Monday, December 16, 2019

It's Monday 12/16! What Are You Reading?

Best laid plans...

Yup, last week was that kind of a week! I had set Tuesday aside to finally publish my book. I had all the files ready to upload to Amazon and other platforms and the whole day set aside to work on it. I opened my laptop, and...nothing. The keyboard was locked up, and I couldn't even type in my password. So, instead, I spent the day on the phone with Apple Care, then running to the mall (the mall! Two weeks before Christmas!) to the Genius Bar at the Apple store, and finally leaving my beloved laptop with them. They called later to say they'd need to send it out to replace parts, and I'd get it back in about a week...!!

I did some quick adjusting to my plans. OK, if I can't do any writing work, at least I can get some of the holiday stuff done. Print address labels and write out cards? Address list is on the laptop. Finish shopping? My shopping and gift lists are on the laptop. Start my year-end photo books and DVD? All my recent photos are on the laptop. You get the idea - my whole LIFE is on this lovely little piece of electronics! On the plus side, they called Saturday afternoon to say it was ready, and my lovely husband braved the Saturday pre-Christmas mall crowd to pick it up for me. So, I am back in business now, though quite a bit behind on all the holiday preparations (and obviously, the book won't be published now until January).
The highlight of our week was decorating our Christmas tree together. By some miracle, we managed to get all five of us, including my husband's 94-year old father, together (noon on Wednesday was the only time that worked!) and enjoyed one of our favorite holiday traditions. Our tree is full of memories, with ornaments from the kids' childhoods (and mine), from our many vacations together, old family ornaments, and more. Each ornament reminds us of good times spent together or family members no longer with us, so we love going through them and putting them on the tree together.

Thank goodness for books! They are a comfort and a distraction in this hectic holiday season. Here's what we've all been reading this week:

I finished reading Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe by Jane Goodall and enjoyed it very much. This 1990 book (with a 2010 updated preface from Jane) describes her thirty years spent researching, observing, and living among the chimps in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. She alternates between sharing details of chimp research findings and studies, her own life in studying them, and (mostly) narratives of the lives of the chimps themselves, each as individual and unique as humans are. It is a fascinating book that reads sort of like a chimp soap opera! The reader gets to know the chimps as individuals and follow their lives through births, adolescence, battles for primacy among the males, and tragedies. It is clear that chimps experience joy, grief, anger, and even depression, and Jane's insights are incredible. I was inspired to read this book after reading Threatened, a YA novel about an African boy who lives among chimps in Gabon. Both are highly recommended.

I finally moved on from my Nonfiction November reading and moved back into fiction. I am reading The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, a debut novel that my husband gave me for Christmas last year (or was it the year before?). In December, my reading focuses on reading last year's gifts before Christmas when I'll get a new batch! The Nest is the story of a dysfunctional family, with four adult siblings. Their whole lives, they have waited to inherit the nest egg, affectionately known by them as "The Nest," that their father left for them years ago, with instructions for it to be dispersed when the youngest sibling, Melody, turns 40. With careful investment, The Nest has grown to a considerable amount as Melody's milestone birthday approaches, and they each have plans for that money. Then, oldest brother, Leo, does something really irresponsible and stupid, and their mother decides to use the money to make Leo's problem go away. I wasn't sure how I felt about this novel at first because I'm not usually a fan of stories of wealthy, upper-class families, but as I read, I realized that they really weren't wealthy (even though some of them lived that way outwardly), and each of the siblings really needed that expected income boost--for college tuition, mortgages, and other expenses that I could certainly relate to! Each of their lives and their relationships with each other are interesting. So, I'm enjoying it and am eager to see how things turn out for this messed-up family.

I also squeezed a graphic novel into the cracks last week! I read Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden, author of the graphic memoir, Spinning, and the graphic novel science fiction drama, On a Sunbeam. This was different than both of those. It's the fictional story of a teen girl who seems to be running away. She runs into an older woman, whom she knows from her town, who is heading out on a long roadtrip. The two pair up, and much of the story takes place in the confines of the small car and the teardrop trailer being towed behind it. Bit by bit, each of the women hesitatingly shares pieces of her story, and they each provide much-needed company to the other. Toward the end, their journey turns a bit fantastical, but at its core, it is about honesty, friendship, and healing. It was a little weird at the end, but I enjoyed it overall.

For my next audio book, I moved a novel into my iTunes Monday and was ready to upload it to my iPod Tuesday when...right, no laptop. All of my audio books (a lengthy backlog) reside on my laptop, too. Luckily, I still had a couple of nonfiction books I hadn't gotten to in November on my iPod, so I listened to a memoir I have wanted to read for many years: Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt. This award-winning writer wrote the memoir about the year following his adult daughter's unexpected death. He and his wife moved down to the DC area to help their son-in-law care for their three grandchildren. The memoir is about how the whole family copes during that difficult year and how they each begin to move forward. This is an older book, first published in 2010, so I'm not sure why it was re-released this year, but I was glad to see it since it's been on my TBR since its original release! It more than lived up to my expectations; it is warm, poignant, and yes, sad, but also very funny. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am interested in reading another memoir of his, Kayak Morning.

My husband, Ken is reading a birthday gift I gave him, The Witch Elm by Tana French. We are both huge fans of this Irish mystery/thriller author. Ken has read almost all of her Dublin Murder Squad series, and I recently read (and loved - review at the link) The Likeness (book 2) this fall. This is an unusual one for her, as it's a stand-alone suspense novel that was on lots of Best of 2018 lists. It's about a man, Toby, who is beaten and left for dead by some thieves one night. While recovering, he moves to his family's ancestral home to care for an aging uncle. Inside a tree in the yard, a human skull is discovered, and the police are called, as Toby realizes his past may not be exactly what he always thought it was. Ken is enjoying it very much, sometimes laughing out loud! He says it's different than her series but just as good.

Our son, 25, is currently reading The Mercenary Code by Emmet Moss, book 1 in The Shattering of Kingdoms series. It sounds like the kind of epic fantasy he loves, with revolutions, battles, and magic all set in an intriguing and original world. He explained to me that he won a bunch of Amazon credits playing online video games this summer ... so, of course, he's spending all those credits on books! He was visiting his girlfriend last week and traveling, so he probably didn't have much reading time.

Blog posts last week (one of the few things I could do with my old laptop!):
Nonfiction Review: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson - powerful, fascinating, and chilling

Nonfiction review: Lost Child: The True Story of a Girl Who Couldn't Ask for Help by Torey Hayden - engrossing story by a therapist who managed to reach a child abandoned by her family

Graphic Memoir Review: Guts by Raina Telgemeier - another fabulous middle-grade graphic memoir by the talented author/artist, about childhood anxiety

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?

Our tree, with all its memories!


  1. Oh it sure does put "a fly into the ointment" when a laptop goes down just when you don't want it to misbehave. Such a shame that your book has to hang over to January. Do let us know when you finally have it up on Amazon. Yes I am loving Celine, it makes me chuckle out loud every so often, just passed a bit about a family spraying themselves with bear spray when they came across a mama bear. He writes really well. Lucky you hearing him speak in person.

    1. I am trying to look on the bright side, Kathryn - I really wanted to publish it this year, but...January is probably a much better time to release than in the midst of holiday season :)

      Glad you are enjoying Celine! I forgot it had such a good sense of humor, too.

  2. Sorry to hear about your computer and your book. My weekly update

  3. What a crazy time for you without your laptop! I love seeing what your family is reading each week. I am re-reading Handmaid's Tale this week.

    1. I just read that for the FIRST time last year. Is this a prelude to reading the new sequel?

  4. What a lovely family photo!
    I’m sorry about your computer issues, it’s startling how much we all rely on them these days. I have a few books on my reading list this week. My oldest son is reading After Tomorrow by Gillian Crossfor Book Club, and Nevernight by Jay Kristoff for fun, my youngest daughter is reading Emma (the other 2 and hubby are non readers)

    Wishing you a great reading week

    1. How great that your son is in a book club! And Nevernight looks like something MY son would enjoy, too - let me know if he likes it! I am always on the lookout for new titles for him!

    2. P.S. After Tomorrow looks good too!

  5. I'm so sorry about your computer troubles, Sue! What a nightmare!! Two years ago, I moved all our photos from 2016 onto our external hard drive and just a few months later, it became corrupted. I was able to get all our other photos from other sources, but the entire year of 2016 is GONE. Furthermore, around the same time the SD card to my nice camera became corrupted. While I didn't use that camera for everything, it was still probably three years of photos and video GONE. Every time I think about how much we lost, I think I might be sick.

    Love the photos -- your tree looks so beautiful! And you can receive Amazon credits playing online video games?!?!? Sign me up! :)

    1. Oh, Shaye!! How heartbreaking!! I LOVE photos and am the de facto photographer and historian for my extended family :) Losing a whole year's worth would be devastating. I did have ALL my photos backed up on a hard drive (along with all my other files) and had thankfully just backed up the day before the keyboard froze, but I didn't think I could use that back-up on my 12+ year-old laptop with its ancient software.