Monday, November 15, 2021

It's Monday 11/15! What Are You Reading?

Did you miss me?? I missed you! I really did miss the book blogging community the past two weeks and am glad to be back.

Last Monday was a planned absence: we took one last quick camping trip before it got too cold. And, wow, it worked out perfectly. When we booked the campground reservation two weeks earlier, the forecast was showing highs in the 50's (F) for our planned two days--pretty chilly for camping, even with a heater. But, we got lucky and ended up with two days with temperatures in the mid-70's, full sunshine, brilliant blue skies, and gorgeous fall colors.

Water views and fall colors

We went to Trap Pond State Park, about two hours south of us, here in Delaware, and while leaves had started to drop here at home, colors were at their peak there. 

From our site, we could see the beautiful pond, just a short walk away. We took full advantage of being so close to the water, going out to the shore or dock at sunset, in the first light of morning, and even stargazing at night.

Reflections in Trap Pond in the morning

Sunset reflected in the water

Trap Pond is known for having the furthest north, naturally-occurring cypress grove in the U.S. I didn't know that, and I didn't realize that cypress trees turn a bright orange color in the fall. The scenery was just breathtaking, and we enjoyed a couple of short hikes (luckily, I was feeling good that week!).

Cypress trees and fall colors

We got back home feeling relaxed, but we had to leave again two days later. My stepfather's father had died, and we drove to Buffalo for the funeral this weekend. That's about an 8-hour drive each way for us, but we really wanted to be there. We knew him well, and are close to my stepfather's entire family, so we were glad we could be there for them. The good thing is that he lived a long, happy, and very healthy life, dying at 94 in his own home. We appreciate that so much more after dealing with assisted living for my father-in-law. Despite the sad occasion, it was wonderful to see our family again, for the first time in about three years! It was odd to reunite in that way, but it was so good to see everyone. The "kids" have all grown up! Even my sweet "little" nephew is now taller than me (though, admittedly, that's a low bar). LOTS of fierce hugs were exchanged. And, since it was Buffalo, it snowed!!

Snow in Buffalo!

We got back home very late Saturday night, and I am still recovering from the exertion and long drives. We had my 96-year-old father-in-law over for dinner last night. He really seemed to enjoy the visit, conversation, and food (he ate every crumb on his plate!), but wow, he has gotten so much weaker and more confused in the past month. We try to see him several times a week, but he hadn't been inside our house in a while, and he had a terrible time with just the two steps to get in and walking between rooms with his walker.

OK, enough catch-up ... let's talk books! Of course, a big part of our camping experience is reading while relaxing outdoors, though the gorgeous scenery was a bit distracting on this trip!

Reading while camping

Since my last Monday post, I uploaded three new videos to my YouTube channel:

Finally, here's what we've all been reading the past two weeks:

My first book for Nonfiction November was No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler. I've never met her, but Kate is one of my favorite people in the world. She has a wonderful podcast, Everything Happens, that is my favorite. She is living with incurable cancer, though she is stable and doing well for now. She talks a lot about what it's like to live this kind of life in limbo and how our culture can make us feel like being sick (or divorced or depressed or whatever) is our own fault. The best way to tell you about her is to share this bit from the intro to her podcast: "Hey, there are some things you can fix and some things you can't, and it's OK that life isn't always better. We can find beauty and meaning and truth, but there's no cure for being human. So, let's be friends on that journey. Let's be human together." As I expected, I loved this short memoir and tabbed every other page because she expresses things so perfectly. As with her podcast, I laughed out loud and teared up and felt deeply understood.

Now, I have moved on to a different kind of memoir, Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. This book has been lauded as a Best Book of 2021 all over the place. My husband gave it to me for my birthday, and I was saving it for Nonfiction November. It's the story of how Michelle lost her mother to colon cancer when she was only 25 years old. In flashbacks, she recounts her childhood and rocky adolescence and the complicated relationship she had with her mother, who was from Korea. It's filled with references to the delicious Korean foods she and her mother shared as part of their heritage (her dad is American), and she describes the loss of her mother with raw emotion. In hindsight, it was probably not the best choice for a week when I was attending a funeral (and thinking a lot about my own dad's death from melanoma six years ago), but it is excellent, engaging, and powerful.

On audio, I am listening to An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives by Matt Richtel. I figured as long as it's nonfiction month, I might as well learn more about my own health problems! This book has been excellent so far (I'm almost finished now). The author is not a scientist or doctor or any kind of expert; he's a journalist, a reporter for the New York Times, who became interested in the immune system when his childhood friend was battling a particularly difficult type of cancer. So, he explains everything--including some very complex science--in a simple, easy-to-understand way for laypeople. And, as the subtitle suggests, he explains it all from the perspective of real patients with cancer, AIDS, and autoimmune conditions.The mind-blowing thing is that he wrote this book before COVID, so he keeps mentioning Dr. Fauci and explaining who he is (like we don't know!) and referring to new medical breakthroughs that have become household names, like monoclonal antibodies.  Even though I already knew the basics, I am learning a lot. It's been fascinating.

We slipped in a fiction audiobook, too, for our long trip back and forth to Buffalo. We haven't been able to travel far from home in two years because of my father-in-law, so we have a huge backlog of mystery and thriller audios I've been saving for joint road trips! We listened to Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson, a highly acclaimed and very creative mystery. Bookseller Malcolm Kershaw is surprised when an FBI agent comes to ask him questions. She thinks that someone might be using Malcolm's list from the bookstore blog of "8 Perfect Murders" from classic mysteries to actually commit multiple murders. The two of them begin working together, studying the books and looking for similar murders that might have been overlooked by police. It was excellent, clever and twisty, and it kept our attention on the long ride. The only downside is that it spoiled the endings of nine classic murder mysteries for us (only two of which I had previously read)!

My husband, Ken, is still reading Billy Summers by Stephen King. Before our camping trip, he also went on a four-day business trip, so he hasn't had a lot of reading time! I've been hearing great things about this one from lots of people, and it was one of my birthday gifts to Ken. This sounds like one of King's more thriller-like novels, rather than horror. The title character is a very talented hit man, the best in the business, only now he wants to get out of the business. He's also unusual in that he only takes on clients where the hit is a bad guy. Now, for his very last kill, he sets his eyes on the evilest man he has ever come across. He's excellent at what he does and especially at disappearing afterward, but this time, everything goes wrong. Oooh, sounds like some great King suspense! Ken has been enjoying it.

Our son, 27, is still enjoying the Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. He finished reading The Towers of the Sunset, book 2 in the series. Now, he's moved onto the third book, The Magic Engineer. He started this series with book 1 several years ago, back in college, and it should keep him busy for a while--the series has 22 books in it, each one 600+ pages! He loves this kind of epic fantasy. We saw him briefly this weekend at the funeral, but we are really looking forward to having a full week with him over Thanksgiving!


 Blog posts from the past two weeks:

Nonfiction November 2021 - my plans and the week 1 discussion questions

Teen/YA Review: Illegal by Francisco X. Stork - fast-paced thriller

 Fiction Review: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict - novel about the real-life disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926

Middle-Grade Review: The Ghost of Midnight Lake by Lucy Strange - mystery, family drama, friendship, and ghosts!

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. Ah, I just love those beautiful fall colors! We'll have family flying in later this week and I hope they get to catch a glimpse of our autumn before they return to Texas. That is too funny about An Elegant Defense and the constant explanation of who Dr. Fauci is. LOL I bet her never saw that coming! Thanks for the shares, Sue, and I hope you have a wonderful reading week!

  2. That camping trip sounds wonderful. So good the weather was warmer than expected and fall colours gorgeous. Sorry about the loss of your stepfather's father. Yes a sad occasion like that can still be a very fulfilling one with shared family. I heard of No Cure for Being Human somewhere else but not sure where. It does sound very good.

  3. Love the pictures, thanks for sharing! So sorry to hear of the loss of your stepfather's father, but nice that you had the opportunity to connect with family.

  4. I'm so glad you were able to go camping and see such beautiful fall scenery! And I'm so sorry to hear about your stepfather's father. I'm glad the funeral served as at least a chance to reconnect with family! No Cure for Being Human sounds like such a powerful and thoughtful read, and I'm so glad you connected with it! And Crying in H Mart is one I've heard good things about, although I hope it doesn't hit too close to home for you. An Elegant Defense also sounds great! Thanks so much for the excellent post, Sue!

  5. The Fall colors look wonderful; I really do miss seeing the real seasons. And a trip with snow? We've had temperatures in the mid 80s recently so I cannot imagine!

    8 Perfect Murders sounds really good.

  6. What an absolutely stunning place to camp. I'm glad you ended up with warm weather to really enjoy it.
    Funerals can be such contradictory events - especially when the person has had a rich long life. There is the grief - but also the celebration of their existence and seeing people we don't otherwise connect with.
    I have added An Elegant Defense to my must read nonfiction list for next year. Thanks for the introduction to all the rest of these books too.