Sunday, May 12, 2024

A Mother's Day Sunday Salon: May 12, 2024

Hello friends, and Happy Sunday from Florida! It's been pretty quiet on the island this week. Many of our friends and fellow residents travel north for the summer months, and the summer vacation crowd has yet to arrive. We went out to brunch yesterday (to beat the Mother's Day rush) and were seated right away!

We enjoyed several beautiful evenings at the beach last week. Low tides, a nice breeze, good shelling, and not too buggy - just perfect! I'm hoping for more of the same this week.

Recent Reading//

This book has been on my shelf for years, but finally moved to the immediate TBR pile ahead of our summer trip to Santa Fe. I love Cather's writing and her gorgeous prose is on full display here, especially in descriptions of the southwest landscape. Her pen is practically a paintbrush! This is a slow, meandering, episodic novel. Light on an actual plot, it still manages to convey the life stories of two French priests in the southwest desert... and the ending moved me to tears. It's not my favorite Cather novel, but it may be the most beautiful.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Celadon Books, 2021

This novel was a page-turner! It begins with Jacob Finch Bonner, a once promising young novelist, now in the midst of a writing slump and teaching at an obscure MFA program. There he encounters the most arrogant student ever... who happens to have an amazing plot idea. Several years later (and still struggling professionally) Jake realizes that that novel has never been published, learns that the student is dead, and decides to use that plot idea to write the book himself. 

There are some interesting questions raised here. Who owns an idea? Who gets to tell a story? What about cultural appropriation? I did not read the 2023 novel Yellowface by R.F. Kuang, but understand it addresses similar issues.

I've read four books by this author now and while The Latecomer  remains my favorite, this was solid 4-star read... though not quite  4.5 stars. (Do I really need quarter stars now??) I'm excited to read the sequel, entitled The Sequel, coming this fall.


Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

I'm experimenting with a longterm nonfiction read. Instead of reaching for my computer first thing in the morning, I spend about 30 minutes with this book and my coffee - found reading time, if you will.  After a week, it's starting to feel like a habit. I've only read 90 pages so far and have over 800 to go. It's going to take a while, but Goodwin is both an excellent writer and wonderful storyteller!

I'm hoping to start another book later today, too. I have three library ebooks to sample... hopefully one will stand out. 

The week ahead//
We'll be packing, cleaning, and loading the car ahead of our drive north at the end of the week. Most of the hurricane repairs are done, except for a few small things to finish up when we get back. I probably won't be around much for the rest of the month, but will try and check in around Memorial Day.

How was your week? What are you reading?

 The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

April Reading Wrap-Up and A List of May Possibilities

April is over and now we're into the first weekend of May. The heat and humidity are inching higher as we close in on the rainy season. I'm trying to walk either earlier in the morning or later in the evening. 

April turned out to be a good month for reading - another month with extra time at home with (or waiting for!) contractors. I read four novels, including one classic, plus a short story collection.


classic novel, ⭐⭐⭐

James by Percival Everett 
literary fiction, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

short story collection, ⭐⭐⭐💫

Girls and Their Horses by Eliza Jane Brazier
mystery/thriller, ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Absolution by Alice McDermott
literary fiction, ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫


classic novel, currently reading

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
nonfiction/history, long-term summer read

There There by Tommy Orange

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (reread)

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Also in May//
Our time in Florida is winding down. The contractor has another week and a half to finish up.... we'll see what happens. Reservations have been made for the drive north. We'll see friends in Beaufort, SC and my cousin in Chapel Hill, and arrive in CT ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

My May reading list is optimistic, to say the least. I don't read much while we're traveling and my focus is usually elsewhere as we pack and prepare for the trip, but it never hurts to have a plan!

What was your favorite April book? Do you have any special plans for May? 


Sunday, April 28, 2024

The Sunday Salon: April 28, 2024

Hello, friends. It's another sunny, warm, and breezy day in southwest FL and I can't believe we're heading into May this week... wasn't January just a few weeks ago?? Yesterday I celebrated Independent Bookstore Day with a trip to our local indie. They are still in the midst of hurricane repairs and stock is limited, but I bought The Mango Tree: A Memoir of Fruit, Florida, and Felony  by Annabelle Tometich, a local author and former food writer/restaurant critic for the local newspaper. I'm happy to support both local businesses and authors!

Finished last week//

Absolution by Alice McDermott

This is the third novel for my Vietnam project and my first by Alice McDermott. It was also another buddy ready with Tina! Inspired by Graham Greene's  The Quiet American  and set in the early 1960s, it focuses on American wives in Vietnam and their pursuit to do good and relieve suffering. Tricia, a shy, young, newlywed, is befriended by Charlene, a more experienced wife and mother of three. She is swept up by Charlene and her efforts to relieve local wretchedness. I especially loved the structure of this novel. Sixty years later Charlene's daughter, a child in Vietnam, reaches out to now 80-something Tricia. They both look back on their time in Saigon and reflect on how that pursuit of 'inconsequential good' effected the course of their lives. Was it actually more selfish than selfless?

McDermott also touches on a 60s version of feminism, family, faith, activism, war, and more.There is a lot going on in this book with plenty to reflect upon and discuss.  I'll certainly be reading more by Alice McDermott!

Set aside//

The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

This is the June MMD book club selection and my library hold came in much earlier than expected. If I don't read it now, I might not get another chance before discussion time. So I read the first 60 pages yesterday. Maybe it's a case of bad timing - Alice McDermott is a tough act to follow - but this book just seems silly... 

I'm not sure what I'll pick up next.

The week ahead//

I can't wrap my head around Wednesday being first of May! There has been a flurry of activity to get our post-hurricane repairs finished, and it's starting to look like we may just make it. I still expect some smaller punch list items may linger until next season.

This week I'm looking forward to MMD's live author chat with Ada Calhoun (Also A Poet and Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give), having friends over for dinner, and finalizing plans for our drive north in a few weeks.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.


Sunday, April 21, 2024

The Sunday Salon: Shells Galore!

Hello, friends, it's another sunny Sunday in southwest Florida! The entire week has been sunny and breezy with rising (now tropical) humidity... perfect pre-rainy season weather. The steady winds have brought in great masses of shells up and down the island, and I've heard about several coveted junonia finds. My search began in the 90s...

Here is a sample of what I picked up from a single shell mound (left to right): 
fighting conch
paper fig
lightning whelk
banded tulip

It's been a pretty good week on the reading front, too. I finished two books and started another.  Also, that bathroom vanity I mentioned last week got delivered... now we wait for the installer. 

Recent Reading//

This slim short story collection by New Yorker writer Lore Segal focuses on a  a group of elderly women in NYC who have been lunching together for forty years.The stories deal with aging, loss, etc., are tightly written, and bittersweet. As a whole, the collection has a melancholy feel to it. I'm glad I read it, but don't especially recommend it.

Girls and Their Horses by Eliza Jane Brazier

I didn't expect to enjoy this, the May MMD book club selection, as much as I did. Mysteries and thrillers are not my usual genre, but this turned out to be a welcome change of pace following James.  I loved horses when I was a girl, and the time I spent in this soap opera-ish equestrian world of the ultra-wealthy was a lot of fun! Reminiscent of a Lucy Foley novel, the reader doesn't even know who has been murdered until close to the end of the story. This is not great literature by any means and the writing felt like it was geared toward a YA audience at times, but I really enjoyed my time with this book.

Current reading//

Absolution by Alice McDermott

I started another book for my Vietnam project on Friday and am happy to be reading with Tina again.

The week ahead//
It's getting close to that time when we start thinking about all the things we still want to do before heading north. With our daughter's wedding coming up in September and two other family weddings before that, we're cutting the Florida season short again. I hope I can check at least a few items off that list in the upcoming week!

That's it for me, how was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.


Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Sunday Salon: April 14, 2024

Hello, friends! It's another sunny Sunday in SWFL. Add in a nice breeze with low humidity and it just doesn't get much better than this. We hit a milestone with post-hurricane repairs this week- our upstairs main living area, interior stairwell, and lower level foyer are completely done! At last. The lower level guest area is coming into the home stretch, too. What a relief!

Highlights last week included an amazing dinner out with old friends, the 52% solar eclipse (so cool, but why didn't we join my brother and SIL in Little Rock for totality?), plus some beach and reading time. 

Recent Reading//

Even though I certainly read this book back in junior high or high school, large sections felt unfamiliar. I didn't like it much in my early teens and, all these years later, reading about Huck's adventures was still a bit of a slog. Switching to a read/listen combination made it a little easier. Elijah Wood’s narration (available free with an audible plus membership) was excellent. I don’t read abridged editions, but it might have been a better option in this case.

James by Percival Everett

As you probably already know, this book is a reimagining of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn  told from Jim's point of view... though he actually prefer the name James. And it is brilliant! It's also thrilling, subversive, and, at times, difficult to read. The author took some interesting liberties with the story in the second half and the conclusion literally took my breath away. 

This was another read/listen combination for me and the audio version narrated Dominic Hoffman was excellent. I'm curious to read more of Everett's work, possibly The Trees  next. Have you read it?

I should also mention that rereading Huck Finn certainly added to my appreciation of James, though a reread is not absolutely necessary. I would, however, recommend at least skimming an abridged edition. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Current reading//

Ladies' Lunch by Lore Segal

This short story collection by New Yorker  writer Lore Segal features 16 stories about a group of elderly women who have regularly met for lunch for more than 40 years. The stories deal with aging, loss, etc. and, as you might expect, the overall tone is somewhat melancholy. I'm glad it such a slim book.

About to start//

Girls and their Horses by Eliza Jane Brazier

This is the May selection at MMD book club - an unusual choice for them and for me. I have the ebook on my kindle. We'll see how it goes.

Later today// 
My plan is to spend some time on the beach this afternoon... walking, shelling, and reading. 

The week ahead// 
It should be a relatively quiet week ahead. Other than the expected delivery of the downstairs bathroom vanity, we don't have anything special planned... at least not yet. It should be a blissfully 'routine' week.😊

How was your week? What are you reading today?

Sunday, April 7, 2024

March Reading Wrap-Up and Plans for April

Now that we've finished the first week of April, it's time to post a March reading wrap-up. Overall, I had a great reading month! After the last of our guest left early in the month, I have been at home more than usual as work continued on our house. And that translated into more reading time.

I ended up reading eight (!) books in March, which may be getting close to a personal record. Some were pretty short though. I started my Vietnam project, read a couple of works by Toni Morrison, and, thanks to MMD book club, I was introduced to Ada Calhoun and read a couple of her nonfiction titles, too.

Books Read in March

Recitatif by Toni Morrison, forward by Zadie Smith (short story) - 5 stars
We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange  - 4 stars
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai - 5 stars
House Love by Patric Richardson (nonfiction) - 3 stars
Also a Poet by Ada Calhoun (nonfiction, memoir) - 4.5 stars
Don't Overthink It by Anne Bogel (nonfiction) - 4 stars
The Quiet American by Graham Greene (fiction, classic) - 4 stars
Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun (nonfiction) - 4 stars

 Favorite March Book

Looking ahead to April...

I'd like to continue reading about Vietnam, read the May selection for MMD, reread Huck Finn  in preparation for Percival Everett's James, and maybe even snag a copy of Amor Towles' new book. (I wonder if I should reread Rules of Civility first...)

April Reading Possibilities

James by Percival Everett
Girls and their Horses by Eliza Jane Brazier
Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara (audio)
Absolution by Alice McDermott

We'll see how it goes.... 

What was your favorite March book? What do you have planned for April?

Sunday, March 31, 2024

An Easter Sunday Salon: March 31, 2024

Hello, friends. It's been a beautiful Easter Sunday in Sanibel... probably the best beach day we've had all year! Traditionally Easter marks the end of our 'high season', but since it's so early this year, that may not be the case. The beaches and restaurants are the busiest I've seen them since before Hurricane Ian. And speaking of Ian, this past week marked the 18 month anniversary of the storm that devastated our island. Though there is still a long road to recovery, it's really amazing to see how far we have come. 

Repairs continue on our home, too. The driveway project was completed last week, and now we're looking ahead to landscaping. The painters were here most of last week. I think they'll need another day or two, but then our upstairs (main) living area be back to the way it was before the storm! With any luck the downstairs will be finished before we head north, too.

Recent Reading//

Also A Poet by Ada Calhoun

This is the May selection for the MMD book club. I can say with certainty that I never would have picked this book up on my own, but ended up really enjoying it! ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫

Don't Overthink It by Anne Bogel

As a life-long overthinker, this has been on my list since it was released several years ago. I found it on my library's shelf last week and was pleased to find several very useful strategies to break the cycle. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Quiet American by Graham Greene

My Vietnam reading continues. I plan to start Absolution by Alice McDermott next month and understand that it has a "narrative impact that recalls Graham Greene’s The Quiet American" so I decided to read this first. There is much I don't understand about America's role in Southeast Asia and it was interesting to read this take by a British author. I can see why it is considered a classic.

Current reading//

by Ada Calhoun, narrated by the author

I enjoyed Calhoun's voice so much in Also A Poet, I turned to this audiobook inspired by her "wildly popular" New York Times essay "The Wedding Toast I'll Never Give"... really good so far.

I plan to read James by Percival Everett soon and thought it might be a good idea to refresh my memory of Huck Finn.

It's hard to believe tomorrow is April.... I'll try to post a monthly reading wrap-up later this week.
How was your week? hat have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.


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