Sunday, May 15, 2022

A Mid-May Sunday Salon

Mid-May. Hard to believe, but here we are. Thanks to a welcome break from the recent heat and humidity, it's been a perfect week here in southwest Florida. We even had our windows open for a few nights - heavenly!

We had a wonderful visit with my sister and BIL... catching up, sharing great meals, and, of course, taking in the spectacular sunsets. Early in the week we hosted a neighborhood gathering and last night we were invited to another patio party. It's been a few years since we've socialized this much... I've missed it!

My daughter and I also had appointments at a new dental office last week. We were impressed with both the dentist and the hygienist. My husband may even switch to this practice.

It was also a great week for reading...

Finished last week//

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

This is a prequel to the 2014 YA hit We Were Liars and I devoured it last weekend! A perfect change of pace following The Absolutist  by John Boyne, look for a review post later this week.

This short, epistolary novel was a delight! I'm sure it will be among my favorites this year. More in this week's review post.

Current reading// 

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

A chapter or two in, this is shaping up to be a light, fun read. I've already laughed out loud a couple of times.

by Imani Perry, narrated by the author

I am mostly listening to this book. It reads like combination memoir/travelogue with plenty of history for background and context. I should finish in another day or two.

On the blog//

In the kitchen//

Between the two parties and meals out with my sister and BIL, the only dinner I prepared all week was Balsamic Caprese Chicken on the grill. I think I've shared this one before, but it's so delicious and elegant that it deserves another mention. I add a drizzle of balsamic glaze over the tomato and mozzarella.

The week ahead//

Tonight we'll have my SIL over for dinner, then later we'll watch Stanley Tucci's "Searching for Italy." This week should be relatively quiet... no visitors or parties, just the usual activities. That's fine with me!

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.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Book Brief: The Absolutist by John Boyne


The Absolutist by John Boyne
Doubleday, 2011
309 pages

Motivation for reading:
John Boyne has been on my radar for years, but Les's recent review convinced me the time had come to try one of his novels.

Source: ebook borrowed from the library

Publisher's summary (from goodreads):
It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War. 

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will - from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain. 

The Absolutist  is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they've turned the last page.

My thoughts:

The stars aligned for a great reading experience last week. It started with Les's review, which appeared just as I was about to select my next book. Then, consulting goodreads, I found several other trusted blogging friends loved it, too. And finally, the ebook was available for immediate download from my library.

Choosing this book was a bit of a departure for me -  I do not read war books. Novels focused on life back home or women at Bletchley Park, for example, are fine, but I prefer not to go to the front. The Absolutist  took me right into the trenches. In addition to the actual fighting, descriptive details of lice infestation, unrelenting mud, and physical hardship made for tough reading at times... but it was all relevant, even necessary, to the story.

The writing itself was excellent and the character development superb. I loved getting to know Tristan and Will and also appreciated the way Boyne portrayed minor characters. The ending literally took my breath away.

I know many of you have read John Boyne and I will definitely seek out more of his work. Are they all this intense? What do you suggest I read next?

My rating:

Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Sunday Salon: Mother's Day Edition

Hello, friends and Happy Mother's Day! The end-of-season push is on here in SWFL... lots of routine appointments and friends gatherings before we wrap things up for the summer. A few neighbors have already made their way north, while others leave around Memorial Day. Our local farmers market ends in a few weeks and other businesses and attractions are shifting to summer hours. It's funny how the seasonal rhythm here is the opposite of what I've been used to for my entire life!

Recent reading//

The Absolutist by John Boyne

I don't generally read "war books" but Les's review convinced me to give this one a try... and it was excellent! Look for a review post later this week.

Current reading//

by Imani Perry, narrated by the author 

In this book, the author "shows that the meaning of American is inextricably linked with the South, and that our understanding of its history and culture is the key to understanding the nation as a whole." 
It's a read/listen combination for me (mostly listening) and, at the 20% mark, I'm finding it very interesting... and have been sharing all sort of interesting tidbits and facts with my husband.

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

This is a prequel to the the popular YA novel We Were Liars, which I tore through back in 2014. It wasn't even on my radar, but I happened to be in the library as it hit the shelves. I read the first 75 pages last night...

On the blog//

In the kitchen// 

After being away for weeks, it feels good to have a fully-equipped kitchen again! Last week we had this Napa Chicken Salad with Sesame Dressing from Pinch of Yum for a few lunches. The dressing was delicious and I loved the combination of flavors and textures. I used Veggie Slaw instead of Napa cabbage.

We had my sister-in-law over for dinner last night and I made a dessert for the first time in a months. Mixed Berry Crisp was a huge hit. I used a combination of fresh raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries - yum!

The week ahead//

Tonight the second episode of Stanley Tucci's new season of Searching for Italy is on CNN - we love it!  

Later this week we're hosting an end-of-season neighborhood gathering, I'll be getting my teeth cleaned, and my sister and BIL will spend a couple nights with us. And, hopefully, it won't get too hot!

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.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Catching up: April Micro-Reviews

I read very little in April and spent even less time blogging. The books I did  manage to read are quickly fading from memory and gathering my thoughts has become a race against time. This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt, "One-Word Reviews for the Last Ten Books I Read", inspired me to take a micro approach, too.


by R.C. Sherriff, narrated by Jilly Bond

Reading this book was like spending time relaxing by the sea... leisurely pace, lovely descriptions, and  very little action. Originally published in 1931, it was exactly the right book at the right time for me. However, it put my mother to sleep. 
Reader, know thyself!

by Patric Richardson, narrated by the author

A book about laundry?? Yes, but there's more. I also loved listening to the author talk about his southern family, his love of textiles, and the notion that caring for loved ones' clothing is an act of love. Richardson also offers some excellent laundry tips. I plan to try several, but need to buy a hard copy for reference. 

by Anna Quindlen, narrated by the author

If Anna Quindlen writes it, I will read it. Or in this case, listen. Here Anna talks about how important it is, especially in times like these, to "stop and record what we are thinking and feeling." She cites examples from Anne Frank and WPA slave narratives to the Freedom Writers.  History is our story.. those who write it, own it. 

by Natasha Brown, narrated by Pippa Bennett-Warner

One word review: interior
This very short (2 hour) audio consists of the inner musings about work, life, success, class, racism, and  sexism of a Black British woman as she prepares for an extravagant garden party at the country home of her boyfriend's parents. It's been described as Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway  meets Claudia Rankine's Citizen. I think the audio production added to my overall experience. 

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Sunday, May 1, 2022

April Wrap-Up and a Look Ahead to May

Old Saybrook, CT town beach on a chilly April evening

Hello, friends... it's been a while! April was an incredibly busy, but very productive month for us. We left Florida on the third and spent four days driving to Connecticut. Our first stop was Jeckyll Island, GA, a beautiful state-owned island with minimal development, lots of nature (including the GA sea turtle center), and a lovely historic district. I wish we'd planned more than a quick overnight, but we'll  be back!

Once in Connecticut, I finally got to see the condo. My husband had seen it, but it was unnerving purchasing real estate I'd not personally inspected. Luckily, the virtual tour proved accurate - such a relief! We spent a couple more nights in a hotel as we awaited delivery of mattresses, then officially moved in. Two weeks later we were mostly organized and ready for the summer... though there's still plenty of work to do when we get back.

Another April highlight was a visit to central NY to see my parents and siblings for Easter. It was the first time we'd all been together since 2019... and it was wonderful! (despite the snow😬)

Last weekend we were in NYC. Both daughters had moved since the beginning of the pandemic and we finally  got to see their new places. We also spent hours walking around the city. It's been years since we've experienced a NY spring! And the restaurants... oh, so good! [The photo below was taken in Washington Square, the other two are Central Park.]

April Reading//

Surprisingly, I managed to read four books in April. Two were quite short and all were audiobooks or read/listen combinations. I'll post mini-reviews post later this week. 

The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff

Write For Your Life by Anna Quindlen

Assembly by Natasha Brown

May Reading Possibilities//

The Absolutist  by John Boyne (currently reading)

And now May is here and we're back in Florida. It's noticeably quieter on the island as snowbirds and tourists return home. I love this time of year... and am hoping for a peaceful, low-key month ahead. Fingers crossed!

How was your month? What was your favorite April read?

Sunday, March 27, 2022

March Got Away From Me...

Hello, friends. March has been a little crazy around here. Our daughter and her boyfriend were here for a couple of weeks (working remotely) at the beginning of the month. We enjoyed a visit from an old friend mid-month and my cousin was here for a long weekend last week. And now the month is just about over...

I've finished several books, but know I won't get around to reviewing them any time soon. Instead, I'll give you my quick takes:

by Sarah. M. Broom, narrated by Bahni Turpin

Broom is a good writer with an interesting family history, but I was hoping for more from the 2019 National Book Award Winner. I was looking for bigger picture insights into how social and economic policies/programs impacted families in post-Katrina New Orleans East. 
Bahni Turpin's narration, as always, was excellent. 

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

I discovered Mary Lawson earlier this year through her new novel, A Town Called Solace. Now I'm diving into her backlist. Crow Lake, written two decades ago, is a novel about four orphaned siblings, their relationships with one another, and how youthful choices shape their adult lives. Beautifully written, with exceptional character development and remarkable insight into sibling relationships, this quiet novel left me feeling a little blue. I will likely raise my rating to 4.5 stars with time.

by Erik Larson, narrated by Stephen Hoye

Given what's happening in the world today, this book about William E. Dodd, the U.S. Ambassador to Hitler's Germany in the 1930s, seemed very timely. In addition to the Ambassador, Larson also includes the experiences of  his wife, adult son, and adult daughter as Hitler's power and influence continued to grow. Fascinating reading and listening.

by Eleanor Morse, narrated by Tavia Gilbert

This character-driven family novel set in 1960s coastal Maine didn't get a lot of buzz when it was published last year, so I'm glad I discovered it on the library's new release shelf. The audio was also available to download, so I experienced it as a read/listen combination. Magreete Bright is showing increasing signs of dementia and her situation becomes a crisis when she accidentally starts a fire in her kitchen. At that point, Magreete's daughter, Liddie, her husband, and their three children leave Michigan and move into Magreete's Maine home. While subject matter may be depressing, Morse handles it all so tenderly. The audio added to my overall experience.

by Sara Manning Peskin, narrated by Ann Richardson

Surprisingly engaging for a such scientific topic, I primarily listened to this book. Cognitive neurology, molecular science, actual patient profiles, and interesting accounts of scientists involved in making the discoveries held my interest throughout the entire book. I couldn't get enough.

Current Reading//

by R.C. Sherriff, narrated by Jilly Bond

After a slow start, I'm about a third of the way into this book and finding it to be a delight.

Favorite puzzle of the month//

I love New York Puzzle Company puzzles! This is one of their new designs.

Coming up//

Tomorrow we have tickets for Beyond Van Gogh in Sarasota. I've been looking forward to it all month.

Next weekend we're off to Connecticut. We'll spend most of April setting up our condo so we're ready to live there this summer. We're also planning to visit my family in NY for Easter.

With all of that, my plan is to take a blogging break for the month of April. I'll (hopefully) keep up with your blogs, but doubt I'll post again until early May.

How did March treat you? What was your favorite book of the month?
Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 6, 2022

February Wrap-Up and Plans for March


So February was kind of crazy, but in a mostly good way. Much of the month was spent dealing with real estate transactions. In fact, this post probably reads more like a real estate round-up than a reading wrap-up... sorry.

 We had a few hiccups selling the condo here, but that finally closed on schedule as planned. (The condo used to be our vacation place, but when we decided to move here full time we bought a house instead.)

The next step was to find a condo in Connecticut where we can go to escape the heat, humidity, and hurricanes of Florida summers. That was a slightly wilder process, but the closing happened on Friday. My husband flew up for a few days and one of our NYC daughters and boyfriend took the train up for a day to check things out and be supportive.


The highlight of the month was a visit from my sister and BIL. We also had a short visit from a NY friend, and now Twin B and her boyfriend are in the midst of a two week visit. They still have the ability to work remotely and are taking full advantage while they can.

February Reading//  Yes, there was a little of that, too. I managed to read a grand total of two books last month.

The Ten Loves of Nishino by Hiromi Kawakami
Mostly a disappointment, reviewed here.

I never got around to reviewing this book, but there's still hope. A 5-star read/listen combination for me, it's easy to understand why it won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

March Reading Possibilities//

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom -  *finished, nonfiction, review coming soon

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson - nonfiction, current read/listen combination

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson - backlist fiction from a favorite author, currently reading

Honor by Thrity Umrigar - new fiction by a favorite author

French Braid by Anne Tyler - new fiction by a favorite author

Other March Plans//

We got tickets to see Beyond Van Gogh in Sarasota at the end of the month! Several friends have recommended this experience - I can't wait!

We're looking forward to more visitors this month... my cousin, then my brother and his fiancé. With any luck, we'll take in a baseball spring training game. It's not looking hopeful right now.

Car shopping is no fun even in the best of times. Our current vehicle will 'retire' to our condo in CT, so we'll need something else down here that we'll eventually drive up and down the coast. I'm not looking forward to this at all. Wish us luck!

My favorite February puzzle

That's it for my month... how was your February? What have you been reading?


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