Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday Intro: The End of Your Life Book Club

Crossing to Safety
We were nuts about the mocha in the waiting room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering's outpatient care center. The coffee isn't so good, and the hot chocolate is worse. But if, as Mom and I discovered, you push the "mocha" button, you see how two not-very-good things can come together to make something quite delicious. The graham crackers aren't bad either. 
The outpatient care center is housed on the very pleasant fourth floor of a handsome black steel and glass office building in Manhattan on the corner of 53rd Street and Third Avenue. Its visitors are fortunate that it's so pleasant, because they spend many hours there. This is where people with cancer wait to see their doctors and to be hooked up to a drip for doses of the life-prolonging poison that is one of the wonders of the modern medical world. By the late autumn of 2007, my mother and I began meeting there regularly.
The End of Your Life Book Club
by Will Schwalbe

I started listening to this book late last week on my morning walks and really like it so far. Of course, with a first chapter titled Crossing to Safety  (my favorite novel), I would fully expect to like this memoir. Tissues will probably be necessary at some point but, a hundred pages in, I'm enjoying the book talk and have even made note of a couple of titles to investigate.

Here's a portion of the goodreads summary:
“What are you reading?” 
That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.  
This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying. 
What do you think of the intro? Would you keep reading this book?

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Monday, September 29, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday and somehow the weekend slipped by without a weekly update. I was in New York City visiting my daughter - a quick trip to tackle a couple of apartment decorating projects. They were accomplished, and we still had plenty of time to walk, talk, shop, and eat! The weather was perfect and we enjoyed leisurely dinners outdoors both Friday and Saturday night (one favorite restaurant and one new adventure). Today I'm recharged and ready for another week. Now if I could only get caught up on reviews...

Finished last week:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Readalong post coming later this week

Breakfast at Tifffany's by Truman Capote
(audio narrated by Michael C. Hall)
I was reminded of The Great Gatsby... must watch the movie.

Currently reading:

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
 I'm 60% done, but not really loving it.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (audio)
I really like this so far... it keeps me walking that extra mile.

Up Next:

What are you reading this week?
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck

Imperial Woman
by Pearl S. Buck
originally published, 1956
Open Road Media e-book, 2013
384 pages
source: purchased

Audiobook: Oasis Audio, 2011
narrated by Kirsten Potter
17 hours and 46 minutes
source: purchased

One sentence summary:
Imperial Woman tells the story of Tzu Hsi, China's last empress, who began her life in the Forbidden City as a concubine and rose to become the head of the Qing Dynasty.

I've enjoyed other books by Pearl S. Buck -The Good Earth (an all-time favorite), Pavilion of Women, and Peony: A Novel of China - so decided to include Imperial Woman on my Classics Club list.

How does this one compare?
Previous Buck novels I've read were based on lives of ordinary citizens, but Imperial Woman is about both Chinese royalty and an actual historic figure. Tzu Hsi's story is an interesting one and I enjoyed learning about life in the Forbidden City, but eventually became impatient with the endless palace "intrigue".

A note on the audio production:
This was a combination print/audio experience for me. I decided to purchase Imperial Woman based solely on the fact that Kristen Potter was the narrator and had done an excellent job with Peony: A Novel of China. Her voice is soft, yet firm with an unhurried, deliberate pacing that fits perfectly with the Chinese culture portrayed in the novel.

My rating:

Bottom line:
Recommended, but if you haven't read Pearl S. Buck, I'd suggest starting with The Good Earth or Pavilion of Women.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tagged: Seven Deadly Sins

Have you seen the bookish Seven Deadly Sins meme making the rounds this week? I was tagged by Pat at Posting for Now, who was tagged by Diana at BookofSecrets, who was tagged by...

So, my sins:

1. Greed:  What is your most expensive book?

My husband bought me a beautiful set of leather bound Jane Austen novels from The Easton Press several years ago for Christmas - I love them!

2. Wrath: What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Jodi Picoult - I used to love her  earlier books (Plain Truth, My Sister's Keeper), but then they started to feel formulaic. Now I don't read her at all.

3. Gluttony:  What book have you devoured over and over again with no shame?

As a kid, there was a time when I read Harriet the Spy  once a month (maybe fifth grade). My adult answer is Pride and Prejudice.

4. Sloth:  Which book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy - maybe this winter?

5. Pride:  What book do you most talk about in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

I think any book talk is perceived as intellectual among most people, but I particularly like talking about classics. Big surprise, right?

6. Lust:  What attributes do you find attractive in a male or female character?

Male: tall, dark, and handsome... intelligence and humor a big plus.
Female: intelligence and independence

7. Envy:  What book would you most like to receive as a gift?

I'd actually prefer a gift card so I can indulge my bookish whims and "buy with 1-click"!

Instead of tagging people, I'm going to urge you all to play along.
What are your bookish sins?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall Reading

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we're talking about our fall TBR (to be read) lists. Like many readers, I am a list-maker, but not always good about sticking to them. Books are selected according to my mood, so something that appeals today may not seem at all interesting next week.

With that in mind, here is today's Fall TBR List:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (in progress) 
For The Estella SocietyR.I.P.  readalong - it's very good so far.

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie (in progress) 
Also for R.I.P., but I'm only reading a few pages per day. Think I need to speed things up!

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (audio, in progress) 
A short book - the perfect contrast to all the long books I've been reading lately.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
This ebook from the library is still on my kindle (thanks to airplane mode) and I'm planning to read it on the train this weekend.

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier
I've been wanting to read more DuMaurier for years. It's time to move beyond Rebecca

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
This is definitely outside my comfort zone, but I can't miss a readalong hosted by Ti and Sandy!

Winter of the World by Ken Follett
Another long book and the second installment of the Century Trilogy. 

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
This book got a lot of buzz when it was released and I've finally borrowed it from the library.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
What is it with long books this year? I have it on my kindle, but may make it a read/listen combination.

Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
This classic is on my kindle. Maybe I'll have time for one more R.I.P. read.

What's on your fall reading list?

Visit The Broke and the Bookish for more Top Ten Tuesday posts.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Weekly Update: September 21, 2014

Good morning, friends. How are you this last weekend of summer? My week was full of fall activities - apples, mums, and the first pumpkin spice latte of the season. Much of it reappeared on Instagram as my #100HappyDays project enters the home stretch. Just over 2 weeks to go.

On the reading front// 

I didn't read much during the week, but yesterday morning I sat down and read the first half of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It's the R.I.P. IX readalong selection (hosted by The Estella Society) and much better than I was expecting. I'm reading an old paperback from the library, but am planning a trip to the bookstore this afternoon. Have you seen the gorgeous Penguin Horror Series edition? I had it in my hands a couple of weeks ago and have seriously regretted not buying it ever since.

Agatha Chrisitie's A Murder is Announced is still my bedtime reading but, since we watched more television this week, I'm only at the 50% mark.


It's been ages since this happened, but I started and  finished an audiobook this week! My recent books have been pretty long, so it was a pleasure to listen to a book under ten hours. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell has been on my wish list for ages and was a good follow-up to An American Tragedy -  a very long classic.

I'm not quite sure what's up next... maybe the ultra-short Breakfast at Tiffany's ( a recent daily deal) until I make a decision.

On the blog//
Tuesday Intro: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Bring on the Backlist - a list of authors I've read once, but want more
At Last! - announcement of new kindle software that will let us share books

In the kitchen//  We're hovering between seasons... grilling most evenings, but the slow cooker has been out for a couple of batches of soup, too. I'm making an effort to get back to our Meatless Monday routine and have turned to Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers: Fresh Ideas for the Weeknight Table for inspiration. More on this in the coming weeks.

Watching//  The Roosevelts: An Intimate History occupied our viewing time this week. After watching the first couple of episodes, we turned to the DVR for the next couple of nights and are still playing catch-up.

Other stuff//  I replaced my ancient first generation iPad last week. Why did I wait so long? The difference is incredible!

Later today// A long walk is next on the agenda. The rain should hold off for the next couple of hours, I hope. Later some browsing at the bookstore, maybe a little football, then family dinner at my sister's house. We'll get back to The Roosevelts this evening.

What are you up to today? Have you read anything good this week?

This post will link to It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

At Last!

Kindle Voyage - image from amazon

There's good news for kindle owners today. No, not the announcement of 7 new devices (although the new Kindle Voyage looks good to me), but at long last kindle owners have been granted the ability to share books. It's called "Family Library" and will be available for all Kindle eReaders released since August 2010, from the Kindle Keyboard onward. A software update is all that's required.

Your "family" may consist of two adult accounts and up to four kids accounts. Since my kids are technically adults, I wasn't aware of amazon's designated kids accounts. However, this still presents a dilemma... I must now choose between linking my library with my mother or my sister. It's a good thing my daughters don't read on kindles.

P.S.  Don't worry, Mom. I've got you covered!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bring on the Backlist!

Yesterday's Top Ten Tuesday asked about authors we've tried once and want to read more. I'm a day late, but decided to play along anyway. Here's my list:

1. Meg Wolitzer (The Interestings)
This will certainly appear on my year-end favorites list. The Position is just $1.99 for the kindle edition now. Have you read it? Can you recommend any of her other novels?

2. Ken Follett (Fall of Giants)
My first book was both long and the beginning of a trilogy. Winter of the World  is on my shelf and the third installment, The Edge of Eternity, was just released.

3. Anne Enright (The Forgotten Waltz)
Beautifully written, maybe a little depressing. Her prize-winning novel, The Gathering, will be next.

4. Graham Greene (The End of the Affair)
Was it the novel or Colin Firth's narration?  Either way, I definitely want more.

5. Claire Messud (The Woman Upstairs)
I was so impressed with this novel, I picked up The Emperor's Children at the library book sale.

6. Elinor Lipman (The View from Penthouse B)
I'm sorry it took so long for me to finally read one of her novels. The Inn at Lake Devine will be next.

7. John Williams (Stoner)
This one is actually an all-time favorite, so I really hope his other books are as good.

8. Junot Diaz (This is How You Lose Her)
A complete surprise...I never expected to love this book. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is near the top of my TBR pile.

9. W. Somerset Maugham (The Painted Veil)
It's been over five years, but I still plan to return to this author.

10. Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca)
Why have I never moved beyond Rebecca? Maybe My Cousin Rachel will be next...

Visit The Broke and the Bookish for more Top Ten Tuesday posts.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tuesday Intro: The Haunting of Hill House

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson

I sat down to begin The Haunting of Hill House on Saturday afternoon, posted a photo on Instagram, and received an interesting piece of advice shortly afterwards: Do not read this book before bedtime! Horror isn't my usual genre, so of course that got my attention.

A quick look at the goodreads summary convinced me not to take any chances.
First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
The Estella Society is hosting a readalong in conjunction with the R.I.P. IX challenge. It runs through the end of the month, so there's plenty of time if you'd like to join us... there's safety in numbers!

What do you think of the intro? Are you brave enough?

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Weekly Update: September 14

Is it really mid-month? September has been crazy-busy. That laid back summer weekday pace is behind us and weekends fill up so fast. First, we had an amazing Labor Day with all of our daughters home. Last weekend  was our annual Girl's Outing - an overnight with my mother and all three of my sisters in honor of Mom's birthday. And today, we are off on a day trip to visit Twin A . That should mean a wonderful brunch somewhere in Rhinebeck, NY.

On the reading front:

I finished An American Tragedy  by Theodore Dreiser yesterday! Just under 900 pages and I almost hated to see it end! Published in 1925, it's based on an actual murder which occurred in the Adirondack Mountains of NY in the early 20th century. A couple hundred pages (at least) could easily have been cut, but it was still a great read. I'm glad the Classics Club Spin dealt me this title.

I'm 33% done with A Murder is Announced  by Agatha Christie, but didn't pick it up at all last week while I was focused on  An American Tragedy. It's on my kindle, so that means it will be my bedtime reading this week.

R.I.P. IX - I finally got around to signing up, and will participate in the group read of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson hosted by The Estella Society. I borrowed the book from my library and started it yesterday. Terri sent some very helpful advice - do not read before bed! This is going to be fun.

On the blog recently:
Review - We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
Review -  Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family by Mark Leslie
Review - The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones
Cookbook Review - Weber's Real Grilling
Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Classics

In the kitchen:
Fall arrived with a vengeance this week. Last Friday, we flirted with 90 degrees and two days ago we never hit 60.  Comfort food was definitely in order, so I broke out slow cooker and tried  a Crock Pot Potato Soup... it definitely hit the spot!

Mostly football right now, but I'm excited about a few upcoming series. First, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History  filmed by Ken Burns hits PBS tonight. Season 2 of The Paradise  begins on Masterpiece September 28. Season 1 is available on Netflix Instant now if you need to catch up or would like a refresher.

Finally, have you heard that Olive Kitteridge, based on the novel by Elizabeth Strout, will be an HBO miniseries? That one is coming in November. We've never paid for HBO... perhaps the time has come.

This should all make the wait for Downton Abbey  a little more bearable. And college basketball isn't very far away, either!

This post will link to It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

R.I.P. IX: Better Late...

R.I.P. IX - It's that time again, and I'm late to the party. This is the ninth edition of Readers Imbibing in Peril, a favorite of bloggers everywhere. Our host, Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings, invites us to read:

Dark Fantasy.

The event runs through October 31, and the rules couldn't be simpler:
1. Have fun reading (and watching).
2. Share that fun with others.

Carl is offering several levels of participation.

I've chosen Peril the Second - read two books of any length that you believe fit within the R.I.P. categories. My plan is to read A Murder is Announced  by Agatha Christie and another book still to be determined.

I will also participate in Peril of the Group Read. Andi and Heather of The Estella Society are hosting a readalong of The Haunting of Hill House  by Shirley Jackson which will run from September 1 to October 1. I just picked up a copy from the library yesterday and can't wait to get started. All the details are here.

Have you chosen your peril?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Classics

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is underrated books or authors in a particular genre. Most of you know I can't pass up an opportunity to talk about classics, so here is my list of ten underrated classics. These are all books I have enjoyed and think should be read more widely.

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
This is my current read and, while it may be overly long, it's very good. I've already added Sister Carrie  to my "must read" list.

Why is Anne the lesser Bronte? She was way ahead of her time with this novel.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
This is Yates' most popular novel. His books tend to be depressing, but he is an amazing writer. 

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
I read this book nearly a decade ago during a week-long snowstorm - a very memorable experience. The miniseries is excellent, too.

Independent People by Halldor Laxness
This saga from the Nobel Prize-winning Icelandic author is a "huge, skaldic treat filled with satire, humor, pathos, cold weather and sheep."

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Do not miss this Persephone classic!

The Cairo Trilogy by  Naguib Mahfouz 
These three novels (Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street) by the Nobel Prize-winning author tell the story of a Muslim family in Cairo during Britain’s occupation of Egypt in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Therese Raquin by Emile Zola
My introduction to Zola, "Therese Raquin  is a clinically observed, sinister tale of adultery and murder among the lower classes in nineteenth-century Parisian society." I loved it!

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Angle of Repose receives more attention, but Crossing to Safety  is my favorite.

Stoner by John Williams
A truly beautiful novel. "John Williams’s luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world."

Have you read any of these books? Which classics do you think are underrated?
Visit The Broke and the Bookish for more Top Ten Tuesday posts.


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