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It's Monday 12/14! What Are You Reading?

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Book By Book

Whew! Another hectic, chaotic week. ‘Tis the season, right? I had one more customized gift to finish designing last week–a photo book of memories for my 95-year-old father-in-law. All I had to do was sort through some old photos, scan them, upload them to Snapfish (we love their calendars, ornaments, cards, and photo books), and design the book. Simple, right? Yes, except that I underestimated it all, of course. We brought a huge suitcase here from Oklahoma when we moved him here six years ago, and it was FULL of loose photos: just piles and piles of random photos, from 1925 through recent years! It took me all week (cramped up on our family room floor) to sort through them, pick some out for the book, and then a full day to scan them all (by the way, my 500 GB MacBook Pro has only 7 GB of space left on it!). Finally, on Saturday, I was able to sit down with the Snapfish website and design his book. It turned out great, but it was a lot of work, and nothing else got done last week!

On the health front, I am feeling the best I have felt all year; my 9-month-long mysterious downturn finally seems to have ended, though I also found out that I need to continue my Lyme treatment for now. But, my husband had some mild stomach virus symptoms last weekend, so we quarantined all week while he got a COVID test, just to be sure (since he normally visits his dad every day). It took three days to get an appointment and another three days to get the results back, but they were negative–hurray! So, this weekend was a flurry of catch-up activity–getting groceries, having an outdoor visit with his dad, finally getting our Christmas tree into the house with our son’s help (still not decorated, though), and more. Oh, and since we only had one egg left in the house Sunday morning, we treated ourselves to breakfast out–it was nice enough yesterday to sit outside at our favorite cafe! This morning, I cleared two weeks’ of mail off our kitchen counter and finally did our filing.

This week, I need to get our out-of-town gifts wrapped and shipped, but it should be slightly less crazed, so I promise to get back to visiting blogs!

With all of the seasonal, thematic reading challenges I participate in, I usually try to focus on really great books in December and January to end/start the year right! This means the highly acclaimed books that have been on my shelf for too long. So far, that definitely applies–I’ve been reading some outstanding books and really enjoying my reading time. Here’s what we’ve all been reading this week:

I finished National Book Award finalist Plainsong by Kent Haruf, a novel that’s been on my TBR bookshelf for far too long. Last year, I read Haruf’s Our Souls at Night (his last novel but the first I read from him) and loved it, so I was eager to read this first novel of his loosely-connected series (four books) that takes place in the small, rural town of Holt, Colorado. Haruf has a unique way of telling a story, with short chapters, straightforward prose, and a mild placidity that matches his characters’ simple, honest lives. Tom Guthrie teaches high school history and is raising two young boys on his own, as his wife, who seems seriously depressed, grows more distant both mentally and physically. Raymond and Harold McPheron are isolated, older, bachelor farmers who have always lived together, since they were boys and their parents died. Victoria, a teen girl in Tom’s school, is kicked out of her house by her alcoholic mother when she becomes pregnant, so she is taken in by Maggie Jones, another teacher. These are mostly kind people, doing their best, living intertwined lives in this small town. The novel was completely immersive and very satisfying.

I am currently reading Dear Edward by Lisa Napolitano, a novel that has appeared on many Best Books of 2020 lists. My neighborhood book group will be discussing it on Wednesday (via Zoom, of course). Twelve-year-old Edward Adler is on a plane from New York to California with his parents and his older brother, Jordan. The family is moving to California and leaving NYC behind for the first time in the boys’ lives. Then the plane crashes in Colorado, killing all of its crew and passengers, except one: Edward. After recovering enough from his multiple, serious injuries to leave the hospital, Edward moves in with his aunt and uncle in New Jersey, but he is a very long way from healed. Chapters alternate between what happened on the flight, allowing the reader to get to know many of the characters who died, to Edward’s very long and difficult journey to a new normal after the accident. It is a powerful, moving, and riveting story, and I’ve been staying up much too late each night reading it!

On audio, I am still listening to The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, a new release I have been dying to read/listen to! I’ve read one other book by the author, City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab, a middle-grade novel that I loved. Plus this new adult novel is being compared to The Time Traveler’s Wife and Life After Life, two of my all-time favorite Top 10 books! In 1714, a young woman about to be forced into marriage makes a deal with a dark spirit to live forever in a life where no one ever controls her. The catch is that no one ever remembers her, either; she is immediately forgotten by anyone she meets, from her own parents to shopkeepers to men she falls in love with. So far, the action jumps back and forth between the 1700′s, before and after her dark deal, and the present day in 2014, where she has lived for over 300 years but can never leave an impression on the world or even a single person. It’s excellent so far, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

My husband, Ken, finished reading the second Jane Harper book, Force of Nature. He and I both enjoyed her first novel, The Dry, earlier this year, and I gave him this one for his birthday this fall. It’s about five women who go on a corporate retreat, backpacking in Australia … but only four of them return. Each of the remaining survivors tells a different story about what happened, and Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk (from The Dry) must figure out what the truth is, untangling lies, secrets, and betrayals. Sounds like another great thriller from Harper! He said he liked it even better than the first novel, so now I want to read it, too.

Now, Ken is taking a break from his steady diet of thrillers to read something different, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin, a prequel to the A Game of Thrones series. This one book compiles the first three prequel novellas that Martin wrote, which take place a century before the events in A Song of Ice and Fire, the first book in A Game of Thrones series. It’s about a young, inexperienced knight named Ser Duncan (Dunk, for short), and his small squire, a boy named Egg. The book includes illustrations, but my husband was disappointed there was no map, a standard feature of most of Martin’s books! He’s enjoying it so far.

Our son, 26, finished book 4, Temple of the Winds, of the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. It sounds like the series is filled with murder, swords, treachery, and a unique magical world–yup, that ticks all his boxes! He has been powering through each long book, so they must be really compelling. 

He texted me this morning before work that he has now switched his attention to a different series and is reading Age of Swords, book two of The Legends of the First Empire series by Michael J. Sullivan. We gave him this one for his birthday this summer. He loves this author, and is enjoying this series very much. He also loves The Riyyria Chronicles series by that same author. A fellow book blogger, Beth Fish Reads, told me about these series and this author originally, so thanks to her!

Blog posts last week:

TV Tuesday: The Queen’s Gambit – an outstanding show we loved & just as good (or better) than everyone’s been telling you – try it!

Middle-Grade Review: Follow Me by K.R. Alexander – a spooky ghost story

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?


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