Monday, June 25, 2018

It's Monday 6/25! What Are You Reading?

Once again, it's been two weeks since my last Monday post, and those two weeks have been exhausting, stressful, and chaotic. I won't bore you with the long details, but here's a quick recap. Older son battled his recently worsened chronic illness symptoms to manage to go to a huge outdoor music festival with friends, where his phone was stolen and car keys were lost. Younger son was assaulted in Rome during his study abroad program - punched and kicked in the head - and suffered a concussion, so we had to bring him home early. We'll be seeing our concussion specialist (this is his 2nd) today, but he has already been improving a bit every day since he returned home Thursday night, so we are all relieved.

Yes, so we've been just a little distracted! However, when it feels like the world is falling apart around us, that's when our books are the most comforting and when we most need that lovely bit of escape from reality. My husband and I are enjoying the Big Book Summer Challenge, and we are all enjoying our books. Here's what we've been reading the past two weeks:
  • I finished reading my latest review book, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen. I chose this one to both review and interview the author, and boy, did I choose well! I absolutely loved this novel set in the coastal marshes of North Carolina, about a young girl left to fend for herself after her family abandons her. There is also a murder mystery and some romance woven in. It's a very immersive novel, with the author bringing the unique coastal marsh environment to life. I can't wait to talk to the author later this week! The book comes out in August.
  • After that, I got back down to business with my Big Book Summer Challenge and finally started reading Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (book 2 in the Outlander series). This 700+ page chunkster has been in my plans the past three years for Big Book Summer, so I am glad to finally be reading it. And it is just as compelling and engaging as Outlander was. It's quite different, since much of it takes place in 1744 Paris, rather than the Scottish Highlands, but Claire and Jamie are just as wonderful. Since I also recently finished watching season 1 of the TV show, they now feel like old friends.
  • On audio, I finished The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick. This was classic Quick, with a powerful story told by a unique narrator of the type that readers rarely hear from, combining emotional depth with laugh-out-loud moments. It's about a Vietnam vet who still struggles with PTSD and other effects of his time in war but loves his son (whom he has nothing in common with) and his young granddaughter. The narrator at first comes across as crass, outspoken, and offensive - and he is all of those things! - but the more you get to know him, the more you see the layers behind that initial impression. Just as mind-blowing as Quick's other novels, this is a must-read. Check out my review even if you don't think the description here sounds like what you'd normally read.
  • I also listened to They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, a unique YA novel that was warm and moving. It's set in a near-future world where a company called Death-Cast calls you after midnight to let you know you will die that day. Both Mateo and Rufus get the call early one morning and, since both are separated from their friends and family for various reasons, both reach out using the Last Friend app and find each other. The novel covers a single day - their last - that they spend together, building a surprisingly strong connection in a short time. I had heard good things about this novel, and it lived up to the hype.
  • And, this morning, I just started listening to Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, a freebie from SYNC one summer. I thought that since my book reading is focused on Big Book Summer, and I haven't read a classic for my 2018 Classics Challenge in a few months, audio would be a great way to fit one in. I last read this novel in 9th grade. I am already enjoying it - I'd forgotten that Dickens had a good sense of humor!
  • My husband, Ken, finished his first Big Book Summer read, Burn by Nevada Barr, a book I gave to him for Christmas. He and I love Barr's Anna Pigeon thrillers because they are all set in National Parks (which we love), starring a park ranger. I chose this one specifically because it is set in New Orleans, where we used to live (and still one of our favorite places in the world!), and he enjoyed it very much - said it had even more suspense than the others in the series.
  • Now, Ken is reading his second Big Book of the summer and one of my all-time favorites, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. This was one of my Big Book Summer reads a few years ago, and Ken gamely watched the movie adaptation with me, even though he found it pretty confusing. He was likewise a bit confused at the end of the first section of the novel, but I think, like me, he will love to see how it all comes together - the more you read of this novel, the more engrossing it becomes.
  • Our son, Jamie, 23, is reading book 9, Winter's Heart, of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. He loves this series (and might even be onto book 10 by now). It's Big Book Summer all year-round for him; he rarely reads a book with under 400 pages! 
  • And our younger son Craig, 20, makes a rare appearance here: he normally doesn't like to read (I would claim he was swapped at birth but he looks just like me), but the restrictions post-concussion (no screens, no noise, no reading) leave him with nothing to do. Like with his last concussion, he has turned to the Harry Potter audio books, not only to ease his boredom but also to provide the comfort of favorite old stories and characters. He listened to The Chamber of Secrets in Italy, The Prisoner of Azkaban when he got home, and is now listening to The Goblet of Fire - on cassette! When he saw the library had a very long wait for the digital downloads, he dug out our old books on tape and a cassette player (yes, we still have those).
Blog posts from the past two weeks - not a lot of time for writing lately!
Teen/YA Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey- a fast-paced YA post-apocalyptic novel that I loved - and my first Big Book of the summer!

Fiction Review: The Lightkeeper's Daughter by Jean E. Pendziwol - engaging story of two intertwined lives

Saturday Snapshot - Happy Father's Day! - memories of my dad

TV Tuesday: American Gothic - we all loved this fun, suspenseful show

Fiction Review: The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick - powerful, moving & funny!

Saturday Snapshot: Father's Day Hike - beautiful summer day

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? 

The 2018 Big Book Summer Reading Challenge is on, and there is still plenty of time to join! It's easy-going, like summer - you only need to read one book with 400 or more pages sometime between now and the end of summer (early September) to participate (though of course, you can read more Big Books, if you want to). It's great motivation to tackle some of the bigger books on your shelves or TBR that usually get overlooked. Check out the details at the link and join the fun!


  1. Yay for OUTLANDER! And Nevada Barr.

  2. I'm so sorry to hear of the recent terrible events with your sons, Sue. I'm sure it wasn't easy to get those phone calls. And I'm glad that the concussion is easing. You are wonderful to share what you can. I have They Both Die At The End, so glad to read your review of it. Hope this week settles into a good one for you all.

  3. So sorry to hear about both your sons. The assault in Paris sounds dreadful. Oh boy what a chunkster, I love that series and have read every one of them as they have been published.

  4. Glad to hear you're enjoying Dragonfly in Amber. I also thought They Both Die at the End lived up to the hype, too -- very unique story line (and how strange to know your actual death date). Also, one of these years I need to go on a Charles Dickens marathon. Thanks for the shares! See you over at our Big Book Summer Challenge group (excited to now be on book #2). --sorry if this posts twice

  5. I am about to begin a big book (it's YA) at just over 500 pages: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue. I am so sorry to hear about your sons; what a horrible couple of weeks for all of you. And having to leave a study abroad early is sad. I hope he can go back?

  6. Good luck with your challenge. My weekly updates

  7. I'm throwing out lots of good wishes for your fam!! Hoping your boys are recovering well. I've read 2 big books for the summer, but on a bit of a break until I start #3.

  8. I hope your son is doing better...I imagine he might be going a little mad with all his restrictions at that moment. Luckily, Harry Potter can provide a diversion...

  9. I am really excited to join your Big Book Challenge this summer. I really missed it last year! I plan to do a kickoff post in July. I am excited to join you! :)