The Monday Check-In ~ 2/22/2021

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

As you read this, I’m probably on a plane! I’m traveling to the East Coast today for a two-week stay so I can visit my elderly father for the first time in a year. Fortunately, he and all the residents of his nursing home have been vaccinated, but I’ll still need to quarantine for a bit upon arrival before visiting. Basically, I’ll just be working as usual during the days, just from a new remote location!

What did I read during the last week?

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey: Loved it. My review is here.

Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery: Such a sweet, enjoyable audiobook! I’m going to hold off on writing a review until I finish the trilogy.

Calculated Risks by Seanan McGuire: The 10th book in the super-fun InCryptid series. My review is here.

Pop culture & TV:

My Queen Sugar binge continues! I’m nearing the send of season 4, which means I’m almost caught up! Excellent, excellent show.

On a sillier note, my son convinced me to watch The Gentlemen with him, and I have to admit — much to my surprise — I enjoyed it. Really violent and inappropriate in so many ways, but we still had fun.

Puzzle of the week:

Challenging but fun… except ARGH — there was a piece missing at the end!

Fresh Catch:

Hurray for an advanced copy of this book:

Looks amazing!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Bouncing between two very different books at the moment:

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan: I’m just starting, but since I loved the author’s previous two novels (The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and The Spies of Shilling Lane), I have very high hopes that I’ll love this one too!

An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn: I couldn’t resist starting yet another Bridgertons book (#3) — perfect airplane reading!

Now playing via audiobook:

Emily Climbs by L. M. Montgomery: The 2nd book in the Emily Starr trilogy. Very sweet!

Ongoing reads:
  • Outlander Book Club is re-reading Outlander! We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 37, “Escape”. 
  • Our current classic read is part 2 of Don Quixote. Continuing onward, 3 chapters per week. We’ll be done in May, so it’s starting to feel like the end is in sight.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 2/15/2021

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Three day weekend! Funny how excited I am about basically another day to spend in my house. Woo hoo!

What did I read during the last week?

The Future Is Yours by Dan Frey: A fast, exciting techno-thriller. My review is here.

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra: Little Women retold! Really enjoyable. My review is here.

The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger: Non-fiction, and fascinating “for writers, readers, and fans of pop culture”. My review is here.

Pop culture & TV:

Finished season 2 of Queen Sugar, and continued straight on to season 3. This show is excellent!

And in the category of good, silly fun — Men in Kilts premiered on Starz this weekend! A can’t-miss for Outlander fans.

Puzzle of the week:

Another fun one! This one was way more challenging than I expected it to be.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week. That’s two weeks in a row! Not that I’m in any danger of running out of reading material…

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey: As of late Sunday, I’m at 80%, and loving it! Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Now playing via audiobook:

Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery: One of my 2021 reading goals is to read the Emily trilogy, and I’m glad to be getting started! I’m really enjoying book #1 so far.

Ongoing reads:
  • Outlander Book Club is re-reading Outlander! We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 36, “MacRannoch”. 
  • Our current classic read is part 2 of Don Quixote. It’s so nice to be caught up! We’re reading three chapters per week, and it’s actually pretty fun these days.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 2/8/2021

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Happy anniversary to us! Today is our 23rd anniversary!! My husband and I haven’t really figured out how to celebrate, since fancy dinners out aren’t really an option right now. I think I’m going to take a day off this week so we can drive somewhere pretty and go for a hike or a picnic. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’m just feeling grateful for all the wonderful years together!

What did I read during the last week?

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah: A 5-star read! My review is here.

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman: Thought-provoking YA. My review is here.

Pop culture & TV:

I am loving Queen Sugar! I’m on season 2, and just can’t stop.

Puzzle of the week:

Yay! I finished a puzzle! 

Such a pretty image. I’d like to go here now, please.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week. Amazing restraint, right?

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Future Is Yours by Dan Frey: Just starting!

Now playing via audiobook:

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra: My book group’s pick for February. Almost done… should be able to post a review in the next couple of days.

Ongoing reads:
  • Outlander Book Club is re-reading Outlander! We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 35, “Wentworth Prison”. Deep breaths…
  • Our current classic read is part 2 of Don Quixote. It’s so nice to be caught up! We’re reading three chapters per week, and it’s actually pretty fun these days.
  • I’m slowly reading The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger. Progress! I read a few chapters this week, so I’m now at about 60%. Interesting stuff!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 2/1/2021

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Wait, how is it February already???

Nothing exciting to report here. It’s been a crazy week at work, and I was desperate for the weekend so I could sleep in, get outside, and not stare at spreadsheets. Mission accomplished!

What did I read during the last week?

Valiant and Ironside by Holly Black: The 2nd and 3rd books in the Modern Faerie Tales trilogy. My reviews are here and here.

Other than catching up on Don Quixote (and that was an uphill climb for sure!), that’s all the reading I did!

Pop culture & TV:

I just started Queen Sugar, and it’s amazing! I’m close to the end of season 1, and will probably just keep going until I’m all caught up.

Puzzle of the week:

I finally started one this weekend! No photos to share, because I’ve only just started… but it’s fun so far. 

Fresh Catch:

Hurray! An ARC for a book being published in April arrived this week:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah: I’m getting started a little later than I intended, but I’m exciting to be reading this. I’m 10% in, and really liking it!

Now playing via audiobook:

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra: A Little Women retelling, obviously. It’s pretty light and easy so far. We’ll see. 

Ongoing reads:
  • Outlander Book Club is re-reading Outlander! We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 34, “Dougal’s Story”. 
  • Our current classic read is part 2 of Don Quixote. I’d fallen behind by a few weeks, but this past week, I put in the effort to catch back up. Now I just need to keep going.
  • I’m slowly reading The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger. Another week with no progress, alas.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 1/25/2021

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I loved everything about the inauguration — Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, the amazing Amanda Gorman, seeing the Obamas and Clintons, even the guy whose job it was to sanitize the podium in between speakers. (Could have done without Garth Brooks, but oh well.) And of course, the main event — seeing our new President and Vice President taking their oaths of office — brought me to tears. It feels like a bright and shining new day, although I think it’s going to take all of us a while to get used to how it feels not having to hear about the latest awful thing the 2x-impeached person said or did on a daily basis. A return to normalcy and decency!

I’m loving all the Bernie memes, although I think this is my favorite graphic related to the inauguration:

In terms of my own life, I’ve spent most of this past week sick with persistent headaches and chills — but I tested negative for COVID, so that’s at least a relief. I was supposedly taking sick days, but ended up working practically every day anyway, because apparently work stops for no woman. Starting to feel a bit better finally, and hey, at least I was able to read!

What did I read during the last week?

Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey: The fabulous 5th book in the Expanse series. My review is here.

We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall: My book group’s pick for January — historical fiction set at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. My review is here.

Tithe by Holly Black: The 1st book in the Modern Faerie Tales trilogy. My review is here.

The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons, #2) by Julia Quinn: Just couldn’t resist reading more Bridgertons books! My review is here.

Pop culture & TV:

I mean, obviously the highlight was watching the inauguration!

Beyond that, I watched bits and pieces of a few different things:

  • Finished The Great on Hulu. Awesome! Can’t wait for season 2.
  • Started two Masterpiece shows: All Things Great & Small and Miss Scarlet and the Duke. Liking both so far.

I’m trying to decide what binge to start next, and I think it’s down to either Killing Eve or Queen Sugar. Any recommendations?

I’m also feeling pretty annoyed that there doesn’t seem to be a free option, despite how many streaming subscriptions I have, to watch the new season of A Discovery of Witches. Argh.

Puzzle of the week:

I didn’t do any. Between my achy head and my lack of focus, just couldn’t get into it this week.

Fresh Catch:

Two new books:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Valiant by Holly Black: The 2nd book in the Modern Faerie Tale trilogy. I decided to keep going, and plan to read #3, Ironside, right after this one. 

Now playing via audiobook:

Nothing at the moment, which is really weird for me. Because of how I was feeling this week, I just wasn’t up to listening to anything, and ended up finishing up my most recent audiobook (The Viscount Who Loved Me) by switching to the print version. Hopefully, I’ll get back to my audiobook routine in the next few days.

Ongoing reads:
  • Outlander Book Club is re-reading Outlander! We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 33, “The Watch”. 
  • Our current classic read is part 2 of Don Quixote. My book group is reading and discussing three chapters per week. 
  • I’m slowly reading The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger. I’m reading this in small bites, but didn’t make any progress this week.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 1/18/2021

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

We need these words more than ever this year.

Meanwhile, just sitting here counting the days until January 20th.

In family news, my husband got his vaccine this past weekend! I’m so happy. I know I probably have months to wait to get vaccinated myself, but it’s a relief that at least one family got it.

What did I read during the last week?

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline: Five-star historical fiction – my review is here.

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey: I had mixed feelings about this YA read. My review is here.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: I ended up really enjoying this audiobook. My review is here.

I ended up DNFing two ARCs this past week — just couldn’t get into either one. Life’s too short to force myself to read something that isn’t working for me!

Pop culture & TV:

I decided to reactivate my Hulu subscription after taking a pause for most of the past year. First up: The Great! I’ve watched about half, and it’s awesome.

Also, random fun fact: I took a Jane Austen quiz, and apparently this is the man for me:

Interesting…

Puzzle of the week:

Upstairs, downstairs… I really liked this one.

Fresh Catch:

Two new non-fiction books this week:

After finishing The Exiles, I decided an actual history book about Australia would be a good idea — looking forward to starting The Fatal Shore soon. 

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey: The 5th book in the Expanse series. It’s so good! This book is big and chunky, but it’s zooming by. I have about 100 pages to go… but since I have a day off, I’m hoping to wrap it up today.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn: I wasn’t actually planning to continue with the Bridgertons series right away (this is #2), but the library had the audiobook available to borrow with no wait time, so why not? I’ll be starting this today.

Ongoing reads:
  • Outlander Book Club is re-reading Outlander! We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 32, “Hard Labor”. Just about 3/4 of the way done, and I’m getting anxious, because I know what’s left, and it’s not happy.
  • Our current classic read is part 2 of Don Quixote. My book group is reading and discussing three chapters per week. We’re at about 60% by now, and I’m struggling to keep up.
  • I’m slowly reading The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger. It’s fascinating, but I’m limiting myself to just a few chapters per week, which I’m finding is what works for me when it comes to non-fiction.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 1/11/2021

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

What a week. What is there really to say?

But…

In family news, it was my daughter’s birthday! I haven’t seen her in over a year, which makes me really sad, but we still managed to connect… and she did really like all the cozy gifts I sent her!

What did I read during the last week?

Dear Miss Kopp by Amy Stewart: The 6th book in the terrific Kopp Sisters series! My review is here.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict: Powerful historical fiction based on a mysterious episode from Agatha Christie’s life. My review is here.

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire: The 6th book in the fantastic Wayward Children series. Loved it! My review is here.

The Duke & I by Julia Quinn: Well, of course I needed to start reading the books behind Bridgerton! And yes, I’m going to keep going. My review of book 1 is here.

Pop culture & TV:

This was definitely a week that called for mindless, distracting TV, and my favorite viewing was The History of Swear Words on Netflix. It’s six short episodes, and so much fun. Needless to say, if hearing swear words used and discussed bothers you, this isn’t for you — and don’t watch the trailer!

Puzzle of the week:

Another fun one!

Fresh Catch:

A bunch of different books I’d ordered all arrived this week:

 

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Lost Manuscript by Cathy Bonidan: Just getting started!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline: Almost done – review to follow.

Ongoing reads:

Outlander Book Club is re-reading Outlander! We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 31, “Quarter Day”.

Our current classic read is part 2 of Don Quixote. My book group is reading and discussing three chapters per week. Plodding along…

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 1/4/2021

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Happy New Year! It’s the first Monday of January — back to work, back to routine. I had a week off last week, and loved every moment of sleeping in, doing puzzles, hanging with the family, going for walks, and not checking my work email even once!

I know we’re all happy to be done with 2020… but I do want to be grateful for the good things that happened during that dumpster-fire of a year. My son graduated from high school and started college. I had breast reduction surgery last January and have felt so much better ever since. My 89-year-old father is doing fairly well, all things considered, and got his first dose of the COVID vaccine last week. After considering it for years, having salons closed for most of the year led me to let my hair grow out, so now my hair is a combination of white, salt-and-pepper, and auburn/light brown/dark blonde (from where the coloring is still growing out and fading) — kind of like a calico cat, but much less cute and fluffy. And we elected a new President! Now, just counting the days until January 20th…

And yes, it sometimes sucked to basically never leave my house, and I miss seeing my daughter SO MUCH… but I also got to spend a lot of quality time with my husband and son, and that’s been really lovely. And hey, lots of books and TV binges!

Me, thinking about my return to work this week.

What did I read during the last week?

I decided to do a three-in-one post for some late 2020 reading — see it here.

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal: Loved it! My review is here.

Two YA novels — my first books finished in 2021! My reviews are here.

Pop culture & TV:

I obsessively binge-watched Bridgerton, and now I want more! Has anyone read the book series? I’m wondering if I should give the first book a try.

After that, I was still in the mood for period drama, and watched Belgravia too. I liked it!

Puzzle of the week:

Another Hanukkah gift! This one was really fun, not so much because of the puzzle quality (meh), but because the images were totally nostalgia-inducing and made me want to go watch Friends episodes all over again.

Fresh Catch:

What does one do with Amazon gift cards? Buy books, of course! I decided to treat myself to paperback copies of books I’d read and loved as e-ARCs.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Dear Miss Kopp by Amy Stewart: The 6th book in the terrific Kopp Sisters series!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline: I’ve only listened to the first hour so far, but I’m already hooked!

Ongoing reads:

Outlander Book Club is re-reading Outlander! We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 30, “Conversations by the Hearth”.

Our current classic read is part 2 of Don Quixote. My book group is reading and discussing three chapters per week. We took the past two weeks off, but now we’re diving back in!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Mini-reviews: Three short takes on my end-of-the-year reads (or listens)

It’s the morning of New Year’s Eve, I’ve finished three different books over the last day or so, and I’m not really in the mood to write detailed reviews. So, wrapping up my year of reading, here are my final three books of 2020:

_____________________________________________

Title: Us Against You (Beartown, #2)
Author: Fredrik Backman
Published: 2018
Length: 448 pages
Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

Saying I have a love/hate relationship with Fredrik Backman’s writing is a bit too strong. Maybe it’s a like/feel annoyed by relationship?

Us Against You is the sequel to Beartown, continuing the story of a small hockey-obsessed town, its politics, its personalities, and its ugly and beautiful sides. This book is really very dark and dismal for most of its length, with people suffering, fighting, and making each other miserable.

As with his other books, I found myself rolling my eyes at the abundance of declarative statements about the meaning of life. I’m glad that I read Us Against You, for the sake of seeing what happens next in these characters’ lives, but ended up speeding up to the audiobook to 1.5x when my exasperation made me want to just be done with it.

_____________________________________________

Title: The Little Book of Hygge
Author: Meik Wiking
Published: 2016
Length: 289 pages
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Denmark is often said to be the happiest country in the world. That’s down to one thing: hygge.

‘Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight…’

You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.

Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge? Meik is CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. In this beautiful, inspiring book he will help you be more hygge: from picking the right lighting and planning a dinner party through to creating an emergency hygge kit and even how to dress.

This little hardcover (borrowed from the library) is a guide to hygge — taking the Danish concept and using it to make life more peaceful, cozy, and satisfying. It’s a sweet little book — no earth-shattering revelations here, but a gentle reinforcement of some basic principles: simple is better, be cozy, keep social gatherings small and intimate, enjoy making and sharing, spend less, focus on the here and now.

I’m not sure that I got much in the way of practical steps, but it’s a good reminder to cherish the small moments and make life more comfy and cozy in little ways. And, as the author points out, the more candles, the more hygge.

_____________________________________________

Title: I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are
Author: Rachel Bloom
Published: 2020
Length: 288 pages
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In the vein of Mindy Kaling, Ali Wong, and Amy Poehler, a collection of hilarious personal essays, poems and even amusement park maps on the subjects of insecurity, fame, anxiety, and much more from the charming and wickedly funny creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Rachel Bloom has felt abnormal and out of place her whole life. In this exploration of what she thinks makes her “different,” she’s come to realize that a lot of people also feel this way; even people who she otherwise thought were “normal.”

In a collection of laugh-out-loud funny essays, all told in the unique voice (sometimes singing voice) that made her a star; Rachel writes about everything from her love of Disney, OCD and depression, weirdness, and female friendships to the story of how she didn’t poop in the toilet until she was four years old; Rachel’s pieces are hilarious, smart, and infinitely relatable (except for the pooping thing).

Rachel Bloom is talented, funny, and hides absolutely nothing in this hilarious memoir about a girl who never felt “normal”. She shares poems and diary entries written by her 12-year-old self, tells about becoming a theater kid through a musical script, shares the ups and downs of her love and sex life, and manages to be really moving even while making me laugh out loud or cringe uncomfortably.

I loved Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and reading this book makes me want to go watch the series all over again (or at least watch some of the best musical moments). I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are is a must for fans!

(Okay, sure, why not share a random favorite CXG musical number? Well, if you insist…)

_____________________________________________

And that’s it! Onward to more great reading in 2021!

The Monday Check-In ~ 12/28/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

No work this week! It’s absolutely glorious to have a week with nothing planned… especially since my entire workplace is closed, so I won’t have a ton of catching up to do when I go back next week.

What did I read during the last week?

Outlawed by Anna North: An intriguing feminist western. My review is here.

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black: Gorgeous illustrated edition that fits into the world of the Folk of the Air trilogy. My review is here.

Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir: Such fun! My review is here.

Pop culture & TV:

My son and I watched Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day. Plot quibbles aside, we enjoyed it!

On Netflix, I started watching Bridgerton! I’ve seen about half so far, and I’m loving it.

Puzzle of the week:

This Outlander puzzle (a gift from my daughter) was WAY hard than I expected, but I did it!

Fresh Catch:

Have you seen the Seasons Editions line from Thomas Nelson Publishing? Absolutely gorgeous hardcover classics with laser-cut covers. I couldn’t resist — I had to get a copy of Persuasion (the only Jane Austen released so far, although more are coming in 2021).

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal: The 3rd book in the Lady Astronaut series — it’s over 500 pages, but it’s going by fast. I love this series!

Now playing via audiobook:

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman: Close to the end. Man, this story is dark.

Ongoing reads:

Outlander Book Club is re-reading Outlander! We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 29, “More Honesty”.

Our current classic read is part 2 of Don Quixote. My book group is reading and discussing three chapters per week. I’m sticking with it, but barely.

So many books, so little time…

boy1