Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: 2018 Author Discoveries

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It's been months since my last TTT post, but this week's topic, New-to-Me Authors I Read In 2018, caught my eye. Since half the books I read last year were by "new" authors, I though it would be fun to take a look at my favorites. Interestingly, they were all women.

2018 Author Discoveries: Fiction

Min Jin Lee - Pachinko  and  Free Food for Millionaires

Joan Silber - Improvement

Sarah Winman - Tin Man

Claire Fuller  - Swimming Lessons

Rebecca Kauffman - The Gunners

2018 Author Discoveries: Nonfiction

Nina Willner 

Click here for more of today's Top Ten Tuesday posts.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sanibel Sunday: January 13, 2019

Almost noon... an early three-mile beach walk, lentil soup in the slow cooker (a new recipe), and blueberry ricotta cake in the oven. My father-in-law will be over for dinner a little later, but I'm hoping to slip in some reading time once I finish this blog post. Another Sanibel Sunday...

Finished last week//

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

This book has made the rounds. Care mailed it to me last summer. It's been with me on vacation to Maine and Massachusetts, to NYC visiting my daughters, and now it's here in Florida, where I finally got around to reading it!

It's about a family living on New York City's Upper West Side and their daily lives... friends, neighbors, his ex, house guests, meals, activities, etc. Though not a lot actually happens. The 50-something husband, Graham, seems fairly normal but his second, much younger, wife Audra is a hoot. She basically has no filter and will talk to anybody about anything. Their son (around twelve) has Asperger's Syndrome and is currently fixated on origami.

 The book is funny, yet insightful, loving, and painfully real. I enjoyed the characters, the setting, and Heiny's writing. Here are a few of the passages I marked:
"You didn't know then that having a child with special needs would seep into every part of your life, like rain through topsoil." 
"Life forced you to cope. Life wore down all your sharp corners with its tedious grinding on, the grinding that seemed to take forever but was actually as quick as a brushfire." 
"I'm beginning to believe... that there is just too much love loose in the world. Too much love with nowhere to go." 
"He would do it because that was what you did when you loved someone. You kept pushing until you broke on through to the other side, as Jim Morrison may have said. Only Morrison didn't add that on the other side, you found another obstacle and had to keep pushing. Forever."
A solid 4-star read. Thanks, Care!

Current reading//

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart
I'm slowly working my way through this very comprehensive biography... listening to the audiobook on my morning walk and reading the (heavy) hardcover in the afternoon. My respect for RBG increases with every page!

Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum

I bought this book last month in NYC. It's difficult to find NYRB Classics anywhere else and I was tempted to stock up, but limited myself to just one. This is my "in translation" selection for the Back to the Classics Challenge and is off to a strong start.

In the kitchen//

Three new recipes to share this week:

Also this week, we visited the new Whole Foods in Fort Myers - twice! The produce was the best we've seen down here... I'm used to Wegmans quality. Their chicken and lamb was also outstanding. I may not make it over there every week, but I sure will try.

How was your week? What are you reading?

Monday, January 7, 2019

Weekly Update: Back in Florida!

We're back! After spending the holidays in cold, snowy upstate New York, we're finally back in sunny Sanibel... arrived late Friday afternoon. It was wonderful to spend so much time with the family, but I sure did miss this. Let the winter season begin!

Current reading//

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

A fun, off-beat family drama. I started reading this right after Christmas and planned to finish before the end of the year... but you know how that goes. All the preparation, the packing,and then days in the car. It was a pleasure to finally pick it up again yesterday afternoon!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart

This book was a Christmas present from my daughter. It's long and fairly dense, so I decided to use an audible credit and make it a read/listen combination. Very good so far... RBG is an inspiration!

Up next//

I'll leave this blank for now... RBG will take at least another week to finish. Who knows what I'll be in the mood for after that. Maybe a classic?

In the kitchen//

We usually have my father-in-law over for dinner on Sundays and yesterday I decided to try something new - Maple and Miso Sheet-Pan Salmon from The New York Times. We grilled it instead of roasting on a sheet pan... and served broccoli and mashed sweet potatoes on the side. Delicious!

A new Whole Foods opened in Fort Myers in November. It was SO busy the first few weeks, we thought we'd wait until January to check it out. Today is the day... I'll let you know how it goes.

The week ahead//

It always takes a few days to settle back into our Sanibel routine and this week we have a few extra tasks. The clothes dryer needs to be replaced - ugh. I was also promised a replacement for my old beach cruiser (bicycle)... maybe I'll have a photo for you next week.

I hope your 2019 is off to a good start. Have you finished your first book of the year? What are you reading this week?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

First Book of the Year: 2019

Happy New Year! For the sixth year, Sheila at Book Journey is hosting the First Book of the Year event. The idea is simple - just share a photo of you and your first book. Sheila says:
Year 6.  I LOVE First book so much.  This tradition for me goes further back than the 6 years I have opened up to the reading world here on Book Journey.  I am THRILLED to be doing it again and thank you to those who have messaged me to ask if I will be doing it again.The answer  
Of course we are doing it.
My life has changed a bit – I may not be blogging as steady as I used to and I have moved to a more diverse site where I can share other things beyond books – check me out at I Guess I Am Doing This (also a work in process… but I am not giving up ;P )
Here is what First Book is.  The first book of the New Year should be:
A.  A coveted book that you have wanted to read but have just not found the time.
B.  A delicious favorite… one you have read before, but crave to read again.
C.  Really whatever you want it to – it is after all YOUR First Book Of the year.
Make it AWESOME.

This year I have selected Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart...
"...fifteen years in work, written with the cooperation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself and based on many interviews with the justice, her husband, her children, her friends, and her associates."

The book was a Christmas present from my daughter. I also used an audible credit to make it a read/listen combination... at 750+pages and just over 24 hours, this may take a while!

Have you chosen your First Book of the Year?

First Book of the Year 2018
First Book of the Year 2017
First Book of the Year 2016

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Wrap-Up: Thoughts and Stats

And so we close the book on 2018...

As I said in the previous post, this has been a year of distraction for me... primarily political. As a result, it has not been especially productive in terms of reading or blogging.

  • My overall numbers are the lowest - ever.
  • I did not accept any books for review.
  • I did not join any challenges - not even the goodreads challenge.
  • I participated in only a handful of events and readalongs.
  • I did not write formal book reviews, opting instead for one paragraph reaction/ratings included with my weekly wrap-up posts.
  • I pretty much read what I wanted, when I wanted.

Number Of Books Read
46 - the lowest number, ever (I won't blame it all on politics... this was our first full year of retirement and life seems busier than ever!)

56% / 44% - the same as last year

Female/Male authors
80% / 20% - a record!
Also worth noting, all of my favorite books of 2018 were written by women.

New authors/ tried-and-true authors
50/50 split - I've been less adventurous than usual

In translation
none - How is this possible??*#@!!

4 -  positively dismal :(

29 - 17 audio only, 12 read/listen combinations
**over 60% of my reading included an audio component this year, the most ever. More walking is a good thing!

Shortest & longest book:
Lift  by Kelly Corrigan, 96 pages
The Duke's Children  by Anthony Trollope, 840 pages

Most popular & least popular book:
(based on number of goodreads ratings)
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine  by Gail Honeyman - 324,105 other readers
I Can't Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays  by Elinor Lipman - 977 other readers

Repeat authors:
Meg Wolitzer  - 3 books read this year
Anthony Trollope  - 3
Min Jin Lee  - 2
Kelly Corrigan  - 2
Elin Hilderbrand  - 2

2018 bookish highlights:

  • Finishing our #PalliserParty
  • Nonfiction November
  • Visiting The House of the Seven Gables in Salem, MA
  • Lakeside Musing's 10th anniversary (which I failed to celebrate!)

Plans for 2019:

  • continue reading literary fiction, classics, and nonfiction... but MORE of everything!
  • post weekly updates
  • join a few fun events (like Nonfiction November)
  • participate in Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge
  • read more of my own books
  • participate in readalongs (Did I really not do one with Care this year?)

Thank you all for reading and talking about books with me again this year.
Happy New Year 2019!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

My Favorite Books of 2018

Reflecting back on 2018, this seems to have been a year of distractions... mostly political. I often found it hard to concentrate on reading and that's reflected in my overall numbers. Still, I read some great books. These are my favorites of 2018 - obviously not all were published this year.


Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
My number one book of the year... and my book club loved it, too.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
Meg Wolitzer is at the top of her game here... this is a brilliant, well-written novel. I read it shortly before the movie was released, but still haven't seen the film.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
I read three novels by Meg Wolitzer this year. This, her most recent, is a character-driven story that's hard to put down. A read/listen combination for me, Rebecca Lowman's narration is perfection.

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
I loved the structure, writing, and the way this story slowly unfolded... easily a 5-star read!

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
One of a handful of  2018 releases I read, this 5-star book was reminiscent of The Big Chill.

Improvement by Joan Silber
These short stories are connected only tangentially, but form something unique and beautiful when woven together.

Much more contemporary than Pachinko, and a rollicking good story!

This is the book everyone seems to have read. I still find myself thinking about Eleanor.


by Nina Willner, narrated by Cassandra Campbell
My favorite nonfiction this year. Excellent on audio.

by Debby Irving, narrated by the author
An eye-opening book! I went on to read several other race-related titles.

by Kate Moore, narrated by Angela Brazil
A read/listen combination, this book has everything I love in nonfiction - science and medicine, a legal battle, human drama, and good writing, too!

Honorable Mention:

I'll be back with one more post of final stats and thoughts to wrap up 2018 and a look ahead to 2019. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Late December Update and Mini-Reviews

December is nearly over, and it's been quite a month. The girls were home for the holidays, my sister-in-law stayed with us for several days, and we hosted or attended family gatherings galore. It was wonderful!

I'm still recovering from a bad cold and bronchitis, which I unfortunately shared with my husband. We had planned to leave for Florida today, but with neither of us feeling 100%, it's taking longer to get Christmas put away and pack for the trip. We're hoping to hit the road early New Years Day.

Before I post my 2018 wrap-up and favorites, I want to tell you about my final few books of the year. I still may finish my current read, Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny, over the weekend though...

The Dukes's Children by Anthony Trollope

It's taken two years, but I've finally finished the Palliser series! The Duke's Children was a fitting conclusion to Trollope's grand story, though I was particularly disappointed in the fate of one character. As always, I approached this long classic as a read/listen combination. I began reading the newly restored edition, which contains 200 pages previously cut by the publishers. Unfortunately, there is no restored audio edition so, after much frustration, I switched to the standard/free ebook.

The Duke's Children is described as "a compelling exploration of wealth, pride and ultimately the strength of love." It was easily a 4-star read for me, despite the fate of the above-mentioned character... and Simon Vance's annoying and overly sharp American accent.

Overall, I much prefer the Barsetshire Chronicles and would love to reread that series one day. But in 2019, it's time to move on to Trollope's stand-alone novels... possibly beginning with Rachel Ray  or Miss Makenzie.

Finally, I want to thank my intrepid reading companion, Audrey, for sharing this Trollopian adventure with me. I've enjoyed our #PalliserParty so much and am already looking forward to the next project... whatever it might be.

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

It's a story we've all read before. Husband dies suddenly and tragically; grieving family discovers his alternate, secret life. To be honest, I almost set this novel aside at 25%... but then somehow Elin Hilderbrand (or maybe the tropical vibe) managed to suck me in.

Set in the U.S. Virgin Islands, as opposed to her usual Nantucket, Winter in Paradise is the first in what will be a series of three books. As expected, this episode ends with a cliffhanger of sorts, begging the reader to turn the page... but we'll have to wait until next year. It's a far cry from the Quinn family of the Winter series, but I'll likely return for more.

Improvement by Joan Silber

I loved this book! In fact, Joan Silber is one of my favorite author discoveries of 2018. Improvement is actually a collection of short stories... connected, but only tangentially. They take the reader from New York City, to Turkey and Germany, and, when woven together, form something unique and beautiful. I look forward to reading more of this author. Thank you, Amy, for the recommendation.

I hope you've managed to find time to read during this busy season, too. What book will carry you into the New Year?


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