Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Fiction Review: Apples Never Fall

Despite her huge popularity, including TV adaptations that have been massive hits, Liane Moriarty is a fairly new author for me. I have previously read just one of her novels, Truly Madly Guilty, for the 2020 Big Book Summer Challenge. I loved that novel, with its combination of gripping suspense and richly developed characters, so when I saw she had a new release out, Apples Never Fall, I was eager to give it a try. I listened to the novel on audio for the fall R.I.P. Challenge and found it just as intriguing and suspenseful as the last one I read. This is a unique in-depth story of a family falling apart and the missing mother at the center of it.

At first, when Joy Delaney, a woman in her 60's, goes missing, her four adult children aren't too worried. Sure, they can't get through to her on her cell phone, but she did leave a text message, rather cryptically, saying something about going off-grid. However, as the days, then weeks, tick by, they do become concerned ... and so do the police. As the police begin their investigation, the narrative in the novel moves back and forth from the present, with Joy missing, to the past, in the year before her disappearance. Through these descriptions of the events leading up to Joy's disappearance, including flashbacks to the children's childhoods, the reader gradually gets a picture of the Delaney family. Joy and her husband, Stan, ran a successful tennis school for decades that was an integral part of family life. All four of the kids played--and were quite good--though they each took a different path as adults. Amy has struggled with depression and other mental health issues, as well as debilitating migraines, since she was a child and, even now as the oldest sibling, is just sort of floating through life. Logan is similarly a bit at loose ends. Younger brother, Troy, though, is a huge success as a day trader, living in a luxurious high-rise apartment with a stunning view, though still crushed by his wife's recent departure from his life (which he hasn't shared with his family yet). The youngest sibling, Brooke, has also recently broken up with her long-time boyfriend and not told her family. She's a physical therapist who recently started her own practice. The four adult siblings are each living their own lives, as Joy and Stan struggle with both their empty nest and the absence of their tennis business, now that they are retired. The detectives delve into all of the family members, and especially Stan who seems less than forthcoming with them, but there's the added complication of a mysterious stranger named Savannah who showed up on Joy and Stan's doorstep the year before. What happened to Joy Delaney? Did she decide she needed a break and didn't tell her family? Or was it something more sinister?

As you can probably tell from this description, this is an intricate family drama, as well as a suspenseful mystery. Through both flashbacks and present-day action and conversations, the reader gradually gets to know each of the Delaneys and his or her role in the family dynamics. Of course, there are secrets and lies to be discovered--this is Liane Moriarty, after all! And throughout it all is the thread of the police investigation into Joy's disappearance. What is Stan hiding? What do the kids know? What, if anything, does Savannah have to do with all of this? It's an engrossing and twisty family saga, digging into the details of sibling relationships and long-time marriage, all wrapped up in a mystery. I listened to the novel on audio and thoroughly enjoyed the Australian narrator who brought me into the center of the story and kept me guessing until the very end.

480 pages, Henry Holt and Company

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.

 

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible. It was excellent!

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Review: Broken Harbor

It wouldn't be R.I.P. Challenge season without a Tana French novel! My husband and I both love her Dublin Murder Squad series. I read the first three (though they don't have to be read in order): In the Woods, The Likeness, and Faithful Place in previous years, so earlier this month, I dove into book four, Broken Harbor. All of French's books in this series are beautifully written, twisty mysteries with in-depth characters, and this one was no exception.

Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy was a minor character in Faithful Place, a member of the Dublin Murder Squad of detectives. In Broken Harbor, the spotlight is fully on him, as he is assigned a huge case that is sure to be all over the media: an entire family brutally assaulted in their beautiful home. Husband Patrick Spain and their two small children were murdered and wife Jenny is barely clinging to life in the hospital. Mick has a new partner, rookie Richie, who turns out to be pretty well-suited to the job. To Mick's pleasant surprise, Richie is smart, dedicated, and willing to learn. The two of them begin investigating this grisly case, heading out to the Spain's home. It's a nice looking house and clearly well-cared-for, but it's sitting in a mostly abandoned "luxury" neighborhood well outside of Dublin, by the sea. Many of these high-end neighborhoods popped up during the boom years and then went bankrupt when the economy crashed, leaving families like the Spains stuck out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by half-finished houses. And despite the nice look of their home, it's clear the construction was shoddy and even just a few years old, it's already starting to show. Of course, the husband is always a suspect in a family case like this, but by all accounts, Patrick was a great guy and he and Jenny loved each other deeply. A potential intruder also becomes a suspect, as the two partners follow the clues to try to solve this horrific crime, while Mick deals with personal issues as well.

As with all Tana French novels, this is a super-twisty mystery, with lots of unexpected surprises in store for the reader. At about the halfway point, it seems like the two detectives have the case all sewn up, so you know some unexpected turns in the case must be coming. As always, French makes the detectives central characters, and Mick's complicated family life comes into play and is actually related to the site of the murders. For extra fun, she throws some really weird details into the murder scene this time: holes in the walls, video cameras mounted all over the house, and more. I was kept guessing as to how all of it fit together. I can always count on Tana French for a gripping, suspenseful read that is hard to put down; this was a perfect book for October!

450 pages, Penguin Books

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.

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible. I usually read Tana French in print, but I've heard others say the audios are great!

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Books Read in September


I had an outstanding reading month in September, finishing my own Big Book Summer Challenge and diving into the beginning of the R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) Challenge! Besides my summary below, you can also check out my video September Reading Wrap-Up, where I talk a little about each book: what it's about, what I liked, etc.

Here's what I finished reading last month:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Russia) - classic adult fiction
  • Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (CA) - YA nonfiction graphic "novel"



 


So, I finished seven books in September. Six of them were fiction, with one nonfiction graphic "novel." Most were adult books, though I did read one YA book and one middle-grade/teen novel. I listened to two of my books last month on audio and read the rest in print. I enjoyed every single one of these--all 4's and 5's for me on Goodreads! My favorite is a tie between two very different books: The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd, historical fiction set in Biblical times, and The Sense of Reckoning by Matty Dalrymple, a ghostly mystery/thriller!

Progress in 2021 Reading Challenges:
You can see all of the reading challenges I am participating in and full lists of the books read for each at the challenges link above. I have some fun ones going this year!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2021 - Three of my books came off my own shelves (and the audios had been in my backlog for a while, too, but I only count the ones that take up physical space!). That's a total of 27 so far ... but my goal for 2021 is 48!
2021 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge - September was Back to School, and Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang fit perfectly, since it takes place in a high school.
Back to the Classics 2021 - I finally read another classic, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and it was a whopper! I think it should count as two ...

2021 AtoZ Reading Challenge - Most of my spots are already filled (19 of 26), so none of these counted, but the mini challenge was memoir, and Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang is part-memoir.

PopSugar Reading Challenge 2021 - this is a unique one, with 50 quirky categories. My list is getting pretty full now, but I added another 2 categories to my list this month. That brings me up to 31:
  1. A book about art or an artist - The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
  2. Longest book on your TBR -  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge - Just one nonfiction in September, Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang, and I added it to the Hobbies category.
Diversity Reading Challenge 2021 - Three of my books were diverse (25 so far for the year), though I didn't get the mini challenge.
Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge - Lots of international travel in my books last month, with notable stops in Russia, Israel, and Egypt (and lots more in the UK and Canada).
2021 Literary Escapes Challenge - No new states, and I am only at 18 so far for the year.

2021 Big Book Summer Challenge - I added 3 more Big Books in early September, for a total of 12 for summer 2021! Ironically, many of my September books were still Big Books.

R.I.P. Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge - I kicked off this annual fall challenge with four darker, creepy books in a variety of genres.

And finally, Bookish Bingo hosted by Chapter Break - not really a challenge per se, but a fun game that I play each month! Stop by to print out this month's Bingo card and play along. In September , I filled 17 spaces on my bingo card.

Anna Karenina - new-to-you author, woman on the cover

Dragon Hoops - Set in a school

A Better Man - audio book, love triangle

The Book of Longings - book club read, library book, not in a series, historic setting

A Corner of White - weather on the cover, free book, in a series

The Lying Game - enemies/frenemies, shelf love

The Sense of Reckoning - read a physical book, travel/journey

Free Space

 

What was YOUR favorite book read in September?  

Monday, October 11, 2021

It's Monday 10/11! What Are You Reading?


Happy Indigenous People's Day! I like this transition to honoring the original inhabitants of this continent. Goodness knows, they deserve some celebration and recognition after the ravages of history and the effects that continue today. If you would like to celebrate with a book, I recommend the following outstanding books that provide insight into past and present lives of Native Americans:

  • The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich - all of Louise's novels focus on Native American life and all are excellent, but this one is particularly great and provides a glimpse into a little-known aspect of history. And it won the Pulitzer! 
  • Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver - this author also often writes about present-day Native Americans, and this novel, that I loved on audio, weaves Indigenous culture, traditions, and stories into its modern tale. I also highly recommend The Bean Trees and its sequel, Pigs in Heaven, which feature a Native American girl adopted by a white woman and the challenges that brings. Those two also happen to be among my favorite books of all time!
  • The Roanoke Colony: America's First Mystery by Chris Schweizer is an excellent nonfiction graphic "novel" for middle-grade readers that includes details about the first European settlers but is told from the point of view of two Native American teens alive at the time. It's part of the History Comics series.
  • An Indigenous People's History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. I had both versions of this book out of the library--the adult one and this YA one--and I preferred the YA version because it included many illuminating graphics, photos, maps, etc. Both provide an eye-opening perspective on history that should be read by every American.
  • Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann focuses on yet another horrifying chapter in American history. It reads like a fast-paced mystery/thriller and is fascinating; my book group unanimously loved it. A movie adaptation is currently in post-production. 
  • Up Heartbreak Hill - if you're more in the mood for a movie, this documentary about modern Native American teens living on a reservation and striving for a better future for themselves is excellent.

Here at home, we had a nice celebration for my husband's birthday. As I mentioned last Monday, both sons were home on Sunday for an early celebration, and my husband and I enjoyed a quiet celebration on Monday on our own. We ended up eating left-overs from our BBQ dinner for three days!! I always order too much, and my father-in-law and one of my son's girlfriends couldn't make it.

I posted two new videos last week on my YouTube channel:

And here's what we've all been reading this week!

I finished another book for the R.I.P. Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge, Broken Harbor by Tana French, the fourth book in her Dublin Murder Squad series (though they don't have to be read in order; each is a stand-alone). In this novel, the head detective who is the focus of the story is Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, who last appeared in Faithful Place. This time, Kennedy's been assigned a big case--and a rough one: an entire family attacked in their home. Husband Pat and their two young children were murdered, and wife Jenny barely escaped the same fate and is in the hospital. It's a grisly scene, especially for the young rookie, Richie, who's been assigned as his new partner. The case is complicated, with several weird, unexplained details. This is a twisty one! As with all Tana French books, it is compelling, gripping, hard to out down, and quite dark. Despite the darkness, I enjoy getting immersed in a good mystery!

Now, I am reading another book from my R.I.P. stack, The House on Tradd Street by Karen White. My younger son bought this for me for my birthday. This is especially significant because he is our non-reader, and he went to a bookstore and picked this out for me! I was quite touched by his effort. It's also a perfect fit for October, as it is a mystery with ghosts! As in The Sense of Reckoning, which I loved and just reviewed, the main character can sense spirits. In this case, Melanie Middleton is a real estate agent in Charleston, SC, who sees ghosts all around her. Charleston, with its rich history, is a tough place to live for someone like that! An elderly man Melanie barely knows leaves her his large historic house when he dies and now Melanie can see him and his mother playing in the garden. Despite her specialty selling historic homes, Melanie doesn't really like them and certainly doesn't want to live in one. It's an interesting set-up, and I'm looking forward to see what happens!

On audio, I am still listening to another R.I.P. Challenge book, Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, a new release. I have only read one other novel from this very popular author, Truly Madly Guilty, for Big Book Summer 2020, and I enjoyed it. In this new book, a mother named Joy in her 60's disappears, and her four adult children are trying to figure out what happened. They're not sure whether she just left on her own for a break or whether something more sinister happened to her. The police immediately suspect Joy's husband, Stan, because they can tell he's lying about something. And there is  a mysterious stranger who could be involved. As the novel moves forward, the reader gradually gets to know each member of the family better, with parallel narratives following the months leading up to Joy's disappearance and the investigation afterward. I'm enjoying it very much, especially as secrets are beginning to be revealed.

My husband, Ken, has moved onto one of the new books I just bought him for his birthday (of course, there was a stack of books among his gifts!). I kept hearing rave reviews and enthusiasm for A Solitude of Wolverines by Alice Henderson, the first book in an exciting new thriller series. For a nice change of pace, the main character here is a wildlife biologist named Alex Carter who is passionate about saving endangered species. In this novel, she is up in Montana, studying wolverines, when she stumbles onto another kind of predator, a man wandering in the wild. The police soon drop the investigation, and Alex unwittingly finds herself in the position of knowing too much about a vast, illegal operation in the region. Soon, she herself becomes the prey. We both love thrillers in a wilderness setting, so this sounds great!

I texted with my son, 27, last night. He says he finished re-reading The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham, book 1 of The Dagger and the Coin series last week. He was happy to find he enjoyed it just as much the second time as he remembered. Now, he has moved onto book 2, The King's Blood, which his girlfriend gave him for his birthday this summer. It's great so far, he says!

 

 

Plenty of blog posts last week:

TV Tuesday: Big Sky - one of our favorite TV thrillers is back for a second season!

Fiction Review: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware - as twisty, suspenseful, and unpredictable as always!

Middle-Grade/Teen Review: A Corner of White by Jacalyn Moriarty - excellent fantasy mystery

Fiction Review: The Sense of Reckoning by Matty Dalrymple - I LOVED this ghostly mystery/thriller!

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?

Friday, October 08, 2021

Fiction Review: The Sense of Reckoning

Every fall, I love reading for the R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) Challenge and enjoying mysteries, thrillers, paranormal stories, dystopians, and other dark books. But the absolute best kind of book for fall is one that combines mystery, thriller-action, and ghosts all in one story! That's where the Ann Kinnear Suspense series by Matty Dalrymple comes in. I love this series and enjoyed every moment of the second book, The Sense of Reckoning.

Ann can sense spirits, and she sometimes uses her talents to help prospective home buyers find out if their dream home is haunted or to help the police solve a crime. In the first book, The Sense of Death, Ann aided the police in Philadelphia to solve a missing persons case by obtaining information from the spirit of someone who'd died. That story ended with an action-packed scene of violence that is still haunting Ann ... perhaps literally. Needing to get away from her normally peaceful cabin in the Adirondacks, Ann heads back to West Chester, PA, to visit her brother and his partner, Scott. While there, a fellow spirit-senser named Garrick who Ann had met before asks for her help with a case on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Thinking the road-trip vacation and a new case will be good for her, Ann's brother sends her off to Maine, accompanied by the affable Scott. The two of them settle into a charming B&B in Southwest Harbor, and Ann begins to help Garrick. His case involves a decades-old mystery that began during a historic fire in 1947 that destroyed almost half of the island and much of the town of Bar Harbor. The mystery is centered on a historic but run-down hotel on the water, and the hotel's sole remaining heir, who is desperate to save her family's legacy. Both Garrick and Ann seek to solve the mystery and save the hotel by speaking to the ghost of the owner's brother, who committed suicide in the hotel. As the narrative moves back and forth between the past and the present, tensions--and danger--increase for Ann in the quest to solve the mystery and also keep herself safe.

As with The Sense of Death, this book is a twisty mystery/thriller with plenty of action and ghostly goings-on, but it is so much more, too. I loved the historical side of this novel and enjoyed learning about this part of Mount Desert Island's history that I'd never heard before (the 1947 fire was real). And, as always, the author includes wonderful details of the location and setting that make it come to life for the reader. In this case, Mount Desert Island, Maine, is one of my family's favorite places, and we have spent plenty of time in Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, and Southwest Harbor, as well as exploring the island's gorgeous mountains, lakes, and coastline. I delighted in every mention of a place we've been--Jordan Pond House eating popovers, Echo Lake, Thurston's Lobster Pound, and more. I loved this novel and can't wait to read more of this series! In fact, I have been talking so enthusiastically about the series that I finally convinced my husband to read it, even though he says he doesn't like ghost stories. He's currently well into the first book ... and enjoying it. Highly recommended and perfect for fall!

301 pages, William Kingsfield Publishers

 

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.

 

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



Thursday, October 07, 2021

Middle-Grade/Teen Review: A Corner of White

One of my first audio books chosen for my annual fall R.I.P. Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge was A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty, a middle-grade/teen mystery fantasy. This is not my usual genre, but I thoroughly enjoyed this unique story with parallel narratives set partly in the real world and partly in a fantasy world, with many similarities to our world. I was engrossed in the story from beginning to end ... and I'm interested in reading the next book in the trilogy. 

In real-world present-day Cambridge, England, three young teens--Jack, Belle, and Madeleine--are homeschooled together and are friends. Their homeschool teachers include their parents, as well as some of their neighbors. Madeline and her mother live alone in a shabby apartment, and Madeleine is struggling to adjust to their new life. They used to be wealthy and travel all over the world to the most wonderful international cities, living a luxurious life. Then, Madeleine's father left, leaving them destitute, and now, she's beginning to worry about her mother's health, as she struggles with headaches and memory issues. Meanwhile, in a world called the Kingdom of Cello, in a farming town named Bonfire, a teen boy named Elliot is also living alone with his mother. Elliot's father is also missing from his life, but for a very different reason. His father and the local physics teacher both went missing on the same night that Elliot's uncle was found dead. There are two opposing theories in town: that Elliot's dad killed his brother and ran off with the teacher or that an attack of Purples killed his uncle and kidnapped the other two. In Cello, though their world is much like our own in some ways, colors are active forces that can change the weather, create natural disasters, or even, in the case of the violent Purples, kill and kidnap. Elliot, of course, believes this second theory and is determined to find his father. A small crack appears between the two worlds, and Madeleine and Elliot begin trading letters through it, though Madeleine thinks Elliot is a guy who plays too many video games and has made up an outrageous fantasy world. The two teens, both with missing fathers, continue to communicate with each other, as each tries to make sense of what is happening in their lives and find their fathers.

As I mentioned, I don't read a lot of fantasy, but when I do enjoy the genre, it is usually a story set in the real world with elements of fantasy or magic. This book hit that sweet spot for me, with its intertwined stories. I immediately came to care about Elliot and Madeleine (and the other kids in both worlds) and was rooting for both of them to solve the mysteries of the missing fathers. While this is listed as book 1 of 3, it comes to a very satisfying--and surprising--conclusion, while opening the door to the sequel. I was fully engaged in the story and there was plenty of suspense to keep me listening. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this original story on audio ... and though I don't read many series, I am interested in reading more about Madeleine and Elliot.

384 pages, Arthur A. Levine

Scholastic 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.

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, with a multi-cast of narrators, and/or download it from Audible.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!


  

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Fiction Review: The Lying Game

One of the first books I read for this fall's R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) Challenge was The Lying Game by Ruth Ware, since she is a favorite thriller author of me and my husband, and you can always count on her novels to be gripping and suspenseful. This one was no exception.

Four adult women--Fatima, Thea, Isa, and Kate--went to boarding school together seventeen years ago, but they have lost touch as they have each moved onto their adult lives. Out of the blue, Kate texts the other three women, I need you. Immediately, all three of them drop everything in their lives to drive or take the train back to Salten, where they all went to school and where Kate still lives in the rickety house on the water--practically in the water now--where they all spent weekends while they were in school. Fatima leaves her husband and children in London, as well as her medical practice; Thea heads out after her late shift at the casino; and Isa tells her husband she is going to an impromptu reunion with her school friends and brings hear baby, Freya, with her on the train. Each of them texts, I'm coming, as they head toward the coast. When the girls were in school together in Salten, they played The Lying Game, trying to outdo each other with lies, scoring points for convincing someone else to believe them, the more outrageous the lie, the better. Something happened back then, some sort of disaster, to bring their time at Salten to an abrupt close, but they had always promised each other ... if one of them needed the others, they would come. Now, something has happened to bring the past into the present.

The narrative shifts back and forth from the past, when the girls were at Salten together, starting with Isa's first day, to the present, as their old secrets and lies begin to unravel. As with all of Ware's thrillers, this one is complex and super-twisty and kept me guessing right up till the end. About halfway through, I said to my husband, "I think I figured everything out, but I'm only halfway." He smiled and just said, "Keep reading!" As usual, Ware still had plenty of surprises in store. Here, as in many of her novels, the location and setting take center stage, with Kate's crumbling house on the sea and the surrounding marshland forming the basis for both their past memories and their present problems. This was a great choice for the R.I.P. Challenge, with the features I like most about the books I read at this time of year: it was fast-paced, compelling, and twisty, a can't-put-it-down book perfect for fall!

424 pages, Pocket Books

Simon & Schuster Audio

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.

 

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!

 

    
  


Tuesday, October 05, 2021

TV Tuesday: Big Sky

I love fall! Besides the perfect, cooler weather after summer's high heat and humidity and the beautiful colors of fall, lots of our favorite TV shows are back with new seasons! One of the shows we have most looked forward to, Big Sky, has just returned with its 2nd season. This mystery/thriller just gets more and more twisty, with surprises in every episode! To avoid any spoilers, I will just focus on the beginning of season 1 in my description.

As the title suggests, Big Sky is set against the gorgeous natural backdrop of Montana's mountains, forests, and rivers, but what's happening here is neither pretty nor natural. Two women and best friends, Cassie (played by Kylie Bunbury) and Jenny (played by Katheryn Winnick), run their own private investigator business in Helena, MT. Jenny is married to Cody, played by Ryan Phillipe (a local Delaware native!), and they have a teen son named Justin, played by Gage Marsh. In the first episode, Justin is waiting for his girlfriend and her sister to drive in from out of town for a visit. The two sisters, Danielle (played by Natalie Alyn Lind) and Grace (played by Jade Pettyjohn) are shown in their car, singing along to music and enjoying their road trip. Then disaster strikes as the two young girls are abducted on a deserted highway. Justin alerts his parents that they never showed up and aren't answering their phones, and soon both the police and Jenny, Cody, and Cassie are searching for the girls and investigating. Montana State Trooper Rick Legarski, played by John Carroll Lynch, is brought in to help with the search, but he doesn't seem worried and explains that lots of young women go missing from this area all the time. Soon, another young woman, Jerrie (played by Jesse James Keitel), is kidnapped from a truck stop by a creepy guy named Ronald, played by Brian Geraghty. And the twisty tale is off!

This is a tense and suspenseful story, with plenty of surprises you will never see coming. The acting is all top-notch from this ensemble cast, and the writing is excellent. The plot is classic thriller, with plenty of action and suspense in every episode. We have just started the newly begun second season, and I couldn't tell you anything about it without giving away all kinds of spoilers from season 1--a lot happens in every single episode, to keep you guessing (and watching). Oh, and it's got a great soundtrack behind the action, too! We've been waiting for this new season to come back, and this compelling, gripping show has already shocked us and taken us by surprise, in the first episode of season two. This is one of our favorites these days, in part because it doesn't fit the typical mold. Highly recommended for mystery/action/thriller fans.

Big Sky is currently airing on ABC on Thursday nights or you can catch it On Demand or streaming on Hulu.

Monday, October 04, 2021

It's Monday 10/4! What Are You Reading?


We did it! We finally got away for two nights, to the beach for our 32nd anniversary. It's been ages since we could go further than 30 minutes from home because we were caring for my father-in-law, so this little getaway was a real treat! We did get two phone calls from his assisted living place Friday but no serious emergencies.

When we arrived Thursday, we enjoyed a short walk on Lewes beach, which is on Delaware Bay, so it's a quieter beach. We had lovely weather all weekend.


We enjoyed an outstanding anniversary dinner at Harbour, a new restaurant right on the canal in Lewes with gorgeous water views at sunset, and some of the best food we've ever eaten!


Friday, we went to Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, which is only 15 minutes from the crowded beach towns but a world away! It was so peaceful and quiet looking out over the marshes and listening to the birds. Delaware has many wildlife refuges; I don't know why we've never been to one before!


Saturday, we drove one town further south to Rehoboth Beach, which used to be our go-to for our beach trips. It was insanely crowded there! We often go there this weekend for our anniversary and have never seen crowds like this--it's supposed to be the off-season! We had to park 4 blocks from the main street, but we enjoyed a short walk on the beach. Rehoboth is on the Atlantic Ocean side, and Hurricane Sam was out there, way off-shore, so the waves were incredibly powerful and violent! I've never seen the surf so rough. No one was able to go in the water, but it was fun to walk alongside it, and we saw a long line of dolphins just off-shore, heading south.


Before we escaped the crowds, we stopped at Browseabout Books (of course!). They ordered copies of my own book to carry in the store, and we had to buy a couple of books! You know, just to support the bookstore, of course.


The only downside to our lovely getaway is that I am still stuck in a relapse of my chronic illness. I got some IVs before we left, and they did help a little but only temporarily. I was pretty limited all weekend and am super achy again today. My immune system is stuck in the "on" position, basically. I'm trying a new immune treatment this week, so fingers crossed. This is getting pretty old!

And today is my husband's birthday! Both of our sons were home yesterday for an early birthday dinner (takeout BBQ and gluten-free brownie sundaes), so it was wonderful to have us all together.

Oh, and I did finally get my R.I.P. Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge video posted last week! I had a lot of fun doing this one, talking enthusiastically about all the books I want to read this fall.

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


I finished the perfect book for the R.I.P. Challenge, The Sense of Reckoning by Matty Dalrymple, book 2 in her Ann Kinnear Suspense series. I am crazy about this series that combines mystery, thriller action, and ... ghosts! The main character in this series, Ann, can sense spirits. In the first book, The Sense of Death, Ann helped to solve a murder by obtaining information from the victim. Now, her skills are evolving, and she herself may even be haunted! In this book, she also gets involved with a decades-old case centered in Bar Harbor, Maine. Besides the mysteries and spooky ghostliness, another thing I love about these novels are the locations. The author lives locally to me, just over the DE/PA border, so I love her mentions of local landmarks. Ann has a cabin in the Adirondacks (possibly haunted now), which is another place we love. And this novel takes place mostly on Mount Desert Island in Maine, home to Acadia National Park, and one of our favorite places in the world! I love how the author incorporates local details into her suspenseful mysteries. It was outstanding, and I loved every page!

Next, I picked up one of the Big Books in my R.I.P. stack because I thought it would make good vacation reading: Broken Harbor by Tana French, the fourth book in her Dublin Murder Squad series (though they don't have to be read in order; each is a stand-alone). In this novel, the head detective who is the focus of the story is Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, who last appeared in Faithful Place. This time, Kennedy's been assigned a big case--and a rough one: an entire family attacked in their home. Husband Pat and their two young children were murdered, and wife Jenny barely escaped the same fate and is in the hospital. It's a grisly scene, especially for the young rookie, Richie, who's been assigned as his new partner. The case is complicated, with several weird, unexplained details. I'm just past the halfway point, and Kennedy and Richie think they have the case all wrapped up, so you know there are some big twists coming up! I'm loving it, as I do every Tana French novel. It is so gripping and suspenseful that I have been staying up much too late at night reading it.

On audio, I am still listening to another pick for the R.I.P. Challenge, Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, a new release. I have only read one other novel from this very popular author, Truly Madly Guilty, for Big Book Summer 2020, and I enjoyed it. In this new book, a mother named Joy in her 60's disappears, and her four adult children are trying to figure out what happened. They're not sure whether she just left on her own for a break or whether something more sinister happened to her. The police immediately suspect Joy's husband, Stan, because they can tell he's lying about something. And there is  a mysterious stranger who could be involved. As the novel moves forward, the reader gradually gets to know each member of the family better, with parallel narratives following the months leading up to Joy's disappearance and the investigation afterward. I'm enjoying it very much and have no idea how it's going to end up!

This weekend, my husband, Ken, finished one of my own top picks from 2021 Big Book Summer, Blackout by Connie Willis, a favorite author for both of us. This novel is part of her outstanding Oxford Time Travel series, where Oxford grad students in the History department in the near future (2060) travel back in time to observe historical events first-hand as part of their studies. In this case, multiple students are all studying WWII in England. So, one woman is in rural England, helping with the evacuation of children from London, while another is posing as a shop girl at the start of the Blitz in London, to observe how ordinary people reacted. One of their fellow students is posing as an American reporter and has traveled to Dover at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation to observe how ordinary people became heroes by volunteering themselves and their boats to bring soldiers back to England to safety. This time, though, with so many people traveling back to similar times/places, things begin to go wrong with the time travel technology, and they may not be able to get home. As with her other novels in this series (our favorite so far was Doomsday Book), she combines historical fiction with time travel for a very suspenseful, compelling story. Now we are both ready to read book 2, All Clear (which is on our shelves).

Our son, 27, just left this morning. He was home for the wedding of one of his college roommates and one of his friends from his freshman dorm, so it was a huge reunion of his closest friends! He and his girlfriend enjoyed it, and we were glad they were here for his dad's birthday celebration, too. He finished A Shattered Empire, book 3 in the Sorcery Ascendance series by Mitchell Hogan. He really enjoyed the trilogy and is excited that the author is considering a follow-up series! Now, he is re-reading The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham, book 1 of The Dagger and the Coin series, to prepare for book 2, The King's Blood, which I just gave him for his birthday! He always re-reads earlier books in a series before reading the latest sequels. It was good to see him this weekend.

 

Last week's blog post - just one, before we left on our trip:

Fiction Review: The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd - about Ana, a remarkable woman in the 1st century (oh, and the fictional wife of Jesus, too, but the story is mostly about her) - high ratings from my book group!

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?