Saturday, April 14, 2018

Fiction Review: Speak No Evil

I recently reviewed the novel Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala for the Shelf Awareness website. You can read my full review of this powerful, moving novel at this link.

Uzodinma Iweala is the author of the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation (made into a Netflix film), which I've heard of but haven't read (or seen). Now that I've seen what a talented writer he is, I want to go back and read his earlier work.

Speak No Evil is a short but compelling story of two high school friends at a prestigious private high school in Washington, DC. Niru was raised by strict and religious Nigerian parents. He's the school's top track star and has already been accepted to Harvard medical school, but when he finally admits - to himself and his parents - that he's gay, his life falls apart. Meredith, his best friend, encourages him to follow his heart and his true nature, bit there are serious consequences to that path. This novel is a heartbreaking personal story about the two friends, but it also delves into important issues involving race, sexual orientation, religion, and immigration. It's a big story in a small package, and I was captivated by it.

Check out my full review at Shelf Awareness.

I'm curious about Uzodinma Iweala's earlier novels - have you read any of them?

Books Read in March

Yes, this is what March looked like here this year!
Oh, yeah, look at me! Summarizing last month, and it's only the 13th! Woohoo! Don't worry - I will get behind again soon when I go on vacation for a week. For now, I will bask in the glow of accomplishment.

March was an excellent reading month for me, with a bunch of review books and the beginning of my reading for Booktopia Vermont 2018 - just a few weeks to go! Here's what I finished reading in March:
  • We Own the Sky by Luke Allnut (UK) - adult fiction, reviewed for Shelf Awareness
  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (Canada) - adult historical fiction
  • Freakling by Lana Krumweide - middle-grade/teen fiction on audio

  • The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel (CO) - adult fiction, reviewed for Shelf Awareness
  • Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy (MS) - teen/YA fiction on audio
  • My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley (MA) - adult fiction, reviewed for Shelf Awareness

I finished seven books in all in March, all fiction, but a nice mix of ages and genres and types. I finished two audio books (my listening had been kind of slow this year before this). Notice that three of the books I read are for review for Shelf Awareness - that's unusual. I normally just review one book a month for them, but The Optimistic Decade and My Ex-Life were special add-ons because I also interviewed the authors and will be meeting them both in person at Booktopia next month! I will link to my reviews and the author interviews when they are published on Shelf Awareness. Alas, that is probably the real reason why I was ready for my monthly summary so much earlier than usual - fewer blog posts to write! I enjoyed all of these books - some very much - but Ramona Blue really stole my heart. I fell in love with the novel and with its protagonist.

Progress in 2018 Reading Challenges:
This is my favorite part of my monthly summary - updating my Reading Challenges, though I didn't make much progress this month. With all those review books, I read only 1 book from my own shelves for my Mount TBR Reading Challenge, bringing my first quarter total to only 8. Since my annual goal this year is 36, I have a long way to go! For the Monthly Motif Reading Challenge, March was Travel the World, so Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood fit, with both a Canadian setting and author. Nothing new for the Back to the Classics Challenge or the 2018 Badass Books Challenge (not very badass of me)I added Canada and another UK for my Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge. For my 2018 Literary Escapes Challenge, I added three new states - CO, MA, and MS.
Finally, Bookish Bingo hosted by Chapter Break - not really a challenge per se, but a fun game that I play each month. I filled in 19 squares in March: 

Spaces filled in:
We Own the Sky - pastel colors on the cover, luck - good or bad, wedding, made you cry
Alias Grace - dual POV, historical, shelf love (TBR), woman on the cover
Freakling - in a series, audio book
The Optimistic Decade - read a physical book
Ramona Blue - LGBTQ, bad weather, young adult, empowered female
My Ex-Life - free book, secrets
Graveyard Shakes - magic

Free Space

What was your favorite book read in March?    

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Fiction Review: Before We Were Yours

I just finished reading the best-selling novel Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, and I couldn't wait to tell you about it. This truth-is-stranger-than-fiction novel grabbed me by the heart and never let me go. In fact, as soon as I finished it, I looked up more information online about the true story behind the fiction.

Twelve year-old Rill lives with her three younger sisters and two-year old brother on a shanty boat in the Mississippi River with her mother and father, affectionately known to all the kids as Queenie and Briny. They don't have much, but they all love each other very much, and the river provides for them, even during the depths of the Depression. When Queenie goes into labor for her twins too early and Briny has to take her in the johnboat across the river to Memphis to a hospital, Rill is left in charge of her siblings. Everything is going fine until police and other strangers arrive where they are tied to shore and cart all the children off to one of the orphanages of the Tennessee Children's Home Society. Amidst abuse and mistreatment, Rill tries to protect her younger siblings and keep their family together.

In the present day, a young lawyer named Avery Stafford has returned to her family home in South Carolina. Her father, a powerful Senator, is fighting cancer, though that fact is being kept from the public. Avery is there to help care for her father and also to prepare to possibly step into his role if needed, to keep their family's political dynasty alive. While there, Avery meets someone by chance who makes her begin to wonder if her family might have some long-kept secrets. Worried there might be a hidden scandal that could harm the Staffords, she begins to investigate, never guessing where her inquiries will lead.

In the early chapters of this novel, as I read about Rill and her siblings being illegally torn away from their parents and put up for adoption, I thought to myself, "This is just too horrifying - it's not realistic." So imagine my shock when I found out that part of the novel was actually based on the real-life story of Georgia Tann, director of the Tennessee Children's Home Society, who stole children from poor families and sold them for outrageous sums to wealthy parents desperate for children from the 1920's through the 1940's. That makes this novel all the more gripping and stunning. The story pieces together Rill's story bit by bit, with action moving from the past to the present, weaving together disparate threads until they finally come together.

Almost every member of our book group enjoyed this novel, and we had a good discussion about it last night, much of it focused on the real-life story behind the novel. Even though you kind of have the gist of the story from the beginning (it is, after all, based on real history), most of the characters in the novel are fictional, and some of the connections between past and present are only revealed toward the end of the book. Most of us were captivated by the story and characters. Overall, our group rated the novel 7.6 out of 10 (which is high for us) and several people (including me) rated it a 9. This gripping, moving story about a little-known historical horror kept me glued to the book, until I finished it in record time.

352 pages, Ballantine Books

For more information on the real-life scandal the novel is based on, watch this 60 Minutes segment on Georgia Tann, which aired in 1992:

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 audio here (I think this would be great on audio).

Buy Before We Were Yours from an Indie bookstore:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Or order Before We Were Yours from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

My First Shelf Awareness Column: Spring Has Sprung!

I just wanted to share with you one of my new freelance writing jobs: writing From My Shelf columns for Shelf Awareness' twice-weekly newsletter. So far, I have been writing about two columns each month, so these will be appearing regularly.

My first column, Spring Has Sprung, was published in the April 6 issue - you can read it at the link. It's a round-up of five different books (both fiction and memoir) related to spring to put you in the mood for this season of renewal and hope!

I really enjoy writing these kinds of columns where I can share a bunch of my favorite books on a related topic. I previously wrote a monthly book column like this for Vital! magazine.

I won't post every column I write here on the blog, but you can sign up for the Shelf Awareness newsletter yourself (see the sidebar at the link), and I will also post my columns on Facebook and Twitter.  I have also begun writing author interviews for Shelf Awareness, which I am loving so far! It's like having my own private book group meeting with an author after reading his or her book. The first of those will be published in May.

Hope you are enjoying spring! Word is that it might finally warm up above the 40's here today!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Movie Monday: Ready Player One

We enjoyed a rare treat this weekend: we got both of our college sons, my father-in-law, and my husband and I together for dinner! We met at a restaurant in our sons' college town. After dinner, my husband, our older son, and I walked to the movie theater (our favorite recliner theater) to see the much-anticipated Ready Player One. The three of us all read the novel (my review at the link) when it first came out, passing the book around the house with "you have to read this!" so we have all been excited to finally see the movie adaptation. Of course, the book is always better, but all three of us thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

Tye Sheridan plays Wade, a seventeen-year old boy in 2045 who lives in "the stacks," a huge trailer park outside of Columbus, OH, with beaten-up trailers literally stacked up on top of each other (we're not sure why they added one year to the date or changed the location from Oklahoma for the movie - that's Hollywood, right?). In this near-future world, life has become so challenging that people spend most of their time in the OASIS, an online virtual world created by multi-millionaire programmer James Halliday. When Halliday died, he hid an Easter egg (a secret hidden in a video game) in OASIS, accessible only with three hidden keys. Whoever finds the egg first will inherit not only Halliday's wealth but also his ownership of the OASIS.

It's been five years since Halliday's death, and no one has found even the first key yet. Some people have lost interest, but Wade, or Parzival as his avatar is called in the OASIS, is still looking. It's common knowledge that Halliday was obsessed with 80's pop culture, from his own youth, so Wade has become an expert not only on Halliday's history but also 80's music, movies, TV shows, and video games. His best friends in OASIS (whom he's never met in person) are Art3mis, played by Olivia Cooke, and Aech, played by Lena Waithe of Master of None fame. The three of them, along with a couple of other friends, work together after Parzival finds the first key and eventually meet in the real world. Of course, there are bad guys here to fight against - an evil corporation that wants to control OASIS so they can add advertising and monetize it.

This is a fun, rollercoaster ride of a virtual adventure! Watching it unfold on the big screen was a very different experience than reading the book but just as captivating. Here, many of the 80's pop culture references are visual and auditory, so you have to watch and listen carefully (I think I would probably pick up on a lot more references watching it a second time), but it has that same fun feel to it, with a mix of retro and futuristic. The scene that takes place within the world of The Shining was one of our favorites! Although half (or more) of the story takes place in virtual reality, you don't have to be a video game fiend to enjoy it - it's just a suspenseful mystery adventure in a different kind of visual environment. Of course, we liked the book better (isn't that almost always the case?), but all three of us thoroughly enjoyed the movie and left the theater with big smiles on our faces.

Ready Player One is currently in theaters - look for a recliner theater near you!  It is due for DVD and streaming (Amazon) release in July 2018. Or if you'd prefer, you can read the book first (it was my favorite book read in all of 2012!)

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 4/9! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday! It started out cold and dreary here, but now the sun is out, and the temperature is supposed to creep slowly upward this week. I can't take much more winter weather - it's APRIL!

We had a good week here - busy but fun, too. We met up with our sons and their Grandad this weekend for dinner in a restaurant in their college town (they are close to home), so it was great to have all five of us together for a change. Afterward, my husband and I and our older son all went to see Ready Player One - the three of us all devoured (and loved) the book, so we've been excited for the movie to come out, and it met our expectations! I will try to post a movie review later today.

My husband is on a business trip this week, so I am planning to get a lot of stuff done, both writing and around the house. Of course, I always plan on that when I am alone and somehow the time just flies by, and I don't get half of what I wanted done. I think that's a problem with my expectations, not my productivity!

Here's what we've all been reading this week:
  • I finished another novel in preparation for Booktopia in May: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. It starts with four young siblings in 1969 who visit a fortune teller who tells them each the date they will die. The rest of the novel is in four sections, each following one of the siblings. It's a bit dark, since you know each section will end with a character dying! But it's also engrossing and well-written, and I enjoyed it.
  • Now, I am reading a novel for my neighborhood book group this week - I better hurry if I want to finish it by Wednesday. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a new release that must be pretty popular because when I tried to reserve it through our state library system, I was #360 on the wait list! Luckily, one of my neighbors had already finished her copy, so I am about a third of the way through now. I just discovered that its premise is based in real life - an illegal adoption ring in Tennessee in the 1930's and 40's that stole poor children from their families and arranged expensive adoptions. How have I never heard of this before? The novel, which tells the story from several perspectives (including the children involved), moving back and forth through time, is captivating so far.
  • On audio, I finished She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper in record time! I started it Monday and was finished by Thursday. It's a 2017 release about an 11-year old girl named Polly who must go on the run with her scary ex-convict father because a gang from prison is intent on killing them both. It was SO GOOD! Dark, yes, but also warm and funny. I gobbled it up and fell in love with Polly and her teddy bear, who is a full-fledged character in the book.
  • I just started a new audiobook today, Refugee by Alan Gratz, which follows the lives of 3 refugee children from different times in history: a Jew escaping Germany in the 1930's, a Cuban seeking refuge from poverty in the 1990's, and a Syrian caught in the midst of war in 2015. I have loved the other Gratz novels I've read - Code of Honor and Projekt 1065 - so I am looking forward to this one.
  • My husband, Ken, finished his sci fi classic series re-read, Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov, which was the second book published in the Foundation series in 1952. He enjoyed Foundation and is looking forward to re-reading the rest of the books in the series. I'm not sure what he is reading next, but I know he had several books on his Kindle for traveling.
  • Our son, Jamie, 23, is still reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. He is on book 7, A Crown of Swords. He loves this epic fantasy series.
Last week's blog posts:
TV Tuesday: The Resident - a new medical drama starring Matt Czuchry

Fiction Review: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood - historical fiction based on a true story

Middle-Grade Review: Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry - spooky graphic novel

Teen/YA Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy - LOVED it!!

Saturday Snapshot: A Late Spring - still cold but finally a few blooms!

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

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Saturday Snapshot: A Late Spring

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

Spring is very late here in the Mid-Atlantic this year. We had a fairly cold, wet week, and some snowflakes are predicted for today! It feels like spring will never arrive, but we are seeing some first blooms now (those that usually arrive in March!).

FINALLY - my favorite sign of spring - forsythia in bloom!

A few crocuses popping up.

Some daffodils in bloom (not ours yet)

Pretty forsythia blooms but I needed a parka & hat to take a walk!

This row of pink blooming trees is usually the first in our neighborhood.

The flowers are starting to pop out!

No parka needed Friday but still very windy!!

Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend!

Friday, April 06, 2018

Teen/YA Review: Ramona Blue

I've been hearing rave reviews of Ramona Blue, a YA novel by Julie Murphy, ever since its release almost a year ago. I finally found the time to listen to it on audio, and it was so worth waiting for! I loved every minute of it, and I loved Ramona, and I miss her now that the book is finished.

Seventeen-year old Ramona is over six feet tall, has eye-catching blue hair, and lives in the tiny coastal town of Eulogy, Mississippi. When Hurricane Katrina hit the area when Ramona was five years old, she and her family were forced to move into a FEMA trailer. Twelve years later, she, her Dad, and her older sister, Hattie, still live in that trailer; her mother left after the hurricane and works in the casino nearby. Summer has just ended in Eulogy, so all the summer people renting houses have left town, including Grace. Ramona and Grace had an idyllic summer together, but Ramona is wondering if their relationship will last with the separation. Besides, Grace still hasn't admitted to her family or anyone else that she is gay. That's not a problem for Ramona - she knows she likes girls and so does her family, friends, and classmates. In Ramona's uncertain world, that is one thing she's sure of.

As Ramona is finishing her paper route on her bike and missing Grace, she is greeted by a wonderful surprise: kind-hearted Agnes and her grandson, Freddie, are back in town - for good this time. Ramona and Freddie were childhood playmates every summer when the family vacationed in Eulogy, and now that Agnes has retired, they have moved to the seaside town. As school begins, Ramona now has something to look forward to, with Freddie back. At the same time, though, Ramona's life feels like it is shrinking - and her opportunities with it. Hattie is pregnant, her good-for-nothing boyfriend is moving into the tiny trailer, and Ramona's fierce love and protection of her family makes her feel like she has no option but to stay home and help her sister. As her senior year continues and her classmates all make plans for interesting lives, Ramona feels more and more trapped. She's also confused as her feelings for Freddie seem to morph into more than friendship - how can she feel that way about him when she knows she likes girls?

I was hooked on this audio book from the very first chapter, with its captivating young narrator who had just the right touch of a Mississippi accent. Ramona is one of those YA literary characters that feels like an old friend. She is so strong for those around her and sure of herself in some ways, but confused and uncertain in other ways. She feels very real. Her new confusion about her sexuality is a theme in the story, but it's just one part of a moving and cohesive whole. This novel is also about family, friendship, racism, figuring out your place in the world, and the ways that poverty and circumstance can seem to control your life. Ramona is a resilient person, but sometimes she feels as if she has no choices and is cut off from the things her classmates just consider a normal part of life, like college. This insightful novel explores all of these issues and more, but at its heart, it is an engrossing story about an extraordinary young woman and her family and friends. I loved every minute of this audio book and rooted for Ramona to figure it all out. This was one of my favorite YA novels read in a long time.

432 pages, Balzer + Bray

Listen to a sample of the audio book.

Purchase Ramona Blue from an indie bookstore.
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Or order Ramona Blue from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Middle-Grade Review: Graveyard Shakes

I finally finished the last of my 2017-released graphic novels with Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry, a middle-grade graphic novel that straddles the line between realistic fiction and ghost story.

Sisters Katia and Victoria have always been home-schooled, so their start at Bexley Academy, a wealthy boarding school, as scholarship students is a bit rocky. Victoria desperately wants to fit in and make new friends, but Katia is dismissive of her new classmates, who she refers to as "sparkly show ponies!" Katia dances to the beat of her own drummer (and in fact, she is quite talented musically) and is messy and impulsive. As Victoria and Katia try to adjust to their new school, they are unaware of another challenge lurking nearby. The graveyard next to the girls' new school is home to a bevy of ghosts, including one cute little boy ghost named Little Ghost. More troubling, however, is a mad scientist who lives underground with the ghosts. He can only keep his young son "alive" with black magic and the sacrifice of a living child every 13 years. You guessed's been almost 13 years since the last one, so when Katia stumbles into the cemetery late one stormy night, upset about things at school, and Victoria goes running after her, they are in far more danger than they realize.
Pages from Graveyard Shakes, showing the two sisters.

I enjoyed this colorful and creative story that combines humor with a bit of mild horror. The story tackles both real-life issues, as the girls struggle to adjust to school and get along with each other, and supernatural ones. It's a nice balance that middle-grade readers will enjoy.

204 pages, Graphix (an imprint of Scholastic)

Page from Graveyard Shakes with Little Ghost

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.

Purchase Graveyard Shakes from an indie bookstore:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Or order Graveyard Shakes from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Fiction Review: Alias Grace

For many years, I wanted to read Margaret Atwood's novels (so many books, so little time!). I finally read her best-known book, The Handmaid's Tale, last summer and thoroughly enjoyed it. So, I was glad when my book group recently chose another Atwood novel, Alias Grace, for our March selection. A historical novel, it was completely different from her famous dystopian tale but just as compelling.

Alias Grace is based on the true story of Grace Marks, a young woman in Ontario accused of murder in 1843 and sentenced to life in prison at the tender age of sixteen. Atwood's novel begins during Grace's time in prison, as she walks with guards every day to the warden's house to help his wife and the servants with household duties. Grace's story unfolds slowly over the course of the novel, with some chapters from Grace's first-person perspective, some chapters consisting of letters sent back and forth between various characters, excerpts from real-life news stories printed at the time, and some chapters from the third-person perspective of a young doctor named Simon Jordan. Dr. Jordan specializes in mental health (though it was not known by that name at that time) and hopes to one day revolutionize insane asylums by providing them with the basics of human health (clean water, no open sewage, etc.) He has traveled from the U.S. to Canada to interview Grace, in the hopes of finding a way to help her recover lost memories from the day of the murders. As Simon and Grace talk each day, starting from Grace's earliest memories, her story slowly emerges, from her difficult childhood filled with loss to beginning to work as a servant at the age of thirteen and eventually, to that fateful day of the murders.

This was an excellent novel for a book group, with so much depth and so many different layers to discuss. The biggest question in the novel is whether Grace was guilty and how much of a role she played in the famous double-murder. Her male counterpart was hung for his role in the murders - was Grace forced to help him or was it her idea in the first place? Is she a victim herself, a cold-blooded killer, or insane? These questions underlie the entire narrative, as the reader learns more and more about Grace and her life, while Simon brings her ever-closer to the black hole in her memory. This is not just a murder mystery, though. It is also a full and captivating story about life in the mid-1800's, perfect for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Atwood brings this 175-year old story to vivid life with her engaging prose and alternating viewpoints, with further depth added by the actual news reports, poems from the time about Grace, and even quilt patterns at the beginning of every section that relate to the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this engrossing novel, as did most of the other members of my book group...though we still could not agree on whether Grace was guilty or innocent!

460 pages, Anchor Books

Disclosure: I received this book as a personal gift. My review is my own opinion.

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.

Order from your favorite indie bookstore:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Or order Alias Grace from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

TV Tuesday: The Resident

Even though we still watch (and love!) Grey's Anatomy and don't really need another medical TV show, during the doldrums of winter TV, my husband and I tried The Resident, mostly because we both love the main actor, who played Cary on The Good Wife (and, I just discovered, Logan on Gilmore Girls). We have some complaints about this new medical show but are still watching and enjoying it overall and plan to continue.

Matt Czuchry stars as Conrad Hawkins, a third-year resident at sparkling, expensive Chastain Hospital in Atlanta. This is not the gritty public hospital filled with drug addicts and gunshot victims we saw back in the days of ER! In the first episode, idealistic new resident Devon Pravesh, played by Manish Dayal, starts at Chastain on his first day as a doctor, working under Conrad. It's a tough first day, and Devon quickly learns that Conrad is brilliant and cares about his patients fiercely but has little patience for following the rules. Nicky, played by Emily VanCamp, is a very intelligent and caring nurse who works with them, and Mina, played by Shaunette Renee Wilson, is an arrogant but highly skilled surgical resident. Heading up the hospital are star surgeon Randolph Bell, played by veteran actor Bruce Greenwood, and a bevy of other high-profile, very wealthy senior doctors. All is not as it seems at beautiful Chastain, though, and we see in the very first episode that Bell has developed some sort of tremor in his hands, which he is hiding - and still operating on patients, to their detriment - in order to save his reputation and career.

Much of The Resident is like any other medical show - different patient cases each week, with a few longer-term patients we see again, taken care of by a group of very attractive doctors, with some sex and scandal thrown in to keep things interesting. The difference in this show - and the thing that bothers us about it - is that the residents, nurses, and other underlings are all the good guys, and the senior staff at the hospital are all, to a person, evil and obsessed with maximizing profits, their own shiny reputations, and remaining powerful and wealthy. Really - every single senior doctor is evil. We get the point the show is trying to make: that sometimes hospitals, which are supposed to help people, are too focused on profit, especially in this time of privatization, to the detriment of the patients they are supposed to be caring for. But, every senior doctor? There's not a single doctor in charge here who wants to do what's best for his or her patients? It's kind of hard to swallow. Still, we are now up to episode 9, and we are still watching and enjoying it. The rest of the characters and stories are compelling enough to keep up tuning in each week, and Czuchry and the other actors are very good.

The Resident is a FOX show, currently airing on Mondays. We watch it On Demand. It looks like it is also available for free on Fox's own website, though as of today, the first four episodes are only available there if you are a cable subscriber (it asks you to sign in with your cable password) - the next 5 are available free to anyone. All of the episodes are also available on Amazon for $1.99 each or $19.99 for the whole season (so, you could pay for the first four and then watch the rest free on the Fox website).

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.

Monday, April 02, 2018

It's Monday 4/2! What Are You Reading?

It's finally April!! Hurray! Of course, we had a mix of rain/snow last night, but at least nothing stuck to the ground this time. Our spring blooms are already soooo late, though some sun this weekend finally got our forsythia popping open - that's one of my favorite signs of spring. I cut some branches for our Easter table yesterday. We had a very busy but nice weekend, cooking and preparing for Easter. Our sons got back to campus from spring break in NC Outer Banks Saturday night, and we got to see them both yesterday. Our older son came home with bronchitis, so he spent the day here, resting, and it was great to spend some time with him. His brother took over his dinner shift at work for him, so we were still missing one for Easter, but we enjoyed a huge feast with my father-in-law here, too. My family is Ukrainian, so I still make (and buy) all the traditional foods for Easter dinner, even if it's just four of us, like it was yesterday. Everyone took home plenty of leftovers, and tonight my husband and I get to enjoy all that good food again without all the work!

Here's what we've all been reading this past week:
  • I finished a book for a Shelf Awareness review and author interview and for Booktopia: My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley. It's about a gay man who moves in with his ex-wife in order to help her get her life together and help her daughter apply to colleges. It was wonderful - insightful and moving but also laugh-out-loud funny. I interviewed the author last week and thoroughly enjoyed talking to him about the novel and his writing career. Now, I want to go back and read some of his earlier novels (three of which were made into movies).
  • Now, I am reading another novel in preparation for Booktopia in May: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. It starts with four young siblings in 1969 who visit a fortune teller who tells them each the date they will die. The rest of the novel is in four sections, each following one of the siblings. It's a bit dark, since you know each section will end with a character dying! But it's also engrossing and well-written, and I'm enjoying it.
  • I finished listening to Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy, a YA novel I have wanted to read since its release about a year ago. It was worth waiting for! I loved this story of a teen girl in coastal Mississippi who is something of an outsider in her town and school. She's over 6 feet tall, is openly gay, and lives in a trailer. It was excellent - endearing, compelling, and real-feeling - and I loved Ramona!
  • I just downloaded a new audio, She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper, that I plan to start today. It's a 2017 release that sounds really good - a novel about an 11-year old girl who must go on the run with her scary ex-convict father because a gang from prison is intent on killing them both. I'm looking forward to it.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Late Show by Michael Connelly, one of the books I gave him for Christmas. It's the start of a new series by Connelly (author of the Harry Bosch series) featuring a young female detective named Renee Ballard. He enjoyed it and moved it to my side of our TBR bookcase (yes, an entire bookcase!), telling me I'll like it, too.
  •  Now, Ken has gone back to his sci fi classic series re-read, Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov, which was the second book published in the Foundation series in 1952. He enjoyed Foundation and is looking forward to re-reading the rest of the books in the series.
  • Our son, Jamie, 23, finished book 6 in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Lord of Chaos and has moved onto book 7, A Crown of Swords. He loves this epic fantasy series. Of course, I included a new book in his Easter basket (and his dad's, too!).
Blog posts last week - I got too busy!
Middle-Grade Review: Freakling by Lana Krumwiede - an intriguing dystopian fantasy

Sign Up Now for Booktopia 2018! - join the fun and I'll see you in Vermont in May!

Saturday Snapshot & Weekend Cooking: Restaurants in Annapolis - amazing food

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

Easter Dinner

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Saturday Snapshot & Weekend Cooking: Annapolis Restaurants

Today, I am combining Saturday Snapshot, hosted by Melinda at West Metro Mommy Reads, with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads, to share with you some of the amazing food we ate two weeks ago in Annapolis on our weekend getaway. You can see my non-food photos from Annapolis here - it's a beautiful waterfront town.

We enjoyed everything about the town but especially the FOOD. Annapolis (and we stuck to the small Old Town area) is filled with reasonably-priced restaurants offering creative and delicious dishes, in a wide range of styles, with a focus on fresh and local ingredients. We ate WAY too much, and felt constantly full! So, here are some food highlights from Annapolis:

Chick and Ruths Delly on Main Street

Chick & Ruths famous Crab Cake
We started our food odyssey with lunch when we arrived on Saturday. We headed to a well-known local diner-style place that's been in business since 1965: Chick and Ruths Delly. This popular place was crammed with people - and with delicious food! You can look through the huge menu or peruse the signs on the wall for over 130 different sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and salads, named after local politicians and celebrities. They are also known for their thick milkshakes and malts, homemade pies and breads, and crab cakes.

I opted for a crab cake - I only needed one, since they are each a half-pound of almost entirely lump crab meat! My husband said, "That looks like the best crab cake I've ever seen. Is it?" I'd have to say it was. He went with a classic Reuben (my second choice!) and a chocolate malt, which were both also delicious.

Dry 85 Burgers (but blurry!)
For dinner that night, we walked down Main Street, reading all the menus in the doorways - sushi, Italian, tacos, Irish pubs (those were mobbed since it was St. Patrick's Day), and more. We settled on Dry 85, a bourbon bar (the bar area of which was also packed with people due to the holiday). It's designed to feel like a Prohibition-era speakeasy, with rough-hewn, industrial, garage-type decor, and they offer extensive bourbon and beer lists, as well as gourmet food. We lucked out and got a table in the back, a bit apart from the green-clad crowds. We both ordered burgers, which were some of the best we've ever had! Mine had blue cheese, caramelized onions, and fig preserves on it. My husband got their famous truffle fries on the side, which were excellent. I can't drink alcohol due to my medical conditions, but my husband made use of their extensive beer list, and I had a 3-ounce sample size of one of their local beers! Wow, did that taste good.

Iron Rooster - Annapolis

Iron Rooster's Crab Hash
The next restaurant we tried ended up being our favorite, and we went there for 3 meals over the next 24 hours! Iron Rooster is a small place by the waterfront that specializes in breakfast (served all day) but also offers lunch and dinner. Besides this Annapolis spot, they have 3 other locations in the Baltimore area (a fact we plan to make use of). We fell in love with this place. Their breakfast menu is mind-boggling, with page after page of creative dishes. On Sunday, I had Crab Hash, a fabulous combination of lump crabmeat, asparagus, home fries, bacon, and roasted red peppers, topped off with two poached eggs, chipotle hollandaise sauce, and a sprinkle of Old Bay - are you drooling yet? The second breakfast I ordered on Monday was their Rancher's Benny (they offer 5 different and creative versions of eggs benedict), with a fried green tomato, roasted corn salsa, and roasted poblano sauce. Party in my mouth!
Fried Black-Eyed Peas (what's left!)

My husband tried their Chicken & Waffles the first day, and Latkes and Eggs the second day (he was trying to go light!). And I saved the best for last - each day, they make 3-4 types of homemade pop-tarts (called Roos-Tarts). Monday, we tried the chocolate banana, and it was amazing. No wonder we took an hour-long walk after breakfast and still felt horribly full! We also ate dinner there Sunday night, which was good but not as special as their breakfasts - the one stand-out at dinnertime were the deep-fried black-eyed peas as an appetizer, which we gobbled up (hence the almost empty photo!) - why has no one ever thought of this before?
Iron Rooster Chocolate Banana Roos-Tart - mmmm!

In between all our Iron Rooster meals, we tried to go lighter at lunch on Sunday with a stop at Vida Taco Bar on Main Street. We didn't stuff ourselves quite as much there, but it was still mouth-wateringly delicious. They specialize in tequila and tacos, and the very creatively filled tacos are offered ala carte, so you can order four different kinds if you want or even just one taco. We each opted for two different tacos, each with different fillings, and a side of guacamole to split. Everything was wonderful - super-fresh, local ingredients, and wonderfully unique flavor combinations.
Vida Taco Bar

So, we had a very food-filled weekend, and every single bite was delicious! We were quite surprised and impressed by the large number of restaurants in Annapolis and the high quality at each one.

Time for me to go make breakfast now - I wish the Iron Rooster was closer! Hope you are enjoying a great weekend. Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Sign Up Now for Booktopia 2018!

Booktopia Authors in 2017
If you're a regular reader of my blog, then you know how much I love going to Booktopia each year. It is hosted by Northshire Bookstore in beautiful Manchester, VT, and is a totally unique 2-day book event held the first weekend in May.

Booktopia is different from trade shows, like BEA, or standard author events, like bookstore readings, because a group of authors and readers spend an entire weekend together - sharing meals, going to book Q&A's (some of which are more like a book group discussion than a standard author event), and even playing a rousing game of book trivia together! It's a lot of book-related fun with a wonderful group of book lovers and authors.

You can read about and see photos of my own Booktopia experiences in 2017 and 2015.

Booktopia 2018 is being held on May 4-5 this year at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT (a wonderful town worth a visit anyway!). For more information, to see a list of authors, and to sign up, go to the Northshire Bookstore website, click on Events in the menu bar, and scroll down to Booktopia 2018, May 4-5. Not living in VT is no excuse - lots of people travel from all over the country for Booktopia! It's a 7-hour drive for me.

And if you do sign-up, let me know! I would love to meet you there!