Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Books Read in July

Lake Ontario at sunset, from Selkirk Shores State Park, NY

 What a crazy month! We had a couple of short trips, sent the kids off for a week, and dealt with my husband's emergency eye surgery (which went very well - thanks for all the support!). So, I have not had much time for blogging and am behind on posting reviews, but I did read a lot. I finally got moving on my Big Book Summer Challenge with two books over 400 pages this month, and I managed more audios than usual:

  • Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, an emotionally powerful novel by Ben Fountain (Texas)
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, on audio (Italy)
  • Game Changer by Margaret Peterson Haddix, a middle-grade/teen novel (no location specified)

  • Defending Jacob by William Landay, a legal thriller and my 2nd Big Book of the summer (Massachusetts)
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, a teen/YA novel and another Big Book (other world)
  • Not Exactly a Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis, a teen/YA audio book (New York)

  • Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich, pure summer fluff! (New Jersey)
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, a classic, on audio (England)


Wow, I thought I'd read fewer books than usual this month, but all those audios really added up! I read 8 books total (a lot for me), all fiction. Three were audios, 5 were grown-up novels, and 3 were for kids/teens/YA. It was a nice mix this month, and I enjoyed all of them. Hard to choose a favorite this month - I think it's probably Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, with The Knife of Never Letting Go as a close second.


Update on 2013 Reading Challenges:
I added only one new state (Texas) and one new country (Italy) to my 2013 Where Are You Reading Challenge. I read two more books off my TBR shelves, bringing the total up to 11 so far this year for my 2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge. I also added two audio books to my 2013 Audio Book Challenge. And The Time Machine counts as one more for Those Books I Should Have Read 2013 Challenge.

What did you most enjoy reading in July?

Fiction Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

 
Although I had a big stack of books waiting to be read at home, I grabbed yet another off my library’s recent paperback release shelf because I had heard it was unique and well-written. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain didn’t disappoint; I was blown away by the emotional power of this unusual novel and engrossed by its rapid pace.

The entire novel covers just one single day in the life of Billy Lynn, a 19-year old serving in the Army in Iraq. The men of Bravo squad, including Billy, have become overnight heroes in the U.S. after a fierce battle of theirs was captured on video that quickly went viral. Yanked from their post in Iraq, without any time to come to grips with what happened or mourn their fallen comrade, the eight remaining, uninjured men of Bravo are on a whirlwind Victory Tour across the U.S., ostensibly to honor their bravery though the real purpose seems to be to drum up support for the continuing war.

On this particular day, Thanksgiving and the last day of their U.S. tour, Bravo is being hosted by the Dallas Cowboys for an NFL game. In 48 hours, they will be shipped back to Iraq and back to the insanity of the war. Throughout the day, Billy texts with his sister who wants him to go AWOL, listens to the continuous discussion of a possible movie of their experiences where Hilary Swank would play him, stands next to Beyonce during the halftime show, and even shares a moment of connection with a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. Most of the men, like Billy, are still teens or barely out of their teens, and their heads are spinning with their sudden fame and the incongruency of being treated like royalty one day and being sent back to their tents in the desert among falling mortar the next.

In fact, this novel is all about incongruency and the absurdity of their situation. As Billy muses about their fate during the long wait for the game to begin, we learn the details of their famous battle and of their past two surreal weeks touring the country. Countless people approach the soldiers in Cowboy stadium to express their gratitude and support, as the men struggle to make sense of it all. Billy’s scrambled thoughts at this overwhelming input are sometimes aptly expressed simply as a jumble of words swirling through his ears and mind. Somehow, in the space of this single day, the author manages to cover everything from politics to war to family to America’s obsession with football and celebrity.

That’s one of the surprises of this unique novel. It’s not just about war or Iraq or terrorism. It’s about America and as much about the civilians with whom the men interact as it is about the soldiers themselves. It’s often tongue-in-cheek, frequently crude, sometimes hilariously funny, and sometimes heart-breaking. The novel takes the reader through the same jumbled mix of emotions that Billy himself is experiencing. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a powerful emotional journey, exploring issues both personal and universal, all in the space of a single, surreal day.

307 pages, Ecco, a HarperCollins imprint

 

Monday, July 29, 2013

It's Monday 7/29! What Are You Reading?



Things have changed dramatically at our house since this time last week. My husband lost the vision in one eye while away on business last week. Something similar happened a few years ago when he had a couple of retinal tears, so he went to the ER. After he got home, I took him to his own retinal specialist who decided he needed to do surgery to get to the bottom of this - there is still too much blood in the eye for him to clearly examine it visually. So, today is surgery day, tomorrow is a post-op appointment, and chances are good that we will be cancelling our vacation to Maine for which we are supposed to be leaving later this week. We've waited over a year for this trip!

So, it's been a rough week, and it looks like our summer will turn out much differently than we expected. We should know more after the post-op appointment tomorrow.

Of course, we continued to read this week:
  • I finished The Knife of Never Letting Go, Book 1 in the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, and loved it! It's hard to categorize this popular YA trilogy: it's somewhat post-apocalyptic, with some dystopian elements and overall a fast-paced suspense novel. I can't wait to read the next two books!
  • I had a nice surprise last week. I turned in two brief book reviews for my local library's adult summer reading program and got to pick out two new books for myself! One of the books I picked was Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich, so I started that a few days ago. This is perfect reading for a stressful summer week - light and fun and fast-paced, with plenty of humor.
  • I am still listening to the teen/YA audio book A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer, a post-apocalyptic story about a sister and brother making their way across the country after a devastating pandemic. It's very good, though I may not have as much time to listen now that the kids are back home!
  • My husband and I had to drive back to Connecticut this weekend to pick up our kids after a week of sailing with their grandparents, so we listened to a new audio book release of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I've never read this classic before and am really enjoying it. We'll probably finish it today and tomorrow going back and forth to the hospital and the doctor's office.
  • My husband, Ken, was told not to read or look at screens for too long this week, so I helped him put a couple of audio books on his iPod. He has been listening to Fugitive by Phillip Margolin, a thriller. He's enjoying it and finding listening to audio before bed very relaxing.
  • Jamie, 18, is still enjoying The Sorcerer's Path series by Brock Deskins on his Kindle. He finished Book 6: The Sorcerer's Abyss and also read Book 7: The Sorcerer's Return. While away on the boat, he said he also read 3 other free books on his Kindle that he enjoyed.
  • Craig, 15, was thrilled to be on vacation and not have to read at all! Yes, they were brought up in the same household.
My husband gave me a Kindle for my birthday last week, so I will have to see what's available in e-books!

Very little time for writing last week, so I just managed two posts:

Weekend Cooking 7/27

Review of Game Changer by Margaret Peterson Haddix, a middle-grade/teen novel about an alternate universe.

There is still a month of summer left, so plenty of time to sign up for the Big Book Summer Challenge and squeeze in a Big Book this summer! It's super-easy and relaxed, as summer should be, and you only need to read one book of 400 pages or more to participate. There are still six weeks of summer left, so lots of time to read a big book (or two). Join the fun!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Weekend Cooking 7/27


Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

I haven't written a Weekend Cooking post in a while because I've been so busy this summer. This week, my two sons were up at their grandparents' on their annual sailing vacation with their cousins, so my husband and I were on our own! I spent much of the week resting and recovering, but I also enjoyed cooking a few meals for the two of us, without worrying about picky eaters!

Coincidentally, our CSA haul this week included a wild mix of veggies my kids wouldn't touch, including beets, purple cabbage, okra, sorrel, dandelion greens, and cucumbers. So, I planned our meals around the veggies.

One night, we just had a simple dinner salad, with some Boston lettuce mixed with the sorrel (which is a bit bitter), and topped with cucumber, green beans, and roasted beets, plus some sliced steak, with a bit of blue cheese and a vinaigrette. Yum! It was delicious. I really like roasted beets, though they are a bit messy to prepare.

The okra had me stumped since the only thing I normally know to do with it is gumbo, and it was just too hot this week for soup. I searched on Cooking Light for summer okra recipes and found a great one: Corn and Summer Vegetable Saute. I used another recipe, Broiled Shrimp over Black Bean and Corn Salad, to marinate some large shrimp (I cooked ours on the grill) and served the shrimp on top of the Summer Veggie Saute. I even remembered to take a photo this time! It was delicious - perfect for a warm summer day.

And last night, I finally used that cabbage in Simmered Cabbage with Beef, Shan Style. I modified it a bit because I knew my husband wouldn't go for that "meat as flavoring" thing, so I used a half-pound of ground beef for the two of us (instead of the quarter-pound for four people the recipe calls for!). Anyway, it was delicious.

The kids come home this weekend, so it's back to more traditional meals, starting with our family's #1 favorite dinner, my own Red Beans and Rice recipe.

Hope you are enjoying your food and cooking this week!

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's Monday 7/22! What Are You Reading?


Wow, what a week! I was insanely busy last week...and insanely exhausted! I pushed way past the normal limits of my chronic illness, on my own with my husband away and getting my kids ready for their week of sailing with their grandparents - aka The Annual Grandchildren's Cruise! I took them to Connecticut on Friday, drove back (through awful traffic on the NJ Turnpike) Saturday, and then collapsed. I have been resting and recovering and am starting to feel a little better. The time alone has been such a huge relief, being responsible for no one but myself - bliss! My husband comes home tonight, so I am also looking forward to time alone with him.

Anyway, despite all that, we keep reading!
  • I finished Defending Jacob by William Landay. Very suspenseful with lots of twists and turns, pretty depressing, and definitely a surprise ending that I didn't see coming....and my second Big Book of the Summer!
  • I am now reading another of my Big Books, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, a YA post-apocalyptic novel. It is very good so far, and I'm enjoying it.
  • With all that time in the car by myself, I've had lots of audio book time (for a change). I listened to Not Exactly a Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis, a teen/YA novel set in 1977 about a 15-year old boy with a crush on his gorgeous, popular neighbor who resorts to anonymous phone calls because he's afraid to approach her in person. It was very good and helped all those hours stuck in traffic pass pleasantly.
  • Now I am listening to A Matter of Days, a teen/YA post-apocalyptic novel (yes, I've got kind of a dismal theme going at the moment!), about a teen girl and her younger brother making their way across the country by themselves after a pandemic wipes out most of the population. I just started it yesterday but it is good so far.
  • My husband, Ken, has been reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, but he has had to put his reading aside for now. While away, he had a scary incident with his eye and can only see out of one eye right now. The doctor told him no reading or computer screens until his vision clears - I don't know what he's going to do during his long hours of traveling today. I can't imagine flying without reading. He has a history of retinal tears and will have to follow up with his doctor later this week. Scary stuff.
  • Jamie, 18, finished Domes of Fire by David Eddings, Book 1 of The Tamuli series, one of his Dad's old favorites.
  • Once back home from our trip, Jamie was able to download the rest of the The Sorcerer's Path series by Brock Deskins to his Kindle. He is currently reading Book 6: The Sorcerer's Abyss. He loves this series!
  • Craig, 15, with much prodding on my part, finished The Lord of the Flies by William Golding before leaving for his trip. I asked him what he thought of it, and he said, "Really disturbing." Yup, that about sums that one up!
I was far too busy for reviews or other blog posts last week, but I hope to catch up while I'm alone this week.

Don't forget, there is still plenty of time to sign up for the Big Book Summer Challenge! It's super-easy and relaxed, as summer should be, and you only need to read one book of 400 pages or more to participate. There are still six weeks of summer left, so lots of time to read a big book (or two). Join the fun!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's Monday 7/15! What Are You Reading?


Huh? What? Monday already? We just returned from a long weekend spent camping, so it feels like Sunday to me. We traveled up to the farthest reaches of northern New York for my college reunion (Clarkson University) and took our pop-up camper so we could enjoy camping along the way. The camping was wonderful - we haven't had a vacation together in over a year! - and the reunion was amazing. Dozens of my friends from several years in my sorority all came back this weekend, and we laughed so hard my face hurt! There's nothing like old friends. I'm so glad we went.

We had plenty of quiet downtime for reading, too:
  • I FINALLY got moving again on my Big Book Summer Challenge and started reading Defending Jacob by William Landay this week. It's very good so far - gripping suspense about a DA whose son is accused of murder - and I have no idea how it's going to turn out.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. He liked the details of life at the lighthouse and the characters but found the outcome a bit of a downer. I think he's glad he read it.
  • Now Ken is reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. He says the characters are a bit strange - that seems to be Flynn's thing!
  • Jamie, 18, flew through Books 4 and 5 of The Sorcerer's Path series by Brock Deskins on his Kindle: The Sorcerer's Vengeance and The Sorcerer's Scourge. He loves this series that his friend recommended! Problem is that we got on the road - without WiFi - and he realized he hadn't downloaded the next book in the series yet! So, he had to switch to paper books for the weekend...
  • Jamie read Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, Book 3 in the Graceling trilogy, which has been sitting on his shelf for months. He said it was very good, but he liked the first two books better.
  • Now, Jamie is reading Domes of Fire by David Eddings, Book 1 of The Tamuli series, one of his Dad's old favorites. I think he read this one before but is re-reading it before reading Book 2. He can read in the car, so he read a LOT this weekend!
  • Craig, 15, is still making his way - very slowly! - through The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I told him he needs to finish it before he leaves on a trip with his grandparents Friday, so he's going to have to pick up his pace dramatically!
Not much blogging time last week, but I managed to post a couple of reviews before we left town:

Arcadia by Lauren Groff, a novel about a boy who grows up on a 70's commune.

 Lucky for Good by Susan Patron, the final book in the fabulous middle-grade Hard Pan series.

Don't forget, there is still plenty of time to sign up for the Big Book Summer Challenge! It's super-easy and relaxed, as summer should be, and you only need to read one book of 400 pages or more to participate. So, join the fun!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fiction Review: Arcadia

I bought Arcadia by Lauren Groff for my mom for Christmas, and she enjoyed it so much that she lent it to me and recommended it to one of my book groups (my mom comes along when she is in town).  I enjoyed this novel set on a 70’s commune, and we had some great discussions about it.

Bit (short for the “Tiniest Bit of a Hippie Ever”) was born in the back of a van to mom Hannah and dad Abe. Their wandering band of idealists start a commune soon after, in the woods and fields of western New York, with dreams of a utopian society where all material goods are shared in their self-sustaining society, living “pure and truthful lives.” Bit grows up in this rural place, isolated from the rest of the world, running wild with the rest of the Kid Herd.

He lives with Hannah and Abe in a bread truck on the Arcadia land, until the group manages to renovate an old mansion on the grounds. Though his parents clearly love him and are his primary caretakers, Bit has lots of other caring people to turn to if he ever needs help. However, not everything is perfect in this erstwhile paradise. Hannah suffers from sometimes crippling depression - especially in winter, they are all often cold and hungry, and their plans to share wealth equally and be self-sustaining never seem to fully come to fruition. Not everyone shares the same vision as Handy, the commune’s charismatic but lazy leader.

This novel is really Bit’s story: of his childhood, his adolescence among the ever-growing Arcadia, and his eventual adulthood and parenthood. His transition from the isolated world of the commune to the real world is fascinating, especially since Bit and his childhood pals seem to have different perceptions of their unusual childhood and different struggles in adapting to the outside world. Bit falls in love with one of his buddies from the Kid Herd and makes a life for himself, but eventually, events lead him back to what ‘s left of Arcadia.

Some people in our book group loved this novel (I was one of them) and a few people had some complaints with it, but everyone agreed it inspired a lot of good discussion! We talked about the pros and cons of the commune lifestyle, about the different parenting styles among its inhabitants and what it would have been like to grow up in that environment, and about the startling adjustment to the real world those kids had to eventually make. I don’t want to give away any plot points, but the last part of the book deals with some end-of-life issues that some of us found very moving. All in all, it is an engrossing story with some fascinating characters and a unique setting that I thoroughly enjoyed.

289 pages, Voice (Hyperion)

 

Monday, July 08, 2013

It's Monday 7/8! What Are You Reading?


Very hectic week last week, and another one starting today! I probably won't be online much this week. On the plus side, my oldest son finished his college summer class this weekend, and my youngest is off crutches and feeling great, so now our summer can really begin! We have a mini-vacation coming up - taking our camper along to my college reunion and camping along the way - our first road trip/vacation in over a year! I am sooo ready for that, even if it's just for a few days.

It has been horrifically hot and humid here lately which is extra-tough for me because of my chronic illness, so I have been hiding out indoors whenever I can (that's the other reason I can't wait to head north!). We managed lots of good reading this week:
  • I finished Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, and this novel about a team of young soldiers stationed in Iraq who are taken on a whirlwind Victory Tour of the US for acts heroism just blew me away. It was funny, emotionally powerful, and made me look at both the military and "normal" life in America in a whole new way.
  • I decided to squeeze in one more short teen/YA book before jumping into the rest of my long books for my Big Book Summer Challenge. I am almost finished with Game Changer by Margaret Haddix Peterson, an alternate reality novel that's been very engaging.
  • I finished Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter on audio and loved it - a great story of how seemingly minor events in the distant past affected a group of people decades later.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman on his Kindle, though he's not sure he's going to finish it. He's finding it interesting but can tell it's not going to end well - he's not a fan of sad books or movies! I think the characters are making him nervous as they make some questionable choices.
  • Jamie, 18, continued to plow through The Sorcerer's Path series by Brock Deskins on his Kindle; he is thrilled that his friend bought the whole series, so he can borrow them! He read Book 2: The Sorcerer's Torment and Book 3: The Sorcerer's Legacy this week. Now that he is done with school and has a couple of months off, I'm sure his reading time will expand even further!
  • Craig, 15, is reading The Lord of the Flies by William Golding - required reading for school - but is not making much progress so far! A few people commented here last week that they think required summer reading is a bad thing, but for my son, it is a very good thing! If he weren't required to read this summer, he would never pick up a book at all. He claims to hate reading, but often, if he starts a book for school, he ends up liking it. So, I am thrilled that he will at least read his two required novels this summer.
I did manage a few blog posts last week:

Review of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, an excellent novel my entire book group enjoyed.

Review of The Silver Six by A.J. Lieberman and Darren Rawlings, an imaginative and action-packed middle-grade graphic novel.

And a summary of Books Read in June - it was a record-setting month for me!

Don't forget, it's only the first week of July, so there is still plenty of time to sign up for the Big Book Summer Challenge! It's super-easy and relaxed, as summer should be, and you only need to read one book of 400 pages or more to participate. So, join the fun!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)

Friday, July 05, 2013

Books Read in June

Wow, I can't believe it's July already - June went by in a flash, though it was an odd month here. School ended, but my youngest son had knee surgery and my oldest started a summer class in college. We normally spend June on a long, relaxing camping road trip together, so this June was very different! My youngest is now walking without crutches and going to PT, and my oldest has his final exam tomorrow, so now our REAL summer can begin!

In the meantime, I read a LOT last month and started my Big Book Summer Challenge. Here's what I read in June:
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, a teen/YA novel, my first Big Book of the summer, and just as good the 2nd time! (Germany)
  • Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall, a novel set in Civil War times (Florida)
  • The Silver Six by A.J. Lieberman and Darren Rawlins, a middle-grade graphic novel (Massachusetts)


  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, fictional audio book (Germany)
  • Arcadia by Lauren Groff, novel (New York)
  • Lucky for Good by Susan Patron, middle-grade fiction (California)

Nine books in all! That's definitely a one-month record for me. It helped that several were quick middle-grade novels. This was a big book group month for me - I read The Book Thief, Blue Asylum, The Language of Flowers, and Arcadia all for book groups (and yes, my husband has already informed me I have an addiction!). The Book Thief is a long-time favorite of mine - I first read it several years ago - but of the books I read for the first time, I think The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is my favorite this month - it was just so unique and emotionally powerful.

Update on 2013 Reading Challenges:
I added only 1 new state (Florida) to my Where Are You Reading 2013 Challenge, but I also added 2 new countries (as usual, the titles are piling up for California and New York). Of these 9 books, only 1 (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) came from my TBR pile - yikes, I better quit taking more books out of the library! - so my 2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge is up to 9 books now. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was also my 5th audio book for the 2013 Audio Book Challenge.

What was your favorite book read in June?


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Fiction Review: The Language of Flowers

I recently read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh for my neighborhood book group, and it was one of those books that I never would have read on my own but was so glad that I did. It’s a compelling, moving novel about a young woman who grew up in the foster care system and is trying to learn how to survive out on her own. Her knowledge of flowers and their meanings (from Victorian times) saves her life, both figuratively and quite literally.

As the novel opens, Victoria is turning 18 and officially “aging out” of the foster care system in San Francisco. Her social worker picks her up from her latest group home (with her one cardboard box of possessions) and takes her to a transitional home, where she has just three months to find a job and become self-sufficient. Victoria was abandoned by her mother at birth and has been shuffled from one foster family to another for her entire childhood. As a result of the continual abandonment and lack of love, Victoria doesn’t know how to connect with people. Labeled a problem child early on, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as she came to believe that she was worthless, unloved, and unlovable.

Right from the start, the reader has hints that there was one person in her past who did love Victoria, a woman named Elizabeth with whom she bonded, but it is apparent that something horrible happened to break that bond. With her lack of self-confidence and no sense at all of self-worth, Victoria is lost out in the world by herself and paralyzed by doubts and fear. She is kicked out of the transitional home after three months and ends up sleeping in the park and wandering the city searching for scraps of food. She is drawn to a local flower shop, where her unique knowledge of the meaning of flowers gets her a job and starts her down a rocky path of making a life for herself.

The chapters alternate between the present and the past, where Victoria first met the only person who ever had any positive impact on her life. As readers, we know there is some terrible secret hidden in her past and that her idyllic time back when she was 10 somehow ended in tragedy. Those secrets are slowly revealed as the past and the present come together, and Victoria struggles to learn how to connect with someone and build a life for herself.

Everyone in our book group enjoyed this engrossing novel, and we had plenty to discuss. Like me, some of our members would not have read it on our own because the topic – the language of flowers – didn’t seem all that interesting to us. But the real topics here are foster care, love, life, survival, and rebirth. While Victoria’s actions are sometimes frustrating as she continually thwarts her own chances for success, the author provides enough detail of her past history that you can understand why she is acting this way, even if you don’t agree with it. It’s a compelling story filled with emotional highs and lows and is highly recommended, even if you aren’t interested in flowers. And if you are interested, there is a glossary in the back of different varieties of flowers and their meanings.

308 pages, Ballantine Books

P.S. If you are interested in a true-life story of surviving (and overcoming) the foster care system, I highly recommend Ashley Rhodes-Courter's YA memoir, Three Little Words.

 

Monday, July 01, 2013

It's Monday 7/1! What Are You Reading?


Yikes! How can it be July already? The year is officially half over - and there is so much I meant to do that I haven't gotten to yet! June flew by, but the good news is that my son is back on his feet after his knee surgery in early June. He started walking without crutches last week, started PT on Saturday, and is feeling great. Even better news? I no longer need to wait on him! Of course, now that he is able to get up and around, our schedule is filled with doctor's appointments, haircuts, PT, etc.

So, it was another busy week, but we enjoyed plenty of reading:
  • I finished Arcadia by Lauren Groff in plenty of time for my book group on Wednesday. It was a bit slow to start, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying this novel about a boy who grows up on a hippie commune in the 60's. There was lots of good discussion, too.
  • Next, I read a short middle-grade novel, Lucky for Good by Susan Patron, the last book in the Lucky Hard Pan trilogy. This one was just as fabulous as the first two - warm, intelligent, and surprisingly sophisticated for a middle-grade novel. I will miss Lucky!
  • I am now reading Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, an impulse pick-up from the library's New Paperbacks shelf, even though I have a stack of books waiting to be read for my Big Book Summer Challenge! I had heard such great things about this novel that I couldn't resist it. I'm only on chapter 3, but it's good so far.
  • I am still listening to Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter on audio and enjoying it very much. I think things are building to the end, and I can't wait to hear what happens!
  • My husband, Ken, finished Gone for Good by Harlen Coben and enjoyed the light suspense read.
  • Now, he has started The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, a novel I purchased on his Kindle earlier this year for one of my book groups (and loved!).
  • Jamie, 18, continued to tear through fantasy novels on his Kindle, starting with The Weight of Blood by David Daglish. 
  • He is now reading The Sorcerer's Ascension, Book 1 in The Sorcerer's Path series by Brock Deskins.
  • And Craig, 15, has finally started his required summer reading for school with The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. He's not too impressed so far, but he's not even through chapter one yet! I think he'll like it once he gets into it.
With so much running around last week, I didn't have much time for writing but managed just a couple of blog posts:

I posted my review of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas on both book blogs (Book By Book and Great Books for Kids and Teens) because it was marketed for adults but is just as good for teens and YAs. The audio book just blew me away.

And I wrote my Weekend Cooking post, with a couple of recipes using the bountiful summer produce available now.

Don't forget, it's only the first week of July, so there is still plenty of time to sign up for the Big Book Summer Challenge! It's super-easy and relaxed, as summer should be, and you only need to read one book of 400 pages or more to participate. So, join the fun!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)