Monday, December 06, 2021

It's Monday 12/6! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
is hosted by Kathryn of The Book Date blog. Check out her blog and join in the Monday fun!


My confession: I have mixed feelings about this time of year and the holiday season. Of course, there are traditions I love, and I enjoy the time with my family. But, there’s just so much to do!! Plus, after pitching article ideas to a particular magazine all year, I finally heard back with a “yes” from the editor, and it’s due this week! I’m thrilled for the opportunity to be writing the article, but it’s really bad timing. I'm really not a Scrooge--just feeling overwhelmed.


I just realized I wasn’t able to post last Monday, so this is a two-week catch-up. So, a quick summary of the past two weeks in my life:


We drove to Buffalo, NY (8 hours each way), for a family funeral. A sad occasion, but it was wonderful to see family members we hadn’t seen in three years!


Typical Buffalo/Rochester scene in mid-November!

The next week was Thanksgiving, and we again drove to western NY, this time to my hometown of Rochester. Both of our sons were with us, and we again saw family members we hadn’t seen in at least 2 ½ years, so there were some very happy reunions. 


Nice to have all four of us together!

Two of our four cars broke down last week! One totally died while our son was driving home, stranding him on the NJ Turnpike, making for a frantic day before our Thanksgiving trip. That one’s in a NJ auto shop, awaiting a new engine (!). Our SUV started acting up on the way home from Rochester and is going to the shop tomorrow. That leaves us with my 30-year-old VW convertible and my father-in-law’s bright purple Dodge Challenger!


We went to get our Christmas tree this weekend. Sadly, the tree farm we have gone to for 20 years ran out of trees, so we tried a new farm. It was huge and had a great selection, though we missed the hayride, live reindeer, and free kettle corn. We cut down a lovely Douglas fir and will put it up next weekend.


My husband and son with our just-cut tree!


It's been busy for me, so I just posted two new book videos to my YouTube channel the past two weeks:


And here’s the important part: what we’ve all been reading the past two weeks!


My reading time was curtailed with all that time in the car and visiting family, but I did finally finish reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara for Nonfiction November. It was an outstanding book, immersive, engrossing, and suspenseful. I don’t normally read much true crime, but this account of the Golden State Killer combines both true crime and memoir, as McNamara documents her own growing obsession with finding this serial rapist and murderer who got away with his crimes for decades. As a true crime writer, McNamara began looking into a series of unsolved rapes and murders that occurred across the state in the 1970’s and 80’s. She ended up working with detectives and forensic specialists who had worked the case in the past (and were equally fixated on finding the perp). He was eventually found, but unfortunately, Michelle died before that victorious event, so the book was finished by her editor, her assistant, and her husband, Patton Oswald, the actor. It's a fascinating story, and I had trouble putting this one down!


It took me so long to finish that book with everything going on that I only had two days left of Nonfiction November! I made the most of it by squeezing in one last short memoir, Lift by Kelly Corrigan. I’ve never read anything by Corrigan before, but I certainly knew of her. For years, I have heard rave reviews of her collections of personal essays, and I have listened to interviews with her on podcasts. So, I was excited to finally read one of her books. It lived up to my expectations. This one is just a brief memoir, written as a letter to her two young daughters. She writes about the experience of being a parent, with a focus on three different events: the tragic death of the eighteen-year-old son of her aunt, her own terrifying experience when one of her daughters was hospitalized with meningitis as a baby, and a dear friend who very much wanted to be a mother but, in her 40’s, hadn’t found the right life partner. She captures the exquisite joys and pains of parenting. As I expected from her wonderful interviews, it was beautifully written, powerful, moving, and injected with her signature humor. (full review with excerpts at the link).


Next, I started a novel, but within 24 hours, I remembered I have book group coming up! So, I quickly downloaded Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce onto my Kindle and switched to reading that instead. My neighborhood book group absolutely loved Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and its companion novel, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, so when this latest novel was suggested, it was a shoe-in! Margery Benson is a large woman in her 40’s in England in 1950 who feels at loose ends, having lost all of her family and working an unsatisfying job as a Home Ec teacher. On impulse, she does something reckless and then decides to embark on an expedition to a remote island in the Pacific to look for a never-before-seen (perhaps mythical?) golden beetle. Accompanying her, by some strange twists of fate, is Enid Pretty, a wild young woman in a bright pink suit who is Margery’s complete opposite. It has the same sense of warmth, absurdity, and humor as her other novels, as Margery and Enid find themselves while searching for the beetle.


It’s been more than two years since we’ve been able to take a long road trip, so I had lots of suspense and thriller audiobooks saved up for my husband and I. On the long drive to and from Buffalo for the funeral, we listened to Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson. This was a creepy and suspenseful one! Malcolm, a quiet bookstore owner, is visited by FBI Special Agent Mulvey at his store in Boston. She is beginning to suspect there is an unusual serial killer at work. Years earlier, Malcolm published a list of “Eight Perfect Murders” on the store’s blog, recounting eight different classic murder mysteries that might be considered unsolvable. Now, Agent Mulvey thinks someone is using his list to actually commit murders. The two begin to work together, though Mal has secrets he is trying to protect. This was excellent suspense and perfect for our long, snowy car trip. Our only complaint was that eight classic murder novels have now been spoiled for us!


On my own, I finished my last audiobook for Nonfiction November, The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters' Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory by Roxane van Iperen. This nonfiction history describes the lives of two Dutch Jewish sisters, Janny and Lien, from their peaceful childhoods growing up in Amsterdam with their parents to the Nazi occupation of their beloved country when they are young women and new parents to their large roles in helping the Resistance and finally to their time spent in concentration camps. Wow. I’ve read a lot of books about the Holocaust, but this one surprised me by its visceral power to convey some amazing—and horrifying—experiences. It was outstanding.


Now, I have transitioned back to fiction, listening to 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. It’s great so far, with a mix of depth and humor that I’m enjoying.


My husband, Ken, just finished reading a birthday gift I gave him, The Guide by Peter Heller. He and I both thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this loose series, The River, about a canoe trip in Canada gone very, very wrong. Like that one, this is also a wilderness thriller. Jack, one of the main characters from The River, is now working at an expensive fishing lodge in Colorado, taking wealthy clients out fishing. In a post-COVID world, the resort offers the wealthy a respite from the dangerous world. Jack is assigned to guide a big-deal singing celebrity and figures it’ll be an easy job with her. But when the two are out in the wilderness, they hear a scream in the night. Sounds like a great set-up, and Ken enjoyed it.


Now, Ken’s 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.


And our son, 27, has been reading a lot! Lucky guy—he can read in the car without getting sick. He finished The Magic Engineer, book three of the Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. He’s enjoying this series and asked for book four for Christmas. Next he moved onto Shattered Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. He explained to me that this is a spin-off series of her acclaimed Seven Realms series, set in the same world. He read book one, Flamecaster, and when he was with us last week for Thanksgiving, he was almost finished with book two, Shadowcaster. I know he loves this author and this world she has created.



Blog posts from the past two weeks:


Nonfiction Review: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner - excellent memoir about Korean food and culture ans a rocky mother-daughter relationship 

Graphic Memoir Review: Other Boys by Damian Alexander - excellent middle-grade/teen coming-of-age story

Nonfiction Review: Lift by Kelly Corrigan - brief but powerful memoir of parenthood


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. Yes you are totally right about having mixed feelings about this beautiful but time demanding season. All the best for writing that article. Ouch for the cars. Take care and hope some reading can be accomplished.

  2. Wow—it sounds like things have been a little frantic lately, with two different car breakdowns, the Christmas tree farm not having any trees (which is...kind of the whole point!), a funeral, and you having to write a magazine article ASAP! (Please let us know when the article comes out—I'd love to read it!) I think you have every right to be a little fed up with the season—especially since it's already kind of ridiculous to expect everyone to NEVER feel unhappy just because they put up a tree with some glowing lights. (It's still a great holiday—the expectations are just a tad unrealistic!)

    Rant over—now for the books! Lift sounds like such a powerful read, and it's short too, so I'll keep it in mind if I get a chance to cram in an adult read! And I'm actually reading Under the Whispering Door aloud with family right now (not young family, of course, since it's not quite PG at times!)—I personally clicked better with The House in the Cerulean Sea, but this one definitely has its moments! Thanks so much for the wonderful post, Sue!

  3. This is me squeezing my eyes shut picturing you driving a bright purple Dodge Challenger (Though I don't know what that kind of car looks like so I am actually picturing you in a Doge Charger. I'm attaching the picture to your Facebook page, just for laughs.

  4. 8 Perfect Murders looks really good. I thoroughly enjoyed Miss Benson's Beetle and hope you do, too!