Sunday, August 1, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Two Five-Star Reads

It's been a lovely summer week in coastal CT... just a little rain, warm days, and slightly cooler nights. We've been enjoying the company of our oldest daughter and her boyfriend, had a couple of dinners by the shore, and visited a local brewery. I settled on a new walking route last week, too, and, inspired by Kay, will share photos this week.

It's also been an excellent week on the reading front with two  five-star reads, one from a new (to me) author and the other from an old favorite. I can't even remember the last time that happened - a perfect way to end July!

Recent reading//

Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard
William Morrow, 2021
464 pages

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2021
narrated by the author
15 hours and 16 minutes

This could end up being my favorite novel of the year! It's about family, marriage, parenthood, divorce, love, forgiveness... and much more. The characters are so relatable, the writing is excellent, and you know how I'm draw to family dramas. My library hold for the audiobook arrived while I was reading, so it became a read/listen combo. Maynard did a good job narrating, but I had to increase the speed slightly.

 Joyce Maynard has written several novels and memoirs, but this is the first one I've read. I'll certainly look for more. Have you read Maynard? Which one should I pick up next?

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
Random House, 2019
289 pages

Random House Audio, 2019
narrated by Kimberly Farr
12 hours and 14 minutes

Elizabeth Strout has been a favorite author for years and Olive Kitteridge  is one of my favorite books ever. I cannot believe it has taken this long to get to Olive, Again, but here we are. This book has been reviewed so widely and there's not much more I can to add. Let's just say I loved everything about it... and was delighted by the appearance of characters from Strout's previous novels.

I'm looking forward to the release of Oh William!  in October.

Current reading//

The Street by Ann Petry

I became aware of this lesser-known classic from the Harlem Renaissance when it was selected for the PBS New Hour Book Club last year and purchased it as a kindle daily deal shortly after. I later added the audio during an audible BOGO sale. I recently learned that Ann Petry was born in Old Saybrook, CT, where we are renting a house for the summer. It finally seems like the right time and place to get started! I'm on the second chapter now and will share my first impressions soon.

The week ahead//

We'll take our daughter and her boyfriend to the train station late this afternoon , then head to a nearby town for a concert on the green. If I get my act together, we'll even have a picnic dinner.

It's back to just three of us for the week ahead. I'm planning to cook at home more often... probably grilling and simpler meals. The kitchen here is pretty well-equipped, but I'd rather not buy a lot of seasonings or special ingredients.

We also plan to explore the Mystic area this week... the seaport, aquarium, and more.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Weekly Update: July 25, 2021

It's a rainy Sunday in southern CT, but it hasn't dampened our moods. We had such a nice week with Twin A here, even though she worked most of the time. Now Daughter #1 and her boyfriend will be with us for a week. They, too will work remotely.

Last week I enjoyed: long walks on cool mornings, exploring the area around us, a lobster roll for lunch, reading on the porch, and an outdoor book sale at a local library.


by Alexander Lobrano, narrated by Robert Fass

It's been a long time since I listened to a food memoir and I'm glad Paris in July nudged me toward this one. My Place at the Table  wasn't even on my radar until I read about it in an audible newsletter. Lobrano's story begins with his Connecticut childhood and continues through his early career when, in 1986, he accepts a writing job in Paris with Women's Wear Daily. As he settles into Parisian life, his language skills improve, he falls in love with the city and discovers real French food. A fascinating epicurean journey is underway!

In 1999, Lobrano was hired as the European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine and stayed until it closed in 2009. Today he is a James Beard Award-winning writer and one of Paris' most influential food critics. I loved listening to his story. 


Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard

I started this book last weekend, added in the audio version midweek (good timing from the library for once!), and plan to finish later today - it is SO good! Why have I not read Joyce Maynard before now? I'm keeping this post short today because I NEED to get back to my reading...

How was your week? What are you 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, July 18, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Summer Vacation Begins!

Here we are in Connecticut! In late June, we spent most of a week driving up from Florida, visiting friends and family. Along the way, we discovered a new-found love of Chapel Hill, NC and an urge to further explore Beaufort, SC. We ended up in Central New York where we spent two and a half  weeks with my parents... and loved every second of it!

Now we are at our rental in Connecticut... a charming cottage near the shore. I envision many happy hours reading on the porch or walking down the street to sit by the shoreline!


by George Packer, narrated by the author

This insightful and thought-provoking book examines our current national situation, how we got here, compares it to past times of turmoil, and offers thoughts on a path forward. I read Packer's The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America in 2017 and was interested in what he had to say about where things stand today.

I kept coming back to the idea that the destruction of a shared reality has done the most damage.

I listened to the audiobook, read by the author, but there was a lot to digest. I plan to purchase a print copy to reread and have also signed up for a free virtual event with the author at a nearby indie.

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

I'd never read Joshua Henkin and was thrilled to receive this ebook in a Goodreads giveaway. There was so much to enjoy... the NYC setting, complicated family dynamics, and interesting, well-drawn characters. But what I found most fascinating was how Henkin portrays the stress and changing dynamics of a marriage in which one partner develops a serious progressive illness.

Pru Steiner arrives in NYC in the late 1970s, falls in love with and marries her young Shakespeare professor at Columbia, Spence Robin. They have a daughter together and Spence has a son (with whom he has minimal interaction) from a prior marriage. While still in his 50s Spence is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease.

The novel is written with striking tenderness and compassion. It is heart-breaking, funny at times, and filled with love. I look forward to exploring Henkin's backlist.

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

This just-released (July 6) debut novel is the type of character-driven story I tend to love. With complicated family dynamics, complex characters, and a secret or two, I was completely engaged from the very beginning. The name "Paper Palace" refers to a rustic family compound/camp on Cape Code and the author takes full advantage of that setting with lush descriptions of the physical landscape throughout the novel. The structure adds even more interest. Most of the action takes place over a single weekend, but we gather the backstory through a series of frequent flashbacks. I really enjoyed the writing, too. My only complaint, and it's a big one, is the ending. It left me scratching my head in aggravation... ugh.

by Alexander Lobrano, narrated by Robert Fass

I finished this audio memoir for Paris in July yesterday and will write about it in a separate post. It was, as the title promises, delicious!


Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard

Diane convinced me to try Joyce Maynard and I was thrilled when this library hold arrived a couple of days ago. Just a chapter or two in, but am enjoying it already!

by Patrick Radden Keefe, narrated by the author

I started this audiobook on my walk this morning. It's over 18 hours long and will take a while to finish, but it's already captured my interest.

The week ahead//

One of our daughters is taking the train up from NYC later this afternoon. She is working remotely this week and will stay through next weekend. The other NYC daughter will arrive with her boyfriend on Friday, and will stay for the rest of the month. My birthday is Thursday, so we will all celebrate together 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.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Six in Six: The 2021 Edition

We're halfway through 2021 and Six in Six, hosted by Jo of The Book Jotter, is back! 

This event/exercise has been around since 2012  and I use it to reflect on the path my reading has taken so far this year. Jo provides a list of suggested categories or you can come up with six of your own. The idea is to fit six books, authors, events, etc. from this year into each category. 

I'll have a full midyear wrap-up later this month, but Six in Six always helps me get started. Links are to my brief reviews, where available.

Six Books by New-to-Me Authors:
The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington
Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Six Books by Tried-and-True Authors:
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri
Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny
Young  Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

Six Nonfiction Books I Recommend:
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds,  Ibram X. Kendi

Six Books That Pushed Me Beyond My Preferred Genres:
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (short stories)
What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer (poetry)
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (YA fiction)
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (play)
The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi (self help/how to)
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds,  Ibram X. Kendi (YA, NF)

Six Great Audiobooks:
Everything Beautiful in it's Time by Jenna Bush Hager, narrated by the author
A Quiet Life in the Country by T.E. Kinsey, narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden
Good Company by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, narrated by Marin Ireland
Writers & Lovers by Lily Kind, narrated by  Stacey Glemboski
Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner, narrated by Deborah Burgess
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, narrated by Nancy Wu

Six Bookish Podcasts I'm Enjoying Right Now:

Friday, July 2, 2021

June Wrap-Up and Summer Reading Plans

June has been another great reading month... I'm definitely on a roll this year!  I mostly stuck to my reading plan but more library holds came in than I was expecting, so I didn't get to listen to Dust Tracks on a Road or read the latest Shelf Subscription, Revival Season.

Books read in June//

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri - 4.5/5  literary fiction, in translation
Good Company by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney  - 4/5 contemporary fiction, read/listen combo
What Kind of Woman: Poems by Kate Baer  (I don't read enough poetry to rate it, but this was great.)
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo - 4/5  YA audio
That Summer by Jennifer Weiner  - 4.5/5  contemporary fiction
A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsun Kim  - 3/5 audio, memoir
Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal by George Packer - 5/5 audio, nonfiction

Favorite June Books//

Summer reading plans//

I'm keeping it simple this summer. Since we will be away from home for at least the next couple of months, most of my reading will be either on my kindle or audio.


I'll choose a couple of books from this list to read for Paris in July. The rest of the month will be devoted to my remaining library holds.


Right now my plan is to read books already on my kindle. I've purchased so many daily deals over the past few years, and will finally setting aside time to read from my own digital library.  Lately it seems like purchasing a book is the surest way to insure that I don't  read it! You know how it goes once a deadline or due date is removed...

I discovered a wonderful indie book store in Chapel Hill, NC on our trip north. Surprisingly, I managed to leave with just two new books. We'll also be fairly close to another favorite indie while we're in CT... so I may have to make a few exceptions to my kindle reading for new purchases.

What was your favorite June book? Have you made any summer reading plans?

Beaufort, SC

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Paris in July 2021: A Reading List


It's almost time... Paris in July begins in a week. This event has been a blogger favorite since 2010. Hosted once again at Thyme for Tea, Tamara says:
Here, at Paris in July blogging central, we are connecting you with other lovers of Paris through the month long blogging event. Over the past 10 years, participants have used this event to post about new recipes, favourite holiday memories, best books on Paris, set in Paris, about Parisiennes, music from Paris, best cocktails found in Paris, favourite walks in Paris.... almost anything about Paris or France. 

We cant really go to Paris right now, but here we will share many different sides of our love of french things, and Paris. 

July will be a busy month for me. I'll be visiting family for the first half of the month, so my participation may be minimal. However, I still hope to try a new recipe and read a book or two for this event. 

My List of Reading Possibilities:

Fresh Water for Flowers by ValĂ©rie Perrin,  translated by Hildegarde Serle
 Added to my tbr list after reading Diane's review

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
This classic has been on my list for years.

The American by Henry James
Another classic that has been on my list for a long time...

Paris for One by Jojo Moyes
A short story by Jojo Moyes should be fun.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 
...because I must be the only person who hasn't read this book!

The Pleasing Hour by Lily King
Writers & Lovers  will be one of my favorites this year... this is King's debut novel.

You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac
A recommendation from Sara at Fiction Matters

by Alexander Lobrano
This is a new memoir sounds delicious!

Will you be spending Paris in July this year? The sign up post is here.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

A Father's Day Sunday Salon

Hello, friends and welcome to another weekly wrap-up. It's been mostly cloudy here for days with on-and-off rain, less-than-impressive sunsets, and plenty of mosquitoes. Yes, "rainy season" is officially here. I was still able to walk most mornings and managed to finish two audiobooks along the way. 

Last week we got ready for our trip north - the car was serviced, I stocked my FIL's freezer with a variety of his favorite soups and baked goods, and we finalized plans to see fully-vaccinated friends along the way. The only thing left to do now is pack!

Finished last week//

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, narrated by the author

My annual foray into YA literature, this book is brimming with family, food, and a dash of magic! Emoni is a high school senior. She lives with her abuela, has a preschool daughter, and dreams of becoming a chef. Over the course of her senior year, she struggles with decisions that will effect the course of her life. The book is very real, beautifully written, and the author does a fabulous job narrating the audio edition. In fact, she won the 2020 Audie Award for author narration.  

Since I usually only read one YA novel each year, I select one that comes highly recommended. Thanks to Vicki and to Kaytee, from Currently Reading podcast, for pointing me in Elizabeth Acevedo's direction. If your library offers hoopla, the audio is available there for immediate download.

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner

If you're searching for a vacation read that will keep you turning the pages, look no further. From Philadelphia's Main Line to the outer reaches of Cape Cod, this #MeToo novel is populated with great characters. It's a story about friendship, coming to terms with the past, and forging a way forward. It even delivers a twist or two. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did... couldn't put it down! 

by Eunsun Kim, narrated by Emily Woo Zeller

So, it turns out I started listening to this book thinking it was something else... the cover similarities are striking. I found it in my audible account (must have been free with audible plus), likely added after reading Nothing to Envy.

This is one young woman's story of her nine-year journey to escape North Korea, through China and eventually to South Korea. It is a harrowing tale of strength and bravery, and one which is important to share with the world. Although the book was not especially well-written, I am glad to have listened to it. And I'd still like to read The Girl with Seven Names at some point... 

About to start//

by George Packer, narrated by the author

I enjoyed Packer's The Unwinding  a few years ago and am curious to hear his take on our current situation. I used an audible credit to download this book.

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

I won a kindle edition of this new release in a goodreads giveaway and am planning to get started later today...

Later today//  

We're planning a Father's Day brunch here at home. Later this afternoon, we'll take Father's Day dinner over to my FIL.

The week ahead//

Will be all about final preparations and packing for the trip north... we hit the road Saturday. I may post again before we leave, but will likely take a blog break while we're visiting family. Look for me again sometime after mid-July.

How was your week? What are you 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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