Monday, November 02, 2020

It's Monday 11/2! What Are You Reading?

Wow, what a week! My health was a bit better, though I am still struggling with my chronic illness. Last week was an improvement, though, with only two days where I was completely incapacitated. And I managed some mild activity with my family. Our younger son came home Thursday for our last family dinner before our older son moved out on Friday! We had a nice time together, enjoying a steak dinner, carving pumpkins, listening to our favorite Halloween album, and roasting pumpkin seeds. We love our traditions.

Halloween family fun!

Friday was a busy day, helping our son finish packing and getting ready. He moved about 3 hours away, to live with his girlfriend and try a part-time job, and because of his medical issues, this is a huge step forward for him! His health has been especially poor this last couple of years (why he moved back home), so it was a very emotional day for all three of us: joy, worry, excitement, sadness. We are now empty-nesters again!

Packed up and ready to go ... a new chapter!

Halloween is strange now with the kids grown up and gone; I miss those days of costumes and trick-or-treating, and the crazy excitement having friends over and getting ready to go out! We spent some time at noon with my father-in-law, enjoyed a campfire with friends in the late afternoon, and came home for a fire in the fireplace and the new adaptation of Rebecca on Netflix (excellent - review coming). But we didn't get a single trick-or-treater!! On a good year, we only get 4 to 6 kids total, so I shouldn't have been surprised.

All ready but no kids!

Here's what we've all been reading this past week, as we finished up our season of spooky reading:

I finished reading The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, a creepy ghost story perfect for RIP XV Challenge that I had been saving for the end of October! I have only read short stories by Jackson (like The Lottery, of course) before, so I was excited to dive into her most famous novel. A PhD who studies the supernatural searches for a haunted house and finds Hill House, then invites several people who have histories of experiencing the paranormal to stay there with him for the summer. He wants to finally validate his paranormal research, which is normally ridiculed. Everyone moves in and meets each other, and ghostly highjinks ensue! It was beautifully written, intriguing, engrossing, and ... yes, very spooky! I definitely want to read more from Jackson. I love reading for the season, and this was the perfect choice for Halloween week.

I tried to squeeze in one more book for #RIP XV but finished it in November. I absolutely loved Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, a middle-grade time travel story (my favorite kind) built into a beautiful story of love, family, and loss. Cosmo lives with his Granddad and Gran, but things are getting more and more difficult as his Grandad succumbs to dementia and social workers are saying he needs to be in a facility. In a moment of clarity, he gives Cosmo a key and tells him he must go immediately to Blackbrick Abbey. Hoping to find something to help save his beloved grandfather, Cosmo sneaks off that night and unlocks the padlock on the old gates. When he steps through, he is suddenly in the past: his Granddad's past! He spends some time there with Kevin, his Granddad's sixteen-year-old self, helping out as a servant and helping Kevin care for the horses. Kevin has a crush on the beautiful Maggie, but Cosmo knows that's not his Gran. Past and present intertwine, as Cosmo helps his friends in the past and worries about his family in his own present. The novel is wonderfully written, filled with warmth and love, dealing with issues of loss, all wrapped in a time travel adventure and a great sense of humor.

I forgot last week to mention that I have a new stack of graphic novels, to fit in the cracks between books! I finished two of them for #RIPXV. Fist I read Trespassers by Breena Bard, which I loved. This is a middle-grade mystery that takes place at a family's lake house. Gabby is a bookworm who especially loves reading mysteries. She and her brother love their family's annual summer vacation to the lake house that has been in their family for generations. This year, there is a new family from Chicago next door , so the girl and boy spend time with Gabby and her brother, but there is some friction. Down the road is a magnificent, huge home standing empty for years that comes with a creepy story. The wealthy owners were said to have hosted a big party and then disappeared the next day. Gabby and her neighbor, Paige, begin investigating the story to fill in the gaps of the mystery story Gabby is writing about it. I really enjoyed this graphic novel, with a mystery, some realistic pre-teen problems, and a setting in a lovely place that was beautifully rendered.

Next, I read one more graphic novel, though this one was different than I expected. One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks. Juniper is the first-ever scholarship student at a wealthy boarding school, but she is determined to succeed there. Many of the girls, led by bully Emily, are mean, but at least Jun has an amazing roommate in Cassie. She needs a friend, too, because Emily and her gang have always treated her badly, so Jun and Cassie quickly become close. But Jun is really smart and is clearly a threat to Emily's status as top student, so Emily accelerates her cruelty and sabotage. This was a great story, and I enjoyed the illustrations. One oddity is that is is 95% realistic boarding school story but there is a hint of the fantastical at the beginning and at the end. I wonder if this is the first of a series.

After I finished listening to Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (very intriguing and unique), I again tried to squeeze in one more #RIPXV choice! I didn't quite finish it in time, but I am listening to Follow Me by K.R. Alexander, another middle-grade novel (they are shorter!). As a spooky ghost story, this seemed like the best way to end the challenge and enjoy Halloween week! Tamal has just moved into a big house on a hill overlooking a small mill town. He and his parents moved from NYC and are happy to have more room and a quieter place to live. The house comes with rumors of ghosts, but don't all old houses? Anyway, Tamal's father loves those "ghost catching" shows on TV and thinks it is all good fun. But before they've even unpacked, Tamal sees the ghost: a little girl dressed in old-fashioned clothes, holding a teddy bear. Paranormal events quickly ramp up, as Tamal digs into the house's history and tries to keep his two new friends safe (and himself, too). This is a great ghost story and quite spooky, but the audio production is pretty awful. The narrator is an adult male doing different overdone little kid voices, and it's like nails on a chalkboard! I am into the story enough to keep listening to see what happens, though.

My husband, Ken, finished a birthday book I gave him: The River by Peter Heller. Peter was a Booktopia author from a few years back, and I enjoyed his unique thriller, Celine, featuring a kick-ass older woman heroine based on his mother! Ken didn't have a chance to read that one, but when The River was released last year to much acclaim, I thought it sounded right up his alley. It's about two men, old friends from college, who embark on a quiet wilderness trip together, canoeing in northern Canada. Their planned relaxing vacation takes a dark turn, though, when local wildfires come close to them. One night, they hear a man and woman arguing on a nearby fog-shrouded riverbank. In the morning, they see the man paddling away alone. What happened to the woman? Between the approaching fires and this mystery, this wilderness survival story sounds like it is full of suspense. He said it was great! I knew he'd like this author.

Now, Ken is reading another birthday gift from me ((by amazing coincidence, I want to read this one, too!), The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware. He and I both enjoy Ware's many novels (see my reviews of The Woman in Cabin 10 and In a Dark, Dark Wood); they always provide good nail-biting thriller fun! Rowan Caine accepts a nanny job in the Scottish Highlands and is thrilled with the luxurious and modern "smart home" (I can see where this is going already!). Somehow, a child in her care ends up dead, and she ends up in prison awaiting trial for murder. The novel is structured as a letter she is writing to her lawyer from prison, describing what happened there and admitting that she made some mistakes, but she's not guilty of murder. Sounds like a great set-up!

Our son, 26, has been reading the epic fantasy series, Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind and loving it! He just finished reading book 3, Blood of the Fold, which he picked up (along with book 2) at his favorite local used bookstore with a birthday gift card. He tore through the first two books in the series. It sounds like the series is filled with murder, swords, treachery, and a unique magical world--yup, that ticks all his boxes! He has been powering through each long book, so they must be really compelling. He loves this kind of stuff. I checked in with him last night (have to keep up his Monday updates!), and he says he finished book 3 and brought plenty of other books with him he could start, but ... he really wants to run out and buy book 4! A sign of a great series.

New blog posts this week:

Fiction Review: The Sense of Death by Matty Dalrymple - a ghosty mystery I loved

Fiction Review: The Witch Elm by Tana French - classic French - dark and twisty

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 love that you give your husband books that you want to read (how convenient!). I also like the idea of having graphic novels on hand to read between longer books. It sounds like a great idea.

  2. Love your carved pumpkins! By the time I went to buy pumpkins (just a day or two before Halloween), they were completely sold out at all our stores. So I went to the Walmart deli and asked if I could have their decoration pumpkins. At first they said no, but when the guy saw me a little bit later, he said, "Hey, go ahead and take them!" So YAY!! So glad you were able to finish up your #RIPXV challenge! I'm going to have to go look up One Year at Ellsmere to see if we have a local copy anywhere. Thanks for all the shares and I hope you have a fantastic week, Sue!

    1. Thanks, Shaye! So funny about the pumpkin shortage! I bet more people did them this year with other stuff cancelled. A cousin of ours in South Dakota had to buy a bunch of different squashes at the grocery store because they couldn't find pumpkins! They turned out great, with all the different shapes.

  3. I'm glad you're feeling better! Congrats again to your son—that's wonderful! I love your carved pumpkins—I tried to carve my first-ever pumpkin, and it looked...interesting, we'll call it. These books sound fantastic! I'm a graphic novel fanatic, so I'll have to look at Trespassers and One Year at Ellsmere (Faith Erin Hicks actually illustrated a wonderful graphic novel called Pumpkinheads that I loved)! Back to Blackbrick sounds great as well. Thanks for the great post!

    1. Wow, your first-ever jack-o-lantern?? That's an occasion! I've done one every year since I was a little kid - family tradition :) No worries if it wasn't perfect - it's not supposed to be!

      I've heard good things about Pumpkinheads - will have to look for that.

  4. I love how you include your family's reading! My husband just finished Red Sister, a fantasy book by Mark Lawrence, and I have to decide whether to let him read my copy of Grey Sister (the second book in the series) before I do. I've had it for over a year probably without reading it, so I should let him read it first if he wants to, I guess!

    1. After reading your comment, I went to add Red Sister to my list of books for gifts for my son ... and found it was already on the list, thanks to another book blogger!

      We run into those issues, too, with the gift receiver not reading fast enough! ha ha

  5. Good that you were well enough to enjoy some of your family traditions for this time of year. Certainly mixed feelings as your son stretches out. May all go well. I didn't hear any children around me either for Halloween - it was very quiet. Just one pre-arranged visit from great niece/nephew. Take care and enjoy all your reading and viewing.

    1. Thanks, Kathryn - yes, a VERY quiet Halloween here! Glad you got to see your great niece and nephew :) Kids and Halloween just go together!