Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Sunday Salon: October 18, 2020


Hello again from Florida. We're so glad to be home! Our six weeks along the Connecticut coast were wonderful... we were reminded of how much we enjoyed living there back in the 80s. The only downside was a broken ankle. My mid-September ankle injury turned out to be a break, so morning walks, along with audiobook consumption, came to an abrupt halt. 

Toward the end of of the month, we all got rapid COVID tests and headed to central NY. The time with family, crisp fall air, and gorgeous colors (especially the pronounced vibrant reds) made for a glorious visit.

Now we're back in Florida, encouraging the contractor to finish up the punch list leftover from July so we can start living at the house. It's kind of crazy going between two places every day... good thing they're only a few miles apart!

With all that's been happening, and all the news to keep up with, I've only finished one book in the past two weeks...

 Listen to the Marriage: A Novel by John Jay Osborn

This unusual novel features three characters (wife, husband, and marriage counselor) in one room with no action whatsoever. The reader basically observes their marriage counseling sessions. For obvious reasons, it will not appeal to everyone.

There were several instances where it seemed I was actually eavesdropping on this stressed couple.... an oddly voyeuristic feeling, yet I kept right on reading. The way in which the couple gradually came to articulate their feelings, find the true meaning in words being spoken, and examine underlying issues with the guidance of a skilled therapist was fascinating.

After finishing, I realized Osborn is also the author of The Paper Chase, the novel behind the television show of the same name...which I loved back in the day. I've downloaded a sample to my kindle. Note to self: remember to read about the author before beginning a book! 

My rating:



Current reading//


Anxious People by Fredrik Backman 

Since starting this book yesterday, I've already read half of it. It's filled with quirky characters in an odd situation - they're accidental hostages following a foiled bank robbery attempt. In all honesty, I considered setting it aside around 20%, but so many 5-star ratings from friends convinced me to stick with it a little longer. I'm fully invested now and can't wait to see how it all plays out.




I'm mostly listening to this book, narrated by the author, but progress is painfully slow. As I mentioned, my morning walks haven't resumed since breaking my ankle, so audio time has been limited... I am enjoying it though.


Coming soon//

It's almost time for Nonfiction November, my favorite blogging event of the year! Get all the details here.


A Virtual Book Launch//

Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

I know I'm not be the only one missing book club meetings and author events. My sister-in-law recently convinced me to give virtual events a try, so upon receiving an email from RJ Julia Booksellers announcing Ina Garten's virtual book launch, I purchased a ticket. It included a signed copy of her new book plus access to her live interview with Sam Sifton, NYTimes food editor. I enjoyed the event, though it felt like I was watching someone else's Zoom conversation. Audience members could type questions and Sifton selected a few to pose to Ina... who was delightful. Have you tried virtual bookish events?


In other news//  

We filled out our mail-in ballots last week and hand-delivered them to the county Board of Elections. They had traffic cones and multiple signs leading to a drive-up tent, where two poll workers checked ballot envelopes for signatures, handed out "I VOTED" stickers, and deposited ballots in the secure box. I was shocked to find a steady stream of vehicles both ahead of and behind me! The next day I was able to check on-line and see that my vote had indeed been counted.  Do you have a plan to vote?

How are things going for you this fall? What have you been reading lately?


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



Saturday, September 19, 2020

An End-of-Summer Update


 Hello, friends. How in the world did it get to be mid-September? We're savoring the final days of summer along the Connecticut coast, just as we did when we lived here thirty years ago. We've loved having our daughters here (still working remotely), eaten our fill of lobster rolls, and enjoyed long walks (me) and bike rides (my husband). Unfortunately, my walks came to an abrupt end last weekend when I twisted my ankle in a pothole. The sprain is a bad one and there's a small chip fracture, too. I'm staying off of it as much as possible, and using a friend's golf club as a cane when I do need to move around. Hopefully, I'll be ready to walk on the beach by the time we get back to Florida.


Recent reading//

Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come: An Introvert's Year of Living Dangerously by Jessica Pan

This book was mentioned last month by Deb at Readerbuzz  and the concept intrigued me. Jessica Pan spends a year trying to overcome her introversion by living as an extrovert. I loved the first several chapters where she talks about moving beyond small talk, networking tips, and her experience using an ap to find a new BFF.  My mind started to wander when she got to trying improv and stand up comedy. I can't even begin  to fathom that! The "final exam" involved cooking a Thanksgiving dinner (in London) for the many new people in her life at the end of the year. Overall, I enjoyed the book... it sure gave this introvert something to thing about. 




The Guest List by Lucy Foley 

This was the first mystery I've read in ages and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The wildly atmospheric story of a wedding, complete with a murder, on an island off the coast of Ireland is told from multiple points-of view: the bride, the groom, the best man, the plus one, the wedding planner, and the bridesmaid. Each character is fascinating and comes with plenty of figurative baggage. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough! Now I need to explore Foley's earlier novels.



The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

I loved this book when I first read it in the late 80s/early 90s and have considered it a favorite ever since. I'm happy to report that The Shell Seekers  stood the test of time and was every bit as enjoyable the second time around... a perfect comfort read!



Recent listening//

I've gravitated toward nonfiction audio over the past few weeks... mostly shorter memoirs and essays. All have been in the 3.5 to 4.5 star range. My favorite of the bunch was I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. A couple of the essay's in Zadie Smith's short collection were also excellent.

by Kamala Harris, narrated by the author



Intimations by Zadie Smith, narrated by the author



Current reading//


I've just started this unusual memoir and already love it! It's about the author's relationship with her grandmother, along with family history, and stories. It's unique in that the author is writing in her grandmother's voice... hence the "as told to" in the title. I'll bet this would be great on audio, too, but my library doesn't own a copy.



This is Happiness by Niall Williams

Beautiful writing, strong sense of place (small Irish village), but light on plot. I've been reading a chapter or two whenever the mood strikes... progressing slowly, but steadily.


So that's it on the reading front. 

After another COVID test on Monday, we'll visit my parents in NY again. Depending on the weather (hurricane situation), we'll head back to Florida in early October. 

I hope you're managing with all the craziness that is our world today. Let me know how you're doing and what you've been reading. I'll check in again soon. Take good care, friends.



The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

A Mid-August Catch Up: 5 Book Briefs


Hello from the Connecticut coast! After driving up from Florida and negative COVID testing, we spent a couple of weeks with my parents and siblings in central NY. But then, in a year  that's already been completely crazy, our move to CT was delayed when the house we're renting lost power following Hurricane Isaias. We are finally here and settled, Twin A has joined us as she continues to work from home, and Daughter #1 and her boyfriend are visiting for the weekend. Spending all this time with family is one positive result of these crazy times.

I have found the Covid response in the northeast to be very different from what we left in Florida or encountered in North Carolina during our 36-hour stop. With very rare exception, everyone in central NY and CT is wearing a mask and social distancing...  in stores, waiting for outdoor seating or service at restaurants, pumping gas, and even walking along downtown city/village streets. Most people do not wear masks, but maintain social distance, outdoors while walking, running, or biking on neighborhood streets. It's such a relief.

Our plan is to remain in CT until later in September, then visit family in NY again before returning to FL at the beginning of October.

Now let's move on to the books. Here's what I've read lately:



The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

I loved this book! The novel begins in 1950s Ohio when Ellie and Brick are teenagers in love, then goes on to chronicle their lives together and the lives of their children. It tells a story of working-class America, issues faced by their communities, and changing roles for women.  I couldn't turn the 400 pages fast enough, yet didn't want it to end either.

Schultz, the wife of Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and has published collections of her syndicated columns. This is her first novel.  I borrowed the ebook from the library, then realized the audio version was narrated by Cassandra Campbell (a favorite), so I borrowed that, too. Read or listen, just don't miss this one. It'll be on my list of favorites at the end of the year!





by Mary Trump, narrated by the author

As sick as I am of everything Trump, I could not resist using an audible credit to download this book the day it was released. Why? Because I craved a deeper understanding of the man sitting in the Oval Office... how in the world did he get to be the way he is? Mary Trump, as a family member (daughter of Donald's eldest brother) and a clinical psychologist, is uniquely qualified to tell the story. 

The story is both fascinating and deeply disturbing. Mary Trump is a good writer and a good narrator, but my one complaint is that the book is probably longer than it needed to be. It could have been an excellent extended article or essay, but 'tis the season for Trump books... and this one might just be the best!






Beach Read by Emily Henry

This was a cute, fun novel. A romance writer, who learns of her father's infidelity after his death, has become disillusioned with love. She inherits his beach house and discovers a handsome literary author currently suffering from writers block is her next door neighbor. They create a writerly competition of sorts to help them both out of their respective ruts and, naturally, a relationship blooms. 

I appreciated the bookish angle, but this was a bit "romance-y" for my taste. Still, it was an enjoyable summer read overall.





by Erica Bauermeister, narrated by Tavia Gilbert

I first heard about this book on From the Front Porch Podcast, one of my regular listens, hosted by Annie Jones, owner of The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia. It's a recently released memoir-in-essays by Erica Bauermeister, author of The School of Essential Ingredients  and other novels, written as she and her husband fall in love with, purchase, and renovate an old house in Port Townsend, Washington.

As most of you know, we also purchased and began renovating a house last fall, so this book sounded irresistible to me. Of course our project was nowhere near as extensive (or expensive!) as Bauermeister's, but I still adored these essays. The publisher's description says it perfectly: 
A personal, accessible, and literary exploration of the psychology of architecture, this book is designed for homeowners, remodelers, and those who are simply curious about how our built environments shape who we become.




by Linda Holmes 

This was another light read, but I didn't enjoy it as much as Beach Read. Evvie Drake is a thirty-something widow who was in the process of leaving her husband as her phone rings to inform her that he's been in a serious automobile accident. He dies while she is en route to the hospital. She is left with conflicted feelings about widowhood. Enter a young, handsome, NY Yankees pitcher (a friend of a friend) who has mysteriously lost his ability to pitch and wants to flee the city temporarily. Naturally Evvie has an available apartment in her Maine home. The rest goes exactly as you might expect.

Bottom line... entertaining, enjoyable, and predictable but ultimately forgettable. Maybe it's time for me to get back to more serious fiction.



What's happening with you these days? Have you read any great books?


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

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Pete Hamill Post, Redux

I was saddened to learn of Pete Hamill's death this morning and would like to share a post originally published here on January 8, 2010. 
 
The Pete Hamill Post
(AP photo/Bebeto Matthews)

When Pete Hamill's name appeared on the speaker list for the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series, it wasn't immediately familiar. After a quick search, I remembered hearing about Snow in August,  but didn't know much about his career in journalism. A few months later, two of his books were on my 2009 list of favorites, his lecture was fantastic, and I am officially a fan!

After years of thinking, my book club finally took the plunge and eight of us purchased season tickets for the Gifford series. The group had been struggling with selections, and the lectures provided built-in reading material while infusing much-needed enthusiasm. Since previous authors focused on their most recent books, we chose North River for our December meeting.


After just a few pages, I loved it! Set in New York City during the Depression, it features mobsters and political corruption, but mostly revolves around Dr. James Delaney, a GP wounded in WWI and deserted by his both his wife and daughter, who one day finds his two year old grandson, dropped at his doorstep. Delaney, still struggling with war wounds and abandonment, hires Rose, a Sicilian illegal immigrant, as housekeeper and surrogate mother to Carlito, and a make-shift family is formed.

"Hamill has crafted a beautiful novel, rich in New York City detail and ambiance, that showcases the power of human goodness and how love, in its many forms, can prevail in an unfair world." (from Publisher's Weekly)

North River  has it all - beautiful writing, wonderful characters, and a setting rich in detail. Check out the few sentences I highlighted in this Teaser Tuesdays post.

After finishing North River, I wanted to read another of Hamill's books immediately. My choice was an audio version of the nonfiction Downtown: My Manhattan, read by the author.


Hamill is an excellent narrator, and Downtown: My Manhattan  ended up being my favorite nonfiction book of the year. It's a fascinating look at the history of Manhattan with bits of Hamill's life woven in. It covers everything from baseball to vaudeville, and architecture to politics. Hamill's love of the city is obvious throughout. While listening to him describe Trinity Church and its surroundings, I was wishing he would record narrated walking tours of Manhattan!

Finally, it was the evening of the lecture. As luck would have it, the weather was simply miserable and half the group didn't make it, but those that did were enthralled for 90 minutes. Hamill talked more about his life and experiences than the books he's written. He talked of his love for libraries ("temples of wisdom") and books, and the power of words. At 75, he's rereading many of his favorite books, and finds them even richer with the perspective gained from a "life lived".

As Hamill talked about print journalism, I was amazed to learn that 70% of the cost of a newspaper is in the delivery - the paper and ink, trucks and gas. He believes in the future of journalism, but sees a new model of delivery evolving.

We loved hearing about Hamill's childhood. We were taken with his humor, as well as his humility, and decided he'd be an asset to any dinner party! Since it's doubtful I'll ever find myself on the same guest list, reading more of his books will have to do.

The lecture series takes a short hiatus during the winter months (what writer would come to Syracuse in February?) and resumes in March with Richard Russo.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Midyear Musings and A List of Favorites


Halfway through 2020. Is it just me or does this feel like the year that will never end?

I haven't had the best reading year either but, thankfully, the second half is off to a strong start. I began 2020 with a long classic, followed with a string of unremarkable reads, and then it hit.  Two of our daughters fled Manhattan in early March to join us here in Florida... they stayed for three months. Around that time I fell into a reading slump that lasted just over two months. June turned out to be the first good reading month of the year.

General observations:
- Compared to last year, I've read 25% fewer books
- Only two were classics... I'm slipping
- 30% of my reading has been nonfiction
- Male/female authors: 22% / 78%
- Just one book in translation
- I love read/listen combinations... nearly half of my books are experienced this way.
- I've spent much more time in my comfort zone, reading reliable authors (Anthony Trollope, Emma Straub, Anne Tyler, Barbara Kingsolver, Elin Hilderbrand ) and books that aren't too heavy.

What's likely to change in the next six months?
Probably not much. I'm reading more for comfort these days (what a world!) and will likely continue to do so.

Goals:
I'm being kind to myself this year...  read whatever I want, whenever I want.



2020 Midyear Favorites

FICTION


The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
My favorite book so far this year!




All Adults Here by Emma Straub
I'll read anything Straub writes.




You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
A short story collection, recommended in print and audio




The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
Trollope never disappoints...




28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
A fun summer read!



AUDIOBOOK


by Kevin Wilson, narrated by Marin Ireland




NONFICTION


Notes from a Public Typewriter by Michael Gustafson







What is your favorite book so far this year? Have you read any of these?


NOTE:  We're two weeks into July and this list is already outdated! I've had two more 5-star reads that will surely be on my year-end list of favorites.

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