Tuesday, September 26, 2017

TV Tuesday: Salvation

I'm a little late with this review of Salvation, a CBS summer show that started in July, but since it is still available in a couple of places, I thought I'd go ahead and review it now. My husband and I have enjoyed this fast-paced show that is a mix of sci fi thriller and political conspiracy and just watched the season one finale this week.

MIT grad student Liam Cole, played by the adorably scruffy Charlie Rowe, one day discovers a large asteroid that is on a course to collide with Earth in 186 days. He rushes to the home of his professor, played by Dennis Boutsikaris, but finds a huge mess in his office, his glasses crushed on the floor, and his professor nowhere to be found. Scared now, Liam rushes across campus, trying to stay away from whatever "bad guys" found his professor. That same day, Liam meets Jillian, a beautiful young writer played by Jacqueline Byers, and it's love at first sight for both of them.

Desperate to tell someone about the asteroid who can help, Liam crashes into a TED-type talk given by Darius Tanz, played by Santiago Cabrera, a tech billionaire who runs a powerful company. It takes some convincing, but Darius soon believes Liam and understands the seriousness of the problem. The two head to Tanz Industries headquarters in D.C. and contact Grace Barrows, played by Jennifer Finnigan, who is the Press Secretary for the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Harris, played by Ian Anthony Dale.

Two different but related threads run through the show. There's the science side of things, where Darius and Liam race against time to try to figure out how to either destroy the asteroid or move it off course. And there's the political side of things, where Grace and Harris (sometimes working at odds with each other; other times working together) try to convince those in power to provide the necessary funding and support. Through it all, only a very small group of people even know about the asteroid - they are afraid that if it becomes public knowledge, panic and chaos will ensue.

There's a lot going on in this show to keep it moving at a fast pace. In addition to the main storylines, Darius is secretly working on an "ark," a rocket that would hold 160 people and could make it to Mars; there's an existing romance between Grace and Harris; a new romance between Liam and Jillian (though he can't tell her about the asteroid); political machinations; and a small issue of ever-worsening conflict and perhaps approaching war between Russia and the US. It's all very exciting, with plenty of suspense, and the acting is good, with excellent chemistry between the main characters. The science might be a bit iffy in places, but that's typical for this sort of sci fi thriller - you just suspend disbelief and go along for the ride. And what a ride it is! We watched this show the old-fashioned way, once a week as each new episode was released (well, not entirely old-fashioned - we watched it On Demand), and we were always eager to see the next one. It ended with a huge cliff-hanger, so I hope there will be a season 2!

Season 1 (13 episodes) just finished airing on CBS. The last 5 episodes are available for free On Demand or on the CBS website. To see the first 8 episodes on CBS, you have to subscribe to their service. The entire first season is available FREE to Amazon Prime members or you can purchase episodes for $1.99 each (link below) on Amazon.

Monday, September 25, 2017

It's Monday 9/25! What Are You Reading?

Super late with my post today after a very hectic morning - out the door early for fasting bloodwork, back home for a quick breakfast, then to PT and massage for my shoulder injury, then a stop at the grocery store and finally home! Whew. Unfortunately, that will be the norm for this week until later when we head to Oklahoma for my husband's 40th college reunion. That should be fun - besides his reunion, we'll be seeing one of my best friends from high school (oddly enough, we both married Oklahoma guys!) - and hopefully not too tiring for me. I'll get a little downtime while my husband is out golfing. And, hey, flying means LOTS of reading time, right?

Last week was busy, too, but we enjoyed our books - celebrating this spooky fall season (even though it has been 90 degrees here!). Here's what we've been reading:
  • I finished a YA fantasy thriller, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, the second book in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series. I enjoyed the first book, and my son's girlfriend loaned me this one. It was just as good - fun, suspenseful, and with a sense of humor, too. I love how the author builds his story around real vintage photos he's found of creepy/weird stuff! Very creative.
  • I was in that in-between stage - didn't want to start the longer book I'm planning to bring on the trip but not quite enough time to squeeze in another - so I chose a short (but still creepy) novel, In a Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry, an author I met at Booktopia in May. I bought this book for my husband, and he liked it. It's the story of a reporter in Lake Placid, NY, who is present when a body is found encased in the frozen lake, and it turns out to be someone she knows. I've just started it, but it already has a dark tension to it with plenty of suspense.
  • On audio, I am listening to Masterminds: Payback, the third and final book of a middle-grade trilogy by Gordon Kormon. I loved the first book, Masterminds, and its sequel. It's a fast-paced thriller with sci fi elements, and book 3 is just as compelling.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading The Son by Jo Nesbo, a stand-alone thriller not featuring his well-known Harry Hole character. He's really enjoying it.
  • Jamie, 23, is reading an epic fantasy, Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight, book 1 of The Duelists trilogy, and enjoying it. He says it's similar to the Three Musketeers, with elements of steampunk and fantasy/magic mixed in. He's home today, and says he'll probably finish it tonight.
Last week's blog posts:
Movie Monday: Gold starring Matthew McConaughey, drama about gold prospecting

TV Tuesday: Fall TV We Are Looking Forward To

Fiction Review: The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler, about friendship through generations

Nonfiction Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - some good advice but also a little nutty!

My Summary of Books Read in August

Saturday Snapshot: Lake Atsion, New Jersey Pinelands - pics from our camping/kayaking

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

What are you and your family reading this week?  

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

Remember if you are participating in my Big Book Summer Challenge to leave links to your reviews on the challenge page (the second links list is for reviews, updates, and wrap-ups) to share them. I know many of you enjoyed your Big Books this summer! The Challenge is finished, but you can continue to link up your reviews and/or wrap-up posts through the end of September.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Snapshot: Atsion Lake - New Jersey Pinelands

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

Last weekend, my husband and I managed a short getaway to the nearby New Jersey Pinelands (aka Pine Barrens - I think they are trying to do some rebranding!). We camped at Atsion Lake in the Wharton State Forest and enjoyed kayaking. Unfortunately, we also endured an unexpected, heavy rainstorm and very noisy neighbors, but the kayaking was lovely, and we both enjoyed some extra reading time! Here are some highlights - the lake was completely calm, creating a glass-like reflection:

Sunset view of the lake from our campsite

Perfect reflection while kayaking

Kayaking through the clouds (my husband)

First signs of fall (even though it is still HOT)

Cloud reflections

Red bush reflected in the lake

The requisite kayaking selfie!

Fog on the lake after the rainstorm at dusk

Hope you are having a wonderful weekend! Supposed to be above 90 degrees here tomorrow - I though yesterday was the first day of fall!?!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Books Read in August

It's only September 22 - woohoo! I'm catching up! Seriously, this is better than the past two months.

August was a good reading month for me, with a focus on Big Books for my Summer Challenge and review books for Shelf Awareness. Here's what I finished in August:

So, I read seven books total in August, including four Big Books over 400 pages. Six books were fiction, and one nonfiction, and all were adult books, with no middle-grade or YA, which is unusual for me. It's also unusual for me to read more than one book for Shelf Awareness per month, but that's just the way it worked out in August. The graphic novel was a late addition, but well worth the extra time - it was riveting. None of those three reviews have yet been published on Shelf Awareness, but I will link to each of them when they are - all three were excellent. It's hard to choose a favorite out of this venerable line-up because I enjoyed all of them, but I think it would be my re-read of Jane Eyre.

Progress on 2017 Reading Challenges:
This is my favorite part of my monthly summary - updating my Reading Challenges! Three of my 7 books were from my own shelves for my Read Your Own Damn Books Challenge, which is better than in past months! For the Monthly Motif Reading Challenge, August was Seasons, Elements & Weather, so
Dust by Hugh Howey fits, with its post-apocalyptic ruined world outside the silo. I finally read another classic for the 2017 Back to the Classics Challenge - I listed Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë under the Romance Classic category. I slotted two of my books into categories for my Well-Rounded Challenge, but the categories are almost filled up now - Jane Eyre fit into "published before 1950" and Dust fit into "finish a series" (I don't often read series). No new countries for my Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge. For my 2017 Literary Escapes Challenge, I added just one more state, Wisconsin. And I read 4 books over 400 pages for my own Big Book Summer Challenge (I only just realized that The Hearts of Men counted, too, since I listened to it on audio!).

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 17 squares on my Bingo card last month:

Spaces filled in:

Jane Eyre - Loyal, empowered female, packing/moving, road trip/travel 
The Hearts of Men - Audio book, swimming, summer fling
The Ninth Hour - Free book, historical
Dust - Siblings/kids, in a series
Machine Learning - Science fiction/fantasy, stars on the cover
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Meh
The Hunting Accident - Set in a city, loner
Free Space

What was your favorite book read in August? 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Nonfiction Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

In the spring, I was at the check-out counter of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT, mostly buying gifts for other people, when I grabbed a copy of Marie Kondo’s best-selling mega hit The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I figured I should finally read it for myself to find out what all the fuss was about! We have lived in our home for 22 years and raised two kids here, so we could definitely use some decluttering, and I like having things organized. Kondo has some good advice in this slim book and some interesting ways of approaching these tasks, but I also came away thinking she’s a little bit nutty!

There are a couple of unique approaches about her KonMari Method. The one aspect I am most likely to use from her book is that she focuses on what to keep instead of what to get rid of. I am probably like most people in that I approach decluttering with an eye on what I can throw away or donate – flipping through my closet the night before a charity pick-up, thinking, “Hmmm…I haven’t worn this in years, this doesn’t fit anymore, etc.” Conversely, Marie Kondo recommends going through your stuff and for each item, considering whether it sparks joy. This was intriguing to me, since I like to focus on joy in my life, but – again thinking of clothing – I know I keep items that fit me and are OK, but I don’t really love. Kondo says to get rid of those and keep only what sparks joy.

The other unique part of her approach that won’t work for me but might for other people is that she does not recommend going room-by-room or one closet or bookcase or dresser at a time. Rather, she recommends working through one category of item at a time. So, when you are decluttering and organizing your clothing, she says to pull out ALL of your clothes at once – every item in closets, dressers, etc. – and go through it all at once, holding every single item to decide if it sparks joy. Same with books – every single book in your house! That makes logical sense, but with my very limited physical stamina, I would manage it for an hour or 90 minutes and then run out of energy and be stuck with all my clothes or books in the middle of the room! But I can see what she’s getting at – it’s hard to make progress one small bit at a time. I do think she is right about having to take everything out of the closet or dresser or wherever because I know I don’t accomplish much when I try to go through items still packed together.

So, why did I say that Marie Kondo is a little nutty? Well, she goes pretty far afield in her recommendations on storage and organization, after you’ve finished decluttering. She is really into folding and says everything should be folded and stored standing on its edge like books (but she is talking about clothing). She also fervently believes that your stuff needs to “rest” when you are not using it. Here’s what she says to one client:
“I pointed to the balled-up socks. ‘Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?’ ”
She also recommends completely emptying your purse every single day when you get home – again, so that it can rest in between uses. She says we should thank our things for their service – at the end of the day and before we get rid of them. She concludes, toward the end of the book, with this:
“Everything you own wants to be of use to you. Even if you throw it away or burn it, it will only leave behind the energy of wanting to be of service. Freed from its physical form, it will move about your world as energy, letting other things know that you are a special person, and come back to you as the thing that will be of most use to who you are now, the thing that will bring you the most happiness.”
O.K. I think I am just a bit too logical and analytical for that! She also focuses on attaining an ideal that I’m really not interested in – a very spare home with nothing out in the open and all items able to be stored in a single closet. Maybe this is somewhat of a cultural difference, as I know that is more of a Japanese ideal than an American one. I enjoy being surrounded by things I love. Of course, as an avid reader, I can’t imagine purging books as thoroughly as she suggests, and I have heard other book lovers say the same. I love having a full bookcase in every room of my home! Those definitely spark joy. Still, I could certainly use some culling and decluttering.

Marie Kondo’s book spent 99 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and sold over six million copies worldwide, so it seems that she and her methods are very, very popular. She offers some excellent advice in this slim volume (and she wrote a sequel, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, for those who want more detail). Some of her approaches are different from what you normally read in decluttering and organizing advice, though her methods may not be practical for everyone. Although I don’t think I’ll be thanking my possessions for their service or emptying my purse every day, I do hope to put some of her advice into practice.

206 pages, Ten Speed Press (Berkeley)

I’m interested to hear what YOU think of Marie Kondo’s methods! Have you tried any of the approaches in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? What were your experiences?
I purchased this book myself.

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.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fiction Review: The Hearts of Men

I remember hearing intriguing reviews of The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler when it was first published in March, so I was glad for the opportunity to listen to the audio book this summer. It was an engrossing story of friendship and life’s ups and downs, following several generations.

In 1962 at age thirteen, Nelson Doughty is a social outcast, the classic geek who is an over-achiever but doesn’t have any friends. Every summer, Nelson goes to Camp Chippewa, a Boy Scout camp among the forests and lakes of Wisconsin. Nelson, is, of course, a stellar Scout, earning more merit badges than anyone else and aiming for Eagle Scout before he turns sixteen and then the military. He’s also the camp bugler, waking the other boys and counselors every morning by playing his WWI veteran grandfather’s battered trumpet.

This summer, Nelson thinks he might finally have made a friend. Jonathan is older than Nelson, but he was the only person to show up for Nelson’s birthday party back home. Jonathan is popular, handsome, and athletic, but he has shown some small kindnesses to Nelson. That summer at camp, Nelson suffers some horrible bullying, and though Jonathan doesn’t openly befriend Nelson, he does try to squelch some of the abuse and for that, Nelson is grateful and considers Jonathan a friend.

After immersing the reader in that summer of 1962 at Camp Chippewa, the novel then jumps forward in time several decades. Nelson did indeed join the military and fought in Vietnam, carrying scars both physical and emotional. He has now become the Scoutmaster of Camp Chippewa and once again spends his summers there. Jonathan married and took over his father’s company, making it a success, though he carries plenty of bitterness. The two erstwhile friends are reunited when Jonathan brings his teen son to camp.

Then the story once again jumps ahead in time several decades to Jonathan’s daughter-in-law and grandson, as they head to Camp Chippewa in this generational family tradition. The teen boy is not excited to still be going to camp, but his mom, who is chaperoning, is looking forward to seeing Nelson, her father-in-law’s old friend and the venerable head of the camp for many decades. The audio production brought all of these generations of men (and one woman) to life.

The Hearts of Men is an immersive story that pulls you into the woods of Wisconsin and the rustic Camp Chippewa along with its characters. Butler has developed a distinctive sense of place – and, in later chapters, nostalgia – that carries through time. It’s fascinating to see how the events of their youth affect both Nelson and Jonathan and the repercussions through multiple generations. It’s a sad (even horrifying) novel at times, addressing issues of bullying, abuse, infidelity, and divorce, and neither of the original two characters has a particularly happy life. But the novel also focuses on healing, family, and hope, bringing that old friendship full circle by the end. I enjoyed this emotionally complex and absorbing novel peopled with multi-dimensional, flawed characters.

400 pages, Ecco

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

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.

Hearts of Men
by Nickolas ButlerHardcover

Or purchase The Hearts of Men from The Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fall TV We Are Looking Forward To

Yes, yes, it's back-to-school time, kids off to college, weather turning cooler (or supposed to anyway)...but fall also means the new TV season is here! Granted, it's not like in the old days, when all new shows started in fall. Now we have streaming services launching new shows constantly and even the networks introducing new shows every season, but fall is still the biggest season for the biggest shows and the biggest launches. Here's what we are looking forward to, both old and new:

Returning Favorites
We can't wait for some of our old favorite shows to return! Here's a list of the ones we are most looking forward to, along with links to my past reviews and start dates for this fall:
  • Scorpion, season 4 begins 9/25 - a fun show about a group of genius misfits helping the government - not always believable but fun, suspenseful, a good sense of humor, and even a bit of geek romance.  We've been watching it for 3 years, but I guess I haven't reviewed it yet!
  • Blacklist, season 5 starts 9/27 - we still enjoy this fast-paced thriller starring James Spader as the mysterious Red. Can't believe I haven't reviewed that one yet, either!
  • Designated Survivor, season 2 starts 9/27 - and we can't wait! We loved the first season of this political drama crossed with an action thriller starring Keifer Sutherland as a former HUD Secretary who becomes President when the rest of the country's leadership is killed in a bombing. 
  • Grey's Anatomy, season 14 (!!) starts 9/28 - yes, we still watch this long-running medical drama!
  • How To Get Away With Murder, season 4 starts 9/28 - this complicated legal thriller
    co-created by the great Shonda Rhimes always starts with some startling event and then flashes back to fill in the blanks.
  • Madam Secretary, season 4 starts 10/8 - we are huge fans of this political drama starring Tea Leoni as Secretary of State.
  • Good Behavior, season 2 starts 10/15 - we loved this new show last winter, based on a series of novels by Blake Crouch (of Wayward Pines fame) about Letty, a con woman, trying to hold onto her beloved son, who hooks up with a killer-for-hire boyfriend. Here's its IMDB page.
  • Travelers, season 2 starts 10/16 -  we watched season 1 of this time-travel show starring Eric McCormack on Netflix last year with our son and loved it!
  • Blindspot, season 3 starts 10/27 - this intriguing thriller features a
    woman found in Times Square covered in tattoos with no memory.
  • Stranger Things, season 2 starts 10/27 - we binged this 80's sci fi Netflix show with our son last year and all loved it! Can't wait to see what happens next.
Yes, yes, I am well aware that it will be a challenge to juggle all those shows! Hopefully, some of the earlier ones will be winding down for a mid-season break by the time the later ones start. And let's not forget about new shows! Here are a few coming this fall that look like they might be worth checking out...

New Shows To Try

I went through a LOT of trailers and narrowed it down to these that look like we might enjoy them:

The Good Doctor (ABC) starting 9/25 - about a young genius surgical resident who is autistic (and whose hiring is controversial)

Ten Days in the Valley (ABC) starting 10/1 - a 10-episode thriller starring Kyra Sedgwick as a TV producer whose daughter goes missing

The Crossing (ABC) starting in October - I think I am most excited about this new sci fi thriller, about a group of refugees who appear in an American town seeking asylum - from 250 years in the future!

Deception (ABC) starting in October - a new suspense thriller about an illusionist/magician working with the FBI

Wow, so many good shows to look forward to this fall!! It all starts next week...get ready for some binge-watching!

What old favorites and new TV shows are you most looking forward to this fall?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Movie Monday: Gold

A few weeks ago, my husband and I found another great recent release free on streaming and watched Gold, starring Matthew McConaughey, a drama that begins in the 80's about a gold prospector who hits it big.

McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a prospector working for his father's mining company who thinks big. He is always looking for the next substantial find, especially after his father's death, as the business begins to die out. He's got a huge personality and is great at motivating the people he works with, getting them excited about the latest lead, as they work to convince investors to give them money. Desperate, with the company on the verge of bankruptcy, Kenny spends his last dollars and takes off to meet renowned geologist Michael Acosta (played by Edgar Ramirez), who was responsible for a big copper find. Kenny convinces Michael to partner with him to find gold in Indonesia, and Kenny's excitement and ambitions are contagious. Back home, Kenny wrangles what remains of his company to line up investors.

The two men take off into uncharted territory deep in the Indonesian jungle, where the locals have been known to pan for gold in the river for generations. In his dress pants, shirt, and shoes, Kenny stays by Michael's side through the mud and jungle as they bring a group of locals along to help search for that elusive gold that could turn into a successful mine. Failure after failure ensues, and Kenny becomes incapacitated with malaria. Will they succeed? Are Kenny's dreams and Michael's intuitions based on reality or fantasy?

Loosely based on a true story, Gold is a drama full of suspense and emotional depth. McConaughey is amazing as the enthusiastic, driven Kenny, fully inhabiting the character through his ups and downs. You will completely believe in this pot-bellied, receding hairline version of McConaughey and will feel for poor Kenny and root for him to succeed. There are plenty of unexpected twists and turns in the plot, to keep the pace and the suspense moving. My husband and I both thoroughly enjoyed this action-packed drama.

Gold is currently available on DVD and is free on Netflix streaming. It is also available for streaming on Amazon Prime, starting at $4.99 (or the DVD is available for $14.96).


It's Monday 9/18! What Are You Reading?

Late start today - trying to get caught up. We went away for the weekend, camping in Wharton State Forest in the New Jersey Pine Barrens (aka Pinelands, in an apparent effort at rebranding!). It was supposed to be a nice, relaxing mini getaway for my husband and I, though it didn't quite work out that way. The weather forecast had been for sunny days all weekend, but we got an unexpected BIG rainstorm Saturday, just as we were starting to cook dinner over a campfire. My poor husband stood out in the pouring rain for 40 minutes holding an umbrella over the fire while our dinner finished cooking! The other less-than-relaxing factor was some VERY noisy neighbors on all sides - loud music, large groups of people, shouting, swearing, etc. Like I said, not very relaxing. On the plus side, we did enjoy some kayaking Saturday morning, had a nice campsite on the lake, and enjoyed some reading, of course!

Here's what we've been reading this week:
  • I finished reading my neighborhood book group's selection, Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson. I really enjoyed this warm, funny novel about a unique little boy and the young woman put in charge of him. It was laugh-out-loud funny but also heartwarming and moving. Most of my book group loved it, and we had some great discussions.
  • Next, I dove into the R.I.P. Challenge for fall (which I still need to officially sign up for) and finally read one of the many suspense novels waiting on my TBR shelves: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. It's a super creepy novel about a murder during a "hen weekend" (it's a British thing - what we in the US would call a bachelorette party, though I'm not sure we do the same sort of thing they do). It was excellent, and I can't wait to read her next novel, The Woman in Cabin 10, which is also waiting on my shelf!
  • Now, I am reading another spooky novel, a YA fantasy thriller, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, the second book in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series. I enjoyed the first book, and my son's girlfriend loaned me this one. It's great so far.
  • I finally finished listening to Carve the Mark, the latest YA novel by Veronica Roth, the author of the Divergent series. This one was not my favorite kind of novel - a full-blown fantasy set in a different universe. I prefer fantasy or sci fi set in our real world, with some fantasy or sci fi elements. However, it grew on me, and I enjoyed it overall, though it ran a bit long. Now I need to choose a new audio book to start!
  • My husband, Ken, is going along with the spooky R.I.P. Challenge, too, and reading The Son by Jo Nesbo, a stand-alone thriller not featuring his well-known Harry Hole character. He's enjoying it so far.
  • Jamie, 23, was reading an epic fantasy, Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight, book 1 of The Duelists trilogy, last I heard. Shoot, he just left, and I forgot to ask what he's reading now!
Last week's blog posts - hoping to finish August reviews this week and sign up for the R.I.P. Challenge! -
Movie Monday: Captain Fantastic - unique family drama that is warm & very funny

Teen/YA Review: Overpowered by Mark H. Kruger - exciting YA sci fi thriller

2017 Big Book Summer Wrap-Up - great challenge this year, both for me personally, and for all the other participants

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

What are you and your family reading this week?  

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

Remember if you are participating in my Big Book Summer Challenge to leave links to your reviews on the challenge page (the second links list is for reviews, updates, and wrap-ups) to share them. I know many of you enjoyed your Big Books this summer! The Challenge finished two weeks ago, though you can continue to link up your reviews and/or wrap-up posts through the end of September.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

2017 Big Book Summer Wrap-Up

Since I've been posting about it since May, you probably know that I once again hosted my Big Book Summer Challenge this summer! Basically, it's just about reading some of the bigger books (400+ pages) that may have been on your want-to-read shelf or list forever (or new big books you want to read!). You can read all about the challenge and the simple rules on the challenge page.

It was another wonderful Big Book Summer, with 22 people joining the challenge this year, either linking up on the challenge page or through the Goodreads group for those who don't have blogs. I enjoyed reading all your reviews of Big Books, and we had some great discussions in the Goodreads group! You can check out reviews and wrap-up posts on the challenge page.

For my own Big Book Summer Challenge, I had hoped to read 6 Big Books. I did read 6 in all, though they were not all the ones I planned to read! That's just the way it goes some years. I decided to finish a series, add a classic, and luckily, one of my review books for Shelf Awareness turned out to be a Big Book, too.

Here's what I read for the 2017 Big Book Summer Challenge:

  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater - YA (409 pages)
  • Shift (Silo Trilogy, Book 2) by Hugh Howey (570 pages)
  • Dust (Silo Trilogy, Book 3) by Hugh Howey (480 pages)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (507 pages)
  • Overpowered by Mark H. Kruger - YA (423 pages)
  • The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry by David L. Carlson & Landis Blair (graphic novel - 464 pages)
Links are to my reviews here on the blog (Shelf Awareness has not yet published my review of The Hunting Accident, but I will link to it here when it is posted - it was excellent!).

I will announce the winner of the Big Book Summer Giveaway in a separate post - I want to check with the winner first.

Congratulations to everyone who participated! I hope that YOU will join the fun next year!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Teen/YA Review: Overpowered

For my Big Book Summer Challenge, I went through my overflowing TBR shelves in search of any Big Books (400+ pages). For my last Big Book of the summer, I was also looking for something in the suspenseful/spooky realm because I read my last summer book over Labor Day weekend, in September, and I love participating in the R.I.P. Challenge this time of year, too. I found the perfect seasonal cross-over book with Overpowered by Mark H. Kruger, a sci fi thriller about a small town in Colorado with some very weird things going on (this was published back in 2013, so it has been on my TBR shelves for a while).

Sixteen-year old Nica is used to an exciting, international lifestyle. Her mother is an eco-travel journalist, traveling all over the world, so Nica has lived in such far-flung places as Patagonia, India, Morocco, and Tasmania. She and her mom are currently living in Thailand, but Nica is shocked to find out that she is not going along on her mother’s next assignment, to Antarctica. Instead, her mom wants Nica to go live with her father in Barrington, CO, for the next two years. Barrington is a tiny town, and Nica is not happy with this move from international freedom to a tiny boring town with a nightly curfew.

Boredom is not a problem for long, however, because Nica starts to notice some pretty strange things about Barrington. Besides the curfew, everything else is just as tightly controlled, with extra security detail provided by the local company in town. The people there – kids and parents alike – are so well-behaved that it’s spooky. Nica is normally kind of an outsider, moving from place to place, but here, the most popular girl in school wants her to be a cheerleader and join a bunch of other school activities.

Nica can’t see herself as a cheerleader, but she is intrigued by a handsome, reclusive boy named Jackson Winters. He barely talks to anyone at school, but kids tell her he used to be the most popular boy there. He changed when his girlfriend went missing, though her parents insist she is staying with relatives out of town. Nica is also drawn to an unlikely friend: geeky, wise-cracking Oliver, who seems to share her lack of enthusiasm for all the hoopla in the very peppy high school.

One night, bored, jet-lagged, and stuck in her room, Nica sneaks out after curfew when she sees the mysterious Jackson drive by in a car with the lights off. She follows him and witnesses something amazing while she is out. A sudden pulse of greenish glow lights up the sky. Even stranger, things feel different afterward, and the next day at school, the other kids are acting really weird. As Nica, Jackson, and Oliver begin to talk about what they experienced, they become friends and uncover some very strange things going on in sleepy little Barrington.

Plenty of suspense, action, and sci fi adventure ensues, as the three teens get closer and closer to the town’s well-kept secrets. Along the way, they get to know each other better, as does the reader. There is plenty of depth to the characters and lots of twists and turns in this thriller, to keep you guessing – and glued to the pages well past bedtime! I read this novel very quickly, with its fast pacing and irresistible suspense. I don’t always finish series after reading the first book, but I am very eager now to read book 2, Overtaken (NOTE: don’t read any blurbs describing Overtaken if you haven't yet read Overpowered because they give away lots of spoilers).

423 pages, Simon & Schuster

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by Mark H. KrugerTrade Paperback

Or order Overpowered from Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT: