Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Sanibel Scenes

Sea Fog



Dolphin Sighting



At the Beach

We head home on Friday... I'll catch up with you this weekend.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Slump-Busting Nonfiction: Two Mini-Reviews

I'm not sure what it is with me and reading this month, but I just can't seem to get interested in or focus on literary fiction. Countless books have been abandoned after the first chapter or two failed to wow me. Perhaps I'm becoming too fussy or difficult to please, but I think a much-dreaded reading slump is the culprit.

Rereading old favorites is my usual remedy but, since I'm here in Florida and my books are back home, a trip to the library was in order. Surprisingly, I found myself drawn toward the nonfiction  shelves. Light nonfiction, in particular.



Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky

How could I resist a book with this blurb?
"In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential and Waiter Rant, a rollicking, eye-opening, fantastically indiscreet memoir of a life spent (and misspent) in the hotel industry."
It proved to be irreverent, gossipy, foul-mouthed, slightly immature, and just plain fun. Although not as good as Kitchen Confidential, I read half the book when I got home from the library and immediately felt my slump lifting. When I picked it up again 48 hours later, I had grown a little tired of the narrator. I'd recommend setting aside an afternoon or evening and reading this in one sitting.

Most important takeaway? You'll never get a really nice room or an upgrade if you book a hotel with expedia.

I wonder if the library has Waiter Rant. Have you read it?



Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott

I'd never heard of Madame Chic  until Katherine reviewed another of these books on her blog not too long ago. It looked like fun and I was happy to find this title on the library shelf. You're probably familiar with most of her "secrets", but I was entertained for a couple of hours and did pick up a few tips.

     Use a finishing spray... your make-up really will last longer.
     Consider a clarisonic for skin care.
     Retain an air of mystery through silence.
     Develop a signature entertaining style.
     (At my age, I already have a signature style, but it's still good advice.)

I would certainly borrow (not buy) other Madame Chic titles.


Do you have other light nonfiction titles to recommend?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday Intro: My Brilliant Friend

This could be it - the slump of a lifetime. I've sampled the first chapter of countless books over the past couple of weeks and can't seem to stick with anything. Writing a blog post seems just as futile.

For a while, I thought I'd settled on Winter of the World by Ken Follett, but my hardcover edition is just too heavy to read comfortably. I've added my name to the library hold list for a digital copy, but may purchase my own if the wait is too long.

Today I'm trying out:


Eliminating All the Traces
1.
This morning Rino telephoned. I thought he wanted money again and I was ready to day no. But that was not the reason for the phone call: his mother was gone.
"Since when?"
"Since two tweaks ago."
"And you're calling me now?"
My Brilliant Friend
by Elena Ferrante

This novel is the first of Ferrante's popular Neapolitan Novels and the first few chapters are promising. Here is the goodreads summary:
A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. 
The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.
What do you think of the opening? 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.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Weekly Update 2/14/15: Winter Break

Hello, friends. This update post is coming to you a little early this week. My sister and brother-in-law arrive for "winter break" in a few hours and I'm not sure there will be much time for blogging once they get here.

We've had another beautiful week in Florida - cool by local standards, but total bliss if you're from upstate New York. Highlights include more beach walks, bike rides, a trip through the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, an armload of books from the local library, and a delicious spinach salad with shrimp complimented by this gorgeous view.

I slipped into a mini-reading slump after finishing Tolstoy and the Purple Chair  last week (my review)... the book was a real downer. After several novels didn't seem to work for me, I perused the library shelves for some light nonfiction. That seemed to do the trick!


Read this week//


Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality
by Jacob Tomsky


Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris
by Jennifer L. Scott

Neither book is worthy of an entire review, but I plan to write one post with two minis.


Listening to//


An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine, narrated by Suzanne Toren
Good so far, but I'm not really listening much these days.

Current reading//


Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
This book arrived yesterday in a big batch of forwarded mail from home. I sampled a few pages last night and plan to read the rest of it over the coming week.


On the blog//
Tuesday Intro: Heads in Beds
West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan: Pick or Pass?
Review:  Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch


Looking forward to// 
-  The SU/Duke basketball game tonight. The season has been awful, but I'm a diehard fan.
-  The Sunday Farmers Market and Arts & Crafts Festival
-  Spending time with my sister

Hoping//
My family and friends in the northeast stay safe and warm during this latest blast of winter.

Have a great weekend.


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

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading
by Nina Sankovitch
Harper, 2011
256 pages
source: purchased

Description (from amazon):
Catalyzed by the loss of her sister, a mother of four spends one year savoring a great book every day, from Thomas Pynchon to Nora Ephron and beyond. In the tradition of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project  and Joan Dideon’s A Year of Magical Thinking, Nina Sankovitch’s soul-baring and literary-minded memoir is a chronicle of loss, hope, and redemption. Nina ultimately turns to reading as therapy and through her journey illuminates the power of books to help us reclaim our lives.


My thoughts:

This was a good book. Not drop-what-you're-doing-and-go-get-a-copy good, but a solid read. It was also a bit of a downer. I was expecting something along the lines of The End of You Life Book Club (my review), but this was much sadder - a memoir of loss and grief, rather than reading.
[reading books] ... was not a way to rid myself of sorrow but a way to absorb it. Through memory. While memory cannot take sorrow away or bring back the dead, remembering ensures that we always have the past with us, the bad moments but also the very, very good moments of laughter shared and meals eaten and books discussed... Remembrance is acknowledging that a life was lived. 
Words create the stories that become history and become unforgettable. Every fiction portrays truth: good fiction is truth. Stories about lives remembered bring us backward while allowing us to move forward.  (28%)
Sankovitch read a book a day for one year. More than a year had passed since the death of her sister and she desperately needed to come to terms with the loss and get her life back on track. Reading provided the means.

Sankovitch read globally - a wide variety of books, many in translation, many unfamiliar to me. General thoughts about books are interspersed with memories of her sister. But this memoir is not about the books, as I was expecting. It's not a reading journal. In fact, not all of the books she read are even mentioned. (A complete list is provided at the end.) This is a memoir of grief, her sister, and family stories, with the books serving as a vehicle for recall.

I suspect I would have enjoyed her blog during the year she was reading a book a day but, despite some memorable quotes, the overall sadness makes me hesitant to recommend this book to a friend.

My rating:



Bottom line: Proceed with caution - too much sadness and not enough books.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan: Pick or Pass?


West of Sunset
by Stewart O'Nan
Viking, 2015
305 pages
source: review copy from publisher via Netgalley

Regular readers of this blog know I am a huge fan of author Stewart O'Nan. I am in awe of his ability to turn ordinary people and the mundane events of daily life into novels filled with characters and situations that genuinely matter to me. O'Nan also has the distinction of being the only author I have ever pre-ordered.

His new novel, West of Sunset, is a bit of a departure. As you've probably heard, the novel is about F. Scott Fitzgerald, specifically the last three years of his life. He is a "has been" in literary circles, his health is failing, and Zelda is institutionalized. He moves to Hollywood to try his hand at screenwriting. There are no ordinary people or mundane events here. Instead, big time celebrities grace these pages - Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Bogie, Joan Crawford, George Oppenheimer, and the list goes on.

The novels starts off slowly. Very slowly. In fact, I considered abandoning it. HOWEVER, it is Stewart O'Nan and I did request a review copy, so I chose to continue and was eventually rewarded.

Should you read West of Sunset?  I do recommend this novel, but with reservations. Hopefully my "Pick or Pass" will help you make your decision.

Pick up West of Sunset  if:

  • You are a die-hard fan of Stewart O'Nan and want to read everything he has ever written.
  • You can't get enough of F. Scott Fitzgerald, his novels, or his life with Zelda.
  • You generally enjoy fictionalized accounts of the lives of famous people.
  • You appreciate a beautifully written, well-researched piece of fiction which provides insight into the life of its subject.

Pass on West of Sunset  if:

  • You are curious about Stewart O'Nan and would like to try one of his novels. Do yourself a favor and pick up Last Night at the Lobster  instead.
  • You don't have much interest in F. Scott Fitzgerald or Hollywood. This will surely bore you to death.
  • Your primary interest in the Fitzgerald household is Zelda. She's a minor player here.
  • You often wonder why, after so much research on the subject, an author chooses to write a novel instead of a biography.

What do you think? Will you pick or pass?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday Intro: Heads in Beds


Introduction
I've worked in hotels for more than a decade. I've checked you in, checked you out, oriented you to the property, served your beverages, separated your white panties from the white bedsheets, parked your car, tasted your room service (before and, sadly, after), cleaned your toilets, denied you a late checkout, given you a wake-up call, eaten M&M's out of your minibar, laughed at your jokes, and taken your money. I have been on the front lines, and by that I mean front desk, of upscale hotels for years, and I've seen it all firsthand.
HEADS IN BEDS:A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality
by Jacob Tomsky

Over the weekend, I mentioned a developing reading slump. Yesterday I visited the library and came home with a half dozen potential slump-busters, including this one. It seems to be doing the trick. Heads in Beds is not great literature, or even especially well-written for that matter, but I've already turned half of its pages. Maybe I'll even finish today. Light, nonfiction, entertaining... just what the doctor ordered.

One sentence summary (from goodreads):
In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential  and Waiter Rant, a rollicking, eye-opening, fantastically indiscreet memoir of a life spent (and misspent) in the hotel industry.

What do you think of the opening? 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.

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