Monday, October 25, 2021

It's Monday 10/25! What Are You Reading?

I missed last Monday's post, so this is a two-week catch-up! It's been a little crazy, but with some fun times, too. Shortly after my last Monday post, my laptop died, out of the blue! I was in the middle of editing a video for my YouTube channel, and suddenly my screen went black.  I took it to Apple, and they replaced the display--for the second time in two years!! And I did not damage my screen in any way; I use my laptop while sitting on my couch or recliner. Apple products are usually pretty good quality, but it seems I got a lemon. I was without my laptop for a week while they replaced the display screen, but I was fortunate that was the extent of it. I did have a 15-year-old MacBook to use (which, by the way, is still in perfect condition with all of its original parts!), but the software on it is so old that it would only run an ancient browser that didn't work with YouTube or Facebook. Luckily, it did work (with some weird issues) with Blogger, so I was still able to keep writing new posts (see below).

My health has been its usual (lately) rollercoaster, with three good days in a row last week (yay!), followed by a really bad "crash" that confined me to the couch for two days and forced me to cancel out on a Friday night Hamilton show in Philadelphia with friends. I was pretty upset, but they were amazing. I am blessed with such kind, caring friends!

Now the good stuff! With my father-in-law settled into Assisted Living, we were able to get away for a two-day camping trip to a local state park, Elk Neck State Park in Maryland. We had our favorite campsite, with great views of the water. It was so calming and peaceful there! We spent two days outdoors, taking short walks (luckily my 3 good days coincided with camping), relaxing by a campfire, and ... reading, of course!


I even managed a walk out to Turkey Point to see the lighthouse and gaze out over the Chesapeake Bay. You can see a short compilation of photos and videos of our trip in my video, Fall Camping Getaway and Friday Reads.

Once I got my laptop back, I was also able to finally post my September Reading Wrap-Up, where I talk about each of the books I finished last month--it was a great reading month!

And yesterday, we enjoyed our annual tradition of carving pumpkins! Our older son lives out of state now, so we missed him. But we very much enjoyed having our younger son and his girlfriend here for jack-o-lanterns and a nice fall lunch of chili and cornbread. 

And, of course, there were good books the past two weeks! Here's what we've been reading:

While we were camping, I finished The House on Tradd Street by Karen White for the R.I.P. Challenge. My younger son bought this for me for my birthday. This is especially significant because he is our non-reader, and he went to a bookstore and picked this out for me. I was quite touched by his effort. It's also a perfect fit for October, as it is a mystery with ghosts! As in The Sense of Reckoning, which I loved and just reviewed, the main character can sense spirits. In this case, Melanie Middleton is a real estate agent in Charleston, SC, who sees ghosts all around her. Charleston, with its rich history, is a tough place to live for someone like that! An elderly man Melanie barely knows leaves her his large historic house when he dies and now Melanie can see him and his mother playing in the garden. There are mysteries associated with the house, and Melanie and her friends work to solve them, amid both live and ghostly dangers. I really enjoyed this and would definitely read more of the series!

Next, I read a book for my neighborhood book group (meeting this week), The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict. This is a unique book, a novel based on a real-life event from the life of Agatha Christie. In 1926, she disappeared for eleven days. She eventually showed up safe, but her disappearance was never explained, not even in her own autobiography. The author has created a novel about what might have happened during those mysterious eleven days, with flashbacks to her earlier life. When she disappeared, Agatha had a husband, Archie, a dour WWI veteran with a taste for structure and order. She also had a young daughter. Shortly after her disappearance, the police found her car abandoned in the woods, but there was no sign of her. It's an engrossing what-if mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

I have another book group pick to read for next week, but I wanted to squeeze in one last book for the R.I.P. Challenge, so I chose a short YA novel, Young Man with a Camera, by Emil Sher. This is a completely original premise that I am loving so far. An unnamed young teen, referred to only as T--- in the novel, has a tough life. He was burned as a child and is left with disfiguring scars on his neck and face and is therefore the subject of some terrible bullying. T--- is a kind but shy kid, with one best (and only) friend, Sean. Because the lead bully is a star student and athlete, adults don't believe him when he dares to mention an incident that occurred. T---- sees the world through his camera lens, and the book is filled with real photos, illustrating what he sees and experiences. But when he witnesses a horrifying crime, he has a tough decision to make. Not only are the photos a unique feature, but the first-person writing style is original, too, and I am riveted by this book so far!

I finished listening to another R.I.P. Challenge book on audio, Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, a new release. I have only read one other novel from this very popular author, Truly Madly Guilty, for Big Book Summer 2020, and I enjoyed it. In this new book, a mother named Joy in her 60's disappears, and her four adult children are trying to figure out what happened. They're not sure whether she just left on her own for a break or whether something more sinister happened to her. The police immediately suspect Joy's husband, Stan, because they can tell he's lying about something. And there is a mysterious stranger who could be involved. As the novel moves forward, the reader gradually gets to know each member of the family better, with parallel narratives following the months leading up to Joy's disappearance and the investigation afterward. I enjoyed this suspenseful family drama.

I was worried about downloading my next audio book without my laptop, but I remembered I had a few audios already on my iPod in the Sora app that I downloaded from SYNC, an annual summer program with free audios. One of them was a great fit for the R.I.P. Challenge: Illegal by Francisco X. Stork, the sequel to Disappeared, which I listened to a few years ago (review at the link). I'll try not to spoil the first book and just stick to the basics here. The events in Disappeared left Emilio and his sister, Sara, Mexican citizens living in Ciudad Juarez, running for their lives from a powerful cartel. At the start of Illegal, Sara is in a U.S. detention center, awaiting her asylum hearing but worried the cartel knows where she is. Emilio makes his way to their estranged father in Chicago, who is living the American dream with his new wife and son. They both want to do the right thing to save a group of strangers, but their lives are at risk. Both books are fast-paced, intricate, gripping thrillers. This was an excellent conclusion to the story.

My husband, Ken, finished reading one of the new books I just bought him for his birthday. I kept hearing rave reviews and enthusiasm for A Solitude of Wolverines by Alice Henderson, the first book in an exciting new thriller series. For a nice change of pace, the main character here is a wildlife biologist named Alex Carter who is passionate about saving endangered species. In this novel, she is up in Montana, studying wolverines, when she stumbles onto another kind of predator, a man wandering in the wild. The police soon drop the investigation, and Alex unwittingly finds herself in the position of knowing too much about a vast, illegal operation in the region. Soon, she herself becomes the prey. We both love thrillers in a wilderness setting, so this sounds great! He enjoyed it and wants to read the next book in the series, A Blizzard of Polar Bears, coming out next month!

Now, Ken is reading another birthday gift I gave him, The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winter. I have been hearing great things about this pre-apocalyptic mystery for years. Yes, pre-apocalyptic. In this near-future setting, an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and can't be stopped; it is due to hit in six months. So what's a homicide cop to do? Unlike many citizens walking off their jobs, Detective Hank Palace feels a responsibility to continue working. Currently, he has a case involving a hanging--in a city wracked with recent suicides--that feels suspicious. Some might say, "Why bother?" but Hank feels a commitment to see his role through. This is the first book in a trilogy. When I ordered it from our local indie bookstore, the store owner said, "Oh, my husband loves this series!" It certainly sounds intriguing to me. Ken is enjoying it so far.

Our son, 27, hasn't been home in a while now, and I'm missing him! He caught me up on his recent reading in a text this morning. He finished reading The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham, book 1 of The Dagger and the Coin series. He really enjoyed first re-reading book 1 and then reading book 2. Now, he says he is reading The Towers of the Sunset by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., book 2 in the Saga of Recluce series. I remember him reading--and loving--book 1 in the series, The Magic of Recluce, some years ago, so I know he likes this series. He says he's enjoying book two so far.


Whew, that's it for all of us! I also posted these new blog posts in the last two weeks:

My Summary of Books Read in September - what I read & how I'm doing with my challenges

Fiction Review: Broken Harbor by Tana French - another twisty mystery from her Dublin Murder Squad!

Fiction Review: Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty - a suspenseful family drama

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. Wow! That seems like a lot for two weeks! I'm glad you've got your computer back and are feeling better now, too. The Last Policeman has been on my TBR forever, it seems, and I think I'm on the holds list for the audio of Apples Never Fall through OverDrive/Libby.
    I ordered your book Finding a New Normal yesterday, finally. I'm looking forward to reading it and sharing it with my mother.

    1. Hope you get to read both of them soon, Laurie! I definitely want to read The Last Policeman, too.

      Wow, thanks for my ordering my book! Do you yourself have chronic medical issues or did you get it to support your mom? Either way, I hope you find it helpful!

    2. I have low IgA immunity, so was always getting sick from viruses and missing out on things (pre-pandemic) and some autoimmunune issues, so I'm interested as I don't know when things might get worse, but I also thought my mom might gain some insight and perspective from it, as she's still adjusting to her new normal.

    3. Lots of similarities with my immune disorder, Laurie - sorry to hear you are living this unpredictable life, too! I hope you find the book helpful.

  2. Oh no—I'm so sorry your laptop broke and you had to send it in for repairs! Especially since it's not the first time. I feel like Apple's quality has been a teensy bit all over the place lately—but it's still so much better than Windows (I'm having flashbacks) that I'm never going back. And I'm so sorry about your health being troublesome lately (especially having to miss Hamilton)—I'm glad you got to cram in a camping trip and a visit with your son, though! All of these books sound great, especially Young Man With a Camera—I try not to read thrillers because I'm easily scared, but it definitely sounds intriguing. Thanks so much for the great post, Sue!

    1. Yes, totally agree that Apple's not as consistent as they used to be ... but still better than the alternative! When I mentioned to the Genius Bar guy that my 15-year-old MacBook is still in perfect condition, he looked nostalgic and said they were built like tanks back then! ha ha

      Young Man with a Camera is SO good! I just finished it this afternoon, and wow, it blew me away. I'm not even sure what to call it - maybe suspense? It's a wholly unique story, uniquely told. Some rough parts - the bullying is hard-core and actually criminal - but wow, the heart of the main character is very moving. The kind of book where I turned the last page and wanted to start back over at the beginning!

  3. I'm so sorry about your computer issues (I agree Apple products usually last forever, so I hope this screen replacement will last many, many years). How crazy! Your camping trip to Elk Neck State Park sounds just lovely and I'm glad to hear your good days coincided with that trip!

    Wow. Young Man with Camera really does sound unique and fascinating! I just checked all of my local library options and we don't have a copy, yet. However, I might be able to ILL this one. Thanks for sharing, Sue!

    1. Shaye -
      See my comment to Completely Full Bookshelf above - Young Man with a Camera totally blew me away - outstanding. But I should have mentioned it's NOT a new release - it's a pick from my VERY old shelf of YA/MG TBRs!! 2015 release :) Hope you can find it. With the photos, it felt REAL.

  4. Having a laptop crap out on us is such a drag. I had to get my battery replace recently and I felt at loose ends without it. Glad you have yours back. The camping trip looks fantastic.

    1. Yes! My whole life is on this laptop :)

  5. It must be much warmer where you are than where we are. We also have a tent trailer for camping, but by the end of September, it's too cold for camping in unless we have electricity to heat the place up. Reading while camping is as close to bliss as life can get.

    1. It was highs in the low 60's when we were camping with nighttime lows about 50 F - perfect fall weather! I just made reservations for next week, a couple of hours to the south - that's looking cooler, but the site has electric so we can run our heater!

      I agree re: bliss!!