Monday, August 21, 2017

It's Monday 8/21! What Are You Reading?

Attempting to write this post on Sunday night in a rare few minutes of quiet time because this week will be crazy here! My son and I will be on the road tomorrow, driving 90 minutes each way to see his Lyme doctor before college starts next week...and hopefully getting home in time to catch the best of the eclipse. Later this week, our family will be going on a quick vacation - 2 days camping in nearby Pennsylvania. That's all the vacation time we could squeeze out of our busy young adult sons this summer!

This past week was hectic, too, with my oldest son's 23rd birthday on Wednesday and all the rushed preparations for the start of school coming up.

Here's what we've been reading this week:
  • I finished reading Dust by Hugh Howey in record time...and never wanted it to end! It counts for my Big Book Summer Challenge and is the last book in the amazing Silo trilogy.  I absolutely loved book 1, Wool, and book 2, Shift, and was thrilled to finally get to book 3. My husband and I LOVE this series that is just so compelling and immersive! If you haven't read Wool yet, you must. And it;s best to read all three in a row (you will want to once you start).
  • I moved onto my next review book for Shelf Awareness which is...more fiction by Hugh Howey! Yay! I am reading Machine Learning, a collection of his short stories (including a few Silo stories). I'm only on the second story, but he is just such a great, imaginative writer. This book is due for release on October 3.
  • On audio, I finished listening to The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler, an adult novel about two boys who become friends at a Boy Scout Camp in the 1960's and the paths their lives and friendship take over the ensuing decades. The beginning chapters are about the boys at camp as young teens, then it jumps 30 years to them as adults, and then further forward to the son and grandson of one of them, in 2019, coming full circle back to the boy scout camp. It was very good.
  • Now, I have started Carve the Mark on audio, the latest YA novel by Veronica Roth. She is the author of the Divergent series, so I am trying to give this one a chance, though it's not really my cup of tea so far - a full-blown fantasy set in a different universe. Probably good but not my favorite kind of novel. If I read fantasy or sci fi, I prefer those set in our real world, with some fantasy or sci fi elements. I am having trouble keeping track of all the non-Earth names, places, flora & fauna, etc. on audio...but like I said, I am sticking with it for a few more chapters to see if it grows on me.
  • My husband, Ken, is now reading another of my review books, Leona: The Die Is Cast by Jenny Rogneby. This is a new Scandinavian thriller, which he usually enjoys, and he says it's good so far.
  • Jamie, 22, was reading The Wheel of Time series, book 4, The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan, the last time I checked. He will probably have plenty of reading time on our camping trip this week!
Last week's blog posts:
Movie Monday: The Circle - a star-studded drama about the dark side of technology

TV Tuesday: Gypsy - a psychologist gets too involved with her patients' lives

Fiction Review: Everybody's Son by Thrity Umrigar - drama about race, adoption & identity

Fiction Review: The Risen by Ron Rash - dark story about two brothers & how the past affects the present

Middle-Grade Review: A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold - a fun story about a boy with autism

Saturday Snapshot: Harry Potter Birthday Party

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.

What are you and your family reading this week?  

You can also follow me on Twitter at @SueBookByBook or on Facebook on my blog's page.

Remember if you are participating in my Big Book Summer Challenge to leave links to your reviews on the challenge page (the second links list is for reviews) to share them. We only have a few reviews linked up so far, and I know many of you have been reading your Big Books this summer!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday Snapshot: Harry Potter Birthday Party

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at West Metro Mommy Reads.

On Wednesday, we celebrated my oldest son's 23rd birthday (one of many reasons I still haven't visited last Saturday's posts!) with a quiet family dinner and his favorite banana cake. When our boys were younger, though, birthdays were an EVENT. We'd pull out all the stops and plan a party with food, favors, and games around whatever theme they each chose. We had all the usual themes, like pirates, knights, Pokemon, and dinosaurs. Our best party ever though, the one that friends and family still talk about, was my oldest son's 8th birthday (15 years ago!) when we planned a Harry Potter party and transformed our house into Hogwarts! Since this IS a book blog, I thought I'd share a few pics from that epic Harry Potter party:

The Professors gathered in the Great Hall at Hogwarts

Students visit Diagon Alley (our basement) & stop at Gringott's (that's me issuing gold coins!)

Olivander's Wand Shop, as students get measured for their wands
The students all ready for the sorting hat!
With Professor McGonagall (me!) in Arithomancy class

Professors Dumbledore, Snape, and McGonagall
Hagrid and Professor Trelawney (with their grandsons!)
Professor Snape conducts Potions class

Professor Trelawney in Divination

Madam Hooch coaches a Quidditch game!
As you can see, this was a group effort! Friends and family pitched in to fill in the Hogwarts staff, and I think we had as much fun as the kids. Great memories, now that these "kids" are all adults.

Hope you are enjoying a great weekend!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Middle-Grade Review: A Boy Called Bat

I recently listened to A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold on audio. It seems that she is a prolific and award-winning author of books for children and teens, though this is the first novel of hers that I have read. It’s the charming and moving story of a young boy with autism, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Bixby Alexander Tam is known as Bat. His initials spell BAT, but the nickname also fits because he is super-sensitive to noises, like a bat, and when he gets flustered or upset, he sometimes flaps his arms, which looks very bat-like, even though his classmates sometimes laugh at him for it. Bat lives with his big sister, Janie, and his mom, who is a veterinarian. He and Janie go to visit his father’s apartment every other weekend. Bat loves animals and vanilla yogurt (with no fruity lumps in it), and he likes sticking to a familiar routine. He doesn’t usually like surprises.

Today, though, his mom comes home with a very unusual surprise – a good kind of surprise. Someone dropped off a baby skunk at her office whose mother had been killed. Now, she and her staff are going to take care of the baby skunk for a month, until it is ready to be released back into the wild. Bat adores the baby skunk immediately, and decides that he must convince his mom that it would make a great pet, permanently. He sets out to learn all he can about skunks and even e-mails a skunk expert.

Although this novel deals with some serious issues – like autism and divorce – it does so with a light touch and a sense of humor, which is a great way to introduce these topics to kids. Bat may be different, but he is a very likeable character that most kids will relate to in some ways. He is mainstreamed at school, in a regular classroom, and although he has trouble making friends, a tentative friendship begins to form in this novel over some shared interests.

The story is told from Bat’s perspective, and I enjoyed the book on audio, with an excellent narrator. However, I see online that by listening to the audio, I missed out on some great line drawings in the book that also add to the story, so you can’t go wrong with either format. This is a fun, educational (I bet you don’t know much about skunks!), and engaging novel with short, easily digested chapters for young readers. It’s also the beginning of a new series, and I suspect Bat will have many fans eagerly awaiting his next adventure.

208 pages, Walden Pond Press

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.

To listen to a sample of the audio on Audible, click the Amazon link below:

A Boy Called Bat
by Elana K ArnoldHardcover

Or order from Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT:


Or purchase A Boy Called Bat from Book Depository.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fiction Review: The Risen

I’ve wanted to read a novel by acclaimed author Ron Rash for years, and I finally had a chance this summer. I listened to The Risen, his latest novel, on audio and was entranced by the dark, compelling story of two brothers in Appalachia and how the events of one summer changed their lives.

The novel begins in the summer of 1969 in the tiny rural town of Sylva, North Carolina. Eugene, sixteen, and his older brother, Bill, who is home from college, change into cut-offs and t-shirts after church on Sundays and drive their old pick-up out to Panther Creek to go fishing. They live with their mother and grandfather, a controlling man. They also both work for their grandfather, who is the town’s only doctor, so fishing in the creek is a nice escape for them.

One Sunday, Eugene sees a girl swimming in a pool downstream, so mysterious – and naked – that Bill teases him she must be a mermaid. She’s just a regular human, though she is beautiful and confident. Her name is Ligeia, and they get to know her over subsequent Sundays. Ligeia is from Florida and is staying with her aunt and uncle, the local minister, for the summer because she got in too much trouble at home. Wearing love beads (and not much else) when they first meet her, Ligeia brings the Summer of Love to these sheltered Appalachian boys and encourages them to bring her alcohol and other goodies, eventually coming between the brothers, until she just disappears, amid rumors she got on a bus back to Florida.

More than 30 years later, the brothers’ lives have turned out radically different. Bill did as his grandfather wanted and went to medical school to become a renowned surgeon. He’s happily married and lives a settled life. Eugene has transformed from those first innocent drinks of beer at the creek into a full-blown alcoholic. He tried to follow his dreams and become a writer, but now he mostly just sits alone in his house and drinks. One morning, severely hung-over, Eugene spots an article in the newspaper about a recent discovery that wakes him up with a shock and takes him back to those long-ago summer Sundays at the creek.

The novel moves back and forth from the summer of 1969 to the present day, with Eugene narrating. New discoveries by local police have brought back memories of those days by the creek and of spending time with Ligeia. As Eugene remembers that summer and relives those formative days, he becomes more and more convinced that something happened back then that he didn’t know about it. He drives back and forth to visit his brother (even calling him out of surgery) to try to uncover the truth, all while the police are visiting him to find out what he knows.

This is a completely unique novel that blends a coming-of-age story, family drama, and suspense. The past and the present come closer and closer together as Eugene remembers that summer and strives to stay sober long enough to learn the truth. The sunshine, innocence, and first love of that long ago summer contrast with the depressing reality of his life today. Eugene is an engaging narrator, and the novel is compelling on audio, feeling as if Eugene himself is telling you his story. It’s a dark tale that delves into human nature, family, and ethics, but the tension of its central mystery of what happened to Ligeia all those years ago pulls it along at a fast pace. I definitely want to go back and read some of Rash’s earlier novels now.

272 pages, Ecco (an imprint of HarperCollins)

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

You can listen to a free sample of the audio book on Audible at the Amazon link below:

Risen A Novel
by Ron RashHardcover

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Fiction Review: Everybody's Son

Way back in May, I mentioned I was reading Everybody's Son by Thrity Umrigar, to review for Shelf Awareness. My review was recently published - you can read the full review on Shelf Awareness.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel by an author I greatly admire.  I loved her novel, The Space Between Us, back in 2009, as did all of my book group. That novel was about class differences and clashes in India. Her latest novel, Everybody's Son, is about class differences here in the US, as well as racism, family, and adoption.

The novel was compelling and engaging, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes fictional family dramas, especially those that explore issues of race and identity in our modern world. Check out my full review.

Have you read any novels by Thrity Umrigar? Any that you would especially recommend? I missed a bunch of them in between these two, so I would like to go back and read more!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

TV Tuesday: Gypsy

Another TV show my husband and I have been enjoying this summer on Netflix is Gypsy, an original drama about a therapist who gets too involved in her patients' lives. It's intriguing, with a slightly dark and creepy feel to it that leaves you constantly wondering what's going to happen next.

Naomi Watts plays Jean, a wife and mother who works as a therapist and seems to have a good life. She and her husband, Michael, played by Billy Crudup, live in a large and lovely suburban home with their daughter, Dolly, who is struggling with some gender issues (well, she's not struggling - she thinks of herself as a boy and is happy that way, but everyone around her is struggling with it!). Jean commutes into NYC on the train and works as a therapist, in private practice but consulting with a small group of other therapists. Michael also works in the city as a lawyer, and he and Jean seem to have a decent relationship.

What Michael doesn't know is that Jean makes a habit of lying and sneaking around and getting WAY too involved in her patients' lives. In the first episode, we see her meet with her patient, Sam, a youngish man who is having trouble getting over his ex-girlfriend, Sidney. He mentions that Sidney is a barista at a nearby coffee shop, and soon Jean is hanging out at the coffee shop, introducing herself to Sidney as Diane and befriending her, though it seems that Sidney may be interested in "Diane" as more than just as a friend. Remember, this is Jean's patient's ex-girlfriend! Another patient, Claire, played by Brenda Vacarro, is estranged from her grown daughter, and before long, Jean is seeking out the daughter to see their relationship from her perspective. She just can't seem to stop from inserting herself - secretly - into her patients' lives. Interestingly, Jean actually seems like a decent therapist - caring, thoughtful, and often helpful - though you know her creepy habits can't end well.

As Jean follows various people or meets up with Sidney or Claire's daughter or other people related to patients, she has to keep lying to her husband, her friends, and her co-workers to cover her tracks. In Sidney's case, since Jean is kind of attracted to the younger woman and enjoys stepping into her alter ego, Diane, that she created, these lies and secret running around (often in the middle of the night) become more and more convoluted.

Gypsy (Stevie Nicks recorded an acoustic version of the iconic song for the show's theme) has an unusual tone. It's a drama - sometimes about Jean and her family, sometimes about her patients - but it has a dark, slightly creepy undertone. The more that Jean lies and the more deeply she gets involved with her (unwitting) patients' lives, the more tension builds, as it seems inevitable that she will get caught out sooner or later. Sometimes, what she's doing seems downright dangerous, as with Sidney's alluring and manipulative advances, or visiting a patient who lives in a bad part of town with an abusive boyfriend. So, although I wouldn't call it a thriller, there is a growing feeling of suspense and dread. You want to keep watching to find out what happens, even as you feel an urge to cover your eyes or yell at Jean to watch out! Naomi Watts is brilliant as Jean, switching to these different personas she adopts when she's pretending to be someone else and capturing Jean's underlying feelings of discontent beneath her normal-seeming exterior.

We have watched six of Gypsy's ten episodes in its first season. As a Netflix original show, it is available exclusively on Netflix.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Movie Monday: The Circle

We've really been on a movie roll lately, seeing so many movies I can barely keep up with reviews! We kind of go in streaks, depending on how many good TV shows are on at the time - late summer is always a lull. Our college-aged son was home sick last week, so to cheer him up, we rented a movie Saturday night that we've all been wanting to see: The Circle, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. We all enjoyed this creepy movie about social media gone mad, based on a Dave Eggers novel by the same name.

Emma Watson plays Mae, a young twenty-something woman who is very sweet and a bit shy and devoted to her family. Her dad, played by Bill Paxton, has MS; her mom, played by Glenne Headley, takes care of him as his disease progresses; and Mae lives at home so she can help, too. At the start of the movie, Mae is working as an anonymous customer service rep in a dead-end job, until her best friend, Annie, suggests she apply for a job at The Circle, the huge tech/social media company where she works. Mae gets the job, and her life begins to change dramatically.

The sprawling campus of The Circle is similar to what I have heard the main headquarters for Google and Facebook are like, with employees using bikes in between buildings, beautiful landscaping, and all kinds of extras for employees, like parks and amphitheaters and play areas. Although she is still in customer service, Mae's job is much different, too, with constant electronic monitoring and a spiffy grading system that gives her instantaneous feedback on her performance. Her co-workers are also very different - pleasant and welcoming, encouraging Mae to stop going home on the weekends and spend more time at The Circle in her off-hours, too. There are parties and live bands and more right there on campus.

Soon, Mae is swept up in life at The Circle and keeping in touch with her parents only through video chats. Her childhood friend, Mercer, doesn't approve of her new job or lifestyle - he prefers the simple, unconnected life. Mae is impressed when she meets the head of the company, Eamon Bailey, played by Tom Hanks, though she is beginning to get an inkling that all of this connectedness might have a downside. When Bailey asks her to take part in a social media experiment, though, and offers to include her parents and add them to the very generous company health plan, Mae is all in. As you might guess, things don't go quite as planned as the openness and connections the company touts are taken to new heights.

We all enjoyed this taut drama. It's suspenseful - not in a horror-story way but in a I-know-this-won't-turn-out-well way that makes it very compelling. Besides the growing tension, it is also an intelligent and thoughtful look at our own modern society and how our craze for sharing our lives 24/7 could easily get out of hand. Issues of privacy, ethics, and freedom are explored. And of course, the cast is excellent, especially Watson and Hanks. The Circle is a cautionary tale that is highly entertaining.

The Circle is now out on DVD and available to stream on Amazon, starting at $4.99.


It's Monday 8/14! What Are You Reading?

Another very busy week here! I am counting the days until school starts again when things will slow down a bit from this summer rush (when your kids are in college the school year is a slower time, as opposed to when the kids were younger). Last week was a big one here because we hosted a potluck dinner for our local chronic illness support group. I know that probably sounds like a pretty boring party, a bunch of sick people, but it's not. It's a wonderful group of very warm and supportive people (with both sick "kids" and sick adults) who have all become good friends - we are about 50% social and about 50% support when we get together. They're my people! So, I was worried about how I'd manage a big gathering, especially on a weekday, but it went well and my husband and sons helped a lot.

This week's big event is my oldest son's 23rd birthday, so another big dinner (and cake) on Wednesday this week. Next week, we get our big 2-day vacation with our sons!

In the midst of this flurry of activity, we always find time for our books:
  • I finished reading my latest review book for Shelf Awareness, The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott. I was thrilled to get it for review because I have never read anything by this award-winning author before. It's a multi-generational story set in Brooklyn, involving two families and a local convent. It was excellent - I can see why McDermott is such an acclaimed writer. It ended too soon, and I was sorry to leave the characters.
  • BUT, finishing my review book meant that I could get back to my Big Book Summer Challenge and the amazing Silo trilogy by Hugh Howey! I first re-read the endings of book 1, Wool, and book 2, Shift, and then happily dove into book 3, Dust. This series is just so compelling and immersive!
  • On audio, I am still listening to The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler, an adult novel about two boys who become friends at a Boy Scout Camp in the 1960's and the paths their lives and friendship take over the ensuing decades. I heard good things about this novel when it first came out, so I am glad to have a chance to listen to it now. It's good so far; the beginning chapters are about the boys at camp as young teens, then it jumps 30 years to them as adults, and now one of the men's sons is a main character, in 2019. I'm enjoying it.
  • My husband, Ken, is now reading another of my review books, Leona: The Die Is Cast by Jenny Rogneby. This is a new Scandinavian thriller, which he usually enjoys. I think he read another book during the week, but I'm not sure what it was, and he's not home to ask!
  • Jamie, 22, is back to The Wheel of Time series and is reading book 4, The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan. His birthday is next week, so there may be more books in his future!
Last week's blog posts:
Movie Monday: War for the Planet of the Apes - an exciting & poignant conclusion

TV Tuesday: The Bold Type - new show about 3 young women in publishing

Memoir Review: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai- moving, powerful story of a young girl speaking out for education

Teen/YA Review: Exo by Fonda Lee - classic sci fi adventure

Saturday Snapshot: Road Trip 10 Years Ago - great pics from an epic trip cross country!

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.

What are you and your family reading this week?  

You can also follow me on Twitter at @SueBookByBook or on Facebook on my blog's page.

Remember if you are participating in my Big Book Summer Challenge to leave links to your reviews on the challenge page (the second links list is for reviews) to share them. We only have a few reviews linked up so far, and I know many of you have been reading your Big Books this summer!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday Snapshot: Road Trip 10 Years Ago

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at West Metro Mommy Reads.

So, I haven't had any opportunities to take photos, travel, or even get out into nature much in the past few weeks - our life has been packed full of doctor's appts (before school starts), sons coming in and out, hosting a dinner for our local chronic illness support group, and my son and I both going to PT (which takes up a LOT of time!).

I am really missing our traditional family summer road trips, where we would spend three weeks driving all over the country and visiting amazing places! Our sons, now 19 and 23, just don't have the time for that anymore - in fact, our family "vacation" this summer is 2 days next week - a Tues & Wed!!. So, for today's Saturday Snapshot, I decided to reminisce and look back at our annual road trip from 2007, ten years ago. That was a good choice because this was one of our epic road trips that included some incredible places!

Blackrock Summit at Dusk - Shenandoah National Park

My sons and I on top of Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah

My son touching a waterfall in Great Smoky Mtn National Park

The TN/NC state line up high in the Smokies

Best part of camping in the Smokies: tubing down the river!

Stopped at Graceland on our way through Memphis

Canoe Camping on the Buffalo National River in Arkansas

Buffalo National River, AR - Beautiful!

Our own private campsite on a sandbar - Buffalo Natl River, AR

My sons found a turtle while canoeing!

I miss our road trips!!

Hope you are enjoying a great weekend!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Teen/YA Review: Exo

During a couple of road trips this summer, my husband and I enjoyed listening to a YA novel, Exo by Fonda Lee, on audio. Exo is a classic sci fi adventure, fast-paced and suspenseful.

As the novel opens, it’s been 100 mostly peaceful years since Earth became a colony of an alien race called the zhree, after a period now known as the War Era. Since then, the aliens have ruled the planet, based out of various “Ring Belts,” large urban areas centered around strategic points on Earth. Some humans have accepted their position in this new world, working collaboratively with the aliens. Not everyone is so accepting, though, and rebels who call themselves Sapience still fight against the aliens’ rule.

Donovan Reyes is not one of those rebels. His father holds the lofty position of Prime Liaison within the alien government, and Donovan has been groomed to also hold a respected position one day. At the tender age of five, Donovan’s father had him hardened, imbedded with alien technology that provides armor, called an exocel, built into his human body. Now seventeen, Donovan works in the security force as a soldier/police officer, keeping the peace and looking for Sapience rebels.

Out on patrol one day, Donovan and his partner and friend, Jet, come across some rebel propaganda and get a lead on a home where Sapience are said to gather. Something goes terribly wrong in the ensuing fight, though, and the rebels actually capture and kidnap Donovan. Hours later, when they discover he is the Prime Liaison’s own son, they figure they have a key bargaining chip, but the cold leader says he will not negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son’s life.

That’s the basic set-up in the beginning of the novel, but this story is filled with unexpected twists and turns around every corner, and the conflict between the Sapience and the ruling class of zhree and humans is complicated, both strategically and morally.  In this way, the story reminded us a bit of the TV show Colony (which we love), though the details of the plot and setting are entirely original. The specifics of the alien technology are fascinating, but the ethical questions are very human and relevant to our own world. There is plenty of action and tension in this sci fi thriller that wraps up the main story but leaves plenty of questions still to be answered in a sequel.

384 pages, Scholastic

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

You can listen to a sample of the audio from Audible at the Amazon link below:

by Timothy Francis LearyHardcover

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Memoir Review: I Am Malala

I have wanted to read the memoir I Am Malala: the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by MalalaYousafzai (with Christina Lamb) ever since its publication in 2013. It’s the story that was reported around the world, of a young girl’s courage in the face of terrifying events.

The book begins in the middle of the story, at its most horrifying point, when Malala, an intelligent and innocent young girl, was shot in the face by the Taliban. She was a young teenager on October 9, 2012, riding home in the school bus with her friends. A masked man forced the bus to stop, asked which one was Malala, and shot her in the left eye. As she slumped forward with that first shot, he continued to fire, hitting two of Malala’s classmates as well.

After that disturbing opening scene in the Prologue, the memoir then goes back to the beginning, as Malala describes her home in the beautiful Swat Valley of Pakistan, her family, and her happy childhood. Her beloved father started a school before she was born, so she grew up in schools, even before she was old enough to attend herself. She has two younger brothers and loving, thoughtful parents. She explains the central role that Islam played in her early years: the real Islam, not the twisted version we hear about from terrorists on the news.

Malala inherited her father’s love and value for education. She loved to read from an early age and was an excellent student. As the Taliban began to take over her formerly peaceful valley and enforce their own version of law, including bombing schools and barring girls from going to school, Malala just naturally joined her father in his impassioned speeches on the value of education. Eventually (though not nearly soon enough), the Pakistan military began fighting back against the Taliban, and their beloved home became a war zone.

In this BBC story from 2009, Malala is only 11 years old, but she appears with her father, speaking out for education, especially for girls, on the eve before their school is forced to shut down by the Taliban.

Soon after this news piece appeared, the BBC began to feature an anonymous diary, written by Malala, and her career as a public advocate for education was officially launched.

I was fascinated – and horrified – by Malala’s story and this compelling memoir. This little girl is so full of life and a love for education, and so similar to millions of other innocent little girls all over the world, and yet she had to endure so much just to go to school. You can see in that BBC video clip that she is just like your own daughters, nieces, and granddaughters – giggling with her friends, carrying her Harry Potter backpack, and pretending to be Twilight vampires with her friends as she entered her teen years.

Hearing this shocking story told directly from such an innocent and earnest young voice is particularly moving. Her family endured extensive horrors – daily bombings, constant and gruesome violence, even being forced from their homes as refugees – and still had to suffer through Malala’s shooting, extensive surgeries and lengthy hospitalization, and her long road to recovery in England, where they are finally safe. Despite having a co-author, the writing in the memoir is not perfect, but that is hardly the point. I Am Malala is a stunning story, told directly by an intelligent and articulate young girl, of a bravery almost beyond comprehension. Malala’s innocent and poignant words are so important in our world today, shedding much-needed light on a part of the world that most of us don’t understand. I am glad to have finally read this amazing memoir, and I can’t wait to see what Malala does in the future.

313 pages, Little, Brown and Company 

NOTE: The book has two sets of photos in it, of Malala and her family and her school, as well as news photos from the time, that I found endlessly fascinating.

There is also a Young Reader's version of this memoir, which would be wonderful for middle-grade and young teen 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.

A documentary has also been made about Malala's story, available for streaming through Amazon, starting at $2.99:

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

TV Tuesday: The Bold Type

My son was home sick for about a week, so he and I reverted back to old habits - a paleo chocolate smoothie and an NCIS episode for lunch (and sometimes an extra Bob's Burgers episode if we're feeling wild). He went back to his apartment Sunday night, and I went back to my latest lunchtime girl-centric obsession: The Bold Type, a new show about three young career girls working for a fashion magazine, inspired by the life of Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief, Joanna Coles.

The magazine on the show is called Scarlet, but it's clear it is based on Cosmo, with a focus on modern, independent young women, with lots of flash and a reputation for plenty of sex. On the show, the editor-in-chief is the supremely confident, always fashionable Jacqueline Carlyle, played by Melora Hardin who played Jan on The Office. The show focuses mainly on three young women in their early 20's, just starting out in their adult lives and their careers.

Jane, played by Katie Stevens (who was apparently on season 9 of American Idol), is a staff writer at Scarlet. She's only recently been promoted to this position, and she desperately wants to be taken seriously as a writer, but she's worried she will get pigeon-holed into writing only about sex or fashion at Scarlet. No such luck yet for Sutton, played by Meghann Fahy, who is still toiling away as a lowly assistant, fetching nonstop green juices for a grumpy, demanding senior editor. Sutton has always dreamed of working in fashion, but she comes from moderate means and doesn't have the credentials. She's also secretly dating Richard, a young man who works in the corporate offices of the magazine's parent company. Kat, played by Aisha Dee, rounds out the trio. Kat has worked for Scarlet for the past couple of years as their social media coordinator, wrangling Instagram, Twitter, and the other platforms to help keep Scarlet's readers engaged.

These three bright, ambitious young woman are trying their best to move forward in their careers, while dealing with all the usual drama of the early 20's. I've found it refreshing that these characters are all well-rounded, complex, and interesting - no worn-out stereotypes here. They are also - the three main characters as well as their high-powered boss - all intelligent and ambitious without being portrayed as bitches. Hallelujah! In fact, they're all kind as well as smart. It's about time. The young actresses perfectly capture the conflict of trying to appear confident and bold when you are actually very unsure of yourself on the inside.

In addition, the show deals with some important and engaging topics. Yes, there is plenty of frank sex talk - this is, after all, meant to be Cosmo - but the show tackles a lot more than that, too. And even its sex-related topics are things that aren't usually discussed openly, like when Jane is assigned to write the monthly sex column on how to have the best orgasm, and she confides to her friends that she's never had one. Recent episodes have dealt with online bullying and shaming, racial profiling, and sexual identity.

I've watched four episodes so far (#6 airs tonight), and I'm enjoying it very much. It's full of life, joy, and love but also deals with serious issues. I also like the behind-the-scenes view of working for a big magazine (as both a writer myself and a lover of magazines). It's kind of like a modern version of Good Girls Revolt (a fabulous show on Amazon set in 1969), and it's exciting to see smart, young women getting these kinds of roles for younger girls to watch on TV and emulate. I suppose this show is probably aimed at a younger audience, but I am in my 50's and I'm enjoying it!

The Bold Type is currently airing on Freeform (formerly ABC Family), so you can watch it On Demand or you can find all episodes (free) on the Freeform website. It is also available through Amazon, for $1.99 an episode or $16.99 for the season (link below).

Monday, August 07, 2017

Movie Monday: War for the Planet of the Apes

Last week, my husband and I had a real date night treat: dinner out and a movie in the theater! Even better, we went to a theater that's been newly refurbished in our area that our son told us had real recliners. So amazing!! These theaters have been refitted with FULL recliners - the foot rests go all the way up, the backs lean back - ahhhh! Almost like being at home. For someone like me - very short and can't sit for long with my legs down due to medical problems with blood pressure & heart rate - this is a game-changer! I've been frustrated lately because lots of theaters are putting in new seats around here, but they are using huge seats with high seat backs and extra leg room. I'm too small to lean back comfortably in these giant seats, the way my husband does, and the wider space between aisles and high seat backs means I can't usually put my feet up anymore, either. I LOVED the new recliner theater and may not ever go anywhere else!

Oh, and the movie was good, too! I almost forgot, in my ecstasy over the recliners. We saw The War for the Planet of the Apes, the third and final prequel to the original Planet of the Apes movie (1968). My husband and I were big fans of the original movie, and our whole family has enjoyed these prequels. This one was just as good as its predecessors. If you haven't seen those yet, I highly recommend you go back and start at the beginning, with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

The War for the Planet of the Apes picks up where the last movie left off, with Caesar (the original intelligent chimpanzee who started this whole revolt) and his followers ensconced in the forest, trying to stay protected from the human armies that are trying to find them. Caesar has maintained his focus on peace (though the humans don't seem interested in that goal) and only fighting to defend themselves, never to attack the humans offensively. That all changes when a defector leads the human armies to the apes' secret cave hideouts, and Caesar (and many others) suffers a horrific loss. Once the humans have been fought off, Caesar knows that his first priority must be to get the remaining members of his group to safety and find a new hiding spot, but he is personally bent on revenge now as well.

Caesar sends the community on a journey to a new safe place they've heard about, while he and a few loyal followers head off in another direction, tracking the human army - and especially a ruthless man known as The Colonel, played by Woody Harrelson. Along the way, they pick up a deaf human girl, whom they name Nova, played wonderfully by Amiah Miller, and another ape who can talk, who thinks his name is Bad Ape because he grew up in a zoo and is voiced hilariously by Steve Zahn. The small group makes their way through snowy mountains until they find the abandoned armory (that was later used as a quarantine facility) to face off against The Colonel. The humans have plenty of high-powered weapons at their disposal here, though, so the odds are against the apes...but hey, all of this is leading to The Planet of the Apes, so we know how it ends, right?

Like the previous two prequels, this movie was filled with action and suspense that kept us glued to the screen (that and those wonderful recliners). Also like its predecessors, this film is also filled with warmth, poignancy, and plenty of humor, which is why I enjoy these movies so much. Ironically, there is plenty of human drama among the primates. Since this is the last prequel, it was also fun drawing the lines between this movie and what we know happens in The Planet of the Apes. For instance, when the group names the little girl Nova, I remembered there was a human female in the original movie named Nova. We both enjoyed this latest addition to the saga very much. Now, we are thinking of watching the 2001 remake of The Planet of the Apes, to come full-circle (and since neither of us has seen the remake yet).

The War of the Planet of the Apes is now playing in theaters. You can purchase tickets ahead of time through Fandango - Know Before You Go! Buy Movie Tickets in Advance. (look for a recliner theater near you!). The first two prequels, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (both highly recommended) are available for streaming through Amazon, starting at $2.99 or on DVD through Netflix or Amazon.

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.

First two links below are for streaming, starting at $2.99 each (regardless of what price the link shows) and the last three links are for inexpensive DVDs: