Sunday, February 11, 2024

A Super Bowl Sunday Salon: February 11, 2024

Hello friends! It's a sunny Super Bowl Sunday on Sanibel and, while I don't really care about the game this year, it's still fun to watch the commercials and halftime show. 

It's good to check in here again after a busy couple of weeks. We got to spend time with our daughter/her fiancé and celebrate her birthday over their long weekend visit. The painters finally finished the outside work, then promptly disappeared before moving on to interior repairs. But I'm told we're still on "the list." The rest of the landscape clean-up is done and we're expecting a load of gravel tomorrow. Our pavers have been ordered, but delivery is ten weeks out. Baby steps... 

Recent reading//

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray 

Collaborating on a novel must be incredibly difficult and, for me, the result was a great story with less than memorable writing. I really loved learning about Belle Greene, J.P. Morgan's personal librarian, and the time period. Now I plan to dig a little deeper into Belle's life and accomplishments. The Morgan Library and Museum in NYC has an upcoming exhibition about her life and legacy opening in late October and I'm already planning my visit.

Marie Benedict spoke at our library last week and I was lucky enough to "win" a ticket in the lottery. However a multi-vehicle crash blocked traffic which resulted in hours of gridlock on much of the island, including my routes to the library. I was unable to get there. My only consolation is that both authors will join a zoom chat with MMD book club later this month! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

by Jill Ciment, narrated by Hillary Huber

So far this year I've stuck with planned reading, but this book was entirely an impulse pick. Ann Patchett talked about it during her most recent Friday "New to You" instagram video segment. I was intrigued, found the audiobook (read by a favorite narrator) available on Libby, and then listened into the wee hours of the night when I should have been sleeping!

This short novel (under 5 1/2 hours) is about a high-profile murder trial where a teenaged girl is accused of killing her toddler brother. Two jurors, sequestered for the entirety of the trial, begin a covert affair. After the trial, juror C2 returns home to her elderly husband and the affair leads to "profoundly personal and moral consequences." Dark, tense, and tightly written, I could not stop listening!

Current reading//

Belle Greene by Alexandra Lapierre, translated by Tina Kover 

I'm almost 30% into this 500+ page novel, another work of historical fiction about Belle Greene. It's the February "flight pick" for MMD and so interesting to compare/contrast with The Personal Librarian in terms of both substance and style. At this point I think it is the superior novel. Both the ebook and audiobook are available on hoopla.

In the kitchen//

I'm back to trying at least one new recipe each week. My latest offering came from a recent Publix ad - Key Lime-Peanut Grilled Chicken Skewers  Except for cutting back on the pepper, I followed the recipe exactly as written. This is a "flavor profile" we all like, so I had a feeling it would be a hit. This will stay in our grilling season dinner rotation!

The week ahead//

Besides the delivery and spreading of new gravel, we're also looking forward to a Taco Tuesday party at a neighbor's, an afternoon with old college friends, and my sister and BIL's arrival next weekend. I'm hoping for plenty of reading time and a few sunsets at the beach, too!

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Sanibel Sunday: January 28, 2024

Hello, from Sanibel Island. It's a cloudy Sunday afternoon and I'm looking forward to a lazy day of reading, blogging, watching football, and maybe a little time at the beach if the rain holds off.

We seem to be at a standstill on our hurricane reconstruction project. Evidently the painter is weeks behind schedule, so I'll be pleasantly surprised if they get to us before March! That's been frustrating, but the good news is that our landscape and driveway work should begin soon.

Recent reading//

Coming Home by Roasmunde Pilcher

My first book of 2024, Rosamunde Pilcher's chunky WWII novel proved to be the perfect kickoff for the new year. Buddy reading with Tina added to the fun and our daily email exchange was the best! I've been a Pilcher fan for decades, but had never read this 1995 gem. As always, I loved her characters and descriptions but, for such a long novel, this was a real page-turner, too. After over 950 pages, I still wasn't ready to leave the world Pilcher created and couldn't bring myself to pick up another book for days. Coming Home  has earned a spot on my favorites shelf and will certainly appear on my Best of 2024 list.

Currently reading//

by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
audio edition narrated by Robin Miles

My current read is the February selection for both the MMD book club and our library's book discussion group. In addition, Marie Benedict is the next speaker in Sanibel Public Library's Author Series and I was luck enough to get a ticket in the lottery! I'm at the halfway point now and enjoying this as a read/listen combination.

Up next//

I plan to pick up Belle Greene by Alexandra Lapierre, translated by Tina Kover next. This book is the MMD flight pick for February. I think it will be interesting to compare these two works of historical fiction about the same person - J.P. Morgan's personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene.

In the kitchen//

Salmon regularly appears in our dinner rotation, mostly because it's so good for you. But, in all honesty, I don't like it all that much. Last week I tried this Baked Pineapple Salmon  from Chef Jar and it's a game-changer. I prefer my salmon cooked more thoroughly than is often recommended, so set the temperature to 400 degrees rather than 375 and gave it a few extra minutes in the oven. I've already shared this recipe with my daughter and sister...  it's now my favorite way to prepare salmon!

The week ahead//

Our oldest daughter and her fiancé will visit for a long weekend to celebrate her birthday. It's been a year since their last trip to FL, so I'll be curious to hear their assessment of the island's progress since Hurricane Ian. I think they'll be surprised at how far we've come. Can't wait to see them! 

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.


Sunday, January 14, 2024

My Year in Books: 2023 Reading Reflections and 2024 Intentions

Before we get too much deeper into January, I'd like to share my 2023 reading reflections and lay out some intentions for the year ahead.

Overall, 2023 proved to be a better year for us than 2022. We began to recover from Hurricane Ian, spent a lot of time with family, celebrated one daughter's wedding (and have another to look forward to in 2024), and gained a wonderful son-in-law. On the reading front, it was a very satisfying year.

By the numbers:

48 books read - lower than my usual one book per week 
79% fiction, 21% nonfiction  - the downward trend for nonfiction continues
69% female authors, 31% male
67% new-to-me authors, 33% repeat authors 

rereads: 8%, much higher than usual
in translation: 8%
classics: 13%
"big books" over 400 pages: 23%
average rating: 4.2

58% read/listen combination 
27% print
15% audio  

42% own 
31% library
27% own + library (for read/listen combos) 

Shortest book / Longest book
The Shortest Day by Colm Toibin, 31 pages
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry 964 pages


Read/listen combinations:  These continue to account for the majority of my reading and I tried to get an audio copy of every book I read. I primarily read one book at a time and love listening to my current read while walking. Total listening time, however, was down this year due to recurrent knee injuries.

Reading big books: Setting a lower goodreads goal in 2023 allowed me the freedom to read long books without worrying about overall numbers. Nearly 25% of the books I read were over 400 pages.

A loose monthly reading plan: This was my second year of using a loose monthly reading plan. Having a list of "possibilities" worked well, and I gave myself permission to stray from it occasionally.

Joining the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club: I joined MMD in May for the summer reading guide, then decided to stick around. I've enjoyed most of the selections (a couple ended up on my list of favorites), along with the author chats, book discussion forums, and events. The Lonesome Dove community/buddy read was a highlight of the year.


Opt out of the goodreads challenge... at least for now. 

Lean into big books: 2023 reminded me how much I love getting lost in sprawling novels, so my first book of 2024, and still my current read, is the 977-page Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher. It's excellent!

Make a priority TBR list: My goodreads tbr (to be read) list is ridiculously long. I've decided to keep a much shorter, fluid "priority" list to consult as I plan monthly reading possibilities.

I look forward to sharing another year of books and reading with you. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

My Year in Books: 2023 Favorites

We're well into 2024 and I'm finally getting to my 2023 wrap-up posts. I'll list my favorite books today, then look at statistics, reflections, and resolutions over the weekend.

Overall, 2023 was a very good reading year. I was slightly off my usual pace of one book per week, but that was mostly due to reading some really long books. (I'm looking at you, Lonesome Dove!) I did not consider rereads when choosing my favorites, but Pride and Prejudice would certainly be here otherwise. 


Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
(read/listen combination)

The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz
(read/listen combination)

Trust by Hernan Diaz
(read/listen combination)

Chorus by Rebecca Kauffman
(read/listen combination)

by Anne Berest, translated by Tina Kover
(read/listen combination)

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
(read/listen combination)

The Road To Dalton by Shannon Bowring
(print only)

Day by Michael Cunningham
(print only)

Honorable Mention
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
Pete and Alice in Maine by Caitlin Shetterly


Nine Black Robes by Joan Biskupic
(read/listen combination)

by Jake Bittle
(read/listen combination)

Sunday, January 7, 2024

December Reading Wrap-Up and A Plan for January

Hello, friends. After a holiday season filled with family and fun, we are finally  back in Florida. This is the longest we've been away in nearly a decade and it feels great to be on the island again. We are pleasantly surprised by the progress that has been made since we left at the end of May. There's still a very long way to go, but Sanibel is coming back strong!

It's been a few weeks since my last post and there's a lot to talk about this time of year. December turned out to be an excellent reading month, so I'll begin with a wrap-up. 

Books Read in December//

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney 
literary fiction, reread,⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Shortest Day by Colm Toibin
 short story/novella, audio, ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Day by Michael Cunningham
literary fiction, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang
fiction, read/listen combination, ⭐⭐⭐

nonfiction, ⭐⭐⭐ (I'm an outlier, most readers love this one.)

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery 
literary fiction, Booker Prize shortlist 2023, read/listen combination, ⭐⭐⭐⭐

One Woman Show by Christine Coulson 
literary fiction, novella, read/listen combination, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

January Reading Plan//

Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher

I love Pilcher's novels and am starting the year with this 900+ page chunkster. Buddy reading with Tina is adding to the fun!

by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Next up will be February selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. 

Posts to Write//
My Favorite Reads of 2023
2023 Reflections and 2024 Game Plan
Overdue Reviews

Also in January//
Now that we're back home, we can resume our Hurricane Ian repairs. There are also friends and neighbors to catch up with, postponed appointments to reschedule, and as many sunsets at the beach as possible!

I hope 2024 is off to a good start for you. What have you been reading lately?


Thursday, December 21, 2023

A Quick Update Before the Holidays Begin

Hello, friends. The holidays are about to begin and before things get too crazy, I wanted to post a quick update. Last weekend our daughter and her fiancé were here for an early Christmas celebration. We had a wonderful weekend which included a drive to see the Lobster Trap Christmas Tree in Stonington, CT. It was such an unusual and beautiful sight!

I'm also happy to report that the bathroom remodel was indeed completed on time. It looks beautiful, but this was a little too close for comfort. We literally had just a few hours to spare! 

Later today our daughter and son-in-law, along with Winnie the whippet, arrive for an extra long weekend. Then my SIL will be here tomorrow. Here we go...

Recent Reading//

Joan is Okay by Weike Wang

This is the January selection of the MMD book club, but overall not an especially memorable or impactful read for me. ⭐⭐⭐

This book is the January "flight selection" at MMD. It's a short, quick nonfiction read and I did find some valuable takeaways. Most people seem to love this one, but I'm probably not the target audience.

Current Reading//

by Jonathan Escoffery, narrated by Torian Brackett

This book was nominated for most of the 2022-2023 prizes, but it was Sam's review that convinced me to give it a try... and I'm so glad I did!  It's a read/listen combination and the audio is definitely adding to my overall experience. (It's available on hoopla.) I'm hoping to finish later today and will end up rating it at least 4 stars.

The week ahead//
We'll relax for a couple of days after Christmas before finally heading back to Florida! I'll be back here in early January with my yearly wrap-up post and list of favorites... and I'm already looking forward to reading yours.

Wishing you all a peaceful holiday season and a happy, healthy 2024!


Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Sunday Salon: Reading and Remodeling

Hello, friends! It's a rainy day in CT. We're expecting very heavy rain, strong winds, and possible coastal flooding later this afternoon and into tomorrow. I'm keeping a close eye on the timing since we were hoping to go to New Haven for a performance of Handel's Messiah later on. We'll see...

The bathroom remodel is moving right along and we're very happy with the progress. They have been working six days a week (surprisingly labor intensive for such a small space) and we expect to be finished on Thursday. 

Anyway, more time at home with contractors has meant more reading time. I'll have to worry about finishing my shopping later...

Recent reading//

by Colm Toibin, narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds

This short story, set in Ireland, is based on an actual mystical occurrence. Each year on the morning of the winter solstice, the ancient burial chamber at Newgrange briefly fills with light. Toibin has written a slightly magical tale based on local lore. It can be listened to in about an hour and is available free in the audible plus catalog

Day by Michael Cunningham

"The only problem with Michael Cunningham’s prose is that it ruins you for mere mortals’ work. He is the most elegant writer in America." 

Those are the opening lines of Ron Charles' Washington Post  book reviewand I think he nailed it. Cunningham's writing is remarkable! In fact, I started this book as a read /listen combination and almost immediately returned the audio. I wanted to savor Cunningham's words on the page. And the story and characters are every bit as good as the writing. If you're up for a pandemic novel, check it out. I rated this 4.5 stars and hope to write a more complete review later this week.

Current Reading//

Joan is Okay by Weike Wang

This is the January selection for the MMD book club. I'm nearly halfway through, but don't have much to say about it yet.

On the blog//

The Week Ahead//
should  spend a day or two finishing Christmas shopping, but instead I'll be home waiting for the countertop install, painter, electrician, and plumber. Looks like it'll be quick dinners and some evening shopping instead... but I may finish a book or two!

Assuming we finish the bathroom on schedule, we'll celebrate an early Christmas with our daughter and her fiancé next weekend.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.



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