Saturday, June 2, 2018

"Love is a four-legged word."

Run free, Zelda... you were the best dog ever.
2007 - 2018
Gotcha Day: May 26, 2010

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sanibel Monday: May 14, 2018

Hello from Sanibel. I hope you had wonderful Mother's Day weekend. Life here has been hectic the past couple of weeks... so much to do before we start our journey north next weekend.  A couple of household projects are on the agenda and our AC needs service - again! Packing begins midweek.

Finished this week//

by Meg Wolitzer, narrated by Rebecca Lowman

Meg Wolitzer is officially one of my favorite authors. I borrowed this book from the library weeks ago, but only began reading a few days before it was due. The audiobook was available via overdrive, so I borrowed that immediately upon returning the hardcover (listen to a sample here)... and was quickly reminded how much I enjoy Rebecca Lowman's narrations. (Eleanor & Park, City on Fire, etc.)  That loan expired, too, and I used an audible credit to continue listening. On Saturday, my library ebook hold came in and I finished the book in a matter of hours.

In broad terms, this is a novel about "female power, ambition, leadership, and mentorship." But more importantly,  the characters Wolitzer creates to tell her story are genuine and believable. I was immediately drawn into their lives and, by the end of the novel, wasn't ready to let them go. Wolitzer's writing, as I have come to expect, is excellent.

This is a 450 page novel, but never felt that long. Look for it on my list of favorites at the end of the year.

Current reading//

by J. Ryan Stradal

I'm at the 80% mark and thoroughly enjoying this book. More after I've finished...

Up next//
I'm really not sure, but possibilities include...

The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner, narrated by the late Edward Herrmann, is loaded on my phone.

My daughter just finished Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and is quite certain I will love it. I'm next in line for the library ebook.

Maybe I'll try to read one of the books I hauled down here from New York in the meantime.  I'm certainly not packing them up again for the trip north!

Decisions, decision...

In the kitchen//

My kitchen has been a flurry of activity as I stock my FIL's freezer for the summer:

How was your week? What have you been reading?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sanibel Sunday: April 29, 2018

As April draws to a close, friends and neighbors are beginning to head north for the summer months. Last week we attended a couple of "end of season" gatherings and will host one ourselves this week. However, my brother's photo from home this morning showed more SNOW in central New York ridiculous! I miss my parents and siblings (and Wegmans) but don't want to leave Florida any time soon.

Finished this week//

Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes

This book is a feast for the senses and a virtual trip to Italy. I'll post a book brief in a few days but, in the meantime, go ahead and add it to your summer reading list!

Current reading//

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

I promised Care I'd give this book a chance and so far, so good. Started it on the beach yesterday and am turning the pages pretty quickly.

In the kitchen//

We loved Charlie Bird's Farro Salad from The New York Times! The farro, cooked in a mixture of apple cider and water, had a delicious nutty flavor. It was tossed with arugula, sliced radishes, and halved cherry tomatoes, then finished with shaved Parmesan cheese. I'll be making it again very soon.

Hope you have a good week. What are you reading?


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sanibel Sunday: April 22, 2018

Good morning from Florida! It's been another beautiful week and I've happily resumed morning beach walks - my back is finally on the mend.

As for books...

I didn't finish anything last week, but am nearly halfway through the new Frances Mayes novel:

Like her earlier novel, Under the Tuscan Sun,  it's a feast for the senses... sumptuous food and wine, the lush Tuscan countryside, stunning art and architecture. This is surely the next best thing to being there! I'm also enjoying the story of three single women of a certain age renting an old stone house in Italy. Where will the year take them?

I borrowed the hardcover from the library, then decided to get the audio version, too. Who can ignore a recommendation from Candace at Beth Fish Reads?  The audio production is wonderful... I want to live in this book!

In the kitchen//

Fresh Corn Tomato Salad from the Food network
This is a recipe most of you will save for summer, but we have Florida sweet corn now and the grape and cherry tomatoes have been extra-sweet lately. We enjoyed the salad as a side dish for dinner and the leftovers made a delicious light lunch. (my photo)

Dinners don't get much quicker or easier than this... especially if you use frozen riced cauliflower and rotisserie chicken! I might use a little less lime juice in the "rice" next time, but other than that it was a complete winner.  (photo from kitchn)

Beyond books//

I had jury duty last week... quite an experience here in the Sunshine State! The jury selection process was fascinating. It was a DUI with injury case and I was eventually dismissed. When questioned about my scientific/medical background and faith in lab results, I don't think the defense liked my response... something along the line of "although errors can occur, it's hard to dispute a lab value." They can call me again in a year.

Our air conditioner is broken. The technician was here Saturday morning and, fingers crossed, will be back Monday afternoon with a new motor. The humidity has been creeping up over the past few days and I'm feeling a little uncomfortable. So glad it isn't summer yet - that would be unbearable!

So that's the news from here. How was your week? What are you reading?

Monday, April 16, 2018

So Many Books: Mini-Review Catch Up

Hello, friends. Hard to believe it's mid-April already... Easter has come and gone. Here on the island "season" is over, but back in central New York winter just won't let go. A high school prom was even postponed last weekend due to the ice storm. Isn't that crazy? Needless to say, we won't be leaving Florida just yet.

I've had plenty of reading time over the past couple of weeks, primarily due to a back injury which limited my activity. I'm much better now and slowly resuming my regular routine.

Recent Reading//

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
My favorite book so far this year... and I even wrote a review! Find it here

What a moving memoir! I learned about this book last year during Nonfiction November and it's easily my favorite audio of the year so far. There are plenty of accounts about life after WWII, but this is a new angle for me.  I don't think I've ever read about East Germany after the country was divided.

The author, Nina Willner, was the first female Army Intelligence Officer to lead intelligence operations in East Berlin during the the Cold War. This book tells the story of her mother, Hanna, who escaped at age twenty from East to West Germany, leaving behind her parents, grandparents, and eight siblings.

The story is positively riveting. From Hanna's amazing escape to the daily lives of the family left behind and their eventual reunion decades later, I could not stop listening. Reading about control imposed by a communist regime always gives me pause, but the propaganda and suppression of news seemed especially chilling in light of the relationship between our current administration and the press.

Cassandra Campbell's narration is, as always, pitch-perfect. Read or listen, do not miss this book!
My rating:

Mrs. Osmond by John Banville

 In a style reminiscent of Henry James, though more readable, John Banville imagines Isabel Archer's life after The Portrait of a Lady. In essence, Mrs. Osmond is a sequel to Henry James masterpiece.

This novel was actually more enjoyable than expected. I enjoyed seeing Isabel mature, Pansy grow into adulthood, and Osmond and Madame Merle become more their true selves. I also loved how Banville left the ending somewhat ambiguous in true Jamesian style.

I approached this novel as a read/listen combination. Amy Finegan is a new-to-me narrator and her performance definitely enhanced my reading experience.

Bottom line: A nice romp for fans of The Portrait of a Lady, but I can't imagine why anyone not familiar with James's novel would want to read it.
My rating:

by Kate Andersen Brower, narrated by Karen White

First Women is an interesting, slightly gossipy account of America's modern first ladies. It's a quick, informative read told in a style similar to Brower's previous book, The Residence. I had two minor complaints. First, the book jumped around a was structured based on topic (the political wife, motherhood, bad blood, etc.) rather than chronology. There also seemed to be a lot of repetition but, to be fair, it may have been anecdotes and facts I remembered from her earlier book. When this book was written, Brower fully expected Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 presidential election. An afterward about Melania Trump has since been added. This was a read/listen combination for me.
My rating:

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen

When Anna Quindlen writes a new book, I read it. I've read most of her nonfiction and all but one of her novels. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a Random House event several years ago... if we lived on the same street, she could easily be my BFF.  So I really hate to admit  that her latest novel is not a favorite. It's quiet, character-driven, and very New York City - all factors which generally appeal to me. Unfortunately, Alternate Side  turned out to be just a good read when I was expecting a great one.
My rating:

Possibly Up Next//

I discovered Lily Tuck through her new novel, Sisters, earlier this year. After musing that I'd like to read some of her backlist, a friend mailed me one she enjoyed. Thanks, Judy!

I borrowed the audio version from the library lat week and plan to start listening today. Maybe I'll get a print copy, too.

That's a lot of books, so I'll end here.
How was your week? What are you reading?


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Book Brief: The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman

by Rebecca Kauffman
Counterpoint Press
March 2018
224 pages

Motivation for reading:
Tara and Susie recommended it... and it's been compared to The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, a favorite from a few years ago.

Source: Ebook downloaded from my library via hoopla. (an amazing service - so glad my library offers it!)

Publisher's summary:

Following her wonderfully received first novel, Another Place You’ve Never Been, called “mesmerizing,” “powerful,” and “gorgeous,” by critics all over the country, Rebecca Kauffman returns with Mikey Callahan, a thirty-year-old who is suffering from the clouded vision of macular degeneration. He struggles to establish human connections—even his emotional life is a blur.

As the novel begins, he is reconnecting with “The Gunners,” his group of childhood friends, after one of their members has committed suicide. Sally had distanced herself from all of them before ending her life, and she died harboring secrets about the group and its individuals. Mikey especially needs to confront dark secrets about his own past and his father. How much of this darkness accounts for the emotional stupor Mikey is suffering from as he reaches his maturity? And can The Gunners, prompted by Sally’s death, find their way to a new day? The core of this adventure, made by Mikey, Alice, Lynn, Jimmy, and Sam, becomes a search for the core of truth, friendship, and forgiveness.

A quietly startling, beautiful book, The Gunners engages us with vividly unforgettable characters, and advances Rebecca Kauffman’s place as one of the most important young writers of her generation.

Opening line:

Mikey Callahan discovered something about himself when he was six years old.

My thoughts:

I recently gathered a small pile of books to sample before choosing my next read. The Gunners was on top and by the end of the first page, I knew I wouldn't even open the others.

In The Gunners, I found a complex, satisfying, well-written novel about lifelong bonds evolving from childhood friendships. The suburban Buffalo setting felt comfortably familiar and, especially remarkable for such a short novel, I felt I knew and understood each character.

Reminiscent of both The Interestings and The Big ChillThe Gunners  is my favorite novel so far  this year. I've added Kauffman's debut novel, Another Place You've Never Been, to my reading list.

My rating:

Monday, March 26, 2018

March 26, 2018: It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday and I finished two great books last week! It feels like I'm back in the reading groove at last. Both of my current books excellent, too.

Finished last week//

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

In a word, Sunburn is fabulous. I've struggled with psychological thrillers lately, but Laura Lippman has written another winner. In this novel, crimes, secrets, and deception become more complicated in the face of unexpected love. But is it really love? As Lippman crafts the story of Polly and Adam, she adds layer upon layer of complexity... increasing suspense and doubt. Who, if anyone, is worthy of the reader's trust?

I've read a few of Lippman's stand-alones and loved them all... maybe it's time to give her series a try. Are you a Tess Monaghan fan? Baltimore Blues  has been on my kindle for a long time.

by Jennifer Wright, narrated by Gabra Zackman

Medicine with a bit of snark... this is SO my kind of book. I chose to go the audio route when all  my top audiobook sources recommended it, and that turned out to be excellent advice. From the antonine plague to AIDS, Get Well Soon  covers each 'plague' from historical, medical, and scientific perspectives.  The slightly irreverent edge (think Mary Roach) added to my enjoyment. Gabra Zackman's narration was pitch perfect. Give this a try if you're a fan of Mary Roach or have an interest in medicine/infectious disease.

Current reading//

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
When both Tara and Susie love a new novel, I take notice. If said book is then compared to The Interestings  by Meg Wolitzer, I'm on it immediately. I was thrilled to find this book available for instant download via hoopla from my library. (Does your library provide this service?) Eleven chapters in and I'm loving it!

Listening to//

This book, added to my wish list during Nonfiction November and read by one of my favorite narrators, tells the story of a family separated by the Berlin Wall in the aftermath of WWII. I'm two hours into the ten hour production and find it hard to press the 'pause' button. My walks will be extra long this week!

The week ahead//

Twin A is flying in on Thursday for the long Easter weekend. In the meantime, I need to get busy planning and then shopping for Easter dinner.  We're already looking forward to split pea soup made with the hambone. A celebration for the twins 25th birthday is also in the works.

How was your week? What are you reading?

This post will link to It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.


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