Monday, December 07, 2020

It's Monday 12/7! What Are You Reading?

Very late post today - our son came home for a set of out-of-state medical appointments, about an hour's drive from our house, so it's been a bit of a marathon day for the two of us. We just got back late this afternoon and finally had lunch! He's getting ready to head back now; this was a very short visit, unfortunately.

Last week started out productive: I wrote three posts for this blog and one for my chronic illness blog and was starting to feel like I was catching up. Then, I realized that I was running out of time to order a few more customized Christmas gifts (I realized this when I ordered several gifts and was told they wouldn't arrive until after Christmas). So, I put everything else on hold and spent several days straight working non-stop to get some custom gifts ready and ordered (I still had to pay extra for shipping). And that was my weekend!

We were supposed to put up our tree and decorate it this weekend while our son was home, but things went awry in several ways! Our younger son was worried he might have been exposed to COVID-19 through a friend, so he wanted to stay away from us until he tested negative. And my husband felt poorly starting early Saturday morning. He's doing better now, and we think it was "just" a mild stomach virus, but he's getting tested to be sure. So, he was in no shape to carry the tree into the house or wrestle with it to get it in the stand. Bottom line ... our tree is still in a bucket in the garage, and most of our decorations and lights are still in the basement. I did manage a trip to Trader Joe's last week for wreaths, so we at least got those up with stockings and one string of lights indoors!

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

I finished both the print and audio versions of Educated by Tara Westover. This highly-acclaimed memoir is the December choice for one of my book groups, and I alternated between the two formats. Of course, I have heard all about this best-selling book since its release almost three years ago, so I was thrilled to finally be reading/listening to it. The author describes her unusual (and often horrifying) childhood growing up isolated in the mountains of Idaho with her survivalist father. She and her siblings did not attend school, were not homeschooled, and were made to work in their father's scrap business, which was extremely dangerous. They also did not receive any medical care, except from their mother's herbs, even when horrible accidents occurred while scrapping. At seventeen, Tara left to attend college, which was a stunning experience for her. She'd never written an essay, taught herself algebra and trig, and had never heard of the Holocaust. It was a fascinating, engrossing story that was excellent in both forms--perfect for #NonfictionNovember--but it was also a very difficult book to read at times, as Tara and her siblings suffered mental, emotional, and physical abuse from multiple sources. Ultimately, though, it is a story of healing and growth.

After that, plus some upsetting things in my personal life, I was in search of a gentler read, so I settled on National Book Award finalist Plainsong by Kent Haruf, a novel that's been on my TBR bookshelf for far too long. After all my seasonal reading, in December and January I like to tackle some of the books on my shelf with a focus on acclaimed books I have wanted to get to for a while. Last year, I read Haruf's Our Souls at Night (his last novel but the first I read from him) and loved it, so I was eager to read this first novel of his trilogy (four books, if you count Our Souls) that takes place in the small, rural town of Holt, Colorado. Haruf has a unique way of telling a story, with short chapters, straightforward prose, and a mild placidity that matches his characters' simple, honest lives. Tom Guthrie teaches high school history and is raising two young boys on his own, as his wife, who seems seriously depressed, grows more distant both mentally and physically. Raymond and Harold McPheron are isolated, older, bachelor farmers who have always lived together, since they were boys and their parents died. Victoria, a teen girl in Tom's school, is kicked out of her house by her alcoholic mother when she becomes pregnant, so she is taken in by Maggie Jones, another teacher. These are mostly kind people, doing their best, living intertwined lives in this small town. I'm enjoying it very much so far.

On audio, I took a break from audiobooks most of the week to catch up on podcasts, but now I am listening to The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, a new release I have been dying to read/listen to! I've read one other book by the author, City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab, a middle-grade novel that I loved. Plus this new adult novel is being compared to The Time Traveler's Wife and Life After Life, two of my all-time favorite Top 10 books! In 1714, a young woman about to be forced into marriage makes a deal with a dark spirit to live forever in a life where no one ever controls her. The catch is that no one ever remembers her, either; she is immediately forgotten by anyone she meets, from her own parents to shopkeepers to men she falls in love with. So far, the action jumps back and forth between the 1700's, before and after her dark deal, and the present day in 2014, where she has lived for over 300 years but can never leave an impression on the world or even a single person. It's excellent so far, and I can't wait to see what happens!

My husband, Ken, finished reading one of my top books of 2020 (maybe THE top one), Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (review at the link). He loved it, too,  though it is quite sad at times (it's an epic time travel story, covering intertwining pandemics in the 1300's and in the near future, as Oxford time travelers go back in time). Now, he has started the second Jane Harper book, Force of Nature. He and I both enjoyed her first novel, The Dry, earlier this year, and I gave him this one for his birthday this fall. It's about five women who go on a corporate retreat, backpacking in Australia ... but only four of them return. Each of the remaining survivors tells a different story about what happened, and Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk (from The Dry) must figure out what the truth is, untangling lies, secrets, and betrayals. Sounds like another great thriller from Harper!

Oh, shoot. I forgot to ask our son what he's been reading this week, but between work and traveling back and forth here, I suspect he is still on the same book as last week. He had moved back to the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind with book 4, Temple of the Winds. 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. One of the things I put off last week was visiting my local indie bookstore, so I need to finish my book gift list this week and get those books ordered--I can't wait to choose some awesome fantasy novels for our son! Let me know if you have any suggestions.


My blog posts last week:

Movie Monday: Hunt for the Wilderpeople: Need a pick-me-up? We loved this warm, hilarious movie!

Fiction Review: When All Is Said by Anne Griffin: Irish novel about an elderly man toasting the five people who most impacted his life

Middle-Grade Review: Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald: I absolutely loved this warm time travel adventure, about family, love, and loss

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 hope your hubby is improved even more. Any kind of sickness is worrying these days. Sounds like you have a busy time. Mail seems like it is slow. I was relieved today to get a laser cut wolf from the USA today. I wasn't sure if would arrive in time. I want to turn it into a cushion(pillow) for a great niece.
    I have heard a lot of good things about Educated and reading your thoughts I am so impressed. I hate reading or listening to all the such tough times though growing up.

    1. Thanks, Helen - he's feeling better, but we're finding it difficult to get him tested! Hopefully, today or tomorrow, but then we have to wait for results. Normally, he is the only one who visits his 95-year old dad.

      Mail is crazy slow! Extra volume from the pandemic, plus the insane changes our government made to the US Postal Service - January can't come soon enough!

      Yes, Educated is a tough but rewarding read - some parts, especially at the beginning, are amusing and entertaining, but things get very heavy later on.

  2. I have The Dry on my Christmas list, but novel #2 sounds really good as well. I'll add that to my TBR list. We'll get our Christmas tree some time this week.

    1. We would normally get our tree about this time, Helen, but they were all sold out around here by around Dec. 5! We knew it would be like that, so we dropped our usual tradition and went to the tree farm Thanksgiving weekend.

  3. Your stockings and wreaths look great—I'm sorry your week has been so chaotic that you haven't been able to get your tree up! (I suggest you just keep it up longer after Christmas and get the same number of days out of it you normally would!) I hope your family is feeling better!

    Also, shipping for everything has just slowed to a crawl, hasn't it? We've been frantically buying gifts and running to various stores to mail things, and the chaos will continue anew tomorrow.

    These books sound great—I have a family member reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, so I'll be paying attention to your thoughts and theirs! Thanks for the wonderful post, as always!

    1. Thanks! My husband is feeling better, but we are struggling to get him tested - the US definitely needs MORE testing sites and more tests!

      Loving Addie LaRue so far - will keep you posted :)

  4. I hope your son is virus free, and your husband is feeling better.
    Have you seen the trailer for the movie adaption of The Dry? You can find it on YouTube. I didn’t think Force of Nature was as good as The Dry.

    Wishing you a great reading week

    1. Thanks! No, I hadn't heard about the movie of The Dry, but when I saw your comment, I immediately found the trailer and watched it - looks so good! Can't wait! Thanks for the heads up!

  5. My family keeps catching colds so I'm avoiding them -- I have to go pick up my son from college on Friday and I definitely don't want to be in quarantine!

  6. I've been considering Educated so it was nice to read what you thought of it. I love Haurf's stories. My sister was a personal friend of him and his wife - she was their veterinarian. I have a few of his book that he signed to me. What a treasure! Have a great week.