Monday, September 28, 2020

It's Monday 9/28! What Are You Reading?

Wow, it's almost October already! How'd that happen?

Our weather was lovely last week, and my husband and I enjoyed a mini fall getaway, camping at a nearby state park. Between the pandemic, my own health downturn, and caring for my 95-year-old father-in-law, we haven't been able to travel at all this year. This was our first time camping in over a year! It was just a day and a half--and we still had some emergency phone calls to deal with during it!--but we enjoyed a very quiet, relaxing respite. This was the view from our campsite:

We were camped right on the waterfront with these gorgeous views, falling asleep listening to the sounds of crickets and the water lapping at the rocks ... so peaceful! We enjoyed a campfire and a short walk down to the nearby beach (on the Elk River, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay just a bit further along), surrounded by natural beauty, silence, and tranquility--lovely!

And, of course, we spent plenty of time reading, too. Here's what we have all been reading this past week:

For the RIP XV Challenge, I finished a middle-grade fantasy novel, The Door by Andy Marino. This is a review book that's been sitting on my shelf since 2014! It's about a twelve-year-old girl named Hannah who lives in a lighthouse with her mother on the North Atlantic coast. She's grown up in a very sheltered, unusual way with her mother home-schooling her and no one allowed to visit the lighthouse. In fact, her mom seems kind of paranoid. But they finally get visitors one day, an old friend of her dad's from out of town and his nephew, Kyle. Hannah is also excited to be starting public school finally, though she's worried about how her new classmates will respond to some of her weird habits and tics, like her made-up language, the voices in her head, and her difficulty walking up or down stairs. She's surprised to see Kyle on her first day of school and to find out that he is starting school there, too. But when things at home take a tragic turn, Hannah decides to go through the mysterious door in the lighthouse in order to save her mother. What she finds there is a unique magical world; I enjoyed this fun escape.

Now, I am reading another RIP XV Challenge book from my shelves, The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton. I gave this novel to my husband after it was recommended to me, and I saw that it won the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Novel. My husband read it last year and really liked it, so now it's my turn. Eighteen-year-old Michael is a master safecracker who can open any locked door. Some sort of horrific trauma happened to him when he was eight years old (the reader doesn't know exactly what) that left him unable to speak. School was, as you can imagine, not a pleasant place for him, though in high school he does discover a talent for drawing. But he ends up skipping his senior year and jumping into a life of crime, as a specialist of the most coveted sort. The novel is narrated by Mike, looking back over his life, so chapters move back and forth between his childhood, his teen years, and his life of crime starting at age 18. I am completely immersed in this engrossing and original story.

On audio, I am listening to another novel for RIP XV Challenge, one that's been in my audio backlog for a few years, Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor. There is a mystery at the heart of this novel (a teen girl goes missing in a small town), but the novel is strongly focused on its characters. One reviewer compared it to Olive Kitteridge since chapters are written from the perspectives of different people in town, both in 1991 when seventeen-year-old Jess disappeared, and in the present day, when a new resident of the town discovers a set of human bones in a dry lake bed. The reader gets the perspectives of Jess herself and her mother but also her best friend, her teacher, her employer, and other people in the town who were/are somehow affected by Jess or her disappearance. So, while it is a mystery as to what happened to Jess, it is a slow, quiet mystery, with the people at the heart of the story. I'm enjoying it on audio so far and am eager to hear more.

My husband, Ken, has also turned to the RIP Challenge--though most of what he reads all year-round are mysteries, thrillers, and other dark stuff! He just finished a gift from me, Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. I've been anxious for him to give this one a try, since it got so much buzz when it was released a few years ago. It's a book-within-a-book, where a book editor is reading the manuscript of one of her perennial crime writers. The manuscript is a classic English mystery, in the style of Agatha Christie, as is typical for this writer, but at some point, the editor starts to think there is more than meets the eye to this new manuscript: some sort of real-life mystery. I've read that it's a very clever premise, with a twisty plot. Ken said it was very British and kept him guessing--he enjoyed it.

Now, Ken is reading another good RIP XV choice, From a Buick 8 by Stephen King. I had no idea that King wrote another horror novel about a car (besides Christine, which was super creepy when I read it in the 80's as a teen!), but this one was published in 2002. It's about a State Police troop in rural Pennsylvania who discover an unusual old Buick Roadmaster back in 1979. Knowing that the car is dangerous, the troopers hide the car in a shed and attempt to discover its secrets over the years. In 2001, a state trooper is killed, and his teenage son, Ned, begins coming by the barracks to help out with small jobs around the place, to feel closer to his dad. The troopers understand this and welcome him, but once Ned discovers the Buick out in the shed, old secrets begin to stir. It sounds like classic Stephen King creepiness and perfect reading for the season!


Our son, 26, has started a new epic fantasy series, Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind. He started with book 1, Wizard's First Rule, almost 600 pages read in one week for all you Big Book Summer fans! It sounds like it's filled with murdery, swords, treachery, and a unique magical world--yup, that ticks all his boxes! He enjoyed that first book so much that he used a birthday gift card  to visit his favorite local used bookstore and picked up book 2, Stone of Tears (over 1000 pages), and book 3, Blood of the Fold, so he is all set for quite a while! He's away now, but when he left on Thursday, he was almost finished with book 1 already, so I imagine he is well into book 2 by now.

Blog post last week:

Teen/YA Review: A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena - unique YA novel set in Saudi Arabia

Nonfiction Review: The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson - a fascinating truth-is-stranger-than-fiction true crime story

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 envious of your camping trip! Probably our very favorite thing to do away from home, and as a whole family, is camp. There's just something about the simplicity of it. We tend to go to the local campgrounds and it's always so exciting. We missed it this summer, due to our move (and the fact that we had to cancel our April camping trip when the pandemic hit so hard). So I guess we'll be waiting until next summer. Love your photos and I just may be joining your RIP Challenge next year. We'll see... Have a great reading week, Sue!

  2. Your campsite is beautiful. I'm glad you were able to get a way even if it was a short time.

  3. I'm glad you got to go camping, although I'm sorry it got interrupted by emergencies! These books sound great, especially The Door. Thanks for the great post!

  4. While I am not a camping person I have done it once or twice and it is such a peaceful setting - so helpful to relaxing. I like the sound of The Door.

  5. As a kid I liked camping; as an adult I'm too wedded to my luxuries. But those pictures are beautiful. And it looks like all of you had a good week of readng.

  6. What a wonderful place to camp. I love the peace and quiet of being away from it all, and like you, end up catching up on my reading.

  7. Ack! It's Friday and I'm finally getting around to visiting blogs; it's been a busy week. Camping sounds pretty relaxing right about now. I haven't left town since this all started in March!