Tuesday, December 07, 2021

TV Tuesday: Maid

My husband went on a rare business trip last month, so I started a just-for-me show I'd been dying to watch: Maid on Netflix, a limited series based on the best-selling memoir of the same name by Stephanie Land. It more than lived up to the rave reviews I've been hearing. I finished it today with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.

Twenty-eight-year-old Alex is smart and has a bright future ahead: she's been accepted to the writing program at University of Montana at Missoula. But a casual relationship turns into an unplanned pregnancy, and soon Alex finds herself trapped in a trailer with Sean and their young daughter, Maddy. Alex loves Maddy with all her heart and loves being her mother, but Sean drinks heavily every night and often loses his temper. He's never actually hurt Alex or Maddy, but the night that he throws a glass bowl and narrowly misses Alex's head, she realizes they are in danger. She and Maddy leave in the middle of the night, and Alex is determined not to return. She soon finds, though, that life is extremely difficult for a young single mother on her own. She enters the impossibly complex web of government programs that sound good in theory but don't work in practice. She needs a job to qualify for aid, but she can't get a job without an address. A home for victims of domestic violence is their saving grace, run by a kind, older woman named Denise, though they spend some nights in their car and one awful night on the floor of the ferry terminal. Alex is determined to find a job and gets hired by a cleaning service but must provide her own cleaning supplies, which uses up every penny of the meager cash she has. She also needs to find care for Maddy while she works. She spends her days cleaning the homes of wealthy couples and families who treat her like a non-person. In addition, Alex is estranged from her father, and her mother has untreated bipolar disorder; Alex has been taking care of her since she was six years old. Alex endures challenge after challenge, and just when things seem stable, something else happens to pull the rug out from under her. But she is determined to not only make a life for her herself but to protect her beloved daughter, too.

Wow. This show is so wonderful. It's a moving, powerful story made all the more impactful by the fact that it's based on a true story. The casting is perfect, with Margaret Qualley playing Alex, and Andie MacDowell (her real-life mother) as her unstable mother, Paula. Those two, and the rest of the cast, are outstanding in their roles, as is little Rylea Nevaeh Whittet as Maddy. The relationship between Alex and Maddy is heart-warming and feels authentic. The gorgeous setting, on the Washington coast and nearby islands, provides a beautiful backdrop for this often raw story of survival. There are moments of despair, countered by moments of victory, and I was rooting for Alex every step of the way. Alex and Paula and Maddy feel real to me, and their story is poignant, heart-breaking, and ultimately triumphant. It's made all the more powerful by the understanding that Alex's story is the story of so many other abused women and single mothers struggling to survive.

Maid is a Netflix exclusive.

Monday, December 06, 2021

It's Monday 12/6! What Are You Reading?


It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
is hosted by Kathryn of The Book Date blog. Check out her blog and join in the Monday fun!

 

My confession: I have mixed feelings about this time of year and the holiday season. Of course, there are traditions I love, and I enjoy the time with my family. But, there’s just so much to do!! Plus, after pitching article ideas to a particular magazine all year, I finally heard back with a “yes” from the editor, and it’s due this week! I’m thrilled for the opportunity to be writing the article, but it’s really bad timing. I'm really not a Scrooge--just feeling overwhelmed.

 

I just realized I wasn’t able to post last Monday, so this is a two-week catch-up. So, a quick summary of the past two weeks in my life:

 

We drove to Buffalo, NY (8 hours each way), for a family funeral. A sad occasion, but it was wonderful to see family members we hadn’t seen in three years!

 

Typical Buffalo/Rochester scene in mid-November!

The next week was Thanksgiving, and we again drove to western NY, this time to my hometown of Rochester. Both of our sons were with us, and we again saw family members we hadn’t seen in at least 2 ½ years, so there were some very happy reunions. 

 

Nice to have all four of us together!

Two of our four cars broke down last week! One totally died while our son was driving home, stranding him on the NJ Turnpike, making for a frantic day before our Thanksgiving trip. That one’s in a NJ auto shop, awaiting a new engine (!). Our SUV started acting up on the way home from Rochester and is going to the shop tomorrow. That leaves us with my 30-year-old VW convertible and my father-in-law’s bright purple Dodge Challenger!

 

We went to get our Christmas tree this weekend. Sadly, the tree farm we have gone to for 20 years ran out of trees, so we tried a new farm. It was huge and had a great selection, though we missed the hayride, live reindeer, and free kettle corn. We cut down a lovely Douglas fir and will put it up next weekend.

 

My husband and son with our just-cut tree!

 

It's been busy for me, so I just posted two new book videos to my YouTube channel the past two weeks:

 


And here’s the important part: what we’ve all been reading the past two weeks!

 

My reading time was curtailed with all that time in the car and visiting family, but I did finally finish reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara for Nonfiction November. It was an outstanding book, immersive, engrossing, and suspenseful. I don’t normally read much true crime, but this account of the Golden State Killer combines both true crime and memoir, as McNamara documents her own growing obsession with finding this serial rapist and murderer who got away with his crimes for decades. As a true crime writer, McNamara began looking into a series of unsolved rapes and murders that occurred across the state in the 1970’s and 80’s. She ended up working with detectives and forensic specialists who had worked the case in the past (and were equally fixated on finding the perp). He was eventually found, but unfortunately, Michelle died before that victorious event, so the book was finished by her editor, her assistant, and her husband, Patton Oswald, the actor. It's a fascinating story, and I had trouble putting this one down!

 

It took me so long to finish that book with everything going on that I only had two days left of Nonfiction November! I made the most of it by squeezing in one last short memoir, Lift by Kelly Corrigan. I’ve never read anything by Corrigan before, but I certainly knew of her. For years, I have heard rave reviews of her collections of personal essays, and I have listened to interviews with her on podcasts. So, I was excited to finally read one of her books. It lived up to my expectations. This one is just a brief memoir, written as a letter to her two young daughters. She writes about the experience of being a parent, with a focus on three different events: the tragic death of the eighteen-year-old son of her aunt, her own terrifying experience when one of her daughters was hospitalized with meningitis as a baby, and a dear friend who very much wanted to be a mother but, in her 40’s, hadn’t found the right life partner. She captures the exquisite joys and pains of parenting. As I expected from her wonderful interviews, it was beautifully written, powerful, moving, and injected with her signature humor. (full review with excerpts at the link).

 

Next, I started a novel, but within 24 hours, I remembered I have book group coming up! So, I quickly downloaded Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce onto my Kindle and switched to reading that instead. My neighborhood book group absolutely loved Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and its companion novel, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, so when this latest novel was suggested, it was a shoe-in! Margery Benson is a large woman in her 40’s in England in 1950 who feels at loose ends, having lost all of her family and working an unsatisfying job as a Home Ec teacher. On impulse, she does something reckless and then decides to embark on an expedition to a remote island in the Pacific to look for a never-before-seen (perhaps mythical?) golden beetle. Accompanying her, by some strange twists of fate, is Enid Pretty, a wild young woman in a bright pink suit who is Margery’s complete opposite. It has the same sense of warmth, absurdity, and humor as her other novels, as Margery and Enid find themselves while searching for the beetle.

 

It’s been more than two years since we’ve been able to take a long road trip, so I had lots of suspense and thriller audiobooks saved up for my husband and I. On the long drive to and from Buffalo for the funeral, we listened to Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson. This was a creepy and suspenseful one! Malcolm, a quiet bookstore owner, is visited by FBI Special Agent Mulvey at his store in Boston. She is beginning to suspect there is an unusual serial killer at work. Years earlier, Malcolm published a list of “Eight Perfect Murders” on the store’s blog, recounting eight different classic murder mysteries that might be considered unsolvable. Now, Agent Mulvey thinks someone is using his list to actually commit murders. The two begin to work together, though Mal has secrets he is trying to protect. This was excellent suspense and perfect for our long, snowy car trip. Our only complaint was that eight classic murder novels have now been spoiled for us!

 

On my own, I finished my last audiobook for Nonfiction November, The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters' Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory by Roxane van Iperen. This nonfiction history describes the lives of two Dutch Jewish sisters, Janny and Lien, from their peaceful childhoods growing up in Amsterdam with their parents to the Nazi occupation of their beloved country when they are young women and new parents to their large roles in helping the Resistance and finally to their time spent in concentration camps. Wow. I’ve read a lot of books about the Holocaust, but this one surprised me by its visceral power to convey some amazing—and horrifying—experiences. It was outstanding.

 

Now, I have transitioned back to fiction, listening to Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune. I’ve been hearing a lot of great reviews of both this novel and Klune’s first one, The House in the Cerulean Sea, so I wanted to find out for myself. This is an unusual novel about the afterlife, described by one reviewer as “A Man Called Ove meets The Good Place”—sold! Wallace is a buttoned-up lawyer with no compassion who suddenly dies of a heart attack. He is sitting in the church, watching his own funeral—dressed embarrassingly in flip-flops, sweat pants, and an old Rolling Stones t-shirt—when a young woman joins him and explains that she is a reaper, there to guide him after his death. It takes Wallace a while to even believe he is dead, but meeting Hugo, the ferryman, begins to convince him. It’s great so far, with a mix of depth and humor that I’m enjoying.

 

My husband, Ken, just finished reading a birthday gift I gave him, The Guide by Peter Heller. He and I both thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this loose series, The River, about a canoe trip in Canada gone very, very wrong. Like that one, this is also a wilderness thriller. Jack, one of the main characters from The River, is now working at an expensive fishing lodge in Colorado, taking wealthy clients out fishing. In a post-COVID world, the resort offers the wealthy a respite from the dangerous world. Jack is assigned to guide a big-deal singing celebrity and figures it’ll be an easy job with her. But when the two are out in the wilderness, they hear a scream in the night. Sounds like a great set-up, and Ken enjoyed it.

 

Now, Ken’s reading Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, book one of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Our son picked this out for him; it is one of his favorite fantasy novels, and he wanted his dad to try it. The description says, “Vast legions of gods, mages, humans, dragons and all manner of creatures play out the fate of the Malazan Empire in this first book in a major epic fantasy series.” Ken isn’t nearly as big a fan of epic fantasy as our son is, but he’s always willing to try a book our son thinks he’ll enjoy.

 

And our son, 27, has been reading a lot! Lucky guy—he can read in the car without getting sick. He finished The Magic Engineer, book three of the Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. He’s enjoying this series and asked for book four for Christmas. Next he moved onto Shattered Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. He explained to me that this is a spin-off series of her acclaimed Seven Realms series, set in the same world. He read book one, Flamecaster, and when he was with us last week for Thanksgiving, he was almost finished with book two, Shadowcaster. I know he loves this author and this world she has created.

 

 

Blog posts from the past two weeks:

 

Nonfiction Review: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner - excellent memoir about Korean food and culture ans a rocky mother-daughter relationship 


Graphic Memoir Review: Other Boys by Damian Alexander - excellent middle-grade/teen coming-of-age story


Nonfiction Review: Lift by Kelly Corrigan - brief but powerful memoir of parenthood

 

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, so head over and check out her blog and join the Monday fun! You can also participate in a kid/teen/YA version hosted by Unleashing Readers.

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

What are you and your family reading this week
?


Friday, December 03, 2021

Nonfiction Review: Lift by Kelly Corrigan


For years, I have been hearing rave reviews of Kelly Corrigan's books, most of them collections of personal essays. I've also heard interviews with her on podcasts, about how she lost her dad, struggled with cancer, and more. Every interview I heard, in spite of the often dark topics, has made me laugh, though, so I knew I wanted to read some of her writing. Nonfiction November was over much too quickly for me, but I did manage to squeeze in one last book in the last two days of the month, the short memoir Lift by Kelly Corrigan.

This brief little book was actually written by Kelly as a letter to her two daughters, for them to read at some far-off time in the future when they are grown. It describes some of her experiences as a mother, including both the intense pains and soaring joys of being a parent. Her narrative covers the small, everyday moments between parents and children, as well as the extraordinary times that you think might break you. In particular, she writes about when one of her daughters, as a baby, caught meningitis and was hospitalized for several nightmarish days, driving home the fragility of life. She also writes about her friend, Meg, who very much wanted to be a parent but hadn't found the right person to be her partner, and how she finally came to a decision that would change her life. And she writes of the devastating loss of a family member, her aunt's son, a teen boy just entering the prime of his life, and how her aunt (and she) dealt with that. That same aunt once told her, " ... We're never ready for the things that happen. When the big stuff happens, we're always looking in the other direction." In another passage, Kelly writes about what family means to her, explaining why she wanted to be a mother:

"Greenie [grandpa] has this huge family and I love being inside something that big. I love the noise and the hugging and high-fiving and how we tell the same ten stories every time we're together and, after that, we tell the same six jokes ..."

Having just returned from a Thanksgiving trip to see my own family, where we did indeed beg my stepfather to tell all his best stories again (for the hundredth time) as we all laughed until our stomachs hurt, I can relate.

And that's what Kelly Corrigan--and all the best essayists and memoirists--does. She tells her own very personal stories in such a warm, intimate way that we see our own experiences in them. She writes beautifully (I tabbed many quotes in the short book), with deep, raw emotion but also humor. Lift is a moving, powerful encapsulation of what it means to be a parent--and a flawed human--in a world that is bound to both break our hearts and give us unbelievable moments of joy. Reading this book took me back to the days when my own two sons were young in a wonderful (and terrifying) journey of nostalgia. It also inspired me to write my own letters to them. Fittingly, one of my sons gave me this book for my birthday.

89 pages, Hachette Books

Random House Audio

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

 

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the 90-minute audiobook, read by the author, here and/or download it from Audible.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!

   

Or you can order Lift from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Graphic Memoir Review: Other Boys

When I read about Other Boys by Damian Alexander on Completely Full Bookshelf, one of my favorite blogs, I knew I wanted to read it. Nonfiction November was the perfect time for this coming-of-age graphic memoir aimed at middle-grade and teen readers (but enjoyable by all).

Damian begins his memoir with a powerful and engaging statement: "I stopped talking on the first day of seventh grade." He goes on to explain that he was bullied horribly at his old school, so his strategy for the new school is simply to disappear--if he never talks, then no one can bully him, right? As you might expect, that plan backfires. His narrative moves back and forth from his earlier childhood to his current seventh-grade struggles. He's had a difficult life. His mother died violently when he was very young, and his father is gone (it's a stunning story, when he gets to that part), so he and his older brother live with their kind, loving grandparents. His focus, though, is on his feelings of being different from other boys, of not fitting in. He was blissfully unaware of his differences when he was very young, but as he grew older, he began to hear a steady stream of "that's not for boys," "only girls do that," "you can't do that," and similar statements. For instance, he loves to play with dolls, and his dolls are his comfort and his companions when he's young, but once he gets to school, he's teased. He makes some friends in his class, but within a few years, his best friends (all girls) are told that girls don't play with boys, and they withdraw, leaving him alone. Gradually, the reader comes along on his journey to see how he got to where he is in seventh grade--alone, isolated, and silent--and how he eventually moves forward and begins to see himself in a new light.

Sample pages from Other Boys
 

This is a very powerful memoir with a lot of emotional depth to it, and it provides insights into how people in our world who are different are often pushed aside, bullied, and made to feel less than. The story is told through evocative, realistic, full-color drawings; narrative; and dialogue that all comes together to paint a comprehensive picture of Damian's childhood. It's a mix of joy and pain that you can tell has taken him a while to come to terms with (though he makes some progress by the end of the book, and you know he is going to be OK). It's a powerful, authentic narrative of a childhood marred by violence, bullying, and feeling isolated, with plenty of hope at the end.

203 pages, First Second

NOTE: In some ways, this graphic memoir reminded me of two others I recently read, involving boys coming of age and figuring out who they are - both were also excellent.

Flamer by Mike Curato, another graphic memoir about a thirteen-year-old boy who is bullied and gradually learns to accept himself, amidst a disapproving religious background.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka, a graphic memoir about another boy raised by his grandparents, without his parents, who loves to draw.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

 

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!

 
  

Or you can order Other Boys from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Nonfiction Review: Crying in H Mart

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner has been one of the most popular books this year and is on many Best Books of 2021 lists. My husband gave it to me for my birthday this summer, and I couldn't wait to tackle it for Nonfiction November. It was just as moving and powerful as I'd heard, and I enjoyed this heart-breaking story of a mother-daughter relationship, set against the backdrop of Korean food and culture.

The author is Korean-American, born in Korea to a Korean mother and an American father. They moved back to the United States when she was very young and ended up settling in Oregon. Michelle had a complicated relationship with her mother, who clearly loved her very much but could also be very hard on her and demanding. She held her daughter to high standards. During her teen years, Michelle went through a typical adolescent rebellion, beginning to play music in a band and moving away from her mother emotionally. After college across the country in Philadelphia, she began to reconnect with her mother. She also met the man who would become her husband. At twenty-five years old, just as Michelle felt like she was beginning to get her life together and enjoy her mother's company again, her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, endured horrible treatments, and soon died. Throughout their relationship, from early childhood to the end of her mother's life, Korean food and culture (and Korea itself) provided common ground for the mother and daughter, and after her mother's death, Michelle turned to these familiar things for comfort and healing.

As with most memoirs, a plot summary doesn't even begin to convey the full story. Michelle's writing is evocative and immersive, especially for someone so young, and she tells her story with a great deal of raw emotion. Reading it made me smile and tear up ... and so miss my own father, who died of melanoma six years ago. Here, she describes in one sentence the complexity of her relationship with her mother:

"There was no one in the world that was ever as critical or could make me feel as hideous as my mother, but there was no one, not even Peter, who ever made me feel as beautiful."

There is plenty of emotional depth here but also such vibrant details about her visits to Korea and about the food her mother, and later she, cooked. Most of it was unfamiliar to me, but her descriptions are so rich and vivid, I could almost taste the flavors. So, for both memoir lovers and those who enjoy food writing (or both!), this is a powerful, beautifully written book.

239 pages, Alfred A. Knopf

Random House Audio

One of my favorite podcasts, Happier with Gretchen Reuben, chose Crying in H Mart  for its book club this summer and interviewed Michelle Zauner in Episode 334. You can listen to it here or in our favorite podcast app. I've been saving it and will be listening to it tomorrow!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

 

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, read by the author, and/or download it from Audible. It sounds great - I always enjoy listening to memoirs read by the author and this excerpt explains the book's title and essence.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!


   
  

Or you can order Crying in H Mart from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Monday, November 22, 2021

It's Monday 11/22! What Are You Reading?


I'm starting today's post with an apology (and a cry for help!). Although I was late, I DID finally get around to visiting a bunch of blogs on Sunday, only to find that I was unable to leave a comment on any blog hosted by Blogger/Blogspot - including my own! I enjoyed your posts but was unable to leave comments on many of them. There's a long-time issue with Blogger with certain devices not being able to leave comments on certain blogs (this blog is fine; my chronic illness blog has this issue), but in that case, it looks like you're leaving a comment but then it just disappears. The issue yesterday and today is a new one - Blogger won't even let me type in the "comments" box.

Is anyone else suddenly having this issue?

(late addendum - it seems to be fixed now!)

It was otherwise a week of ups and downs for me. My father-in-law has been in really bad shape and getting worse (he's 96 and has dementia). I did have a nice visit with him last week. He was having one of his bad days, but the pet therapy lady came by as we were waiting in the hallway for lunch, and her adorable little doggie snuggled right up to my father-in-law, and the two of them had a little love fest for 20 minutes! It really made his day and was perfect timing. We tried to bring him over for dinner this weekend, but he just couldn't manage it. It's really heartbreaking for all of us.

We had some gorgeous fall weather last week! Even though I had a few days of my chronic illness acting up, I tried my best to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and the last of the fall colors. I took some short, slow walks and enjoyed my favorite tree, my neighbor's huge sugar maple that was at peak color last week! And I spent one warm afternoon (probably our last for a while) out on our deck in the sunshine.

Sugar Maple in Its Fall Glory   

Sunny Day on the Deck

This weekend, we needed a little break, so Saturday morning, we drove up into nearby Lancaster County to visit an Amish/Mennonite farm market that was open for its last day until spring. I wanted some more local apples, while we could still get them. Oh, and they have hot, freshly-made apple cider donuts!! They are made of all stuff I'm not supposed to eat, but they taste so amazing, especially when still hot from the fryer.

Traffic Jam in Lancaster County

Fresh, Hot Donuts - YUM!

And we leave again this week for another long drive up to western New York, to my hometown of Rochester. We haven't seen most of my family members in more than 2 1/2 years, so we are very excited about the journey, with both of our adult sons joining us, and seeing everyone again!  

Hope all of you American readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

I posted two new videos on my YouTube channel last week:

And here's what we've all been reading this week:

I finished reading Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, a book that has been lauded as a Best Book of 2021 ... well, pretty much everywhere. My husband gave it to me for my birthday, and I was saving it for Nonfiction November. It's the story of how Michelle lost her mother to colon cancer when she was only 25 years old. In flashbacks, she recounts her childhood and rocky adolescence and the complicated relationship she had with her mother, who was from Korea. It's filled with references to the delicious Korean foods she and her mother shared as part of their heritage (her dad is American), and she describes the loss of her mother with raw emotion. It got me thinking a lot about my own dad's death from melanoma six years ago, but it was excellent, engaging, and powerful.

Now, I am reading another birthday gift I was saving for Nonfiction November, I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara, a gift from my son's girlfriend. You may have heard the stunning story about the author and this book; it was made into an HBO documentary and splashed across news headlines. McNamara, a true crime writer, began looking into a bunch of unsolved rapes and murders in California, spread across the state throughout the 1970's and 80's. Unfortunately, she died before her book was published, but the work she did eventually helped police to identify and catch the culprit who committed those horrifying crimes. The book itself is an interesting mix of memoir and true crime, including sections she wrote and those her editor put together from what she left behind. I'm having trouble setting it down at night!

I forgot to mention last week that I squeezed in a YA graphic memoir, Other Boys by Damian Alexander that was recommended by Completely Full Bookshelf blog. The memoir is about his first year of high school, in a new school. He lost his parents (in a horrific way) when he was very young and lives with his brother and his grandparents, who are very kind and caring. But Damian was cruelly bullied at his last school--because he isn't like other boys--so his solution at the new school is to not talk, ever. The narrative moves back and forth between his earlier childhood, how the things he enjoyed (including playing with girls) were gradually deemed "not for boys," and his current situation in his new school, struggling to adapt and finally seeing a helpful therapist and coming to some startling revelations about himself. It was excellent!

On audio, I finished listening to An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives by Matt Richtel. I figured as long as it's nonfiction month, I might as well learn more about my own health problems! This book was outstanding and fascinating. The author is not a scientist or doctor or any kind of expert; he's a journalist, a reporter for the New York Times, who became interested in the immune system when his childhood friend was battling a particularly difficult type of cancer. So, he explains everything--including some very complex science--in a simple, easy-to-understand way for laypeople. And, as the subtitle suggests, he explains it all from the perspective of real patients with cancer, AIDS, and autoimmune conditions.The mind-blowing thing is that he wrote this book before COVID, so he keeps mentioning Dr. Fauci and explaining who he is (like we don't know!) and referring to new medical breakthroughs that have become household names, like monoclonal antibodies.  Even though I already knew the basics, I learned a lot, and the book is relevant to everyone.

So far in Nonfiction November, I've covered memoir, inspiration, true crime, and science, so I thought I was ready for a bit of history. I'm listening to The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters' Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory by Roxane van Iperen. This nonfiction book describes the lives of two Dutch Jewish sisters, Janny and Lien, from their peaceful childhoods growing up in Amsterdam with their parents to the Nazi occupation of their beloved country when they are young women and new parents to their large roles in helping the Resistance while they tried to avid the Nazis. I sometimes have some trouble understanding the Dutch names of people and places on audio (it helps to see them in print), but so far, it is a fascinating and inspiring story of courage in the face of terror.

My husband, Ken, is still reading Billy Summers by Stephen King. I've been hearing great things about this one from lots of people, and it was one of my birthday gifts to Ken. This sounds like one of King's more thriller-like novels, rather than horror. The title character is a very talented hit man, the best in the business, only now he wants to get out of the business. He's also unusual in that he only takes on clients where the hit is a bad guy. Now, for his very last kill, he sets his eyes on the evilest man he has ever come across. He's excellent at what he does and especially at disappearing afterward, but this time, everything goes wrong. Oooh, sounds like some great King suspense! Ken is almost finished with it now and enjoying it very much. He says he prefers this kind of thriller to King's more paranormal stories.

Our son, 27, is coming home tomorrow! He'll be riding with us to Rochester (our younger son has to work and will be driving separately). It will be wonderful to spend almost a week with him. My only regret is that he no longer enjoys listening to audiobooks with us like he did when he was a kid! He says they are too slow, and he'd rather read. He doesn't get car sick when he reads and used to bring an entire duffle bag of books along when we took our annual three-week-long road trip each summer, so I know what he'll be doing in the car. Last I heard last week, he was enjoying The Magic Engineer, book three of the Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., another of the epic fantasy series he loves. 

 

Blog posts last week:

TV Tuesday: The Big Leap - I love this dance-centered drama!

Fiction Review: Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell - the excellent novel everyone's been talking about!

My Summary of Books Read in October - a fun reading month for me!

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, so head over and check out her blog and join the Monday fun! You can also participate in a kid/teen/YA version hosted by Unleashing Readers.

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

What are you and your family reading this week?


Friday, November 19, 2021

Books Read in October


October was a wonderful reading month! As usual, I enjoyed the annual fall R.I.P. Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge, and every single book I read fit the challenge: mysteries, suspense, thrillers, ghost stories, and more! It made for a fun, fast-paced reading month.

If you want to hear a bit about each of the books listed here that I read last month, you can check out my October Reading Wrap-Up on my YouTube channel.

Here is what I finished reading in October:


 


 


So, I finished seven books in October, and all were fiction for the R.I.P. Challenge! Five were adult novels, two were for teens and YA, and one was a middle-grade book--a good mix. I fit in three audio books. I enjoyed all of these; these kinds of mystery/suspense/thriller novels are a lot of fun for me. I think my favorite of the month was Young Man with Camera by Emil Sher because it was so unique and so powerful.

Progress in 2021 Reading Challenges:
You can see all of the reading challenges I am participating in and full lists of the books read for each at the challenges link above. I have some fun ones going this year!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2021 - Just three of my books came off my own shelves (and the audios had been in my backlog for a while, too, but I only count the ones that take up physical space!). That's a total of 30 so far ... but my goal for 2021 is 48!
2021 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge - October was Lurking in the Shadows, and Illegal by Francisco X. Stork has a black cover and is even about living in the shadows!
Back to the Classics 2021 - No new classic in October.

2021 AtoZ Reading Challenge - Most of my spots are already filled (19 of 26), so I was surprised to fit one in this month: Y for Young Man with Camera by Emil Sher, and I also used that one for the month's Mini Challenge of a new-to-me author.

PopSugar Reading Challenge 2021 - this is a unique one, with 50 quirky categories. My list is getting pretty full now, with 31 filled, and I didn't add any this month.
2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge - It was an all-fiction month!
Diversity Reading Challenge 2021 - Only two of my books were diverse last month (!), but one of them, Young Man with Camera by Emil Sher, also met the Mini Challenge of being about someone with a disability.
Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge - Alas, my international reading travel was confined to UK, Ireland, and Australia 9where I have already been many times this year!).
2021 Literary Escapes Challenge - I added South Carolina!

2021 Big Book Summer Challenge - Finished in September, with a total of 12 for summer 2021!

R.I.P. Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge - I added seven more dark and creepy books, for a total of eleven for this year's challenge!

And finally, Bookish Bingo hosted by Chapter Break - not really a challenge per se, but a fun game that I play each month! Stop by to print out this month's Bingo card and play along. In October, I filled 17 spaces on my bingo card

 

Spaces Filled:

Apples Never Fall - not in a series, coffee, multiple narrators

Broken Harbor - read a physical book, in a series

Illegal - black on the cover, man on the cover

The House on Tradd Street - trope, plants on the cover

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie - book club read, library book, multi-word title

Young Man with Camera - free book, shelf love

The Ghost of Midnight Lake - set during school break, trick or treat, audio book

Free Space

What was YOUR favorite book read last month?