Monday, January 11, 2021

It's Monday 1/11! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday! I started my day today with phone calls to find out where my supplement shipment, sent 12/22, is (lost in the USPS mess) and to our health insurance to find out why they rejected my annual OB/GYN check-up that they've covered for the past 33 years. I still need to call our dental insurance about rejecting our son's preventative visit ... after I called before the visit--twice--to confirm he was still covered. Fun times!

Last week was defined by highs and lows, as has been typical for me lately. I did manage to finish my look back at 2020 and my 2021 planning, with some new approaches in place that I am excited about. I always enjoy the start of a new year, with its fresh start feel. And our son came over Saturday to help us take down the tree and all the other Christmas decorations. It's nice that it's all done and everything is cleaned up, but it makes me kind of sad to put it all away. Our two wreaths are still up, indoors and out. As you can see, our tree was very dry and left a LOT of needles for my husband to clean up!


On the downside, the mysterious worsening of my chronic illness that began last March is still continuing, and I had four days last week when I was couchbound and too sick to do what I'd planned. I'm trying to have a good attitude about what I call Plan B Days, but sometimes (like yesterday), it gets to me and I indulge in a brief pity party before settling into a quiet day of caring for myself. I am continuing to try to get to the bottom of this downturn, but it's difficult.

On a brighter note, I made lots of progress here on the blog last week and am enjoying wrapping up 2020 and looking forward to 2021! I joined my 2021 reading challenges this weekend and will be writing my Best Of posts this week for books, TV shows, and movies. See links below for last week's posts.

And, of course, we have our books to comfort us always! Here's what we've all been reading this past week:

I finished The River by Peter Heller, a Booktopia author I like (I enjoyed Celine) and a book that my husband and many friends had enjoyed. It's the story of two young men, college students and best friends, who have taken time off to paddle the lakes and rivers of Canada on a float trip leading to Hudson Bay. They are in a remote and isolated area, paddling and camping, and have rarely seen any other people on their trip. One day, after hiking to the top of a hill, they see a huge forest fire in the near distance and soon they can smell the smoke and char in the air as it advances. They need to make the rest of their trip as fast as possible in order to outrun the fire, but they soon encounter other obstacles. In the fog one night, they hear a man and woman arguing on shore, and the next day, they encounter the man, alone. What happened to his wife? This is a gripping, super-suspenseful novel with the young men battling both natural and man-made horrors as they race against time. It was excellent and compelling.

Next, in that New Year frame of mind, I chose a nonfiction self-help book, Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. I heard about this book (a 2018 release) from my friend, Chris Wolak, on one of my favorite book podcasts, Book Cougars, that she hosts with Emily Fine. I felt like I needed some new inspiration this year, as last year a lot of important things just didn't get done in my life. These two former Google employees share what they've learned about focusing on priorities to get the most important things done, which is just what I need right now! I am already using one of their tips: to set a focus or Highlight for each day. You may do lots of things in a day, but this concept means setting a priority for one thing that will be your primary focus for that day (mine today was making those phone calls I would normally procrastinate on). It's written in a fun, casual style, and I'm enjoying it so far ... and getting inspired. Thanks, Chris!

If I were to read a book about getting things done before bedtime, I would never get any sleep, so at night, I have been making my way through a book of short stories, Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson (which I see is on sale for just $1.99 on Kindle right now). I started this collection in April last year! As you can see, dipping in and out of a collection just doesn't work well for me. Instead, this week I have been reading one short story each night, and I am enjoying them more this way. I'm also noticing subtle links between some of the stories now that I am reading them together. All of the stories are set in the real world but often with a slight fantastical twist, though some are entirely real-world. Sometimes, the twist comes unexpectedly at the end and sometimes, you know all along something bizarre is going on, like in the story Evil Doppelganger. Atkinson is a wonderful storyteller (her novel Life After Life is one of my all-time favorites), and she has a great sense of humor, so I'm enjoying her imaginative short stories.

On audio, I started the new year with a middle-grade novel I have been wanting to read, A Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Leslie Connor. I loved her novel Waiting for Normal so much that I almost drove off the road laughing and sobbing and reaching for the box of Kleenex while listening to it! In this novel, thirteen-year-old Lydia has just lost her mother to a heart condition. She moves to Connecticut to live with her mother's sister, her Aunt Brat, and her wife, Eileen. The two women also have a dog and soon add another. There is a lot for Lydia to adjust to: a new home in a new, rural town in a new state, new school, new friends, and of course, the loss of her mother with whom she was very close. As always, Connor writes beautifully about loss and love and ordinary life. I'm enjoying it very much so far.

My husband, Ken, is still reading one of his many bookish Christmas gifts, Body Broker by Daniel M. Ford, book one in the Jack Dixon series.When I called my local indie bookstore to order books for my family for Christmas, the bookseller who answered the phone happened to be the one who runs their Mystery Lovers' Book Club. She and I always enjoy trading book recommendations, and I had a typically fun conversation with her. She told me the book club had just read this one and based on what my husband likes, she thought he'd enjoy it. This is the great thing about indie bookstores! In this series, Jack Dixon is a high school dropout, ex-cop, and ex-cook who lives in a houseboat and works as a PI. In this first book, he investigates the disappearance of a teen from a local elite boarding school. My husband was surprised to find that much of the action takes place right here in northern Delaware where we live, so he's enjoying all the local references as well as the fast-paced plot.

Last I heard, our son, 26, was still reading Age of Swords, book two of The Legends of the First Empire series by Michael J. Sullivan, one of his favorite series. We gave him this one for his birthday this summer. He loves this author, and is enjoying this series very much. He also loves The Riyyria Chronicles series by that same author. A fellow book blogger, Beth Fish Reads, told me about these series and this author originally, so thanks to her. He says he hasn't made much progress because he's been busy with his girlfriend. He got a nice stack of new fantasy novels for Christmas, so those should keep him busy for a while.


Blog posts from last week:

December Book Reviews - mini reviews of the 7 books I read last month--all very good!

My Summary of Books Read in December - see what I read and how I did on my challenges

2020 Reading Challenges Wrap-Up - check out my final summary on 2020 challenges

2021 Reading Challenges - All signed up! See which  challenges I chose for this year

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. Ugh on all the supplements, insurance, and health issues you've been dealing with, Sue. But I'm impressed that you finished your look back at 2020 and new planning. All I hoped to do this last week was making my #mustread list. Didn't happen. We'll see if I can pull that off later this week, though. I really enjoyed A Home for Goddesses and Dogs, last year. However, I missed Waiting for Normal when it was released. So I'm adding that to my list! Hope you have a great reading week!

    1. I still haven't done my Best of 2020 books post! Busy week with both sons home. Of the 3 Leslie Connor novels I have read so far, Waiting for Normal is my favorite - hope you enjoy it, too!

  2. I'm sorry you haven't been feeling great and had to deal with both insurance and the USPS! (We sent a package that hasn't even moved since Christmas Day.) That's great that you got your Christmas decorations put away! Not the End of the World, Make Time, and A Home for Goddesses and Dogs all sound great! Thanks for the excellent post!

    1. The USPS mess is unbelievable! My supplements finally arrived at a warehouse in my state, but now they've been stuck there for the past week.

      We always have extra incentive to get the Christmas stuff down, since my son's birthday in in early January!

  3. Home for Goddesses and Dogs sounds good. I've never read this author before, but laughing and crying over a book sounds wonderful!

    I hope you start to feel better soon.

    1. It's great so far, Helen, but Waiting for Normal is still my favorite from Leslie Connor - give it a try!

  4. I think a small pity party is in order when you have to face into what you have to face into. I think postage at the moment is difficult all round. It's a wonder anything moves really. I did enjoy Celine but am a little nervous of The River! I love the new year too and the chance to reset, there is a freshness to it. The Make Time book sounds promising, I must try out the Book Cougars podcast. Take care.

    1. Thanks, Kathryn - that's kind of you.

      Yes, The River is a bit more raw and tense than Celine was!

      Glad you also enjoy the new year/fresh start :) I'm getting some good inspiration from the Make Time book.

      Definitely try Book Cougars! The two women who host it are great - very down-to-earth and authentic - and they read all kinds of books.

  5. I loved Leslie Connor's novel The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle and All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook so as soon as I read about Home for Goddesses and Dogs, I went to add it to my list. I discovered it was already there so I checked my library. Whoot whoot! it is available as an audiobook. Thanks so much for this fabulous reminder.
    Hope you get your health under control. It must be frustrating as heck.

    1. Oh, I think I read that that novel won an award, right, Cheriee? I will have to look for it! I'm enjoying A Home for Goddesses and Dogs on audio very much.

      And thanks for the kind thoughts - much appreciated!