Monday, March 01, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Whew, we had a tiring, busy weekend with no real time for fun, other than collapsing in front of the TV. My 95-year-old father-in-law is continuing to decline, requiring almost constant care, but he still lives in Independent Living, so my husband is running over there (about 20 min away) sometimes twice a day (we do have some help on certain weekdays). We spent some time with him Saturday afternoon, but he was still in bad shape by dinnertime, requiring another visit. He's now been vaccinated, as have most elder-care facilities in the area, so we are hoping to find him a space in Assisted Living. We didn't want to move him when we wouldn't have been able to visit at all--that would have been the last straw for him, cognitively, to be removed from his family. Sorry for the downer, but it's tough right now, especially for my husband, and he is also recovering from a painful outpatient procedure. So, our weekend was exhausting and stressful. 

We have a new form of stress relief, though: watching an episode (or two) of Lakefront Bargain Hunt! We're not usually HGTV people--I don't think we've ever watched any other show on the network--but there is something very calming about watching people shop for a reasonably-priced house on a lovely lake. It's a nice escape, though yesterday my husband starting look at real estate websites - uh-oh!

Most of last week for me was--again--taken up with YouTube! I added three new videos last week for a total of five so far, so now my YouTube channel is fully up and running, though three videos in one week is definitely too much for me to do physically! I'm having fun, though, and enjoying it. A few people commented on last week's Monday post that they'd rather read a blog post than watch a video version (of course! we're all avid readers here, after all), but I wanted to clarify that I won't be recording videos that duplicate my blog content. Instead, my BookTube (yes, that's a thing!) videos will complement and enhance my blog content. In exploring BookTube myself, I've found it fun to see and hear some of the people whose blogs I've followed for years--it's almost like meeting in person! So, last week, I posted two new book-related videos: BookTube Newbie, where I introduce myself and talk about my reading habits, and another #FridayReads video, so check them out and let me know what you think by clicking Like, Subscribe, or leaving a comment.

So, here's what we've all been reading this past week:

I am still reading my neighborhood book group's next selection, The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne. I have been hearing great things about this novel for years, and I loved Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, so I was thrilled when the group chose this one from my several suggestions. It's an epic novel, covering the life of one man in Ireland, starting in the 1940's, before his birth, and moving through the decades to the present. It begins when when his mother, a teen girl from a small town in County Cork, is publicly shamed by the local parish priest for her pregnancy (as you might guess, it was not consensual but she was blamed) and then thrown out. She gets on a bus to Dublin, makes a new friend, and settles into the unfamiliar city with a new job while she waits for the baby to come. When Cyril is born, he is quickly adopted by a wealthy Dublin couple, where he is provided for materially but not emotionally. The novel follows Cyril through each stage of his life and focuses on his struggles with realizing he's gay, hiding his true self because of the time and place, and gradually coming to accept himself. It's a wonderful novel, both heartbreaking and heartwarming and, surprisingly, very funny!

On audio, I finished listening to The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, an author I always enjoy. She is a Native American author who writes novels about Native American people, families, and their lives. In this case, her latest novel is based in history and the life of her own grandfather. Did you know that in 1953 Congress passed a resolution to disband and abolish all tribes, take all land from Native Americans and "relocate" them to urban areas? I didn't, and the historical backdrop here is stunning and horrifying. But, as always, Erdrich focuses in on one Indian community, a group of families, and what happens to them because of that push from Congress. Her focus is on one older male character (based on her grandfather), who takes charge of giving the local tribe a voice, and on one young Indian woman's coming-of-age. I also love that Erdrich always reads her own audiobooks, so the accent and cadence of her speech is authentic (this novel is about the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, of which she is part). It was immersive and engrossing, as are all of her novels, and I was sorry when it ended, and I had to leave those characters behind.

In contrast, I'm not sure what to think of the new audio I started. Since I so enjoyed Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty for last year's Big Book Summer Challenge, I wanted to try another Moriarty novel. I had Three Wishes in my audio backlog (which is considerable!), so I started it last week. It's the story of three sisters in their thirties who are triplets: Lyn, Cat, and Gemma. They are tall and beautiful and living fairly well financially, but each of them is struggling with her own problems. Lyn is a busy mother of two, struggling to keep all the balls in the air and be a good mother to both her baby and her step-daughter. Cat just found out that her husband cheated on her, while they were trying to get pregnant. And Gemma can't seem to ever commit to a relationship, chasing that new-guy glow for a few months before moving on. To be honest, I'm not loving it so far. Truly Madly Guilty was so engrossing, gripping me right from the first pages, with suspense building to almost unbearable levels. There is none of that here, and listening on audio, it feels like the three women are always whining. I would love some feedback from others who've read the book: Does it get better? Should I stick with it? I rarely give up on a book, but with all the stress in my life, I'm just not enjoying this one right now. Advice welcome!

My husband, Ken, finished reading one of his Christmas gifts, taking a break from his usual thrillers to read Erik Larson's latest nonfiction book, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. As the subtitle indicates, this book is focused on the year-long bombing campaign that Hitler waged on London during WWII, with a focus on Churchill's leadership of the British people during this horrific period. Ken says it's very good and he read me some interesting tidbits (always a good sign with nonfiction). Did you know that Churchill had a black cat named Nelson? He tried not to read me too much of it, though, because he knows I'll be reading it myself. He really enjoyed the book--said it was his favorite Erik Larson book besides The Devil in the White City--and learned a lot about Churchill.

However, he felt in need of a light read next! Stress in real life plus WWII reading was getting to him, so he is now reading a fun novel I just finished, The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz (my review at the link). It was published in 2007 and lingered on our TBR bookcase for over a decade! The Spellman family runs a P.I. business, with mom, dad, older sister, Izzy, and younger sister, Rae, all involved (brother David is a lawyer). The novel is written from Izzy's point of view, with a heaping dose of humor in among the cases and investigations. Izzy has a lot of issues, though she's no longer quite the mess she was when she was younger. Still, most of her relationships are very short-lived (for some reason, men don't like their girlfriends to stake them out and run credit checks on them), until she meets one guy she really likes. In fact, she likes him enough that she lies to him about what she does for a living. Of course, this approach will eventually blow up in Izzy's face, and at that point, she decides to leave Spellman Investigations, though her parents want her to work on one last case. So far, he's enjoying this fast-paced, witty novel as much as I did!


Our son, 26, is back to reading a favorite series, The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett. He absolutely loved the first two books in this series, The Warded Man and The Desert Spear, and now he is enjoying book 3, The Daylight War. The series is about a world where frightening demons rule the night, and humans try to stay safe inside magical wards, though their protection is fragile. Three of those humans leave the safety of the wards to uncover the secrets of the past and try to take back their world. He's loving it so far!



Blog posts last week:

Nonfiction Review: The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert - Fasctinating & eye-opening book: a must-read!

YA Graphic Novel Review: A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong - immersive, colorful, unique graphic novel about a group of girls saved by a ragtag basketball team

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 used to watch a TON of HGTV when my kid was tiny - I had zero mental capacity and wanted something that I could put on in the background and wouldn't have to rewind if I had to change a diaper or grab something or got momentarily distracted. It fit the bill. I think I ODed on it though, as I very rarely watch it at all now!
    I tried a Liane Moriarty book - I think it was called Nine Perfect Strangers - and I tried and tried but eventually gave up. I felt like it took about three years for the main character to make it to the retreat, and things didn't seem to pick up once she got there. So I just gave up. I haven't tried any others yet, but this just to say that you're not the only one who has had trouble with one of her books - even if it wasn't the same one!
    I've been meaning to read The Heart's Invisible Furies for ages. I'm thrilled to see that it's funny - and I would assume it's dry humour based on the Irish setting, which is my favourite kind! That makes me feel a bit more interested. I've heard only good things about it.
    I loved The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, and I might give this one a try at some point. Rarely have I been so completely absorbed by a book (I read it on an overnight Greyhound bus journey, which I can say is perhaps not the ideal situation for that particular book... but it did keep me totally transfixed!). Glad to hear this one went over so well!

    1. ha ha I hear you on escapism TV when the kids are babies. When ours were little (long time ago!) it was TLC and their shows, While You Were Out and Trading Spaces.

      If it's any consolation, I have even heard big Liane Moriarty fans say that Nine Perfect Strangers was not up to her usual standards! Try Truly Madly Guilty - I really enjoyed it and it's super suspenseful!

      Had to laugh about reading Devil in the White City while on an overnight bus trip - lol! Definitely not ideal! Sounds super creepy, in fact!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment - I'm enjoying getting to know you - we seem to have similar tastes!


  2. That sure is tough on your hubby, very tiring. No wonder some collapsing in front of a light lake front house programme is called for. Watched your video on The Heart's Invisible Furies - sounds really sad but good to see its heartwarming too. Take care.

    1. Heartwarming, yes, but also very, very funny, Kathryn! Which offsets any sadness, plus his life improves as he gets older and times change.

      Thanks for the kind words, as always :)

  3. Your past weekend sounds fairly exhausting with the physical and emotional toll of caring for your father-in-law. 95 is a great old age, but that doesn't seem to matter when it's family!

    I thought it was fun to see you on video. I'll have to delve into book tube a little more when I have time over spring break later this month.

    1. Yeah, old age is definitely not looking so great right now - he's so confused much of the time that he's certainly not enjoying his life at the moment. Hoping things will improve when we find him a place in Assisted Living.

      Thanks for checking out my videos! I enjoy watching a BookTube video while eating my breakfast :)


  4. I'm so sorry that your father-in-law isn't doing well and that your husband is recovering from a procedure—I hope things improve a bit soon. These books all sound excellent! I didn't realize The Spellman Files was on your shelf for over a decade—I believe we have similar tendencies about reading off of our shelves! Thanks for the great post!

    1. Thanks for the kind words. My husband's at the doctor right now for his follow-up appt, and his dad had a good day yesterday :)

      ha ha - yes, our TBR bookcase now has double rows on most shelves - it's out of control!

  5. I'm sorry to read about your father-in-law. These times with aging parents are hard. It sounds especially stressful for your husband.
    I don't think I have read any Louise Erdrich. I need to remedy this. I just have no idea what book to start with!

    1. It sure has been a difficult time for so many elderly people and their families. The isolation and loneliness has such huge effects.

      Oh, you must read some Louise Erdrich! Or better yet, listen on audio - she reads them all herself :) Besides The Night Watchman that I describe above (outstanding!), here are two others from her that I enjoyed and reviewed:

  6. *Hugs.* Sorry your father-in-law is having a tough time. We went through a similar thing with my grandma.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!