Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pages From the Past: My 2001 Reading Journal

Welcome to this month's (late) installment of Pages From the Past. In recent months, I've been sharing highlights from my old reading journal, one year at a time. 2001 was a big year in reading for me - I read nearly twice as many books as the previous year. At that time, I was a regular member of two local book clubs, but I think the increase was a direct result of my discovery of on-line book groups. Did you ever participate in one of the many Yahoo book discussion groups?

My Favorite Books Read in 2001

Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berniers
I still consider this an all-time favorite.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
 Do you remember the Oprah Book Club drama associated with this title?

The Red Tent by Anita Diamont
I also enjoyed Good Harbor  in 2001.

Middle Age: A Romance by Joyce Carol Oates
My favorite JCO novel to date

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
This is probably where my fascination with Montana began.

Prodigal Summer  by Barbara Kingsolver
Still my favorite of her novels...

A quirky, fun read for the literary-minded... try it!

The Fourth Hand by John Irving
I've loved John Irving ever since reading The World According to Garp in the 70s.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
A book club pushed me into reading this one.

Outstanding nonfiction... I still recommend it often.

Have you read any of these books?
Do you think your reading habits and tastes have changed since 2001?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday Intro: Did You Ever Have a Family

He wakes to the sound of sirens. Many, loud, and very near. Then horns: short, angry grunts like the buzzers signaling time-out in the basketball games he watches but does not play in at school. His cell phone says 6:11 a.m., but the house downstairs is awake and loud and from the particular pitch of his mother's rough morning voice, scratching above his father's and sister's, he knows something is wrong.
Did You Ever Have a Family
by Bill Clegg

This book seems to be a favorite among book bloggers at the moment, and for that reason I was a little hesitant to pick it up. But I needn't have worried. Clegg had me hooked by the end of the first page and now, around the halfway mark, I absolutely love it. The story, the characters, and the writing are nearly perfect. I can't wait to see what the second half holds.

Here is the goodreads summary:
The stunning debut novel from bestselling author Bill Clegg is a magnificently powerful story about a circle of people who find solace in the least likely of places as they cope with a horrific tragedy. 
On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancĂ©, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor. 
Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak. 
From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding’s caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke’s mother, the shattered outcast of the town—everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light. 
Elegant and heartrending, and one of the most accomplished fiction debuts of the year, Did You Ever Have a Family is an absorbing, unforgettable tale that reveals humanity at its best through forgiveness and hope. At its core is a celebration of family—the ones we are born with and the ones we create.
What do you think? Are you tempted to continue?

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 27, 2015

Weekly Update: September 27, 2015

Good morning, friends, and happy Sunday. Can September really be just about over? October has long been my favorite month - the gorgeous fall colors, changing leaves, and crisp days. Bring it on! But how about we just freeze time there for a while? I'd rather not even think about what comes next...

The past week has been relatively quiet and uneventful, and that's a good thing. We had friends over for dinner, decorated for fall, sealed the driveway, and I got my new glasses. Suddenly I am a reading machine ;-)

Finished this week//

The fourth (and final) of Ferrante's emotionally intense Neopolitan Novels did not disappoint. I was torn between the urge to race to the end and the desire to savor each of the nearly 500 pages. The last time I finished a series - in such quick order, no less - was The Lord of the Rings  back in high school. Maybe it's time to reconsider my stance on series...

Current reading//

I started this book yesterday afternoon (while half-watching the SU football game) and absolutely LOVE it! It reads quickly, so I might even finish today. We'll see how I feel by the end, but for now, if this one is on your wish list, move it to the top right away. 

Reading and listening//

The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope

Now that I've finished with Ferrante, I'm ready to return to Trollope and our #6Barsets project. This is book 5, so we're coming into the home stretch. I listened to the first chapter yesterday... what a pleasure to return to Mr. Trollope.

Up next//

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

This one is waiting to be picked up at the library. I am feeling slightly overwhelmed by all of this month's great new releases... have there ever been so many I want to read all at once?

On the blog//
Pin It and Do It: September Wrap-Up (Weekend Cooking)
Book Brief:  The Sabbathday River by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Top Ten Tuesday:  My Fall Reading List


Our monthly book club meeting. I'm hosting the discussion of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande on Friday and anticipate a near record turnout. We generally meet in the morning, but will gather at 4:00 this time so even more people can attend.

Dinner at my sister's today - I'm making apple crisp.

Football, apple picking, planting some mums...

That's about all from me this week. What's new with you? Did you read anything good last week?

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

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pin It and Do It: September Wrap-Up

It seems like I rediscover my kitchen every year around this time. After a summer of cooking and eating outdoors, I'm ready to turn on the oven, light the burners, and pull out the slow cooker. I'm ready for the warm, cozy smells and tastes of autumn. Trish, with perfect timing, chose September and October to reprise her popular Pin It and Do It Challenge. My family could not be happier. They were treated to several new recipes, all found on Pinterest, over the past couple of weeks.

Here are the highlights:

Slow Cooker Tuscan Chicken Soup

Tuscan Bean Soup is a cool weather staple around here, so I was intrigued by this slow cooker chicken version. Roasted red peppers were an unexpected, but welcome addition. We'll have it for lunch all weekend... despite temperatures in the 70s.
my pin
link to recipe

Blue Moon Orange Chicken

Katherine recently listed Blue Moon Orange Chicken as one of her Top 10 Favorite Pinterest recipes, and now I know why. This is a citrus version of the Honey Beer Chicken my family loves. I was hoping for leftovers, but we ate every bite - delicious!
my pin
link to recipe

Sole Piccata

I love anything piccata. There was no sole at Wegmans this week, so I used flounder instead and followed the recipe exactly as written. Unfortunately, it stuck to the pan (I should have used more olive oil or sprayed Pam) and totally fell apart. Let's just say this meal was a delicious mess! The photo, obviously, is from Pinterest.
my pin
link to recipe

Easy Chicken Tamale Pie

I mentioned this dish last weekend in my update post. The twins were home and my husband was out of town. Since it's their kind of recipe and not his, we made it Saturday night. All three of us like it, though I would tone down the spice. The girls were perfectly happy with a little heat. Using rotisserie chicken made the recipe even easier. Sorry I forgot to take a picture - this one is from Pinch of Yum blog.
my pin
link to recipe

This weekend I'm planning to try a new Apple Crisp recipe and will report on it in my October post. Links to other September Pin It and Do It wrap-up posts can be found on Trish's blog.

Do you use Pinterest?

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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Brief: The Sabbathday River

The Sabbathday River
by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999
499 pages
source: borrowed from the library
click here for goodreads summary

One sentence summary:
Set in a small town near Hanover, New Hampshire, The Sabbathday River  borrows elements from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter  to tell a story of infanticide and the resulting trial.

My thoughts:
I read this page-turner for my book club and we found plenty of discussion-worthy legal, medical, and social issues. But the novel, published in 1999 and set in 1985, felt somewhat dated. This quote, for example, made me laugh out loud... probably because I remember using the Index Medicus.
"One day this [medical research studies] will all be on computer, you know, and you'll be able to just look it up. But for now it's a matter of slogging through the literature, and there's a good deal of it out there."
Jean Hanff Korelitz has written several other novels including A Jury of Her Peers, The White Rose, Admission, and most recently You Should Have Known (which is on my kindle). Have you read this author?

My rating:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Fall Reading List

Today is the last day of summer. The autumnal equinox is tomorrow and the days are already getting shorter. When late afternoons and evenings are darker and cooler, I tend to read more. This fall I'm looking forward to several new releases and a couple of classics, too.

Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, asks us to share our fall TBR (to be read) list this week. As always, this is today's list... next week, or even tomorrow, it might look a little different.

 Did You Ever Had a Family  by Bill Clegg
Longlisted for both the Man Booker prize and National Book Award. I borrowed this from the library and will get started as soon as I finish The Story of the Lost Child.

Purity  by Jonathan Franzen
People either love him or hate him. He's one of my favorites... I can't help myself.

 Infinite Home  by Kathleen Alcott
Recommend by several trusted bloggers, I'm on the library hold list for this one.

 Fates and Furies  by Lauren Groff
This book is a getting A LOT of buzz right now, and the author is practically a local.

After You  by Jojo Moyes
Me Before You  destroyed me (in a good way) and I must know what happens next!

The fifth book of our #6Barsets project, I'll begin this as a read/listen combination within the next week or two.

The Last Chronicle of Barset  by Anthony Trollope
The last book in the Barsetshire series is on tap for November. Finishing will be bittersweet, I'm sure.

by Jessica Fechtor
Because Audrey recently shared a passage, and it was wonderful.

 The Things They Carried  by Tim O'Brien (audio)
I've been meaning to read this for years and recently downloaded the audio.

The Gates of Evangeline  by Hester Young (audio)
Included because it is reminiscent of Dollbaby  by Laura Lane McNeal, which I loved. Both novels are narrated by January LaVoy... and she is amazing.

What books are you looking forward to this fall?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Weekly Update: September 20, 2015

Good morning, friends. It's been another one of those busy, but not especially productive weeks - too many appointments, my mother's actual 80th birthday (nothing like a two week celebration), and the tragic death of a friend's son. As you might expect, it was also another week of not finishing a book.

Current reading//

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante 

I started this on audio, but purchased the ebook midweek so I could keep reading. I am both compelled to continue and anxious for it to be over... an unusual, draining reading experience for sure. It will receive my full attention this week.

As a result, Lord Peter Wimsey and Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers has been relegated to the back burner. Ferrente Fever is just too powerful!

New books in the house//

Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways by Jamie Jensen
I spotted this one at the library and it has me dreaming of our next great adventure.

Also from the library, I'll start it as soon as I'm done with Ferrante.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, narrated by Bryan Cranston
Audible is having a big sale and I picked this up for $4.95. Today is the last day, but there's still time to check it out.

On the blog//
Book Brief - Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen  by Mary Norris
Tuesday Intro: The Story of the Lost Child  by Elena Ferrante

In the kitchen//
We had dinner out several nights last week, one evening with friends and two on the way home from late afternoon appointments. Almost unheard of for us!

Last night I tried this Chicken Tamale Pie from Pinch of Yum. It's the kind of dish my husband only tolerates, but the girls love. Since he is out of town this weekend and the twins are both home, the timing was perfect. It's a simple recipe, made even easier because I used a rotisserie chicken. The girls both had seconds, so I'd say it was a hit. The photo is from Pinch of Yum, not my kitchen.

Today I am making Butternut Bisque from Susan Branch (never did get to it last weekend) and also a couple of pans of lasagna. We are having one last birthday dinner for my mother :)

A few other things that caught my eye//

Therese Raquin on Broadway?? At first I thought I'd misread that, but yes, it's true. Keira Knightley makes her Broadway debut as Therese. Previews begin next month and I already have plans to be in NYC in November... Sounds like a must see to me.

There is an exhibit opening at The Morgan Library & Museum this week... Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars. It's the first major museum exhibition devoted to the work of Ernest Hemingway ... another must see.

Also this week, the Man Booker shortlist was announced. The National Book Award longlist, too... making the decision of what to read next even harder.

And finally, the Syracuse University football team beat Central Michigan in overtime yesterday... making this the first time they've opened a season with three consecutive wins since 1991. There are some happy fans in central New York today.

That's about all from me this week. What's new with you? Did you read anything good last week?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?  is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen
by Mary Norris
narrated by the author
Recorded Books, 2015
8 hours and 10 minutes
source: purchased with audible credit

Quick thoughts:

Mary Norris has spent over three decades in The New Yorker's  copy department and in this new memoir, her love of language and usage shines. It's a very good book, even laugh-out-loud funny at times, and I thoroughly enjoyed her narration. But maybe I'm not quite as much of a grammar nerd as I thought... I didn't love the book as my 25 year old daughter did. She has plans to live tweet a reread, and is obviously the true grammar geek in our family.

A quote I liked:
Spelling is the clothing of words, their outward visible sign, and even those who favor sweatpants in everyday life like to make a bella figura,  as the Italians say - a good impression - in their prose. A misspelling undermines your authority. And an eye for a misspelled word  can give you an edge in the workplace.
My rating:

Bottom line:
Grammar geeks, language lovers, and readers of Eats, Shoots & Leaves  and The Secret Life of Pronouns  will want to mark this title as a 'must read'.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tuesday Intro: The Story of the Lost Child

From October 1976 until 1979, when I returned to Naples to live, I avoided resuming a steady relationship with Lila. But it wasn't easy. She almost immediately tried to reenter my life with force, and I ignored her, tolerated her, endured her. Even if she acted as if there were nothing she wanted more than to be close to me at a difficult moment, I couldn't forget the contempt with which she had treated me. 
Today I think that if it had been only the insult that wounded me - You're an idiot, she had shouted on the telephone when I told her about Nino, and she had never, ever spoken to me like that before - I would have soon calmed down. In reality, what mattered more than that offense was the mention of Dede and Elsa. Think of the harm you are doing to your daughters, she had warned me, and at that moment I had paid no attention. But over time those words acquired greater weight, and I returned to them often. Lila had never displayed the slightest interest in Dede or Elsa; almost certainly she didn't even remember their names. If, on the phone, I mentioned some intelligent remark they made, she cut me off, changed the subject. And when she met them for the first time, at the house of Marcello Solara, she had confined herself to an absentminded glance and a few pat phrases - she hadn't paid the least attention to how nicely they were dressed, how neatly their hair was combed, how well both were able to express themselves, although they were both still small. And yet I  had given birth to them, I  had brought them up, they were part of me, who had been her friend forever: she should have taken this into account - I won't say out of affection, but at least out of politeness - for my maternal pride. Yet she hadn't even attempted a little good-natured sarcasm; she had displayed indifference and nothing more. Only now - out of jealousy, surely, because I had taken Nino - did she remember the girls, and wanted to emphasize that I was a terrible mother, that although I was happy, I was causing them unhappiness. The minute I thought about it I became anxious. Had Lila worried about Gennaro when she left Stefano, when she abandoned the child to the neighbor because of her work in the factory, when she sent him to me as if to get him out of the way? Ah, I had my faults, but I was certainly more a mother than she was.
The Story of the Lost Child
by Elena Ferrante

The two paragraphs above are actually the entire first chapter of this book, the fourth and final installment of Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan Novels. If the first 25 chapters are any indication, this may be the best one yet. I am enthralled.

The blurb includes spoilers, but this portion describes the series in general:
Here is the dazzling saga of two women, the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery uncontainable Lila. In this book, both are adults; life’s great discoveries have been made, its vagaries and losses have been suffered. Through it all, the women’s friendship, examined in its every detail over the course of four books, remains the gravitational center of their lives.
Are you tempted by these novels?

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.


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