips due to weather and truck repairs, we finally got out last weekend. We just went to our favorite local state park, less than an hour from home, but it was a relaxing getaway...and miraculously, the weather over the weekend was absolutely perfect, with highs in the 70's and low's in the 60's. Our son and his girlfriend joined us for part of the weekend, too. Elk Neck State Park is a beautiful place, located on a peninsula, where two rivers meet at the Chesapeake Bay. Here are some highlights:

Recent storms left a LOT of driftwood on the beach!

Monarch with animal prints

Selfie on the beach at Elk Neck

Private beach near the campground - so peaceful!

Raucous Canadian Geese fighting over who got there first

View of the beach from the campground

Relaxing Saturday spent camping & reading



View of the Chesapeake Bay from the peninsula


My husband & I in front of the Chesapeake

Turkey Point Lighthouse (and my son & his girlfriend)

Spiral staircase inside the lighthouse (yes, we went up!)

My son and his girlfriend walking back from the lighthouse.


Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

Friday, October 05, 2018

Fiction Review: Waking Gods

I finally read Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel, book 2 in his series, The Themis Files, and I enjoyed it just as much as book 1. My husband and I both love this series and were bowled over by the first book, Sleeping Giants, last year. Now, we've both finished book 2, and I just gave him book 3, Only Human, for his birthday yesterday! We are both eager to continue this unique, riveting series. This review will be big on enthusiasm but short on details, since both of the first two books were filled with lots of surprising plot twists that are best discovered on your own.

Eleven-year old Rose is riding her bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls into a big hole in the ground. When rescuers find her, she is in the bottom of a big pit, lying in a giant metal robot hand. The sides of the rectangular pit are surrounded with huge panels, with strange symbols all over them, glowing in an eerie turquoise-colored light. The first novel, Sleeping Giants, opens 17 years later, when Rose is a grown-up scientist, Dr. Rose Franklin, who now studies the hand and its panels (listen to the audio sample below). It was immediately clear to scientists that these things had not come from Earth, and further study confirms that the metal and other materials are otherworldly. So much happens in book 1, but to give any of it away would be a spoiler. So, I can't say too much about book 2, except that many (but not all) of the characters from book 1 are back, and the alien presence on Earth is far more pronounced.

Much of the plot in this second book revolves around how to respond to an alien presence and the way that governments around the world (and the newly-formed Earth Defense Corps) react. They want to show they desire peace, but they don't want to appear weak, in case the aliens' intent is destructive. Any one nation - or person - acting out of fear could threaten the safety of the entire world. As with Sleeping Giants, the story is told in an epistolary style, through journals, news reports, and interviews, and it delves into some thought-provoking issues about our own world today, with all sorts of ethical questions popping up as leaders around the world scramble to deal with this new potential threat. More secrets are revealed, more plot twists occur that you will never see coming, more questions arise, and the novel ends with the best last line ever! I can't wait to read book 3 in this exciting, action-packed, and thoughtful series.

322 pages, Del Rey


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 book of Sleeping Giants (the Waking Gods sample gave away too much). I wondered if this style of novel would be confusing on audio, but it is a full-cast production and sounds wonderful! Just listen to the sample, and you'll be hooked...

You can purchase Sleeping Giants or  Waking Gods from an indie bookstore (locally or online):
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org     Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or order Sleeping Giants or Waking Gods from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Teen/YA Review: Not If I Save You First

On a recent road trip to the Berkshires in Massachusetts, my husband and I were looking for an audio book for the car. He prefers thrillers, but this was a short trip, so we chose a YA survival thriller, Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter. I had previously listened to Carter's All Fall Down (book 1 in her Embassy Row series), and this stand-alone novel proved to be similarly exciting and fast-paced, with an original plot.

Maddie and Logan are best friends, but their circumstances are unusual. Logan's dad is President of the United States, Maddie's dad is a Secret Service agent who protects him, and the two 10-year olds play in the halls of the White House. A frightening incident breaks up their friendship, though, when Maddie's dad decides to move the two of them to Alaska - the middle of nowhere in Alaska, to be precise. Maddie writes lots of letters to Logan, but he never writes back. Now, six years have passed, and Logan is suddenly there, in Maddie's cabin in the woods for a visit. Maddie wants to tell him how angry she is with him, but an unknown assailant knocks her down into a ravine, leaves her for dead, and hauls Logan off through the dense forest. Although Maddie could go back for help, a storm is quickly approaching, and Maddie knows these woods better than anyone, so she easily tracks Logan and his kidnapper before the snow can cover their trail. She'd like to kill him for not writing back to her all those years ago, but she'll have to save him first.

Carter has set up a unique premise in an intriguing setting in this novel. Throughout most of the story, neither Logan nor Maddie (nor the reader) knows exactly why these particular bad guys have come after Logan, so there's a bit of a mystery there. As Maddie follows the kidnapper and Logan through the thick Alaska wilderness and eventually catches up with them, there is plenty of action-packed suspense that keeps the story moving at a quick pace, combined with details about wilderness survival. My husband doesn't read a lot of YA, but he enjoyed the thriller-like aspects of this book (though not the teen romance angle that pops up once in a while!), and I enjoyed it, too. Narrator Brittany Pressley provides Maddie's slightly sarcastic account and kept us both interested during our trip and afterward, as we finished it up at home.

304 pages, Scholastic Press


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

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

Listen to a sample of narrator Brittany Pressley reading the audio book Not If I Save You First.

You can purchase Not If I Save You First from an indie bookstore (online or locally):
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or you can order Not If I Save You First from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

TV Tuesday: Forever

After hearing about a new Amazon Prime show called Forever on Pop Culture Happy Hour, one of my favorite podcasts, I decided to give it a try. This show with a very unusual premise grew on me, and I ended up really enjoying it.

But here's the catch - I can't actually tell you what it's main premise is without spoiling all of the twists in the first two episodes, so I will describe as much as I can and leave the rest for you to discover for yourself.

Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen play June and Oscar, a married couple with a long and happy history who have maybe fallen into a bit of a rut. Their life has become fairly routine, though it's clear that they still love each other, as they share inside jokes and their own brand of funny banter with each other. June in particular seems to be tiring of the same old, same old. They celebrate their anniversary every year by renting the same cabin at the same lake, so this year, June suggests they do something different. It takes some convincing - Oscar really enjoys their routines and traditions - but they end up heading to a ski resort for their anniversary. Something happens there that changes their lives forever.

I really can't say more than that because some of the fun of this show is in its early surprises that set up the rest of the episodes. Despite the twists, though, this show remains a thoughtful - and funny - study of love and marriage and long-term relationships. Maya Rudolph is really at the center of the show, playing the character who is feeling most dissatisfied in the relationship, and much of what happens comes from her restlessness. Although Fred Armisen is playing a mostly serious role here, he still comes off as slightly goofy and weird, perhaps because I saw him in a few episodes of Portlandia, which is a seriously weird show. Forever explores some serious issues, but it also has plenty of moments of humor. The first few episodes seemed a bit strange to me (especially after the unexpected twists), but the more I watched, the more I was hooked. I ended up really enjoying this unusual, thought-provoking, funny show.

Forever is an Amazon Prime original show, so it can be watched exclusively on Amazon Prime streaming.



Monday, October 01, 2018

It's Monday 10/1! What Are You Reading?

Wow, October already? It feels like we completely skipped September because it's usually one of the best months weather-wise, but we had nonstop rain for weeks and it still felt like summer - hot & humid - until just a few days ago! Guess we are jumping right into October now. It's still supposed to be low 80's here this week, but at least it's tolerable now and the rain has (mostly) stopped.

We took advantage of the break in the weather and rare sunshine and FINALLY went camping this weekend! We just went to a nearby state park in Maryland that's one of our favorites. We took a couple of nice walks - to a driftwood-covered beach (more evidence of recent storms) and a lighthouse out on a point overlooking the Chesapeake Bay - and relaxed and enjoyed the warm days and lovely, cool nights. Our son and his girlfriend joined us on Saturday. So, we had a wonderful weekend.

Of course, we enjoyed our books this week, too! Here's what we've been reading:
  • I finished Waking Gods, book 2 of The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel this weekend. My husband, Ken, and I both loved book 1, Sleeping Giants, and he just finished reading book 2, so I had my turn. It's a suspenseful and thought-provoking series about a giant robot hand found buried that is definitely not human-made. To say any more would spoil all the twisty surprises, but book 2 ended with the best last line EVER! Now, I can't wait to read book 3.
  • Next, I started reading 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's good so far - suspenseful and dark. I loved Christopher's first novel, Stolen.
  • Ken and I finished listening to Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter, a YA thriller on audio. It's a suspenseful survival thriller set in Alaska, with the President's son getting kidnapped while visiting an old friend.We enjoyed it, though Ken had no patience for the teen romance angle woven in!
  • I started a new audio book (well, actually, a very old one): Macbeth by Shakespeare. It's a full 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. Just the right choice for the season, now that I am understanding it better!
  • Ken is now reading 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. He felt it was a bit slow at the beginning (lots of character development), but they have now picked up the aliens' radio transmission, so he's getting to the part where the pace picks up considerably.
  • Our son, Jamie, 23, finished Words of Radiance, book 2 in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. He loved book 1, The Way of Kings, and has been looking forward to reading the rest of the series. He's now reading book 3, Oathbringer, a big brick of a book at 1250 pages (and he's reading the hardcover!). He loves these epic fantasy series.
Blog posts from last week:
Movie Monday: Ocean's 8 - an all-female crime caper

Fiction Review: Still Life by Louise Penny - book 1 of her popular Chief Inspector Gamache series

Fiction Review: Red, White, Blue by Lea Carpenter - a quiet look at the inner life of a CIA spy

Middle-Grade Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab - fun, spooky story of a girl who can see ghosts - I loved it!

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? 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Middle-Grade Review: City of Ghosts

When picking books for my annual RIP Challenge this fall, I thought I'd include a few middle-grade and YA books from my bulging TBR shelves. I found an ARC of City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab and added it to my pile because a) it's about ghosts which is perfect for RIP, and b) everyone has been raving about this novel, which was released in August. Now I understand why! I loved this spooky, funny ghost story set in Scotland.

Cassidy almost drowned (technically, she did drown) and now she can see ghosts. She can even pull back the Veil, her word for the fabric-like barrier between our world and the spirit world, and visit that other place. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, is actually a ghost and the one who saved her from the icy river. Coincidentally, Cass' parents write books about ghosts and haunted places. They write from historical (her dad) and legend/myth (her mom) perspectives, but they would flip out if they knew their daughter actually sees ghosts all around her. When her parents get a new job hosting a TV show about the world's most haunted places, their first location is Edinburgh, Scotland, so the family heads off to the City of Ghosts, as it's known, to investigate its history, myths, and spirits. But when you can actually see and interact with ghosts, visiting the city's most haunted places is whole lot scarier and less fun than her parents realize...in fact, it gets downright dangerous for Cass. Thankfully, she meets another girl like her who reluctantly teaches her some things she didn't know about the Veil.

Did I mention I loved this book? I flew through its pages in just a few days and enjoyed every minute of it. Cass' ghostly experiences are intriguing and just scary enough to be fun (not too scary for most older middle-grade readers) and are based on the real-life history and legends of Edinburgh. Jacob's somewhat sarcastic banter (which only Cass can hear) adds a nice note of humor to the narrative that keeps the story from getting too dark. I was engrossed in the friends' adventures in spooky Scotland from beginning to the end which came much too quickly. I was thrilled to see this is the first book of a new series (according to Goodreads - I hope it's true!) and can't wait to follow Cass to other exciting and haunting locations. Maybe New Orleans next?

304 pages, Scholastic Press


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

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

I really enjoyed reading City of Ghosts, but the audio book sounds great, too! Listen to a sample of it here.

You can purchase City of Ghosts from an indie bookstore (local or online):
 Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or you can order City of Ghosts from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Fiction Review: Red, White, Blue

My review of the unique novel Red, White, Blue by Lea Carpenter was published recently on Shelf Awareness. You can read the full review at the link.

Although the novel is about a CIA spy, it is not your typical spy thriller. Instead, it is a quiet look into the inner life of a recently deceased CIA operative, as seen through the eyes of his adult daughter - who had no idea he worked for the CIA - and also from the perspective of one of his colleagues. The novel is written with very short (sometimes just a half page) chapters that alternate between those two points of view, as the agent's life is slowly revealed. You can read my full review on Shelf Awareness.

320 pages, Knopf

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fiction Review: Still Life

When one of my book groups chose Still Life by Louise Penny (her first Chief Inspector Gamache novel) for our September discussion, I was happy for two reasons: the mystery fit with my RIP Challenge for fall, and LOTS of my friends like Penny's novels and have recommended them. I enjoyed this classic detective mystery, set in a small village in Quebec.

Chief Inspector Gamache is called to the small rural town of Three Pines when an elderly woman is found dead there one morning on Thanksgiving weekend (which is in October in Canada). She seems to have been killed by an arrow, and it is bow-hunting season, so it could have been an accident. Besides, who would want to hurt sweet Jane Neal, who seemed to be loved by everyone? Gamache, though, suspects foul play and approaches the case with his way of quiet observation, along with his team, including his usual sidekick Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir and new, abrasive rookie Yvette Nichol. The townspeople are stunned by Jane's death and a bit flustered by the police presence in the midst of their normally quiet village life.

In our book group, we all agreed this is a unique approach to a mystery novel, in which the residents where the crime took place are just as central to the story as the investigators. Throughout the novel, the reader gets to know the villagers, as well as the police officers investigating the crime, quite well. We found out that the rest of Penny's books in this series all take place in Three Pines, which explained the character development but also made us wonder how so many murders could take place in such a small, quiet village! There are 12 Chief Inspector Gamache novels out so far and another one due soon. I don't usually read this sort of classic mystery/police procedural very often anymore, but I very much enjoyed Still Life. In fact, it grew on me the more I read, as I got to know the characters better. Most of my book group agreed we'd like to live in Three Pines and hang out with these people (except for all the murder, of course). Penny included a raft of dead ends and red herrings that kept us all guessing, and only one person figured out whodunit before it was revealed. She also incorporates a wonderful sense of humor that occasionally had me laughing out loud. I would definitely read another novel in this series.

P.S. My only remaining question is why French Canadians swear by saying Tabernacle!

312 pages, St. Martin's Minotaur

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 audio book sounds like it would be a great way to read Still Life - then you could hear the French Canadian words pronounced properly, too (though I enjoyed using my high school French!). Listen to a sample of the audio here.

You can purchase Still Life from an indie bookstore (online or locally):
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or you can order Still Life from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Movie Monday: Ocean's 8

During our mini vacation last weekend in the Berskshires, my husband and I watched a movie in our rental apartment one night: Ocean's 8, an all-female addition to the popular series that began with Ocean's 11 about groups of cons pulling off cool capers.

Sandra Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, sister to renowned con man Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney in earlier Ocean movies. Debbie has just been paroled from prison, but instead of staying out of trouble, she immediately begins gathering old friends together for an impossible caper: stealing jewels from the Met Gala, the most exclusive celebrity event of the year. First, she recruits her old friend, Lou, played by Cate Blanchett. Their plan involves asking washed-up designer Rose, played by Helena Bonham Carter, to convince big-time celebrity Daphne Kluger, played by Anne Hathaway, to let her "dress her" for the ball, including wearing the most expensive necklace in Cartier's vault. They also recruit jeweler Amita, played by Mindy Kaling, computer whiz Nine Ball, played by Rihanna, talented pickpocket Constance, played by Awkwafina, and soccer mom/fencer of stolen goods Tammy, played by Sarah Paulson. Once they have their team assembled, the fun begins, with each member using her talents to bring their plan to fruition. As in all caper movies, the climax is the event itself, watching the team's plans become reality as they they create illusions, play their roles, and make the impossible happen.

Like the other Ocean's movies before it, this film is just pure fun. The twist of an all-female criminal crew adds to the entertainment, with - as always in this series - a slew of top-name actors playing the lead roles, and quite a few cameos and bit parts by equally big actors and other celebrities (some of them play themselves at the Met Gala). It's fast-paced, action-packed, and oh-so-clever, and we thoroughly enjoyed watching the plan unfold. And, as always, there are some twists in the plot that we never saw coming. All in all, it's straight-up entertainment, with plenty of suspense, laughs, and eye candy.

Ocean's 8 is currently out on DVD and streaming, available on Amazon Prime to rent starting at $4.99.