Sunday, December 27, 2015

What We're Reading--and Watching!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:   Happy Sunday! Since you might have a moment to relax, here's what we're reading and watching!

I'm reading The Verdict (still deciding...), and the new Rory Flynn DARK HORSE. (fabulous!) (Here it is with my amaryllis--which bloomed like mad on Christmas Day.)

We're watching Making of a Murderer (incredibly--unbelievable!--documentary on Netflix.) Jessica Jones (We'll let Susan tell about that.) And on Acorn, Black Work. Which was...entertaining.

At the movies? We saw: Star Wars (Daisy Ridley! An honorary Red. And cannot wait to discuss it after spoiler time is over) and The Big Short, which was WONDERFUL. Brilliant. Fabulous. Amazing writing and unique structure .  See it!
And SPOTLIGHT!  Do not miss that one, either.  SO authentic, and terrifying and journalistically inspirational.
Making of a Murderer 
How about you?

HALLIE EPHRON: I'm reading The Goldfinch. Just getting into it and so far so great. I was wondering about Making of a Murderer, Hank, so thanks for the Thumbs-up. Last night I watched Season 1 finale of How To Get Away With Murder. Talk about bait and switch and switch and switch... And everyone with Netflix (or BBC) don't miss Detectorists. It's divine.

LUCY BURDETTE: This is the stack of books I received from various people for Christmas--it's hard to know where to start! Plus I have on order a number of mysteries coming out on the first Tuesday in January, so I'd better get busy. And John just finished THE PRINCE OF LOS COCUYOS, a memoir by poet lauriat  Richard Blanco, which I'm dying to read. We watched CODE BLACK this weekend, a documentary about the Emergency Department at LA County Hospital in California. (Sorry to say that the TV series based on this doesn't show much promise.) It's quite an extraordinary work environment, especially interesting to us as our daughter graduated from their ER residency.

Oh, and I cannot wait to see JOY, and possibly ROOM. Has anyone seen the latter?

RHYS BOWEN: With 14 people in the house I'm not getting much reading done. But in my spare moments of quiet I'm reading Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, and loving it. Waiting to be read is Kate Morton's new one, The Lake House. And I haven't had a chance to see the new Star Wars yet. Probably the only person in the universe who hasn't seen it!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: No, Rhys, we're going today. I wanted to wait until after Christmas Day, because before, it would feel like something else we were trying to squeeze in. By waiting until Sunday, I feel like Star Wars is The Thing for the third day of Christmas! (Speaking of which, have you seen Darth Vader's 12 Days of Christmas?)  Here it is:

The only television show I've been following lately has been THE MUPPETS, which I love. I'm finding it hard to get into any episodic shows - either the writing seems to go downhill, or it builds up a head of steam and then it becomes obvious the writers have no idea where to go with it. I want a resurgence of the miniseries: six or eight hours of drama and then boom! It's done. If any of you have suggestions in the comments, I welcome them!

My book for the holidays is going to be Paul Doiron's THE PRECIPICE. I've had it since this summer, when it came out, but as too often happens, I've fallen way behind in reading my friends. (Truthfully, I'm way behind in all my reading. I'm pretty sure there are several blurb-dates I've missed. I'm sorry, other authors. It's not you. It's me.)

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: We saw Star War: The Force Awakens on Monday and loved it! Couldn't help but think what a fabulous Maggie Hope Daisy Ridley would make now that she's bought the rights! Been watching Amazon's original series Man in the High Castle — about an alternative universe where the Nazis and Japanese won World war II and the U.S. is both German and Japanese territory... And I'm reading guidebooks on Paris, to prepare for this year's research trip for Maggie Hope #7! Yes, finally getting into the SOE in France and La Résistance....

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yes, Susan, that’s exactly what I kept thinking, too! She’ll be a perfect Maggie. And oh, we watched Man in the High Castle, too. Which we LOVED, until the end, which we are still discussing. But apparently they’re having a second season.

And who’s looking forward to Downton? Game of Thrones? And Power!

Reds,  what are your recommendations?


  1. I just finished reading "One More Day" [Kelly Simmonos] and "Piece of Mind" [Michelle Adelman]. Next in the still-teetering to-be-read pile is "The Searcher" [Simon Toyne]. But we are on the way to Virginia on Monday, so I see my end-of-the-year reading defaulting to Doctor Seuss or whatever wonderful children's books the grandbabies pick. Whatever they are, I'm sure we'll all enjoy them.

    We are off to see "Star Wars," too . . . like Julia, we didn't want to try to cram it in before Christmas, but we are anxious to see it. [Thanks, Julia, for the link for Darth Vader's Twelve Days of Christmas -- it's great!]

  2. Can't wait for Downton and Call the Midwife to start up again. We just watched Phoenix, a "A spellbinding mystery of identity, illusion, and deception unfolds against the turmoil of post-World War II Germany" according to Rotten Tomatoes, where it got a 98% positive rating. Highly recommend. Have not been out to the theaters at all, though!

    I've been reading up a STORM - and am blogging about it on Wicked Cozy Authors tomorrow... ;^)

  3. I have read "Bittersweet " by Colleen McCullough and "Harm None " by Will North (after his post) and some books in French.
    Downloaded "Away in a manger": it is the next on my list and I already know I'll love it. Also downloaded Edith ´s " a Tine To...", looking forward to it, it will be my first.
    Rhys I've not seen Star Wars and don't intend to (probably the only one on earth)
    During Holidays, I like to watch little Christmas films but never remember their tltle
    The second season I'm awaiting for is Outlander.


  4. So looking forward to Downton Abby and Game of Thrones!

    LOVED Man in the High Castle but the ending was.... frustrating. (Don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen.) Anyone out there watching Jessica Jones? I love the concept, but got sort of bored part-way through.... I wonder though if that's just me and my short attention span though?

  5. Blasphemy, I know, but I couldn't get traction with Downton. I'm looking forward to GoT and Orphan Black. Plus, there's a period episode of Sherlock coming up. If you miss Firefly, Killjoys channels that jaunty brio with a dash of darkness and a female Mal.

    Last night, we saw Star Wars for the second time in about a week, but with friends who are non-writers but story savvy and familiar with the Star Wars Expanded Universe. We talked at length, too, about keeping a series fresh - and what exhausts one too soon. We, more or less,"closed" the diner. It was a blast.

    Daisy Riley is going to make a marvelous Maggie Hope.

  6. We have not seen Star Wars, either, Rhys, and I doubt we will. My husband is not a fan, and he likes his Netflix queue too much.

    I've been traveling SO much lately; I've driven 5,500 miles since mid - November. So, a lot less reading than I usually do. But a friend who rarely reads fiction recently read Go Set a Watchman, and he wants me to read it, too, so we can have a mini bookclub. We will drink good scotch for that, instead of wine. :-)

    I'm taking down notes of recommendations of shows. Hallie, have you seen Frankie & Grace? A grown up comedy, Netflix original.

    Rhys, I was the last person accepted into your workshop, my Christmas gift! Very excited.

  7. Outlander, Outlander! Yes, indeed.

    Yes, Rhonda, I forgot--what's the date of the new Sherlock?

    KAREN IN OHIO!!! WILl do you a blog on Rhys's workshop for us??

  8. Susan, cannot wait to talk with you about High Castle.

    Did anyone else watch Childhood's ENd?

  9. OMG, Hank - so glad you had me double check. The new Sherlock, a single episode, airs FRIDAY night, Jan. 1, on PBS. I would've sworn it was airing later in the month. Good grief, that was a close call. (I'm very serious about my entertainment. :) )

    We watched the first episode of Childhood's End but haven't made it through the rest of the series yet. We keep mentally comparing it to V, both old and new versions: "We are of Peace. Always." The irony may be, that Clarke's CHILDHOOD'S END may have been one of the original tellings of this tale, but its more recent imitators are what took hold in public consciousness?

  10. Sorry to have missed getting my comment up last night, REDs, but we had very bad weather here. Don't know if you've seen on the news. The worst of the storms moved just to our east, but they were, according to the National Weather Service, catastrophic. At least eight people are dead and I don't think they've even began to really asses the damage to homes and businesses. My son-in-law's parents were in a hospital near the worst tornado, and although they lost power, they were, thank goodness, not hit. When we finally went to bed last night they were reporting 40,000 people without power.

    So thankful to have home and family safe.

    I just finished reading the first book in a new steam-punk fantasy series by Jim Butcher, The Aeronaut's Windlass, which was quite fun. For Christmas, Santa (me-Santa) gave me City on Fire, which is supposed to be the big (literally, eight-hundred some-odd pages!) novel of the year. So far I'm really liking it.

    Haven't seen Star Wars yet, but hoping to go sometime this week.

    And haven't really been watching anything on TV lately. Just can't get into things. Don't know if it's me or the writing.

    But I am still listening to the Audible recording of Tim Curry reading A Christmas Carol, which I am loving. I'd forgotten how much I love Dickens. And, Julia, you and Ross are indeed Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig!!

  11. Debs, so glad to know you and your family are high and dry there. Such awful news from the southern US, and also northern England. Waiting to hear from a friend in the UK how she is.

    Yes, Hank! I'd love to.

  12. Hank, I read "Childhood's End" seven or so years after it was published; of course, I just had to watch it. For the most part, it was reasonably true to Arthur C. Clarke's story as I remember it . . . . In any event, I enjoyed it.

  13. My gosh Debs, that's awful about the storms. we were just reading about the fires in southeast Australia this morning too--weather is so scary!

    Danielle, I won't see Star Wars either. It never hit my sweet spot. But Downton Abbey, yes indeed. We saw a clip of the interview with the writer on the PBS news. He wrote every single episode himself!

    And we like Grace and Frankie, too--our niece-in-law to be is an associate producer so we feel connected in a personal way to the show--fun!

    Yay Karen in Ohio, we'd love a blog on Rhys's Italian adventure:)

  14. We saw "Spotlight" and highly recommend. (I saw "Room" when it came out and loved it -- the little boy!!!)

    I have Elizabeth George's "A Banquet of Consequences" waiting for me, but I have to finish "The Long Song" by Andrea Levy first. "The Long Song" is quite good, but has not gotten much attention in the past weeks of moving and holidays.

    Does everyone know about "Me, My Hair, and I"? Hallie has a chapter. Edited by Elizabeth Benedict. I loved each selection.

    We will probably see "Star Wars," maybe even today. But I also want to see "Brooklyn" and "The Danish Girl."

    I have an Amazon Fire Stick and have been watching "Maigret" -- just finishing Season Two. Fabulous.

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  16. Great, Karen! So exciting.

    Oh, Debs, how terrifying…so it hit where you are? The weather is so scary.

    And Rhonda, whew. I'd have missed it, too. Isn't it so meta that they're setting it up the the fictional contemporary Holmes is paying the fictional (!) Victorian Holmes?

    Yeah, Childhood's End and High Castle make me realize how difficult it is to have a satisfying ending, even if the story-journey is fascinating.

    Debs, again..thinking of you..

  17. Thanks for all the great recommendations!! I just finished Seized by Elizabeth Heiter. It is releasing Tuesday, the third in a series, and a page turner!

  18. THIS IS HANK: Spotlight, Spotlight--truly wonderful. All The President''s Men, it's as good as that.

    (And odd--I lived through the reality of both stories, in Washington DC during Watergate, and in Boston during the priest scandal.)

    PLAYING Holmes, not paying Holmes. Sheesh.

  19. Did anyone else see Homeland? I was *not* thrilled with the ending -- that's all I'll say....

  20. Homeland--we are not caught up! So again, cannot wait to discuss it! You all should come to Boston--isn't there some kind of Muppet thing, maybe, someday??

    And The Americans is coming back, too, right?

    Can I just ask one Star Wars thing? Did the whole movie take place in one day?

  21. And Making of a Murderer is also instructive to writers--t's terrific, but TOO LONG. I went back to my manuscript with renewed intent to CUT. Just because you have something doesn't mean you have to use it all.

    Still, it's a riveting look into the "justice" system.

  22. Debs, that is so terrifying to see on the news; hard to imagine how frightening it must be to experience. So glad you and your family are safe.

  23. Don't forget--1 January is the Sherlock special.

  24. Thanks so much for the shout out, Dee Sprinkle! I'm so thrilled you enjoyed SEIZED - I'm counting down the days until release now!

    Happy holidays, everyone!

    As for my list, I'm looking forward to Star Wars (loved the original three) and I have a stack of TBR books so high it's ridiculous...I'm trying to dive in between book deadlines of my own.

  25. Fabulous selections!

    Julia, for that mini-series feel you're longing to find, I can recommend WAYWARD PINES, based on the novels by Blake Crouch. At only ten episodes, the storyline zips along. It invites viewers to put the pieces together all the way through. Why did those Secret Service agents disappear? Is this all an elaborate cover-up or is a darker truth at work? And it stars Matt Dillon, so you can't go wrong there.

    I also agree with Libby Dodd. Can't wait for the Sherlock special! I'll add the X-files reboot to that list, too.

    In the meantime, the TBR stack on my nightstand is tall. I'm still working my way through books I bought at Bouchercon. So many good titles!

  26. Julia, I recommend watching season 2 of Fargo, which just ended. Loved it! If you are a Justified fan you would enjoy it. I watched only part of season 1. Meh. But such humor and surprises and craziness in the second season. And the seasons are stand alones. Different time, different people.
    I am also counting down the days to Downton Abbey. Please resolve the murder for once and for all. Please. Tired of it. I'll confess. I shoved that sleaze in front of a bus. There.
    As for reading, lots. Read Roberta/Lucy's Death With All the Trimmings. What a wonderful place to live! About to start The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle. My husband gave me Girl on a Train, so that's in the lineup too. I also have a gift card for B&N and for Amazon.
    My friend in Arizona and I exchange books for Christmas. So she has gotten quite a few of the Reds' over the years. She loved In the Bleak Midwinter, Julia, and bless her heart she send me A Fountain Filled With Blood. I don't want to tell her I read it ages ago and indeed, already have it in my bookcase. I'll figure something out.

  27. First off, Debs, I am so glad to hear you and your family are safe and sound after the terrible storms. As I was reading about it in the paper this morning, I was thinking that I needed to get on here and see how you are. Such devastation at any time of the year, but it always seems especially tragic during Christmas.

    Anonymous, in the last month, I've read Will North's Harm None and Too Clever by Half, and I thoroughly enjoyed them, especially the Cornwall setting. My husband and I were listening to a book CD in the car yesterday, and it mentioned the Lizard, a part of Cornwall, and I was so tickled to know where it was. Oh, and I am so excited about the second season of Outlander, too.

    I'm finishing up, hopefully today, No Stone Unturned by James Ziskin, his series about the female reporter set in the early 60s in a small town in New York state. No Stone Unturned is the second of the three out so far in the series, and I read them in a skewed order, which I never used to do. I received the last one, Stone Cold Dead, free and then went back to read the first two. Lucy, I, too, received The Lake House for Christmas, and I can't wait to read it. I give myself a bag of books for Christmas, and the contents this year are on my blog at However, I have a few more ordered to arrive on Monday. I have several books I need to start reading that come out in January and for which I received ARCs for reviews. Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz (apparently already being looked at for a movie, with Bradley Cooper producing and possibly starring in) comes out Jan. 19th and The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore comes out Jan. 26th. Then, I usually try to catch up on series in January and February, which this year includes Kristi Belcamino's Gabriella Giovanni crime series and the Shetland Island series by Anne Cleeves. And, I still haven't gotten to A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith, and X by Sue Grafton. Then, there's that interesting book, When Books Go to War by Molly Guptill Manning that I so want to read.

    I haven't yet seen the new Star Wars movie. Hope to this week. My husband has been watching Homeland, but I'm out of the loop on that one, so I haven't been. Christmas night found me watching something that I had resisted watching for years. My husband had started watching the fifth season of Dexter in the family room and came into the living room and turned it on. Damn him. I can't believe I spent Christmas night watching five hours of Dexter. The world is upside down for sure. I do want to catch up on The Man in the High Castle. I watched the first two episodes and am hoping to watch more this week.

    Karen in Ohio, what a great Christmas present you received. Going to Rhys' writing workshop would be a dream come true for anyone.

  28. I spent the morning updating my operating system... don't ask. Debs, so glad you're ok. It sounds very scary.

    Writing down all these recommendations - an Sherlock 1/1.

  29. Nichole, we loved Wayward Pines! I was so nervous they wouldn't be able to pull it off..but they did, don't you think?

    PatD--thank you for spreading the word for the Reds!

    Hey, Elizabeth Heiter! SO excited for your new release!

    Kathy, whoa. You are amazing. I am so eager for Orphan X! Love Gregg Hurwitz.

  30. Hallie, that sounds impressive. (I was patting myself on the back for downloading Spotify, and downloading all the Beatles. But I think it's hilarious that we can even use these phrases…"updating my operating system. " Huh. Did you get Windows 10?)

  31. Oh Debs, so glad to hear you are safe. So much terrible weather this Chrustmas.
    And count me among those waiting for Downton. I am so good and didn't find out any details from my many British relatives and friends who have slready seen it.

  32. Julia, we've been hooked on BBC series lately - usually 8 episodes or so, like a mini-series - and the writing on some of them is fabulous!

    I highly recommend Sherlock (of course! counting the days to the Jan. 1 special) and Broadchurch (NOT the American version). Jessica Jones - yes, but about intense!

    I'm making a promise to myself to read more this year - half-way through Catriona McPhearson's BURY HER DEEP, with Hank's latest nearing the top of my TBR stack.

  33. Oh, Cyndi, crossing fingers you love it!

  34. Oh, Julia, I meant to tell you that I loved the Darth Vader "Twelve Days of Christmas."

  35. And hi, dear Rhys! Hope your crush of arriving relatives went well!

  36. I forgot to add the things I GAVE for Christmas: to my daughter, the new Robert Galbraith, to my mom-in-law, Burt Reynolds's memoir, and to my sis-in-law, WHAT YOU SEE! And to my friend, a B&N gift certificate so she can browse to her heart's content.

    Looking forward to X-Files! Better set DVR as I think I'll be in London. And the Sherlock special on Jan 1!

  37. Hallie, I started watching The Detectorists. Thanks for the recommendation!

  38. Just devoured Cathy Ace's CORPSE WITH THE GARNET FACE. It's not out yet, so you'll have to wait. It is a GREAT book. Full of art and food and Amsterdam. Highly recommended.