Monday, March 02, 2020

It's Monday 3/2! What Are You Reading?

I thought March was supposed to "come in like a lion"?? It's 62 and sunny here today, and we have the windows open! While I have enjoyed the mild winter for being able to spend more time outdoors, I also find "the hottest January on record" more than a little terrifying (and fear for what August will bring!).

Enjoying the sunshine and warm temps today!
We enjoyed a wonderful Mardi Gras last week, enjoying our traditional Popeye's (yes, it's REAL Louisiana food!) with our closest friends who also lived in New Orleans when we did--lots of reminiscing, old stories, and laughs.

Otherwise, our lives continue to be extremely stressful, with continuing family crises. I took a little break from social media last week, and it did me a lot of good. Apologies once again for not visiting very many blogs last week--sigh--I do miss that and am hoping to get back to it this week (though I am already behind, writing this post at 6 pm on Monday!). But the break from being online did help me to restore some peace and recover a bit.

My book woes continue as well. I have now submitted my print book to Amazon 5 times, and each time, they tell me there is a tiny error with my cover. They gave an exact dimension the first time (12.657x9.250, to the hundredth place!), and I went back to my cover designer, and she adjusted it. Next time, Amazon said it needs to be 12.703x9.250!! You can't make this stuff up. I am currently waiting (again) for my cover designer to deliver the latest revision; fingers crossed that this one will be approved! Then, I need to correct whatever errors come up in the internal book formatting, but at least I can do that myself.

I am SO glad we have our books to comfort us and offer escape at times like this! Here's what we have all been reading this week:

I finished my first-ever Ian McEwan novel, Saturday (can you believe I've never read him before?). It describes, in detail, a typical Saturday in the life of a London neurosurgeon with a wife and grown son and daughter. It's interesting to read an entire novel within the limits of one day, though it includes his memories of the past, too. McEwan includes both the mundane details of any Saturday for the surgeon, as well as some really unusual and unsettling things that happen this particular day (with some big surprises), so it somehow manages to tackle both the personal and the global. It's a fairly slow-moving story, and some sections--like the very detailed description of his squash match, which I know nothing about (including the terminology)--felt boring to me. Other passages, though, really seem to hit on some intriguing thoughts or universal truths, so my copy has quite a few dog-eared pages with quotes I want to write down. Still other sections feature fast-paced, gripping plot twists. I enjoyed this unique and engaging novel.

Next, I was able to start reading (or pre-reading) for Booktopia 2020! Regular readers know that each year, my mom and I attend Booktopia, a weekend-long event in Vermont in early May where readers and authors hang out together for two days. There are author sessions (that are more like book group discussions than typical author presentations), meals together, and even a rousing game of book trivia! You can read about Booktopia 2019 here--tickets are now available at the above link for this year's event. So, I am currently reading Who Is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht. The author will be at Booktopia for her second novel, Vera Kelly Is Not a Mystery, so this is my Booktopia prequel reading. The novel is about a young woman in 1966 working as a CIA spy in Argentina, just before a military coup. Alternate chapters go back to her childhood, showing more about who she is and how she came to be in such a unique position. It's very good so far: engrossing and intriguing. I'm looking forward to reading the second book, as well.

On audio, I finished listening to Solo by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess. I have been hearing rave reviews of this YA novel for years, but for some reason, I didn't think it would be for me. I was blown away by it! It's about a teen boy named Blade whose father is a renowned rock star, equally famous for his music as for his addictions and outrageous behavior. It's a tough way to grow up, and Blade's mother died when he was only eight years old. His dad keeps saying he's changed, but then everything falls apart again. In addition, Blade is in love with a girl whose father hates him (because of his father). From there, the story takes some unexpected paths that made me like it even more. The novel is written in verse, which may be part of why I avoided it. I'm not a huge poetry fan, generally. But, on audio, I wasn't even aware of the way this was written; it just sounds impactful and rhythmic and tells a cohesive story with emotional depth. Even better, with his musical family, the audio includes music, including Blade's own songs, which adds greatly to the wonderful experience listening to it. I finished it last week, got the print book out of the library so I could see what it looked like in print, and am still thinking about it.

I finished Solo while I was away from home so scrolled through my iPod to see if I had any other audio books loaded that I hadn't listened to yet (I am old school--no smartphone!). I found The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard, a novel about the women (and other young people) working at Oak Ridge during WWII. Oak Ridge was a hastily-built town to support top secret research (and eventually production) of radioactive materials for the atomic bomb, part of the Manhattan Project. It's a fascinating inside look into a very secret place and time, from a variety of different perspectives, including June, a local farm girl, adjusting dials all day without knowing exactly what she is working on; Sam, a PhD physics professor from Berkeley brought in to work on the heart of the operation; and Joe, a black man who had to leave his family behind to work construction at the new facility in the deeply segregated South. It's very interesting so far, and I am enjoying the story.

My husband, Ken, finished a Christmas gift from me, End of Watch by Stephen King. This novel is the end of the trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes and continued with Finders Keepers, so he said he wanted to read book three while the rest was still fresh is his mind from last fall. According to the blurb, it's about a serial killer with a traumatic brain injury who is in a persistent vegetative state. Behind his still body, though, his mind is working fast thanks to a new experimental drug, and he is scheming to get revenge on those who crossed him, including retired police detective Bill Hodges, the hero of the trilogy. After reading The Outsider last year and realizing that one of my favorite characters in that novel was from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, I now want to read this series, too!

Ken is now reading Shell Game by Sara Paretsky, book 19 in the popular V.I. Warshawski series, featuring a female detective (Kathleen Turner played her in a movie adaptation in 1991). We don't think either of us has read a novel in this series before, though who knows? This one was a super-early review copy I received back in 2018--have I mentioned how overflowing our TBR bookcase is? With all the stress lately, Ken wanted something fast-paced and escapism-focused, so he grabbed this one when he saw a blurb by Lee Child (his favorite author) on the front. This version isn't even bound like most ARCs; my husband says he feels like he's reading a movie script! He's enjoying it so far, and I think it is doing its job, providing some fun, mindless escape.

Our son, 25, is still reading The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams, book 1 in the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, one of the books he bought recently with a Christmas gift card. Sounds like this one features dark sorcery, an elf-like race, royals and servants, a deadly riddle, and plenty of swords--all right up his alley! I can't remember, but I don't think he's read this author before. He's enjoying it so far, but life has been hectic for him lately, and this is a hefty one.

Blog posts from last week:
Celebrate Mardi Gras Today! - Mardi Gras is still over, but you can still enjoy these books, movies, TV shows, and foods from and about New Orleans

Fiction Review: State of Wonder by Anne Patchett - a twisty, surprising story set in the Amazon jungle

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?


  1. I am so glad you enjoyed Solo! And I liked Atomic City Girls as well. Sorry you've had so much going on personally lately, I do hope it all gets better.

    1. Thanks, Helen. I'm enjoying Atomic City Girls on audio - more than I expected to, I think!

  2. We've had some strange up and down temps, here. We still have snow on the ground from weeks of on/off snow. But we're climbing up into the 60s for a few days and it should all be melting very soon. I keep thinking I've already read Solo, but I haven't yet. I've enjoyed Kwame Alexander's other books, though.

    1. No snow at all here this winter, Shaye, which is not normal. While I enjoy the 60's in winter, it's also terrifying! And I really hate heat & humidity in the summer.

      I would definitely recommend Solo on audio!

  3. I also want to read Atomic City Girls.

    1. I'm really enjoying it on audio, Davida!

  4. Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton were trailblazers really with their female PI protagonists, I devoured both though I haven’t kept up with Paretsky in the last few years and need to correct that.

    Wishing you a great reading week, and less stress

    1. We used to LOVE Sue Grafton's novels - read lots of them back in the day :)