Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Favorites

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is 5-star reads, but I'd have to go back a long way to come up with ten of them.  Since I haven't been great about writing reviews this year, I thought I'd share my recent favorites instead.

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
Why did it take me so long to read this author? She is a marvelous story-teller, her characters are well-drawn and memorable, and the writing is excellent. I've added all of her other books to my list.

Like Family by Paolo Giordano
A very short, quiet, character-driven novel... I loved it!

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
The audio version of this debut novel, narrated by Tavia Gilbert, is outstanding.

City on Fire  by Garth Risk Hallberg
I hesitated about whether to include this 900+ page chunkster here, especially after my anger and disappointment over the non-ending. (my review) But the book was so well-written, totally consuming, and I still find myself thinking about the characters nearly three months later. Ending aside, this really is a great book.

Miller's Crossing by Anna Quindlen
Again, I wasn't sure about including this book because I'm only halfway through it. Quindlen's new novel will be released 4/5/16 and I'm loving every page. If this continues, it will be one of my 2016 favorites.

Enraging, eye-opening, and important. Don't miss it! The audio version, narrated by Mozhan Marno, is excellent.

Which books have been your recent favorites? Have you read any of these?
Click here for more Top Ten Tuesday posts.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

An Easter Sunday Salon

Happy Easter! Our day began with some quiet reading time followed by a long walk on the beach... where we discovered the above greeting.  Since I'm hoping to serve a traditional Easter dinner before the Syracuse University basketball game, this will be an abbreviated weekly update. Can they make it to the Final Four?? We shall see...

Current reading//

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen
Approaching the halfway mark and loving this novel! It could be Quindlen's best in a very long time... fingers crossed.

by Kate Andersen Brower
Listening to this one and it's off to a strong start.

Finished last week//

by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik
A wonderful biography with lots of photos and graphics. Mini-review coming soon.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
A debut novel read by a veteran narrator - my favorite audiobook of the year so far.

On the blog//
Just one post this week - A Day in the Life: Snowbirding
Trish's event was wildly popular again this year... so much fun to read all the posts.

The week ahead//
We plan to take a cruise to Useppa Island at some point, but beyond that, I'm not sure. Will this be the week I finally get caught up on reviews? I hope so.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

This post will link to It's Monday What Are You Reading? hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Day in the Life: Snowbirding

Welcome to the second annual A Day in the Life event hosted by Trish at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity. I didn't participate last year because I thought my day would be too boring and even though my life still isn't terribly exciting, I've decided to play along this year.

As most of you know, we have been in Florida since January trying out the snowbird lifestyle... and trying to make some decisions about whether/when/where retirement fits into our plan. My siblings often ask what we do all day down here and, in fact, I often wonder myself. Time seems to pass so quickly and we're often amazed to find the days over so soon.

This post chronicles Friday, March 18, which turned out to be an atypical day. Though I suppose we're still trying to work out what exactly constitutes a typical day.

6:45 AM || Just before dawn... throw on shorts and a t-shirt, turn on the coffee, and take Zelda out for a quick walk

7:00AM || Back home. Feed the dog, pour my coffee, head out to the lanai with my laptop to check email, news, etc.
- The house is still quiet. Everyone is sleeping in today... my husband, the twins, and Twin A's boyfriend.
- Another cup of coffee, read and comment on blogs, listen to the birds, enjoy the tropical breeze..
- Wash two loads of laundry
- Need to head out for a walk before it gets too hot

9:10 AM || Walk on the beach - 4 miles today. Sometimes my husband or daughter will go with me, but I'm alone today and listening to Be Frank With Me. Such a good book!

10:20 AM ||  Back home for breakfast - yogurt with grape nuts.
- I'll read a few blogs while I eat, then hop in the shower.
- Slight delay... discussion of "life issues" and upcoming NYC living situation with Twin A. Parenting isn't as physically demanding these days (no more college move-ins), but the emotional/mental aspect can be every bit as exhausting.

11:15 AM || Shower... at last!

11:50 AM ||  I'm finally ready to go, BUT hubby gets a call from the office.
This might take a while...
{At this point, we're running so late that I wonder about just staying home to watch March Madness - SU vs Dayton}

12:20 PM || Now we're really leaving...

12:30 PM || Arrive at the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village... beautifully preserved, it documents the history of old Sanibel "from the Calusa and Spanish eras to the early pioneer families who settled on the island in the 1800s." Very well done.

On to the marina and Gramma Dot's for lunch. Ugh... a long wait! We'll try The Lazy Flamingo, an old favorite, instead. They have the best peel-and-eat shrimp on the island!

2:05 PM ||  Here we are at the Flamingo and guess what?  I can follow the final 5 minutes of the Syracuse game on their patio TV. What luck!!  Since it's Friday and  March Madness, we order a pitcher of beer to go with our shrimp and watch the rest of the game. SU wins over #7 seed, Dayton. Here we come round 2!

The pitcher of beer (and our earlier discussion with Twin A) leads to us ponder life's big questions over lunch - when to retire, where to live, etc... No final decision, but we seem to be getting closer to an agreement.

4:00 PM ||  Home again. Received an email that I was approved for a review copy of Anna Quindlen's new novel, Miller's Valley. This is turning out to be a good day! I post a photo on Litsy, but today is boycott Instagram day.

4:20 PM ||  Reading time!  Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg ... I decide to head over to the pool.... where I may or may not have fallen asleep for a few minutes.

6:30 PM || Zelda loves beach as much as I do... we head out for another walk.

7:15  PM || We are on a late schedule today! It's time to think about dinner, but we're not all that hungry after such a late lunch. Decide to grill boneless chicken breasts. Steamed green beans and a salad sound good, too.

8:00 PM || The five of us sit down to dinner.

9:20 PM ||  Dinner over, kitchen clean. I call Daughter #1 to get a report on her first week of the new job. She sounds so happy.... and, of course, that makes me happy, too!

10:00 PM ||  Relax on lanai, read a little, talk over the day with my husband. Seems like a lot of "life stuff" for everyone right now...

10:45 PM || Read in bed

11:11 PM || Lights off, but I want to listen to a few more minutes of my audiobook. I put in an earbud and set the sleep timer for 8 minutes, but don't last quite that long. Zzzzzz...

That's our day of snow birding, or at least last Friday's version of it. I could get used to this...

Find links to more A Day in the Life posts here.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Sunday Salon: Palm Sunday Edition

Good morning from Sanibel. It's Palm Sunday and the first day of spring. Another picture perfect week in SWFL has flown by... highlights included the arrival of Twin A and her boyfriend (they'll be with us through Easter), a haircut and pedicure, a Captiva sunset cruise, and the Syracuse Orangemen's March Madness victory over Dayton.

It's been a good week of reading, too, despite not finishing a book.

Current Reading//

by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik
My respect for RBG grows with every page turned. 

Current Listening//

Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Quirky characters and outstanding narration by Tavia Gilbert - an excellent listen.

Up Next//

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen
Quindlen's new novel will be released in April. I'm reading it early courtesy of NetGalley.

On the blog//
Review:  Spark Joy  by Marie Kondō
Tuesday Intro: Be Frank With Me

The week ahead//

Today my FIL and SIL will come over for our traditional Sunday "Farmer's Market Dinner".  I'm planning on salmon... and hoping the seafood guy cooperates. Still plotting a way to stay engaged during the meal and  watch SU's second round of March Madness.

Trish's second annual A Day In the Life event is coming up on Wednesday. I took a few pictures and jotted down some notes on Friday... which turned out to be a pretty atypical day. Finger's crossed I can turn them into a post. Full details are here.

Easter prep. This will be the first time we haven't been home for Easter and I'm trying to decide which traditions make sense down here. Certainly I won't be making a dozen loaves of Easter Bread to distribute to family and friends. And decorating for spring seems strange when it's felt like summer all month. I'm sure we'll figure it out...

How was your week? What are you reading today?

This post will link to It's Monday What Are You Reading?  hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spark Joy by Marie Kondō

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up
by Marie Kondō
Ten Speed Press, 2016
291 pages
source: library

Description (from goodreads):
Marie Kondo’s unique KonMari Method of tidying up is nothing short of life-changing—and her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has become a worldwide sensation. In Spark Joy, Kondo presents an in-depth, illustrated manual on how to declutter and organize specific items throughout the house, from kitchen and bathroom items to work-related papers and hobby collections. User-friendly line drawings illustrate Kondo’s patented folding method as it applies to shirts, pants, socks, and jackets, as well as images of properly organized drawers, closets, and cabinets. This book is perfect for anyone who wants a home—and life—that sparks joy.

My thoughts:

Though I did not love The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (my review), it inspired one of the most thorough closet purges and reorganizations of my life. I truly embraced Kondo's call to declutter, pare down, and organize until I was left with only those items which "spark joy".

In Spark Joy, she reminds us of the main principles in Life-Changing Magic, but also offers more detailed instructions for folding clothing, dealing with kimono, etc. Kondō continues to to encourage us to speak to our possessions and even mentions their "auras" one or twice... I'd say the degree of weirdness has remained a constant.
"If you are wondering whether to hang or fold a skirt, the rule of thumb is to hang only those items that look happier when hung." 
I don't know about you, but it never occurred to me to consider whether the clothes in my closet look happy or not.

The book has some cute illustrations,

but is a half page about folding bras really necessary? 

A few points I noted:

  • All items (komono) must be sorted before deciding where/how to store them, so things will get worse before they get better.
  • Handle each item individually and ask whether it sparks joy... however, for books in a series it is permissible to embrace the whole stack ;-)
  • Make the dishes you love the ones you use every day.

Overall, there is not much new here and most of it is common sense, at least to me - an organized, tidy person by nature. Toward the end, I was skimming more than reading.

Bottom line: Not much new, not as inspiring as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and not really worth purchasing. Borrow it from the library if you're curious... you may pick up a tip or two.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tuesday Intro: Be Frank With Me

February 2010 
Because the station wagon blew up in the fire, Frank and I took the bus to the hospital. When I told him we'd get there in less than half the time in a taxi, Frank said, "I only ride in taxis with my mother. You are not my mother, Alice." 
This was a fact. Once the kid latched on to a fact there was no point in trying to talk him around to practicalities. "Fine," I said. "We'll take the bus."
Be Frank With Me
by Julia Claiborne Johnson

After finishing a read/listen combination of Missoula  over the weekend, I was emotionally drained and needed my next audiobook to be something totally different - fiction, definitely, maybe a little lighter, and a really great narration was a must. Be Frank With Me, recently recommended over at Beth Fish Reads, seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.

Here's the goodreads summary:
Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, but now she’s writing her first book in decades and to ensure timely completion her publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane. 
When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth graders. 
As she gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who his father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book. 
Full of heart and countless only-in-Hollywood moments, Be Frank With Me is a captivating and heartwarming story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world.
I began listening and was instantly hooked on the narration. Even though I've barely listened to more than a single chapter, the story has grabbed my attention, too. I think I'm going to love this audiobook. You can listen to an audio sample here.

What do you think? Would you keep reading...or listening?

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, March 13, 2016

Sanibel Sunday: March 13, 2016

Good morning, friends. Our time in Sanibel continues to fly, much like the kites on the beach, and our so-called "revolving door" continues to spin. Daughter #1 returned to NYC early last week, my SIL arrived the following day (though she is not staying with us), and Twin A and her boyfriend  are scheduled to fly in on Wednesday. It's wonderful having so much family around, but a little tiring, too!

This past week I voted in FL for the first time. I may not have mentioned it here, but am officially a Florida resident now. We will continue to spend much of the year at our home in central NY... at least until my husband decides to retire. Anyway, Florida is one of this Tuesday's big primary states and they offer early voting at selected locations. We were in Ft. Myers anyway, so I stopped at the Lee County Elections Center. Voting was incredibly quick, easy, and efficient! The whole set-up was impressive... maybe New York could learn a thing or two.

And now for the books. It's been a good reading week...


Like Family by Paolo Giordano
A quiet, melancholy, character-driven novel which I enjoyed very much. Mini-review coming soon.

A read/listen combo, this book was infuriating, disturbing, and important. Finished last night, my thoughts need to settle before I can write a coherent review.

Current reading//

by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik
I downloaded the library ebook to my kindle and started reading last night. It soon dawned on me that I was missing the color graphics, so switched to my iPad instead... much more enjoyable!

Up next, audio//

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
I desperately need an antidote to Missoula and, guided by the recent "Sound Recommendations" post at Beth Fish Reads  (her audio recommendations are always spot on!), downloaded this one last night. Can't wait to put in my earbuds and go for a walk!

On the blog//
Not sure why it's so difficult, but I can't seem to get into a blogging routine down here. Just one post last week:

Review: Death With An Ocean View  by Noreen Wald

With a little luck, I will set aside time on Monday or Tuesday to catch up on reviews.

Later today//
I'm off to the Framer's Market shortly, then a walk on the beach. My FIL and SIL will be over for dinner later on, and this evening we'll begin watching the two-night event, And Then There Were None, on Lifetime.

I hope you're enjoying a wonderful weekend. What have you been reading lately?

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

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Death With An Ocean View by Noreen Wald

Death With An Ocean View
(A Kate Kennedy Mystery Book 1)
by Noreen Wald
Henery Press, 2016
224 pages

source: ebook from publisher via NetGalley

Publisher's summary:

Nestled between fast track Ft. Lauderdale and nouveau riche Boca Raton, the once sleepy beach town of Palmetto is plagued by progress. The latest news has Ocean Vista condo board president Stella Sajak and other residents in an uproar. Developers plan to raze the property and put up a glitzy resort. But when Stella says she’ll go to City Hall and fight this to the death, no one thinks to take her statement literally.

And when Kate begins to investigate the murder, she discovers that this little corner of the sunshine state is cursed with corruption, unsavory characters, and a very dark cloud overhead.

My thoughts:

It's always a treat when a book's setting coincides with my current location, and reading Death with an Ocean View while in Florida certainly added to my enjoyment. Perfect for a sunny afternoon at the beach, this novel provided plenty of entertainment, zero mental strain (unlike the Henry James novel I am reading), and an intriguing murder mystery... which I never did manage to figure out.

Our sleuth, Kate Kennedy, is a likable widow whose late husband was a NYC homicide detective. Her Westie, Ballou, adds quite a bit of cozy to this cozy mystery. The cast is rounded out by the colorful residents of Ocean Vista condominiums, a possibly unethical real estate developer, plus a few questionable characters lurking around City Hall.

I would happily read Kate's next adventure when the cozy mood strikes again. You can sample the first paragraph in my Tuesday Intro post here.

Today, Henery Press is reissuing the first book in the Kate Kennedy series with a gorgeous new cover and the author's alternate pen name. (Nora Charles is the author of the original 2004 edition.)

Recommended for cozy mystery fans, or anyone in need of a dose of Florida sunshine.

My rating:

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sanibel Sunday: It's March!

Great Egret

March, already? I really didn't mean to disappear for so long. A February reading slump is starting to become a habit and, unfortunately, this year it included blogging too. The one week break I planned for my sister's visit stretched into two, and then three. You know how it goes.

I'm still in Florida and loving every moment... the beach, my bike, the birds. Even more surprising (especially given the size of our kitchen here), I've been experimenting with quite a few new recipes. A Weekend Cooking post is brewing in my draft folder.

Reading, however, has been another story. After finally finishing the monstrously long City on Fire (my review), nothing caught or held my interest for a couple of weeks. Finally, while my husband was back home working last week, I managed to finish a few books:

Death with an Ocean View by Noreen Wald 
A fun little cozy mystery set in South Florida. I'll post a short review soon.

What Maisie Knew by Henry James
The rest of my read-along group finished and posted their thoughts, while I lagged behind. I nearly always appreciate Henry, but somehow reading him in Florida didn't seem quite right. Strange... I plan to watch the recent film version and share some thoughts afterwards.

A mini-review is coming soon, but for now let's just say I'm glad I borrowed it from the library.

Up next//

I downloaded the audiobook from audible and borrowed the ebook from the library. Have a feeling this one is going to make me very angry.

by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik
My library hold arrived... at last.

Beach Music by Pat Conroy
In light of  Pat Conroy's recent death, it's probably time to reread Beach Music. I've been a loyal fan for decades and consider this book an all-time favorite... even though I remember very little about the plot.

In other bookish news//

Have you heard about Litsy? It's a new app (Apple only for now) that's kind of like Instagram for books. Readers share photos, quotes, and short comments or reviews. Another social media platform is the last thing I really need, but this is fun and easy. I'm Lakesidemusing there, too. Check it out!

Later today//
We've already been to the Farmer's Market and now I'm off for a walk on the beach.... think I'll start listening to Missoula. My FIL will join us for dinner this evening. Daughter #1 is visiting for a few more days. She starts an exciting new job (still in Manhattan) on the 14th.

Hope you've had a good few weeks. What have you been reading?

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


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