Monday, July 15, 2024

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

Hosted by The Book Date

 

Life

Very, very sick today so will keep this post shorter than usual. My 7-month no-crash streak with my chronic illness is over 😪. Apparently, I was exposed to some sort of infection last week because I've had a very severe sore throat and swollen glands the past two days. That's actually quite common in ME/CFS (signs of immune activation), but it hasn't happened to me in many years. Two negative COVID tests so far, but that seems most likely.


Before this started Saturday night, I had a very nice, quiet week to myself, while my husband was golfing in his hometown in Oklahoma with his two closest friends from high school. I got a lot done at home, finished recording the audio of my book (a LOT of editing left to do!), and saw good friends twice last week. I also ran errands, so there were multiple chances for exposure to something (though I do wear a mask in public). On Saturday, I took several boxes of books to our library's monthly book drop-off and enjoyed a short walk in a local park before the extreme heat and humidity hit (97 today and tomorrow!).




__________

On the Blog

Movie Monday: A Quiet Place: Day One - fantastic movie with great character development, just as good as the first two!

Middle-Grade Review: Countdown by Deborah Wiles - Book one in an outstanding historical fiction series, The Sixties Trilogy, that pairs the perspective of a fictional child with real-life documentary-style historical media. 

__________

On Video

1000 Subscribers! Ask Me Anything! - I hit a big milestone with my YouTube channel recently (I'm almost up to 1500 now), with the help of Big Book Summer. As is tradition on Booktube, I'll do a Q&A video, so get in on the fun and ask me anything!

Friday Reads 7-12-24 - my brief weekly update of what I am reading

__________

 What We're Reading

Last week for Big Book Summer, I read The Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley, and it was so amazing!! I should have listened to all the rave reviews a long time ago. Eighteen-year-old Daunis often feels torn between two worlds in her hometown of Sault Saint Marie in northern Michigan on the Canadian border. Her mother's parents are French and Italian, and her father was Ojibwe, part of the local tribe. Daunis is loved and deeply involved in both families but doesn't always feel a full part of either. She's also outstanding at hockey, though she doesn't play anymore. Her Ojibwe brother is on the area's premier hockey team, and there's a new guy on the team, Jamie, who Daunis is instantly attracted to. But she also has a lot of worries. Her best friend, Lily, has a very persistent ex-boyfriend who's addicted to (and possibly even dealing) meth. Her uncle recently died from an overdose of meth, and Daunis can see the growing effects of the drug throughout her community. I was surprised to find that this novel is a mystery/thriller, but it is also beautifully written, fascinating with lots of details about Ojibwe culture, and has plenty of emotional depth. I even cried! I loved it.


This weekend, I started the biggest of my big books, Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, book 4 in her fabulous Outlander series. I love this series that combines time travel with historical fiction and an epic love story and have so far read Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, and Voyager (my favorite so far). This one begins in America in 1767, with Jamie and Clare and friends in Charleston, SC. I'm loving it so far, and it's perfect immersive sick day reading.


On audio, I am listening to Hereafter by Tara Hudson, another book for #BigBookSummer Challenge. This is a YA novel about Amelia, who is dead--well, technically, a ghost. She is in the river, where she has once again had what she thinks of as a nightmare (though, of course, she doesn't sleep) where she has relived her terrifying death by drowning. Still shaken, she notices a car with its headlights on, slowly sinking, and next to it a boy who is also sinking. Although she can not normally touch or affect living people, she somehow manages to save his life. When he is pulled from the water and is being wheeled into an ambulance, she goes to him to make sure he is OK ... and he sees her! This has never happened before, and it affects them both deeply. There is a bit of a love story here (YA, after all), but also some fascinating afterlife details and even a war between good and evil. I enjoy a good ghost story, and this one is excellent so far.


When my husband, Ken, left, he was reading Big Time by Ben H. Winters, one of our favorite authors who wrote The Last Policeman trilogy. This is a sci fi thriller about a dark conspiracy to harvest and sell people's time, extracted like organs for transplant. Sounds like an intriguing concept, and I know it must be gripping and fast-paced because Ken was already two-thirds of the way through the novel in less than a week. I doubt if he had much reading time this week! He should be home in a few hours.

 

Our son, 29, might be still reading book 2 of the Licanius Trilogy by James Islington, An Echo of Things to Come since he started a new job two weeks ago! He's enjoying this one, but he won't have a lot of reading time now. And I need to adjust to the fact that I can't text him for a reading update on Monday morning anymore because he's at work! I did text him this weekend but forgot to get a book update. I need to adjust to not being able to text him on Monday mornings! He's loving his new job so far.

 __________

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?

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Middle-Grade Review: Countdown

Back in 2015, I read Revolution by Deborah Wiles, which was book 2 in her Sixties Trilogy. I absolutely loved the novel (my review at the link), but it took me this long to finally read book 1, Countdown. I listened to it on audio and absolutely loved it. These books overlay the experience of a child against a historical backdrop, showing their perspective(s) of significant events in our history. The result is engrossing and fascinating.

Revolution took place in 1964 in Mississippi and was about the Freedom Summer. In Countdown, the setting is Maryland, near Washington, DC, in 1962, during the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis. As the novel opens, eleven-year-old Franny is in school. She's upset because her teacher never calls on her to read aloud during Social Studies and fumes while she calls on other kids all around her. The class goes out for recess, and Franny doesn't know what to do because she forgot to bring her Nancy Drew book, and her best friend Margie seems to have a new best friend, Gale. Their typical school day is interrupted by a shrill, shrieking sound: the town's air raid siren! They're supposed to hide under their desks when it goes off, but what do they do when they're outside? Their teachers call all the students together, and they crouch on the ground against the brick building and cover their heads in terror until the all-clear alarm when their principal calls out, "It's OK, kids, it's just a drill!" At dinner that night, Franny and her younger brother, Drew, tell their parents all about the frightening air raid drill. Also at the table are their older sister, Jo Ellen, who just started college, and Uncle Otts, who lives with them and sometimes thinks he is still fighting WWI. Tonight, the air raid siren set him off, and he was marching to all their neighbors' houses, wearing his helmet and passing out civil defense literature, much to Franny's embarrassment.

The story continues in that vein, focusing in on Franny's perspective, as she worries about school and friendships and is starting to notice boys (well, one boy), while the world seems to be in frightening chaos all around them. She tries to protect her little brother and her uncle, while her older sister is getting involved in protests at college with a new group of friends. Their father is in the air force, which makes the threats of nuclear attack, Communism, and potential war all the more frightening.

What makes the books in this series so special is that the author integrates real-life documentary-style media throughout: quotes from magazines, ads from the time, headlines and excerpts from newspapers, posters from schools featuring duck and cover drills, and excerpts from social studies textbooks of the time. In the print version, all of this is interspersed with the narrative, scrapbook-style. I worried I would miss some of that by listening to the audio, but the audio book is equally immersive, with real TV and radio ads, recordings of Walter Cronkite reading the news, radio programs, and even John F. Kennedy addressing the nation about the Cuban Missile Crisis. This helps today's kids to better understand exactly what Franny and her family and friends are experiencing, and it provides a fascinating window to the past for us adults. Integrating all of those primary sources with the story narrative is very powerful, as Franny deals with both ordinary kid problems and extraordinary world events. Franny is a very likable and relatable narrator, and the other characters are equally interesting and realistic. I absolutely love these books and will definitely be reading book 3. And I hope that teachers are using these books in the classroom!

400 pages, Scholastic

Scholastic Audio

This book fits in the following 2024 Reading Challenges:

 

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Alphabet Soup Challenge - C

Literary Escapes Challenge - Maryland

Big Book Summer

 

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.

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible. In the sample, you can hear some of those historical audio clips

 

Or get this audiobook from Libro.fm and support local bookstores (audio sample here, too). This sample is from part of Franny's narration.

 

Print and e-book from Amazon.

 

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!


   
  

Monday, July 08, 2024

Movie Monday: A Quiet Place: Day One

On the 4th of July, with temperatures in the high 90's here, we escaped to a movie theater to see the third movie in John Krasinski's Quiet Place series, an origin story called A Quiet Place: Day One. First, let's get some misconceptions out of the way. I don't like horror movies. Although these movies are about an invasion of gruesome aliens that hunt by sound, like its predecessors, this movie is a quiet (very quiet!) character study, with plenty of emotional depth, insights about humanity, and heart. And, yes, there are some gross and very dangerous aliens, too. Check out my earlier reviews of A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place Part II (I just reread them both and rewatched their trailers, and I would definitely watch the movies again!). Although John Krasinski helped to write this third movie, he and Emily Blunt and their film family do not appear in it, and he doesn't direct it. It's a new take on the setting and premise of the series.

The movie opens in a quiet nursing home environment, during a group therapy session. Sam, played by Lupita Nyong'o, is younger than many of the other residents and somewhat flip and disdainful of the group session. We soon find out that this is hospice care and Sam and the other residents are dying. While Sam seems brash and uncaring at times, she has a cat named Frodo that she clearly loves and is attached to, and it's obvious that her coolness is merely a shield to protect her. Reuben, played by Alex Wolff, is a nurse at the facility who leads the group session and convinces Sam to come with the group on an outing to see a show in the city by agreeing to her plea for real New York pizza afterward. She figures this will be her last trip to the city. Their bus takes them to the city, but the show has barely started when the alien invasion hits. Everyone runs into the street to see the fireballs fall from the sky and the gruesome aliens emerge. It soon becomes clear that the aliens hunt by sound, and people quickly learn to be quiet in order to avoid them. Announcements tell people to head south to South Street Seaport to board boats, but Sam has her own private mission and moves against the flow of people, heading north and clinging tightly to Frodo. She meets a British man named Eric, played by Joseph Quinn, who is also alone in the city, on a business trip, with no family or friends nearby. The two of them (plus Frodo) struggle to stay safe from the aliens, as Sam single-mindedly pursues her mission.

Michael Sarnoski helped to write and directd the movie and said in an interview that John Krasinski gave him almost total freedom to come up with a unique take on this apocalyptic world. What he came up with is brilliant because Sam has a very unique perspective during this disaster: she knows she is already dying (soon). And the focus here is squarely on the characters, especially Sam and Eric, as they are bonded by their terrifying experiences and confide in each other, as people tend to do in this kind of intense situation. The actors are all excellent, but Lupita Nyong'o's performance is especially good. It is a thriller, yes, with plenty of fast-paced scenes, but it also has a laser-focus on these two people, with plenty of emotional depth and heart. I cried at the end. For scaredy cats like me, while technically alien invasion movies are usually classified as horror, this doesn't feel like a typical horror movie, and my husband and I both noticed that there is no gore and the violence mostly happens off-screen (though those aliens are pretty disgusting up close). It's a unique movie experience, like the first two movies were, though with its own new twist on the theme. We both enjoyed it very much.

A Quiet Place: Day One is currently in theaters, which is the ideal way to see all three movies, if you can. It can also be purchased on YouTube for $25 or pre-ordered on Amazon for the same price. The first two movies are available on Amazon, Paramount+ and other services.

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.

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

Hosted by The Book Date

Life

Last week was a busy catch-up week after our week spent camping and traveling--and even busier since it was such a short week, with the holiday!

Tuesday, I took my elderly Book Buddy (library program, though we've become good friends) out to lunch and the library. She always enjoys riding in my convertible! And I got an overdue haircut Wednesday. 


 

Since Thursday, our weather has been intolerably hot and humid (temps in the high 90's), so we enjoyed the 4th of July in an air-conditioned movie theater, with meal service and recliner seats! We saw A Quiet Place: Day One, which was just as wonderful as the first two Quiet Place movies. I'll try to write a review later today.

 

On Friday, we attended the retirement party of one of our oldest and dearest friends. We've known her and her husband since our days together in New Orleans in the 80's and have been together through every stage of life, so we enjoyed celebrating this latest milestone with her. 

Very early Saturday morning, my husband left on his annual road trip to his hometown in Oklahoma to play golf with his two closest high school friends for a week. He's really been looking forward to this (arrived last night--a much faster rate of travel than we can manage when I'm along!). As for me, I am thoroughly enjoying some quiet solitude. I got a lot done this weekend, cleared some clutter, and enjoyed some downtime. I have plans with several friends this week, and our son will be home (at least briefly) tonight.

__________

On the Blog

Fiction Review: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry - I loved this incredible epic adventure novel with so much emotional depth--I laughed, I cried, I thoroughly enjoyed every one of its 850 pages!

__________

On Video

Travel & Camping Vlog - Hickory Run State Park and Jim Thorpe, PA - photos and videos from our recent 5-day camping trip to this beautiful state park, including a visit to the historic town of Jim Thorpe and a ride on a scenic railroad.

Friday Reads 7-5-24 - my brief weekly update of what I am reading and listening to - a catch-up on 4 excellent books this week for #BigBookSummer Challenge.

__________

 What We're Reading

After finally finishing Lonesome Dove, I moved onto a "smaller" #BigBookSummer selection, The Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley. This is another book I've been wanting to read, after hearing so many rave reviews. Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Sault Saint Marie and has always felt pulled between two different worlds: her mother's white family with French origins and her father's indigenous family and community, which is a large part of the local region. She and her best friend, Lily, have just graduated from high school and are looking forward to starting at the local college in the fall. Daunis is also an outstanding hockey player, playing on the boys' team in high school, in this Canadian border town where hockey is king. However, all is not right in Daunis' world. Her uncle recently died, her grandmother had a stroke and is in a nursing home, and there is evidence all around that drugs--particularly meth--are having a devastating effect on her community. While Daunis and the local native culture are at the center of this novel, it also has mystery/thriller elements. I'm loving it so far.

 

Just last night, I finished my latest Big Book on audio, Mr. Nice Guy by Jennifer Miller and Jason Feifer, a wife-husband writing team. Lucas gave up law school, a fiancee (though technically, she gave him up), and his small southern town to chase his dream of living in the Big Apple. He got a job as a fact-checker at Empire, the glossy magazine that has long fed his visions of an exciting life in New York. One night, he meets an attractive woman named Carmen and goes home with her, feeling like his big city life is finally starting. But the next week, he discovers--as does the rest of the city--that he has actually slept with the Carmen Kelly, his own magazine's sex columnist, and she has written a scathing review of their night together that's gone viral, referring to him as Mr. Nice Guy and emphasizing his inexperience. Lucas writes a furious (and anonymous) rebuttal that the magazine also publishes, and suddenly, all anyone is talking about is their budding (and doomed?) relationship. It's fun and smart, with a he said-she said approach (in the audio, the authors each read their own character's columns), but it also had surprising emotional depth, addressed some difficult topics, and was about much more than sex. I really enjoyed it. Now I need to pick my next audio!

 

When my husband, Ken, left, he was reading Big Time by Ben H. Winters, one of our favorite authors who wrote The Last Policeman trilogy. This is a sci fi thriller about a dark conspiracy to harvest and sell people's time, extracted like organs for transplant. Sounds like an intriguing concept, and I know it must be gripping and fast-paced because Ken was already two-thirds of the way through the novel in less than a week. I doubt if he'll have much reading time this week!

 

Our son, 29, might be still reading book 2 of the Licanius Trilogy by James Islington, An Echo of Things to Come since he started a new job two weeks ago! He's enjoying this one, but he won't have a lot of reading time now. And I need to adjust to the fact that I can't text him for a reading update on Monday morning anymore because he's at work! I did talk to him several times last week but forgot to get a book update. He's loving the new job so far.

 __________

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?