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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What I'm Watching: Hunted, Unfunny Valentine Movies and Big Little Lies

Since I've been reading less, I thought I might as well tell you what I've been watching. You know I've been watching Riverdale, but here are the other things on my DVR:

Like most great reality TV, Hunted originated in the UK, and has recently premiered on CBS. (You can catch up on past episodes online.) If you're a regular blog reader, you know I love thrillers, and this show, while obviously staged, still manages to be fun for me. Nine pairs of civilian "fugitives" are sent on the run in the Southeastern US. A team of hunters -- former military, cops, FBI profilers, US marshals, etc. has to track them down. Any team that lasts 28 days wins a bunch of money.

What I like about this show is the psychological "cat and mouse" aspect. The "fugitives" are just regular citizens, so they're underdogs, and it's fascinating to see how they adapt to being on the run. It was also really interesting to me to see how tracked all of us really are -- did you know that there are cameras that are constantly record license plates on the highways? Take the back roads!

The drawback is that the show obviously has a lot of staged elements. First off, the fugitives are being filmed -- how hidden can you be with a camera crew following you everywhere? Second, the show's disclaimer says something to the effect that certain surveillance techniques are "simulated." Which means, I think, that the producers know where each team of fugitives are and that the hunters get their information from them.  I don't think law enforcement is releasing license plate data to a TV show.

Still, this show is pretty fun. If you're watching, let me know in comments!

Maybe some of you remember my foray into Hallmark Christmas movies? Well, something possessed me to try the Hallmark Valentine's Day special.

My taste in TV really isn't that highbrow. But Love at First Glance was terrible! Main character Mary gets dumped by her boyfriend for being boring. She's wallowing in her misery, eating tiramisu on the subway, when she spots a handsome stranger -- who gets off the train but leaves his phone on his seat. Mary contacts him, and he tells her to hang onto the phone because he's headed out of the country, but he'll be back on ... Valentine's Day.

If that's not cheesy and weird enough, Mary spends the time while he's gone going through his contact list and interviewing all his friends about what kind of a person he is. So basically, this romance consists of two characters who aren't even in the same scene for most of the movie.

Amy Smart is great looking, but in this movie she has something seriously weird going on with her makeup -- too much bronzer, maybe? Bad lighting? And while Adrian Grenier has some chick lit cred from his role as Andie's long-suffering boyfriend in The Devil Wears Prada, he seemed really out of place in this film. Maybe he had it written into his contract that his character would be out of the country and not even in most of the movie?

So I read Big Little Lies and didn't think I remembered much about it until I started watching. Yep, I remember it all -- provided that the show follows the book. So far, I'm impressed by the adaptation. I think the casting is good and the show does a great job of capturing the gossipy narcissism of this group of parents in an upscale California beach community. Nicole Kidman. At the beginning of the sounded Australian to me at first, then American-ish. All in all, she comes off a little robotic, but I think that's deliberate. And I'm not a fan of her hair, which really looks like a wig. But the kid characters (especially Ziggy and Chloe) are really adorable.

Finally, I do have an occasional need for something more intellectual. While I walk the dog, I've been listening to a Washington Post podcast called Presidential. There's a 40 minute episode on every single American president. I'm hooked! I started with Nixon and am moving forward in time and then I'm going to head backward.

Tell me if you're watching any of these -- or what you're watching -- in comments!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing February 21-27

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the February giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Dreamland Burning Ronit and Jamil Conjuring of Light
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham (Little, Brown)
Ronit & Jamil by Pamela Laskin (Katherine Tegen)
A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab (Tor)

Beautiful Broken Girls Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined Long May She Reign
Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage (FSG)
Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Yonge-Ullman (Viking)
Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas (Harper)

Optimists Die First Dragon's Price Education of Margot Sanchez
Optimists Die First by Susie Nielsen (Wendy Lamb)
The Dragon's Price by Bethany Wiggins (Crown)
The Education of Margot Sanchez (Simon & Schuster)

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Just Finished Reading: Optimists Die First

Optimists Die First
by Susie Nielsen
To be published on February 21, 2017
by Random House/Wendy Lamb Books

Synopsis from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Petula de Wilde is anything but wild. A former crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula shut herself off from the world after a family tragedy. She sees danger in all the ordinary things, like crossing the street, a bug bite, or a germy handshake. She knows: life is out to get you. The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class with a small group of fellow misfits. Then a new boy, Jacob, appears at school and in her therapy group. He seems so normal and confident, though he has a prosthetic arm; and soon he teams up with Petula on a hilarious project, gradually inspiring her to let go of some of her fears. But as the two grow closer, a hidden truth behind why he’s in the group could derail them, unless Petula takes a huge risk. . .
My take: Serious mixed feelings. On the positive side, I really, really related to Petula. A terrible family tragedy has made her fearful and wary. I'm not a therapist (and she's not real) but it seemed to me that her grief and anxiety has triggered or worsened some pre-existing OCD - she's severely germaphobic and has intrusive thoughts about more bad things happening.

At times this book felt to me a little like a Canadian Sarah Dessen - damaged protagonist, damaged love interest, a strong emphasis on family, and a very coherent and heavily thematic plot. There were lovely moments that charmed and moved me.

On the negative side, the book's treatment of mental health issues seemed a little flimsy. The story centers around Petula's art therapy group, which fits perfectly into the book's cats-and-crafting theme but I kept wondering if glue and glitter was the extent of Petula's treatment? It seems to me she needs one-on-one time with a qualified therapist and maybe even some medication.

The other issue I had with the story was the way that tragedy and whimsy was mixed together, which didn't always work for me. Petula's mother copes with tragedy by adopting a lot of cats, which I found believable. But then the main character and the love interest make a movie about Wuthering Heights starring cats as a school project and ... what? While it later had a point in the plot, the whole thing lost me. There were other jarring moments for me, like the fact that some of Petula's coping mechanisms seem to be treated as a joke. At another point, a character is telling a really moving story and then has to mention that he was on his way to a bath store called ... Skip to My Loo. Stuff like that just felt like unnecessary quirk. The mix of joking and seriousness might work for other readers with different sensibilities, but it was disconcerting to me.

Have you read this?  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Freebie Friday: Beautiful Broken Girls

Happy Friday!

Hope everyone has something good to read - I've been trying to combat my general life slump by reading a lot of different genres - romance, non-fiction, memoir.

Today's giveaway will be of an upcoming YA book:

a Rafflecopter giveaway Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing February 14-20

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the February giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

We Are Okay Ones and Zeroes Dare You
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (Dutton)
Ones and Zeroes (Bluescreen #2) by Dan Wells (Balzer + Bray)
Dare You (Nikki Kill #2) by Jennifer Brown (Katherine Tegen)

#famous The Valiant Wish Granter
#famous by Jilly Gagnon (Katherine Tegen)
The Valiant by Lesley Livingston (Razorbill)
The Wish Granter (Ravenspire #2) by C. J. Redwine (Balzer + Bray_

Season of Daring Greatly American Street Piecing Me Together
A Season of Daring Greatly by Ellen Emerson White (Greenwillow)
American Street by Ibi Zoboi (Balzer + Bray)
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (Bloomsbury)

Last of August The Release Gilded Cage Island of Exile
The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2) by Brittany Cavallaro (Katherine Tegen)
The Release (Prey #3) by Tom Isbell (Harper)
Gilded Cage by Vic James (Del Ray)
Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron (Entangled)

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Just Finished Reading: The Last of August

Last of August 
by Brittany Cavallaro

To be published on February 14, 2017
by Katherine Tegen Books

Synopsis from Goodreads: Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are looking for a winter break reprieve in Sussex after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But nothing about their time off is proving simple, including Holmes and Watson’s growing feelings for each other. When Charlotte’s beloved uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring—the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself into a search for answers.  So begins a dangerous race through the gritty underground scene in Berlin and glittering art houses in Prague, where Holmes and Watson discover that this complicated case might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.

My take: Let's just cut to the chase: I didn't like this book nearly as much as A Study in Charlotte, the first book in the series. Things started off promising in Last of August, with Holmes and Watson holed up in her musty old summer house, but after the first few chapters, I realized that I really missed that book's boarding school setting, and I liked it better when Watson and Holmes were just getting to know one another.

There was not a lot of recap of the first book to re-orient me in this one, and I struggled to remember everything that had happened. I also desperately needed Holmes and Moriarty family trees for reference. This book was filled with Holmes and Morarity siblings and cousins and uncles and I kept forgetting who was who and who was allied with whom. That could be a function of my currently scattered mental state, and be easier for someone with greater concentration, but there were a lot of related people with a lot of crisscrossing agendas, and I got confused.

My other complaint was the newly evolved relationship between Charlotte and Jamie. Their relationship felt like the one in a typical book two of an Angsty YA Paranormal Trilogy where the love interest pushes the main character away for her (though this time his!) own good. Yay for gender equality - why shouldn't women be the pushers-away? -- but the pushing-away plot is super-tedious. Plus, Charlotte was (of course) also withholding information from Jamie, so he seemed to spend most of the book moping around feeling uncertain and unnecessary. About two-thirds of the way into the story, Charlotte narrated a couple chapters (while Jamie was knocked unconscious) and that was like a breath of fresh air. Sorry that poor Jamie had to be knocked out for my enjoyment, but I enjoyed that part of the book more.

I did really like the art forgery aspect of the story, and wished that more of that had been included in the plot. But most of the action seemed centered around the various factions and their sneaking around Europe trying to double- and triple-cross each other.

According to my Goodreads feed, opinions are mixed on this one - if you've read it or plan to, let me know in comments!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Freebie Friday: To Catch a Killer

Happy Friday!

On Monday I reviewed To Catch a Killer, a YA mystery that I enjoyed. So I'm giving away an extra ARC!

Hope you have a great weekend and are reading something you enjoy@

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