The Monday Check-In ~ 12/12/2016

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.

What did I read last week?

I went a little crazy with Gail Carriger’s short fiction this week. I’d intended just to read her newest novella, Poison or Protect (which was terrific), but couldn’t stop myself, and ended up reading all of her short stories and novellas. I wrote a wrap-up post, here.

05-the-black-moon

The Black Moon by Winston Graham: Book #5 in the Poldark series. This was a longer one (500+ pages), and parts dragged a bit, especially in the middle. Still, it ended on an intense note, and I’m dying to know what happens next (although I think I’m going to wait a bit before moving on with #6 — so much else to read, you know.)

Pop culture goodness:

Between staying home with a sick kid for a couple of days and then a rainy weekend, there was plenty of time to appreciate some pop culture-ish moments.

First, have you ever cried happy tears over a comic strip? Or am I the only soppy marshmallow-hearted softie? If this week’s Luann wedding doesn’t give you at least a hint of a tear, then your heart must be made of stone.

Beyond that, I watched season three of Transparent on Amazon… and thought it was just meh. There didn’t seem to be much of a story or character arc this season, just scattered moments that didn’t really hang together. Still, I’ll keep watching, and hope for better when season 4 roles around (assuming there will be a season 4).

My son and I watched Keanu, which was maybe a little inappopriate for him — but still, it was just the perfect mix of silly and dumb for a grey, wet day. And listen, if you’re a Key & Peele fan, this is a must-watch.

mozarts3

I’m really excited for the 3rd season of Mozart in the Jungle, which is now streaming on Amazon. I loved seasons 1 & 2, and season 3 is getting stellar reviews!

And speaking of Amazon originals, The Man in the High Castle returns at the end of this week! Season 1 was terrific — can’t wait!

Elsewhere on the blog:

OL 102_3

I realized that I hadn’t written an Outlander post in quite a while… so an update was in order! Check out my post about the latest in the world of Outlander books and TV.

Fresh Catch:

I won a Goodreads giveaway! There’s nothing like waking up to a “you won” email to start the day off right. Thank you, Goodreads!

perilous-undertaking

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 princess-diarist

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher: Just starting!

Now playing via audiobook:

howls-moving-castle

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: One of those books that falls into the “I can’t believe I still haven’t read this” category. I’ve listened to about half so far, and it’s really clever and fun.

Ongoing reads:

MOBYFarewell to Arms 2

My ongoing reads with my book group (2 chapters per week of each):

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 12/5/2016

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 am one proud mama! I attended my amazing daughter’s grad school graduation this weekend. She’s a smart, dedicated, loving, funny, quirky, intelligent woman, and I couldn’t be more impressed and proud of her accomplishments!

What did I read last week?

man-called-oveforever-interrupted

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: What a delight! My review is here.

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Beautiful and heartbreaking. My review is here.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week… although I did indulge in Cyber Week sales by picking up several marked-down Kindle and Audible titles!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 05-the-black-moon

The Black Moon by Winston Graham: Continuing with my Poldark obsession — this is book #5 in the series.

Now playing via audiobook:

question-mark-1751308_1280

No idea! I finished my last audiobook while I was away, and haven’t had a chance to start a new one. I’ve added bunches to my Audible library recently, so maybe I’ll just choose at random!

Ongoing reads:

MOBYFarewell to Arms 2

My ongoing reads with my book group (2 chapters per week of each):

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/28/2016

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.

What did I read last week?

04-warleggansun-is-also-a-starfantastic-beasts

I read some great books — but just haven’t been in the mood to sit down and write reviews for all of them. But here’s a quick look at my past week:

Warleggan by Winston Graham: Book #4 of the fabulous Poldark series, which I read just in time for the season finale of the PBS show. I’d planned to only read enough of the series to keep up with the show… but now I’m dying to know what happens next.

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon: This YA novel is sweet, fast-paced, and deeply emotional, as we spend one fateful day with two 17-year-olds who meet, fall in love, and then are forced to part. Definitely recommended. My review is here.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J. K. Rowling: I read this after seeing the movie, and now I need to see the movie again!

Pop culture goodness:

There’s nothing like Thanksgiving week for seeing movies — my kids and I saw two:

fantastic-beasts

… and …

moana

We loved them both!

Fresh Catch:

All sorts of goodies!

I caved and bought myself the next two books in the Poldark series:

05-the-black-moon 06-the-four-swans

The Outlander novella Virgins was released in the UK as a slim hardcover (available in the US as an e-book or part of an anthology only). Naturally, I decided I deserved a present — from me to me.

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To top it all off, the library’s used bookstore had a Thanksgiving week sale for members, and I just couldn’t stay away.

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What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 forever-interrupted

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I’ve only read the first couple of chapters, which are HEART-BREAKING. I hope the whole thing won’t be this sad. I don’t think I can stand to have puffy eyes all week!

Now playing via audiobook:

man-called-ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: I started this one last week, and should be finished by the end of this week. Enjoyable, although somehow it feels very familiar.

Ongoing reads:

MOBYFarewell to Arms 2

My ongoing reads with my book group (2 chapters per week of each):

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/21/2016

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.

What did I read last week?

good-morning-midnightfuzzy-nation03-jeremy-poldark

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton: Done! My review is here.

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi: I finished the audiobook, and loved it. My review is here.

Jeremy Poldark by Winston Graham: Continuing onward with the terrific Poldark series. This is book #3, which corresponds to the first half of season 2 of the TV series. Speaking of which…

Pop culture goodness:

Last week’s Poldark episode (season 2, episode 7) was very upsetting to fans… and yet this closing moment gave me a reason to cheer:

slap

Fresh Catch:

As usual, all four library hold books arrived at once. I guess I know what’ll be on the top of my TBR pile for the next few weeks.

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What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 04-warleggan

Warleggan by Winston Graham: Continuing my Poldark obsession with book #4 in the series. I’m almost caught up with the TV show, and then I’ll probably take a bit of a break before going any further.

Now playing via audiobook:

man-called-ovegrand-sophyone-sweet-moment

What’s next? I’ve just finished Fuzzy Nation, which means I’ll need to start a new audiobook during my Monday morning commute. Top contenders for this week’s listen are:

  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • The Grand Sophie by Georgette Heyer
  • One Sweet Moment by Maggie Craig

Any recommendations?

Ongoing reads:

To be honest, I’m teetering on the verge of quitting one of these. A Farewell To Arms just isn’t cutting it for me — although maybe it’s because I’m reading only two chapters per week. Still, it’s becoming a drag, and I’m not sure I want to continue.

MOBYFarewell to Arms 2

Anway, as of now, my ongoing reads with my book group (2 chapters per week of each):

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

And even though I know I’m overdoing things, I’m considering starting a new classic via Serial Reader as well. Right now, I’m leaning toward Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, but I think I’ll wait until after Thanksgiving before committing.

So many books, so little time…

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Audiobook Review: Fuzzy Nation

fuzzy-nation

Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp’s headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation’s headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that’s not up for discussion.

Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.

But there’s another wrinkle to ZaraCorp’s relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species.

Then a small furry biped—trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute—shows up at Jack’s outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to a planet’s worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed…and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the “fuzzys” before their existence becomes more widely known.

 

I’ve been on a roll with John Scalzi audiobooks lately, and I’m happy to report that Fuzzy Nation is another A+ hit. Fast-moving plot, great dialogue, intricate world-building, and a wickedly sharp sense of humor — Fuzzy Nation has everything I look for when I’m in the mood for a lighter but no less engaging audiobook.

Main character Jack Holloway fits the lovable rogue profile of the leads in other Scalzi books. He’s a loner, has no regard for authority, is seemingly out only for himself, but he’s a rascal with a heart of gold. He may as well be wearing an “I Aim To Misbehave” t-shirt. Yeah, he’s that kind of hero.

As for the plot, take one resource-rich planet, add in some exploitative, money-hungry corporate 1%-ers, and mix in the aforementioned lovable rogue, and you’ve got conflict galore. Jack’s initial goal was to score a billion-dollar payday for himself through the discovery of an incredibly rich mining seam, but once he gets to know the Fuzzies, and then involves his biologist ex-girlfriend in studying them, things get a whole lot more complicated.

Scalzi’s characters are full-blown people with vivid personalities, and narrator extraordinaire Wil Wheaton makes them glow. Wheaton is fantastic with both the rapid-fire wise-cracking and super quick courtroom confrontations. His portrayal of Jack lets us see all sides of him — the compassionate companion to Carl the dog (an important character in his own right), the disillusioned mining contractor looking for a huge find, and the outraged friend of a group of fuzzies who need his help if they’re going to survive.

Fuzzy Nation is a reimagining of the classic sci-fi story Little Fuzzy, written by H. Beam Piper and published in 1962. I’ve never read the original, but it’s not necessary in order to enjoy Fuzzy Nation, although I’m curious enough now to want to check it out.

Fuzzy Nation was a truly enjoyable way to spend my commutes this past week. The story is lots of fun, and while the good guys/bad guys dynamic has shades of grey, it definitely gives us people to cheer for, and even tugged at my heartstrings a time or two. Between terrific writing and excellent narration, the audiobook is a perfect way to experience this story.

Like I said, I’ve been on a Scalzi roll lately. To see more of my reviews of works by this author, check out these links:

Redshirts
Lock In
Agent To The Stars

The Android’s Dream
The Dispatcher

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Fuzzy Nation
Author: John Scalzi
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: 2011
Audiobook length: 7 hours, 18 minutes
Printed book length: 303 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/14/2016

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 is there to say? I didn’t post much last week. Couldn’t. It was hard to read, hard to concentrate, hard to move beyond shock and dismay. Still haven’t, for that matter. But I do need the reassuring normalcy of spending time with books and keeping up my blog, so onward I go.

What did I read last week?

faithfula-love-like-blood-2flight

Faithful by Alice Hoffman: Done! I enjoyed Faithful while I was reading it, but really didn’t find it much more than just an okay read. The storyline doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny, and I never felt emotionally engaged. Granted, given the events of last week, I probably just wasn’t in the right mindset for character-driven storytelling.

A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick: Done! My review is here.

Flight by Sherman Alexie: Done! This was my audiobook listen for the week, and it was stunning. See my review, here.

I finished my Goodreads challenge!

gr-challenge-2016I managed to reach one milestone this week — I completed my Goodreads challenge for 2016! As of mid-week, I hit my target of reading 150 books in 2016. Woo hoo!

I guess I can stop reading now until January. Ha. As if.

 

 

Fresh Catch:

A thoughtful friend sent me an Amazon giftcard a couple of months ago, and I finally used it to treat myself to this lovely book:

making-of-ol

Plus, I picked up two other books I’ve had my eye on:

bookshop-on-the-cornerstarlit-wood

If you haven’t come across The Starlit Wood yet, I encourage you to check it out! It’s a collection of new fairy tales, with stories by an amazing list of writers including Seanan McGuire, Catherynne Valente, Naomi Novik, and many more.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 good-morning-midnight

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton: Just getting started, but so far, so good!

Now playing via audiobook:

fuzzy-nation

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (read by Wil Wheaton): Given the state of the world, I couldn’t handle anything serious or upsetting, so a Scalzi/Wheaton audiobook sounded just about perfect to me. I’ve only listened to a little bit so far, but the expected silliness got me out of my own head for a little while.

Ongoing reads:

MOBYFarewell to Arms 2

With my book group (2 chapters per week of each):

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

So many books, so little time…

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Audiobook Review: Flight

flight

Sherman Alexie is one of our most gifted and accomplished storytellers and a treasured writer of huge national stature. His first novel in ten years is the hilarious and tragic portrait of an orphaned Indian boy who travels back and forth through time in a charged search for his true identity. With powerful and swift, prose, Flight follows this troubled foster teenager–a boy who is not a “legal” Indian because he was never claimed by his father–as he learns that violence is not the answer.

The journey for Flight‘s young hero begins as he’s about to commit a massive act of violence. At the moment of decision, he finds himself shot back through time to resurface in the body of an FBI agent during the civil rights era, where he sees why “Hell is Red River, Idaho, in the 1970s.” Red River is only the first stop in an eye-opening trip through moments in American history. He will continue traveling back to inhabit the body of an Indian child during the battle at Little Bighorn and then ride with an Indian tracker in the nineteenth century before materializing as an airline pilot jetting through the skies today. During these furious travels through time, his refrain grows: “Who’s to judge?” and “I don’t understand humans.” When finally, blessedly, our young warrior comes to rest again in his own life, he is mightily transformed by all he has seen.

This is Sherman Alexie at his most brilliant–making us laugh while he’s breaking our hearts. Time Out has said that “Alexie, like his characters, is on a modern-day vision quest,” and in Flight he seeks nothing less than an understanding of why human beings hate. Flight is irrepressible, fearless, and groundbreaking Alexie.

Flight is a stunning, powerful look at seemingly unending cycles of violence, betrayal, and revenge.

Told through the voice of Zits, a 15-year-old half-Indian foster child who’s on the fast track toward a bloody end, Flight lets us inside the mind of a character who’s been neglected, abused, and repeatedly failed by the meager systems that are meant to protect him. When we first meet him, Zits is living in yet another foster home with people who don’t care a whit about him. He’s plagued by terrible skin, which is one of countless things that never get fixed for him because he’s just a kid in the system and no one wants to invest the time or money to improve his life. His favorite word is “whatever”, and it sums up his attitude completely. He’s done caring.

When Zits end up in juvie yet again, he meets a strange and magnetic white boy who calls himself Justice, who seems to understand Zits and his struggles in a way no one else ever has. Justice introduces Zits to guns and the means to take revenge for the years of his own miserable life, as well as all the many years of wrongs done to his people.

As Zits pulls the trigger in a heinous act of mass murder, he starts his journey through time and space, landing in the bodies of other people at critical times of violence. In some cases, he’s the one committing atrocities; at other times, he’s a victim. Through each episode, Zits is both witness and participant in acts of great violence, experiencing first-hand the destructive power of people’s quest for vengeance.

Listening to Flight is a particularly chilling experience. Narrator Adam Beach gives Zits an appropriately adolescent voice, yet is also able to shift — as Zits shifts — into an adult FBI agent, an Indian tracker, a downtrodden drunk, and a modern-day cop, each with a distinct personality and style of expression. The narrator’s portrayal of Zits’s increasingly despairing and horrified mindset is powerful. He captures the pain and suffering that Zits sees, as well as the pain of the recovered memories of Zits’s earlier life and the lives of others.

It’s a blessing, I suppose, that Flight is a relatively short book. It’s an intense experience, and doesn’t need to be distilled at all by lengthening the story. Even though the narrative is full of terrible events, Zits’s voice and unique perspective lends the audiobook rare moments of lightness as well. It’s not an easy book or listening experience, but Flight is well worth the emotional investment you’ll have made by the end.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Flight
Author: Sherman Alexie
Narrator: Adam Beach
Publisher: Grove Atlantic Black Cat
Publication date: 2007
Audiobook length: 4 hours, 40 minutes
Printed book length: 208 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Purchased

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/7/2016

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.

What did I read last week?

harmonybook-of-the-unnamed-midwifeparis-for-one

Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst: Done! My review is here.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison: Done! My review is here.

Paris For One & Other Stories by Jojo Moyes: A sweet, light selection of short stories, with a focus on romance and relationships. The title story is the lengthiest and most enjoyable, focusing on a cautious young woman who takes a big risk on a weekend in Paris and learns to reinvent herself and her life. The other stories are a mixed bag — some kind of sweet, some with more of a tart commentary on mid-life marriages, disappointments, and adjustments of expectations. A nice little light diversion for fans of the author.

In audiobooks:

hp5

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: I just finished my audiobook re-read of HP5, and loved it. I’m writing up some thoughts, and will post a bit later this week.

Pop culture goodness:

cleese-idle

I went to see John Cleese and Eric Idle, and had a brilliant time. They’re both in their 70s at this point, but neither has lost a bit of the charm and silliness that we all know and love.

Fresh Catch:

One new book this week:

a-love-like-blood-2

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 faithful

Faithful by Alice Hoffman: This feels like “classic” Hoffman, and one chapter in, I’m really enjoying it.

Now playing via audiobook:

flight

Flight by Sherman Alexie: Just getting started!

Ongoing reads:

MOBYFarewell to Arms 2

With my book group (2 chapters per week of each):

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/31/2016

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.

Boo!

halloween-997307_1920

Wishing all a frightfully good time!

What did I read last week?

secret-chordtraveling-bag

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks: Done! My review is here.

The Travelling Bag by Susan Hill: A small book, containing four ghost stories. I really enjoyed two of them, and the other two left me a bit puzzled. Overall, though, a very fun read, especially right before Halloween.

And my super big accomplishment…

Moby Dick

I finished Moby Dick! Check out my thoughts on the book and the reading experience via app, here.

Pop culture goodness:

Season two of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is underway! I love that show. Anyone else watching? Here’s my favorite musical number of the season so far (although Paula’s Disney-esque number this week is a very close 2nd):

 

Fresh Catch:

It’s hard to tell without holding it in your hand, but The Travelling Bag (above) is a terrific physical book. It’s a mini-hardcover, and just looking at it is such fun. It arrived at the beginning of this past week:

img_3990

A few library hold requests came in yesterday — three at once, of course.

fullsizerender

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 harmony

Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst: I’m just getting started. I loved The Dogs of Babel by this author, so I’m excited to be reading her newest.

Now playing via audiobook:

hp5

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling: Getting closer to the end. These audiobooks are so much fun!

Ongoing reads:

MOBYFarewell to Arms 2

With my book group (2 chapters per week of each):

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/24/2016

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.

What did I read last week?

orphan-trainsmall great things

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline: Done! This was a book group book, and I’m so glad I actually read our book this month with time to spare. Check out my review, here.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: Done! My review is here.

Pop culture goodness:

hedwig

I actually went out! Once in a while, I do something other than read or work. My husband and I went to the theater to see the touring production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and had a great time. Darren Criss was terrific in the lead role.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week. Shocking, right?

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 secret-chord

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks: I won this in a Goodreads giveaway almost a year ago. I’ve loved almost everything I’ve read by Geraldine Brooks, but it’s taken me a while to feel like I wanted to sit down with this one and give it a shot. However, I’m trying to finish up a book group reading challenge for the year, and my last remaining category is a novel set earlier than 1500 AD. Something Biblical should count, right? In any case, I’m just getting started with this novel about King David. I’ll let you all know how it goes!

Now playing via audiobook:

hp5

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling: There’s not much better than listening to Harry Potter while driving around or out for a walk. Even though I choke up a bit every time there’s a scene with Sirius…

Ongoing reads:

MOBYFarewell to Arms 2Moby Dick

With my book group (2 chapters per week of each):

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Via the Serial Reader app (read about it here):

  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville:  — 94% done! I’m so close to the end — should be finished this week!

So many books, so little time…

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