Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Sunday Salon: July 9, 2017

Reading, but not writing... that's where I am now. Does it happen to you, too? I finish a book, reflect for a while, rate it on goodreads, and then I'm ready to dive into another. Here is my modest attempt to keep up.


Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

It took a month, but last week I finished the second book in Trollope's Palliser series, Phineas Finn ... 750+ pages and I was sorry to reach the end. Over the past two and a half years, I've read eight of Trollope's novels and don't plan to stop any time soon. There's nothing like catching a glimpse into Victorian England through his eyes. Trollope was a keen observer of society and his characters allow the reader to enter that world.

The political aspect of the Palliser series initially worried me. Would it be overwhelming or just plain dull? The answer, fortunately, is no. As the church and ecclesiastical life were to The Barsetshire Chronicles, politics is to the Pallisers. It provides a foundation for the lives of men... while women's lives are centered around men - their occupations, finances, and ambition. If a woman is lucky enough to possess money of her own, she may have some degree of power.

For me, the main draw of a Trollope novel is always his characters... and in particular, the women. While I eventually warmed to Phineas Finn, it was Lady Laura Standish, Violet Effingham, and Madame Max Goesler who kept me turning the pages. By the end of the book I was not ready to let any of the characters go. Trollope returns to Phineas in book 4, Phineas Redux, but The Eustace Diamonds is up next.

Thank you Audrey and Lisa for reading with me... should we do this again in the fall?

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

It's time for Paris in July again and I decided to begin with this short, sweet, romantic novel. It involves a mugging, a designer handbag, a red moleskin notebook, a Modiano novel, a bookseller, and a bit of a mystery... all set in Paris, of course. At 160 pages, it was a pure delight to read. I highly recommend it.

Have you noticed the emails goodreads sends after finishing a book? Initially I thought they were silly, but after completing The Red Notebook this morning, they suggested I might like The People in the Photo by Hélène Gestern. Winner of fifteen literary awards, this "dark yet touching drama deftly explores the themes of blame and forgiveness, identity and love." The debut novel will be my next stop for Paris in July.  It should be available at the library by next weekend. I'll keep you posted.

Current reading//

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I'm reading this with James and friends for his Jane Austen Read All A-long. It's been two years since I last read Jane Austen and over a decade for this novel in particular. Last night I read the first chapter and fell in love with Jane's writing and story all over again.

Listening to//

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren 

This book seemed to be everyone's favorite during Nonfiction November last year, so I was glad my book club decided to read it. About halfway through, I'm feeling completely out of sync with popular opinion... it's just okay. The author's narration isn't grabbing me either, despite the overall 4.4 rating on audible. Maybe the second half will be better?

I'll leave you with this photo of Zelda enjoying a cruise around the lake. That's my daughter off to the right... she always brings a book on the boat. What have you been been reading these past couple of weeks?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

2017 Favorites: Midyear Edition

My overall numbers may be down, but the quality and personal enjoyment from books I've read this year is up. It wasn't hard come up with a list of 10 favorite from the first half of 2017... but it is hard to believe the year is half over!


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The Mothers by Brit Bennett 

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

The Nix by Nathan Hill
(read/listen combo)

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
(be sure to read My Name is Lucy Barton first)

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
(read/listen combo)


My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

(read/listen combo)

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Have you made a list of midyear favorites?
Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Sunday Salon: Summer is Here!

Good morning, friends. We're off to a sunny start today, perfect for the first Sunday of summer. I missed posting last weekend when we were in NYC visiting our daughters... a wonderful time, despite the rain. This weekend we're staying closer to home, but still have more plans than we can fit into two days. There hasn't been much reading, but here's the update.


by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book is actually a letter written by the author in response to a childhood friend seeking advice on how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. Adichie provides fifteen compelling suggestions. My daughters are all young women in their 20s now, but I still found much to think about here. I listened to the audio version (narrated by the talented January LaVoy) in just over an hour and highly recommend going that route!
My rating:

Current reading//

Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

It's happened again... bookmarks in too many books stressing me out. I put two aside (for now), so my full attention is focused on Trollope. The second book in the Palliser series started off slowly, but now I'm enjoying it very much. As the Barsetshire novels were ecclesiastical in nature, this series is driven by politics. I'm exhausted by real life politics these days so that aspect isn't much of a draw.

The characters, however, are much more interesting. Trollope always seems to get me there! I'm especially struck by Lady Laura's plight - marrying for financial security at the expense of love and, possibly, happiness. I'm also wondering how things will play out with Violet Effingham and her suitors. Victorian women had so little control over their lives! Phineas Finn, our hero, is growing on me, too.

I hit the 50% mark this morning and will begin Volume II later today.  #PalliserParty

Set aside, but not abandoned//

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
After reading the first chapter of this book, I have a feeling I'm going to love it. It deserves my full attention instead of being just one of three current reads. I've renewed it for three more weeks and hope to get back to it before them.

by Trevor Noah
The audio version of Born A Crime is still on my phone. It's excellent, but listening time has been almost nonexistent over the past two weeks. Thankfully, I own this one and am under no time constraints.

On the horizon//

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
I purchased this beautiful Vintage Classics edition at Amazon's brick and mortar store in NYC last weekend (an entire post could be written about that experience!) It's been at least a decade since I read this one, and I plan to join James' Jane Austen Read All A-long for July. I may be a little late to the party though... I doubt I'll be able to finish Phineas Finn by July 1.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren 
This book has been on my wish list since Nonfiction November...  everyone seemed to love it. My book club will discuss it July 18. If I pick up my copy at the library tomorrow, can I read it in time?

The week ahead//
Our small town goes all out for the 4th of July... parade, fireworks, road race, etc... and we host our own party, too. Both girls are coming home from NYC, so our house will be full. No promises for a post next weekend, but I'll catch up when I can.

How was your week? What are you reading? Any plans for the upcoming holiday?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Sunday Salon: After the Rain

What a week - rain rain, and more rain. The sun came out, at last, on Thursday... and again Friday and Saturday. Three days in a row - what a treat! Finally, we got the lawn mowed, the first of the flowers planted, and the garage cleaned. Today we'll celebrate with the first boat ride of the season!

Finished this week//

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
One YA novel every year or two is generally enough for me, and rave reviews from blogging friends convinced me this should be it. I also needed a complete change of pace after reading Elizabeth Strout's latest book. The Hate U Give is about the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer. The main character, Starr Carter, is the only witness. As she navigates life in two worlds - her poor, increasingly dangerous neighborhood, and the prep school she attends in an affluent suburb - she must figure out how to give her account of the tragic event. Riveting, timely, and discussable... give it a try!
My rating:

A short, light audio was just what I needed this week and Funny in Farsi delivered! I met this author several years ago when she was "in conversation" with her friend Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) at a literary event. She was interesting and entertaining, and I made a mental note to read her book one day. A few weeks ago offered this audio, narrated by the author, as a daily deal... and 'one day' was here. I've added her follow-up, Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad, to my wish list.
My rating:

Current reading//

Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope
Book #2 of the Palliser Series was off to a slow start but, after yesterday's encouraging twitter conversation, I read several chapters without distraction and finally feel like I'm making some headway... although I still don't care much about our hero. My approach to Trollope has always been as a read/listen combination, and always with Simon Vance narrating. Unfortunately, there is no Simon Vance version of Phineas Finn and I ended up with Timothy West. West's narration, while perfectly fine, seemed slightly off to me. I suppose I've grown too comfortable with Vance as the voice of Trollope.

At any rate, I'm on chapter 11 now and have finally settled in. I look forward to another chapter or two today. Follow (or join in) our conversation with #PalliserParty.

I just started this memoir by The Daily Show host  Trevor Noah on audio (narrated by the author) and love it already! Ratings on both goodreads and audible are very high... I suspect mine will be too.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
My library hold came in on Friday and I had time to read just a handful of pages that evening. This appears to be beautifully written novel, with a powerful opening. I can't wait to read more!
In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. That year, 1989, my mother flew to Hong Kong and laid my father to rest in a cemetery near the Chinese border. Afterwards, distraught, she rushed home to Vancouver where I had been alone. I was ten years old.

In the kitchen//

Mediterranean was the word of the week... two new recipes, both variations on that theme. Mediterranean Baked Halibut with Vegetables from The Mediterranean Dish was actually a sheet pan supper... so easy, so good, and very little clean-up. I shopped a little earlier than usual and Wegmans halibut hadn't arrived yet, so I substituted cod. We all enjoyed this dish and I can see trying it again with scallop or swordfish, as well as halibut. In case you're wondering, the photo is from the website ;-)

Last night I tried Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Breasts from Served from Scratch - only my chicken breasts were actually thighs. I followed the recipe exactly as written. It says to marinate the chicken for 20 minutes up to two days. After 6 or 7 hours, the chicken was a little too lemony for my taste, but my husband and Twin B loved it. There were no leftovers. Next time, I'll only let it marinate for an hour or two.

The week ahead//
It's going to be busy...  a lot of activities early in the the week, then we're off to NYC Thursday night or Friday morning. We'll return on Sunday in time for a Father's Day dinner with my dad.

How was your week? What are you reading today?


Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Sunday Salon: It's June?

Greetings from chilly, rainy central New York. I'm sitting here sipping a cup of hot coffee, wearing SmartWool socks, and contemplating the previous week. It was in the low 40s and downright cold this morning... can it really be June? I had plenty of reading time last week thanks to all the rain, cool temperatures, and a traveling husband.

Finished this week//

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
This book cemented Elizabeth Strout's position as my favorite author. Anything is Possible is a series of connected stories featuring minor characters from My Name is Lucy Barton, and Lucy herself also makes an appearance. Strout reportedly worked on both books simultaneously and I'm quite certain my recent reread of Lucy Barton made this one even more enjoyable. Anything is Possible was an amazing read - easily a favorite this year. In fact, I found it even more satisfying than My Name is Lucy Barton. Coincidentally, my daughter finished reading the same day and we had a great discussion that evening. I think a reread of Olive Kitteridge is on the horizon.

Strout's gorgeous and insightful prose makes Anything is Possible the kind of book that makes it hard to pick up anything else. It spoils you, or gives you a "reading hangover." To avoid this problem, I decided to change gears completely and begin my annual YA (young adult) read.
My rating:

by David M. Oshinsky
What an interesting read... the combination of history and medicine gets me every time. Oshinsky's history of NYC's most famous public hospital begins before the Civil War and takes us through AIDS, Superstorm Sandy, and the ebola virus. That is a lot of history and a lot of medicine! It's almost unfathomable to contemplate an era before anesthesia and antiseptic procedures. This book was completely fascinating, but the amount of information presented is vast and, at times, dense. Alternating between the print and audio versions was helpful.
My rating:

Current reading//

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This YA novel is about the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer. The main character, Starr Carter, is the only witness. As she navigates life in two worlds - her poor, increasingly dangerous neighborhood, and the prep school she attends in an affluent suburb - she must figure out how to give her account of the tragic event. The story is timely, emotionally gripping and, hard to put down. I'd planned to listen to this book (narrated by Bahni Turpin), but the ebook became available through my library so I went that route. I'm not much of a YA reader, but The Hate U Give has been getting rave reviews from the book blogging community.

I purchased this book, a recent audible daily deal, because the author was part of a Rosamond Gifford Lecture several years ago. She was "in conversation" with her friend and fellow author Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner). Although the focus was clearly on Hosseini, she was interesting and engaging. A couple members of my book club went on to read and enjoy her book. The audiobook is fairly short (just over 5 hours) with brief, anecdotal chapters, and is narrated by the author. I'm about an hour into this one.

Coming up//

Our #PalliserParty resumes... 
I started Phineas Finn yesterday and after one chapter, I'm ready for more. It's the second book in Anthony Trollope's Palliser series and opens with a brief introduction of our hero. From there, it quickly moves to politics. I know very little about British political history, but remain confident in Trollope's ability to tell a good story.  Audrey and I invite you to read along with us.

The Jane Austen Read All A-long
James is reading all six of Jane's novels, one per month and in order of publication, from July through December. Join him for one book or all of them, the choice is yours. I've read all six, but hope to reread Sense and Sensibility (July) and Persuasion (December)... and maybe Mansfield Park (September), too. The details are here.

In the kitchen//
It's been a quiet week. With my husband away, I prepared meals he's not wild about, but Twin B and I enjoy... another batch of red lentil soup, chicken and avocado burritos (quick and easy with rotisserie chicken), and, our favorite, Spiralized Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas from Cookie and Kate.

The week ahead//
No big plans... Angus the greyhound is here for another week, I have a couple of appointments, and we may take a day trip to visit my SIL next weekend. It might warm up a little after midweek, but it doesn't look like the rain will stop any time soon. We're still waiting for that first boat ride of the season....

How was your week? What are you reading?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Sunday Salon: Memorial Day Weekend

It's Memorial Day weekend and summer is unofficially here. The sun is even shining and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a rain-free day... it's been a while! The docks are in but, the boat is not. Maybe by next weekend...

Finished this week//

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
A somewhat predictable, yet thoroughly enjoyable story that kept me reading well into the night. Two brothers, their wives, and children live together in a two-family house in Brooklyn in the late 1940s - one family with all daughters, the other with all sons. The wives become pregnant, and both deliver at home during a blizzard, unable to reach the hospital, while their husbands are out of town on business. From there, things get complicated. The story is told through multiple viewpoints in short chapters. A very good debut novel.
My rating:

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
This was a reread for me and I loved it just as much the second time around. I started to read Strout's new book Anything is Possible and, while the character in the first story was familiar, I couldn't remember any details. Since Lucy Barton is so short and still on my kindle, I decided to reread it. Five stars, again!

Current reading//

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout is one of my favorite authors. I started her latest novel, which is really a series of stories about characters mentioned in My Name is Lucy Barton, yesterday afternoon and ended up reading almost half of it before bedtime. So good!

by David M. Oshinsky
This book is fairly dense, but it gets more interesting with each chapter. This week I read about Nellie Bly's adventures (my thoughts on Ten Day in a Mad-House are here), the beginnings of germ theory and antiseptic procedures, and the early days of professional nursing. I'm hoping to finish this week.

Up next//

Audrey and I are almost ready to resume our #PalliserParty. The plan is to begin Book 2, Phineas Finn, in early June. Want to read along with us?

In the kitchen//

This week's new recipe...  Sun-Dried Tomato, Spinach and Quinoa Salad from Cookie and Kate was a  delicious accompaniment to the turkey burgers we had for dinner. The leftovers made a perfect lunch, too.

Last night we enjoyed a favorite, Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil from Damn Delicious. I discovered this recipe last winter and have made it several times... always a treat.

Going to the dogs//

As Zelda approaches her tenth birthday, she celebrated her 7th Anniversary - or "Gotcha Day"- with us last week. Her muzzle is now mostly white, but that's the only visible evidence of time passing. We will be "grey-b-sitting" Angus again for the next week or two. He's four, and Zelda has no problem keeping up with him, or his antics. They seem to enjoy each other's company... should be an interesting couple of weeks.

How was your week? What are you reading this long holiday weekend?


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