My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 1/22/21

This was the last week with my daughter home from college. She moved back to her apartment last night. My TV viewing will now change from what I watch with her to figuring out what to watch alone until my wife finishes work. Here is my last week in viewing and reading.

Movies – I watched Bill & Ted Face the Music. I was worried that it had been too long since I had watched the original that I would be lost in this one. Basically, though, all you have to know is that they were told they would write a song that would unite the world. I enjoyed the movie. Keanu Reeve and Alex Winter stepped back into the roles perfectly. The daughters were cast perfectly. It was funny and the perfect length for a movie like this. Two tater thumbs up.

TV – I watched Survivor Pearl Islands with my daughter. It was one of the old seasons with iconic survivors that fell in the time I was not watching. I enjoyed the season. It’s fun going back and watching old seasons of Survivor and Amazing Race. I also got drawn into the Great British Baking Show. My wife and daughter were watching season 9 after I went to bed at night. One night I said I was going to doze on the couch while they watched instead of going up to bed. I got drawn into the episode and then stayed up every night watching the rest of the season. I really liked the contestants on this season and don’t know if I would have been drawn in if I watched a different season. I feel like I need to go back and watch the old hosts and judges since my daughter says they were better. We watched the first episode of the new Walker, Texas Ranger last night. I enjoyed it. I think it will be a littler deeper than the Chuck Norris version.

Books – I finished two books this week:

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon – A YA book that is a companion to another book I read by her. Pinky is tied of her parents thinking she always makes bad decision, especially when it comes to boyfriends. When she hears that Samir’s internship in DC was canceled she asks him to come to her summer house to be her fake boyfriend. Of course, the opposites attract and fall in love. If you like teen romances, you should read Menon. They are very good.

The Shadows by Alex North – When Paul was a teenager, his former friends are involved in a murder. One teen is dead. One is arrested and one, Charlie, has vanished. Years later, as an adult, Paul returns to town to see his dying mother at the same time a detective comes to town to investigate a copycat crime. Strange things start happening around Paul and more people are murdered. Is it possible Charlie is still alive? This one was very good. A twist I didn’t see coming. Creepy. Tense. The perfect murder book

On Deck – I will have The New Mutants on DVD. We might watch Outside the Wire and Netflix. I still need to find a TV show to watch alone. I just can’t decide if it should be a comedy or something else. I am reading Deadly Cross by James Patterson because I have decided I will keep going even though they tend to annoy me know. They are nice, quick reads.

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My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 1/15/20

I still have at least another week before everyone is back to their regular living spaces. That means at least another week before I really know what my new normal might be, Will I read more or less? Will I watch more TV? Will I be able to get into a real routine? Who knows. Here is what I managed to read and watch this week.

Movies – We watched The King of Staten Island on HBO. This is the semiautobiographical Pete Davidson movie about a 20 something guy who has been unable to move forward in life since his firefighter dad died when he was a kid. He spends his days smoking weed with his friends and dreaming of becoming a tattoo artist. When his mom starts dating again(another firefighter) he is forced to deal with his grief. I really didn’t know what to expect going in. I like Davidson on SNL, but didn’t know if he could carry an entire movie. He can and he did. It was funny and moving. I highly recommend.

TV – We tried a couple of new TV shows this week. The first was Mr Mayor. It stars Ted Danson as a wealthy businessman who becomes mayor of LA. It was apparently meant to be a spinoff of 30 Rock with Alec Baldwin’s character, but was rewritten to become this. It got a lot of bad reviews, but I enjoyed it. It wasn’t a perfect first two episodes, but the cast is great and I laughed several times. Isn’t that what we want from a comedy? We also watched Call You Mother. This starts Kyra Sedgwick as an empty nester mom who relocates to California to be near her grown children. It was a good first episode. I think it could be a good one. It could also get old fast if the story can’t move past her need to be involved in the lives of her kids. We have been watching the Ken Jennings episodes of Jeopardy. I think he is doing a good job as host and hope he gets a fair shot at being the permanent host.

Books – I finished two books his week:

The Living Dead by George Romero and Daniel Kraus – a very long zombie novel started by Romero and finished by Kraus. It starts out telling the individual stories of various survivors around the country. A government employee in DC, a coroner in California who witnessed one of the first zombies, a teen from the Midwest, a Navy man from an aircraft carrier. Eventually, all of the stories come together and we get to the end game. I enjoyed the book. I think it took too long to get to where it was headed. Some individual stories were more interesting than others. I think fans of zombie movies would like it.

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson – I gave up reading all but the Cross books from Patterson and I still wonder why I’m still intent on reading the Cross ones. I had this one on hand for some reason, so I decided to give it a shot. It is better than most Patterson’s I’ve read recently. It has a decent plot. It held my interest. It did have the same problem I have with the Cross books. The main character was too good at everything. Patterson seems to be unable or unwilling to have a flawed protagonist. I doubt I will read the next Clinton/Patterson collaboration.

On Deck – I have two DVDs from the library, but I don’t really think I will get to them. My wife is home now so I’m sure we will do some catch up on our normal shows. I want to start WandaVision. I just need to find out if anyone else plans to watch or not. I need to find a new show to watch alone, but I can’t decide if I want a comedy or drama. I’m reading 10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon. It is a nice YA romance to cleanse my reading palate of zombies and missing presidents.

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A Couple of Weeks in Books, Movies, and TV 1/8/20

The last two Fridays were Christmas and New Year’s Day so I didn’t do my regular weekly recaps. Let’s see if I can think of anything worth reporting over the last three weeks.

Movies – I watched American Pickle on HBO Max. It stars Seth Rogen as an immigrant worker in a pickle factory in New York who falls in a pickle vat and preserved for 100 years and then wakes up in modern day New York. Seth Rogen also plays his last remaining descendent. I expected it to just be about him trying to adjust to modern life, but it was not that at all. I really liked it, but I am a fan of Rogen and of Simon Rich who wrote the screenplay and the story on which it was based. We watched the new Wonder Woman movie. I liked it more than most people have reported, but I did feel like the ending was lacking something. Wonder Woman is still the best of the DC franchises. My son watched a lot of Marvel movies while he was with us so I saw pieces of Ragnorak, Ant Man, Spiderman, Infinity War and End Game. We did our annual watch of Miracle on 34th Street.

TV – Generally, regular TV viewing is replaced by random movies when the kids are home and this time was not different. I don’t recall a lot of TV shows we watched between the holidays. This past week, though, has brought us back to TV. We finished the latest streaming season of The Next Step. My daughter and I watched an old season of the Amazing Race. We are watching the final Alex Trbek episodes of Jeopardy. We tried the new TV show Call Me Kat. It was not good. I watched the premiere of Last Man Standing. They started mid pandemic but then flashed forward 2 years so the rest of the season is post pandemic. We watched the first episode of The Chase last night. It is a quiz show where contestants face off against one of the three Jeopardy GOATs. We love all three of them, so we loved the show. I like seeing the two chasers not playing commenting on the game. We will definitely watch more.

Books – I read three books over the last three weeks and fed one to the dustbunnies:

A Time for Mercy by John Grisham – This is the third book in the Jake Brigance series. In this one he is appointed to defend a teen who killed a police officer who was abusing his mom. It is about the case, but also about the fallout for Jake in regards to him defending the person who killed a popular police officer. Grisham is always good and that is the case here as well.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – A YA romance. Dimple has just graduated from high school and is going to Stanford. Her mom is more focused on finding her a husband. Her parents have payed for her to go to a summer program for aspiring web developers. Rishi is very traditional and has given up on drawing comics to go to MIT. He is very traditional and wants his parents to arrange his marriage. He is going to the program because his parents have arranged for him to marry Rishi. One problem – no one told Rishi. This is my second book I’ve read by Menon and I’ve loved both. I have a third in the TBR pile.

If it Bleeds by Stephen King – four new novellas including a new Holly Gibney story. King has been my favorite author since I was a kid and now I get his new book every year for Christmas. Reading the new King book is a great way to end the year.

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline – This is the one I fed to the dustbunnies. I started it. Put it down and read another book. Tried again. got a good distance in and it was still just a ramble of 80’s references and set up with no real story. I gave up for good.

On Deck – We are watching another old Survivor season. This time it is Pearl Islands. When my wife returns we will have two episodes of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. I love that show. I have some DVDs at the library, but I’m not sure if we will watch any movies this week. I am reading The Living Dead by George Romero and Daniel Kraus.

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My Year in Reading 2020

I finished one final book yesterday to get my total to 71 books for the year. Those 71 books added up to 24,304 pages. That is 13 books and 4700 pages less than last year. While many people have said they read a lot more this year, I struggled to focus on a book during the height of the pandemic. The combo pack of a toxic work environment(via phone during lockdown) and worry about the pandemic made it very hard for me to get to where I needed to be to read a book. I was also down in 2019. Maybe 2021 is the year I get back to my normal level of reading. I’m making no promises. Now. let’s get to the books.

Top ten books in no particular order

  • Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore – One of the good/bad things for 2020. I got a new book by Chris but my plans to see him in March were done in by the pandemic. This is his latest Pocket book, this time his take on A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi – I finally got to this one. If you watch Star Trek, you know what the fate of a redshirt is. What happens when they figure out what is happening?
  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse – the start of a great series. A Native fantasy series written by a Native author.
  • American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – This one had controversy, but if you just look at the book alone, it is very good. The story of a woman and her child fleeing her former friend and leader of a drug cartel.
  • Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke – When a black lawyer and a local white woman are murdered, black Texas Ranger Darren Mathews is called in to solve the case before racial tensions erupt.
  • The City We Became by NK Jemisin – Every city has a soul. New York has five of them. Five strangers, who are the embodiment of the five boroughs of the city must come together to fight an ancient evil.
  • Long Bright River by Liz Moore – The story of two sisters: Mickey, a Philadelphia cop and Kacey, a drug addict who lives on the streets. Kacey goes missing at the same time women on the streets are being murdered. It bounces from past to present to tell the story of how they got here.
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – Based on the real story of a reform school that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children.
  • If It Bleeds by Stephen King – four new novellas, including a new adventure for Holly Gibney. My favorite was the first one, Mr Harrigan’s Phone.
  • The Poppy War by RF Kuang – the start of a fantasy series. It start with a poor, peasant girl making it into an elite military school and ends with the beginning of the war.

Honorable Mention

  • From Twinkle With Love by Sandhya Menon – I discovered at one point that a good YA romance is what I needed to break my reading slump. This was that book.
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins – I enjoy a good villain origin story
  • The Third Twin by CJ Omololu – twins Lexi and Ava made up a third sister when they were kids. As teens they sometimes go on dates as Alicia. When one of the guys Alicia goes out with ends up dead, the evidence points to one suspect -Alicia. but she doesn’t exist…or does she?
  • The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly – Mickey Haller is back, but this time he is the client after he is framed for the murder of a former client. His brother, Harry Bosch joins the team trying to prove his innocence.

Book I would most recommend

The City We Became by NK Jemisin. It is an interesting premise and the only book that compelled me to read during the height of the pandemic.

Worst book I finished

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera – probably not fair to put this here as I was not the target audience, but when scanning the list it is the one that jumps out at me.

Book I Dustbunnied

I’m going to put two here since I officially gave up on one right before midnight last night. That one was Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline. I was 80 pages in and it was still just a combo of the main character being obsessed with the online world and a new quest and random 80’s references. It is a mess. I also did not finish Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, another book that took too long to get to the point.

It was harder to do the list this year. So many books suffered from my mental state this year. Here’s hoping for a better reading year in 2021.

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My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 12/18/20

One week from Christmas. Doesn’t seem real. I’m attempting to write this on my iPad because my kids are home, they’ve taken all the outlets near me, and my laptop is dead. So this will be short and riddled with errors.

Movies – We watched Bloodshot with Vin Diesel. A standard action movie where Diesel plays a soldier who is brought back to life with supper powers. It was better than I expected, but I do like Diesel. If you like action movies you will like it. We watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Scrooged.

TV – we watched the finale of Amazing Race. I love this show, but this season was not great. The alliance ruined it and the finale was boring. Here’s hoping when it comes back it will be better. We watched more of our teen dance show, The Next Step. With the kids here my TV viewing is hit or miss. We watch stuff, but a lot of random whatever is on like Friends and such.

Books – I read one book this week – Some Kind of Animal by Maria Romasco Moore. It is a teen novel about a girl who has a secret twin sister who lives in the woods. She is the only one who knows about her until the day the sister attacks a boy and she has to convince people she is real. I liked it, but it took me way too long to get through it. It was not one that made me want to keep reading.

On Deck – more Christmas stuff like Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Rudolph, etc. I’m reading A Time For Mercy by John Grisham

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My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 12/4/20

It’s December. One week before I’m done with my job. Three weeks before Christmas. This year was both extremely long and oddly quick. Anyway, here is my weekly recap of what I read and watched.

Movies – Thanksgiving week means the beginning of our viewing of Christmas shows and movies. This week we watched Home Alone and Elf. Home Alone is a favorite of my daughter. It is the first one she wants to watch each year. I still enjoy it, but it isn’t my favorite. Elf is one that I consider a favorite. I look forward to seeing it each year and would be sad if I missed it.

TV – We also watched one of our favorite Christmas shows, Year Without a Santa Claus. It is the one of the main ones we make sure to record and watch each year. We love the miser brothers. We did some catch up on shows this week as well. American Housewife, Amazing Race, Superstore. I was sad to see the news yesterday that this is the last season of Superstore. It is the best comedy on TV right now. Not much else to report on the TV front. Mostly trying to keep the DVR from filling up now that I am saving shows and movies for my daughter to watch when she comes home from school. We are at almost 80% full now.

Books – I finished one book this week: Fair Warning by Michael Connelly. It was a new Jack McEvoy book. McEvoy is the reporter from the books The Poet and The Scarecrow. In this one, someone Jack had a one night stand with is murdered and he is questioned by the police. When he looks into it he discovers the possibility of a serial killer. I like the characters in the series and for the most part the story was good. I thought the end kind of ruined the whole thing and dropped it to a 3 star instead of a 4 star book.

On Deck – We have the movie Bloodshot on DVD. There will be basketball and football to watch. I have so many shows on the DVR to watch. Blue Bloods is back tonight. I’m reading Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse.

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We Need Diverse Books

An added bonus today. My latest and likely last post for the work blog. Long time readers might recognize this as I posted a version of it here a while back.

CHAPTER CHATS

The book cover depicts three people in silhouette seated on a bridge, overlooking the water, with bright sunshine in the center behind a partially cloudy sky.

By Alan S.

I know that is a groundbreaking title there. Anyway, this post is a personal illustration of connecting with book characters because they are like me. Before anyone else can point it out – yes, I am a white guy. Yes, I am a white, heterosexual male. Yes, there are many books about people like me. This post is not about me wanting more books about me. I’ve always agreed that we need more diverse books. I can’t imagine why anyone would disagree with this. Kids need to be able to read a book about a person who reflects their personal experience. Intellectually, I always knew this. My last two books have been a good illustration of how a connection to the characters improves the reader’s experience.

I read The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (also available in ebook and eaudiobook from OverDrive/Libby). It takes place in rural…

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For Halloween Let These Zombie Books Eat Your Brains

Just in time for Halloween – my post for work on my favorite zombie books. Feel free to add yours in the comments. I’m always looking for good xombie books to read.

CHAPTER CHATS

Black and white photo of an overpass with the Empire State Building int the background and dark clouds overhead.

by Alan S.

The haunting times are almost here – get in a spooky mood with some of my favorite zombie books.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead (also available in ebook) – If you like your monsters a little more literary, you should start here. Mark Spitz is an uninfected worker assigned to clear Zone One (in Manhattan) of the infected. The book spans three days of work and includes flashbacks of how Mark survived the zombie apocalypse and the reason for his nickname.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – I have always said that zombies were my favorite monster because you could in no way make them romantic. Marion proves me wrong with Warm Bodies. He tells the story of R, a zombie living in an abandoned airport who falls in love with a human girl name Julie after eating the brain of her boyfriend. I thought…

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Some of My Favorite Authors

I recently tried the “ask me anything” thing again here and once again got only one question. It was about my favorite authors. So, here is a small list of some of my favorite authors. And yes, I realize they are mostly white men. I have diversified my reading, but the ones below remain my favorites.

Stephen King – I’ve been reading King since I was a kid. The librarians at the small library at home were disturbed by my reading choices and tried to get me to go back to the childrens section. King is one of two authors who’s books I still buy. To make Christmas easier for my family, I get any new Stephen King book as a gift. It means I have to wait to read them. but it is worth it.

Christopher Moore – A long time ago I read Practical Demonkeeping and then forgot it. I saw it while shelving at the library and started reading it again. I realized it sounded familiar and then figured out I had already read it. I then read Bloodsucking Fiends and was hooked. His books are funny and he does a ton of research to get things right. He’s also a very nice guy. You can read more about my stalking of Chris here.

Robert McCammon- My favorite book ever is Swan Song. It is very similar to King’s The Stand, but I think a lot better. I was very happy when it made it to the list of top 100 books recently. I also loved Gone South, Mine, Boy’s Life and The Border.

Lisa Scottoline – I like her books, but I think she makes the list more for being such a nice person. Her books are generally about an all-woman law firm in Philadelphia with some stand alones as well. I love all of the main characters from the firm and am happy when another adventure arrives. Here is my story of meeting her.

Andrew Smith – My favorite YA author. He writes a mix of realistic fiction like Winger and books about giant praying mantises like Grasshopper Jungle with a mix of humor and humanity.

John Sanford – He writes two of my favorite characters: Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers. Even when the story is not as good as I hope, I love the characters enough to speed through them.

Michael Connelly – Another of my favorite characters: Harry Bosch. I love that Connelly let Harry age to the point that he is now retired and works cold cases with a younger detective. The series has not lost any quality as he ages and new people are added.

I’m sure I could add more, but how many favorites can I realistically claim?

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My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 9/25/20

Note – writing this on my iPad because my wife scheduled people to come work on carpet repairs so I’m hiding behind closed doors with the dog and my laptop is in another room. I’m sure this will mean there will be multiple typos.

We finally have a week with a few new TV shows and we have dates for the return of some shows that have resumed filming. This makes me happy, especially since the stream of new movies on DVD from the library is dry right now.

Movies – We watched a couple of movies on Netflix this week. The first was The Take. It stars Idris Elba and Richard Madden. Elba is CIA, Madden is a pickpocket. Madden’s character steals a backpack that contains a bomb and is caught on camera after he discards it and it explodes. They team up to track down the real terrorist. I enjoyed it, but there were multiple times people we speaking French when there were no subtitles. I don’t think I missed much, but it was annoying. The other movie was my choice and was Mr Deeds. It is one of the few Adam Sandler movies I had not watched. I liked it. I like Sandler and this one was less goofy than normal. I would recommend both.

TV – I’m still watching at least one episode of Hart of Dixie most days. I still watch an episode of The Goldbergs when I eat lunch. The Masked Singer returned this week so I watched it. It’s dumb, but I like it. We watched the new episodes of Transplant and Coroner. The nice thing about Coroner is that it already has two seasons, so even though this week was the finale the new season starts on October 7. We also watched the first episode of LA’s Finest. This is another show that has already had two seasons, so we should have plenty to watch. This is the spinoff of the Bad Boys movies with Gabrielle Union reprising her role from the second movie. Union and Jessica Alba are partners. Alba is married to the acting DA and has a stepdaughter. Union is single and not interested in settling down. Each has some sort of secret connection to a cartel. It’s pretty standard buddy cop stuff, but Alba and Union are very good and have great chemistry as partners. I will watch more.

Books – I finished one book this week – A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight. Amanda, a rich woman in Park Slope, is murdered. Her husband is the suspect. He calls a law school friend for help. The law school friend is working at a prestigious law firm because her husband is an alcoholic who crashed his car into a business so she had to quit the DA’s office to make more money. The story alternates between present day Lizzie investigating the murder and Amanda in the days leading to her death. There may be someone stalking her as time countdowns to a party where couples tend to swap. It was an intriguing story with one twist I didn’t see coming, but the reveal of the murderer was underwhelming. Still a good read, though.

On Deck- My wife is a big fan of the movie The Cutting Edge. I discovered they made more Cutting Edge movies and recorded one of them. We will likely watch that tonight. Kentucky football is on tomorrow and Ravens football Monday night. We will watch the next episode of LA’s Finest and will eventually try the new show Filthy Rich. I will probably watch the new edition of Weakest Link because I like trivia game shows. I’m reading Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.

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