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It's Monday 8/19! What Are You Reading?

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Book By Book

I know this is an unpopular opinion and makes me sound like an old grump…but I am SO glad the end of August is approaching and summer is almost over! Friends are posting on Facebook about how they never want summer to end, but I have had enough of this unbearable heat and humidity. This week, we are back in the mid-90′s with the heat index back over 100. I miss my walks! I miss my outdoor time! I want to wear jeans and sweatshirts and SOCKS again! OK, I am done ranting. Just two more weeks…

Meanwhile, we had another crisis-filled week with several issues with family members and lots of rushing around and emotional stress. Our sons left on Friday for their annual week with my mom and her husband (and their cousins), sailing to Block Island, RI, aka The Grandchildren’s Cruise! This is the highlight of the summer for them every year, even though they are both now in their 20′s, and all crises seemed to be resolved by the time they left, so hopefully, they will have a wonderful and relaxing week. And I have five weekdays alone in the house with plenty of quiet time for writing! My husband and I did have to cancel our planned weekend getaway because his elderly father has been sick, but we managed to have some fun this weekend, having dinner with good friends and going to see The Art of Racing in the Rain, adapted from a novel that we both loved. The movie was excellent (I sobbed my eyes out), and on Sunday, we went out for breakfast and then to a local museum we’d never been to before, The Brandywine River Art Museum, which features the work of local artists, especially three generations of Wyeths. We really enjoyed it, and N.C. Wyeth’s many stunning book illustrations (especially from Treasure Island, which we read with our kids) were our favorites.

So, the week ended well. One good thing about summer is my Big Book Summer Challenge, which we are all enjoying here. Here’s what we’ve been reading:

I am still reading the fast-paced, post-apocalyptic thriller, The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin, which is the third and final book in the trilogy that began with The Passage and The Twelve, about a government experiment gone wrong and a really nasty virus that turns people into vampire-like (but not exactly vampires) “virals.” I love this series, as do my husband and son (my husband already finished it, and my son, like me, finished the first two). I am LOVING this book, even more than the second one! It begins just three years after The Twelve ended, and though I learned my lesson and read a long synopsis of the last book online before I started this one, it did a decent job of reminding me how the last one ended and who everyone was (this time I knew to look for a list of characters at the back). It’s engrossing and compelling, the kind of book that’s making me stay up too late every night and talk out loud to the book (which my husband finds hilarious). It’s so much fun to get completely absorbed in a novel like this!

On audio, I finished listening to another Big Book, Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman, a YA book based on the real-life lives of Vincent Van Gogh and his beloved younger brother, Theo. This was a freebie from SYNC this summer. I have heard great things about this book, but I enjoyed it even more than I expected to. It’s a fascinating biography of Van Gogh, but it is also an in-depth look at his family and his childhood and of the time (Europe in the 1860′s-90′s). It’s so interesting to hear how his artistic talent and career began but also how his mental illness began to show small signs even from childhood. References to particular paintings as his artistic talent grows kept sending me to my laptop to look at them, though once I realized there were drawings in the print version, I requested it from my library and pored over it – some books just demand both audio and print! The book is based on over 600 letters between the brothers and between them and other members of the family. I was so inspired that I used a birthday gift card to buy myself some Starry Night sneakers this week.

Now, I have moved onto one last Big Book on audio, The Desert Sky Before Us by Anne Valente. I received an ARC of this book for possible review in the spring, and I was interested in it but didn’t have the time to fit it in, so I was glad to also get the audio for review this summer. It’s the story of two very different sisters who take a road trip, arranged by their mother before her death, to travel from Illinois to Utah, where they have permission to have a second funeral. Their mother was a paleontologist, one sister is a former race car driver, and the other one just got out of prison for arson. The reader knows from the start that both sisters have secrets, though I suspect that more secrets will be revealed. I was most enticed by the road trip aspect of this novel, and it is even better than I hoped so far.

My husband, Ken, decided to read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein before we went to see the movie. I read this wonderful novel back in 2009, about a year after its release and absolutely loved it. I didn’t remember all the plot points (until we saw the movie Saturday), but I remembered laughing and crying and writing down quotes – all signs of a great book for me. It’s narrated by a dog named Enzo (not usually my thing, but this is an outstanding book – see my review at the link) whose owner, Denny, is a race car driver. My husband also enjoyed it very much last week, and he finished it on Friday so that we could see the movie this weekend. The movie was also excellent (more laughter and more tears!), and our two friends who had not read the book enjoyed it, too. Movie review coming next Monday here.

Now, Ken has turned his attention back to Big Books, though he’s not sure if he’ll finish this one by Labor Day in two weeks. He’s reading Creole Belle by James Lee Burke, a prolific and well-loved novelist that neither of us has ever read before. I bought this one for him for Father’s Day at Northshire Bookstore during Booktopia because I was looking for a new thriller series he might enjoy. The series features Detective Dave Robicheaux on the Gulf Coast and from what I read, it sort of combines elements of westerns and thrillers. There are more than 20 books in this series, but I chose this one because it was recommended by the booksellers and it is set in New Orleans, where we used to live. We always enjoy reading books set in our favorite city, and my husband also lived in the Houston area for almost ten years, so I think he’ll really like the Gulf Coast setting.

Our 24-year old son, Jamie, is enjoying Death’s Merchant, book one in the Common Among Gods series by Justan Henner. He says it’s a really original story about gods and humans, but not the familiar Greek or Roman gods. I see it’s been described as an “epic fantasy” and “1200-page doorstopper full of captivating characters and humor.” Yup, that sounds right up his alley! I can tell he’s enjoying it because he’s been reading a lot. He won’t have a lot of reading time out on the boat with his younger cousins this week, but I’m sure he’ll fit in a little bit!

Blog posts from last week:

Fiction Review: Three New Novels – a catch-up post with reviews I wrote for Shelf Awareness of three new novels that I enjoyed.

Teen/YA Review: Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman – wonderful biography of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother.

Saturday Snapshot: Still Hot, Hot, Hot! – photos from our local nature center in full summer lushness.

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?

Just two weeks left (until September 2), so if you’ve been participating in the Big Book Summer Challenge, finish up your Big Books and post reviews and/or in the Goodreads group. If you haven’t signed up yet but want to join the fun, there is still plenty of time to fit in a Big Book before summer ends, especially a 400-500 pager. All the details, including the link to the Goodreads group are on the Big Book Summer Challenge page.


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