Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorites of the Year so Far

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today, halfway through 2015, we're asked to list favorite reads of the year so far.

Choosing favorites was easy, but as I looked over my list, two things seemed strange. First, many of these books are part of a series, and I usually avoid series. Second, there is a surprising absence of new releases. That isn't because this year's books aren't good, I just haven't been reading them.

This is shaping up to be an unusual reading year.

My Favorite Books of the Year so Far
... listed in the order I read them

They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple
a favorite author 

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
A readalong with Care. Not as good as An American Tragedy, but much shorter.

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
Second book of the Barsetshire Chronicles, probably my favorite of the year

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope
Third of the Barsetshire Chronicles, I loved everything about this book.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
If you read just one nonfiction title this year, this should be it.

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
Can't wait to read his latest, Beneath the Bonfire

... and I loved the movie, too. Review coming later this week.

The Neopolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
I didn't love the first book, but was consumed by the second and third.

Which books have you loved this year?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Sunday Salon: June Winds Down

Good morning, friends.  It's 9AM and I'm sipping coffee, watching the rain fall, and contemplating the day. It sure feels a lot more like fall than the first weekend of summer. This current storm is technically a nor'easter, so I'm thankful it's not November... otherwise we'd be buried in snow today.

I was consumed by #FerranteFever for most of the week. Last night I finished Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and it was every bit as good as the first two. Unfortunately, it ended with a cliffhanger and the final book, The Story of the Lost Child, will not be released until September. It will be torture to wait two more months... wish I could get my hands on an ARC!!

Up next//

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
Our #6Barsets Project continues in July. I've downloaded the ebook to my kindle and the audiobook, narrated by Simon Vance, to my phone. I'm ready to return to Barsetshire!

On the blog//

Tuesday Intro: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
Pages From the Past: My 1999 Reading Journal
Weekend Cooking: A Good Week in the Kitchen

Of interest this week//

Monica's review of Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope

Reading Plans from Brian Joseph at Babbling Books

Downton Abbey, the musical?

Amazon's list:  The Best Books of the Year so Far

In the kitchen//
Finally... I got back into my meal planning routine and also tried two new recipes.

One Pan Lemon Herb Salmon and Zucchini 
30 Minute Pork Scallopini With Lemons and Capers
Links to both recipes are in my Weekend Cooking post.

Later today//

A rainy Sunday provides the perfect excuse to go to the movies... it looks like I'll finally get to see Far From the Madding Crowd  this afternoon! Maybe that will inspire me to write about my recent reading experience.

Did you watch Poldark on Masterpiece last weekend? Not sure whether I liked the story or the scenery better, but I'll definitely be tuning in again tonight.

Looking forward to//

A long holiday weekend. Our small town goes all out for the 4th of July - fireworks, parade, road race, concerts, sidewalk sale, arts and craft festival. Best of all, our daughters will be home for four days.

How was your week? What are you reading today?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Weekend Cooking: A Good Week in the Kitchen

 For the past several weeks, I've been a lazy and uninspired cook... sticking to those tried and true recipes that don't require a great deal of thought or effort. I haven't had it in me to peruse my recently acquired cookbooks or pinned recipes. Meal planning had become lax, too. This week, at long last, was different.

Las weekend, I finally sat down and forced myself to come up with a real plan for the week. I was clearly bored with the same old same old, so turned to Pinterest for inspiration and quickly decided on two new recipes. I made them on consecutive nights (to the delight of my husband and daughter) and posted photos on Instagram. A couple of people requested recipes and Trish wondered if they might make an appearance on Weekend Cooking.

So here we are.

One Pan Lemon Herb Salmon and Zucchini
from Damn Delicious blog

We eat seafood at least once a week and this recipe reminded me of the success I'd had with  the new Sheet Pan Suppers  cookbook. I followed this recipe exactly as written and used fresh, wild-caught sockeye salmon. It took literally ten minutes to prep, used a single sheet pan, and tasted so good! The only change I would consider next time is to use slightly less brown sugar.

Here is the recipe for One Pan Lemon Herb Salmon and Zucchini from Damn Delicious.

30 Minute Pork Scallopini With Lemons and Capers
from foodiecrush

Pork isn't one of my husband's favorites, but our daughter who lives at home full-time loves it, so I still prepare it semi-regularly... usually a tenderloin marinated and grilled, or in the crockpot. This recipe caught my eye because I love anything with lemons and capers. Plus, I was able to use fresh sage from my herb garden. Wegmans sells thin cut boneless pork chops, but I still gave them a little pounding. The recipe was easy to follow and, as promised, on the table in 30 minutes. I served it with a small side of fresh linguine and green beans - delicious! This was a new-to-me food blog, but I'm following her recipes now.

Here is the recipe for 30 Minute Pork Scallopini With Lemons and Capers from foodiecrush.

Have you tried any new recipes lately?

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pages From the Past: My 1999 Reading Journal

Welcome to the second installment of my Pages From the Past Series. Today I'm looking back at my 1999 reading journal. It is interesting to see what was I reading in the last century. Some of my tastes and habits have decidedly changed, while others have have remained and even strengthened.

What stood out?

1. I read a lot of mysteries back then... Barbara Vine and Patricia Cornwell were among my favorites in 1999.

2. I also read more women's fiction... but did we even call it women's fiction in 1999? My favorites were:

The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe 

Island Justice by Elizabeth Winthrop 
 I read this on vacation in Hilton Head...could that be why I loved it?

3. For whatever reason, my nonfiction reading skyrocketed in 1999... and I've tried to add more to my reading every year since. My favorites included:

 Personal History by Katharine Graham

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

4. My literary fiction favorites included a couple of new authors that are still among my favorites today.

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

5. My book club read a lot of Oprah titles back then. They affectionately became known to us as "downtrodden women" books.

Jewel by Brett Lott
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

6. Elizabeth Berg  -Talk Before Sleep, Until the Real Thing Comes Along, What We Keep - was my most frequently read author of 1999.

7. My least favorite book of 1999 was:

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
"life -changing" for some in my book club, but I struggled to finish

Do you remember what you were reading in 1999? Have you read any of these books?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tuesday Intro: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

I saw Lila for the last time five years ago, in the winter of 2005. We were walking along the stradone, early in the morning and, as had been true for years now, were unable to feel at ease. I was the only one talking, I remember: she was humming, she greeted people who didn't respond, the rare times she interrupted me she uttered only exclamations, without any evident relation to what I was saying. Too many bad things, and some terrible, had happened over the years, and to regain our old intimacy we would have had to speak our secret thoughts, but I didn't have the strength to find the words and she, who perhaps had the strength, didn't have the desire, didn't see the use.
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
by Elena Ferrante

You're probably getting tired of me talking about Ferrante's Neopolitan Novels by now, but I am totally consumed... currently by this third book in the series. Once again, I have also downloaded the audio version so I can continue 'reading' on my walk, in the car, etc.

I'm not going to include the goodreads summary this time, as there are potential spoilers if you have not read the second book. Instead, I'll just say that Elena and Lila, the two girls introduced in My Brilliant Friend, have become women with very different lives.

Are you tempted to begin this series?

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, June 21, 2015

The Sunday Salon: Father's Day and Ferrante Fever

Good morning, friends. It's a rainy, humid Father's Day morning in central NY. I'm hoping it clears soon so we can go out kayaking, but the forecast is not very encouraging. That wouldn't be the end of the world though... I have been stricken with #FerranteFever. A day of reading indoors, or on the covered patio, sounds pretty appealing, too.

Finished this week//

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
Book 2 of The Neopolitan Novels was even better than the first! I finished Friday evening and immediately used that "Buy now with 1-Click" option to download Book 3.

Current reading//

Neoploitan Novels, Book 3 and again a read/listen combination. Hillary Huber's narration is wonderful. I am totally immersed in this series!

On the Blog//
"Pick or Pass" Review of Aquarium by David Vann
Top Ten Tuesday: My Summer Reading List
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 6/15/15

A blog post I enjoyed//
Reading Ferrante from Jill's Scene... an explanation of #FerranteFever

Happening today//
#FlashReadathon - Check out the hashtag on twitter and instagram... you know you want to join in!

Poldark begins on Masterpiece tonight. Here is my post about missing it the first time around, back in the 70s. Will you be watching?

And finally, a few photos from Our Weekend in Manhattan

evening stroll on the High Line

terrace garden at The Cloisters

How was your week? What are you reading today?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pick or Pass: Aquarium by David Vann

by David Vann
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015
272 pages
source: borrowed from the library

Summary (from goodreads):
Twelve-year-old Caitlin lives alone with her mother—a docker at the local container port—in subsidized housing next to an airport in Seattle. Each day, while she waits to be picked up after school, Caitlin visits the local aquarium to study the fish. Gazing at the creatures within the watery depths, Caitlin accesses a shimmering universe beyond her own. When she befriends an old man at the tanks one day, who seems as enamored of the fish as she, Caitlin cracks open a dark family secret and propels her once-blissful relationship with her mother toward a precipice of terrifying consequence.

My thoughts:
Overall, my thoughts about Aquarium are quite mixed and I've struggled to find a way to coherently express them. A reprise of my "Pick or Pass" review format seemed like the way to go.

Aquarium is a well-written and creative coming of age story. The book itself is aesthetically pleasing,  sprinkled with color fish photographs and fun fish facts. The page numbers and headers are a pretty watery blue. I'm glad I had a hardcover edition from the library... the physical beauty would have been lost on my kindle

Although no quotation marks appear in the book, there were many quotable passages.
 "The worst part of childhood is not knowing that bad things pass, that time passes. A terrible moment in childhood hovers with a kind of eternity, unbearable. My mother's anger extending infinitely, a rage we'd never escape. "
And yet...

Even though I gravitate toward 'dysfunctional family' stories, the way this child was treated by her mother just made me angry. So angry, in fact, that I could not enjoy the novel. Nor could I put it down. I read the book in under twenty four hours.

I still wonder whether there is ultimately any hope for these people? Probably not.
Plus, the lack of quotation marks really annoyed me.

How do you rate a creative, well-written novel that you didn't enjoy reading but couldn't put down? I have no idea.

Pick up Aquarium if:

  • you crave a creative, well-written novel
  • a coming-of-age story combined with family dysfunction sounds appealing
  • you appreciate an aesthetically pleasing book

Pass on Aquarium if:

  • a lack of quotation marks bothers you
  • your tolerance for the mistreatment of children is low
  • you think frequent references to fish might become tiresome

What do you think? Will you pick or pass?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My Summer Reading List

Ah, summer reading. I love to think about long, lazy days reading by the lake or pool. Or maybe on the boat. Reality is a little different though and entire days devoted to reading are rare, indeed. I may manage a couple of them this summer, but an hour or two here and there is much more the norm.

As for the books themselves, I always prefer a mix. Literary fiction, classics, nonfiction, an "it" book, maybe a mystery or thriller, and always one or two just for fun.  So here is my summer reading list - today's version, anyway:

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams
Her previous novel, A Hundred Summers, is my favorite beach read ever.

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante 
Neopolitan Novels, book 2... in progress

Neopolitan Novels, book 3

The Folded Clock : A Diary by Heidi Julavits
I have a library copy now, but may buy my own.

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
The July/August book for our #6Barsets project

I hope my library hold comes in before summer is over.

The Shore by Sara Taylor
Not sure whether I'll read or listen to this one

Purity by Jonathan Franzen
 A September 1 release, hope to read it Labor Day weekend

Enchanted August: A Novel by Brenda Bowen
I finished this one already... here's my review.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
(Pevear and Volokhonsky translation)
because I always have to have one "hard" classic on my list

And since I already finished one book on the list, here is my bonus selection:

The Fortune of the Rougons by Émile Zola (Les Rougon-Macquart #1)
I've read a couple, but really need to start at the beginning.

What books are on your summer reading list?
Find more Top Ten Tuesday posts here.


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