Monday, January 18, 2021

It's Monday 1/18! What Are You Reading?

Whew, super-busy here last week! We celebrated our youngest son's 23rd birthday, and his older brother (and his girlfriend) came home for the occasion. We had a lovely socially-distanced celebration, with his favorite take-out, a homemade banana cake (both sons request it for every birthday!), and a pile of gifts. We were all happy to be together. 

Socially-distanced birthday celebration (other son and GF in kitchen!)

The very next day, though, our older son's mild symptoms turned into full-blown strep throat. He was in terrible shape, shaking with fever and his throat so sore he could barely swallow water. We were all glad we'd worn masks and kept our distance the night before! He and I are extra-susceptible to bacterial infections because of our immune disorder, so we knew it was strep. Thankfully, our doctor responded quickly and got him on antibiotics; 24 hours later, he was feeling much better. So, it wasn't quite the fun week at home he'd planned on, but at least he was comfortable, and I could take care of him.

So, the first half of my week was all birthday prep, and the second half was calling the doctor, running to the drugstore, cooking a lot, and trying to find something he could swallow (I made pudding, applesauce, and smoothies!). By Saturday, he felt great, and they left on Sunday afternoon.

Like I said, busy week! I did manage to fit in two of my 2020 wrap-up posts on Monday and Friday (movies and TV), and of course, we all make time for books! Our son visited two local bookstores while he was home. Here's what we've all been reading this past week:

I am still working my way through 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. The book is written in a fun, casual style (and illustrated with cartoons), and I'm enjoying it so far ... and getting inspired. My new year is off to a good start. 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 made my way through a book of short stories, Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson, which I just finished. 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, last week I read one short story each night, and I enjoyed them far more that way. I also noticed subtle links between some of the stories once I started 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 and some have a heavy dose of fantasy. 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 very much enjoyed her imaginative short stories.

Now, I have started my next book group selection, Beartown by Fredrik Backman. I've only just begun this novel, but it's set in a remote small town in Sweden. The town is surrounded by forest, and youth hockey is at the heart of the town. In fact, it is failing economically, and most people see hockey as their way back to a thriving town. Decades ago, Peter Andersson led the town's junior hockey team to the national championship and then headed off to Canada to play in the NHL. Now, Peter is back and in charge of the hockey program in Beartown, and a new young star named Kevin seems to have the same kind of talent that Peter did back in the day. The junior team is headed for the national semi-finals, and they have a shot at winning. But the whole town is counting on them, and that means a lot of pressure on this group of teen boys. The novel opens with a brief and mysterious passage about a teenager shooting someone else, so there is quite a bit of tension in knowing that violent act is coming. It's good so far, and I enjoyed Backman's A Man Called Ove.

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 with warmth and humor. I'm enjoying it very much so far.

My husband, Ken, finished 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 enjoyed all the local references as well as the fast-paced plot.

Now, my husband has moved onto another Christmas gift and his most-anticipated one: The Sentinel by Lee Child and Andrew Child (Lee's brother). This is Ken's favorite author and all-time favorite series, and each year, he looks forward to reading the next book (which conveniently is always released before Christmas). This book is #25 in the Jack Reacher series. It takes place in Tennessee, where Reacher encounters a nerdy IT guy being beat up and intervenes. He discovers the man has been accused of a cyber attack on the town, but he says he is innocent. Reacher decides to find out what really happened. Ken says he is noticing a slight difference with the addition of the co-author, though he is still enjoying the novel.

Our son, 26, finally had time to finish Age of Swords, book two of The Legends of the First Empire series by Michael J. Sullivan, one of his favorite series, while he was sick last week. 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. 

In addition to his stops at two local bookstores last week, our son also got a nice stack of new fantasy novels for Christmas, so he has plenty to choose from! Before he left yesterday, he told me he was planning to read Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell, book 2 in the Spellslinger series, next. First, though, he plans to re-read book 1, Spellslinger, even though he just read it last summer when we gave it to him for his birthday! He always does that and will reread an entire series before reading the latest. He's a super-fast reader, so it works for him, and he enjoys having the previous book fresh in his mind when he starts the next one. And I love finding series that he loves so much he wants to re-read them!

Blog posts from last week:

Favorite Movies Watched in 2020 - my annual round-up of great movies

Favorite TV Shows of 2020 - my picks for best TV shows on a variety of platforms

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 glad your son's was able to recover a bit from strep throat before leaving. That can be downright MISERABLE!! I'm going to have to go look up Beartown by Fredrik Backman to see if we have any local copies. I loved A Home for Goddesses and Dogs so much I have it 5 stars. I haven't yet read Waiting for Normal, but I just put in a request for it so that I can add it to my semester-long pile (thankfully my college lets me have books for the whole semester, whew!). Thanks for the shares, Sue, and have a wonderful reading week!

  2. Wow, you really had an up and down week! One of my closest friends, who has similar reading tastes, has raved about Beartown, so I'll probably read that soon.

  3. I am glad your older son is feeling better after his case of strep throat.

    Sounds like you have several good books going. I hope to read Beartown at some point. I recently was looking at doing some nonfiction/fiction pairings and thought Missoula might go good with Beartown.

    I hope you and your family continue to enjoy your reading! Have a great week!

  4. Oh dear, so great to have his Mom be there to take care of him. Good that you have missed it - hopefully. I did read Bear Town but haven't read the next one that follows. Hope you have a good week.

  5. I am so sorry that your son's birthday extravaganza turned into a strep-throat extravaganza! When I was young, I used to get strep throat multiple times a year, so I know exactly how miserable that can be! I'm glad you were wearing a mask—my germaphobe-self is tempted to just wear one forever! Bear Town sounds great—my family absolutely loves Fredrik Backman, so some of his books are waiting on my to-be-read shelf. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  6. I loved Beartown. Hope you have a great reading week!

  7. That was not the kind of birthday celebration you want! I had strep throat once. I never want to go through that again. You sure are a good mom preparing special foods for him.
    I like those kinds of short stories that connect together and if I didn't already have Not the End of the World on my list, I would be putting it there now. Thanks for sharing all these books and happy reading this week.

  8. I liked Bear Town so look forward to seeing what you think of it. I've done strep throat and it is no joke! Glad he got drugs quickly and is feeling better.

  9. hope your son feels better soon..
    coincidentally I am reading Make Time (just not able to make time to read it sooner than I wanted to!!)
    And Kate Atkinson's book sounds tempting