Monday, September 06, 2021

It's Monday 9/6! What Are You Reading?

Happy Labor Day, if you're in the U.S! 

But more importantly, no matter where you are: 

Happy Official End of 2021 Big Book Summer Challenge

Today is the last day, so finish reading those last Big Books today. I finished my last 3 Big Books on Saturday (one in print, one on audio, and a graphic novel), but then I picked up my book group selection from the library and saw it was over 400 pages!

So, if you have been participating in the challenge, you can wrap up your own Big Book Summer in several ways. If you have a blog or YouTube channel, write a wrap-up post/record a video or just mention what you read for the challenge within another post or video. If you don't have a blog/channel, you can post your Big Book wrap-up in the Big Book Summer Goodreads group--lots of people have been doing that this weekend, and it's fun to see what everyone read this summer! No pressure. Since you set your own goals, you might have finished one Big Book or two or a whole stack of them, and you have until the end of September to post/record a wrap-up. If you do post reviews or wrap-ups, be sure to include the link(s) in the 2nd list on the challenge page so that others can see them!

I still have to review those last three books, so I will be doing that this week and posting a Big Book Summer wrap-up both here on the blog and on my YouTube channel.

And, since it is already September 6, it's now time for the annual fall R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) Challenge! I'm a bit behind since Labor Day was so late this year, but I will write/record posts about that soon, too. I love this time of year, both for the wonderful weather and for this reading challenge! So, I will mostly be reading darker stuff, like mysteries, thrillers, ghost stories, dystopian novels, etc. in September and October. You can check out my R.I.P. post from 2020 for an idea of what it's all about. I need to go through my shelves and pick out some books! Like last year, the R.I.P. challenge does not require sign-ups; just tag @PerilReaders and use #ripxvi and #perilreaders on social media. More details here.

Here at home, it's the same old, same old. We are still hustling around to get my 96-year-old father-in-law ready for his move from Independent Living to Assisted Living. We spent our holiday weekend packing his stuff up. Moving Day is Wednesday! We are hoping life with settle down a bit after that, now that he'll have help whenever he needs it, and we will have a bit more freedom. We are hoping to finally get out to camp and also take a short local trip at the end of the month for our anniversary. And I have really been missing my friends!

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

I did it (with two days to spare)! It took me a month, but I finished Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. My copy is "only" about 600 pages, but they are very big, densely-printed pages. Most versions show almost 900 pages. Believe it or not, this was my first-ever classic Russian novel! Really! We didn't read any in school. It's set in 19th-century Russia about Anna, a charismatic woman of the aristocratic class who is married and has a son. While visiting her brother in Moscow, she meets Count Vronsky, and the two are instantly attracted to each other and eventually begin to have an affair, making Anna's life very difficult. I've found it easy to read (no archaic language), with short chapters and a lot going on. Some of the political and philosophical passages ran a bit long (it seems aristocrats enjoyed having long, convoluted intellectual discussions), but it was actually a pretty fast read considering its size. It's interesting that the title features Anna's name because there are a lot of characters, and the story follows others, too, completely apart from Anna (though they all know each other). My favorites were Levin and Kitty. It's fascinating to read what life was like in that time and place. It's basically a Russian soap opera! I'm glad to have read it.

I also finished another Big Book this weekend, Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang, an acclaimed graphic novel that I could read in short 5-minute periods in between Anna Karenina. It's an interesting book because the author himself is in it. In fact, it's a book about writing this book, so it is very meta. Well, that works as the framework for the story, while the focus is on the basketball team at the high school where Yang teaches. He is admittedly not a sports person, but he becomes curious about the focus on his school's winning basketball team, so he interviews the coach and players, begins attending games, and even researches the history of the game. Like the author, I am also not a big sports fan and know very little about basketball, but I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel. It's really about the people involved and how the sport affects their lives. I want to read more from Yang.

And, I also finished another Big Book this weekend, A Better Man by Louise Penny, on audio. I chose this audio book because it qualifies as a Big Book, to close out my summer reading challenge, and it also kicked off my annual fall reading challenge, the R.I.P. Challenge! The timing worked perfectly. However, this is sort of an odd choice for me because the only other Louise Penny novel I have read was book 1 in this series, Still Life, and this novel is book 17. I missed a little bit in between! But I enjoyed that first book and have been wanting to read another. In this one, during catastrophic spring flooding in Quebec, a woman has gone missing, and the local police don't seem to be taking it seriously, so Inspector Gamache and his team get involved, at the urging of an officer who knows the woman and her father. It was no problem to pick up the storyline, even after missing 16 books, and Penny is an excellent writer. I was fully immersed in the story right from the beginning and enjoyed the mystery and suspense. I'm definitely ready for the R.I.P. Challenge!

As I mentioned above, ironically, now that Big Book Summer is over, I discovered that my next book group selection is also a Big Book! My neighborhood book group is reading The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. 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 I am enjoying it so far. It's the fictional story of Ana, a young woman who marries Jesus (yes, that Jesus). I'm still just at the beginning, where 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 father has betrothed her to an older widower, but her rebellion against her father doesn't work. She just met Jesus for the first time in the market. So, I have no idea where this story is going or how Ana will get out of this terrible promised marriage, but I am already enjoying the story and the character, and it's fascinating to read the details of life in the first century.

My husband, Ken, finished reading his library book, Red Hands by Christopher Golden. Neither of us have read this author before, but this seems to be book 3 in the Ben Walker series, about a "weird science expert." It begins with a terrifying opening scene, on the 4th of July, where one guy drives into a crowd at a parade, then stumbles out of his car. Every person the man touches dies within seconds. Soon, a woman named Maeve also develops "the killing touch," which seems to be highly contagious, and she escapes into the wilderness to try to keep from killing anyone inadvertently. That's where Ben Walker, with the weird science expertise, steps in. This sounds like an intriguing twist on the classic thriller formula, with the main character not the typical cop, detective, or coroner, and with a touch of science fiction woven in. Ken enjoyed it, and it was certainly a quick read for him. His first R.I.P. book, too, though most of what he reads fits in that category!

Now, Ken has moved onto one of my own top reads from Big Book Summer 2021, 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. 

I'm not entirely sure what our son, 27, is reading right now. He's been busy with work this week, so we've only texted briefly. But he does have downtime when he can read at work, so I suspect he has been tearing through books as usual! Last week, he was re-reading A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan, book one of the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence. His girlfriend gave him the third and final book of the trilogy, A Shattered Empire, for his birthday, so he is first re-reading books one and two (as he does!) before moving onto the last one. If I had to guess, I bet he is into re-reading book 2 by now!



Blog posts last week:

Teen Graphic Novel Review: The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag - warm, fun fantasy that deals with real-life issues

 My Summary of Books Read in August - Big Book Summer kept my numbers low, but I read some great books last month!

And new videos on my YouTube channel:

Deja Vu Re-Read Book Tag - this is a fun one, all about which books I re-read and why, with lots of show 'n tell!

August Reading Wrap-Up - a quick review of the four books I finished last month

Friday Reads 9-3-21 - my weekly update on what I'm currently reading - in this case, my last 3 Big Books!

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. Oh, darn! I was hoping we had till the official end of summer, but I had a funny feeling I was wrong...
    There's no way I can finish The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet today, as I am only on page 97 of 479! :D
    I remember being surprised at how much I liked War and Peace, and have always meant to read Anna Karenina, too. I received The Book of Longings to review before it came out and wasn't thrilled about it, but was really impressed by the book as I read.

    1. ha ha, no, I guess that one won't be included in the challenge!

      Impressed you read War and Peace! Interesting that you had a similar reaction as me to The Book of Longings. My husband and I tend to do this with TV shows, too - EVERYONE tells us to watch something, and we're like, "Nah, doesn't sound like something we'd like." Then finally, we give in ... and end up loving it! We did that with Breaking Bad and The Good Place and most recently, Ted Lasso (which we totally love!)


  2. I just subscribed to your youtube channel! Can't wait to watch some vlogs :)


  3. Good luck with your Wednesday moving!

    I managed to finish a 10th Big Book yesterday so feel like I did well. I still need to do my wrap up post though.

  4. My husband likes Tolstoy, but I can't bring myself to attempt one. Happy reading!

  5. Well done with reading Anna Karenina, I think I get lost in those kind of books by all the Russian names they have for each other. Hope once your FIL is settled in you will both get some much needed rest and a little time for yourselves.

  6. I read those Russian novels a long time ago when I was still going to university. War and Peace and Crime and Punishment were two of them, but I never did get to Anna Karina. I think I finished nine big books this summer and if I can carve out some time, will try and get a post finished about them.

  7. Congrats on running such a successful challenge for another year in a row—and on being so successful as a participant! I can't believe you finished Anna Karenina—that's amazing! I am really glad to have participated this year—the book I reviewed today is not one I would have picked up were it not for the challenge, and of course, it was one of the best things I've read...maybe ever!

    Good luck this Wednesday with moving your father-in-law—I hope everything goes smoothly! Dragon Hoops sounds like a great read. And I see your comment above—Ted Lasso is seriously so good! I wish I had time to watch more—I've only seen 3 episodes so far, but I totally love it. Thanks so much for the great post!

  8. What fun that you host challenges. I never quite make it through those, even if I think I will in January.

    Hope the move goes well tomorrow. We've had to do that for a loved one before. Not easy, but once they are settled it gets easier.

    Great books this week. The Book of Longings and A Crucible of Souls caught my eye.

    Thanks for visiting my blog yesterday.

  9. I finished my Big Book a couple of weeks ago (King of Scars) and realized I totally forgot to mention it--I am so sorry!

    You are right--Dragon Hoops is so much more than a basketball book! It is brilliant.

    Happy reading this week and good luck with all of your family endeavors.

  10. Since I took much of the summer off from blogging, I missed out on keeping up with the Goodread's summer challenge group. I didn't even realize I wasn't in it until this week! So I joined in hopes that I can go back and see what others did. Anyway, I'm glad to hear more about Dragon Hoops AND to see you enjoyed it. It's on my #MustReadin2021 list so I hope to get to it very soon. Have a wonderful reading week, Sue!