Monday, June 15, 2020

It's Monday 6/15! What Are You Reading?

Whew, another super-busy week. One son had his weekend plans cancelled and was home all the week, and the other one went to see his girlfriend in another state. Now, the traveling one is coming home today, and the other one is leaving for a week! We need to install a revolving door. Between trying to figure out who will be home for dinner (an ongoing challenge) so I can cook something everyone present will like and worrying about my 95-year-old father-in-law who is going downhill fast from being so isolated, it's been a family-full week.

My husband and I did take a "day off" on Saturday. We are missing our camping trips and travels, so we set aside the to-do lists for a day and just relaxed. We enjoyed a lovely hike in a new-to-us preserve just 10 min away--we've only lived here for 30 years, so it's understandable that we didn't know about it! ha ha It's a beautiful place, filled with sunny meadows and cool forests with tall trees, and some small streams crisscrossing through it.
A lovely walk in the woods
And in the afternoon, I spent some time reading in a lounge chair out on our screened porch. The weather was perfect this weekend, and taking time out to just relax and read was heavenly! I read every day before my nap and before bed, but it's rare that I take time out in the middle of the day to enjoy a book.

Reading on the screened porch on a perfect day!
We are all in the midst of enjoying Big Book Summer. Here's what we've been reading this past week:

I finished my second Big Book and my first-ever Liane Moriarty novel, Truly Madly Guilty, and it was so good. It's about two lifelong best friends, Erika and Clementine, who have a complicated relationship. It becomes even more complicated after a backyard barbecue at the home of neighbors of Erika and her husband. The neighbors, Vid and Tiffany, are larger-than-life, wealthy, and a lot of fun, but something happened that day that changed the lives of all six people. Clementine and her husband, Sam, are barely speaking to each other, and everyone is upset but not talking about it. What on earth happened at that barbecue?? The foreshadowing and suspense are so intense that I hated to put the book down! And when I finally read the big reveal, I was so stunned that I stopped reading to page back through the earlier parts of the novel for clues (there were none). Now, I finally understand why everyone loves this author! I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will definitely be reading more by Moriarty.

Now, I am taking a break from Big Books (at least in print) to read a selection for Booktopia 2020 (which was cancelled but they are scheduling virtual author events now--click on Events to join the fun!). Vera Kelly Is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht is the second book in a series I started earlier this year with Who Is Vera Kelly? The title character is a young woman in the 1960's who was working as a CIA spy in the first book and has now retired (in her mid-20's). She is also a lesbian, which was quite a difficult situation back then. She's keeping a lot of secrets. In this new novel, Vera gets fired from her job (on suspicion of having a girlfriend) and decides to set up her own PI business. She is bored with the string of cases involving following cheating spouses, but then something interesting crosses her desk. A husband and wife from Dominican Republic are searching for their great-nephew who was brought to New York for safety after the coup but then disappeared. The case is straight-forward at first but then Vera must bring out some of her spy skills, as things get more complicated. I am loving this book, even more than the first.

I finished my first audiobook for #BigBookSummer, a novel I've been wanting to read since its release in January: A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen. I absolutely loved his time-travel novel, Here and Now and Then, last year, with its sci fi plot and in-depth characters.  His second novel is similar, only the "sci fi" plot this time deals with a global pandemic. Yeah. It's not feeling quite so futuristic now! The novel begins six years after a pandemic, which was far deadlier than COVID-19, leaving the remaining population in quarantine communities and the infrastructure in tatters. Now, six years later, life is returning to a new normal. The main characters all live in the Metro area that used to be San Francisco: an IT guy working for a news organization who has a young daughter, a wedding/event planner who also works on the side as a "reunion agent," and a woman who was the world's hottest teen pop star when the pandemic hit who just wants to live a quiet life and stay far away from her controlling father/manager. The focus here is on people, relationships, and family, and I enjoyed getting to know the characters as they each strive to build a new life, while the threat of a new outbreak emerges. I just keep thinking about the author writing such a prescient novel!

This morning, I started a new audiobook (also a Big Book), The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. You've probably heard about this one, since it is getting a LOT of attention right now. It's the prequel to The Hunger Games, and it begins at the start of the 10th annual Hunger Games, while the war is still a recent memory. The story focuses on Coriolanus Snow, a teen-aged boy, who readers of the trilogy know will eventually become President of Panem. Here, though, he is a self-conscious boy from a great family that has fallen on very hard times. He's trying to hide the fact that the remaining members of his family--him, his cousin, Tigris, and their grandmother--are barely surviving, eating cabbage and lima beans and unable to keep their home if the rumored property tax is truly put into place. He feels like he has one chance to prove himself: as a mentor to one of the contestants from the Districts. But he is humiliated when instead of being assigned to mentor a boy from one of the top Districts, like 1 or 2, he is assigned to a girl from District 12, a girl who creates quite a stir on Reaping Day. I've just started it, but it's great so far!

My husband, Ken (who officially signed up for the Big Book Summer Challenge once I got him on Goodreads), chose his first Big Book from our bookcase of novels we inherited from my dad (you can see it in this video - the first of my Mini Bookcase Tours). Most of it is filled with his collection of Stephen King and Dean Koontz hardcovers, so Ken chose a Stephen King book he hadn't read yet, Hearts of Atlantis. This book is an unusual one: a collection of two novellas and three short stories, connected to each other by recurring characters and taking place in chronological order. That format was a bit confusing to my husband at first, since he was expecting a novel, but he ended up enjoying it very much Anything Stephen King writes is engrossing. Besides, the first part of the book features a young boy, and King writes kids so well; he just perfectly captures what childhood feels like. Ken finished it this weekend and enjoyed it very much. It's back on the shelf, waiting for me!

Next, Ken chose another Big Book from the collection left by my dad: Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz. He just started it, so we don't know much about it yet. The description says it is about a man named Spencer who is both physically and emotionally scarred. He's usually a loner, but when he meets a woman named Valerie in a bar, they make a connection. When he goes to visit Valerie, she has disappeared, and then her house explodes while he is there. Spencer barely escapes and is now on the run, wondering what on earth he has stumbled onto and what happened to Valerie. Sounds like a gripping thriller, though since it is Koontz, I am betting there is some glimmer of the supernatural involved, too.

Our son, 25, has been plowing through one book after another in Brock E. Deskins' series, The Sorcerer's Path. He read books one, two, and three two weeks ago--The Sorcerer's Ascension, The Sorcerer's Torment, and The Sorcerer's Legacy--and then finished reading book 4, The Sorcerer's Vengeance last week. Now, he has moved onto book 5, The Sorcerer's Scourge. He's loving this series! It's about a young boy from a wealthy family who's left on his own and must survive in the streets, among thieves, thugs, and murderers. He not only wants to survive but to avenge the wrongs done to him and his family. This series also revolves around some sort of mysterious magical power. He's enjoying the series (obviously!) and says he and his college roommate discovered this author years ago, and he's enjoyed reading his books ever since. My son hopes to one day write his own fantasy series!

Last week's blog posts:
TV Tuesday: The Good Place - we are loving this popular series - why'd we wait to long to try it?

Fiction Review: The Call of the Wild by Jack London - loved this classic wilderness story

Middle-Grade Review: The Way to Stay in Destiny by Augusta Scattergood - warm, fun novel about family, friends, and figuring out who you are.

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. Great weekly wrap-up! All of a sudden we are much busier, too, although no kids have been visiting these days. Your day off sounds like a great idea!

    1. Both sons live here. One just moved back in after graduating from college :)

      Thanks, Laurie - our day off was great - try it!

  2. Sorry to hear about your father-in-law - the isolation certainly takes its toll on some. Loving your screened in porch reading and that you took a little time out in the forest. Take care and keep enjoying your books.

    1. It's been challenging for him (and for us), Kathryn - thanks.

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your father in law. Have you considered having him move in with you for a while? It's a lot, but may help. I am glad I'm living with my daughter and parents during all of this even when it's frustrating. You've got really good books going right now. I've read 2 Big Books so far!

    1. Yes, we have considered it, Helen - we are so torn over what to do. Sometimes (like this week), I can barely take care of myself, let alone another person with extensive needs. So, when my husband has to go back to work, I would be taking care of him daily. We'd also need to do a lot of work on the house since he can't do stairs. It's a very tough situation. Thanks for your kindness. Enjoy those Big Books!

  4. LOLing at your revolving door comment. That's a lot to keep up with, since everyone's traveling. Crazy! I wish I could dive into all your "big books" but I'm especially interested in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. It's been so long since I've read The Hunger Games series, so I'm afraid I might need to brush up on them before starting the prequel. Forgive my super late comment, I'm backtracking everyone's blogs since I've been so busy the last two weeks...