Monday, January 21, 2019

Favorite Movies Watched in 2018

And....drumroll! Time for my annual recap of all the movies I watched this year, plus my picks for favorites. Note that not all of these movies were released in 2018; these are just the ones I watched last year.

I reviewed 22 movies last year, compared to 25 movies in 2017 (though I didn't have time to review every movie I saw). You can see the full list and genres below, with my favorites marked with *, but I only review movies that I like, so all of the movies listed below are worth watching. The only genre I didn't cover was documentaries, and I'd like to change that this year. I think 6 of the 22 movies were book adaptations. This was the Year of the Musical, with 3 excellent musicals (all of which I saw on the big screen!). In fact, I saw a lot more movies in theaters this year, so more of these are 2018 releases than usual for me.

You can see my full list of movie reviews, covering several years at the Movie Reviews tab.

And now, for my top picks - do I have to choose? Some of these are touch choices, so I'm going to make up some categories.

Best Suspense\Thriller

We saw several excellent thrillers and suspense movies, but this one takes the prize for originality, acting, and searing tension - never has chewing popcorn sounded so loud!

Best Drama

Easy choice, with this original film that was tender, real, and funny with an outstanding cast.

Tough choice in this category, but Sally Fields is outstanding in this quirky, warm comedy about an older woman who gets a crush on a younger man - my friends and I all loved it.

Best Sci Fi/Fantasy
Ready Player One

My son, husband, and I all LOVED the book, and it was wonderful to see this unique, fun story come to life on screen - a visual treat!

Best Musical
Bohemian Rhapsody

 An almost-too-close-to-call tie with A Star Is Born, but I had a grin on my face the entire time I watched this one (except when I was crying and singing) - it helps that I am a huge Queen fan. Both movies are outstanding.

This is the original, not the sequel that came out this year, and my son, husband, and I really enjoyed the colorful, entertaining Harry Potter-related fantasy.
Best Thriller Comedies - a tie!
A Simple Favor

These two genre-bending movies combined plenty of suspense and thrills with lots of humor and were among my favorite movies watched in 2018, so I made up a new category for them!

What were your favorite movies watched in 2018?

All Movies Watched in 2018:
My favorites are marked with *, but I only review movies I enjoy, so all of these are worth a try:

How It Ends - suspenseful, action-packed, thoughtful apocalypse movie  
Ocean's 8 - all-female crew caper film
* A Quiet Place - captivating family drama plus super suspense and 100% quiet
Red Sparrow - twisty Russian spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence
* A Simple Favor - fun, twisty thriller with a great sense of humor
* Taking Lives - dark, twisty thriller about killer who takes on victims' identities

Every Day - unique teen love story
* Lady Bird - tender, realistic, funny coming-of-age story
Ricki and the Flash - fun, warm, musical, funny family drama

* The Big Sick - warm, funny romcom based on a true story
* Game Night - unique thriller comedy with suspense and lots of laughs
* Hello, My Name is Doris - warm, funny movie starring Sally Fields
Trainwreck - light, funny, raunchy romcom
Sci Fi/Fantasy
Blade Runner - dark, classic sci fi thriller set in the future world of 2019!
* Extinction - sci fi action-packed thriller with family drama
Jurassic World - Jurassic Park sequel from 2015 - action, suspense, and thrills
* Ready Player One - exciting, fast-paced virtual adventure with loads of 80's pop culture

* Bohemian Rhapsody - moving, powerful, joyful story of Queen
The Greatest Showman - entertaining musical about P.T. Barnum
* A Star Is Born - powerful musical with emotional depth & outstanding performances

* Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (1st movie) -  unique, fun, creative fantasy

The Incredibles 2 - clever, funny, action-packed, and lots of fun


It's Monday 1/21! What Are You Reading?

Wow, super busy week! I normally don't go out much in the evening because of my chronic illness - I am usually horizontal on the couch by 7:30 pm. But last week, I went out four times in the evenings!! Crazy, huh? My two book groups were back-to-back on Wed and Thur, and I met my son for dinner with our cousin who was visiting on Monday, to celebrate my son's birthday and then my son and I took my father-in-law out for dinner Friday night. My husband is out of town for a couple of weeks, so I haven't been cooking much! In spite of such a busy week, I still figured dinner out would be less taxing than cooking dinner for just the three of us on Friday night! During the days, I got groceries, ran errands, got a haircut, and made one more visit to the Genius Bar at Apple - so my laptop is all good now!

Despite all that running around, I managed to squeeze in some books - I tend to stay up way too late when my husband is away! Here's what we've all been reading this past week:
  • I finished reading The Rent Collector by Camron Wright, a novel set in Cambodia, for my first book group. It's based on a true story about a husband, wife, and baby son who live at the largest garbage dump in Phnom Penh (with many other people). The author took this real-life family and imagined what might happen if the wife learned to read (in a country with a very high rate of illiteracy), and how that might affect them and the people around them. My entire book group agreed it's a wonderful book (and we rarely all agree!), filled with both sorrow and joy and the light of literature. It got one of our highest average ratings ever.
  • Next, for my second book group, I read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, which I just finished last night. It's a nonfiction book about aging, serious illness, death, and dying. Sounds like a cheery one, right? It was tough to read at times and brought back a lot of memories of my dad's death from cancer a few years ago, but it is also a very powerful, thought-provoking, and important book that everyone should read. The author, who is a surgeon, looks deeply into the state of care for the elderly, sick, and dying. Some of it is pretty depressing, but he also discusses some exciting changes happening in the realms of assisted living, nursing homes, and hospice. I feel much better-informed, which is important since my father-in-law is 93 and slowing down every day. We had an excellent discussion, with a huge turn-out in our book group.
  • Today, I am going to start reading True Enough by Stephen McCauley - because I need something warm, fun, and funny after that last book, and I know Stephen will deliver! Last year, I read and loved his latest novel, My Ex-Life, and also got to interview him for Shelf Awareness and then meet him in person at Booktopia. He has a real talent for writing insightful but humorous stories about real life. Just what I need!
  • I finished listening to a YA novel on audio, The Beautiful Lost by Luanne Rice. It's about a teen girl who's suffered from depression since her mother left and how she connects with a boy in her class who also lost his mother. The two of them go on a road trip from CT to Canada. In some ways, it's a teen romance (and road trip novel), but it also digs deeply into important issues like depression, suicide, abandonment, foster care, and more. I enjoyed it.
  • Now, I have moved onto another YA novel on audio, All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater, a favorite author of mine. It's....very different so far. Someone on Facebook described it as surreal, and that fits. I'm not even sure how to describe it! It's about a Mexican-American family who live in the Colorado desert in 1962 and can perform miracles. Pilgrims visit them in search of miracles. I'm still at the beginning, so characters and plot are still developing.
  • While he's away, my husband, Ken, is reading a long but lightweight paperback I gave him: Edge by Jeffrey Deaver. Though we both love Deaver's Lincoln Rhymes series, this is a stand-alone novel, so we were intrigued by it. I suspect he hasn't had a lot of time to read on this trip, though!
  •  Our son, Jamie, 24, is now reading the FINAL book 14 of The Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. I was wrong when I said he finished the series with book 13 - there is one more, weighing in at a hefty 1168 pages! He loves this series and has been looking forward to the conclusion.
Last week's blog posts:
Favorite TV Shows Reviewed in 2018 - my annual round-up, with LOTS of great shows to try!

Best Books Read in 2018 - and my annual round-up of books read and top picks

Saturday Snapshot: January Snow - pics from my neighborhood last week
Best Movies of 2018 to come this week, and my 2019 reading challenges...and then I REALLY need to get back to writing reviews - books I've read this month are piling up!

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?  

Dinner out with my son and cousin

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday Snapshot: January Snow

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at A Web of Stories (same host as always but with a new blog - check it out!).

Since I've been feeling better, I have resumed my walks whenever the weather allows, so I have been taking some outdoor photos, too. We got a few inches of snow last week (unfortunately for me, just after my husband left on a 2-week business trip!), so it was very pretty, though a challenge for me to take care of. Now this huge storm is bearing down on us, but it looks like we will be getting mostly rain (which will freeze Sunday night when the temperatures drop below 10 degrees F!).

So, here are some photos of the fleeting winter beauty:

Woke to snow last Sunday

I love how the snow coats the tree branches

How'd that get in here? Go, Saints!

Sunshine and shadows on the snow

Pretty patterns from snow melting on the bushes

Fox tracks through our yard in the snow

Glowing morning light

Our house after the snow

Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Best Books Read in 2018

I've been working on this post since last week because it turns out I read a LOT of books in 2018, and many of them were outstanding! I had to make some tough choices here to choose favorites. First, some stats and fun facts, then my top picks, and then lists of my Top 10 (or whatever) in each category. You can see a complete list, with links to review, of all the books I've red in recent years on my Book Reviews page.

Stats and Facts:

The numbers in ( ) are my 2017 stats.
Total Books Read in 2018 = 88 (84)

Fiction – 45 (43)
Nonfiction – 17 (12)
Graphic Novel/memoir – 11 (8)
Poetry – 1 (plus parts of 3)
Teen/YA – 15 (12)
Middle-Grade – 10 (17)
Audiobooks – 28 (26)

Note that some categories overlap. 
So, I read fewer middle-grade novels in 2018 but more of everything else! I was pretty surprised to see that I read 88 total - that number has steadily gone up in recent years, thanks in part to audio books and graphic novels/memoirs.

Of those 88 books:
Here, the number is the number of books and in the ( ) is the percent of total books.

Women Authors – 44 (50%) - 61% in 2017
Diverse books – 22 (25%) - 29% in 2017
From my own shelves – 33 (38%) - 33% in 2017
These kind of surprised me - I thought I'd read more diverse books, I think because the ones I read had such an emotional impact on me.

Best of the Best:
These were difficult (sometimes impossible!) choices to make, with so many excellent books to choose from, so be sure to check out my Top lists below.

Best Novel
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell 

Best Nonfiction
Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

Best Poetry
Celebrations by Maya Angelou
(granted, it was the ONLY poetry book I read in full! The others were complete collected works that I dipped in and out of, but Angelou is my favorite, nonetheless)

Best Graphic Novel/Memoir/Nonfiction
  Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters with Syrian Refugees by Olivier Kugler 

Best Teen/YA
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Best Middle-Grade
Refugee by Alan Gratz

Best Audio Book
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Top Ten (or Top Whatever) Lists:
(each list is in no particular order and some books appear on more than one list)

Top 10 Adult Fiction  
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen
The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick 
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie 
American War by Omar El Akkad  
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper

Top 10 Nonfiction
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Ari Folman and David Polonsky (illustrator)

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

On Two Feet and Wings by Abbas Kazerooni

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley 
The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World, by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner 
The Light Years by Chris Rush

Top 5 Graphic Novels/Memoirs

Swing It, Sunny! by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Ari Folman and David Polonsky (illustrator)

Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters with Syrian Refugees by Olivier Kugler
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka 

Top 5 Teen/YA
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
  Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka 

Top 4 Middle-Grade
Swing It, Sunny! by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
Refugee by Alan Gratz

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo by Drew Weing 

Top 10 Audio Books
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
Refugee by Alan Gratz

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

On Two Feet and Wings by Abbas Kazerooni
Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

Wow, it was an outstanding reading year! What were YOUR favorite books read in 2018? Tell me in the comments below and/or leave a link to your own 2018 summary.