Monday, September 20, 2021

It's Monday 9/20! What Are You Reading?

Monday again already? And late Monday afternoon already? Sigh ... it was another crazy busy week, though not nearly as difficult! No moves or viruses. I was mostly just busy with family stuff--visiting my father-in-law in his new apartment at assisted living, meals with our younger son and his girlfriend, a picnic in the park with my father-in-law (and finishing his unpacking), and finally, our older son and his girlfriend arriving yesterday for a several-day visit. And today, my son and I drove out to Amish country in Lancaster County, PA, for his double medical appointments. It's always a tiring day for me, but it was all good news today! He's in the best shape of the past 15 years and has been managing a 30-hour-a-week summer internship. It really feels like a miracle to us to see him doing so well; he's had multiple chronic illnesses since age 10. So, no complaints: just thrilled he is thriving and happy to see him so well and happy!

Son and I in 2006 - on top of the world!

But all of that does mean that I felt short of my blogging goals last week and completely ran out of time this weekend to get around for the rest of the blog visits I'd planned! This week, I promise.

I did manage my video wrap-up of my own #BigBookSummer Challenge last week, where I give a brief recap/review of each of the 12 Big Books I read and listened to this summer - my best Big Book Summer ever! The full wrap-up here on the blog is coming this week; I have already started it, tallied up all the participants in the challenge this year (51), and did the drawing for the Big Book Summer Giveaway, so come back later this week for that! And I did my usual quick #FridayReads video, about what I am currently reading.

I can barely see over my stack of Big Books!

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

I finished reading The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd in time for my book group discussion on Wednesday. I will admit that this is one of those books I really didn't want to read, even though plenty of people have told me how great it is, but as usual, I was wrong! That's the great thing about book groups--they get you to read books you might never have picked up on your own. It's the fictional story of Ana, a young woman who marries Jesus (yes, that Jesus). At the start of the novel, Ana is 14 years old, but she is already an admirable character to root for. She's incredibly smart (and educated, in spite of the times) and has an indomitable spirit. Her wealthy father has betrothed her to a cruel older widower, in order to raise his own status, and, despite Ana's vehement refusal, it seems she has no choice. She has just met Jesus for the first time in the market when her father announces her betrothal. From there, Ana's story moves to unexpected places, with many surprising twists in her life, as she tries to stay out of trouble while respecting her true calling, as a writer (which was, of course, forbidden for women). I should have known what a great writer Kidd is from The Secret Life of Bees, and this book earned an average rating of 8.0 from our group, which is one of our highest ever! Ana's story was completely immersive, and it was fascinating to read the details of life in the first century. We had plenty to talk about, including the role of women through the ages.

Next, I was free to move onto the R.I.P. Challenge for fall (still need to post about that, too--link is to my post from 2020), my favorite reading season! I began grabbing relevant books from our To-Be-Read Bookcase and soon had a huge stack. My husband mostly reads mysteries and thrillers, so there is always a large backlog of good books for fall waiting for me. I decided to start with The Lying Game  by Ruth Ware, as she's a favorite author of ours whose novels are always dark and creepy. This is one that my husband has read already that I hadn't gotten to yet. The set-up is pretty simple: four women were best friends at a boarding school, and now, as adults 17 years later, one of them calls the others back to their school's town (where she still lives) for a crisis. From the start, the reader knows that something happened all those years ago that abruptly ended their time at school together but not the details. The three women immediately drop everything in their adult lives to return to their friend, and tension grows as they all return to town and attend a very unpleasant school reunion. I'm about halfway in now, and it seems like all of the secrets have been revealed, but my husband assures me there are some twists still to come! So far, it is gripping and fast-paced, just what I love about my R.I.P. books in the fall.

On audio, I am also listening to a R.I.P. Challenge book, A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty. This is a YA fantasy mystery, and I don't normally read much fantasy. As I explained in my Friday Reads video, I'm not a huge fan of fantasy set in a completely made-up world, though I sometimes enjoy a real-world setting with some fantastical/magical elements. This novel is working well for me! There are two parallel storylines, set in two worlds. In the real world, in modern Cambridge, England, a group of young teens are homeschooled together and are friends. One of them is Madeleine, who lives with her mother. They used to live a life of luxury, traveling all over the world, but then Madeleine's father left. Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Cello, a young teen boy named Elliot is determined to find his own father, who went missing, along with the Physics teacher, the same night Elliot found his uncle dead. Most people believe his dad killed his uncle and ran away with the teacher or that some sort of creatures called Purples got them, but Elliot won't give up searching for him. A sort of crack appears between the two worlds, and Madeleine and Elliot begin communicating. Intriguing, right? I'm really enjoying it and getting close to the end.

My husband, Ken, is now reading one of my own top picks from 2021 Big Book Summer, Blackout by Connie Willis, a favorite author for both of us. This novel is part of her outstanding Oxford Time Travel series, where Oxford grad students in the History department in the near future (2060) travel back in time to observe historical events first-hand as part of their studies. In this case, multiple students are all studying WWII in England. So, one woman is in rural England, helping with the evacuation of children from London, while another is posing as a shop girl at the start of the Blitz in London, to observe how ordinary people reacted. One of their fellow students is posing as an American reporter and has traveled to Dover at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation to observe how ordinary people became heroes by volunteering themselves and their boats to bring soldiers back to England to safety. This time, though, with so many people traveling back to similar times/places, things begin to go wrong with the time travel technology, and they may not be able to get home. As with her other novels in this series (our favorite so far was Doomsday Book), she combines historical fiction with time travel for a very suspenseful, compelling story. He's loving it so far, as I knew he would!

Our son, 27, is home for a few days, and I am enjoying catching up with him, including abut what we've been reading! He loves epic fantasy, and his job this summer included some downtime, in between periods of activity, when he could read, which was good for his health and his reading life! He's been working his way through the Sorcery Ascendance series by Mitchell Hogan. He first re-read books 1 and 2,  A Crucible of Souls and Blood of Innocents, which he last read seven years ago in his early college years. He loved the series back then and is enjoying it again now. Those re-reads were to prepare for reading the third and final book of the trilogy, A Shattered Empire, which his girlfriend gave him for his birthday and which he is currently reading. He loves to tear through these big fantasy novels--it's always Big Book Summer for him!


Last week's blog post:

Fiction Review: A Better Man by Louise Penny - part of the Inspector Gamache series

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. Well that sounds like a really busy week. Good your son is doing so well. The Book of Longings sounds really good although I wonder if women were so well educated really in those times! Is that Jaclyn Moriarty a sister to Liane? I think there are about three of them who write.

    1. In the novel, Ana was only taught to read and write because her father was wealthy, and she begged him! When she was younger, he was a bit more indulgent (until she hit 14 and he decided to marry her off!) and hired tutors for her. But, no, the book makes it clear that was unusual for women. Like I said, some very interesting discussions about all of this!

      I don't know if they're related! It does seem to be a common author name :)


  2. That is such wonderful news on your son, Sue. I’m so sad when I learn of the difficulties so many face due to chronic illnesses. So this news calls for a celebration! On blogging, I’m tiring of beating myself up over not meeting my publishing goals. For weeks, if not months, I’ve struggled to meet the bare minimum. However, at least for me, I think it’s just a time-of-life thing. There are IRL demands I cannot ignore and it seems my family needs me more now than ever. I’ll probably circle back around when things slow to a crawl. But I always love reading what’s happening in your life and in your reading life. And whenever I can catch one of your vlogs, it’s such fun! I have to live vicariously through all your reading adventures, including your yearly challenges (like the R.I.P. Challenge that I would love to join on year!!). I really need to give Sue Monk Kidd a try. The first time I recall hearing of her was when my husband led a weekly reading group in discussing The Secret Life of Bees (this was back in 2001 or 2002). The Book of Longings sounds very intriguing. Thanks for the reviews!

    1. Thank you, Shaye!! Yes, we are celebrating, for sure - and enjoying his company this week. After so many, many years of him being sick at home, we are thrilled he is doing so much better, but we do miss his company now that he lives in NY state. Thanks for the kind words.

      You are SO right - I know I tend to set lofty goals for myself that are unrealistic and then get down when I don't meet them. Yes, life is just too demanding now, but I should enjoy all this family time :)

      Glad you enjoy my videos! I love to see a video of someone whose blog I have read for years and see/hear them "in person."

      Definitely read The Secret Life of Bees - sooo good! And The Book of Longings was, too.

      Oh, and there's no joining R.I.P. anymore - just use the social media hashtags when you read something dark/creepy/etc this time of year - super easy and no pressure! I will get my post up this week so you can see the details :)

  3. I'm sorry this week was super-busy again, but I'm so glad to hear your son is doing well! And I agree with Shaye—it's so impressive that you get as many blog posts up as you do, especially considering you also have to actually read all those books! I'm so glad The Book of Longings was better than you expected it would be—that's always a lot of fun when that happens. Thanks so much for the great post!

    1. Thanks! I always feel behind with everything, but I know I also always THINK I can do more than I actually can!

  4. Every time you say you've gone to Amish country, I think about how much I want to do that some day, having never been before.

    I am ready for the RIP challenge as well.

    1. It's just over the DE/PA border from us, so very close by :) It's beautiful. I always want to take photos when we make this trip, but I'm usually the one driving! You can tell which houses & farms are Amish because there are no electric wires running to them. But it can be frustrating when you get behind a horse and buggy on the road!

  5. I've had THE LYING GAME sitting on my shelf for ages...I need to get to that one!

    1. I enjoyed it, Melinda! I find most of her novels not great but good, enjoyable, and entertaining!