Monday, July 20, 2020

It's Monday 7/20! What Are You Reading?

Whew, another rough week here, though there were some high points, too. We are still working to get help for my father-in-law. It looks like he will have to go into Assisted Living, even though we were dead set against it because they are all still on lockdown. His new in-home care started today, for 3 hours, 5 days a week, but that's just temporary. It's too expensive (on top of his high rent for Independent Living) for him to afford for very long, and the VA assistance didn't pan out (you have to be on a VA pension to qualify). So, the in-home care will take some pressure off for now, but we need to take a closer look at the Assisted Living options nearby and compare prices and visitor policies. Unfortunately, the one closest to us (and brand-new) is both the most expensive and the most locked-down.

On the good news front, our youngest son started his full-time job last week! We celebrated with a crab feast (love those Maryland blue crabs), and he's enjoying his job so far, though the realities of adult life are setting in (he has to get up at 5:30 am every day!). We are very happy for him and excited that he is embarking on this new stage in life.

Crabs to celebrate - yum!
In the midst of a super-busy week, I was also signed up for an online course on Amazon ads (for my book), which turned out to be incredibly frustrating! I struggled to find time for the coursework and was a few days behind but managed to get 12 ads up (like everything at Amazon, it's incredibly complicated and illogical), and ... all 12 were rejected by Amazon's automatic censors. The problem? Apparently, I can not use the words "chronic illness" nor target readers with chronic illness in trying to sell my book about living with chronic illness. Crazy, right? Even the course leaders thought it was ludicrous; apparently Amazon just recently cracked down on these rules. Anyway, as of this morning, I finally got 2 ads accepted (5th time's a charm!)--I'm not thrilled with ad copy that finally worked, but it's a start.


So, a long, frustrating, exhausting week for me (with a bad relapse day in the middle). Books, as always, provide a welcome respite and comfort in stressful times. We are all still enjoying Big Book Summer (you can join the fun, too--details at the link). Here's what we've been reading this past week:

I took a break from Big Book Summer to read a very short novel, Convenient Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori. This is a readalong for July for the Book Cougars podcast, one of my favorite book podcasts, hosted by two Booktopia friends. I enjoyed this brief, unusual novel about a woman named Keiko who struggled to fit in with the world until she took a job in a convenience store. The strict rules and routines of the store are perfect for her, and she becomes the best convenience store worker she can be and stays there for 18 years. Though the rest of the world and even her friends and family are often confusing to her, she feels at home in the world of the store. However, increasing pressure to comply with social standards and get married or have a "worthy" career causes problems in her quiet, peaceful life. My interpretation was that Keiko was probably autistic. She's a wonderful character--quirky and likable, despite her lack of understanding of the world around her. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to discussing it online and listening to the Book Cougars' episode about it in early August.

Now, I have dived into another Big Book, one I've been wanting to read for a while: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. I love time travel plots, and this book is part of her Oxford Time Travel series, which also includes To Say Nothing of the Dog, which I enjoyed very much. This time, in the near future, a young female student, Kivrin, has traveled back in time all the way to 1320, in England's Middle Ages. It's the first time they've sent anyone back that far, and there are all sorts of concerns since so little was recorded about that era. Hours after Kivrin leaves, though, a contemporary emergency occurs when one of the techs working on the project comes down with a devastating virus. This shouldn't happen, given the high-tech medical precautions used in this future (no one even gets colds), so there is a scramble to figure out what the virus is and where it came from. Meanwhile, the team at Oxford doesn't realize it, but the reader knows that Kivrin arrived in the Middle Ages with the same debilitating symptoms. I'm only about 100 pages in, but I am already loving this book! What a premise--a woman horribly sick with a 21st century virus in the Middle Ages and all alone. The action goes back and forth between the present-day and the past, and the suspense is already compelling.

I finally finished my first Big Book on audio (no listening time with a full house here!), 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 series 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 family 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. He is assigned to mentor a girl from District 12 named Lucy Gray, a girl who creates quite a stir on Reaping Day with her colorful outfit and beautiful song. As Coriolanus gets to know her better, his role in her life becomes more and more complicated, causing him to question the Hunger Games and the Capitol's role in it. I really enjoyed this book (you can read my review at the link), and as always, Collins has provided such thought-provoking, morally complex subject matter.

My husband, Ken, finished reading a book I put in his Easter basket, The A List by J.A. Jance. It's a thriller about a woman named Ali Reynolds who used to be a broadcast journalist. The last story she did before her career ended was about a man who needed a kidney, which spiraled into a massive medical scandal. The doctor at the center of it went to prison for murder. He is now bent on revenge, even from prison, and Ali is on the list of those he blames for his demise. Ali and her cybersecurity team must race against time to stop the doctor's continuing murder spree before Ali is next. My husband said that the first half was a bit slow, but the action really picked up in the second half, and he enjoyed it. Not bad for a drugstore choice while everything else was closed this spring!

Ken is now reading one of his new Father's Day gifts from me, The Dry by Jane Harper. I've been meaning to get him started on this super-popular new thriller author for a while now. This was her debut novel. As with all of Harper's books, it is set in Australia. A Federal Agent named Aaron visits his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his childhood best friend, Luke. Years ago, Aaron was accused of murder, and Luke provided his alibi. Now, there are questions about Luke's death, so Aaron teams up with local law enforcement to investigate. The more they find out, the more small town secrets they dig up. So many of my friends have loved this novel! I hope Ken will, too.

Our son, 25, returned to an old favorite series and read Legend, book 8 in the The Sanctuary Series by Robert J. Crane. We gave him book 1, Defender, for Christmas 2018, and he loved the series so much that he quickly read books 2, 3, and 4, also. So, this past Christmas, we gave him book 5, which he read this spring, moving quickly onto book 6 and then book 7 two weeks ago. The series is epic fantasy about a world called Arkaria and features dragons, titans, goblins, and more. He loves the series, and he flew through this latest book on his Kindle.

Now, our son is trying out a new-to-him fantasy series, The Mageborn, starting with book 1, The Blacksmith's Son. Here's the description from Amazon: "Mordecai’s simple life as the son of a blacksmith is transformed by the discovery of his magical birthright. As he journeys to understand the power within him he is drawn into a dangerous plot to destroy the Duke of Lancaster and undermine the Kingdom of Lothion. Love and treachery combine to embroil him in events he was never prepared to face. What he uncovers will change his understanding of the past, and alter the future of those around him." Sounds like another good one! He's enjoying it so far.





Not much time for blogs last week (sorry I am behind on visits, too!). Just one new post:
Teen/YA Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins - I enjoyed the prequel to The Hunger Games

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?
 

16 comments:

  1. I'm sorry your week was so awful! I wish you luck in finding a good assisted living facility for your father-in-law. Also, it's funny (not really) that these programs to detect harmful content block perfectly harmless phrases and then let incredibly offensive stuff through. Convenience Store Woman sounds like a really interesting story! Doomsday Book sounds great (although eerily similar to today's world, what with the virus). Congrats on your son's new job! Thanks for the great post, and I hope this week is a better one!

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    1. Thanks so much. I know, I had no idea there would be an epidemic (possible pandemic so far) in this book, only that it was about time travel!! This is my 3rd book since March that involves a pandemic - totally by accident! Thanks for your kind words :)

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  2. Oh my that is so difficult for you and your father-in-law. Such a worry financially and care wise. Plus the blasted virus added in. Amazon ads sound really complicated and rather odd rules in relation to your book. Hope your reading goes well this week and your own health stays in the relapse free zone. Oh my, that crab on the plate, never seen that before!!!

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    1. Oh, my gosh, Kathryn - you live in a country surrounded by water - do you not have your own varieties of crabs that you eat in NZ? I would think your diet includes a lot of seafood :) These particular crabs are a local specialty of the Chesapeake Bay region - we love them!

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Sue

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  3. Good luck to your father-in-law and your son. Those are big life changes. I do a lot of Pinterest marketing, and the current pandemic has inspired companies to crack down on inaccurate medical advice. Some of my Pinterest pins got hidden for mentioning COVID, even though I wasn’t giving medical advice at all. I was talking about books! Have a great week!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. Oh, yeah, Pinterest is another to-do for me! I know it has become a top social media platform & I should be on it, but I just don't have the time!!

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  4. Oh my! You have had a week! Your feelings are completely understandable! My father did qualify for VA assistance without a pension...he served during the Korean War. We are so grateful for the assistance. You are definetly between a rock and a hard spot. Thank God for reading!
    I did add Convenience Store Woman to my Want to Read list. I'd never heard of a Read Along and checked out the podcast! Tomorrow I'll be checking out Read Alongs as well as literary podcasts! Thank you for teaching me something new!

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    1. THANK YOU, Miaismine!! Thanks to your comment, we are going to call the VA and look into it further. He's doing much better after just one week of in-home care, so we are determined to find some way to continue paying for it!

      Hope you enjoy Convenience Store Woman AND the podcast!

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  5. Ooh, I love Connie Willis! So sorry about your father-in-law. I just had a backyard dinner with my mother (83) who's still in her own house but losing mobility. I said something about in-home help down the line, and she was very resistant to the idea. My feeling is it would be far less expensive than any kind of live-in place and you get to stay in your familiar surroundings as long as possible, but I think she's expecting family (especially my younger sister) who are all still working F/T to do everything for free! Aging is hard to navigate from whatever angle you're peering at it from, I guess, except at your son's age when the future is still exciting and full of possibilities!

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    1. Thanks for your kindness and commiseration! Yes, I agree - aging is difficult with lots of tough decisions. My FIL might have been able to stay in his own house with help IF he hadn't lived in OK, 2000 miles away from us! The in-home care is making a huge difference already - he's coming back to himself mentally :) Now we just have to figure out how he can afford it for longer!

      Glad to hear you're a Connie Willis fan, too!

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  6. Sounds like a stressful week. My BIL's mom is in a nearby assisted living center, and they've also stopped all visits for the past few months. It was hard because we've had a movie club for the past few years where we go out on Tuesday to enjoy the cheap tickets! But they have set up an intercom station in the lobby next to the glass wall. So we each sit on one side of a glass wall and can talk to each other without masks. Ask if the places you are looking at for your FIL have anything similar.

    I loved Doomsday Book! I hope you do as well, but it's definitely an eerie time to be reading it.

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    1. We are missing our $5 Tuesdays at the movies, too!

      So glads to hear you enjoyed Doomsday Book too - I finished it almost a week ago & am still thinking about it!

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  7. I keep reading book that are just under 400 pages... Argh! :-) Sounds like a frustrating and exciting week. Who says a pandemic has to be boring?!

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    1. ha ha - that happened to my husband, too - books that are like 398 pages! ha ha

      I know - we don't understand why people are saying they're bored! I can;t remember being bored, but it sounds lovely...

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  8. I’m sorry for the situation you find yourself in with your father in law, I hope it’s resolved quickly.
    Congrats to your son though I agree, 5.30 is too early
    Wishing you a great reading week

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