Monday, December 20, 2021

It's Monday 12/20! What Are You Reading?

Another hectic week here last week, as we quickly roll toward Christmas and the end of the year! I'm still not sure where the last twelve months went. 

The highlight of our week was taking a break from all the stress of caring for my father-in-law and getting ready for the holidays. We spent 24 hours down at the beach (about two hours from here) and really enjoyed the brief getaway! The weather wasn't great (though on Saturday it was about ten degrees warmer than at home), but we enjoyed a walk on the beach, some shopping for stocking stuffers, and lots of great food. 

On Sunday I had my book signing at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, which is an amazing indie bookstore that sells a wide selection of books, plus gifts, local stuff, and even has a cafe with coffee and baked goods. I really enjoyed being there and chatting with customers. There's a wonderful community  at the beach; people are very kind and friendly. So, I met some nice people, talked with others about their chronic illness experiences, and sold some books, too! A few of my friends and family stopped by, too, so all in all, it was a fun day.

I did manage to catch up a bit on my videos last week and edited and posted two new ones:

  • November Reading Wrap-Up - I talk about each of the 8 books I read/listened to last month.
  • Friday Reads 12-17-21 - my usual weekly update, with a little extra about our Christmas tree and Connie Willis' books, which are amazing!

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

I am still reading All Clear by Connie Willis, which is book two of the two-book series that started with Blackout. THESE ARE AMAZING BOOKS! (There, I feel better.) I read that first one for #BigBookSummer this year and was disappointed to find that it ended in a cliff-hanger! But now I am fully immersed back into this world and so enjoying it. Both books are part of Willis' Oxford Time Travel series (hear more about it in this video), about a group of historians--grad students at Oxford--in 2060 who travel back in time in order to witness historical events firsthand. In this one, many historians have all been sent back to World War II in England, each with his or her own assignment in different parts of England and at different times. But the time travel technology starts to glitch, and some of them are unable to return home. All of her books feature amazing historical detail and the mind-bending fun of time travel, but this one is also super suspenseful, as the 2060 historians are not only in personal danger, being stuck in WWII, but are also worried about unintentionally changing history, given their long stays in the past--perhaps even changing the outcome of the war. There is a lot at stake, and with Willis' stunning way of capturing history, plus her talent with creating tension, the suspense is keeping me up late at night reading! It's a long book, but I am loving every minute of it.

I forgot to mention last week that I have also been reading (in small bits of time) a middle-grade/teen graphic memoir, Friends Forever by Shannon Hale, with illustrations by LuUyen Pham. This is the third book in their trilogy of graphic memoirs that started with Real Friends and Best Friends. All three books are based on Shannon's real-life childhood and adolescence. In this third book, Shannon is now in eighth grade. She expected this to be a great year, but she doesn't feel great. All of her friends are interested in boys (and vice-versa), but no boys seem to be interested in her. She wants to be perfect: successful and pretty and maybe even famous someday! But, instead she feels insecure and out of place and unsure of what she actually wants. Meanwhile, her Mormon upbringing (not mentioned by name in this book) keeps emphasizing that her only role as a woman is to get married and be a good wife and mother, but Shannon learns about the Equal Rights Amendment and thinks she might want more out of life. It's excellent so far, with full-color drawings bringing Shannon and her friends to life on the pages.

I am still listening to--almost finished with--Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune. I’ve been hearing a lot of great reviews of both this novel and Klune’s first one, The House in the Cerulean Sea, so I wanted to find out for myself. This is an unusual novel about the afterlife, described by one reviewer as “A Man Called Ove meets The Good Place”—sold! Wallace is a buttoned-up lawyer with no compassion who suddenly dies of a heart attack. He is sitting in the church, watching his own funeral—dressed embarrassingly in flip-flops, sweat pants, and an old Rolling Stones t-shirt—when a young woman joins him and explains that she is a reaper, there to guide him after his death. It takes Wallace a while to even believe he is dead, but meeting Hugo, the ferryman, begins to convince him. Wallace takes his time in this in-between place, but I won't spoil all that happens. I've really been enjoying this unusual book because it is fun and very funny but also has tremendous emotional depth and is very moving.

My husband, Ken, is still reading Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, book one of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Our son picked this out for him; it is one of his favorite fantasy novels, and he wanted his dad to try it. The description says, “Vast legions of gods, mages, humans, dragons and all manner of creatures play out the fate of the Malazan Empire in this first book in a major epic fantasy series.” Ken isn’t nearly as big a fan of epic fantasy as our son is, but he’s always willing to try a book our son thinks he’ll enjoy. He says it's complicated so far, as he's trying to keep straight not only the characters but the types of magic and other characteristics of this world, but our son assures him it will all come together! Neither of us had a lot of reading time this past week.

Last I heard, our son, 27, was reading Spinning Silver by Naomi Novak, which was a finalist for both the Nebula and Hugo awards and on many Top Ten lists. I don't know if it is technically a sequel, but it is set in the same fairy tale world as Uprooted, another book he enjoyed reading. I just picked up a big stack of fantasy novels for him at the bookstore this morning--I can't wait for Christmas! Both to see our son and to give him gifts I know he will love.



Blog posts from last week:

Nonfiction Review: An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives by Matt Richtel - excellent book that is informative and also engrossing.

Nonfiction Review: No Cure for Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear) by Kate Bowler - this author and podcaster is my personal hero, and her book (much like her podcast) made me laugh and cry and tab dozens of passages.

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'm glad you got to have a quick trip to the beach, Sue, and I'm also glad that your book signing ended up being a fun way to spend the day! All Clear sounds like a super-gripping read, and I'm glad you're still enjoying Under the Whispering Door as well! And I don't know why I haven't yet read any of Shannon Hale's graphic memoirs, since they are pretty much beloved by everyone, but I'm making a note of this one right now. Thanks so much for the wonderful post, and happy holidays!

    1. Thanks! It was a nice weekend break in the midst of the holiday craziness!

      Definitely try this trilogy from Shannon Hale - I think you will like them!

  2. Looks like a nice mix of books. I would treasure a beach getaway too, even if it is brief, glad you and your husband were able to get that break. Merry Christmas!

    1. Thanks, Cindy! Merry Christmas to you, too!

  3. Congratulations on your book signing. I see you enjoy Connie Willis' writing and she is a regular host on the coasttocoastam dot com radio show, which I often listen to. I am reading a Victorian fantasy "The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels" by India Holton.

  4. Nice you got away to the beach for a short while to blow out some cobwebs. Good that the book signing went well. Have a lovely Christmas Sue.

  5. Your getaway and book signing sound successful. How fun to be on the other side of the book experience! Have a great week.

  6. I’m glad your time at the beach & with your signing was successful. I have a few books on my reading list this week. My son is reading Kith & Kin based on a Dungeons & Dragon campaign by Critical Role, and my daughter is reading Illuminae by Kay Kristoff & Amie Kauffman.

    Wishing you a merry Christmas 🎄 & a happy new year 🥳

  7. Just had to come back here to share that I finally have Under the Whispering Door on reserve. No idea how long it will take to get my hands on it, but looking forward to it! #verylatecomment