Monday, July 01, 2024

It's Monday 7/1! What Are You Reading?

Hosted by The Book Date


July 1? Yikes, the year is half over! How did that happen? I reviewed my annual goals this morning, and I'm behind on a lot of work/writing things. But, it's been a good year so far for my health, family, and travel!

Speaking of travel, we just returned on Friday from a 5-day camping trip to try out our new-to-us camper at Hickory Run State Park in Pennsylvania (about three hours from here), and we had a wonderful time! We love the new camper! It's a 2017 Jayco 17-foot hybrid (meaning it's a hard-sided trailer but the beds come out like in our old pop-up). The previous owners took amazing care of it, so it looks brand-new, and everything worked well. The addition of our own bathroom, air-conditioning, and other amenities (a microwave!) is wonderful, and it was very comfortable, even through a big thunderstorm.

Nice and lightweight & easy to tow

But roomy when it's opened up!

My husband relaxing on the couch

Me relaxing on my bed - perfect weather!

We hadn't been to Hickory Run since 2007, and we thoroughly enjoyed the park. It has 25 hiking trails, lots of beautiful waterfalls, a few small lakes, and a really cool 16-acre boulder field that's a National Natural Landmark. 

Really enjoyed the Shades of Death trail!

Gorgeous waterfalls!

Such a beautiful trail along the water

Biggest waterfall over a dam spillway

Boulder field was so cool!

I liked these little tree islands.

We had a great time there!

One day, we drove into the town of Jim Thorpe, which has a great historic area (though a bizarre history), and enjoyed a train ride along the Lehigh River, with beautiful scenery (including a bear!). I'll be posting a travel vlog tomorrow on my YouTube channel--I took a lot of videos, so check it out!

We enjoyed the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway

Beautiful views of the Lehigh River

Fun train ride - and we saw a bear!!


On the Blog

Movie Monday: Hit Man - my husband and I both enjoyed this very entertaining, twisty thriller/rom-com!

Fiction Review: The Women by Kristin Hannah - wow, this was a stunning, powerful novel about the experiences of nurses during the Vietnam War. A must-read!


On Video

Friday Reads 6-21-24 - my brief weekly update on what I am reading and listening to

The "It's Not That Bad" Book Tag - a fun, short video about "bad" reading habits that maybe aren't so bad! Do YOU do any of these?


 What We're Reading

Yesterday, I finally finished reading my first print book for the #BigBookSummer Challenge, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. WOW! This is an epic novel, with a rollercoaster of emotions. It's set in 1870 with two older men, Augustus McCrae and Captain Woodrow Call, who are ex-Texas Rangers. They now own a small livery business in the tiny town of Lonesome Dove on the Mexico border, a desolate place. A small group of men live there and help them. Early in the novel, another ex-Ranger named Jake comes to visit, fresh from Montana, and Call gets the idea to put together a herd of cattle and drive them all the way to Montana. What an amazing novel! So much happens, with so many plot twists, but it also features in-depth characters and a great sense of humor (always a plus for me). I cried (hard!) three times and was often laughing out loud. My recent Friday Reads video includes a more in-depth discussion of what I was enjoying about it. So many other people participating in Big Book Summer were also reading this book that I made it our official readalong book, and I'm enjoying the discussions in the group on Goodreads. As soon as I finished the last page, I immediately logged into the group because I HAD to talk about it!


I finished another Big Book audio, Countdown by Deborah Wiles, middle-grade historical fiction and book one in her Sixties trilogy. In 2015, I read book 2, Revolution, which takes place in 1964 and is about the Freedom Summer in Mississippi. Countdown is set in 1962 and focuses on what was going on at that time: the Cold War, McCarthyism, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and fear of a nuclear bomb. The novel begins with 11-year-old Franny and her classmates enduring a terrifying "duck and cover" drill when the town's warning siren goes off during school. As with Revolution, Wiles has melded together real-life news reports, ads from the early 60's, radio broadcasts, and other documentary-style media with fictional kids experiencing it all. It's a very effective, powerful approach that shows Franny worrying about typical kid stuff while also afraid of being bombed at any moment. I read Revolution in print, which included all the real-life information in print (see my review at the link) in a scrapbook-like format. It's different on audio but equally engrossing and informative. She's a talented writer, and I definitely want to read the third book in the trilogy. 


I just yesterday started my next Big Book on audio, Mr. Nice Guy by Jennifer Miller and Jason Feifer, a wife-husband writing team. Lucas gave up law school, a fiancee (though technically, she gave him up), and his small southern town to chase his dream of living in the Big Apple. He got a job as a fact-checker at Empire, the glossy magazine that has long fed his visions of an exciting life in New York. One night, he meets an attractive woman named Carmen and goes home with her, feeling like his big city life is finally starting. But on Monday, he discovers--as does the rest of the city--that he has actually slept with the Carmen Kelly, his own magazine's sex columnist, and she has written a scathing review of their night together that's gone viral, referring to him as Mr. Nice Guy. Lucas writes a furious rebuttal that the magazine also publishes, and suddenly, all anyone is talking about is their budding (and doomed?) relationship. It's early in the novel so far, but it's fun, smart, and witty. I'm enjoying it.


My husband finished his first Big Book for the summer (yes, he joins the challenge, too!), The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, one of my favorites from last summer (my review at the link). He enjoyed this suspenseful, funny, heartbreaking classic, and it's fun to be able to talk about it with him. We keep repeating lines and phrases to each other (there was a lot of talk about "side meat" while we were camping - lol). 


Next, in only a week, he finished another Big Book, Code to Zero by Ken Follett, one of his older thrillers (and one of the books we inherited from my dad). He said this Cold War thriller was fast-paced and suspenseful. He was surprised how fast he read it, though we always enjoy more reading time while camping. Long before Follett began publishing his monster historical novels, he was famous for his gripping thrillers.


Our son, 29, is probably still reading book 2 of the Licanius Trilogy by James Islington, An Echo of Things to Come since he started a new job last week! I saw the book while he was here, and it is definitely a Big Book. But my son thinks Big Book Summer is funny because all he reads are enormous epic fantasies anyway. He's enjoying this one, but he won't have a lot of reading time now.


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. Hickory Run looks absolutely gorgeous! I just looked it up on a map, hoping it was close to our new home (moving in 2 weeks!), Pittsburgh, but not so much LOL. PA is HUGE. I'm really glad you enjoyed Lonesome Dove so much--and that so many other readers have read it for their Big Book this summer. Such an absorbing book.

    1. ha ha yes, PA is a huge state, and it's filled with gorgeous state parks! Near your new home, I would check out Ohiopyle State Park and the other parks nearby, along with Fallingwater, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's homes. Pittsburgh is a wonderful city - enjoy your new home. Loved Lonesome Dove!

  2. Your camping trip sounds great and the new camper is wonderful! I am so glad you've had the energy to do all the stuff you've been doing lately.

    1. Thanks, Helen - so am I! We've really been on the go lately :)

  3. We've been toying with the idea of getting a camper, and your notes and photos are giving me good reasons to want to get one. I miss camping, but tents are a non-starter these days.

    I haven't started Lonesome Dove yet, but it is still on my summer list.

    I've read most of Ken Follett's historical novels and only one of his thrillers, The Key to Rebecca, which was okay but I wanted more of Rebecca!

    Happy reading in July!

    1. Oh, you should, Jane! Yeah, we left tents behind 26 years ago, when our second son was born - our first tent camping trip with both boys was a disaster, and we started shopping for a camper the next week! We're loving this new camper, with more anemities. It's just so wonderful to spend time outdoors (in comfort!).

      The Key to Rebecca was good, but it's a follow-up to The Eye of the Needle. He wrote dozens of thrillers before he started on historical fiction (though most of his thrillers were WWII or Cold War so also historical).

  4. Wow! Love the camper! And you definitely got to see some gorgeous views!!