The Monday Check-In ~ 6/10/2019

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 during the last week?

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner: Powerful historical fiction. My review is here.

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn: A truly beautiful and powerful memoir. My review is here.

Recursion by Blake Crouch: So much mind-f*ckery. Just finished reading this Sunday night; review to follow. (Loved it.)

Fresh Catch:

No new books — although I did pick up a paperback edition of The Salt Path to complement listening to the audiobook!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Bouncing around between different books right now:

A graphic novel, an ARC of a recent release, and a re-read of a book whose sequel comes out later this month — between these three, I should be able to keep myself busy for the next several days!

Now playing via audiobook:

Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery: Back to Anne! I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time earlier this year, and have been wanting to continue with the series. I’m only a little way into the book, but it’s charming so far.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads at the moment:

  • A Fugitive Green by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 6/3/2019

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 during the last week?

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon: Light, fun YA. My review is here.

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan: This author is quickly becoming a favorite! Terrific historical fiction. My review is here.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey: Loved it! My review is here.

Pop culture:

I suppose I’ll never run out of great TV to watch! This past week, I finished watching Fosse/Verdon — fabulous production, even though (curse it all!) it’s left me with an incurable earworm, constantly hearing either Pippin or All That Jazz songs in my head.

I’ve also been catching up on season 1 of Pose, now on Netflix, before season 2 starts next week. Amazing, powerful show.

Fresh Catch:

Awesome book mail from the amazing Amy Stewart!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner: Just starting!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn: A really powerful memoir — loving it so far.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads at the moment:

  • A Fugitive Green by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/27/2019

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! It’s so nice to get an extra day to relax, chill, and read, especially when the sun is shining!

What did I read during the last week?

Westside by W. M. Akers: Boy, did I not enjoy this book. The initial premise is interesting, but by the time I reached the halfway mark, the story felt like more and more of a slog. Rather than DNF at that point, I skimmed the rest — reading enough to see how it ended and what the point of it all was. I’m glad I didn’t spend any more time on this book!

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua: An engaging look at the Chinese immigrant community in San Francisco. My review is here.

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone: A suspenseful, fast-paced spy thriller — a terrific read! My review is here.

Pop culture:

My son and I saw the new Aladdin! I didn’t expect much going in, but it was actually surprisingly enjoyable.

Fresh Catch:

Two new books this week — one book new to paperback that I’ve been wanting for a while now, and one book that I heard of via another blogger’s TTT list last week!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan: I loved this author’s previous novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, so I’m excited to be starting this one!

Now playing via audiobook:

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon: I’ve read this author’s other two YA books recently, so thought I should give this one a try as well. Really close to the end by now…

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads at the moment:

  • A Fugitive Green by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection.

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/20/2019

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 ended up staying home three days this week due to a family medical situation (all is well, but I was just needed around the house) — so on the plus side, I ended up with more time for reading than usual!

What did I read during the last week?

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs: The newest Mercy book! Loved it, of course. My review is here.

Red, White & Royal Blue: A totally adorable love story! Really a delightful read. My review is here.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren: Light & fluffy romance. My review is here.

And a novella too! I read (and loved) The Undefeated by Una McCormack. My review is here.

Pop culture:

I did a lot of thinking about TV this week, I guess, since I posted not one but two TV-related pieces:

  • Thoughts on the most recent season of Survivor
  • And a round-up of a few other shows

Fresh Catch:

After my somewhat insane splurging last week, I made it through a week with no book purchases at all. Yay, me!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Westside by W. M. Akers: Just getting started, but I like it already!

Now playing via audiobook:

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua: My book group’s pick for May. Getting close to the end — which is good, since our discussion starts this week.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads at the moment:

  • A Fugitive Green by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection: We’re just starting this (long) short story (novella?) this week. I’ve read it once before, but it’s a good one! Looking forward to sharing it with the group
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection. I’m all caught up, which is good — it’s my turn to write chapter summaries this week.

Pop culture footnote:

I’m writing this on Sunday, counting the hours until the Game of Thrones finale. My anxiety levels are creeping higher and higher. I hope the ending isn’t a major letdown.

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/13/2019

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 during the last week?

It’s been another slow reading week — and not because I haven’t been enjoying my books! Just life getting in the way, I suppose. In any case, I read…

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon: Really enjoyable and diverse YA. My review is here.

Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce (and others): A “guide” to Pierce’s amazing fantasy world, as shown through notes and other documents written by the characters of Tortall. This is a nice-to-have for fans — not essential reading, but I can see it being handy as a reference and a side bit of entertainment. Excellent timeline too!

Heads Will Roll by Kate McKinnon and Emily Lynne: An absolutely perfect listening choice for me this week. Sublimely silly. My thoughts are here.

Bookish heaven:

I finally got to meet one of my all-time favorite authors, Seanan McGuire! She did a reading and signing at Borderlands Books in San Francisco, and it was amazing, of course. I felt like a total fangirl.

Fresh Catch:

So, funny story… I got to Borderlands about an hour before the event started. And what else would I do with time to kill in a bookstore? I bought books. Oodles. Piles. But hey — I’m a believer in supporting independent bookstores, so I get to feel good about myself AND come home with a bag full of books!

Stocked up on Seanan McGuire’s books (all of which I’ve read… and now I own!)

… plus, some new-to-me books

And meanwhile, a couple that I bought online arrived this week too:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs: The newest Mercy Thompson book! I’m surprised I haven’t finished it already, but it’s been a really distracting and distracted week.

Now playing via audiobook:

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua: My book group’s pick for May!

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads at the moment:

  • Besieged by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection — we’re finishing our group read this week.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — my book group’s current classic selection. I’ve fallen a bit behind (sorry, it’s just not grabbing me yet!), but I’ll aim to catch up this week.

A pop culture footnote:

As I get ready to save and schedule this post late Sunday night, I’ve just finished watching the 2nd to last episode of Game of Thrones. Holy hell.

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/6/2019

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 during the last week?

Goodness, I’ve barely read or posted anything this past week! Well, okay, the main book I read was on the longer side, so maybe it just feels like I didn’t do much reading — I read A LOT, but all in one book!

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: Weird and wonderful, and I loved it. My review is here.

I also finished the audiobook of The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. Great story, with terrific narration by Bronson Pinchot. My review is here.

Pop culture goodness:

It had to happen sooner or later — I saw the new Avengers movie! And enjoyed it, although I do have some doubts and quibbles about various plot points. Ah well, despite that, it was a very entertaining way to spend three hours.

Fresh Catch:

Quite a splurge this week, I can’t figure out what got into me!

Some books I’ve already read, some that are new to me… I’m excited to have them all!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon: It’s been a while since I’ve read YA. I’m happy to be starting this one, since it’s a follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi, which I really liked.

And meanwhile, I’m just waiting and counting the hours until Tuesday — release day for the newest Mercy Thompson book! I can’t wait for this book to arrive so I can dive in:

Now playing via audiobook:

Heads Will Roll by Kate McKinnon and Emily Lynne: I was going to start a serious novel as my next audiobook… but why do that when I have Kate McKinnon to listen to? I’m just starting today, but I have a feeling this will be exactly what I need this week!

Ongoing reads:

Three ongoing reads at the moment:

  • Besieged by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection — a group read for my Outlander book group, two sections of the story per week.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — my book group’s current classic selection. We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week.
  • Tortall: A Spy’s Guide –– I’ve had this on my nightstand for weeks now, reading it in teeny-tiny chunks. Maybe I’ll finish this week…

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/29/2019

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 during the last week?

The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters: Gothic historical fiction about the younger days of Edgar Allan Poe and his muse. My review is here.

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs: I finished my audiobook re-read, and loved it so much!

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse: The excellent sequel to Trail of Lightning. My review is here.

Fresh Catch:

Two shiny new books this week:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: Yeah, I guess you might say that I’m a little obsessed when it comes to this author. As in, give me all her books. NOW. I’m excited to be starting her newest (although I’ll admit that I felt a little daunted when I picked it up to start reading and realized it was over 500 pages.)

Now playing via audiobook:

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King: It must be over 20 years since I first read this book. The audiobook is narrated by Bronson Pinchot, and is just so, so good! I’ve listened to about 60%, should finished up this coming week.

Ongoing reads:

Three ongoing reads at the moment:

  • Besieged by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection — a group read for my Outlander book group, two sections of the story per week.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — my book group’s newest classic selection. We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… and since this book is over 800 pages, we’ll be doing so for quite some time. Great fun so far!
  • Tortall: A Spy’s Guide –– a collection of writings and notes related to Tamora Pierce’s kingdom of Tortall. It’s pretty entertaining, but I prefer reading it in small pieces, since it’s not actually a novel to be read straight through.

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/22/2019

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 during the last week?

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: A book group book. My review is here.

Kingdom of Needle & Bone by Mira Grant: Another awesomely chilling novella from one of my favorite authors. My review is here.

I read a total of ELEVEN short stories by Seanan McGuire about the amazing character Tybalt from the October Daye series — find out more here.

Aaaaaaand… I finally finished reading this gorgeous book about Hamilton! If you have Hamil-fans in your life, this would be a perfect gift, trust me.

Fresh Catch:

Two new books this week! I had to have a copy of the new release from Cat Winters (which I’m just starting). And even though I’ve already read the stories in American Hippo, once I saw this paperback edition, I just NEEDED it.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters: I’ve loved every book I’ve read by Cat Winters so far! High hopes for this one.

Now playing via audiobook:

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs: A re-read via audio, because I love the worlds created by Patricia Briggs and want to immerse myself again before her new book comes out in May!

Ongoing reads:

My Outlander book group is continuing our Lord John read-along with two Lord John (or Lord John-adjacent) stories from the Seven Stones to Stand or Fall collection. We’re reading the story Besieged right now.

And — time to start a new classic! My book group’s new classic read is The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, starting this week. We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… and since this book is over 800 pages, we’ll be doing so for quite some time. Wish me luck!

I’m also indulging my love for Tamora Pierce’s fantasy world of Tortall by dipping in and out of Tortall: A Spy’s Guide, which isn’t a novel exactly — it’s a collection of writings and notes by Pierce’s characters explaining what it takes to become an expert spy, as well as personal correspondence between the characters. It’s all good fun, but I’m finding I appreciate it better in small chunks rather than trying to read straight through.

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

Audiobook Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit.

Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward – with hope and pain – into the future.

Once again, my book group has chosen an emotional, thought-provoking book that’s sure to prompt some passionate discussion. We seem to really know how to pick ’em this year!

In An American Marriage, Celestial and Roy are a devoted couple, but they’re still finding their groove as husband and wife after a year and a half of marriage. Their levels of trust seem to rise and fall, and in some ways, despite the obvious love between them, they’re still learning and growing together and establishing who they want to be together.

When Roy is accused of a violent crime and then convicted, they end up separated by his incarceration, facing a sentence that’s many years longer than their time together as a married couple. At first, Celestial visits regularly and they communicate constantly through letters, but over time, the physical separation becomes emotional separation as well — and when Roy’s conviction is overturned, he no longer knows if he has a wife to return to.

This book contemplates marriage, love, commitment, as well as the role of race in American society and the American justice system. Roy and Celestial are young, upwardly mobile African American professionals, but their run-in with the law in rural Louisiana — while awful and ghastly and unjust — doesn’t seem at all far-fetched in today’s society. Sadly, as shown through the experiences of the characters in this book, the threat of incarceration for African American males is very real and not avoidable simply by living a good and honest life.

Spoilery bits ahead:

I’ve said in other reviews that truly thought-provoking books evoke emotions, then make us question our emotions and get involved in internal debates. An American Marriage definitely had that effect on me.

Here come the spoilers:

While Celestial and Roy seem committed at the beginning of his prison time and determined to stick together no matter what, their relationship is eroded by time, distance, and the simple fact that they no longer share a life and experiences. After a few years, Celestial reaches the point where she stops visiting and finally tells Roy that she can no longer be his wife, even though she does not file for divorce. When Roy is released, he takes the lack of divorce papers as a sign that he has a marriage to return to, although he finds out soon enough that Celestial is in love with another man and planning to remarry.

Part of me was really angry with Celestial. Roy’s innocence is never in doubt. The reader, and Celestial, know absolutely that Roy is innocent of the rape for which he’s convicted. He’s sent away from her through a miscarriage of justice, not through any fault of his own. It made me really upset to see Celestial abandon Roy. BUT, at the same time, every time the narration switched to her point of view, I began to (unwillingly) feel sympathy. Celestial and Roy had only a short time together as husband and wife, and by the time a few years of his sentence passed, they’d been apart longer than they’d ever been together. They never really got to find out what sort of marriage they’d have. Roy is stuck in prison for all those years, but Celestial is out in the world, pursuing her artistic passions and starting to make a name for herself. Maybe if they’d been on this journey together, their marriage would have grown along with their developing talents and careers, but here, every change for Celestial means a change away from the marriage that’s had no chance to be anything other than stagnant.

It’s not at all fair to Roy — nothing that’s happened is fair in any way — but I had to grudgingly admit that Celestial had impossible choices to make and didn’t deserve to face what was supposed to be a 12-year sentence with no life of her own.

So while I was often angry with Celestial, I also made a point of trying to understand her actions and to feel pity for her experiences, not just for Roy’s. It was hard, because he’s the one victimized by a false conviction and my sympathy was naturally drawn to him. As I said, I had a full-fledged internal debate going on, and it was next to impossible to fault one or the other without also immediately feeling sorry for them.

In terms of the plot itself, I did have one minor quibble — Roy was convicted on rape charges, and the woman who accused him was raped by someone, just not by Roy. Why wasn’t there a rape kit done? Shouldn’t a DNA analysis have been able to clear him right away?

Even so, the story is tragic and so, so sad. Roy has a moment when he’s thinking about the trial and how the woman who accused him looked straight at him while describing the attack in the courtroom, telling her terrible story while being 100% sure that Roy was the rapist. Roy remembers feeling shame and guilt, despite knowing that she has the wrong man, simply from realizing how strongly the woman is convinced that this is who Roy is.

The book is told from multiple perspectives, mainly Roy’s and Celestial’s, and the audiobook uses different narrators for their pieces. Both do a very good job conveying their personalities, although it’s sometimes disconcerting hearing the “Roy” narrator doing Celestial’s voice when narrating a conversation between the two of them, and vice versa.

Overall, I’m very happy to have had the experience of listening to An American Marriage, and recommend it highly, whether in print or audio. There’s much to think about and digest, and I think this story will really stick with me. Looking forward to discussing it with my book group!

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Narrators:  Sean Crisden, Eisa Davis
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication date: January 29, 2018
Print length: 308 pages
Audiobook length: 8 hours, 59 mintues
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Purchased

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/15/2019

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 during the last week?

This seems to have been quite a week for graphic novels! But some other reading too…

The Beauty, volumes 1 – 5 by Jeremy Haun et al: See my write-up of this graphic novel series here.

The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert HIllman: Moving historical fiction. My review is here.

A Fire Story by Brian Fies: A graphic novel portraying the author’s experiences during the 2017 California wildfires. My review is here.

I also LOVED…

I swear, this book IS me. And I suspect it’s all of you too — the author absolutely nails the glories and obsessions that come with being a book lover.

Pop culture goodness:

As I write this on Sunday night, I’m counting down — just like everyone else — to the season premiere of Game of Thrones!

Fresh Catch:

A few treats:

Any Kate Bush fans out there? I bought a copy of this gorgeous new volume of Kate Bush song lyrics as a little gift from me to me. (It doesn’t really come through in the image, but the lettering is silvery and so pretty.)

Aaaaaand… I also splurged on two special edition hardcovers that I needed for my shelves:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Kingdom of Needle & Bone by Mira Grant: Trust Mira Grant to completely freak me out! A novella about deadly disease outbreaks, with a decidely anti-anti-vaxxer agenda.

Now playing via audiobook:

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: Just finished Sunday afternoon – review to follow. And since I finished, I started…

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs: A re-read via audio, because I love the worlds created by Patricia Briggs and want to immerse myself again before her new book comes out in May!

Ongoing reads:

My Outlander book group is continuing our Lord John read-along with two Lord John (or Lord John-adjacent) stories from the Seven Stones to Stand or Fall collection. We’re reading the story Besieged right now.

So many books, so little time…

boy1