Friday, October 18, 2019

Teen/YA Review: The Infinite Sea

Last year during my Big Book Summer Challenge, I read - and loved - The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, and earlier this month, I finally read the second book in the series, The Infinite Sea, which continues the post-apocalyptic adventure of a group of kids and teens. It was action-packed and suspenseful - now I can't wait to tread the third and final book in the trilogy!

This might be a very short review because I don't want to give away any spoilers of book 1, The 5th Wave (you can read my no-spoilers review of that book at the link). The second novel continues to follow teenager Cassie and her little brother, Sammy, in this frightening post-apocalyptic world. Circumstances have become even worse since the first book, with fewer people left, worsening conditions, scarcity of food, and the fear of being discovered. The two siblings are hiding in an abandoned, broken-down hotel (much like the rest of their surroundings) with a small group of other children and teens from the first book. Ben, Cassie's high school crush pre-apocalypse, is still a part of the story, as is Evan, whom Cassie is still not sure she can trust. The group, like all remaining humans, are being hunted by the human-looking aliens.

That's the set-up at the beginning of the book (leaving out spoilerish details). From there, the rest of the novel is non-stop action, as the group of kids fights to survive against all odds. In fact, at first, the story seemed a bit too full of action and violence for my tastes (though my son says that's why he liked book 2 even more than book 1!). The intriguing and complex plot that grabbed my attention in the first book continues here, though, and I was soon engrossed in the suspenseful thriller. By the time I came to the end of the book, I was eager to read book 3, The Last Year.

300 pages, SPEAK (an imprint of Penguin Random House)

My husband, son and I all want to see the movie adaptation of The 5th Wave, too! Here's the trailer:




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 sampleof the audio book here and/or download it from Audible. The sample is from the very creepy prologue of the novel. It sounds very good on audio!

You can purchase The Infinite Sea from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

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



Thursday, October 17, 2019

Fiction Review: Miracle Creek

Ever since its release this spring, I've been hearing rave reviews of and "you must read this!" about the novel Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. Combining family and community drama, insights into living with chronic medical conditions, mystery, and an edge-of-your-seat courtroom thriller, this unique and beautifully written novel surpassed my high expectations and was excellent on audio.

Korean immigrants Young and Pak Yoo live in a small Virginia town and run an unusual family business: a hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) chamber called Miracle Submarine. Though they share a small shack with their teen daughter, Mary, they want a better life for her and are working hard so that she can go to college. Patients with a wide variety of ailments come to Miracle Submarine for HBOT. Many of the patients are children, including several with autism and a teen girl with cerebral palsy, accompanied by their parents, though Matthew, a grown man getting HBOT for infertility, is also a patient. A small group do "double dives," coming to the Yoo's barn for twice-daily treatments, every morning and evening, and have therefore gotten to know each other well, as they sit together in the confined space every day. The novel opens in a local courtroom, one year after a horrible explosion of the Miracle Submarine killed and injured several people. Elizabeth, one of the mothers of a son with autism who died in the explosion, is on trial for starting the fire that caused the tragedy. The Yoo family and all the other double-dive patients are present in the courtroom, waiting to see what happens and what evidence will be presented. Did Elizabeth really do this horrible thing? Was it possibly another patient, a protestor of the treatments, or even one of the Yoo family who started the fire? Could it have been an accident or was this arson? The questions pile up as the trial begins.

This novel jumps right into the action immediately, with the trial beginning on page 1. The author was a trail lawyer herself, and it shows, as each day's witnesses and evidence slowly come together into a cohesive story. As with any good mystery, the reader is pulled right along, with almost every character taking their turn as the possible perpetrator of this horrific crime. As I listened to the audio book, which brought the drama to life, I guessed at and discarded one culprit after another. Narration of each chapter moves from one character to the next so that the reader gains insight into each of them and bit by bit, learns more details from that deadly day and the time leading up to it. They each carry secrets, and there are plenty of surprises in store, for the observers and lawyers at the trial, as well as for the readers. This unique novel has far more depth than a typical mystery/suspense story, though. It also digs deep into the challenges of immigrants trying to assimilate and the lives of disabled children and the parents (especially the mothers) who care for them, providing a glimpse into a secret world that most people don't even know exists. Since our family (myself and, at various times, both of my sons) has lived with chronic illnesses for almost two decades now, I immediately recognized and could relate to the experiences of these exhausted, overworked moms. I could tell that Kim herself must have had experience with chronic conditions in her own children, and sure enough, she discusses this in the interview with her editor at the end of the audio book. Miracle Creek is a stunning and suspenseful mystery, wrapped around a world most people never see, that will keep you guessing until its last pages.

368 pages, Sarah Crichton Books
Macmillan Audio

Listen to a sample of the audio book, with Young narrating in the first chapter, thinking back to the day of the explosion. You'll be hooked! You can also use this link to download the audio from Audible.


You can purchase Miracle Creek from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or you can order Miracle Creek from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday Snapshot: Lewes, Delaware

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at A Web of Stories (same host as always but with a new blog - check it out!). And I am also participating now in the #WeekendWanderlust Travel Blog Party.

For our 30th anniversary, my husband and I spent the weekend in Lewes, DE, a beautiful little beach town in our state. We had never stayed in Lewes before, so we thoroughly enjoyed exploring its historic town and lovely beach. Here are some highlights:

Ahhh, a beautiful day at the beach!

Some of the locals - there were hundreds of seagulls gathered!

My husband and I walking on the beach

My husband isn't a big beach fan but he's a good sport!
I've never seen such a tiny horseshoe crab!!

Cape May-Lewes Ferry returning to Lewes

Perfect day!

A bookstore! Biblion in Lewes - small but just right.
Dusk on the canal

Peace and tranquility

My happy place!


Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend! Perfect fall weather here, finally!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/weekendwanderlust/

Friday, October 11, 2019

Books Read in September

Early September, kayaking in the Catskills
September was a very fun reading month for me! I always love the annual Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) Reading Challenge in the fall, so much of my reading was focused on the dark and slightly creepy side. Here's what I finished last month:
  • The Likeness by Tana French (Ireland) - adult mystery/thriller
  • Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel (Russia) - adult sci fi thriller
  • The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth - middle-grade sci fi thriller on audio


  • Old Souls by Brian MacDonald and Les McClaine - adult supernatural graphic novel

So, I finished seven books in all, and it was an all-fiction, all-the-time month! Like I said, it was a fun reading month--not a serious or real-life issue here (unless you count giant alien robots and large, magical bears). Five of my novels were for adults and two were for middle-grade readers. I finished one audio book and included two very different graphic novels last month. All in all, despite the dark theme for the RIP Challenge, there was a nice mix of genres, ages, and types. I thoroughly enjoyed every book I read in September, but my favorite was the first one, The Likeness.

Progress in 2019 Reading Challenges:
This is my favorite part of my monthly summary - updating my Reading Challenges:

Mount TBR Reading Challenge - The RIP Challenge is always great for my TBR Challenge! Five of my seven books were from my own shelves last month - woohoo!
Monthly Motif Reading Challenge - September was Animal, Number, Color, Name month, so The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth fit in perfectly.
Back to the Classics Challenge - No new classics this month and only two so far for the year (but I've already read one in October!).
Monthly Keyword Challenge - After eight months without meeting this challenge even once (clearly, not the best choice for me), I finally did it! One of the keywords for September was "book," and I read Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman. Yes!
Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2019 - No nonfiction last month.
Diversity Reading Challenge - Yikes, only one book with diverse characters in September (unless I can count witches, bears, aliens, and whatever that thing in Stephen King's book was? Yeah, I didn't think so...)
Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge - I added Russia and Ireland.
2018 Literary Escapes Challenge - I added two new states, California and Oklahoma.
RIP XIV Challenge - I kicked the challenge off well with six books last month!
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 just 15 squares in September, despite reading seven books:




Spaces Filled In:

The Likeness - set in a school, thriller/suspense
Only Human - shelf love, read a physical book, in a series
The One Safe Place - new-to-you author, audio book
This Was Our Pact - tournament/competition, water on the cover, ship/boat
The Outsider - tattoo, man on the cover
Old Souls - not in a series, free book
Free Space

What was your favorite book read in September? 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Graphic Novel Review: Old Souls

The grown-up graphic novel Old Souls by Brian McDonald (author) and Les McClaine (illustrator) explores a concept that has long fascinated me, perfect for this spooky season: reincarnation. I read Audrey Rose by Frank De Felitta when I was a teenager and have been captivated by the idea of reincarnation ever since. Old Souls scratched that itch, with an engaging, powerful story that kept me reading. My only complaint is that it was over too soon.

Chris is a happy guy, friendly and kind to everyone he meets. He works in an electronics store at the mall and goes home to his wife and young daughter. Life's not perfect: Chris has a mysterious back pain that won't go away, and money is tight. He always finds a few extra dollars, though, to buy lunch for a homeless man who hangs out at the food court in the mall. Chris is drawn to the old man but can't explain why. The man keeps trying to talk to Chris and one day tells him, "You remember more than you think you do. Everyone does." Finally, he tells Chris that he used to be his Chinese grandmother in a previous life, but they were separated when the Japanese attacked. The old man explains that he has been looking for Chris ever since, finally finding him in this life. At first, Chris thinks he's crazy, but he has a vivid dream where he is a little Chinese boy, frightened, lost in a huge crowd, and searching for his grandmother. He begins to talk to the old man and listen to what he has to say. Eventually, Chris convinces him to take him to see his friends, who all remember their past lives. Chris wants them to help him remember past lives, too. The old man warns him against it and tells him it will ruin this life he has now, but Chris is too caught up in the drama and mystery of it all to take his advice. He learns some very disturbing things that take him to the brink of insanity.

A page from Old Souls, where Chris buys lunch for the old man

I enjoyed this graphic novel so much! McDonald takes the innate fascination of reincarnation and builds a thought-provoking, compelling story around it. The graphic novel format is perfect here, with realistic drawings (sometimes crossing centuries of history) in black, white, and green that evoke the darkness of the story. Chris' journey back through time hits some highs and lows, but one of his past lives, in particular, affects him so deeply that he struggles to bring his mind back to the present. I was completely absorbed by this moving, thoughtful novel and never wanted it to end.

246 pages, First Second


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.


You can purchase Old Souls from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or you can order Old Souls from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Movie Monday: The Crimes of Grindelwald

This weekend, we ended our all-day family day with a movie for me, my husband, and our oldest son (25): Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which the three of us enjoyed watching last year. Our reactions to this second movie, spun-off from the Harry Potter series, were mixed, though my son and I both ended up enjoying it.

This sequel picks up in 1927, after (a few years, I think?) the events of the first movie. Grindelwald (played by Johnny Depp), a wizard criminal who was imprisoned in the U.S. at the end of the first movie, is being transferred to Europe to stand trial there. Despite all the magical security measures put in place, Grindelwald manages to escape. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Magic in London wants to locate Credence Barebone, another character from the first movie who is a wizard brought up by a non-magical adopted family. Newt Scamander, played again by Eddie Redmayne, won't work with the Ministry to find Barebone, because they want to send a bounty hunter with him. However, when his old Hogwarts professor, Albus Dumbledore (played by Jude Law), asks him to go to Paris to find Barebone in order to save him from both the Ministry and Grindelwald, Newt agrees. Newt's American friends from the first movie, Jacob Kowalski and Queenie Goldstein, are also featured again in this movie and are still very much in love, though not allowed to marry since legal marriage is not allowed between wizards and Muggles (non-magical people). At the same time in Paris, an old school friend of Newt's named Leta Lestrange (played by Zoe Kravitz), who is now engaged to Newt's brother, is also looking for Credence Barebone, on the suspicion that he might possibly be her long-lost, long-thought-dead brother. Grindelwald's evil plan is for pureblood wizards to band together and take control of the entire world, wizards and non-wizards alike. All of these people and situations come together in Paris, along with a fun collection of Newt's magical creatures, ending in a climactic clash between good and evil.

Confused? So were we! It is a very complicated plot with a lot of different characters to keep track of. It would probably help if you watched this sequel soon after watching the first movie, but it's been almost a year for us. We enjoyed seeing some links to the Harry Potter books/movies, which take place about 80 years later, with familiar characters like Dumbledore, here as a young man, and well-known wizarding family names like Lestrange popping up here and there, as well as scenes of familiar Hogwarts. Law does a great job as a young Dumbledore, Depp is spooky as the criminal Grindelwald, and Redmayne is as charming as ever as kind, unassuming Newt. This second movie is far darker than the first, with much less fun whimsy and more evil. All three of us felt it was far too complex and difficult to keep us with, especially the first half of the movie. My son and I got into it in the second half, with lots of pressing pause to confirm what was going on and who was who, but my husband really didn't enjoy it. This movie is probably best for major fans of the Harry Potter universe and/or those who've watched the first Fantastic Beasts movie recently. There was clearly a set-up for another sequel, with an upcoming battle between Dumbledore and Grindelwald (that my son said was mentioned in the Harry Potter books as a major point of wizarding history). I'm not sure if we'll watch it or not. Perhaps if it comes out soon, while we still remember all the complicated details of this one!
NOTE: IMDB lists not only a Fantastic Beasts 3 but also a #4 and #5! The next sequel, #3, is due out in 2021.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is available on streaming and on DVD. It looks like HBO owns the rights currently, so it is included with HBO subscriptions, available to buy on streaming through Amazon for $14.99 or on DVD (the way we watched it). The first movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is available for streaming on Amazon for just $1.99 or on DVD. Definitely watch them both together, to avoid getting too confused!

I have to admit, the trailer is pretty enticing:


It's Monday 10/7! What Are You Reading?

I'm back! I was sorry to miss What Are You Reading Monday last week, but I had a good excuse...it was our 30th wedding anniversary! 30 years?! Hard to believe but true. To celebrate, my husband and I spent a lovely couple of days down at the beach in beautiful Lewes, Delaware, where we enjoyed the historic town, beach, and LOTS of really amazing food!

September 30, 1989
September 30, 2019 - Happy 30th to us!
It was a wonderful break, though re-entry was tough! The last few weeks have been even more hectic than usual, with necessary daily visits to my father-in-law after he had some minor outpatient surgery two weeks ago. I take him to get his stitches out this week, so hopefully, things will slow down a bit. At the same time, I have been trying to get through all of the edits in my book that my editor sent back to me, a much bigger job than I anticipated, especially with so little quiet time at home to work. On the plus side, we realized this past Saturday was the ONLY day in October when we could get all five of us together (!), so we spent a very relaxing day together. We made our annual trip to a local pumpkin farm for hot cider and fresh donuts (yum!), hung out at home together, and enjoyed a nice dinner and celebration for my husband's 65th birthday in the evening. It was a rare treat to all be together for an entire day.

All together for my husband's birthday this weekend
And, of course, we've been doing a lot of reading, especially dark stuff for the RIP XIV Challenge! Here's what we've all been reading the past two weeks:

I finished reading The Outsider by Stephen King and enjoyed every minute! You would think I had enough of these hefty books with my Big Book Summer Challenge, but I had heard great things about this novel from everyone, including my husband. I hadn't read a King novel in a while, so I was due. The basic premise is that a beloved town coach and father of two is arrested for a horrific crime against a young boy, and the police have loads of forensic evidence proving this man did it. But his alibi seems ironclad. Did he do it or not? As with all King novels, this one is completely compelling and kept me reading too late into the night, ending with a big showdown between good and evil. Very satisfying.


I also finished a graphic novel, Old Souls by Brian McDonald (author) and Les McClaine (illustrator). This one is definitely for adults, with a dark but enthralling concept. A man who is a husband and father works at the mall and meets an old homeless man in the food court. Without really understanding why, he buys the man lunch every day, until one day, the old man tells him that he was the younger's man's grandmother in a past life in China. He says they were separated when the Japanese attacked and then he (she) was killed, and he has spent this life trying to find his long-lost grandson. The younger man does sometimes have dreams of being a small Chinese boy lost in a crowd. This book was so good and so completely fascinating that I never wanted it to end! I read Audrey Rose by Frank De Felitta when I was a teenager and have been captivated by the idea of reincarnation ever since. In fact, this graphic novel made me want to re-read Audrey Rose - yes, I still have the paperback on my shelf from almost 40 years ago!


Next, I read a YA post-apocalyptic thriller, The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey. This is book 2 of the trilogy that begins with The 5th Wave, which my husband, son, and I all loved (we still need to watch he movie adaptation). It took me a little while to get into the second book, as it felt a little too action-packed for me at first, but I ended up enjoying it. I definitely want to read book 3. Interestingly, my son liked book 2 even more than the first book (he liked the emphasis on action and less romance - ha ha). If you enjoyed other YA post-apocalyptic thrillers like the Divergent trilogy, you should definitely give this one a try. We are looking forward to reading book 3, The Last Star.


And last night, I just finished reading Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, which I was saving for fall! I loved Christie's novels when I was in high school but hadn't read any of them for many decades. In this unique story, ten people are invited to a private island off the coast of England. None of them know each other or why they are there, but one by one, they are each killed. Yup, every single character in this novel dies! The real question is...who killed them? They seem to be completely alone on the island, stranded with no way to leave. It's a mystery that even stumps Scotland Yard and is only solved in a unique epilogue. I loved reading this novel that is so incredibly clever. Despite all the murder and death, it's a lot of fun!
On audio, I just finished listening to Miracle Creek by Angie Kim, an audio book I had been looking forward to after hearing so many rave reviews earlier this year. It's about a Korean-American family that runs a business offering hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments, mostly to children with autism or cerebral palsy but for adults and for other health conditions, too. In the very first chapter, their "submarine" aka oxygen chamber blows up, killing and injuring the patients inside. Chapter 2 jumps right into the court case, a year later, though there are flashbacks to each of the characters before the explosion. It's a mystery and an excellent courtroom drama (Kim was a trial lawyer herself), but it is also an in-depth look at a population that is normally ignored - sick children and their care-taking parents. Since I fall into that category myself, I found it extra fascinating, but it's an excellent whodunit that will keep you guessing, even if you know nothing about the subject matter.


My husband, Ken, finished reading Receptor by Alan Glynn, the sequel to the novel, The Dark Fields, which was the inspiration for the movie Limitless. Oddly, neither of us read the original novel, but we did both watch the movie and the TV show (my review at the link) adapted from it, so we know the general premise and plot and wanted to read this sequel. From what I've read of the description, it is actually more of a prequel, telling about the origins of MDT-48, the "smart drug" at the heart of Limitless. Ken really enjoyed it, said it was well-written, and now wants to go back and read the original novel that inspired the movie and TV show. This one is in my stack now!


Now, Ken is reading Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley. We've both gotten into Mosley's novels after enjoying The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, a novel about aging with a touch of sci fi that was our All-County Reads pick back in 2015. Since then, my husband has read some of Mosley's mysteries starring Easy Rawlins, and one of his sci fi novels, Inside a Silver Box. This one is a stand-alone mystery that won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2019, about an NYPD investigator who was framed for assault, spent time in prison, and now has a chance to solve his own case. He's enjoying it so far. I need to get busy and catch up on some of these novels from this excellent writer!


Our 25-year-old son, Jamie, finished reading The First Betrayal by Patricia Bray, book 1 of The Chronicles of Josan. This is just the kind of epic fantasy he loves, and he enjoyed this novel very much, the first he'd read from this author. He's definitely interested in reading more of the series.


For now, though, Jamie has gone back to a favorite author, Joe Abercrombie, and is reading Half a King, book 1 of the Shattered Seas trilogy. It was named a Best Book of the Year by both TIME and The Washington Post, with rave blurbs by George R.R. Martin and James Dashner on its cover! It's another epic fantasy, and he's enjoying it so far. Previously, he read Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, which he loved. I picked out book 1, The Blade Itself, for him at Northshire Bookstore during Booktopia one year, and he immediately plowed through the whole trilogy. Clearly, he enjoys Abercrombie's writing.


Whew, that's it! So many good books being read at our house.

And here are blog posts from the past two weeks:
Movie Monday: Smart People - clever, funny, dysfunctional family drama


TV Tuesday: Fall 2019 TV Preview - Wow, so many great shows, both new and old, this fall!


Middle-Grade Graphic Novel Review: This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews - warm story of friendship, with a dose of magic and just a hint of mild spookiness


Fiction Review: Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman - light, funny novel about friendship and aging


Fiction Review: The Outsider by Stephen King - classic King with great suspense & a compelling story


Middle-Grade Review: The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth - haunting dystoopian/sci fi adventure


Saturday Snapshot: Catskills, NY - Part 2 - photos from our recent vacation in the beautiful Catskills


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 05, 2019

Saturday Snapshot: Catskills, NY

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at A Web of Stories (same host as always but with a new blog - check it out!). And I am also participating now in the #WeekendWanderlust Travel Blog Party.

Today's post is Part 2 of our camping vacation in New York State in early September. In Part 1, I posted photos of the beautiful Hudson River Valley, which we had never visited before, despite it only being 3-4 hours from where we live in Delaware. For the second half of our vacation week, we moved our camper to North-South Lake campground in the Catskills, a place we had camped (in a tent) 24 years ago, when our son was a baby! We didn't remember much about it and thoroughly enjoyed exploring this gorgeous mountainous region with such beautiful lakes. New York State's Catskills and Adirondacks Mountain parks are unique regions of natural beauty - basically, each is a huge park without specific boundaries, encompassing many natural landmarks and campgrounds. Here are some highlights from our trip to North-South Lake in the Catskills:

Our wooded campsite at North-South Lake campground, Catskills

Sunset on North-South Lake with a lone kayaker

Olana, the amazing mountaintop home of painter Frederic Church

Overlook where the Catskill Mountain Lodge used to stand

Gorgeous views from the overlook
Yup, the trail goes straight UP!

From the overlook, we could see 4 different states, NY, VT, MA, and CT.

Peaceful kayaking on North-South Lake

Kayaking at dusk - so calm and beautiful!

Rocky coast along North-South Lakes

Perfect reflection of the clouds in the still lake

We love to be out on the water!


Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend! We are LOVING the cooler fall weather (we had 95 and humid on Wednesday and 65 degrees on Thursday!)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/weekendwanderlust/