The Monday Check-In ~ 3/1/2021

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.

Did anyone else grow up saying this on the 1st of the month? It’s something we all did at summer camp way back when, and the habit has stayed with me all these years…

Anyway… I’m on the East Coast! Greetings, folks in the Eastern time zone! I’ve been here for a week now. After arriving safely (with a flight that felt much better than I expected it to), I took another COVID test (negative), and was finally able to start my visits with my dad at his nursing home over the weekend. The rules are really strict and I have to put on full PPE each time, but it’s worth it.

What did I read during the last week?

An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn: Oh, the Bridgertons books are such fun! This is #3 — my review is here.

Emily Climbs by L. M. Montgomery: The 2nd book in the Emily Starr trilogy, just as sweet as the first. I plan to write up my thoughts on the trilogy after I finish the 3rd book.

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan: Heartwarming historical fiction. My review is here.

Pop culture & TV:

I’m all caught up with Queen Sugar! Season 5 is now airing on OWN, and it’s amazing so far. From the trailer, it looks like season 5 will be very much rooted in the real-world events of 2020. Looks like it’ll be incredibly powerful. (And if you haven’t watched Queen Sugar yet, please do yourself a favor and start! The first four seasons are available on Hulu.)

I’ve also been watching Miss Scarlet and the Duke this week, and it’s been a fun diversion.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week! Which is 100% fine, since I’ll never catch up with all the books I already have on my shelves.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn: A new Veronica Speedwell book is always reason to cheer! Judging by the opening lines, it’s going to be a lot of fun:

“Stoker, I cannot say that I care much for your goat. He is leering at me.”

Now playing via audiobook:

Emily’s Quest by L. M. Montgomery: The 3rd book in the Emily Starr trilogy. I’m a little obsessed at this point.

Ongoing reads:
  • Outlander Book Club is re-reading Outlander! We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 38, “The Abbey”. 
  • Our group classic read is part 2 of Don Quixote. Continuing onward, 3 chapters per week. Current status: 73%.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

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

Audiobook Review: Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra

Title: Meg & Jo
Author: Virginia Kantra
Narrators: Shannon McManus, Karissa Vacker
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: December 3, 2019
Print length: 400 pages
Audio length: 13 hours 46 minutes
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The timeless classic Little Women inspired this heartwarming modern tale of four sisters from New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra.

The March sisters—reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth—have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger.

Meg appears to have the life she always planned—the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you’ve ever wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When their mother’s illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they’ll rediscover what really matters.

One thing’s for sure—they’ll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams.

Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.

And a Little Women retelling wouldn’t be nearly as convincing if it didn’t start with that memorable opening line!

Dangle a Little Women retelling in front of me, and naturally I’m going to read it. And while Meg & Jo has been on my TBR for a while now, I finally got the motivation to dive in thanks to my book group, since this is our February pick.

In Meg & Jo, the March sisters are all grown up and living their own lives. Meg has settled into married life with her husband John and their adorable two-year-old twins, staying put in the family home town in North Carolina. Jo moved to New York years back to pursue a journalism career, but after being laid off from her newspaper job, she’s working as a prep cook at a fancy restaurant while secretly writing a food blog. Beth is in school studying music, and Amy has an internship in the fashion world.

Meg & Jo is narrated in alternating chapters by (obviously) Meg and Jo, and it’s their stories that are the focus of this book. (Beth and Amy are still there, mostly in the background and in their occasional appearances as they visit home, but they’re not POV characters in this book.)

As the book progresses, we learn that neither Meg nor Jo is truly leading their best lives. Meg is a stay-at-home mom, and her husband gave up his teaching and coaching job to work at a car dealership so he could better support their growing family once they found out Meg was pregnant. Neither one is entirely happy. Sure, they love each other and their children, but Meg pressures herself to do it all as payback for John working so hard, not realizing how she’s shutting him out and denying him the opportunity to be a true partner. Meanwhile, John is working at a job that means nothing to him, and can’t bring himself to talk to Meg about it. The communication problems between Meg and John are the central challenge they face.

As for Jo, her blog is doing well, but she’s frustrated. She likes working in the restaurant, but it’s not exactly advancing her writing career. As the story progresses, she falls into a romantic relationship with Eric, the renowned chef and owner of the restaurant, but secrets and a lack of clear intention seem to doom the romance before it can really bloom.

Complicating Meg and Jo’s separate lives further is family drama back home. The March parents live on the farm passed down through Abby’s (Marmee’s) side of the family. Abby runs the farm and the home herself, while her husband Ashton seems to devote all his time to his calling, serving as chaplain and counselor to military vets. When Abby becomes injured, her farm duties fall to Meg — and once Meg takes over, she starts to realize the precariousness of the farm’s future.

As the sisters return home for their mother’s recuperation and for the holidays, they come together to support and love one another. Secrets are revealed, there are plenty of surprises, and ultimately, there are promises of future happiness for Meg and Jo.

So… did I enjoy Meg & Jo? Yes, for sure! It took some getting used to, but seeing the March family transplanted into modern-day lives was quite fun and for the most part, really engaging. I did want to give Meg a good shake from time to time — it was so obvious to me that her attempts to take the household burdens off of John were actually alienating him. The book does a good job of showing how she was modeling her approach to doing it all on what she saw in her own parents’ marriage and internalized as the way things should work, and I was actually proud of Meg when she finally started to understand that accepting John as a true partner was the key to their future happiness.

Jo could be pretty clueless about certain things, and OF COURSE keeping her blog a secret was going to come back to bite her. I had a hard time believing some of the fallout, good and bad, once her secret came out. I did like her relationship with Eric, although I would have liked to see it given a little more time to grow before the big blow-up.

Beth and Amy seem to be basically true to their Little Women depictions, although (150-year-old spoiler alert!) Beth is alive and well in Meg & Jo! I held my breath for about half the book, waiting for her to develop a horrible illness, but thankfully, the book didn’t go there. Beth is gentle and sweet, very shy, and is committed to her musical career. Amy is spoiled, flighty, and impulsive, just as you’d expect.

One of my favorite parts of the book is Amy calling Jo out on trying to put them all into boxes, reminding Jo that in real life, people aren’t just one thing. I loved that their argument started over Pride and Prejudice – Jo sees Meg as Jane, and herself as Lizzie — but what roles does that leave for Beth and Amy? Amy rightfully resents that Jo can’t see her as anything but the pampered, entitled child she once knew. I loved the coming to terms that starts to occur between the sisters.

Another big difference between Little Women and Meg & Jo is how the March parents are depicted, especially the father. In Little Women, Mr. March is largely absent, off in the war and doing God’s work. They miss him terribly, but know he’s following an important path and never seem to resent him. In Meg & Jo, Mr. March comes off as kind of a jerk, at least when it comes to being a husband and father. Yes, he has a calling to tend to the men and women who are suffering after giving so much to their country — but he absolutely neglects his family in order to do so, leaving his wife and children to manage on their own and taking no responsibility for their financial or physical well-being.

Meg & Jo is a little longer than it needs to be, and some interludes at the restaurant and on the farm could have been tightened up a bit. I’m glad I listened to the audiobook rather than reading a print copy, since that helped me feel less like the story was dragging (and I could listen at a faster speed when it was!) The audiobook has different narrators for Meg and Jo, but honestly, their voices are very similar, so if I picked up in the middle of a chapter, it wasn’t obvious from the narrator whose chapter I was on.

As a Little Women fan, I was happy to experience Meg & Jo and see the author’s vision of a modern-day March family. While the story is a little light-weight at times, I enjoyed the characters and their challenges, and it was amusing to see how their 19th century lives could be translated to the 21st century. A follow-up, Beth & Amy, is due out this spring, and I will definitely be reading it!

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

Book Review: We Came Here To Shine by Susie Orman Schnall

Title: We Came Here To Shine
Author: Susie Orman Schnal
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: June 16, 2020
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

At the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, two ambitious young women—a down-on-her-luck actress and an aspiring journalist—form an unlikely friendship as they navigate a world of possibility and find out what they are truly made of during a glorious summer of spectacle and potential…

Gorgeous Vivi is about to begin filming her first starring role in a Hollywood picture when the studio head ships her off to New York as a favor to a friend. She’s assigned the leading role in the heralded Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular at the World’s Fair, a fate she believes will destroy her film career. If she performs well, she’ll have another chance at stardom, but with everything working against her, will her summer lead to opportunity or failure?

Plucky Max dreams of becoming a serious journalist, but when her job at the New York Times doesn’t pan out, she finds herself begrudgingly working for the daily paper of the World’s Fair. As her ideas are continually overlooked by her male counterparts and her career prospects are put in jeopardy, Max must risk everything to change the course of her life.

When Max and Vivi’s worlds collide, they forge an enduring friendship. One that teaches them to go after what matters most during the most meaningful summer of their lives.

We Came Here To Shine takes place at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, bringing the spectacle to life through the experiences of Max and Vivi, two very different women who find themselves drawn together as they each battle sexism and misogyny.

Max is a journalism student at NYU, whose dream is to become a star reporter for the New York Times. As part of the coursework, each member of the class is assigned to a summer internship with a New York publication. Max is crushed when she loses out on her first choice with the Times, and is instead assigned to Today At The Fair, the daily paper produced at the World’s Fair to highlight the days’ events and generate buzz and excitement.

It gets even worse when she and her classmate Charlie show up to work on the first day, only to be told that Charlie will write all the articles, and Max will be responsible for the daily event listings. When she protests, she’s told that women aren’t suited for reporting, and are much better at doing detail work like lists and calendars. Max is furious, especially because she and her classmates are competing for a scholarship that will be awarded based on submission of articles written during the internship. Without the scholarship, Max doesn’t see a way that she can afford the next year’s tuition.

Meanwhile, Vivi is on track as a rising starlet in the Hollywood studio system. After supporting roles in a few films, Vivi is about to start filming a starring role in a new movie — until the studio chief informs her that she’s being replaced, and is instead being loaned out to Billy Rose, the producer of the Aquacade swimming show at the World’s Fair. The Aquacade’s star (in the role of Aquabelle Number One) has been injured, and they need someone to replace her and draw in the crowds. Vivi isn’t a movie star yet, but the producers all agree that the Hollywood cachet will boost ticket sales.

Vivi is dismayed and hurt, but has no choice. She’s under contract to the studio, which means they can do as they want with her. They also dangle a promise that after the summer, they have another starring role all lined up for. Do what they want, and she’ll get that chance. Don’t do it, and the studio will be done with her, ending her Hollywood dreams for good.

There’s a lot to like about We Came Here To Shine, but it fell flat for me in several ways.

First, what I liked:

  • Being introduced to the wonders of the Fair, which at that time would have been mind-boggling. New technologies, glorious buildings and gardens, international pavillions, glamorous restaurants, and the Aquacade — the book does a great job of conveying the awe of experiencing the Fair for the first time.
  • I liked Max and Vivi’s friendship and how they supported one another through their lowpoints, helping each other figure out how to get out of terrible situations and take control of their own paths.
  • The sense of the impact of the Depression, as shown by Max’s family life as well as by some of the negative reactions to the Fair around the ticket prices making it beyond the reach of many families.
  • The photos and historical notes included in the book, which really helped me appreciate different attractions mentioned in the story, as well as explaining which of the issues and people are real and which are created by the author.
  • The inclusion of the National Women’s Party (a real organization) as an inspiration for both Max and Vivi.

The bits that didn’t really work for me:

  • For someone who’s described as being top of her class in journalism, the tastes we get of Max’s writing just aren’t impressive. In fact, the pieces she submits for the scholarship competition are sensational without including sources or diving beyond the surface.
  • It doesn’t actually make sense that Vivi would be chosen to take on the high-profile starring role in the Aquacade. She was on her high school swim team, but has never done choreography or synchronized swimming, and is initially given just four days to rehearse before her first performance.
  • Vivi’s family drama, which drove her to Hollywood in the first place, isn’t explained well enough. We know the basics of what happened, but (see below), the presentation left me feeling that I was reading about stock characters, rather than unique people and dynamics.
  • SPOILER: Vivi, with Max’s help, finds a way to get out of her contract and leave the Aquacade and Hollywood in her past. It’s clear that she’s been mistreated, cheated, and controlled by the various powerful men who run the industry and have absolute power over her career, but I couldn’t quite accept that Vivi’s need to take back her life would include giving up her career and switching aspirations quite so suddenly. It reads as if she never really wanted to become an actress in the first place, but that’s not the impression I had at the start of the book.

The biggest issue I had with the book is the writing. The writing style makes the story feel bland, even when there’s something dramatic happening. In fact, this is probably what bothered me the most: Even as certain events unfolded, I felt like I was being told about what happened, rather than actually seeing them happen. Again and again, I felt like I was reading a summary of the big moments — some key parts felt too short or glossed over, and I never got the sense that I was there.

Still, I did enjoy enough aspects of We Came Here To Shine to make me glad I read it. I’ve now spend some time browsing images and videos to get a sense of what being at the Fair was like. To learn more about the Fair, check out https://www.1939nyworldsfair.com/index.htm. Also, here’s a short video highlighting the Aquacade (silent, but still fun to watch.)

We Came Here To Shine is my book group’s pick for January — yet another book that I likely would not have come across otherwise. Despite the problems mentioned above, it’s worth reading to experience the time and place of such a unique and exciting event.

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