Monday, June 22, 2020

It's Monday 6/22! What Are You Reading?

Happy Official Second Day of Summer!! Time just keeps flying by, doesn't it? Or is it just me?

Not much to report from last week because I was in BAD shape for 5 of the 7 days. My chronic immune disorder is complicated, but I think I found the source of my downturn the past few months--an old virus that reactivated again. So, I started treated it with antivirals two weeks ago. The problem is that it is common to get worse before you get better. It's not a side effect so much as a sign that the meds are working, which is good, of course, except for when it goes on and on. So, after spending most of last week lying flat on the couch every day, I took a break from the antivirals, and now, three days in, I am feeling better today finally. I'll give it another day and then restart them at a much lower dose (fingers crossed).

Before that bad relapse last week, my husband and I did hit a significant milestone in this strange new world. We ate OUT! Gasp! A favorite coffee shop nearby that has fabulous food (just voted #1 in Delaware for breakfast) had some outdoor tables set up, nicely spaced well apart from each other. It was wonderful to enjoy a restaurant meal again, and it was a beautiful day. And my breakfast--Crab Hash with Eggs--was outstanding!

Eating OUT again!!
We also enjoyed a nice Father's Day yesterday with my husband. We finally all got to visit his 95-year-old father, who is not doing at all well with the isolation, by gathering (well-distanced) on the front porch of his apartment building. We brought him his favorite meal (Big Mac and vanilla shake), got him talking about fishing, and gave him a pile of presents, and he was in good spirits and more mentally "with it" by the time we left. Then, we headed home for my husband's celebration--Popeye's for dinner, more presents, and some fun time watching old home DVDs of one of our best vacations ever, a long road trip out to New Mexico. Great memories!

Visiting with Grandad on Father's Day
It was a tough day for me, though, because I miss my own Dad so very much. In the morning, I watched the DVD I made for his memorial service (particularly the Dad and Grandpa slideshows) and absolutely bawled my eyes out. Calling his wife--my step-mom--made me feel a little better. We miss him every day.

I miss my dad every day, but especially on Father's Day.
Last week was a good reading week, with so much necessary downtime for me, and we are all enjoying Big Book Summer! Here's what we've been reading this week:

I finished 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 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 (and her passport), as things get more complicated. I loved this book, even more than the first, and am glad I read it, even though I missed the author event last week.

Now, I have returned to Big Books and to a book I started last summer, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I struggled with this classic last summer, even though I had wanted to read it for years. It has an odd tone that takes some getting used to, with a mix of humor and horrifying scenes of war. The novel takes place during WWII on the fictional island of Pianoso in the Mediterranean. The central conflict in the novel is that one crazy colonel keeps raising the required number of missions for the Army Air Force squadron. Every time one of the men gets close to meeting the requirements and going home, the colonel raises the number of required missions again. The main character, Yossarian, tries to get sent home on the basis of being crazy, but Catch-22 states that any man who says he is crazy and doesn't want to fly any more missions is proving that he's sane because no sane man would want to fly more dangerous missions. Last summer, I had trouble adjusting to the dark humor and unevenness--you can be laughing at something absurd on one page and then on the next, a dozen men die in combat--but I am doing better with the novel this year. I realize that's really the point of it: for the reader to feel unsettled and see (often exaggerated as satire) all of the absurdities inherent in war. I'm well into it now and wanting to keep reading. Sometimes, you need to read a book at the right time.

I am still listening to the 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, he is assigned to a girl from District 12, a girl who creates quite a stir on Reaping Day. As Coriolanus gets to know her better, his role in her life becomes more and more complicated. I am loving this book, and as always, Collins has provided such thought-provoking, morally complex subject matter.

My husband, Ken, is still reading another Big Book from the collection we inherited from my dad: Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz. 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. Ken says that it is a gripping thriller (though he gets annoyed by the way Koontz throws around long and obscure words just for fun!), and so far, it seems to be a straightforward suspense novel--no signs yet of Koontz's frequent paranormal twists. He's enjoying it.

Our son, 25, has been plowing through one book after another in Brock E. Deskins' series, The Sorcerer's Path. He read the first four books in the series a couple of weeks ago, and last week moved onto books 5 through 8! He finished The Sorcerer's Scourge, The Sorcerer's Torment, The Sorcerer's Return last week, and he is now reading book 8, The Sorcerer's Destiny. Clearly, he is 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.

Last week's blog posts:
My Summary of Books Read in May - an excellent reading month for me

Fiction Review: Faithful Place by Tana French - my first Big Book was an amazing one!

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 sorry you've been feeling bad! But how nice that you got to end the week feeling better and celebrating with your father-in-law; I am sure he appreciated it. We don't make a big deal of mother's or father's day around her, but I am sure when my dad is gone, I'll feel differently about it.

    1. We make a big deal out of any excuse to celebrate, Helen! ha ha

      I used to always pick out a few books for my dad for Father's Day because we shared a love of reading, so it hits me this time of year especially. I loved searching for new authors for him to try or getting him the latest releases!

  2. I'm glad you're feeling better and enjoyed Father's Day! I'm sorry you couldn't spend it with your own father. The books you mention sound great! I actually didn't know there was a prequel to the Hunger Games out—I don't read the series, but I still don't know how I never heard that news! Thank you for the great post!

    1. Oh, wow - you're missing out! The Hunger Games is not just entertaining - it's a very thought-provoking series, and this prequel fits right in.

  3. Oh what a mixed week. I do hope it all comes right although I guess for you it's always an unknown to some extent how you will be. Love your meal out and love the look too of your hubby's meal. So good you got to see your father-in-law and yes I bet he needs family. It's okay for awhile and then Bang! It's not. Lovely way to remember your Dad even though it makes you so sad missing him. Hope your reading goes well this week.

    1. Thanks, Kathryn - you're always so kind and thoughtful :)

      I am feeling better now and hoping that will continue!

  4. Sorry you’ve been sick. I’m glad you’re feeling better. I really miss eating in restaurants because takeout just isn’t the same. Have a good week!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Thanks, AJ! We miss restaurants, too, though not quite ready for eating at them indoors yet, even with the reduced capacities in place.

  5. I'm so sorry to know you suffer from chronic immune disorder, Sue. It's not like this is new news to me, but it must be so difficult when you hit hard times and know it usually gets worse before it gets better. I wish there was something I could do to help you carry that pain. And also hard to hear about the sadness over the loss of your father. I lost my dad in 2012 and all it takes it just thinking about him to send me into a heap of tears. I miss him so much. :( I see you're still working hard on those big books. If I can keep getting audiobooks, I'll stay in the game. I just have little to no time to read longer books with my eyes right now. I'll catch back up with you again very soon since we're almost to the new #imwayr week!