Thursday, July 25, 2019

Middle-Grade/Teen Review: Airborn

A long time ago in a land far, far away, my sons were still children, and our family loved to read middle-grade books together! One series that my son and I both enjoyed began with Silverwing: How One Small Bat Became a Noble Hero by Kenneth Oppel. My son went on to read the next two sequels, too (you can read my review at that link, plus other middle-grade recommendations). Ever since then, I have had great respect for Oppel but somehow missed many of his later releases as my kids grew up. I recently had the chance to rectify that and listened to Airborn by Kenneth Oppel on audio, thanks to a free download from SYNC last summer. This adventure novel won the Printz Honor in 2005 and an ALA Award for Notable Children's Recordings in 2007 for its full-cast audio production. This is one book that is well-worth going back to if you missed it when it was first released.

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a giant luxury airship that ferries wealthy passengers from place to place, traveling hundreds of feet above the ocean and powered by hydrium gas. Matt's father, who died in a terrible accident, also worked on board the Aurora, and Matt was born in an airship, so he feels more at home in the air than on land. In the crow's nest one night, Matt spots a drifting, falling ballon and helps to rescue the dying man inside, who describes beautiful, unheard-of creatures in the sky. On a later flight, he meets the balloonist's granddaughter, Kate, who carries her grandfather's journal and wants to verify his discoveries, though Matt is sure they were just the dreams of a dying man. The entire crew and passengers are at risk when the Aurora is intercepted by a pirate named Szpirglas and his crew. What follows is a rollicking adventure involving pirates, a deserted island, and a quest to find what might be either imaginary animals or one of the world's greatest discoveries.

This full-cast audio book brings this exciting journey to life. As you can probably tell from the description, this unique novel has elements of fantasy, science fiction, and steampunk but it also reads somewhat like an alternative history, as it is clearly set in a historical world similar to - yet slightly different than - ours. At its heart, though, it is an adventure, and the combination is engrossing, with a gripping story and plenty of action. Matt makes an excellent boy hero, and he and Kate are a good team of explorers. Airborn's plot has lots of twists and turns to keep young (and older!) listeners rapt with suspense. It seems to be the first in a series about Matt Cruse (followed by Starbreaker and Skyclimber), but this first novel is a complete story in itself. I thoroughly enjoyed this unique adventure that reminded me of Kenneth Oppel's considerable writing talents. This excellent audio appeals to all ages and would be a great choice for a family road trip!

544 pages, HarperCollins
Full Cast Audio

NOTE: The book is listed under Teen/YA, but it is definitely appropriate and appealing for middle-grade readers.


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, which highlights Matt telling part of his story from the beginning of the book, with some of the other cast members appearing as well.


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

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

Monday, July 22, 2019

It's Monday 7/22! What Are You Reading?

I finally wrote down my goals for last week on Friday - ha ha! That gives you an idea of how busy things have been, but I did manage to finished editing my book last week and sent it off to my editor - a big milestone! It was 100 degrees here, with a heat index of 115, this weekend, so we hibernated in the air-conditioned house. I am yearning for some outdoor time and missing my walks. I'm really looking forward to a short camping trip next week with good friends, something that we planned many months ago before life got so crazy. We are heading north and a bit up into the mountains, so fingers crossed that it will be cool enough to camp there by then! And we capped off this week with a nice family dinner here Sunday evening, with both sons and my father-in-law, as an early birthday celebration for me (it's Tuesday).

Mostly, we enjoyed reading in the cool house this weekend! We continue to enjoy the Big Book Summer Challenge. Here's what we've all been reading this past week:

I finished my 3rd print Big Book of the Summer (my audios have also been Big Books), Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge. It's a middle-grade fantasy novel that has been on my shelf for a loooong time - since its release in 2008! It's set in a world where books are banned and few people know how to read, but orphan Mosca was secretly taught to read by her father. She runs away from her cruel uncle and pairs up with a con-man named Eponymous Clent. Mosca is very smart but also very naive, having grown up in a small, remote village, and knows little of the complicated politics of their country. It took me a while to get into this one, mainly because I'm not a huge fan of fantasies set in made-up worlds and it's a unique and complex set-up, but I ended up enjoying it once I got used to its eccentricities. Mosca is a great character, and this story is clever, action-packed, and funny. I'm glad I finally read it!

Just in time, the newly-released If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais was delivered to my house on Saturday! Bianca is a two-time Booktopia author, and I absolutely loved her first novel, Hum If You Don't Know the Words, a contender for my favorite book of the year. So, I pre-ordered this latest novel and have been anxiously waiting for it. I am already about 125 pages in and loving it so far. As with her first novel, it is set in South Africa, though just after apartheid in this case, in 1994, when Nelson Mandela has just been elected and AIDS is beginning to tear across the country. Three very different women narrate this novel. Seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in a squatter camp just outside of Johannesburg with her mother and is pregnant. Ruth, a wealthy white middle-aged woman has a breakdown and her husband leaves her. In Zaire, disgraced former nun Delilah gets some horrible news that leads her to leave the orphanage where she works and the children who need her to race back to South Africa. These three stories come together, and for fans of Hum, Beauty and Robin even make cameos here. It is wonderful so far, so much so that I want to slow down and savor it. Oh, and it's also a Big Book!

On audio, I am listening to another Big Book: The Book of M by Peng Shepherd, a novel that was released about a year ago that I have wanted to read ever since I heard about it. It's a post-apocalyptic tale about a mysterious condition that quickly spreads across the world. It causes people to lose their shadows, which oddly also causes them to gradually lose their memories. The author uses multiple narrators, all living in this strange post-apocalyptic world (with some flashbacks to how it all happened) and trying to escape its effects. This novel made it onto a bunch of Best of 2018 lists and has been compared to The Passage and Station Eleven, two books I loved. It's been an original and gripping story so far, and I can't wait to see what happens next (though I am annoyed that the author has people in a basement in New Orleans - there are no basements in New Orleans!).

My husband, Ken, is still working on his third Big Book of the summer, The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund, which I picked out for him at Northshire Books (recommended by the booksellers there) at Booktopia this year. It's a Swedish thriller about a serial killer. On the cover, it says, "the most disturbing book you'll read this year," and he says that so far that is absolutely true! He says it makes it sound as if most of Sweden's citizens are child abusers; I didn't realize this one dealt with kids or I might have chosen something different, but he is sticking with it and says it's suspenseful and intriguing. He was puzzled when the mystery seemed to be solved less than halfway through, but now there's been a new twist. At 866 pages, it might take him a little longer than his last Big Book.

Our son, Jamie, 24, is still reading a new-to-him series, An Assassin's Blade trilogy by Justin DePaoli, described as a dark epic fantasy. He says the books are shorter than what he usually reads and not as well-written as his favorites, but he's enjoying it. I've noticed him playing a lot of video games this past week, so reading may be taking a backseat!







Last week's blog posts:
Movie Monday: Widows - a gritty action-packed thriller about women taking charge

My Summary of Books Read in June - low quantity but high quality!

Fiction Review: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - my second time reading this unique love story, and it is still one of my favorite books of all time!
Weekly Inspiration: Listen to Podcasts - this post is from my chronic illness blog, but I thought blog readers here would enjoy it, too - a round-up of some of my favorite podcasts, including book podcasts...and I would love to hear about yours, too!

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?


There's still time to sign up for the Big Book Summer Challenge! It's easy-going, like summer - you only have to read one book of 400 or more pages between now and September (though you can, of course, read more!) It's lots of fun and a great way to add extra enjoyment to your summer! All the details are at the link - you can sign up there if you have a blog or, if not, just leave a comment on that page or sign up at the Goodreads group linked from that page. Join the fun!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Fiction Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

When one of my book groups chose The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Neffenegger for July, I was happy to read it for a second time. When I first read this unique novel about ten years ago, I laughed and cried and fell in love and immediately proclaimed it as one of my Top Five Books Of All Time (and my husband loved it, too). I finished re-reading it last week, and I still feel the same way. This warm, witty, clever, heartwarming, and sad novel is what I call a "hug it to your chest" book (and yes, I did that again last week).

It's the love story of Henry and Clare, who meet when they are 28 and 20, respectively, in the Newberry Library in Chicago, where Henry works. Only Clare has met Henry many, many times before as a child and teen because Henry is a time traveler. He was a frequent visitor to the field near her home in Michigan during her childhood, so by the time they meet in the Newberry, she knows him very well, though he has never met her before. Henry has no control over his time-traveling; it happens unexpectedly and instantaneously and can send him into the past or (less often) the future. Once the two of them move in together, Clare describes what it's like to live with Henry:
"And what of Henry, my Odysseus? Henry is an artist of another sort, a disappearing artist. Our life together in this too-small apartment is punctuated by Henry's small absences. Sometimes he disappears unobtrusively; I might be walking from the kitchen into the hall and find a pile of clothing on the floor. I might get out of bed in the morning and find the shower running and no one in it. Sometimes it's frightening. I am working in my studio one afternoon when I hear someone moaning outside my door; when I open it I find Henry on his hands and knees, naked, in the hall, bleeding heavily from the head. He opens his eyes, see me, and vanishes. Sometimes I wake up in the night and Henry is gone. In the morning, he will tell me where he's been, the way other husbands might tell their wives a dream they had: "I was in the Selzer Library in the dark, in 1989." Or: "I was chased by a German Shepherd across somebody's backyard and had to climb a tree." Or: "I was standing in the rain near my parents' apartment, listening to my mother sing." I am waiting for Henry to tell me that he has seen me as a child, but so far this hasn't happened. When I was a child, I looked forward to seeing Henry. Every visit was an event. Now every absence is a nonevent, a subtraction, an adventure I will hear about when my adventurer materializes at my feet, bleeding or whistling, smiling or shaking. Now I am afraid when he is gone."

The novel continues to tell the story of Henry and Clare and their love, as they meet (and meet, again) and get married, and move forward - and backward - trying to live normal lives under extraordinary circumstances.

Henry and Clare take turns narrating their story, so the reader gets both perspectives, from the unwilling traveler and from the patiently waiting partner. You might think the novel would get confusing with all those sudden time shifts, but the author handles that well, with date stamps on every section, as well as ages listed, such as Monday, February 2, 1987 (Clare is 15, Henry is 38). I love any kind of time travel story and find it endlessly fascinating to think about "what if...", so I am in heaven with this book, but even if you aren't usually a time travel fan, this novel is, at its core, a love story, one that is achingly sweet and sometimes heartbreaking. With gorgeous writing, the pieces fit together cleverly, as the author slowly builds Henry and Clare's relationship, both in real time and out of it, gradually filling in details of their pasts and their future. Henry's time traveling provides some foreshadowing of what is to come (some of it not good), so you know that certain events are coming from a long way off. Even so, this novel packs a powerful emotional punch. At one point, I was sobbing my heart out, even though I knew what was coming - and had read it before! She just has a talent for making the reader feel all the feelings, sometimes laughing out loud, sometimes feeling your heart swell with joy, and yes, sometimes crying as if you know Henry and Clare personally. Because, by the end of the book, you do know Henry and Clare; they feel like old friends. In fact, I have been missing them this last week. I guess I will have to read this remarkable, magical, transporting novel a third time.

536 pages, Harvest (Harcourt)
Audio by HighBridge


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, narrated by Fred Berman and Phoebe Strole. I read this in print both times, but it sounds good on audio with the two narrators, though you'd have to pay careful attention to the time shifts and ages! Here's a longer sample, where you can hear both Henry's and Clare's voices.


You can purchase The Time Traveler's Wife from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or you can order The Time Traveler's Wife from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Books Read in June

Well, this will be a short summary! My Big Book Summer Challenge began at the end of May, and my first Big Book weighed in at 950+ pages, so that's most of what I read in June! I did manage a Big Book audio, too, and slipped in a quick re-read of an old favorite. Here's what I finished in June:

That's it! June was short on quantity but big on quality!  It was an all-fiction, all adult month for books so not a lot of variety. I enjoyed Harry's Trees, and A.J. Fikry is a favorite of mine, but I have to pick Gone with the Wind as my favorite of the month. It took me 5 weeks to finish reading it, and I never got tired of it or bored. It's an complex, compelling story, and it's easy to see why it has remained a classic for so many decades.

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

Mount TBR Reading Challenge - 2 of my 3 books were from my own shelves.

Monthly Motif Reading Challenge - June was Diversify Your Reading month, and I chose Gone with the Wind, perhaps a contentious choice given its racism, but there were plenty of major black characters and their perspectives were included (though from the mind of a white 1930's author!).

Back to the Classics Challenge - Woohoo! Two classics in the past two months! I'm on a roll. I counted Gone with the Wind as "written by a female author."

Monthly Keyword Challenge - I didn't read a single book with any of the monthly keywords in the title...again, for the 6th month in a row! Clearly this challenge wasn't a good choice for me!

Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2019 - No nonfiction last month.

Diversity Reading Challenge - Just 1 of my books was diverse (and that's arguable).

Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge - No new places - everything I read was set firmly in the US!

2018 Literary Escapes Challenge - I added just 1 new state: Pennsylvania (and have already read 8 books this year set in Massachusetts)
2019 Big Book Summer Challenge - I added my first two Big Books of the summer!
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 18 squares in June - pretty darn good for just 3 books:



Squares filled in:
Gone with the Wind - bride, twins, not a new release, steamy romance, garden/gardening, accent
Harry's Trees - free book, moving/relocating, audio book, not in a series
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - shelf love (TBR), police, book gifted to me, small town, secret crush
Free space 

What was your favorite book read in June? 

And have you joined the Big Book Summer Challenge yet? There's still plenty of time to read a 400+ page book before September!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Movie Monday: The Widows

Last weekend, my husband and I were too worn out to go out to the theater, so we grabbed a DVD from Redbox to watch at home. We finally had a chance to see Widows, a 2018 award-winning movie that is sort of like a darker, grittier, more realistic Ocean's 8, about a group of widows who take on their criminal husbands' last job to pay off debts.

Veronica, played by Viola Davis, is married to criminal Harry, played by Liam Neeson, but she chooses not to confront where their money and luxurious way of living come from. When Harry and his entire crew are killed by the police (and their vehicle blown up and destroyed) in a robbery gone wrong, Veronica is bereft and shocked. Those emotions turn to terror when she is visited by Jamal Manning, played by Brian Tyree Henry, the head of a Chicago crime ring who says that Harry owes him millions from this botched job, and that Veronica has just a few days to pay off that debt. Veronica finds notes left by Harry that describe his next job in detail, and she decides to pull together the other widows from the crew since they are all in danger and have no money. Linda, played by Michelle Rodriguez, has two kids and lost her dress shop when her husband was killed. Alice, played by Elizabeth Debicki, isn't too upset about the loss of her abusive boyfriend but has to turn to working for an escort service to support herself. Finally, they add Belle, played by Cynthia Erivo, to their group. The four of them prepare for this intricate and dangerous robbery that Harry had planned. Meanwhile, there is a corrupt political battle going on that is inextricably tangled up in the criminal world and their husbands' past lives.

As you can probably tell, it's a complex story but that just makes it all the more compelling, as you root for these formerly helpless women to come out on top. This action-packed and suspenseful crime thriller has lots of unexpected twists as the plot moves forward. I compared Widows in my opening with Ocean's 8, but it's only the plot - a group of women pulling off a complicated caper - that is similar. The tone is entirely different. These women are not having fun; they are fighting for their lives, their families, and their livelihoods. The setting in Chicago is gritty and dark. It's exciting to watch these women step up to the challenge and become strong, kick-ass heroines of their own stories. The ensemble cast is superb - both the women and the supporting men, who include Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell as father-son politicians - with strong performances all around. Of course, Viola Davis has a chance to employ her ugly crying - no one does it like her! All in all, we both enjoyed this dark, gripping drama about women taking their futures into their own hands.

Widows (2018) is available for streaming on Amazon. It is also available on DVD, and we rented it through Redbox.



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It's Monday 7/15! What Are You Reading?

Another hectic, stressful week here, but I am making the most of a quiet Monday all to myself. We have another very busy week coming up, with lots of appointments and stuff scheduled for me three evenings in a row (I normally stick to just one evening a week out of the house). So, I am gearing up for another crazy week! But we had a quiet weekend, and I am feeling a bit better physically this morning than I have been lately.

With the oppressive heat and humidity we've had here and all the crises, reading and Big Book Summer have definitely been the best part of summer for me so far! Here's what we have all been reading this past week:

I finished my 2rd Big Book of the Summer, a re-read of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and I still sobbed my heart out, the second time around! Besides reading it to discuss this week in book group, this also happens to be one of my Top 5 Books Of All Time (don't ask me to name all five because they keep changing, but this one is always up there!). I LOVE this unique novel with all my heart, and as soon as I began reading it again, I remembered why. It is warm and sweet and clever and smart and joyful and sad. I am a huge fan of time travel novels to begin with, but this one, which is essentially a love story, is my favorite and so beautifully written. I think it's been at least 10 years since I first read it, and I enjoyed it just as much the second time and stayed up much too late every night because I hated to set it down....maybe that's why I've been so exhausted! I finished it this weekend, and I am already missing Henry and Clare. If you somehow missed this unique and moving novel, it's a must-read!

Now, I am back to my 2nd Big Book of the Summer (which is now my 3rd), Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge. It's a middle-grade fantasy novel that has been on my shelf for a loooong time - since its release in 2008! It's set in a world where books are banned and few people know how to read, but orphan Mosca was secretly taught to read by her father. She runs away from her cruel uncle and pairs up with a con-man named Eponymous Clent. Mosca is very smart but also very naive, having grown up in a small, remote village. It took me a while to get into this one, mainly because I'm not a huge fan of fantasies set in made-up worlds and it's a unique and complex set-up, but I am enjoying it now that I've gotten used to its eccentricities. It's clever, action-packed, and funny.

On audio, I am listening to another Big Book: The Book of M by Peng Shepherd, a novel that was released about a year ago that I have wanted to read ever since I heard about it. It's a post-apocalyptic tale about a mysterious condition that quickly spreads across the world. It causes people to lose their shadows, which oddly also causes them to gradually lose their memories. The author uses multiple narrators, all living in this strange post-apocalyptic world (with some flashbacks to how it all happened) and trying to escape its effects. This novel made it onto a bunch of Best of 2018 lists and has been compared to The Passage and Station Eleven, two books I loved. It's already gripping, and I can't wait to see what happens next! My only problems are weird post-apocalyptic dreams, and I can't seem to get my iPod to turn off "Shuffle" mode, so I get very confused each time it jumps to a random chapter! (Oh, duh - I just looked it up - why didn't I do that a week ago??)

My husband, Ken, is reading his third Big Book of the summer, The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund, which I picked out for him at Northshire Books (recommended by the booksellers there) at Booktopia this year. It's a Swedish thriller about a serial killer. On the cover, it says, "the most disturbing book you'll read this year," and he says that so far that is absolutely true! He says it makes it sound as if most of Sweden's citizens are child abusers; I didn't realize this one dealt with kids or I might have chosen something different, but he is sticking with it and says it's suspenseful and intriguing. At 866 pages, it might take him a little longer than his last Big Book.


Our son, Jamie, 24, is now reading a new-to-him series, An Assassin's Blade trilogy by Justin DePaoli, described as a dark epic fantasy. He says the books are shorter than what he usually reads and not as well-written as his favorites, but he's enjoying it. I am guessing he hasn't had much reading time, since he spent the past four days visiting his girlfriend at her parents' house.




Blog posts last week:
 TV Tuesday: Imposters - this clever, suspenseful, darkly funny show is one of our favorites!

Fiction Review: Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen - a warm story about nature, healing, and connecting

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?


Remember to sign up for the Big Book Summer Challenge! It's easy-going, like summer - you only have to read one book of 400 or more pages between now and September (though you can, of course, read more!) It's lots of fun and a great way to add extra enjoyment to your summer! All the details are at the link - you can sign up there if you have a blog or, if not, just leave a comment on that page or sign up at the Goodreads group linked from that page. Join the fun!




Thursday, July 11, 2019

Fiction Review: Harry's Trees

As soon as I heard about Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen, when the new novel was released about a year ago, I knew I wanted to read it. It sounded right up my alley, with a focus on trees and nature. I had a chance to listen to this engaging, entrancing story on audio this summer for my Big Book Summer Challenge, and I loved the tale of connection and healing that is set in my neck of the woods (literally).

Harry Crane is an ordinary guy who works in a desk job in Philadelphia for the U.S. Forest Service. He spends his days in a cubicle, surrounded by paperwork, maps, and a computer instead of in the actual forest. He loved trees as a child, which is why he went into the Forest Service. When Harry's beloved wife dies unexpectedly and Harry feels responsible, he is devastated. A year later, he decides on a drastic action and travels to the Endless Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania to "his" stretch of the forest to carry it out. Instead, fate intervenes in the form of a lively little girl named Oriana. She and her mother, Amanda, live nearby, on the edge of the US Forest Service land and are also grieving. Oriana's father died about a year ago, too. Her coping response has been to immerse herself in fairy tales and magical thinking, believing that her father has taken the form of various birds in the forest. A kind librarian named Olive, a homemade fairy tale book called "The Grum's Ledger," and bags of gold round out the story, as Harry moves into a treehouse in the woods, and Oriana and Harry come up with a wild scheme to make things right.

This is one of those stories where people who need each other come together and connect at just the right time. Harry, Amanda, and Oriana have all suffered great loss, and each is coping (or not, in Harry's case) in his or her own way but struggling. I love the role that nature and trees play in this novel, as a place of healing, as Harry returns to his childhood roots and begins to climb the trees in the forest he has managed from afar and as Oriana plays in the woods and incorporates them into her fantasies. Her influence adds an element of magic to the story, as she helps Harry move from hopeless to rejoining the world with a sense of purpose, though her mother worries about her grip on reality. The audio book was well-done, narrated by Josh Bloomberg, and capturing all of the characters' sorrow and healing - and that element of magic - perfectly. Though it is a Big Book, I was completely engrossed in this story of healing from the startling beginning to the satisfying end.

432 pages, MIRA
Harlequin Audio


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.
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Listen to a sample of the audio book.


You can purchase Harry's Trees from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Or you can order Harry's Trees from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.
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Tuesday, July 09, 2019

TV Tuesday: Imposters

Last year, my husband and I discovered the first season of the Bravo show Imposters on Netflix, and we loved it! We have been anxiously awaiting season 2, which is now on Netflix. I love this show so much that I am doling out its episodes slowly, not wanting it to end! It's a twisty, funny, original show with a great premise.

In the first episode of season one, a kind man named Ezra Bloom, played by Rob Heaps, discovers that his new wife, played by Inbar Lavi, has left him, cleaned out all his money, and threatened blackmail against his family if he goes to the police. Poof, she's gone. Ezra is understandably devastated...and confused. Then, a guy named Richard Evans, played by Parker Young, shows up at his door and explains that the same woman pulled the same con on him, pretending to be someone else and looking different. They compare stories and photos, and sure enough, that's her. They decide to track her down to get their money back (and perhaps some of their dignity, too) and follow her out to the West Coast, where they discover a woman named Jules, played by Marianne Rendón...who was also married to this same woman and conned in the same way. Now, the three of them team up to bring her down. They find her currently working on yet another victim and come up with a convoluted scheme (involving them pretending to be other people) to get revenge and reimbursement.

That's all I will say about the plot because half the fun of this darkly comic show is its unexpected surprises around every corner. With everyone pretending to be someone else, the opportunities for  humor and suspense abound. There is real emotion here and real warmth - Ezra, Richie, and Jules were all seriously hurt and bond over that - but most of all, this show is just pure fun! All of the acting is excellent, from the lesser-known main characters (and especially Inbar Lavi in the lead as so many different characters) and also from some seasoned veterans in supporting roles, including Brian Benben (whom we saw most recently as Dr. Sheldon Wallace on Private Practice), Katherine LaNasa, who you will recognize from a bunch of shows and movies through the decades, and even Uma Thurman, as a scary enforcer. All in all, Imposters is one of our favorite TV shows. It has everything - suspense, lots of twists and turns to keep it fresh, dark humor, and heart.

The first two seasons of Imposters are now available on Netflix. I just realized we have just one more episode left of the 10-episode second season - oh, no! Even worse, I see that Bravo has cancelled the show and has no plans for a third season. I hope that some other network will recognize how great this show is and pick it up. In the meantime, enjoy the first two seasons - you won't regret it - it's so much fun!

Monday, July 08, 2019

It's Monday 7/8! What Are You Reading?

Things finally settled down a bit around here last week - no new crises (though the old ones continue)! The holiday mid-week messed me up a bit - I kept thinking it was Saturday when it wasn't yet. We had some old friends over for 4th of July, and it was great to get caught up and laugh! Both our sons returned from their own holiday fun in time for a family dinner Sunday with my father-in-law here, too, and in between, my husband and I had some quiet time to recuperate. We were both still pretty exhausted this week from all the stress and chaos, and the start of the week was more of that. And - minor miracle - I actually had some quiet time to myself Friday when my husband and son went golfing together, so I unexpectedly had some writing time, and I've found an editor for my new book!

Here's what we've been reading this past week:

Having finally finished Gone with the Wind, I moved onto my 2nd Big Book of the Summer, Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge. It's a middle-grade fantasy novel that has been on my shelf for a loooong time - since its release in 2008! It's set in a world where books are banned and few people know how to read, but orphan Mosca was secretly taught to read by her father. She runs away from her cruel uncle and pairs up with a conman named Eponymous Clent. Mosca is very smart but also very naive, having grown up in a small, remote village. It took me a while to get into this one, mainly because I'm not a huge fan of fantasies set in made-up worlds, but I am enjoying it now that I've gotten used to its eccentricities. It's clever, action-packed, and funny. But, I had to set it aside temporarily...

I realized I was running out of time to read a book for my next book group (I told you the holiday messed up my timing last week!), so I also started my 3rd Big Book of the Summer, a re-read of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Besides reading it to discuss next week in book group, this also happens to be one of my Top 5 Books Of All Time (don't ask me to name all five because they keep changing, but this one is always up there!). I LOVE this unique novel with all my heart, and as soon as I began reading it again, I remembered why. It is warm and sweet and clever and smart and joyful and sad. I am a huge fan of time travel novels to begin with, but this one is my favorite and so beautifully written. I think it's been at least 10 years since I first read it, and I am enjoying it just as much the second time and staying up much too late every night because I hate to set it down.

On audio, I finished listening to a middle-grade/teen novel (and another Big Book) from 2004, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, an author that we and our sons enjoyed when they were younger (his Silverwing collection was a favorite here). Airborn was nominated for a bunch of awards - and won quite a few of them - when it was first released. It's a fast-paced story that combines adventure, steampunk, and fantasy, set in a world that is ours...but not. Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on a huge airship that carries wealthy passengers several hundred feet above the ocean, from city to city. With pirates, a dying scientist, a mysterious island, and a never-before-seen creature, it is packed with action and excitement. It's a full-cast audio, so it was lots of fun to listen to.






I chose another Big Book for my next audio: The Book of M by Peng Shepherd, a novel that was released about a year ago that I have wanted to read ever since I heard about it. It's a post-apocalyptic tale about a mysterious virus that quickly spreads across the world. It causes people to lose their shadows, which oddly also causes them to gradually lose their memories. I'm still at the very beginning, as the later stages of this catastrophe are experienced by multiple narrators trying to escape its effects. This novel made it on a bunch of Best of 2018 lists and has been compared to The Passage and Station Eleven, two books I loved. It's already gripping, and I can't wait to see what happens next!


My husband, Ken, is reading his third Big Book of the summer, The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund, which I picked out for him at Northshire Books (recommended by the booksellers there) at Booktopia this year. It's a Swedish thriller about a serial killer. On the cover, it says, "the most disturbing book you'll read this year," and he says that so far that is absolutely true! He says it makes it sound as if most of Sweden's citizens are child abusers; I didn't realize this one dealt with kids or I might have chosen something different, but he is sticking with it. At 866 pages, it might take him a little longer.


Our son, Jamie, 24, is now reading a new-to-him series, An Assassin's Blade trilogy by Justin DePaoli, described as a dark epic fantasy. He says the books are shorter than what he usually reads and not as well-written as his favorites, but he's enjoying it.



Blog posts last week:
Movie Monday: Yesterday - a warm, funny, uplifting music-filled movie - lot of fun!


Summary of my Books Read in May - another good reading month


Celebrate 4th of July with Books! - two wonderful novels about the great women behind our founding fathers


Fiction Review: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - I finished! Well-worth the five weeks it took me to read it - 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?


Remember to sign up for the Big Book Summer Challenge! It's easy-going, like summer - you only have to read one book of 400 or more pages between now and September (though you can, of course, read more!) It's lots of fun and a great way to add extra enjoyment to your summer! All the details are at the link - you can sign up there if you have a blog or, if not, just leave a comment on that page or sign up at the Goodreads group linked from that page. Join the fun!

Friday, July 05, 2019

Fiction Review: Gone with the Wind

It took me five weeks - and multiple reading challenges for extra motivation! - but I finally finished reading Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Given the fact that it won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, has become a beloved icon of classic American literature, and has been highly acclaimed for over 80 years now, I shouldn't have been surprised by how much I liked it. But I was blown away by this engrossing novel, and in 950+ pages and five weeks, never once got bored of reading it. In fact, I am now missing Scarlett, Melanie, Rhett, and the rest of the gang.

I am guessing that most people know the basic plot (I saw the movie about 35 or so years ago and remembered the highlights), but I will provide a quick recap. Scarlett O'Hara is a classic Southern Belle, living on a prosperous cotton plantation called Tara in northern Georgia with her parents and two sisters (and lots of slaves). It is 1861, and Scarlett is 16 years old, blossomed into a beautiful and brash young woman who knows the power she has over men. She is happiest surrounded by beaux, flirting with them all, and delighting in the effect she has on them. The novel opens with a barbecue at the neighboring plantation, Twelve Oaks, owned by the Wilkes. Scarlett is surrounded by men, as usual, but the one she really wants is Ashley Wilkes, a quiet, scholarly young man whom Scarlett grew up with. At this event, Ashley gets engaged to Melanie Hamilton, a small, plain young woman. The Civil War soon interrupts all their lives, as the men go off to fight, and the women are left to try to manage the households, as shortages of basic supplies make everyday life difficult and the violence and devastation of the war affects civilians. Scarlett heads to Atlanta to move in with Melanie (whom she hates, of course) to help care for Melanie's Aunt Pitty, an elderly and helpless woman. The novel continues through the war, the burning of Atlanta, and on into the dark days of Reconstruction. Scarlett changes from a delicate flower to a strong, fierce, determined woman, as she does what she has to to save her family, friends, and Tara. All along, she continues to hate Melanie (though the two become quite close in facing adversity together), secretly love Ashley, and more and more, is attracted to a much-hated handsome Scallawag named Rhett Butler.

So, there's almost 1000 pages in one paragraph. I've been careful to avoid any spoilers and just stick to the bare outline of the plot, but SO MUCH happens in this novel! It is filled with unexpected plot twists, suspense, and surprises. Mitchell has crafted an exquisite novel filled with three-dimensional characters that you come to care for (or hate, or in Scarlett's case, love and hate, alternatingly!). For such a long story, it is surprisingly agile and fast-paced, filled with action and completely engrossing. It's funny, too, with plenty of passages that made me laugh out loud in surprise. Mitchell's writing is engaging and insightful, as in Rhett's musings about the realities of war and here, where she describes the Southern gentility during the barbecue:
"Men and women, they were beautiful and wild, all a little violent under their pleasant ways and only a little tamed."

This is also a work of historical fiction, though, and I learned so much about the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction. I had no idea of the darker side of Reconstruction - the corruption, political machinations, and the military rule over Georgia and other Southern states. Nor did I realize just how much ordinary people suffered during the war and after. Of course, as you might expect of a novel written in the 1930's, the racial picture drawn in the story is in sharp contrast to our modern sensibilities. The slaves that work at Tara and most of its neighboring plantations are happy in their roles and well taken care of, with the white characters often mentioning how the simple-minded "darkies" need structure and direction. In fact, most of the main black characters in the novel choose to remain with their masters after the war ends and they are freed; most field slaves flee but most house slaves stay. As horrifying as all this is, I accepted the way the story is told as a product of its time, both the 1860's in which is was set, and the 1930's when it was written. If anything, it is perhaps an accurate picture of how most white, wealthy Southerners thought at the time.

Margaret Mitchell brought to vivid life this singular period of American history, in this singular place. She opened my eyes to the effects of the war and its aftermath on real people, most of whom went from living wealthy lives of leisure and beauty to poverty, grievous injury (or death), and starvation. And she does all of this through an incredibly complex character, Scarlett, who is selfish and shallow ("I'll think about that tomorrow!") but can also become a fierce and loving protector when her friends and family are threatened. It's a love story, a fascinating history, and a compelling family saga. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every page of it. Now I am eager to re-watch the movie adaptation!

959 pages, Scribner

This was my first book read for my 2019 Big Book Summer Challenge (quite a start!). There is still plenty of time for you to join the fun, too! Check out the details at the link.


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Listen to a sample of the (very long!) audio book, from the opening of the novel.


You can purchase Gone with the Wind from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:

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Or you can order Gone with the Wind from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.