Sunday, January 25, 2015

Weekly Update 1/25/15: Plenty of Sunshine

Good morning from Florida! We've been here two weeks and, after a few minor complications, are finally settling into a routine.

You know you're not in central New York when a strange car odor is diagnosed as a 'palm rat' nest in the air blower. Two hundred dollars and an entire day in the garage later, the technician suggested placing moth balls strategically under the hood. Our car sat idle for ten days before we arrived, but evidently this is not an unusual occurrence!

The underground cable line was severed (hopefully not from the above-mentioned palm rat) and dealing with the company was a nightmare. I'll never complain about Time-Warner again. After countless phone calls, new cable was laid and, eventually, a crew even came back to bury it.

Our internet service was finally set up mid-week and now I'm eagerly anticipating delivery of a new washing machine. I won't go into how spectacularly the old one failed.

All that waiting around without cable or internet meant plenty of reading time and I finished several books:

Euphoria by Lily King (audio)
Most readers love this, but it didn't do much for me.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This could be the first post-apocalyptic novel I've ever enjoyed.

West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan
A favorite author, but not a favorite book

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
I really liked this read/listen combination. The readalong added to my enjoyment.  #CarrieAlong

What am I reading now?

The Warden by Anthony Trollope
This is actually a reread. I plan to read all the Barsetshire novels this year to mark Trollope's Bicentenary.

Today's plan//
A walk on the beach, another cup of coffee, and some blog reading is on tap this morning. My FIL will be here later for a Chicken Piccata dinner and then it will be time for Downton Abbey! What do you think of the season so far?

The week ahead//
I should be able to get back to blogging as usual this week and look forward to catching up with everyone.

What are you up to today?

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Finding Florida by T.D. Allman

Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State
by T. D. Allman
narrated by James Patrick Cronin
Audible Studios, 2013
21 hours and 8 minutes
source: purchased

Summary (from goodreads):
Over the centuries, Florida has been many things: an unconquered realm protected by geography, a wilderness that ruined Spanish conquistadors, “god’s waiting room,” and a place to start over. Depopulated after the extermination of its original native population, today it’s home to nineteen million. The site of vicious racial violence, including massacres, slavery, and the roll-back of Reconstruction, Florida is now one of our most diverse states, a dynamic multicultural place with an essential role in 21st-century America.

In Finding Florida, journalist T.D. Allman reclaims the remarkable history of Florida from the state’s mythologizers, apologists, and boosters. Allman traces the discovery, exploration, and settlement of Florida, its transformation from a swamp to “paradise.” Palm Beach, Key West, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando boomed, fortunes were won and lost, land was stolen and flipped, and millions arrived. The product of a decade of research and writing, Finding Florida is a highly original, stylish, and masterful work, the first modern comprehensive history of this fascinating place.

My thoughts:

So maybe Ponce de Leon didn't really discover the Fountain of Youth in St Augustine but, according to T.D. Allman, most of the other history taught in Florida classrooms is white-washed, exaggerated, or just plain myth too. Instead, Allman proposes a history rife with corruption, deception, oppression, and racism.

I found Finding Florida to be highly entertaining, but is it a definitive, comprehensive, or objective history? I'm not so sure. This book is highly subjective and, at times, downright snarky. Upon finishing, I felt like I needed to spend some time doing my own research.

For the record, Allman's book is not accepted as gospel truth within the state and The Tampa Bay Times ran a story in 2013 entitled "Finding Flaws in Finding Florida".

As many of you know, I chose to listen to this book because we are spending much of the winter in Florida this year and I know very little about the state's history. While Florida's story certainly includes racism and political/electoral misadventures, it is up to the reader to decide whether the information presented here is fact, opinion, or one long rant.

A note on the audio production:
I was not especially fond of the snarky, somewhat sarcastic, narration although it did match the overall tone of the book.

My rating:

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Change of Scenery

Good-bye snow and bitter cold...

Hello, sand and sunshine!

Today is the day...  I'll be back to blogging as soon as we get internet service.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple

They Were Sisters
by Dorothy Whipple
Persephone Books, 2005
originally published 1944
464 pages
source: purchased

Summary (from goodreads):
Three sisters marry very different men and the choices they make determine whether they will flourish, be tamed or be repressed. Lucy's husband is her beloved companion; Vera's husband bores her and she turns elsewhere; and Charlotte's husband is a bully who turns a high-spirited naive young girl into a deeply unhappy woman.

My thoughts:
"....they were sisters and loved each other, no matter how deeply the circumstances of their lives seemed to divide them." 
Dorothy Whipple's books are a joy to read and I couldn't have been happier when the most recent Classics Club spin dealt me They Were Sisters. With her distinctly gentle style and keen eye for family relationships, this novel made for perfect December reading.

In They Were Sisters, Whipple focuses on the special bond between sisters and how it can be affected by life circumstances. Specifically, the changing boundaries imposed by marriage. She even presents us with 1940's-style domestic abuse. Poignant, maddening, and thoroughly enjoyable, They Were Sisters reminds me why Dorothy Whipple is a favorite Persephone author.

Although I generally prefer reading on my kindle these days, the special qualities of a Persephone edition - elegant dovegrey cover, colorful endpapers, and matching bookmark - made this book even more of a holiday treat.

Highly recommended.

My rating:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday Intro and a Read-Along: Sister Carrie

When Caroline Meeber boarded the afternoon train for Chicago, her total outfit consisted of a small trunk, a cheap imitation alligator-skin satchel, a small lunch in a paper box, and a yellow leather snap purse, containing her ticket, a scrap of paper with her sister's address in Van Buren Street, and four dollars in money. It was in August, 1889. She was eighteen years of age, bright, timid, and full of the illusions of ignorance and youth. Whatever touch of regret at parting characterised her thoughts, it was certainly not for advantages now being given up. A gush of tears at her mother's farewell kiss, a touch in her throat when the cars clacked by the flour mill where her father worked by the day, a pathetic sigh as the familiar green environs of the village passed in review, and the threads which bound her so lightly to girlhood and home were irretrievably broken.
Sister Carrie
by Theodore Dreiser

Over the weekend, Care mentioned the possibility of a low-key, no pressure Sister Carrie  readalong and I immediately agreed. Dreiser's An American Tragedy  was a favorite last year and I already had plans to read Sister Carrie  sometime in 2015. Besides, if I've learned anything from The Classics Club, it's that classics are always better with friends. My plan is to make this a read/listen combination. The details (loose and non-threatening) can be found on Care's blog. Would you like to join us for the #CarrieAlong?

Here is the summary from goodreads:
With Sister Carrie, first published in 1900, Theodore Dreiser transformed the conventional “fallen woman” story into a genuinely innovative and powerful work of fiction. As he hurled his impressionable midwestern heroine into the throbbing, amoral world of the big city, he revealed, with brilliant insight, the deep and driving forces of American culture: the restless idealism, glamorous materialism, and basic spiritual innocence.

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Weekly Update 1/4/15: It's a New Year!

Good morning  and welcome to the first weekly update of 2015. After a small New Year's Eve gathering, a relaxing New Year's Day, and a long weekend, I'd say the year is already off to a good start. I even finished two books - They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple and the graphic memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?  by Roz Chast.

Currently reading:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This is my first post-apocalyptic fiction in nearly ten years. So far, so good. 

Listening to:

Euphoria by Lily King
narrated by Xe Sands and Simon Vance
Under two and a half hours to go and I'm ready to be done with this book. The narrators are excellent, but I can't help wondering whether it would be better in print.

On the blog:
My 2014 Favorites: Fiction
My 2014 Favorites: Audiobook Fiction
My 2014 Favorites: Nonfiction
Review: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?  by Roz Chast

Other Bookish Thoughts 

2015 will be another no pressure reading year for me - no blog tours, very few review books, no deadlines, no commitments, and more abbreviated reviews. I read pretty much anything I wanted in 2014 and, surprisingly, that meant a lot of new releases and debut novels. We'll see where free range reading takes me this year, but I'm anticipating a return to backlist fiction and classics.

The TBR Double Dog Dare hosted at James Reads Books kicked off last week  The idea is to read books already on your shelves (or e-reader) until April 1st. I've committed for the month of January, but we'll see how it goes after that. I'll be in Florida most of the winter and am not sure I can resist the local library. The little indie bookstore is quite tempting, too. I'll let you know if I decide to continue.

Are you familiar with Zinio? It's a newsstand lending service available through libraries... kind of like overdrive for magazines. I just signed up this week and my iPad is loaded and ready for Friday's flight. I got my mother set up, too. Now I can read The New Yorker  without the stress of all those unread issues piling up on the coffee table. My favorite food and travel magazines are also available, along with many, many more I can't wait to explore.

And finally... It's Downton Day! Will you be watching?

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

Friday, January 2, 2015

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
by Roz Chast
Bloomsbury USA, 2014
240 pages
source: borrowed from the library

Well I certainly didn't expect this to happen... revealing my first book of the year and  reviewing it at the same time! That mysterious system known as inter-library loan actually selected the book for me and, since we're leaving for Florida in a week, I needed to read and return it ASAP.

I've enjoyed Roz Chast's cartoons in The New Yorker for decades and when her first memoir began appearing on "Best of" lists everywhere, I knew I had to read it.

As it turns out, the notoriety is well-deserved. A 2014 National Book Award finalist, this graphic memoir, composed of illustrations, photos, and text, addresses a topic all of us must deal with at some point  - the aging and death of our parents.

Chast does not sugar-coat her experience. She is honest and candid about her childhood, her relationship with her parents, and the challenge of dealing with their increasing physical and emotional needs, as well as the associated financial worries.

This book is not especially pleasant or uplifting, but it will make you think, perhaps begin to formulate a plan, or at least nudge you into discussion with your parents.

Highly recommended.

My rating:


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