Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Current Reading: April 25

It's our last full week in Florida and there isn't much time for reading. My attention is instead focused on packing, end-of-season tasks, "one last time" activities, and the few things left on our to-do list. My sister assures me it's safe to head home. The snow has finally melted, but temperatures will only be in the 50s by the middle of next week. Sounds chilly to me... I was hoping for 60s.

On my kindle:
Before my wife turned vegetarian, I'd always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way. To be frank, the first time I met her I wasn't even attracted to her. Middling height; bobbed hair neither long nor short; jaundiced, sickly-looking skin; somewhat prominent cheekbones; her timid, sallow aspect told me all I needed to know. As she came up to the table where I was waiting, I couldn't help but notice her shoes - the plainest black shoes imaginable. And that walk of hers -  neither fast nor slow, striding nor mincing.
The Vegetarian
by Han Kang

How's that for an unusual opening? The Vegetarian has been on my 'to read' list for months, but Jillian's recent review pushed me to borrow the ebook from my library now. I've read about 20% of this strange, oddly compelling, short book (just under 200 pages). It feels like one that could (should?) be read in one sitting, but I haven't found a large enough block of time.  Here is the goodreads summary:
Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether. 
 A disturbing, yet beautifully composed narrative told in three parts, The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Korea, but also a story of obsession, choice, and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.
I can't wait to read more tonight!


On audio:




Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
by Barbara Demick

With the addition of The Vegetarian, my reading has taken a all-Korean turn this week. I'm still listening to Nothing to Envy, a book which follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years—a period which includes Kim Il-sung's death in 1994, the rise of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastating famine. Before beginning this book, I was embarrassingly uninformed about North Korea, so am appreciating the much-needed background and history. With another three hours to go, I plan to finish before we begin the drive home. Do you have recommendations for further reading on North Korea?

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Brief: Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen


Her Royal Spyness: A Royal Spyness Mystery
Royal Spyness, Book 1
by Rhys Bowen
narrated by Katherine Kellgren
Audible Studios, 2010
8 hours and 9 minutes

Publisher's summary:
Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless and trying to survive on her own as an ordinary person in London in 1932.

So far she has managed to light a fire and boil an egg... She's gate-crashed a wedding... She's making money by secretly cleaning houses... And she's been asked to spy for Her Majesty the Queen.

Everything seems to be going swimmingly until she finds a body in her bathtub... and someone is definitely trying to kill her.

My thoughts:

A lot of bloggers enjoy Rhys Bowen's novels and now I understand why. After a couple of nonfiction audiobooks, I was in the mood for something completely different - "Georgie" to the rescue! Bowen takes full advantage of her heroine's position (34th in line to the throne and flat broke) to create an endearing character while delivering some unexpectedly comical scenes.

Katherine Kellgren's British accent added to my enjoyment. Her pacing and delivery were pitch perfect. I will certainly continue listening to this series.

Overall, Her Royal Spyness reminded me of a light-hearted Maisie Dobbs.  In fact, I'll likely reach for the next book in this series before catching up with Maisie.

My rating:


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Current Reading: April 18


1
What Possessed Me?
If I hadn't been naive and recklessly trusting, would I ever have purchased number 10 Turpentine Lane, a chronic headache, masquerading as a charming bungalow? "Best value in town," said the ad, which was true, if judging by the price tag alone. I paid almost nothing by today's standards, attributing the bargain to my mother's hunch that the previous owner had succumbed while in residence. Not so off-putting, I rationalized; don't most people die at home? On moving day my next-door neighbor brought me a welcome loaf of banana bread along with the truth about my seller. A suicide attempt . . . sleeping pills . . . she'd saved them up until she had enough, poor thing. And who could blame her? "Strong as an ox," she added. "But a whole bottle?" She tapped the side of her head. 
"Brain damage?" I asked. "Brain dead?"
"Her daughter had to make the awful decision long distance."

On Turpentine Lane
by Elinor Lipman

Elinor Lipman's books are just plain fun to read. Her latest novel, On Turpentine Lane, is delivering the quirky characters and snappy dialogue. I've come to expect. I grabbed it off my library's "new fiction" shelf and started reading right away. Here's the goodreads summary:
At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater. It's a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state.) And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he's Chagall. When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence .
At the 50% mark, this novel has been the perfect complement to my decidedly more serious audiobook...



Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea 
by Barbara Demick, narrated by Karen White

This one has been in my audible library and on my kindle for quite some time, but seemed especially appropriate this week. Published in 2009, it's an eye-opening account of everyday life in North Korea. I'm hoping it's still current enough to provide insight as I continue to follow the news.

Here is the goodreads summary:
Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population.  
Taking us into a landscape most of us have never before seen, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today—an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, and where displays of affection are punished; a police state where informants are rewarded and where an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life.  
Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors. Through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her six subjects—average North Korean citizens—fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them.   
Nothing to Envy is a groundbreaking addition to the literature of totalitarianism and an eye-opening look at a closed world that is of increasing global importance.
I've been listening on my morning walks and it's kept me going the entire hour, despite rising temperatures. I'm in Florida until early May.

What are you reading this week?




Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking



The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living
by Meik Wiking
William Morrow, 2017
225 pages
source: borrowed from the library


What is hygge?

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, and author of this book says:
Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down. You may be having an endless conversation about the small or big things in life - or just be comfortable in each other's silent company - or simply just be by yourself enjoying a cup of tea.
How do you get hygge?

Candles, a hot drink, cozy blankets, a sweet treat, books, a small group of close friends or loved ones... Here in Florida, I find hygge in walks on the beach, the sound of the waves, sunrises over the water, a bike ride through the wildlife refuge, and simple sunset picnics at the beach.

 I instinctively knew these things before picking up the book, and I'll bet you do, too.

However, Wiking presents the "information" in an attractive and engaging format. It's a quick read that offers suggestions (reminders?) on how to create hygge.


Go ahead and spend an hour with The Little Book of Hygge, but I recommend you borrow it from the library. Use the money for a candle, tea, and slice of cake instead!

My rating:


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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney


Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
by Kathleen Rooney
St. Martin's Press, 2017
287 pages
source: purchased

Summary (from goodreads):
It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.


My thoughts:

Meandering, thoughtful, light on plot. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, a novel about a woman and the city she cherishes, is truly a delightful read.

I opened the book, discovered endpapers imprinted with a map of Manhattan detailing Lillian's journey, and instantly fell in love.

On New Year's Eve in 1984, 85-year-old  Lillian Boxfish takes a long walk around Manhattan. From her Murray Hill apartment, to Battery Park, St. Vincent's Hospital, and eventually Macy's in Herald Square, with stops at restaurants, a bodega, a house party in Chelsea, and Penn Station, the walk chronicles her interactions with old friends and random strangers, as well as her ruminations on life and the city she loves.

Not all that much actually happens in this novel, but Lillian's interactions with clerks, restaurant patrons, and would-be muggers will make you laugh and may even bring a tear to your eye. I especially enjoyed her reflections on career (she was a Macy's advertising executive in the 1930s), love, marriage, and motherhood.

By the way, Lillian Boxfish is loosely based on the life of Margaret Fishback. Don't miss the author's note at the end.

Very highly recommended.

Pearls of wisdom from Lillian:
“No one survives the future.” 
“Time only goes in that one direction.” 
“Any day you walk down a street and find nothing new but nothing missing counts as a good day in a city you love.” 
“Here’s some free advice: Make an honest assessment of the choices you’ve made before you look askance at somebody else’s.” 
“The point of living in the world is just to stay interested.” 
“If you love something, know that it will leave on a day you are far from ready.” 
“... my true religion is actually civility. Please note that I do not call my faith “politeness.” That’s part of it, yes, but I say civility because I believe that good manners are essential to the preservation of humanity— one’s own and others’— but only to the extent that that civility is honest and reasonable, not merely the mindless handmaiden of propriety.”
My rating:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Mid-March Sanibel Sunday


Hello, friends... remember me? It's been way too long since my last check-in, but that's the pattern I've settled into this winter. We've had a lot of visitors since my last update and I'm loving every minute  - plenty of day trips, biking, new restaurants, and, of course, long walks on the beach. Winter storm Stella wreaked havoc with travel plans... my sister extended her time in Florida, while my daughter ended up taking the train from New Orleans to NYC after her flight was cancelled. Hopefully, that was the end of winter weather.


Yesterday I attended the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. The highlight was hearing author Nathan Hill... what an engaging, funny speaker! I had him sign my daughter's book afterward. She loved The Nix and left it here for me to read. I've already added next year's event to my calendar.


Recently finished//


Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
I kept turning the pages, but was only mildly entertained by this thriller. Maybe I should have listened instead? Most readers seem to love it... I'm definitely the exception.




Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
What a treat to read Trollope with Audrey again! We read The Barsetshire Chronicles with a few friends back in 2015, but I didn't return to Trollope at all last year. Now we're tackling the Palliser novels. Can You Forgive Her?, the first in the series, is basically a love story, but the backdrop is politics, rather than the churches of Barsetshire.  As usual, I approached the novel as a read/listen combination. Listening to Simon Vance on my morning walk and reading in the evening, the 800 plus pages flew.

We'll watch the 1974 BBC adaptation of The Pallisers next... episodes 1-6 cover Can You Forgive Her? If you'd like to watch, too, we're using the hashtag #PalliserParty on twitter.


Current reading//


On New Year's Eve 1984, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish takes a walk - a ten mile walk around Manhattan - and contemplates her life. This is such a good book! I'm enjoying it even more since learning that it's based on a real person. I'll finish today or tomorrow.



Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, is 34th in line for the throne of England, penniless, and such a fun character! The novel is set in 1930s London and is the first in a cozy series. I'm listening to it and Katherine Kellgren's narration is perfect! She reads the next few books, too. We'll see if I decide to commit to the series.


What's new with you? Do you have any good books to recommend?
I've been out of the loop for too long...




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Friday, February 17, 2017

An Overdue Update: 2/17/17

Sanibel Sunrise

Good morning from Sanibel. It's been far too long since I last checked in here! So far this month we enjoyed visits from our oldest daughter, my brother and his girlfriend, and friends from home. We traveled across the state to visit old friends, and tomorrow my sister and brother-in-law arrive for winter break. Our popularity seems to increase when we're in Florida... and I love it!


Read recently//


Old Age: A Beginner's Guide by Michael E. Kinsley

Meh. I read this book now because it was written by Mike Kinsley, on my tbr list, and available on the shelf at the local library. Twenty years ago, while still in his 40s, Kinsley was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. While this slim book includes a lot about PD, it's not really about  PD. The focus is on aging, or the 'end-game' for baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. Old Age is a quick read, but it didn't sit quite right with me... probably due to the final essay. In it, Kinsley proposes that boomers pay off the national debt. Our parents, the Greatest Generation, paid their debt to society with their lives through two world wars, while privileged boomers opted out of Vietnam. He feels boomers should leave a financial legacy instead. What?

"Is it simply long life that you covet, or is it long life with all your marbles? Isn't the final boomer game really competitive cognition?"





Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

This is another book I picked up because it was available on the library's new fiction shelf, and I loved it! Set in NYC during the financial collapse of 2008, it juxtaposes the lives of a wealthy Lehman executive with that of his Cameroonian immigrant chauffeur. The immigration aspect is especially timely now and it offers an interesting perspective on the issue. I haven't read anything quite like it. Thank you, Susan, for the recommendation. This is my favorite book so far this year.




Current reading//


Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope 
The #PalliserParty continues. Progress has been embarrassingly slow this week; I am beginning chapter 32 today. If my sister is in the mood to hang out on the beach and read, then I'll definitely be more productive next week ;-)
 "It is better to have a false husband than to be a false wife." - Lady Glencora  
"... men and women ought to grow, like plants, upward. Everybody should endeavour to stand as well as he can in the world..."  - Alice Vavasor




Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
After a false start a few months ago, I'm finally in the mood for a psychological thriller and this fits the bill nicely. Not very far in yet, but there's definitely something strange going on in this marriage. I feel a sense of dread settling in... should be an exciting ride!




Watching//


It's hard to avoid getting sucked into political news... there seems to be something new every. single. day. BUT, this past week I've been enjoying college basketball (well, not so much Syracuse's loss to Pitt), the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and I finally watched Florence Foster Jenkins.


In the kitchen//


As we move into "high season" on the island, restaurants are becoming more and more crowded so we opted to have a special Valentine's Day dinner at home. I made this Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil from Damn Delicious ... and it was! This is an interesting twist on the classic low-country boil - parboiling the potatoes and corn-on-the-cob, then finishing them on a sheet pan in the oven with shrimp and andouille sausage. My photo isn't quite as pretty as hers, but you get the idea.

I also tried these Oven Baked Beef Tacos from Six Sisters' Stuff... yum.


Photo of the week//


Morning beach walk... love these two!!


The week ahead//
I'll be spending time with my sister and brother-in-law... that will mean biking, shopping, dining out, and, of course, plenty of time on the beach!

What's new with you? Have you read any good books lately?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My New Favorite Kitchen Gadget: The Sprializer


I've always loved kitchen gadgets. From a cherished Cuisinart food processor purchased shortly after college, to various crockpots, a pasta maker, bread machine, waffle makers, and a panini press, various machines have made their way into my cupboards. Some have stood the test of time, while others have ended up donated or broken.

These days my primary concern when deciding whether or not to invest in a new kitchen is cupboard space... especially  here in my small Florida kitchen. (I'm still undecided about the InstaPot and welcome your thoughts.)  Last spring, after months of deliberation, I finally purchased a spiralizer. We have been trying to eat more vegetables and cut down on carbs, and spiralizing seemed like a creative way to advance the cause. I was right!

The spiralizer//

Many are available on amazon, and they vary widely in price, number of blades, and durability. I compared countless product reviews before purchasing the moderately priced OXO Good Grips 3-Blade Spiralizer with StrongHold Suction. (Please note: I am not an amazon affiliate.) The three standard blades offer all the variety I need... basically,  spaghetti, fettucine, and ribbon cuts. And I am especially impressed with the suction - it stays in placed beautifully!

I like this particular model so much, I bought a second one to give as a Christmas gift and then a third for my Florida kitchen.


The recipes//


There are entire cookbooks devoted to spiralized recipes and Inspiralized: Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals by Ali Maffucci appears to be "the Bible." I bought a copy of this book for myself and one to go with the spiralizer I gave as a gift, BUT it wasn't necessary. All the recipes you need are available online.

Zucchini noodles, or zoodles, are quick and easy... heat some olive oil, sauté a little garlic, toss in the the zoodles, season, and you're done in 5 minutes.


Here are my current favorite recipes, all available online:


This is from inspiralized.com (the best recipe source) and is a new favorite. I've made it twice in the last two weeks.



Recipe and photo from skinnytaste... so quick, so easy, so delicious! I used the orange fettuccine blade for this one.



... a perfect cold side salad from peas & crayons. Scroll down for recipe.




Recipe and photo from inspiralized.com (again). Lots of ingredients in the recipe, but oh so good.



I've lost count on how many times I've made this one. It's from Cookie and Kate and is my daughters' favorite.


A vegetarian meal idea from inspiralized.com... next time I might try spinach instead of kale and use
gruyere cheese. I thought this was an excellent meal, but my husband missed having meat.


Do you spiralize? Would you like to?



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.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

An Invitation to the #PalliserParty


Audrey and I are throwing a #PalliserParty and you're invited! We had so much fun reading Anthony Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire in 2015 that we decided to give the Pallisers a try... and Audrey even created a badge to make us official!

Like the Chronicles of Barsetshire, there are six novels in the Palliser series. Unlike the ecclesiastical leaning of the #6Barsets, the Pallisers are sometimes referred to as Trollope's Parliamentary Novels.
The common threads throughout the series are the wealthy aristocrat and politician Plantagenet Palliser, and his wife, Lady Glencora. The plots involve British and Irish politics in varying degrees, specifically in and around Parliament. The Pallisers do not always play major roles, and in The Eustace Diamonds they merely comment on the main action.
The Palliser novels include:

Can You Forgive Her? (1864)
Phineas Finn (1869)
The Eustace Diamonds (1873)
Phineas Redux (1874)
The Prime Minister (1876)
The Duke's Children (1879)

With #6Barsets we read one book every two months, but plan to keep it even more flexible with this series. There will be no formal check-ins or discussion questions. We simply chat on twitter using the hashtag #PalliserParty as we read.

As a little teaser, here is the first paragraph of Can You Forgive Her?
The goodreads summary is here.




VOLUME I.

CHAPTER I.

Mr. Vavasor and His Daughter.
 Whether or no, she, whom you are to forgive, if you can, did or did not belong to the Upper Ten Thousand of this our English world, I am not prepared to say with any strength of affirmation. By blood she was connected with big people,—distantly connected with some very big people indeed, people who belonged to the Upper Ten Hundred if there be any such division; but of these very big relations she had known and seen little, and they had cared as little for her. Her grandfather, Squire Vavasor of Vavasor Hall, in Westmoreland, was a country gentleman, possessing some thousand a year at the outside, and he therefore never came up to London, and had no ambition to have himself numbered as one in any exclusive set. A hot-headed, ignorant, honest old gentleman, he lived ever at Vavasor Hall, declaring to any who would listen to him, that the country was going to the mischief, and congratulating himself that at any rate, in his county, parliamentary reform had been powerless to alter the old political arrangements. Alice Vavasor, whose offence against the world I am to tell you, and if possible to excuse, was the daughter of his younger son; and as her father, John Vavasor, had done nothing to raise the family name to eminence, Alice could not lay claim to any high position from her birth as a Vavasor. John Vavasor had come up to London early in life as a barrister, and had failed. He had failed at least in attaining either much wealth or much repute, though he had succeeded in earning, or perhaps I might better say, in obtaining, a livelihood. He had married a lady somewhat older than himself, who was in possession of four hundred a year, and who was related to those big people to whom I have alluded. Who these were and the special nature of the relationship, I shall be called upon to explain hereafter, but at present it will suffice to say that Alice Macleod gave great offence to all her friends by her marriage. She did not, however, give them much time for the indulgence of their anger. Having given birth to a daughter within twelve months of her marriage, she died, leaving in abeyance that question as to whether the fault of her marriage should or should not be pardoned by her family.
Would you like to attend our #PalliserParty?

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sanibel Sunday: 1/29/17

I can't believe I'm typing this, but it's a cold (low 50s), rainy morning in southwest Florida... I even turned the heat on for the first time this season! The rain should stop soon, but I'll definitely be wearing fleece on my walk today.

We enjoyed the rest of my SIL's visit... lots of beach walking, some shopping, and a couple of dinners out. Yesterday we visited Manatee Park but, with Gulf temperatures hovering around 70, we only spotted a few manatee. Last year we saw dozens, but this chilly weather may lead to better viewing next week.

I found myself totally unable to concentrate on fiction this week. The news coming out of Washington was just too distracting. Perhaps a media-free mental health day is in order... maybe even one per week.


Finished this week//



For Rachel's read-along... Part II discussion is scheduled for February 6, but I'll post my wrap-up then instead. Overall, Packer's thesis is nebulous and the reader is left to form their own conclusions, but I thought it was very well done.


Current reading//


God's Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher

When I said I haven't been able to concentrate on fiction, I meant this book. It sat untouched on the nightstand all week. I finally picked it up and read another chapter last night. The subject matter is a little outside my norm, but it held my attention and the writing is very good.


Up next//


Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope

The #PalliserParty is about to begin. Audrey even made a badge! I plan to start Can You Forgive Her?  tomorrow. The ebook is on my kindle and the audiobook (narrated by Simon Vance) is on my phone, so I'm ready. Look for a formal kick-off post this week... though the readalong will be anything but formal.


On the blog//
A Readalong: The Unwinding, Part 1


In the kitchen//

With the weather suddenly cooler, I decided to make soup and ended up choosing a new recipe. This Creamy White Chicken Chili from Gimme Some Oven  was delicious. I used frozen corn instead of canned, and will add a full cup instead of just half next time.

And I really am working on a Weekend Cooking post about my spiralizer...

Photo of the week//


This week's beach find... a spiny sea urchin! The little creature was still alive, so I put him back. Zelda was  unimpressed.


The week ahead//

Our oldest daughter arrives on Friday for a long weekend... I'm so excited! She'll celebrate her birthday with us on Super Bowl Sunday, and has a list of her favorite restaurants and shops ready. And there will plenty of beach time, too! If I'm not around with a Sanibel Sunday post next week, you'll know why!

How was your week? What are you reading today?


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Readalong: The Unwinding, Part 1


The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
by George Packer


Shortly after Election Day, The New York Times published an article entitled "6 Books to Help Understand Trump’s Win".  I'd recently read one of the books (Hillbilly Elegy) and added another (White Trash) to my wish list when I discovered Rachel's year-long readalong of all six. While I can't commit to them all, I am on board for the first.

What's The Unwinding about?
I'll borrow from the goodreads summary... it's long, but explains it better than I can.
American democracy is beset by a sense of crisis. Seismic shifts during a single generation have created a country of winners and losers, allowing unprecedented freedom while rending the social contract, driving the political system to the verge of breakdown, and setting citizens adrift to find new paths forward. In The Unwinding, George Packer... tells the story of the United States over the past three decades in an utterly original way, with his characteristically sharp eye for detail and gift for weaving together complex narratives. 
The Unwinding journeys through the lives of several Americans, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who questions the Internet's significance and arrives at a radical vision of the future. Packer interweaves these intimate stories with biographical sketches of the era's leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics that capture the flow of events and their undercurrents. 
The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packer's novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date.
My initial thoughts:

I enjoy listening to nonfiction and borrowed this audiobook from my library via Overdrive. It begins with a short prologue (read by the author, the rest of the book is narrated by Robert Fass) which lays out his basic claim that the way of life we have known in America is "unwinding" before our eyes. Packer captured my attention with these few pages and I decided to purchase the ebook for a read/listen combination.

As Part I begins we are introduced to several Americans, both private citizens and public figures. The section continues as a series of alternating biographies. Each one is interesting individually and, taken together, represent a broad cross-section of American life.

About the structure:

This type of structure - the examining an event or time period through experiences of specific individuals -  has been successful for me in the past. The example that comes to mind is the 1985 book Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families by J. Anthony Lukas, a Pulitzer Prize winner which tells story of the busing crisis in Boston. (I credit that book with my adult rediscovery of nonfiction... it's excellent.)

The life stories Packer chooses to highlight illustrate geographic, economic, and racial diversity. He seems to be painting an overall picture of economic, social, and political instability.

Bottom line:
I'm not quite sure how this book might increase my understanding of Trump's victory, or even how these personal stories connect to prove the author's thesis, but it certainly makes for interesting reading.

I'm curious to see what Parts II and III hold.



Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sanibel Sunday: 1/22/17

Our first full week in Sanibel has been a blur of sunshine, white sandy beaches, and time with the family. Readjusting to island life was surprisingly easy! I'm trying to get into a routine of  listening to an audiobook on my morning walk and reading (or at least trying) for an hour most afternoons.

Last night we helped friends celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary... a very memorable evening. Storms and high winds are in the forecast this afternoon and evening. The Sunday farmers market dinner will go on, but we'll avoid grilling just in case.




Finished this week//




The Mothers by Britt Bennett

Set in a contemporary southern California beach town, the main characters in this novel share ties to a black community church. "The Mothers" refers to a group of influential, but gossipy, older church women. Many serious issues are explored in The Mothers - family, love, loss, grief, friendship, secrets, and more - but it would be incorrect to say the novel is about any one of them.

The main thing to know is that Brit Bennett's writing is excellent! In fact, the writing is the real star of this debut novel. After reading just two or three pages, I already had several passages marked. The characters rang true and, despite some frustration with their bad choices, I enjoyed the story very much.

It's hard to believe the author was only 25 when she wrote this book. I'd say Brit Bennet's future looks bright!

My rating: 




Current reading//




God's Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher

This is the first book from my Book Culture Selects quarterly paperback fiction subscription - a very thoughtful Christmas present from my daughter.

Set in a rural Vermont area bordering Canada known as Northeast Kingdom, the twelve chapters of this book make up twelve fragments of Kinneson family history. They are descendants of abolitionists and whiskey distillers, but the stories center on Jim Kinneson during his adolescent years in the 1950s.  Not something I would have chosen for myself but, after three chapters,  I am enjoying it.




For Rachel's readalong...  I'm approaching this as a read/listen combination and just passed the 50% mark. Look for my thoughts on Part I this week.



Up next//

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony  Trollope
Remember how much I loved Trollope's Barsetshire Chronicles? Well, the #PalliserParty will begin at the end of the month. Feel free to read along... the more the merrier!


On the blog//
Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


In the kitchen//

My favorite meal this week came from inspiralized.com. I use my spiralizer frequently at home and decided to purchase one for my Florida kitchen, too. (I foresee a Weekend Cooking post in the near future!) Anyway, this Lemon-Dill Zucchini Pasta with Shrimp and Capers was absolutely delicious. After the prep, cooking took less than ten minutes.




Photo of the week//

Ibis on the beach

How was your week? What are you reading?
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