Monday, August 03, 2020

It's Monday 8/3! What Are You Reading?

Yay, it's August! One more month and summer is over! I know I have a bad attitude about summer, but I have really come to dread it here in the Mid-Atlantic. With my chronic illness, I don't tolerate the heat well, and many days, it's too hot and humid to take a walk or even just sit on our deck or porch. Our heat index has been over 100 most days in July. It's really miserable here in the summer unless we can take a vacation up further north, which we can't do this year because we can't leave my father-in-law right now. He requires two visits a day, so even a day trip is out (which doesn't work for me anyway since I need to nap in the afternoon). So, that's my essay on why I now hate summer, and especially this summer! ha ha

I'm also still struggling mightily with my health. I was exposed to a cold virus this spring (not COVID-19--I checked!) and had a flare-up of my Lyme disease that in turn caused an old, dormant virus to reactivate, so I haven't even been at my normal baseline since mid-March, with all of these triggers causing a downturn in my immune disorder. It's getting old, always being exhausted. You'd think I'd be used to it after 18 years of chronic illness, but I normally feel better than this. I am still trying to get the dosing right on my antivirals: too much you and feel worse and too little and you feel worse, so it is a frustrating balancing act.

On the other hand, summer means #BigBookSummer, and that's always a bright spot for me! My husband even officially joined the fun this year (and you still can, too! You still have a little more than a month to go--details at the link). In fact, we've had a record number of participants join this summer--I think everyone is enjoying having something new to spark joy in their reading life (and overall life) under the circumstances. The other highlight of last week was finally getting to see my two friends and finally seeing Hamilton! It was a rare and fun evening out (safe and socially-distanced in recliners in my friend's living room).

Here's what we've all been reading this past week:

I finished my latest Big Book, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. I LOVED THIS BOOK! It was amazing, and I just want to tell everyone to read it! I always enjoy 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 also enjoyed (they are loosely related and don't have to be read in order). This time, in 2155 a young female student, Kivrin, has traveled back in time all the way to the 1300's, 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, and says that something went wrong with the time travel, just before he passes out. 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. What a premise--a contemporary woman horribly sick in the Middle Ages and all alone. The action goes back and forth between the present-day and the past, and the suspense is incredibly compelling. The mystery in the present and the happenings in the past continue to evolve and intertwine, and I came to care about the characters so much that I can't stop thinking about them, a week later. Ok, yes, there are two epidemics involved in this novel, and some similarities to our present situation (the book was written in 1992) are a bit unnerving, but the story, characters, and suspense are so great that I didn't care.  I loved every minute of it! (My review is at the link above).

I had to take a break from Big Books for a crazy reason--I have a bad burn on my stomach from an iced tea pitcher that exploded and threw boiling water on me (yeah, ow!), so I can't balance a Big Book on my belly right now! I normally read in bed, so this became a serious issue this week. So, I chose a slim paperback novel from my shelves, Normal People by Sally Rooney. This was another gift from my husband, and I've been hearing all the rave reviews of both the book and the new Hulu TV show, so I was excited to read it. It's about a man, Connell, and a woman, Marianne, in Ireland. They grew up in the same small town and went to school together and begin a long, complicated on-and-off relationship during their last year of high school/secondary school and on into college. It's clear that they care about each other, and they have a uniquely close relationship, even when one or both of them is seeing someone else, but they both have issues that keep getting in the way of a strong, healthy romantic relationship together. It's great so far, I'm really enjoying it, and I can easily hold it up with one hand.

On audio, I am still listening to The Dutch House by Ann Patchett and enjoying it more and more. The audiobook is read by Tom Hanks, and it is incredibly soothing and entertaining to have Hanks reading a story to me in my earbuds in his familiar voice. It's about a boy, Danny, and his sister, Maeve, growing up in a big house originally built by Dutch immigrants and known in town as the Dutch House. Their mother leaves when they are young, so it is just the children and their somewhat distant father, plus the two women who care for the house. But when their dad remarries a woman who clearly does not like them (and the feeling is mutual), their lives change in unexpected ways. The story is told by Danny as an adult, so parts of it are told in the past, as he experienced things as a boy and young man, and parts as he and Maeve look back on their childhood and the house that meant so much to them. I'm enjoying it so far, and it is extra-special read by Hanks.

My husband, Ken, finished reading one of his new Father's Day gifts from me, The Dry by Jane Harper, and loved it. 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, and Ken did, too! He is normally quite reticent about his reading ("how was it?" "good"), but he was raving over how great this novel is. Score! I want to read it this fall.

Now, Ken has moved onto another Father's Day gift from me (do you see how this works?), The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), book two in her Cormoran Strike mystery series. We both enjoyed the first book, The Cuckoo's Calling, so I was excited to give him the next one ... and when he opened it, he did not remember the series at all!! Now that he's into the book, though, he's enjoying it. He commented to me that he really likes the main character, Strike, and that I would also. I reminded him that I already read the first book and remembered it, and I did like the character. This one involves a missing writer who just finished a novel with "poisoned pen" barely-disguised descriptions of just about everyone he knows, which means there are plenty of suspects! This sounds like a great set-up for a mystery, so I will probably read this one this fall, too.

Our son, 25, has been enjoying 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 for him! He enjoyed it and wanted to read the rest of the series, but he didn't have WiFi access for his Kindle when he was ready for a new book!

Now, he is reading another book by a new-to-him author: Toric's Dagger by Jamie Edmundson, book one in The Weapon Taker's Saga. The titular dagger is a religious relic that is stolen, and two twins with a telepathic bond and some magic abilities must find a way to retrieve it. Its tagline is "It's takes a gang of thieves to catch a gang of thieves," and reviews compare the series to Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time, two favorites of my son's. He's enjoying it so far.

Blog posts from last week:

TV Tuesday: Lie to Me - we are enjoying this decade-old unique crime series about lying

Fiction Review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata - this slim novel about a Japanese woman who just doesn't fit in was very good.

Fiction Review: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis - Did I mention I LOVED this book? Time travel, Middle Ages history, and great suspense.

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'm so sorry about your health struggles, the heat, and the exploding iced tea pitcher—Murphy's law has been having a field day with 2020, it seems! Doomsday Book and Normal People both sound great! Thanks for the great post!

    1. ha ha I know! Enough 2020 already! And I read a book called Doomsday - lol But it was outstanding - hope you have a chance to read it, too.

  2. That sounds really too hot, I'd hate it as well. Sorry about your immune disease being so active. When I feel an afternoon tired slump, I actually think of you and tell myself to just "let it be"! You are so good to your father-in-law, he is lucky to have you. How lovely to go see Hamilton - I did hear it was on TV but I don't have that channel. Enjoy your reading this week.

    1. ha ha glad I can inspire you to listen to your body and rest when you need it! Sometimes I have trouble with that myself :)

      Yes, that's why I was SO excited to see Hamilton at my friend's house - we don't have Disney+ here at our house, either. Plus she has a room full of recliners and a GIANT screen, so it was almost like going to the movies (which I miss very much).

  3. I hear you on keeping your plans small because of health reasons; during my dad's last years I was visiting him three times a day to help with his meds. And then also factoring when you will have the energy to do stuff!

    I'm really enjoying my Bid Book Summer. I'm currently working on a rather grim one, so I started up another 900 page time-travel thriller to keep me entertained in between acts of LITERATURE.

    1. Sorry to hear you have been through all this yourself, Beth. I lost my own dad to melanoma 5 years ago (and he was only 70 at the time), so I am happy to help care for my FIL - I wish I could still do the same for my own dad!

      So glad you are enjoying Big Book Summer! Oooh - a time travel thriller sounds right up your alley! Will be interested to hear about it!

  4. How frustrating that summer is the time that is bad for you and your chronic illness. I am so sorry that you are not feeling well. I am currently reading a Big Book and it is really, really good.