Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday Intro: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

4 September 1936
Abingdon, England 
The Vega Gull is peacock blue with silver wings, more splendid than any bird I've known, and somehow mine to fly. She's called The Messenger, and has been designed and built with great care and skill to do what should be impossible - cross an ocean in one brave launch, thirty-six hundred miles of black chop and nothingness - and to take me with her.
Circling the Sun: A Novel 
by Paula McLain

I've missed my book club this winter. It's been nice to read according to my whims, but I'm already looking forward to our meeting next month. Last week I got an email announcing the May selection and was a little disappointed to see Circling the Sun. Several years ago, after rereading A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, I listened to McLain's The Paris Wife. It was a good book, but not a favorite. I may be tiring of the fictionalized biography trend, but will still give this a try.

After a false start over the weekend (listened to 15 minutes before bed and just wasn't interested), I popped in my earbuds yesterday morning, went back to the beginning, and headed out for a walk. The story seemed more engaging this time, and Katharine McEwan's narration is captivating. I feel a bit more positive now.

Here is a portion of the goodreads summary:
Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.
What do you think? Would you keep reading?

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, April 24, 2016

The Final Sanibel Sunday

This is it, the last Sanibel Sunday of the season. It's coming to you a little later than usual today because I decided to spend the morning reading rather than writing. Definitely the right decision... I'm going to miss this spot. As you might have guessed, my feelings about leaving are decidedly mixed. I'm not quite ready to leave Florida, but I am anxious to see my family and friends back in New York.

Twin A and her boyfriend flew in Tuesday night. We enjoyed their company for a few days and now they are driving one of our cars, and Zelda, back home. The rest of us will start the journey next weekend.

Finished this week//

by Erik Sherman, narrated by Darrel J. Caneiro
I loved this book...a must read for fans of the late 80s Mets! Much more than a simple "where are they now", these player interviews are filled with insight, reflection, and even regrets from those glory days.

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Just finished this morning - a very entertaining summer read!

Up next//
I'm not quite sure. I have a couple of novels for review and a slew of books I'm looking forward to on my kindle. My plan is to sample a few this evening before making a decision. I'll let you know...

by Paula McLain, narrated by Katharine McEwan
My book club will be discussing this next month. I used an audible credit to download the audio version and also put the ebook on hold at the library. I listened to the first 15 minutes or so yesterday and am just not feeling it yet. I think I'll go back to the beginning and try again. Have you read this book?

On the blog//
Review:  American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis
Review:  The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
Tuesday Intro: The Nest  by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

The week ahead//
Cleaning, organizing, and packing. Plus, we still have a few more items to check off the "to do" list. We'll hit the road Friday or Saturday... I suppose it's time.

How was your week? What are you reading today?

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

Saturday, April 23, 2016

American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

American Housewife: Stories 
by Helen Ellis
Doubleday, 2016
208 pages
source: borrowed from the library

Publisher's summary:
A sharp, funny, delightfully unhinged collection of stories set in the dark world of domesticity, American Housewife  features murderous ladies who lunch, celebrity treasure hunters, and the best bra fitter south of the Mason Dixon line.

Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it's cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it's a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven. These twelve irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop. Vicious, fresh, and nutty as a poisoned Goo Goo Cluster, American Housewife is an uproarious, pointed commentary on womanhood.

My thoughts:

This book was on my radar long before its release. The appealing blurb and eye-catching cover made it sound like a collection I'd enjoy, but when reviews began to appear they were decidedly mixed. I started to waver. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered American Housewives on the shelf at the local library and decided to bring it home. What did I have to lose?

The first story was just a few pages long and I thought the second was very good. "The Wainscoting War" chronicles a neighborly spat over common hallway decor through the combatants' email exchanges. It was quite funny and seemed to set the tone for the rest of the collection.

Overall, there were a few more stories I really liked ("Dumpster Diving with the Stars", "Hello! Welcome to Book Club", and "The Fitter") but just as many were only okay or fell a little flat. I'm glad I borrowed the book from the library.

Bottom line: Sassy and snarky, but a little uneven. Some stories were very funny, while others missed the mark.

My rating:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

The Days of Abandonment
by  Elena Ferrante
narrated by Hillary Huber
Blackstone Audio, 2015
7 hours and 36 minutes
source: purchased (audible daily deal)

Publisher's summary:
An IndiBound best seller, The Days of Abandonment shocked and captivated its Italian public when first published. It is the gripping story of a woman's descent into devastating emptiness after being abandoned by her husband, with two young children to care for. When she finds herself literally trapped within the four walls of their high-rise apartment, she is forced to confront her ghosts, the potential loss of her own identity, and the possibility that life may never return to normal.

My thoughts:

The Days of Abandonment  is a short, beautifully written novel, arguably even more raw and intimate that Ferrante's famed Neopolitan novels. However, it was not a particularly enjoyable reading experience. Though the story is fascinating, it was like watching the proverbial train wreck. I could not bring myself to turn away.

Certainly, Ferrante's objective is to make the reader squirm. Mission accomplished!

Hillary Huber's narration is controlled, deliberate, and perfectly suited to the story. I chose to listen to most of the novel at 1.25x speed.

After reading six Ferrante novels in fourteen months, I'm finally ready for a break.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tuesday Intro: The Nest

As the rest of the guests wandered the deck of the beach club under an early-evening midsummer sky, taking pinched, appraising sips of their cocktails to gauge if the bartenders were using top-shelf stuff and balancing tiny crab cakes on paper napkins while saying appropriate things about how they'd really lucked out with the weather because the humidity would be back tomorrow, or murmuring inappropriate things about the bride's snug satin dress, wondering if the spilling cleavage was due to bad tailoring or poor taste (a look as their own daughters might say) or an unexpected weight gain, winking and making tired jokes about exchanging toasters for diapers, Leo Plumb left his cousin's wedding with one of the waitresses.
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

I just realized that the first paragraph is actually a single sentence, but it sets the stage nicely by giving us a peek into the world of the Plumb family. This novel seems to be the hot ticket lately and I was surprised to discover the newly-added ebook available for download at our FL library... especially since I've been on my home library's hold list for weeks. I've read about 25% of the book so far and am completely hooked.

The goodreads summary is a little too long to share, so click here if you're curious. I think this is a classic "rich people behaving badly" story. Four adult siblings have lived their lives expecting an inheritance  (referred to as "the nest") when the youngest turns forty. Now the date is approaching and distribution of "the nest" is in jeopardy.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

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, April 17, 2016

Sanibel Sunday: April 17, 2016

Everglades, "river of grass"

Sunday again... and just two weeks left in Florida. Highlights this week included a day trip to Shark Valley in the Everglades and exploring coastal communities to our north. A couple of home improvement projects/repairs were completed, too, and we've scheduled two exterior jobs for after we leave. Time is winding down, but signs of spring are finally starting to appear at home.

It was a good week in reading, too.

Finished this week//

by Elena Ferrante, narrated by Hillary Huber 
My sixth Ferrante novel since reading My Brilliant Friend  last March, I may be suffering from burnout. Mini review this week.

It's been a while since I last read a short story collection... this one was a little uneven. Mini review this week.

Current reading//

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
I was surprised to find this ebook available on the library's website. They must have added it just before I clicked over. Started reading last night and love it!

by Erik Sherman, narrated by Darrel J. Caneiro
I'll bet you didn't know I was a Mets fanatic in the late 80s and early 90s. That's a story for another time, but I am absolutely loving this book! It's both a trip down memory lane (with fresh insight) and a profile of the players' lives in the thirty years since that historic season.

On the blog//

Review: Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen
Nonfiction Book Briefs: Missoula and The Residence

The week ahead//

Today will be a typical Sanibel Sunday - farmers market, long beach walk, and dinner with my FIL. We have a couple more 'exploring excursions' on tap this week and plans for the trip home are starting to take shape. Twin A and her boyfriend will return this week. They'll drive one car (and Zelda) back home for us. We'll linger an additional week, then my husband, Twin B, and I will hit the road, too. I can't believe we been here since January... it doesn't seem like it's been that long.

How was your week? What are you reading today?

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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Nonfiction Book Briefs: Missoula and The Residence

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
by Jon Krakauer
narrated by Mozhan Marno
Random House Audio, 2015
11 hours and 58 minutes
source: purchased with audible credit, ebook borrowed from library

This was a tough listen, especially the descriptions of victims' experiences. It also made angry. I mean really angry... at the criminal justice system, at the police, at the accused rapists, and, to a certain extent, at the choices some of the women made which placed them in dangerous situations. Despite all that, Missoula is an important book to read, especially if you are the parent of a college-aged daughter.  This book is thoroughly researches and well-written. The audio version, narrated by a new-to-me talent, Mozhan Marno, was excellent.

Bottom line: Recommended, but proceed with caution.

My rating:

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House
by Kate Andersen Brower
narrated by Karen White
Harper Audio, 2015
10 hours and 16 minutes
source: purchased - audible credit, ebook amazon daily deal

History at its most entertaining! A combination of first-person anecdotes from White House maids, butlers, florists, etc. and extensive research provides readers with an intimate look at first families from the Kennedys years through the Obamas. Every family has their own quirks and habits and, after listening to this book, I felt I knew them all just a bit better. I also enjoyed the peak at life 'below stairs' in the White House and have a greater appreciation for all the happens behind the scenes.

I've already added Brower's new book,  First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies to my wish list.

My rating:


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