Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Sunday Salon: Still on Vacation

Good morning and Happy Sunday!

The scene//  Sunday, noonish. Drinking a tall glass of cold water and relaxing on the lanai after a long walk. I’m still in Florida and will bike to the library to publish this post later today.

Reading//  Not much, but it will be a higher priority this week. I started The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman last night and loved the opening chapters. It could be a real winner!

Listening//  I’m listening to Middlemarch on my walks, but only when I'm alone... and that didn't happen much last week. Still, I’ve past the 65% mark and am really enjoying this classic.

Watching//  In anticipation of yesterday’s rain (and without access to Netflix), I borrowed the Foyle’s War series from the library. It looks like we’ll have beautiful weather for the rest of the week, so I might not make much more progress. We’ll see…

I’m still watching basketball, too, but March Madness isn’t quite as exciting after your team has been eliminated.

Blogging//  The TBR Triple Dog Dare ends tomorrow and it looks  like I’m going to make it! That is, if you forget about the special one-day dispensation graciously granted last month. Thank you, James, for hosting this event again and for being so generous with exceptions ;-)

With limited internet access, I haven’t been able to read blogs or respond to your comments. I have read and appreciate all of your comments, and hope to spend a couple of hours at the library for some serious blog-hopping this week!

Planning//  A quiet afternoon of reading before my father-in-law comes over for dinner. I’m not quite sure of the menu yet, but a grill will definitely be involved!

What are you up to today?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

TSS: Warmth, at Last

What a difference a day makes. The view from my window Friday morning featured gray skies and a fresh inch or two of snow. We arrived in Florida around midnight and by Saturday morning I was ready for my first walk on the beach.

The scene//   8 AM, on the lanai, drinking coffee, and listening to the birds

Reading//  Middlemarch, but  without much progress this past week.

Listening//  Same as above ;-)

Watching//  March Madness.  Some of you will already know that my Syracuse Orangemen crashed, burned, and made their exit from the Big Dance last night. They also busted a lot f brackets in the process. For whatever reason, it seems this team checked out a few weeks ago. The only upside of this development is that I don’t need to but a new television for the condo today!

Wondering//  If Middlemarch is really appropriate beach reading…

Hoping//  This beautiful weather continues for our entire visit.

Looking forward to//  A bike ride to the Farmer’s Market and some peel & eat shrimp.

Blogging//  As we head into the final week of The TBR Triple Dog Dare, it looks like I’m going to make it... at least if you ignore that one special Sunday-afternoon dispensation ;-)

I'm sure how much internet access I’ll have this week, but I will catch up with all of you as soon as I can. Have a great week!

Friday, March 21, 2014

We Are Water by Wally Lamb

We Are Water
by Wally Lamb
Harper, 2013
576 pages
source: purchased

Publisher's summary:
We Are Water  is a disquieting and ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy, from Wally Lamb, the New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed  and I Know This Much Is True.

After 27 years of marriage and three children, Anna Oh—wife, mother, outsider artist—has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her success. They plan to wed in the Oh family’s hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut. But the wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora’s Box of toxic secrets—dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs’ lives.

We Are Water is a layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs—nonconformist, Anna; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest. It is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.

With humor and compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience and the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.

My thoughts:

Wally Lamb is one of my favorite authors. When he writes a novel, it's always a "must read". This time I purchased the kindle edition because we were going on vacation and I didn't feel like lugging around a nearly 600 page hardcover.

As it turned out, We Are Water lead me on a different kind of journey. It is populated by typical Lamb characters - very real, but flawed. As usual, I delighted in the mention of familiar landmarks - Claire's in New Haven, CT and Syracuse University. And, as always, I loved Lamb's storytelling.

Yet somehow, this novel didn't have quite the same impact as his earlier works. I shed no tears, nor did I laugh out loud. Maybe the dark underbelly of humanity played too prominent a role this time. I found the pedophilia and abuse to be repulsive... and felt like I needed a shower after spending time with those characters. {However, as I type, it occurs to me that the revulsion is actually a different sort of impact.}

Despite hints of redemption, this was all a bit too much for me - too many story lines, too much dysfunction, too many pages. I am quite certain another excellent Lamb novel was in there but, with so much to wade through, I never quite found it.

Don't get me wrong. We Are Water  is still a good book with marvelous storytelling and I'm glad to have read it. Even though it will not be a favorite, it made me want to reread The Hour I First Believed or I Know This Much is True.

I love Wally Lamb's style.

My rating:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday Intro: The Light Between Oceans

27th APRIL 1926 
On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff's edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross. A single fat cloud snailed across the late-April sky, which stretched above the island in a mirror of the ocean below. Isabel sprinkled more water and patted down the soil around the rosemary bush she had just planted. 
"...and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," she whispered. 
For just a moment, her mind tricked her into hearing an infant's cry. She dismissed the illusion, her eye drawn instead by a pool of whales weaving their way up the coast to calve in the warmer waters, emerging now and again with a fluke of their tails like needles through tapestry. She heard the cry again, louder this time in the early-morning breeze. Impossible.
The Light Between Oceans
by M.L. Stedman

Even though I haven't finished Middlemarch, I still need to pack a few more books for our upcoming vacation. The Light Between Oceans  is my book club's next selection and it's already in my bag. My sister loved this one and, after reading the intro, I can't wait to get started.

What do you think? Does the intro make you want to 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, March 16, 2014

TSS: Another Week, Another Snowstorm

Here we are in mid-March and still talking about snowstorms....certainly not an unusual occurrence, but we all seem particularly weather-weary this year. Let's hope Vulcan's 12" dump was the last significant snowfall of the season.

The scene//  9AM, a lazy Sunday morning, drinking coffee, reading newspapers, blogging

Reading//  Middlemarch... I'm enjoying this cast of characters very much and hope to hit the 50% mark by the end of the weekend.

Listening//  Middlemarch, again. I decided to go the total immersion route and downloaded Juliet Stevenson's narration. I will finish this book... hopefully by the end of the month.

Watching//  The Syracuse Orangemen choke in the homestretch. I know injuries are a factor, but they really crashed and burned at the ACC tournament. Mercifully, our power went out with under two minutes left in the game so we couldn't see the bitter end...most notably those six missed shots in their final offensive possession. Today is Selection Sunday, so I'll be watching the brackets fill in this evening. On to the Big Dance.

And you guys were right - I'm loving Call the Midwife.

In the kitchen//  Yesterday I posted a recipe for the Easy Fish Piccata I mentioned in last week's Sunday Salon. I'm happy to report it turned out just as well the second time.

Loving//  The pretty pink tulips I picked up at Wegmans this week. A gorgeous display was set up just inside the front door... how could I resist? They offer a striking contrast to all the white outside.

Anticipating//  A trip to Florida on Friday! Twin A is on spring break and will join us the first week... I will very happily trade all this snow for sand.

Blogging//  A regular week ahead, but I'm not sure how much I'll be around once we get to Florida. Internet access is still an issue, but I will have my laptop and plan to make several trips to the library or coffee shop.

What do you have planned for today?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Weekend Cooking: Easy Fish Piccata

We eat a lot of seafood in my family and every year around the beginning of Lent, I search for new recipes to add to my repertoire. Pinterest is a favorite source of inspiration and last week's find was Easy Fish Piccata. We all loved it but, unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture. I suppose I could have borrowed the photo from Pinterest, but I used a different type of fish... and the recipe was delicious so we were all happy to eat it again this week!

My pin is linked to Very Culinary blog. That recipe calls for frozen barramundi fillets which, as I learned from the post, is sometimes referred to as "sustainable sea bass". They can be purchased at Trader Joe's, but since TJ's won't make a debut in my area until fall, I perused the fresh fish offerings at Wegmans. I opted for flounder, but think sole, tilapia, or similar white fish would have worked just as well.

Here is my adapted version of the recipe:

Easy Fish Piccata 
Serves 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

• 2 Flounder fillets (about 6 ounces each)
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
• all-purpose flour (I used Wegman's Pan Searing Flour)
• nonstick spray
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup dry white wine
• 2 garlic gloves, minced
• 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon drained capers
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• fresh lemon slices
• chopped fresh Italian parsley

Season fillets with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then dredge in flour. Coat a sauté pan or electric skillet with nonstick spray, add oil, and heat to medium-high. Saute fillets for about 4 minutes on one side; gently flip over and saute the other side for about 3-4 minutes (depending on thickness) until golden. Transfer fillets to a platter.

Deglaze pan with wine and add minced garlic. Cook until liquid is nearly evaporated, about 1-2 minutes. Add broth, lemon juice, and capers. Add in butter. Once butter melts, pour sauce over fillets. Garnish with lemon slices and chopped fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

I served the fish with steamed broccoli and roasted butternut squash. If I'd prepared the squash ahead of time and just warmed it up, the entire dinner could have been on the table in just 15minutes. Meals don't get much quicker or easier than that!

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page

Thursday, March 13, 2014

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
by Ann Patchett
narrated by Ann Patchett
Harper Audio, 2013
11 hours and 35 minutes
source: purchased

Publisher's summary:
Blending literature and memoir, Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto examines her deepest commitments: to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Together, these essays, previously published in The Atlantic, Harper, Vogue, and The Washington Post, form a resonant portrait of a life lived with loyalty and with love.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage takes us into the very real world of Ann Patchett's life. Stretching from her childhood to the present day, from a disastrous early marriage to a later happy one, it covers a multitude of topics, including relationships with family and friends, and charts the hard work and joy of writing, and the unexpected thrill of opening a bookstore.

As she shares stories of the people, places, ideals, and art to which she has remained indelibly committed, Ann Patchett brings into focus the large experiences and small moments that have shaped her as a daughter, wife, and writer.

My thoughts:

As much as I've enjoyed reading Ann Patchett's novels over the years, I'm beginning to think nonfiction is her true calling. This is The Story of a Happy Marriage, her latest book, is a collection of essays. Most have been previously published and I'd even read a few, yet they seemed more powerful when collected.

From unhappy childhood Christmas memories to the obligatory advice for would-be writers, the book also includes Patchett's essays about opening an independent bookstore in Nashville and her controversial convocation address delivered at Clemson University. The piece about her grandmother's death had me literally sobbing on an early morning beach walk. {Thank God for sunglasses!} The same thing happened as she said goodbye to her beloved dog, Rose, a few essays later. Patchett also shares the story of her brief, disastrous first marriage, and recounts how her second marriage, the happy one, came to be.

The reader begins to know and understand Patchett through her essays, and listening to the author read her own work imparts an even greater sense of intimacy. Her voice is very pleasant, too. If you listen to audiobooks, I highly recommend choosing the audio version here.

All in all, this collection is a perfect blend of the writing life and life experiences. The essays are thought-provoking, interesting, and moving, and I would be hard-pressed to select a favorite. Patchett's Truth and Beauty  was a nonfiction favorite back in 2005 and I'm sure This is the Story of a Happy Marriage will be on my list this year.

My rating:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday Intro: The Secret Life of Pronouns

Stop for a minute and think about your last conversation, e-mail, or text message. You think you said something about dinner plans, your laundry, a strategy for the next sales meeting. And you probably did. But at the same time, you said much, much more. The precise words you used to communicate your message revealed more about you than you can imagine. 
You, a, am, to, I, but, the, for, not... 
Pronouns, articles, prepositions, and a handful of other small, stealthy word reveal parts of your personality, thinking style, emotional state, and connections with others. These words, typically called function words, account for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of your vocabulary but make up almost 60 percent of the words you use. Your brain is not wired to notice them but if you pay close attention, you will start to see their subtle power.
The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us
by James W. Pennebaker

This opening strikes me as fascinating and full of possibility. Does that makes me a word nerd? Either way, I stumbled upon this book at the library last week and couldn't resist bringing it home for a close look.

What do you think? Does it make you want to 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.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Monday Update

... basically a Sunday Salon Post, but the weekend got away from me.

The scene//  Monday morning. Drinking coffee. Still happy from a wonderful weekend in Rhinebeck with Twin A and Daughter #1.

Reading//  Middlemarch. After 150 pages, I'm finally into the story.

Listening//  Finished Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman... an eye-opener. Trying to decide whether to start a new book or make Middlemarch a read/listen combo.

Watching//  Basketball. The Syracuse Orangemen are killing me, but have the #2 seed for the ACC Tournament next weekend.

Thank you for all the excellent Netflix series suggestions. They will certainly provide much-needed motivation until I can walk outside again!

In the kitchen//  I found a recipe for easy fish picatta on Pinterest, prepared it using fresh flounder and thought it was amazing - definitely worthy of its own weekend cooking post. I'll make it again this week and try to remember to take a picture.

Planning//  Our next trip to Florida. With another winter storm on the horizon, it can't come soon enough!

Loving//  Time spent with my daughters. I am truly blessed.

How was your weekend?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (audiobook)

The Signature of All Things
by Elizabeth Gilbert
narrated by Juliet Stevenson
Penguin Audio, 2013
21 hours and 44 minutes
source: review copy from publisher

Publisher's summary:
In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure, and discovery. Spanning much of the 18th and 19th centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker - a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia.

Born in 1800, Henry's brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father's money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma's research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction - into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist - but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe - from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who - born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution - bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert's wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of listeners.

My thoughts: 
If you're like me and found Eat, Pray, Love to be a whiny tale of self-indulgence, do yourself a favor and forget it. Please don't hold that memoir against Elizabeth Gilbert and her return to fiction because, if you do, you'll miss a very good book.

 I was not planning to read The Signature of All Things, and to be honest, the description offered little incentive. It was only after noticing my audio review copy was narrated by Juliet Stevenson, that I decided to give it a try.

Other reviewers have referred to The Signature of All Things as Dickensian in scope and I certainly agree. The novel spans most of the 18th and 19th centuries, much of the world, and offers up a host of characters, themes, and story lines. This sprawling novel tells the story of Alma's Whitaker's life and examines the development of her character from birth through old age. She is a remarkably intelligent, independent woman and it was a pleasure to observe her over her entire lifespan. The book is infused with plenty of science, especially botany and evolution. I did not expect to like this book, but ended up being enthralled.

I'm attributing much of my enjoyment to the audio production - Juliet Stevenson has been a favorite narrator for years. Often when I love listening to a book, it's hard to know whether I would have found it as engaging in print... but for the record, Jackie did.

My ratings
 for the story:

for the performance:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Popular Authors to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  I haven't participated in a few months, but this week's topic had me instantly composing a mental list. Here we go...


1. Rainbow Rowell
A current blogger favorite, her novel Eleanor & Park is on my wish list.

2. Jo Nesbo
Sandy and Jill introduced me to Nesbo's Harry Hole novels. After reading their rave reviews, I finally snagged a copy of The Redbreast at our library book sale.

3. Simon Von Booy
His novel Everything Beautiful Began After was one of my earliest kindle purchases, but I still haven't read it.

4. Thrity Umrigar
I just know I'm going to love her books and even have two of them on my shelf. What am I waiting for?

5. Liane Moriarty
I think I'll start with The Husband's Secret.

6. John Green
I know.  The Fault in our Stars is on my kindle and it's been there since last fall. I promise to read it soon.

7. Joshilyn Jackson
Surely I'm the last person on earth to read this author. A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty is in my audible library. It's narrated by the author.

8. Fay Weldon
The description of Habits of the House says "From the award-winning novelist and writer of Upstairs Downstairs, the launch of a brilliant new trilogy about what life was really like for masters and servants before the world of Downton Abbey." How can I resist?

9. Paul Auster
Suggestions of where to start are welcome!

10. Georgette Heyer
This prolific author lived from 1902-1974 and has a very loyal band of blogger fans. Will I become part of that group?

Have you read any of these authors? Where should I start?

For more Top Ten Tuesday lists, visit The Broke and the Bookish.

Monday, March 3, 2014

New to My (Virtual) Shelf

I love reading on my kindle paperwhite. It's perfect for travel, I can use it in bright sunlight, plus I can read in bed without using the book light my husband finds so annoying. Amazon has made it easy and inexpensive to add new titles to my virtual shelf with their Kindle Daily Deals, too. The problem is that without seeing the books on my physical shelf, it's easy to forget about them.

Amanda employed a strategy last month that I thought might work for me, too. In an effort to stay accountable to myself, I'm listing my February kindle purchases here on the blog. They include:

We Are Water by Wally Lamb
I originally borrowed this from library (after being the hold list for months, so I'm still still good with the TBR Dare), but didn't want to lug the nearly 600 page hardcover on a recent plane trip. I ended up paying the regular kindle price. Read, but not yet reviewed.

The Mouse-Proof Kitchen by Saira Shah
This one has been on my wish list since Diane reviewed it last  year, but it will have to wait until after the TBR dare. The last I checked, it was still $2.99.

The American Home Front: 1941-1942 by Alistair Cooke
This daily deal just sounded interesting. I also purchased the audible edition for 99 cents!

Honeymoon in Paris: A Novella by Jojo Moyes
This has a regular price of $2.99. I read it (taking a one day break from the TBR Dare) and wrote a quick review!

The Summer without Men by Siri Hustvedt
I've wanted to read this for a while now. The price is still just $3.99

What's new on your virtual shelf?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

TSS: March, at Last

Good morning and welcome to March! For being such a short month, February sure seemed long. Storm after storm, bone-chilling cold, and here we are... watching it snow again. March has certainly "come in like a lion".

The scene//  A very peaceful Sunday morning, 8 AM. My husband has been in NYC since Thursday, Twin B is still sleeping, and Zelda is napping at my feet. I'm sipping a cup of hot, black coffee from my favorite mug and gazing at the falling snow.

Reading//  There's something comforting about a long classic in the dead of winter. Although the first few chapters were slow, Middlemarch  is picking up now. I think it will be my primary read for the next few weeks.

My one day reprieve from the TBR Triple Dog Dare last Sunday was exactly what the doctor ordered!  A quiet day with a couple of hours on the couch with Honeymoon in Paris by Jojo Moyes (my review) left me ready to take on the world by Monday.

Listening//  I finished The Boys in the Boat (so good!) and then listened to a very quick book, Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath. This was an impulse purchase thanks to audible's BOGO sale last week. I didn't find a lot of new information, but thought it was a very good motivator.

Yesterday I started Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman - my other half of the BOGO (buy one, get one) sale - and it's shaping up to be a great listen.

Book Club// We met on Friday to discuss The Boys in the Boat. One member didn't finish because her husband hijacked the book, but everyone else (including the hijacking husband) loved it. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman was selected for March. I'm pretty happy about that because Les loved it and so did my sister.

Watching// The season finale of Downton Abbey last Sunday had my head spinning. There were so many short scenes from multiple story lines, but no major cliffhanger or catastrophe. That's a good thing. Who could have handled another episode like last year's finale?  This season's final image was truly heartwarming and will sustain me for the entire off season.

I'm searching for a show to watch on Netflix streaming while walking on the treadmill and am considering Foyle's War or Call the Midwife. Any suggestions?

Syracuse University basketball... We're coming into the home stretch, but I won't bore you with the details this week ;-)

Oh, and the Oscars are tonight.

In the kitchen// Today we're having chicken cacciatore in the crock pot. It will be nice to have dinner waiting when we get home from the train station.

And are blueberries tasting especially good lately, or is it just me? I've purchased a record quantity this week. 

Anticipating//  March Madness!

Wondering// if it will ever stop snowing...

Hope you all have a wonderful Sunday!


Related Posts with Thumbnails