Monday, October 21, 2019

It's Monday 10/21! What Are You Reading?

I had to skip my Monday post last week (and most other posts!) because I was scrambling to finish editing my book the past two weeks and get it back to my editor. It took longer than I expected. I had forgotten how much work it is at this stage - whew. And the last time I did this was over 20 years ago, when editing was done with pen and paper (though I did hand my chapters in initially on floppy disks!). I turned it back over to my editor last Thursday, after completing two rounds of edits. It was exhausting work, but I think it's in good shape now (funny, I thought it was in good shape when I first gave it to her, too!).

Since then, I have been catching up - on the blog and with everything else in my life that I let slide this past month or so.

So, here is what we've all been reading for the past two weeks - so many great books!

I read another book for the fall RIP XIV Challenge, Threatened by Eliot Schrefer, part of his teen/YA Ape Quartet, thrillers set in Africa that center around endangered primates. Years ago, I read Endangered, another novel in this series, about a young girl trying to save bonobos in the Congo amid political violence. In Threatened, a young, orphaned African boy gets hired by a primate researcher to travel deep into the jungle of Gabon to find and study chimpanzees. Both books were finalists for the National Book Award - and with good reason! I loved this one just as much as the first and was completely immersed in the world of the chimps. The story is fast-paced and suspenseful, and I loved the main character, Luc, but on top of that, the information and research behind these novels is fascinating. I never wanted it to end...but there are two more in the series to read! I won't wait so long this time. Definitely give this series by this talented author a try, if you haven't yet.

Being so busy and under stress lately, I fit in two brief but fun middle-grade graphic novels that also fit with the RIP XIV theme. The first was Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, a new cross-over book featuring Hatke's two most popular characters and graphic novel series. I have read the Mighty Jack books but not the Zita ones yet, but he included plenty of details for readers like me who needed to catch up on the story. In this exciting installment, the kids (and an interesting group of siblings, sidekicks, and alien creatures) must fight off a horde of giants from bursting through a portal that the kids thought they'd closed for good. The giants want to take over Earth, so when they start trying to break through the door, it's a very urgent matter. As with other Jack books, this one is packed with action, adventure, and suspense, as well as a host of weird other-worldly creatures.

I also read the middle-grade graphic novel The Midwinter Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag, a continuation of her series that began with The Witch Boy and The Hidden Witch. Though these books are about a family of witches and shape-shifters and thus firmly in the fantasy realm, Ostertag also brings real-world kid issues into her stories, including bullying, fitting in, friendship, and breaking gender barriers. In this book, Aster and his family and friends are attending the annual Midwinter Festival, and Aster, an unheard-of boy witch, wants to go public and compete in the witch's competition, showing his entire extended family that he is training to be a witch, something that has always been taboo for boys. This entire series is warm, fun, and action-packed with magic.

I had to set aside the dark and creepy books temporarily to read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee for my neighborhood book group. I've been hearing rave reviews about this novel from all my bookish friends ever since its 2017 release, when it appeared on just about every Top Ten list and was nominated for several big awards, including the National Book Award. It's a multi-generational epic set in Korea and Japan, about a Korean family that lives through WWII in Japan. It's absolutely compelling, with in-depth characters I cared about from the first chapters. I have also been utterly fascinated by the history (and how much I didn't know about the history of this region!), including the horrible racism aimed at Koreans living in Japan (and the huge barriers to returning home). I have about 150 pages to go, and I am loving it - all my friends were right!

On audio, I listened to Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land, a psychological thriller that might have been a little too dark for me! It's about a 15-year old girl whose mother is a serial killer who abused and murdered very young children (that's the part that was a bit too much for me). The girl was one of her mother's first abuse victims, but she turned her in and the murder trial is now approaching. She's been given a new name, Millie, and is living with a well-off foster family (the dad is her therapist, helping prepare her for the trial). She's enrolled in a private school, and no one there, except the headmistress, knows who she really is. She is haunted by her past and her mother, though. The entire book is narrated by Millie, which made it excellent for audio, as she wonders about nature vs. nurture, struggles with both her old life and her new one, and tries to decide if she is good or bad. Super creepy but a good, twisty story.

Whew, after that, I needed something lighter, though still in the dark fall theme, so I chose a teen/YA mystery, A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. This one is a lot of fun, about Charlotte Holmes and James Watson, two teens who are descendants of that Holmes and Watson. They both attend a boarding school in Connecticut, and when there is a murder on campus, of course, they begin to investigate it! This one is also quite dark in some respects, with a murderer on the loose and some pretty ingenious ways to hurt or kill students, but it is also a whole lot of fun. The author plays with the Holmes-Watson theme, imbuing the teen characters with many of the characteristics of their famous ancestors (who were, of course, real people in this book), with a modern young-person twist. I am really enjoying it and looking forward to finishing it as soon as I finish this post!

My husband, Ken, finished Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley. We've both gotten into Mosley's novels after enjoying The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, a novel about aging with a touch of sci fi that was our All-County Reads pick back in 2015. Since then, my husband has read some of Mosley's mysteries starring Easy Rawlins, and one of his sci fi novels, Inside a Silver Box. This one is a stand-alone mystery that won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2019, about an NYPD investigator who was framed for assault, spent time in prison, and now has a chance to solve his own case. Ken didn't especially like the main character and prefers Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries but said the plot was good and the novel was suspenseful. I need to get busy and catch up on some of these novels from this excellent writer!

Now, Ken is reading Finders Keepers by Stephen King, the sequel to the popular Mr. Mercedes. At first, he thought he might have read it before, but I suggested there could have been sample chapters at the end of Mr. Mercedes (a mistake my son just made, too!), and sure enough, that was the case. He's enjoying it so far. I wasn't all that interested in reading this trilogy until I read King's The Outsider last month. Some of the characters from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy appeared in The Outsider, and now I definitely want to read more about them! We both enjoy reading King novels, and this one is extra-special because it's one of dozens that we inherited from my dad when he died. We both miss sharing our love of reading with my dad, so it's fun to read his books.

Our 25-year-old son, Jamie, finished reading Half a King, book 1 of the Shattered Seas trilogy. It was named a Best Book of the Year by both TIME and The Washington Post, with rave blurbs by George R.R. Martin and James Dashner on its cover! It's another epic fantasy, and he's enjoying it so far. Previously, he read Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, which he loved. I picked out book 1, The Blade Itself, for him at Northshire Bookstore during Booktopia one year, and he immediately plowed through the whole trilogy. Clearly, he enjoys Abercrombie's writing.

Now, Jamie is reading Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas, another favorite fantasy author of his. It is the second book in the Throne of Glass series, and he loved book 1. He also made the mistake of starting the book and thinking he'd already read it, for the same reason: book 1 had sample chapters of book 2 at the back. Luckily, he told me that, so I knew what was going on when the same thing happened to my husband a week later! UPDATE: Actually, my son just got back from a weekend away and told me he DID already read this one! He got far enough in that he started remembering plot points from later in the story. So, he has set it aside for now and hasn't chosen his next book yet.

Blog posts from the past two weeks:
Movie Monday: The Crimes of Grindewald - action-packed sequel to Fantastic Beasts

Graphic Novel: Old Souls by Brian McDonald (illustrated by Les McClaine) - engaging, powerful story about reincarnation

My Summary of Books Read in September - a dark & creepy reading month!

Saturday Snapshot: Lewes, Delaware - a lovely beach weekend

Fiction Review: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim - unique courtroom mystery to keep you guessing!

Teen/YA Review: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey - action-packed sequel to The 5th Wave

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?



22 comments:

  1. I my, I've heard such great things about Pachinko. I'll have to stay away from Good Me, Bad Me. That kind of stuff tends to freak me out -- whether it's books or movies. Glad to hear you made it through editing your book!!

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    1. Yeah, that one was pretty freaky! Loving Pachinko - definitely read that one.

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  2. I have also made that same mistake with sample chapters! Good luck with the final stages of your book writing; it's such a long process. I still haven't read Pachinko, but I hear such good things about it from everyone who has read it.

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    1. Same here, Helen! Everyone kept raving about how great Pachinko is but I never seemed to fit it it - that's what book groups are great for!

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  3. Mighty Jack is a very popular series at my school.

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    1. I bet! They're fun books for kids :)

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  4. I do hope your book gets the thumbs up from your editor. I have seen Pachinko around too - it does sound good and I always like finding out about a period of history from another culture different to the ones we know.

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    1. Thanks, Kathryn! She did her part SUPER fast & already returned it to me - I'm afraid to look! ha ha It should be just about finished at this point - fingers crossed.

      Same here re: historical fiction - and there is so much I don't know!! I hated history class in school - now I find it fascinating.

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  5. A Study in Charlotte sounds good, I’ll have to bring it to the attention of my daughter who loves YA mystery.

    Wishing you a great reading week

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    1. Yes, definitely! It was lots of fun...and I see there are 3 more books in the series so far! yay!

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  6. Good Me, Bad Me does sounds very dark, but I do like those kind of books. I might check if my library has it.
    Happy reading.
    Nina@Adventurous Reader

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    1. Enjoy the dark & creepy stuff, Nina!

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  7. Such a rich post.

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  8. I'm looking forward to reading the Mighty Jack and Zita book. I went and read all the Zita books in anticipation for it. They are good! I'm also looking forward to The Midwinter Witch.
    Thanks for the heads up about Pachinko. It sounds like an important read and one I might get for my daughter in law who is of Korean Japanese descent.

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    1. Oh, then Pachinko would be perfect for her! I learned sooo much I'd never even heard of before. To this day, anyone of Korean descent in Japan still can't get a Japanese passport or citizenship (not without a lot of trouble), even if they're 3rd or 4th generation in Japan! I think you'd like it, too.

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  9. I can't wait to get the Jack/Zita crossover. And your son is in for years of the same -- thank goodness for librarything that keeps track of what I've read (and Goodreads can do rereads now too). It's fun to see the different things I pull out of books I've read and forgotten -- it's a very specific kind of reread, as opposed to a comfort reread when I'm revisiting because I know I love it already.

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    1. ha ha yes, my husband and I have both said, "I think I might have read this before" ALL the way through a book or two! Same with movies!

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  10. I found Pachinko compelling, too. Wow, what a big list of books this week.

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    1. Can't believe I waited so long to read it!

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